The Ledes

Tuesday, December 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "A former wife of the Islamic State’s leader was released Tuesday after more than year in custody in Lebanon as part of a prisoner swap involving Lebanese security forces held captive by militants in Syria. Lebanese authorities handed over Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi who was briefly married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the presumed head of the Islamic State. Along with Dulaimi was a group of mostly Islamist detainees, according to officials in Lebanon’s military."

The Wires

White House Live Video
December 1

1:00 pm ET: World AIDS Day

8:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the ONE Campaign's "A Night of Music at Carnegie Hall" (audio only)

Go to


Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (October 26): "A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too. The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States."

New York Times (October 20: "The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to [breast-cancer] screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years. The organization also said it no longer recommended clinical breast exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps, for women of any age who have had no symptoms of abnormality in the breasts."

New York Times: "Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared from her home in Westchester County nearly 34 years ago.... On Monday, Ms. Durst’s mother, Ann McCormack, who is 101, and three sisters — Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes and Virginia McKeon filed a $100 million lawsuit against the man who they have long suspected of killing her: Robert A. Durst, her husband. The lawsuit contends that Mr. Durst violated the McCormack family’s right to sepulcher, a rarely used New York law granting family members the immediate right to possession of a body for burial."

Washington Post: "Christmas in Washington" annual TNT special, in which presidents & their families regularly appeared, ends 33-year-run. Ah, must be because of Obama's War on Christmas. Wait, it isn"t!

Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas tree, November 27:

Boston Globe: Michael Dukakis loves leftover turkey. A turkey carcass makes great soup, he said, inviting people to drop off turkey carcasses at his home. So they did.

Domenico Montanaro of NPR with everything you never wanted to know about the strange tradition of presidential "pardons" of turkeys.

Frank Rich reviews "Carol," the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym. As usual, Rich goes deep.

New York Times: "Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday[, Nov. 18,] night for “Between the World and Me,” a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality.... The fiction award went to Adam Johnson for 'Fortune Smiles.'..."

Slate: Carly Simon told People magazine that "You're So Vain" is about Warren Beatty. CW: Somehow I think I knew that a long time ago.

Guardian: "Gawker, the gossip website..., is giving up on reporting gossip in order to refocus on politics and 'to hump the [2016 presidential] campaign'. The site, founded by British journalist Nick Denton in 2003, announced on Tuesday that Gawker was steering in a new direction that would “orient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire'.”

Washington Post: Actor "Charlie Sheen confirmed on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive, as rumored in recent days by an onslaught of tabloid stories. Sheen told Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he is going public with his illness for multiple reasons, including that he’s been blackmailed for upwards of $10 million since he was diagnosed four years ago."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

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The Commentariat -- April 3, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' criticism of Charles Snelling, the former manager of Dulles & Reagan airports who killed his Alzheimer's-stricken wife Adrienne and himself. In case you have forgotten what a snivelling creep Brooks is since the last time I wrote about what a snivelling creep he is, my column should refresh your memory. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Good comments to yesterday's Commentariat are definitely worth your review.

Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" on NASA & Florida's Space Coast:

... CW: This reminds me of this video, which I embedded a few weeks ago:

... Adam Sorensen of Time: "'In the politics of the past, to get your vote in the Space Coast, I’d come here and promise hundreds of billions of dollars,' Romney told voters on Cape Canaveral back in January. 'I know that's something that's very attractive, very popular, but it's simply the wrong thing to do.'"

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times decries the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to allow police to strip-search people they have arrested for minor crimes & misdemeanors and even, as in the case before the Court, no crime at all. Thanks to reader Janice K. for the link. See also yesterday's News Ledes. CW: I wonder what percentage of Occupy protesters will be strip-searched. ...

... Charles Pierce: "In case you were wondering  when the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court was going to stop pleasuring America's corporations and get back to enabling whatever police powers come before it, this is your day. By the usual 5-4 majority, Anthony Kennedy being his usual swinging self, and writing the opinion personally, the Court decided that local police can pretty much strip-search anyone they want, for whatever reason they can make up, even if the guy they picked up never gets charged with anything because the whole thing was the result of a bookkeeping glitch, and even if the arrest was for something that isn't even a crime."

