The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

New York Times: "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty Wednesday as the government declared three days of official mourning and grappled with the aftermath of an attack on a school by the Pakistani Taliban that killed 145 people. The national flag was lowered to half-staff on all official buildings and prayer services were scheduled across the country." ...

... The Washington Post profiles "Mullah Radio," the leader of the Taliban attack on schoolchildren & teachers.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 18

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

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

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

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

CW: For those of you who don't like hassling with DVDs, I accidentally found a cheap alternative to Netflix. Although I will continue to subscribe to Netflix's streaming videos, Netflix doesn't stream most decent movies. Instead, you have to maintain a (second) monthly subscription, then order & return the DVDs. However, YouTube now allows you to stream movies (you can watch them -- more than once -- during a 48-hour period.) There's no monthly fee, & you can play the movies on your TV via various devices. I have a Google dongle on one TV & a Blu-Ray box on another. The YouTube streaming videos work on both (you have to download on the Chrome browser). Setting up an account was very easy. Since I watch few movies, this works perfectly for me. When Ben Bradlee died, I watched "All the President's Men" for the umpteenth time, & today I watched "Good Night & Good Luck." Big advantage: instant gratification! I'm not sure if YouTube is good for more recent movies.

The Rockefellers Are Leaving the Building. New York Times: "By this time next year, they will have vacated the 56th-floor aerie [in 30 Rock] they have occupied since 1933 and moved to somewhat less rarefied headquarters across 49th Street. One of the country’s great dynastic families is downsizing."

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Wednesday
Feb222012

The Commentariat -- February 23, 2012

NEW. My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on "The World According to Brooks." It's probably worth a read. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute to the effort here.

President Obama spoke yesterday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture:

Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American history, talks about the process of gathering material for the musueum:

NEW. Bob Drummond of Bloomberg News: "While Republicans promote themselves as the friendliest party for Wall Street, stock investors do better when Democrats occupy the White House. From a dollars- and-cents standpoint, it’s not even close." Like, about nine times better under Democratic presidents than under Republican POTUSes.

** NEW. Noam Scheiber of The New Republic on the memo Larry Summers didn't let President-Elect Obama see -- the one where Christina Romer called for a $1.8 trillion stimulus (later reduced, at Summers' insistence to $1.2 trillion & still "disappeared").

** Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "Like every other industry in health care, hospitals are consolidating to strengthen their financial positions or merely to survive," and many of those mergers are putting formerly secular hospitals under Roman Catholic control:

'There are a lot of rural places that now have only a Catholic hospital,' says Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch, a research and advocacy group based in New York City. 'We hear regularly from doctors there who are just distraught at not being able to provide the care they want.' [Dr. Bruce] Silva, from Sierra Vista, [Arizona,] notes that such arrangements can be particularly tough on poor patients: 'If you’re wealthy, you go up to Tucson and you get a hotel. But a lot of people can’t even pay for the gas to get up there.'

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post on how abortion rights activists are changing the landscape -- and the language -- of their fight for women's reproductive rights. It seems to be working in Virginia. CW: Thank you, Dahlia Lithwick! (I linked Lithwick's post last week.) ...

... Or maybe this is what changed Gov. Bob McDonnell's (R) mind about supporting the anti-woman bill:

... Or this:

... Or tasteful commemorative momentos like this (thanks to Haley S. for the link):

... Joan Walsh of Salon: no, Democrats did not raise the contraception issue, as Rush Limbaugh & some slightly less partisan critics like Mielissa Henneberger of the Washington Post claim. At the end of the embedded video, Walsh lets Henneberger have it. CW: BTW, I have long thought Henneberger, who agrees with Limbaugh and, um, got into bed with the bishops, was a dope. She sure hasn't said or written anything lately to change my mind.

Here's a pdf of the President's "Framework for Business Tax Reform," produced by the Treasury Department. ...

... The Rich Get Richer. Citizens for Tax Justice opposes the President's proposal because it "fails to raise revenue that could be used to make public investments in America’s economy and America’s future." The proposal does not specify enough offsets to make up for his proposed reduction in the tax rate. CW: I think they're right. The proposal boasts the reform is "revenue-neutral"; i.e., breaks even with the current lop-sided taxing system. Citizens for Tax Justice says the proposal doesn't do even that. This looks like more redistribution of wealth upward. ...

