The Wires

Public Service Announcement

November 26: Washington Post: "Federal health officials said Monday that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested. If consumers, retailers and food service facilities cannot determine whether the romaine was grown outside California, they should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick, according to a lengthy statement from Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials said the most likely source of contamination is from the Central Coast growing regions in northern and central California. Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions 'does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,' the FDA said. Hydroponically grown and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be affected in the outbreak. Romaine from those sources is safe to eat, the FDA said."

... November 20: New York Times: "In a sweeping alert, federal health officials warned people not to eat romaine lettuce anywhere in the country, after 32 people in 11 states fell sick with a virulent form of E. coli, a bacteria blamed for a number of food-borne outbreaks in recent years. The notice, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said consumers should not buy or eat any kind of romaine, whether chopped or whole, and restaurants should stop serving it. Anyone who has romaine, the health agency said, should throw it out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay then, guess I'll throw out that romaine. Already ate one head, and I ain't dead yet.

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House Wednesday, Dec. 12, after making mincemeat of Donald Trump.Everybody Loved Nancy's Coat! It's turns out it's from a 2013 Max Mara collection. According to Ana Colón of Glamour, "the Italian fashion house sent out a press release that not only confirmed the origins of Pelosi's coat but also announced that Max Mara would be reinstating the Glamis into its outerwear collection in 2019. 'In a variety of colorways,' no less! A spokesperson for the brand confirmed to Glamour that the decision to bring it back was inspired by Pelosi."

Isabel Wilkerson reports, in the New York Times, on Michelle Obama's book Becoming. It's quite a compelling read.

Reality Chex Bargain. Someone will pay $1 million or more for a letter written by Albert Einstein. You can read it for free. ...

... New York Times: The "God Letter," "written [in German] in 1954 by Albert Einstein ... is being auctioned this week.... He sent the handwritten letter to Eric Gutkind, a German philosopher who had written a book called 'Choose Life: The biblical Call to Revolt' that, apparently, Einstein did not much like.... Einstein wrote dozens of letters in which he mentioned God or Judaism. 'Nobody should read one Einstein letter and think that solves what he thinks about God,' Walter Isaacson, the author of the 2007 biography 'Einstein,' said in an interview.... The letter surfaced in 2008. Until then, it had apparently been in the hands of Gutkind’s heirs (he died in 1965). And it rocketed into the universe of big-money auctions, selling for $404,000 in London.... It will go on the block at Christie’s on Tuesday. Christie’s set a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million."

Here's New York magazine's take on A Very Melanie Christmas:

... AND Rhonda Garelick of New York has some thoughts on why Melanie's Red Forest is so empty of holiday cheer.

Chris Hayes reviews this year's White House holiday decor:

So if you'd like to read all about Mika Brzezinski's wedding to Joe Scarborough, Emily Fox of Vanity Fair obliges. It sounds as if it was a very nice ceremony. Except, you know, Mika & Joe.

Kwitcherbitchin. Think things are bad now? They were way worse in 536 C.E. A report in Science explains.

Click on picture to see larger image.

... New York Times: "A celebrated and enigmatic painting of two men and a turquoise pool by David Hockney sold at Christie’s on Thursday night for $90.3 million with fees, shattering the auction record for a living artist and cementing a major broadening of tastes at the turbocharged top end of the market. The price for the 1972 painting, 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),' easily surpassed the previous high of $58.4 million, held by Jeff Koons for one of his 'Balloon Dog' sculptures."

Jennifer Szalai of the New York Times reviews Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.

Friday
Jan122018

The Commentariat -- January 13, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Johanna Barr of the New York Times: "The authorities confirmed on Saturday that there was no ballistic missile headed toward Hawaii minutes after an emergency alert was sent to cellphones there urging people to seek immediate shelter, leading to chaos and confusion. 'BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII,' the alert said. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.' A corrected alert was sent out 38 minutes later. 'There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii,' it read. 'Repeat. False Alarm. The episode came at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea, which has said that it has successfully tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.'" ...