Here are the President's remarks -- made yesterday -- on the necessity and constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act:

... Here is the full press conference with President Calderon & PM Harper:

Kevin Drum: "... overturning Obamacare could end up mobilizing movement liberalism in the same way that the Warren Court mobilized movement conservatism four decades ago." CW: You'll have to read the whole post to appreciate his argument; Drum doesn't see a big public outcry against the Court, but he does see an outcry among the liberal base. ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic presents a number of conflicting views. He adds, "... the effect of narrow, seemingly partisan decisions can be cumulative. A decision striking down the health care law might seem more alarming precisely because it's part of a pattern that started with Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. The liberal base will certainly see it that way." ...

Steve Benen: right-wing pundits are gleefully mocking "the nearly impenetrable parochialism of American liberals." But (1) "we don't yet know the outcome," and (2) --

It wasn't just 'the left' that expected the justices to reject conservative arguments. Conservative federal judges upheld the health care law before the case reached the Supreme Court; Reagan administration officials saw the dispute as a no-brainer unworthy of the justices' time; and experts, analysts, and former Supreme Court clerks all helped form a consensus within the legal community: it was simply hard to imagine a court majority striking down the law....

So why do the predictions look ridiculous? Because the legal community -- analysts, scholars, journalists, attorneys, former clerks -- appear to have wildly overestimated the extent to which conservative justices give a damn about precedent, the facts of the case, the court's traditions and respect for restraint, lower-court rulings, the integrity of the institution, and the justices' avoidance of activism.

Another Obama ad attacks Willard for attacking Obama:


Right Wing World

... Michael Shear of the New York Times gets real with Romney on energy policy: "For several weeks, Mitt Romney has seized on the rising cost of gasoline to attack President Obama and his environmental aides for what Mr. Romney calls their misguided desire to see higher energy prices.... But Mr. Romney ... has in the past appeared much more open to the notion that rising energy costs could be good for the American economy. In his 2010 book, 'No Apology,' Mr. Romney described a gradual increase in the cost of energy as the kind of market-based incentive that conservatives could embrace." ...

... AND Steve Benen points to this post by Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: as governor of Massachusetts, Romney hiked the state's gas tax by 400 percent.

I'll leave it to Charles Pierce to inform you of the latest quote from campaign juggernaut (according to Politico) Ann Romney. If you want to avoid a spit-take, do not read while imbibing a beverage. ...

... Joe Klein of Time whacks Mitt Romney on his latest lies about President Obama, this time vis-a-vis immigration reform. Will the real Mitt Romney please get back in his pants?

Don't Confuse Him with the Facts. The economy is simply the product of all the nations’ businesses added together. -- Mitt Romney

There is more to the economy than business. It also consists of such things as the public sector and workers. The distinction is important because during the last business cycle, which coincided with the George W. Bush presidency, corporate profits rose sharply while the median income failed to rise at all.... To define the fate of the economy solely as the product of business is wrong. Not just morally wrong but factually wrong. -- Jonathan Chait, New York magazine

This is another instance where Romney shows how out-of-touch he is with ordinary Americans. He just does not see workers, let alone government workers like teachers, as contributing to the nation's economy. This is the crux of his view that workers are expendable, unions are counterproductive and gross income inequality is justifiable. For all of his self-proclaimed business expertise, Mitt Romney doesn't understand the economy. -- Constant Weader


Don't Confuse Him with the Facts. I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught. -- Rick Santorum

Of the 10 UC system schools, just one (San Francisco) doesn’t offer American history courses. But that’s because it doesn’t offer any humanities courses at all — it’s a medical school. Meanwhile, Berkeley, Irvine, Davis, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz all offer numerous American history courses. All require students to take U.S. history before they can graduate. -- Alex Seitz-Wald, Think Progress

Local News

Kent Jones of the Rachel Maddow show has a funny post on Rebecca Kleefisch, the Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor who is the first looey ever subjected to a recall vote. She is seriously upset at the unfairness of democracy. With video.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Stocks on Wall Street traded sharply lower on Wednesday, despite data showing employers are continuing to hire, as investors digested minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting that suggested further monetary stimulus action is unlikely."

The New York Times liveblog of the Republican primaries is here. Romney has been declared the winner of the Maryland primary. Update: Romney wins Wisconsin with about 42% of the vote, Santorum with 38%. Oh, yes, and Romney won D.C., where Santorum wasn't on the ballot. Ho hum. ...

