The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Washington Post: "California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County late Wednesday after an onshore pipeline burst, spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean — blackening beaches and endangering West Coast wildlife. The area, a popular camping spot some 20 miles from Santa Barbara, known for its palm tree-lined seashore and pristine surf, has been “closed indefinitely.” The extent of the damage is not known."

New York Times: "Islamic State militants on Thursday solidified their rout of Syrian government forces in the historic desert city of Palmyra, moving to the outskirts to seize its airport and the notorious Tadmur Prison, according to residents and statements from the group. It was the first time that the ISIS militants seized an entire city from Syrian government forces; it won control of its first major city, Raqqa, from Syrian insurgents and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front after the two became rivals."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 22

10:00 am ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony (audio only)

11:00 am ET: President Obama speaks at the Jewish American Heritage Month celebration

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

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Tuesday
Apr052011

The Commentariat -- April 6

To those of you linking from The Sideshow, the site's main page is here.

Ezra Klein asks the question we've all been asking -- Where is President Obama? And why is he so disappointing when he does show up? ...

... Kevin Drum of Mother Jones cites Klein & adds, "I really have no idea what [President Obama] thinks of taxes, the deficit, Medicare cuts, or much of anything else on the domestic agenda. I guess he's figuring that if his political opponents insist on digging themselves into a hole, he might as well stand back and let them. But if he keeps this up much longer, there's going to be nothing left of his presidency except 'Well, I guess he's better than the wingnuts from the other party.'"

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Robert Pear of the New York Times: federal agencies prepare for a shutdown. ...

     ... Update. Ed O'Keefe & Michael Raufe of the Washington Post: "Failure to reach a budget deal would mean furloughing about 800,000 federal employees nationwide — many of whom are expected to surrender their BlackBerries, according to senior administration officials familiar with shutdown planning. A shutdown might also require organizers to cancel Washington’s storied Cherry Blossom Parade, which is scheduled to occur Saturday morning along the Mall."

... Ben White of Politico: "Some market observers and federal government officials say [the shutdown] actually could be helpful by making a failure to raise the federal debt limit — a potentially catastrophic event — significantly less likely.... From an economic perspective, failure to raise the debt limit — or to even come close to failure — would have vastly larger implications than a brief shutdown. It could lead to an equity market collapse and a huge spike in interest rates as investors demand much larger payments for the increased risk of buying U.S. debt. But a government shutdown could ... make a deal to raise the debt limit later this spring easier for conservatives to swallow and more akin to previous, noncontroversial votes to raise the borrowing limit."

More on "The Path to Disparity Prosperity" -- the Ryan/Republican plan to gut entitlement programs and lower taxes on corporations & the rich: ...

How do you define "courage"? Probably not the same way Washington pundits do ...

What ConservaDem Senate Budget Deficit Hawks Think of the Ryan/Republican House Proposal:

I think that it completely lacks balance. He has dramatic cuts in taxes for the wealthiest among us and finances that by draconian cuts to those of us who are dependent on Medicaid and Medicare.
-- Kent Conrad (D-ND) Senate Budget Committee Chair

Independent experts agree the House plan would make deep cuts to the Medicare benefits seniors count on. It would end Medicare as we know it and funnel Medicare dollars directly into private insurance companies’ pockets. Under the House plan, seniors’ coverage would be cut drastically, benefits would no longer be guaranteed and seniors’ costs would skyrocket. -- Max Baucus (D-Montana), Senate Finance Committee Chair

... Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker: "... the Ryan budget plan relies on dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures. The ideas may be bold, but the budget presentation falls short of his claim that he is getting rid of budget gimmicks." ...

... Meredith Shiner of Politico: "Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) touted the help of former Clinton advisor Alice Rivlin — 'a great, proud Democrat' — in promoting a key Medicare provision in his budget proposal Tuesday. The only problem? Rivlin said she told the Republican she doesn’t support the final version of the measure he wrote into his budget — a provision Ryan referred to generally as the 'Ryan-Rivlin' plan when rolling out his sweeping economic blueprint."