... Mrs. McC BTW: Many hours after the false alarm, not a word from Trump. He has been golfing in Florida. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The authorities quickly announced that the alert was a mistake. But it made tangible the growing fears that after decades of leaders trying to more safely control the world's nuclear arsenals, President Trump has increased the possibility of those weapons being used. At a time when many are questioning whether Mr. Trump ought to be allowed anywhere near the nuclear 'button,' he is moving ahead with plans to develop new nuclear weapons and expanding the circumstances in which they'd be used. Such actions break with years of American nuclear policy. They also make it harder to persuade other nations to curb their nuclear ambitions or forgo them entirely." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If we had a responsible Congress, the scare in Hawaii would shake every member into working to reduce the dangers Trump presents. Instead quite a number of Republicans are knocking themselves out to exacerbate those dangers.

John Bowden of the Hill: "President Trump is responding to the widespread condemnation of his remarks about immigrants from shithole countries' with a two-word tweet: 'America First!' Trump offered the tweet at 8:14 a.m. with little other comment. And while the tweet didn't cite the criticism of his reported comments at a meeting with lawmakers in the White House, it was hard to see the words as anything but a response to that controversy."

Mrs. McCrabbie: Just watched David Letterman's interview of President Obama. If you have access to Netflix, and unless you don't especially like Obama, you'll be doing yourself a favor to watch it. Nobody is perfect, but the U.S. has not had a better president in my lifetime. I see why Trumpelthinskin hates Obama. Trump is suffering from acute Obama Derangement Syndrome; Trump is tied in knots of jealousy. Obama is everything, everything Trump is not. That interview is one more jarring reminder of how far down we have come.

*****

The Comments section of Reality Chex is not working. It just sends your comments into the ether. My host Squarespace is nowhere near solving the problem. I did discover a semi-solution that contributor MAG tested, and it works. Like MAG, you too can become a Reality Chex member! Yeah, yeah, I know you wouldn't become a member of any club that would have you. If you've commented here before & want to submit a comment before the Comments submissions function gets fixed -- e-mail me at constantweader@gmail.com. Send me a login ID & password (I think they have to be at least 6 characters long), & I'll tell you how you can exercise the (I hope quite temporary) exclusive privilege of being a Reality Chex member. PLEASE don't give me a log-in or password you currently use anywhere else. I don't want to be the No. 1 suspect when some crook uses your Macy's card. When you're logged in, your comments should take -- at least for now. (But of course save them somewhere in case it doesn't work, as you always should before they appear.)

If you'd rather just e-mail your comments to me, that's okay, too. The downside is that I will be IDed as the writer (tho of course I'll credit you). BTW, two contributors who already have log-ins also can comment while they're logged in. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

     ... UPDATE: The Bad News: The host won't be able to fix this right away. The Good News: It's a system-wide problem, so they'll likely get right on it.

*****

Donald & the Porn Star. Christopher Mele of the New York Times: "A former star of pornographic movies received a $130,000 payment a month before the 2016 election that was part of an agreement to keep her from publicly discussing a sexual encounter she claimed to have had with onald J. Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday afternoon. The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that Michael D. Cohen, who was a top lawyer at the Trump Organization, arranged the payment to the woman, Stephanie Clifford, after her lawyer negotiated a nondisclosure agreement. Ms. Clifford, who was billed as Stormy Daniels in her videos, said the encounter with Mr. Trump took place in July 2006 after a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, The Journal reported. Mr. Trump married Melania Trump in 2005. In a statement to The Journal, Mr. Cohen said of the alleged sexual encounter that 'President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.'... The payment appears to have been made in the final stretch of the campaign, around the same time that a recording of Mr. Trump making vulgar comments about women while filming a segment for 'Access Hollywood' surfaced...." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Just not your usual Friday afternoon news dump....

... Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed: "In statements to BuzzFeed News, the lawyer, Michael Cohen, and [Stephanie] Clifford denied Trump and Clifford had a sexual encounter. The alleged encounter after the golf event was publicly discussed by adult film star Jessica Drake in October 2016, when she accused the president of kissing her without her consent. Drake said Trump also repeatedly propositioned her, offering $10,000 and the use of his private jet for her to come to his suite." ...