... More primary news from the Times here. Here's one tidbit, from Nate Silver: "Despite the fact that no presidential candidates are on the Democratic ballot except for Barack Obama (although Maryland Democrats can cast an uncommitted vote instead), Democratic turnout has actually outpaced Republican turnout there so far. As of 8:31 p.m., Mr. Obama had 30,152 votes in the Democratic primary, or about 91 percent of the total cast. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, had 11,768 votes in the Republican primary...."

... Reuters: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared set to defeat his chief rival Rick Santorum in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday, according to a Public Policy Polling survey." ...

... US News: "Mitt Romney is poised to pick up more wins in the Republican presidential primary race Tuesday when voters hit the polls in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The former Massachusetts governor is widely expected to dominate competitors in Maryland and his closest rival..., Rick Santorum, failed to even qualify for the D.C. ballot."

AP (via the NYT): "In an election-year pitch to middle-class voters, President Barack Obama is denouncing a House Republican budget plan as a 'Trojan horse,' warning that it represents 'an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country' that would hurt the pocketbooks of working families." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama opened a full-frontal assault Tuesday on the budget adopted by House Republicans, condemning it as a 'Trojan horse' and 'thinly veiled social Darwinism' that would greatly deepen inequality in the country.... The Republican budget, and the philosophy it represents, he said in remarks prepared for delivery, is 'antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it.'”

New York Times: "The United States has announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani militant leader accused of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and who in recent months has emerged at the vanguard of a prominent anti-American political movement."

AP: "One man was wounded by gunfire early Tuesday in Lexington, numerous small fires were set and dozens were arrested as thousands celebrated Kentucky's win over Kansas to claim another NCAA title, authorities reported."

Guardian: James Murdoch will step down as BSkyB chairman. Liveblog.

Reader Comments (9)

You are (unintentionally) too kind to Willard. He does understand the part of the economy he cares about, that which maximizes individual or corporate profit. It's not his ignorance; it's just his self-serving view of capitalism that conveniently drops the "enlightened" adjective from the "self interest" that Adam Smith, a true philosopher, held up as an ideal more than 200 years ago. Contemporary cons have replaced the moralist Smith with the likes of Ayn Rand, whose so-called philosophy loses its appeal for most soon after they finish high school.

Of course, there's more to the economy than Willard recognizes. Taken as a whole, the economy is both a literal and figurative description of the totality of humanity's social and ethical arrangements. Mr. Romney and those he chooses to represent just don't like some of those arrangements because they don't put more money directly in their pockets. They might even put some of what they consider theirs in yours or mine.

Ayn Rand might find the Romneys and Ryans to be heroes. Adam Smith (and I) would see them as the moral paupers they are.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: your commentary reminded me of this from Kung fu Monkey:

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

Department of Unintended Consequences: Anticipating your next David Brooks takedown, I actually read his column today. It's about mortality and how shocked we are yet again that someone has done something to end a life filled with pain and despair. Denial of reality doesn't end with climate change and evolution; the vampire movies remind us that we would all like to live forever (but only if we could stay relatively young and hot--we don't ask for much!). So, rather than use his soapbox to demand that we look at America's twisted religion-based attitudes toward euthanasia, Brooks ends his column by doing his judgmental bastard schtick. Who am I to judge Brooks? At least I asked myself the question.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. I just turned in my column on Brooks. You will not be surprised to learn I took exactly the same tack you do. I have to be away for awhile this morning, so I expect the column will be up well before I get back. I'm guessing it will be posted on NYTX at around 9 am ET.


April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

Ha! I was just going to address the Brook's column, but I see Jack and Marie are already on it. I do wonder why Mrs. Snelling wasn't taken into consideration ( in Brook's piece)––what did SHE want? My husband and I have discussed these kinds of issues over and again and in our case suicide in some form is paramount. The thought of losing my mind is terrifying and since we have had first hand knowledge of this malady three times over we know of what we speak. The fact that Brooks brings in the "twisted religion-based attitudes" as Jack mentions, is piss poor and he should know better!

