The Ledes

Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

New York Times: "Artur Fischer, a German inventor who registered more than 1,100 patents, including the first synchronized camera flash and an anchor that millions of do-it-yourselfers use to secure screws into walls, died on Jan. 27 at his home in Waldachtal, in southwestern Germany. He was 96."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 9

1:00 pm ET: Senior administration officials discuss the President's FY2017 budget

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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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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