... Marlow Stern & Aurora Snow of the Daily Beast: "According to fellow porn star Alana Evans -- who was not only [Stormy] Daniels' neighbor and close friend at the time, but also happened to be staying in the area -- Daniels confided in her that she and Trump were more than just friends.... 'Stormy said she met Donald Trump and then tells me about the golf tournament and how she's supposed to hang out with him later that night, and she invited me. Stormy said Donald knew exactly who she was and wanted to meet her.' Later that evening..., Evans said Daniels kept calling, asking her to come join the party. But Evans wasn't interested and made up reasons not to go. 'Stormy calls me four or five times, by the last two phone calls she's with Donald [Trump] and I can hear him, and he's talking through the phone to me saying, "Oh come on Alana, let's have some fun! Let's have some fun! Come to the party, we're waiting for you....' I bailed on them and turned my phone off.'"

...safari: Awaiting Melania's vehement denunciation of "fake news" against her faithful pig in 3, 2, 1...

Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday offered a vague denial about the language he chose to use about immigrants during a private meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, when he reportedly referred to African nations as 'shithole countries.' But Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said on Friday that the president did use the term 'shithole' during the course of the meeting on immigration -- which Mr. Durbin attended. The senator described Mr. Trump as saying 'things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.' In a Twitter post on Friday, just hours before the president signed a proclamation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday, Mr. Trump appeared to parse the language he used when he spoke about immigrants from different regions of the world.... 'It's not true,' Mr. Durbin said of Mr. Trump's denial. 'He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.'... After Mr. Trump signed the proclamation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day later on Friday morning, the president ignored a question from a reporter about whether he is a racist." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Who ya gonna believe? Dick Durbin or this crackpot? ...

... Glenn Kessler & Meg Kelly of the Washington Post: "President Trump has broken 2,000. With just 10 days before he finishes his first year as president, Trump has made 2,001 false or misleading claims in 355 days, according to our database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That's an average of more than 5.6 claims a day." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** "The 'Shithole Countries' -- and the Rest of the World -- Respond to President Trump." Robin Wright of the New Yorker: "President Trump's credibility as a world leader has been, to borrow his vulgarity, shot to shit. With one word -- just the latest in a string of slurs about other nations and peoples -- he has demolished his ability to be taken seriously on the global stage. 'There is no other word one can use but "racist,&"' the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said at a briefing in Geneva. 'You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes,' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.'... Trump's world view is tragic for so many reasons. First, he's just wrong on the basics.... Trump's bigoted world view also ignores history.... Having strong alliances with African nations is also crucial to Trump's national-security challenges.... Perhaps the ultimate irony is that Trump's own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind." Thanks to David R. for the link. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Patrick Wintour et al., of the Guardian: "Donald Trump has been branded a shocking and shameful racist.... US diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach, amid global shock that such crude remarks could ever be made in a semi-public meeting by the president of America." --safari...

... Jina Moore & Catherine Porter of the New York Times: "Governments and citizens across the world recoiled on Friday with disgust, outrage and sadness at reports that President Trump had described Haiti and unspecified African nations as 'shithole countries' during a meeting with members of Congress on Thursday about immigration, asking why the American government would want to admit their citizens as immigrants. The Haitian government called the remarks racist. The president of Senegal tweeted that he was shocked. South Africa's governing party said the comments were 'extremely offensive.' The African Union said it was 'frankly alarmed.' In Haiti, particularly, the words were greeted with pain, as the country marked the eighth anniversary of the deadly 2010 earthquake -- known as the worst natural disaster of modern history, killing between 230,000 and 316,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless.... El Salvador's government sent a formal letter of protest. Earlier in the week, the United States announced it was rescinding Temporary Protected Status for about 200,000 Salvadorans living in the United States.... Vicente Fox, a former president of Mexico who has frequently clashed with Mr. Trump..., suggested that Mr. Trump's vulgar word was better used to describe his own mouth." ...