... New York Times Editors: "Representative Paul Ryan’s proposals to reform Medicare and Medicaid are mostly an effort to shift the burden to beneficiaries and the states. They have very little reform in them.... For decades the Republicans have made clear their antipathy toward Medicare and Medicaid. Now they are trying to use the public’s legitimate concerns about the deficit to seriously cripple both programs. This isn’t real reform. If it moves forward, Americans will pay a high price." ...

... AND the Times Editors again: "The plan would condemn millions to the ranks of the uninsured, raise health costs for seniors and renege on the obligation to keep poor children fed. It envisions lower taxes for the wealthy than even George W. Bush imagined: A permanent extension for his tax cuts, plus large permanent estate-tax cuts, a new business tax cut and a lower top income tax rate for the richest taxpayers. Compared to current projections, spending on government programs would be cut by $4.3 trillion over 10 years, while tax revenues would go down by $4.2 trillion. So spending would be eviscerated, mainly to make room for continued tax cuts." ...

... "Not a Budget." Dana Milbank: "... for all ... the cuts, the Republicans’ plan increases the federal debt by more than $8 trillion over the next 10 years, and it continues federal budget deficits until nearly 2040. Under the proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that Ryan and his Republican colleagues claim to support, Ryan’s budget wouldn’t be in compliance for at least the next quarter century. How could the House Republicans make such enormous cuts and yet not solve the debt crisis? Simple: Ryan’s proposal isn’t a budget. It’s a manifesto for the anti-tax cause." ...

... Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "If it does nothing else, the budget that House Republicans unveiled Tuesday provides the first real Republican program for the 21st century, and it is this: Repeal the 20th century." ...

... Jon Chait of The New Republic: "It contains a massive, regressive tax cut. Ryan does not want to talk about the tax cut. His video touting the plan focuses entirely on the debt, and makes no mention whatsoever of the tax cuts. Ryan doesn't mention the tax cuts, of course, because they unravel the entire rationale for his proposal.... He is making a choice -- not just cut Medicare to save Medicare, but also to cut Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich." Includes video of Ryan's pitch, which I refuse to post. ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "... there is at least one big way in which the plan isn’t daring at all. It asks for a whole lot of sacrifice from everyone under the age of 55 and little from everyone 55 and over. Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who wrote the plan, calls the budget deficit an “existential threat” to the United States. Then he absolves more than one-third of all adults from responsibility in dealing with that threat." Why? Because Boomers & the elderly vote. ...

... Bob Reich: "... if the shutdowns contribute to the belief among Americans that government doesn’t work, Republicans win over the long term.... That's why it’s so important that the President have something more to say to the American people than 'I want to cut spending, too, but the Republican cuts go too far.' The 'going too far' argument is no match for a worldview that says government is the central problem to begin with."


CW: somehow the MSM manages to cover every meeting of two or more teabaggers [Bloomberg] (and here [ABC News] and here, [New York Times], etc.) but when 2,000 people in Washington, & people in other cities across the country, march on the Koch brothers, you have to turn to alternative media to find out about it. Here's Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress on the April 4 marches on Koch & Co., which coincided with the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With video. As Karen Garcia noted in a post last week, when 5,000 people marched in New York City against the state's budget cuts, the New York Times, "the paper of record," didn't cover the event that took place in its own city. Garcia read about it on Al Jazeera!

The Lord-High Executioner. Mark Benjamin of Time: "Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement Monday that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters will be tried in military commissions rather than civilian courts means that KSM might face lethal injection at Guantanamo, and the President might have to personally sign off on his death.... In civilian court, a judge assigns the death penalty according to sentencing guidelines. In a military commission, the President must explicitly approve a death sentence. And the Military Commissions Act of 2009, which governs those cases, gives the President wide latitude to use his own judgment in a capital case." ...

... Kristen Breitweiser, 9/11 widow and activist, in Common Dreams, on the military trials: the Obama DOJ has abandoned the Constitution and President Obama has broken "his golden word," personally delivered to victims' families, to prosecute the remaining alleged 9/11 conspirators in open court. ...