... The New York Times editors have similar objections; they specifically complain that the Obama proposal does not specify a minimum tax on companies that outsource domestic production nor does it address taxes on foreign profits held overseas. The proposal leaves way too much in the Congressional Suggestion Box, as if Congress will, on its own, ignore lobbyists & close loopholes.

Erik Wasson of The Hill: "The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package continues to have a significant effect. The bill raised fourth-quarter 2011 gross domestic product by as much as 1.5 percent, it states, and lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.1 percentage points." Sorry, GOP.

Ari Berman of The Nation: "The Super-PAC era gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'the buying of the president.'” ...

... Fabulous Get-Rich Quick Scheme: Start a SuperPAC, Pay Yourself Half a Mil & Counting. Melanie Mason & Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times: "Much of the focus on super PACs has been on their ability to raise unlimited sums from a cadre of super-rich donors. Less attention has been paid to how they use their money — and the fact that they do not have to contend with the same kind of internal scrutiny as the candidates and political parties they support."

Right Wing World

Liar, Liar, Liar. Willard, Rick, Newt. New York Times staff fact-checks the GOP presidential debate. ...

... Amy Walter of ABC News picks Rick Santorum as the loser & President Obama as the winner of last night's debate.

And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, [John McCain] doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that’s how we ended up with bin Laden. -- Rick Santorum, 2011

Here's a video of Santorum raising his hand for waterboarding under "any circumstances he could imagine."

Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast: Rick Santorum's "defense of torture is far, far more scandalous to the Catholic church than any liberal Catholic politician's views on, say, same-sex marriage or contraception. It is he who has made his faith integral to his public life. Yet he defends the equivalent of crucifixion for prisoners under his potential command. When, one wonders, will Catholics hear a letter from the pulpit on the vital question of torture -- and the support for it from a leading Catholic candidate for the presidency?" Read Sullivan's whole post. ...

... NEW. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "When Rick Santorum accused President Obama of having 'some phony theology' last weekend, it was neither an isolated event nor an offhand remark. Instead, Santorum’s comments were a new twist on a steady theme of his Republican presidential candidacy: that Obama and other Democrats have a secular worldview not based on the Bible, one they are intent on imposing on believers." ...

It’s funny that I’ve been criticized by Gov. Romney and by Ron Paul for having voted for something called Title X which is actually federal funding of contraception. My public policy beliefs are that contraception should be available. Again, I’ve supported Title X funding. -- Rick Santorum, way last week

As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things. -- evidently a different Rick Santorum, in last night's debate

... Joan Walsh thanks Rick Santorum for doing so much to expose the backward views of the GOP.

In Willard's World, when President Obama talks about the one percent, it's "inconsistent with the concept of 'one nation under god'"; evidently when Willard talks about whacking the one percent, it's fiscally responsible:

 ... BUT, hey, this is nothing. William Saletan of Slate writes a long, fascinating & extensively-researched article about Willard's incredible (and I mean "incredible" in both senses of the word) "evolution" on matters of abortion & fetal life. Here's the short version:

News Ledes

Washington Post: "A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland was approved by the state Senate, which advanced a measure that narrowly cleared the House of Delegates last week. The final vote by the state Senate ended a yearlong drama in Annapolis over the legislation.... With the vote, the measure moves to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has said he will sign it."

Washington Post: "In a highly unusual move, the full Virginia Senate killed the so-called ‘personhood’ bill for the year just hours after it seemed likely to survive. The Senate voted 24-14 to send the bill back to Senate Education and Health Committee, with two anti-abortion Democrats abstaining."

New York Times: "A Unite Nations panel concluded on Thursday that 'gross human rights violations' had been ordered by the Syrian authorities as state policy at 'the highest levels of the armed forces and the government,' amounting to crimes against humanity. The panel of three investigators, led by Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil, did not release the names of the officials it had identified as bearing responsibility. Instead, the panel delivered the names in a sealed envelope to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva."

ABC News: "Army Pfc. Bradley Manning ... deferred entering a plea at his arraignment today."

ABC News: "The judge presiding over the so-called honeymoon killer trial dismissed murder charges against Gabe Watson after the prosecution completed its case today. The charges were dismissed before the defense presented a single witness."

President Obama will speak at the University of Miami at 2:30 pm ET, where he will defend his energy policy. Here's a related Washington Post story. ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama, confronted by the political perils of surging gas prices in an election year, defended his efforts to wean the United States off imported oil on Thursday, even as he conceded there was little he could do to immediately ease the pain at the pump." See video in Friday's Commentariat.