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

While the country continues to debate whether or not the government can force us to eat broccoli, we seem to be too distracted to have noticed yesterday's horrendous SCOTUS decision allowing strip searches. The Times had a front page article on it earlier this morning, but as of 9:15 a.m., it apparently no longer warrants that status. However, Andrew Rosenthal had this to say: "The question before the court was simple: Should there be limits on the power of a police force to conduct strip searches of people who have been arrested—no matter the charge, no matter how long they are to be held? The answer, incredibly, was no."

I'm generally not a paranoid person, but I'm beginning to wonder about our fourth amendment rights being chipped away at a pretty rapid pace. The National Defense Authorization Act allows for indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, local police can track cell phones, and the FAA has been asked by Congress to allow airspace for drones in this country. (Not to mention forced ultrasounds – transvaginal or otherwise -, though that has yet to be challenged in court.) Last fall we were shocked that peaceful OWS protesters were drenched with pepper spray, but I'm fearful of the now legal intimidation tactics that might be used next time.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice


If you're not generally a paranoid person, then you're paying even less attention than I used to. Now I'm a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, despite their pusillanimous stance on the Second Amendment.

Check out the following links and start wondering what information the Feds are gathering on you:

Then further imagine how much they will know about you--even things that you thought were private--by assembling a picture of your life from your credit card transactions, electronic communications, etc.

From credit cards, every gasoline purchase and bills for food and lodging. That tells them everywhere you have been, and for how long.

Also, every book, magazine, newspaper, and video that you have ever bought or rented with a credit card, not to mention every cause that you have contributed to. Surely that will tell them something about your political leanings.

From e-mails and telephone conversations, a "mined" assemblage of perfectly innocent words that might somehow be connected and construed in the minds of the "watchers" and their computers as being "sinister."

Throw in all the networks of "anti-crime" cameras in public areas of every city of any size in this country that may have recorded your face when you thought what you were doing and where you were going were both private.


The next thing you know, you're in some windowless room being questioned.

Not generally paranoid? It's time to become so, because Big Brother is indeed watching and listening.

A strip-search may be the least indignity to which you are subjected.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

RE: Brooks column.

Brooks is an idiot, and I agree with Marie that his recent column is disgusting!

I am presently dealing with a mother in early stages of what is likely Alzheimer's disease. Her mother (my grandmother) died from it. My grandmother spent the last few years of her life unable to bathe, use the toilet, feed herself, and of course did not know or recognize us. My aunt cared for her as long as she could until my grandmother's physical limitations became too difficult. Her last year, and where she subsequently died, was in a nursing home.

As a college student (@ 30 years ago) I worked part-time as a cook in a small town nursing home. I felt so bad for the residents here. Some of the staff were not very kind, and the atmosphere of the home was quite depressing. Many residents were given only the minimal care necessary to keep them alive. This experience certainly left its mark on me, and the idea of my mother or myself ending up in such a place is horrible!

A few years ago I watched the film, The Notebook ( The film is about a relationship of two people who eventually marry, have children etc. and the wife in later years develops Alzheimer's disease. The husband faithfully visits her everyday at the idyllic nursing home, situated within a picturesque landscape, she is a patient at. He reads her stories from their past in hopes of rekindling memories long gone. She has a lovely private room, and seems to be quite content. I don't know if such a scenario exists in real life, perhaps it does. However, one would have to be very wealthy to afford such a situation! For most people of modest means, such as my grandmother and mother, a state supported institution is probably a more realistic "final resting place". If my mother could reside, when and if it becomes necessary, in a home as portrayed in The Notebook I would sleep much better at night.

For sure Mister Brooks has never or will never see a loved one of his end up in institution, or know what it is like to not have the resources to insure they may live the rest of their demented life in dignity, or he would be horrified! Or perhaps he feels a person of limited means deserves such a fate.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Massachusetts

I didn't read Brooks. He's a waste of time. However, I deeply sympathize with families that have relatives with Alzheimer's. I worked in a nursing home in high school, and we had many patients who were no longer functioning. We cleaned and fed them, and waited for them to die. One woman lay in her bed - she was 90 - and would call for her mother. It was so sad. Another sweet lady could no longer speak but she made hand signals for what she needed, and she had a beautiful smile.

I sometimes think I was lucky that my father drank himself to death and my mother suffered a coma from which she never emerged at age 62. But damn, I miss her so much.

Julie in Mass, hang in there. Spring is here.

April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulemry
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