... Dahlia Lithwick: "Attorney General Eric Holder finally put the Obama administration's stamp on the proposition that some criminals are 'too dangerous to have fair trials.' In reversing one of its last principled positions — that American courts are sufficiently nimble, fair, and transparent to try Mohammed and his confederates — the administration surrendered to the bullying, fear-mongering, and demagoguery of those seeking to create two separate kinds of American law.... It's about the president and his Justice Department conceding that the system of justice in the United States will have multiple tiers — first-class law for some and junk law for others."

Alex Pareene of Salon: "Liberty University, the evangelical private Christian school founded by dead apartheid-supporting bigot Jerry Falwell, received $445 million in federal financial aid last year. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, by the way, received $420 million from the federal government.... Liberty University -- where the biology department teaches Young Earth Creationism -- is, astoundingly, an accredited school of higher learning. The school was broke and in debt until God killed Falwell for the insurance money."

Right Wing World *

The Mysterious Governor Huckabee. CW: I'm late out of the box on this April 1 post by Siddhartha Mahanta of Mother Jones, but it's no April Fools joke:

Send a public records request seeking documents from his 12-year stint as Arkansas governor, as Mother Jones did recently, and an eyebrow-raising reply will come back: The records are unavailable, and the computer hard drives that once contained them were erased and physically destroyed by the Huckabee administration as the governor prepared to leave office and launch a presidential bid.... What do the Huckabee files hold?

     ... Read Mahanta's whole post. It's pretty fascinating. Oh, and he appends this 2007 video of Huckabee touting open government and transparency:

* Where facts never intrude.

Local News

We linked to this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a couple of days ago, but let's milk it a little (hey, we're talking about the Dairy State): "Just in his mid-20s, Brian Deschane has no college degree, very little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions. Yet he has landed an $81,500-per-year job in Gov. Scott Walker's administration overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce." His qualification: he is the son of one of Walker's big campaign backers. Thom Hartmann puts the story in perspective. First he notes that there is "a little-known provision in Scott Walker’s anti-union bill converts 37 government workers into political appointees to be handpicked by Walker himself." Then Hartmann assesses Walker's hiring skills:

So let’s get this straight -- a Wisconsin teacher with a Master’s degree doesn’t deserve to take home $50,000 a year -- but the drunken son of a big campaign donor with no experience or qualification whatsoever deserves $80,000 a year. Republican government at its finest.

     ... Wisconsin State Journal Update: "The son of a prominent lobbyist is being demoted following controversy over his selection for a high-paying post in the Walker administration. Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday announced that Brian Deschane would be sent back to the Department of Regulation and Licensing where he worked earlier this year as the bureau director of board services — a job that paid $64,728 a year.... Deschane never graduated from college and ... had no discernible experience in the field. Yet ... he was chosen to replace a 25-year state employee with a degree in chemical engineering and a resume full of management and regulatory experience.... The Walker administration and Jerry Deschane [Brian's father] both denied any quid pro quo took place." Journal Sentinel story here. ...

     ... Update from Daniel Bice of the Journal Sentinel: "the two candidates Deschane beat out to get the position as head of environmental and regulatory affairs": ... (1) a former state cabinet secretary under Republican Gov. Scott McCallum with a doctoral degree and eight years' experience overseeing the cleanup of petroleum-contaminated sites"' & (2) "a professional engineer who served since 2003 in the post to which Deschane was appointed." Neither got so much as an interview. Democrats want an investigation of whether or not Deschane is qualified for the job he has returned to & whether that hire was proper. Brian Deschane's father Jerry has admitted "he might have mentioned" his son's availability to Gov. Walker's chief of staff, who is the person who recommended young Brian for the $65K job.

News Ledes

President Obama spoke to the press briefly after his meeting with Sen. Reid & Speaker Boehner:

President Obama talks about the budget fight/government shutdown at his townhall in Bucks County:

     ... Update: video of the full event is here.

President Obama spoke at a National Action Networks event in New York City this evening. Update: the video is here.

Al Jazeera: "A coalition of Gulf allies has begun efforts to convince Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president, to step down in response to anti-government protests that have swept the country in recent weeks. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations will convene a meeting among themselves and Yemeni representatives in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, in coming days, though an exact date has yet to be set."