... ** Josh Lederman & Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "American diplomats scrambled Friday to salvage their nation's bonds with Africa, Haiti and even the celebrated 'special relationship' with Britain after President Donald Trump, in the span of a few hours, deeply offended much of the world with the most undiplomatic of remarks.... In Washington and far-flung foreign capitals, U.S. officials launched into urgent cleanup mode.... The long-term damage to America's global relationships was difficult to predict. But foreign policy experts agreed it could only further alienate the United States at a time when many nations already see the U.S. as a less reliable partner than in the past." --safari: Giant "win" for Putin and China here...

...Reuters: "U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley, a career diplomat and former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, has resigned, saying he no longer felt able to serve President Donald Trump.... Feeley, one of the department's Latin America specialists and among its senior most officers, made clear that he had come to a place where he no longer felt able to serve under Trump." --safari: Feeley had resigned BEFORE the whole 'shithole' debacle. ...

... Avery Anapol of The Hill: "President Trump reportedly defended his 'shithole countries' remark in private.... Citing a person who spoke with the president, the AP reported [linked above] that Trump doubled down on his reported comments from this week, defending the remark as not racist but a 'straightforward assessment' of the living conditions in the countries discussed. The person who spoke to Trump told the AP that the president was not apologetic, but blamed the media for distorting his meaning. Trump also reportedly believes that he was saying what many people think." --safari: So he defends the remark he didn't say ... Trumpian logic. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The president of the United States is a racist.... The current turmoil over immigration conflates several separate issues. One is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Another issue is the Temporary Protected Status program under which undocumented foreigners who were in the United States when disaster or conflict struck their homeland are allowed to remain in the United States. In November, the Trump administration ended the protection for about 60,000 Haitians, and on Monday the administration lifted it for almost 200,000 Salvadorans, most of whom have been in the United States for two decades. A third issue is the future of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who have come to the United States over decades and have effectively integrated into American life. The Trump administration has ordered a broad immigration crackdown against them. And finally there's President Trump's imagined wall. What is concerning is not the wall, or the word 'shithole' or the vacillation on the Dreamers or the Salvadorans. It's what ties all of these things together: the bigoted worldview of the man behind them." ...

... ** Eric Levitz: "At the heart of Trumpian nativism is the conviction that the West's great prosperity reflects the virtues of its people; the poverty of the nonwhite world reflects the moral vices of its people; and, thus, the former owes no debts to the latter. Allowing the residents of nations whose wealth our elites expropriated through imperial conquest -- and/or predatory economic policies -- is an act of selfless generosity, not of modest recompense. The broader conservative movement uses analogous fictions to rationalize inequalities within America's borders.... Acknowledging the actual foundations of our world's racial, national, and socioeconomic hierarchies would threaten the feelings of those who sit atop them.... Racism is, at bottom, right-wing political correctness run amok." Mrs. McC: Read Jonathan Katz's tweets, which Levitz embeds. I must admit I didn't know 95 percent of the brief history of Haiti conveyed in those tweets. Shame on me. "Western exceptionalism" & "American exceptionalism" are Calvinistic crocks spread to try to justify abominable acts of exploitation. ...

...Ben Zimmer of The Atlantic on the history of the word 'shithole': "More important than the word itself, of course, is the hateful sentiment behind it". --safari

The GOP: A Bankrupt Party of Moral Cowards

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "It has been nearly 24 hours since The Washington Post first reported that President Trump had referred to 'shithole countries' during a meeting with lawmakers. There were at least six Republicans in that meeting. Precisely zero of them have directly confirmed or denied the comment." Mrs. McC: Read on for an immersion course in speaking Weasel. Unfortunately, no matter how fluent these clunkweasels are in their native tongue, they don't manage to hide the truth of Durbin's statements. ...