Washington Post: "The Obama administration on Thursday plans to announce voluntary guidelines for Web companies to protect consumers’ privacy online, a win for Google, Facebook and other Internet giants that have fought against heavier federal mandates. The White House did not include a much-debated 'do not track' rule that would have forced companies to offer users the choice of stopping advertisers from tracking their activities across the Web."

New York Times: "Afghans demonstrated for the third straight day on Thursday against the burning of Korans at the largest American base in their country, and public anger was reported to be spreading after furious crowds armed with rocks, bricks, pistols and wooden sticks took to the streets in a half-dozen provinces in protests Wednesday that left at least seven dead and many injured." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "Two American soldiers were killed on Thursday by an attacker wearing an Afghan army uniform, as protests over Koran-burning at a NATO base continued, and the Taliban called on Afghans to target foreign troops as reprisal.... President Obama apologized for the incident in a letter sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday."

AP: "A U.S nuclear envoy said Thursday he held substantive talks with North Korea on dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear programs in return for aid and would continue the negotiations into second day."

AP: "Officials say attacks across Baghdad and several Iraqi provinces have killed 48 people and wounded more than 200 in an unrelenting wave of violence that mostly appeared to target security forces."

ABC News: "A jury recommended that a judge sentence George Huguely V to 26 years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree murder in the beating death of his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, at the University of Virginia." See also yesterday's Ledes.

Reader Comments (5)

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February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercalvin klein underwear

Just read Par Buchanan's "Suicide of a Superpower." Just about everything Pat has to say has been said by one or another of the Republican candidates in the past few weeks. This garbage got Pat fired and we are in the process of nominating one of these garbage masters to run for the Presidency of The United States.
Topsy said it: "Don't you know we are all sinners."

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

More Santorum silliness.

Mr. “No Birth Control for You, Lady” has declared in no uncertain terms that contraception is not included in the realm of things that are ‘supposed to be’. The obvious question is “according to whom?” It’s pretty clear that according to Rick Santorum the United States is (or, I suppose as he and his followers might prate, should be) a monolithic society controlled by the strict codes of his version of Catholocism. No one else’s views matter. No other set of ideals or social structures or religious beliefs are admitted. No other values are allowed. (Doesn't sound very American to me.)

Santorum’s protestation that there is a single correct position on the matter of how much control women are to be given over their own lives is the equivalent of him replacing the Stars and Stripes with the Papal Seal.

It’s funny how right-wingers moaned about JFK taking orders from the pope, prompting him to make an important and effective statement of his beliefs regarding the necessity of separation of church and state, and now a half century later, the right is lining up behind someone who not only “might” take orders from the pope, but declares outright that not only will he be taking orders from the pope, so will the rest of us, if he’s elected Cardinal..er, president.

Silliness, it’s true. But dangerous silliness.

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@ Akhilleus. Ironically, what will do in Santorum is not his avowed plan to bring his radical religious agenda to the center of power, but the inconsequential earmarks he obtained while serving as Senator. I had the debate on last night, although I mostly didn't listen to it. But I tuned back in every time I heard applause or boos & rewound in my mind whatever it was that got the audience reaction, positive or negative. Invariably, it was the wrong thing. So in his ads, Romney has been hammering Santorum on earmarks, and during the debate, Romney got big cheers when he did the same. When Santorum tried to defend his earmarks, the audience booed him. Despite the implicit holiness of his bedroom behavior, Santorum is no longer "pure" because he got a petting zoo for Pittsburgh or whatever.

GOP leaders whipped these bozos into irrational frenzies against whatever -- or whoever -- they thought they could demonize, and now those chickens have come home to roost. The result: a nominee no rational person will vote for. (We will find out in November how many millions of American voters are irrational, but we already know the number is way too high.)

February 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Marie,

Inconsistency in politics is nothing new, but when the calling card you hand to potential voters declares purity of ideology then any deviation will kick your ass, especially with voters you have weaned on hatred of the made up inconsistencies of progressives. So good call on the Santorum inanity. I'm still not convinced that there aren't enough morons, teabaggers, haters, and racists out there to keep that Kenyan Islamicist out of the WHITE House for another four years. The Supreme Court is getting ready to declare racism dead so who knows how this will play out?

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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