The Ledes

Monday, October 20, 2014.

New York Times: "At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease."

New York Times: "Escalating its assistance to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobani, American military aircraft on Sunday dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to resupply the combatants, officials said."

New York Daily News: "Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville was arrested twice this weekend — just one month after he was arrested for public intoxication, police said. The outgoing Republican senator from Dickson, Tenn., has been charged with stalking and assault in separate incidents involving his neighbor, Lt. Todd Christian said." CW: Another fine representative of the people.

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, October 19, 2014.

Guardian: "A cruise ship carrying a Dallas healthcare worker who was being monitored for Ebola returned to port on Sunday.... A lab supervisor who handled a specimen from Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died from Ebola in Dallas on 8 October, showed no symptoms during the cruise but self-quarantined out of caution. Carnival Cruise Lines told passengers the unidentified woman was tested for Ebola but the results were negative."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
October 20

1o:00 am ET: Affordable Care Act Champions of Change meeting

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Stephen Colbert describes his workday:


No Surprise Here. Valerie Tarico of AlterNet, in Salon: "... online search traffic from behind closed doors in Jesusland suggests that the bad, nasty, sexual impulses righteous believers are trying so hard to shut down may be their own. And if Google search patterns mean anything, they’re not succeeding too well: studies consistently demonstrate that people in conservative religious states search for adult materials online far more often than people in blue states."

Jeffrey Frank reviews, for the New Yorker, a new biography of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith. The review is fairly entertaining & informative.

Michael Cieply of the New York Times: "... several of the companies behind 'Citizenfour' — which takes issue with Mr. Obama’s expansion of Bush-era surveillance, and his administration’s attempt to prosecute [Edward] Snowden for espionage — are led by some of the president’s close political allies. They include Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company’s co-chairman, as well as Jeff Skoll, the founder of Participant Media, and Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, who all have been major contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns."

Washington Post: "President Obama's credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York. 'I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was -- during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,' Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. 'It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were -- they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.'"

"Who's Gonna Stand Up & Save the Earth?" Not Stephen Colbert:

Novelist John Grisham recants his apologia for child porn. Good to know.

Unsolved Mystery. Washington Post: "Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list." Original story further down this column. Thanks to Haley S. for the lead.

New York Times: "CBS announced a new subscription Internet streaming service on Thursday that allows people to watch its live television programming and thousands of its current and past shows on demand without paying for a traditional TV subscription. The new 'CBS All Access' service, costing $5.99 a month, is the first time that a traditional broadcaster will make a near-continuous live feed of its local stations available over the web to non-pay-TV subscribers. At its start, the live stream will be available in 14 markets in the United States." ...

... New York Times: "HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix. Just hours after HBO unveiled plans for its new service, Netflix announced that its subscriber growth was slower than expected...."

Joe Coscarelli of New York: "Following its initial mercy killing at the hands of Jon Stewart, Crossfire was rebooted last year with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones to dismal returns..., CNN ... scrapped it for good today [October 15] so that Newt can spend more time with his animals — and hopefully run for president again."

Joe Concha of Mediaite: "A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily." CW: I've caught a few minutes of Farrow's show a couple of times, & it was clear the guy was in way over his head. His performance was as embarrassing as the Russert kid's, though he isn't an obnoxious bro in the Russert-kid mold. I'm not sure if the suits will ever figure out that legacies & children-of-famous-people are usually not the best & brightest, perhaps because a lot of the suits themselves are legacies.

Philip Shenon in Politico Magazine: "If even Robert Kennedy was a conspiracy theorist, it is hard to see how millions of other Americans will ever be convinced to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows."

Snowden, The Movie:

... AND, Snowden's girlfriend is living with him in a Moscow apartment. David Harding of the New York Daily News: "His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, moved into his apartment in the Russian capital in July, a detail that was revealed in the new documentary, 'Citizenfour.'” ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker on Laura Poitras & making the film "Citizenfour." ...

... Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times discusses the film. He attended the premiere at the New York Film Festival, where the documentary got a rare standing O. CW: I'm kinda sensing that "Citizenfour" can best be described as "documentary as hagiography." And, yes, I'm definitely seeing an Oscar here. Call me an oracle.

 

 

A video for Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist-Man Rubio & Bobby I'm-Not-an-Evolutionary-Biologist Jindal, & all their non-scientist Republican friends:

Selina Gray, on right, saved Arlington House treasures during the Civil War.Michael Ruane of the Washington Post: "When Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, fled Arlington House at the start of the Civil War, she gave her personal slave, Selina Norris Gray, the keys to the mansion and responsibility for the grand house the Lees had lived in for 30 years. Gray fulfilled her duties. She is famously credited with saving from marauding Union soldiers numerous heirlooms belonging to George Washington that were stored in the house. Now the National Park Service, which administers Arlington House, has acquired what it says is a rare and previously unknown photograph of Gray and, apparently, two of her eight children."

"An FBI wanted poster shows William Bradford Bishop Jr. The image on the left shows how Bishop would look now. (Getty)"Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "For nearly 40 years, the legend of Bethesda fugitive William Bradford Bishop Jr. carried an air of not just evil brutality but refined sophistication. This was a man suspected of killing his family with a small sledgehammer in 1976 and setting their corpses on fire. Then he vanished, taking with him fluency in five languages, the experience of a world traveler for the State Department, and a fondness for playing tennis, flying airplanes and drinking Scotch. There were alleged sightings: a public park in Stockholm, a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, a train station in Basel, Switzerland. Now, in a potentiality stunning development in the case — centered in a municipally owned cemetery in the northeastern corner of Alabama — remains that were exhumed Thursday may tell a different story. Bishop could be the heretofore unidentified man called John Doe, who was struck by a car while walking down a highway in 1981, a person who appeared to be homeless, who’d worn several layers of heavy, dirty clothes and weighed just 155 pounds." ...

... CW: If you like mysteries & enjoy reading about how they're unravelled, you should find this a compelling story.

Christopher Schmidt says, "On Oct 8th, I was flying my quadcopter at Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, [Massachusetts,] when a hawk decided he wasn't too happy with my invasion of his airspace:

... CW: Thanks to Julie L. for the link. So one way to get rid of those annoying drones that will soon be hovering in your air space is to take up falconry. (Since bringing down other people's drones may be illegal, blame the bird.)

Contact the Constant Weader

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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."