Boston Globe: "An employee of a Christian summer camp on Cape Cod shot himself to death today just days after he became the focus of a criminal investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a camper during the 1980s, officials said.... The camp is the same one that apologized recently to US Senator Scott Brown for potential abuse he may have suffered there four decades ago.... Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents a former camper who brought a sex abuse allegation to prosecutors on Monday, said the employee was his client's alleged abuser: Charles 'Chuck' DeVita, 43, who is listed on the camp's website as part of the leadership team and director of the physical plant."

New York Times: "President Obama has asked House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, to come to the White House Wednesday at 8:45 p.m. to discuss the stalemate over the budget negotiations, White House officials said." Story has been updated: "President Obama emerged from an Oval Office meeting with Congressional leaders on Wednesday night with no breakthrough on the budget stalemate, but he said the 90-minute discussion had helped to 'narrow the issues' that are outstanding." See video above.

Love Letter from Gaddafi. AP: "Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has appealed directly to President Barack Obama to halt what the Libyan leader called 'an unjust war,' and wished Obama good luck in his bid for re-election next year. In a rambling, three-page letter to Obama obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Gadhafi implored Obama to stop the NATO-led air campaign...."

President Obama visited a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, wind turbine plant & held a townhall meeting this afternoon. See video clip above.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin State "Justice David Prosser clung to a narrow lead over Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in the state Supreme Court race early Wednesday.... But even with 99% of the vote counted, fewer than 600 votes -- about 0.04% of ballots -- separated the candidates.... That close margin had political insiders from both sides talking about the possibility of a recount, which Wisconsin has avoided in statewide races in recent decades. Any recount could be followed by lawsuits - litigation that potentially would be decided by the high court." AP story here. ...

     ... Journal Sentinel Update: "In a race still too close to call, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg took a paper-thin lead over Justice David Prosser in the state Supreme Court race early Wednesday, capping a race marked by massive voter turnout, Gov. Scott Walker's union bargaining plan, and record spending by outside interest groups. As of 11:30 a.m. [12:30 pm ET], The Associated Press had results for all but 1 of the state's 3,630 precincts and Kloppenburg had taken a 235 vote lead...." This story has been updated: "As of 2:15 p.m., The Associated Press had tallied results for all of the state's 3,630 precincts and Kloppenburg had taken a 204-vote lead after Prosser had been ahead most of the night by less than 1,000 votes. Kloppenburg declared victory based on the AP's results."

... Rout. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Chris Abele -- a 44-year-old philanthropist, scion of a wealthy Boston family and political neophyte -- handily defeated state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) ... to become the next Milwaukee County executive. Abele had 61% of the vote to 39% for Stone...." The position -- last held by Gov. Scott Walker -- is nonpartisan, but Abele is a long-time supporter of Democrats. Abele will complete the last year of Walker's term, and says he will run again for a full four-year term. Stone blamed "the unrest we had in Madison" for his defeat.

AP: "The protective ozone layer in the Arctic that keeps out the sun's most damaging rays — ultraviolet radiation — has thinned about 40 percent this winter, a record drop, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday. The Arctic's damaged stratospheric ozone layer isn't the best known 'ozone hole' — that would be Antarctica's, which forms when sunlight returns in spring there each year. But the Arctic's situation is due to similar causes: ozone-munching compounds in air pollutants that are chemically triggered by a combination of extremely cold temperatures and sunlight."

New York Times: "Opposition forces in Ivory Coast said on Wednesday they had begun an assault to dislodge strongman Laurent Gbagbo from a bunker under his residence after he refused French and United Nations demands to leave."

Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a meeting with King Abdullah.... Gates planned to report to Abdullah on the progress of a $60 billion arms deal with the Saudis and discuss plans for upgrading the nation’s missile defense system.... Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of U.S. arms.... Some U.S. officials have bristled at the aggressive role of the Saudi military in last month’s crackdown in neighboring Bahrain. But a senior defense official ... said Wednesday that the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia remained strong."