...The Incredible Shrinking Paul Ryan. Dylan Matthews of Vox: "On June 2, 2016, Donald Trump, then the presumptive Republican nominee for president, told the Wall Street Journal that he didn't think Judge Gonzalo Curiel could oversee two lawsuits targeting Trump University.... House Speaker Paul Ryan was outraged...[After the 'shithole' comment,] Paul Ryan ... declared that saying black and brown people come from 'shitholes' is 'very unfortunate, unhelpful.' Today, apparently, textbook racist remarks are merely inconvenient, counterproductive.... It's not an original observation to note that Paul Ryan has degraded himself in service of Donald Trump. Even then he was very clearly willing to tolerate a presidential nominee who he knew was a racist, who he said publicly was a racist, in order to enable the enactment of his preferred economic policies. But Ryan's response to the 'shithole' remarks is as clear a sign as any that the terms of his deal with Trump have changed." --safari: A new Twitter hashtag is trending @ShitholeSpeakerRyan...

...Andrew Prokop of Vox: " Two [shithole] Republican senators who attended yesterday's meeting in which President Trump reportedly disparaged immigrants from 'shithole countries' seem to have come down with a case of amnesia. In a joint statement this afternoon, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) wrote that they 'do not recall the President saying those comments specifically' -- but conspicuously didn't outright deny that he said them." Emphasis added --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Who knew amnesia was contagious? Somebody alert the CDC. ...

... Profiles in "Courage". Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the lawmakers in attendance at the Thursday meeting during which President Donald Trump referred to African countries as 'shithole countries,' said Friday afternoon that he said his 'piece' to the President.... Graham's statement did not confirm that Trump used the phrase 'shithole countries,' but it did not deny that either, and Sen.Tim Scott (R-SC) already said that Graham confirmed the comments to him privately." --safari

... Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Vice President Mike Pence has nothing to say. Pence's office has ignored repeated requests for comment in the wake of President Donald Trump's explosive comments on Thursday.... Instead, on Friday afternoon, Pence was tweeting pictures of himself and Trump with Martin Luther King Jr.'s nephew at a White House ceremony and hailing King's 'efforts to peacefully advocate for justice & equality for African-Americans.'... Certain other staunch Trump defenders shared Pence's reticence on Friday. Reached by phone, former House Speaker and close Trump ally Newt Gingrich said, 'I have nothing to say.' But other Republicans have not shared Pence's silence.... Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called them 'abhorrent and repulsive,' and Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), whose family immigrated to the U.S from Haiti, called on Trump to apologize." --safari ...

... Julia Manchester of The Hill: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) repeatedly dodged questions from his constituents on President Trump's behavior at a town hall in his home state of Iowa on Friday following reports that Trump referred to Haiti and other African nations as 'shithole countries.'" --safari...

... Dems to the Rescue. The Daily Beast: "Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced on Friday afternoon they will introduce a resolution to censure President Trump over his reported comments about immigrants coming from 'shithole' countries.... They plan to introduce the resolution after the Martin Luther King Day holiday." --safari

Related. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The federal judge who earlier this week ordered the reversal of ... Donald Trump's decision to end the program protecting so-called Dreamers said in a new ruling Friday that it is 'plausible' that Trump shut down the program for racial reasons. 'These allegations raise a plausible inference that racial animus towards Mexicans and Latinos was a motivating factor in the decision to end DACA,' U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup wrote.


Mark Landler
of the New York Times: "President Trump again stopped short of reimposing punitive sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, the White House said on Friday. But Mr. Trump gave European allies only 120 days to agree to an overhaul of the deal or administration officials said he would pull the United States out of it. He also approved sanctions against the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, a powerful figure whom the administration holds culpable for the violent crackdown on recent antigovernment protests. Mr. Trump's action, which was widely expected, is the third time he has given a reprieve to the agreement brokered by President Barack Obama, despite having labeled it 'the worst deal ever' and threatening repeatedly to rip it up." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Adam Mount of The Atlantic: "As Americans question whether President Donald Trump has the judgment necessary to command the most capable nuclear arsenal on earth, the Pentagon is moving to order new, more usable nuclear options. Trump's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a Pentagon document that sets the nation's nuclear policy, demonstrates an aggressive shift that will add to the spiraling cost of the nuclear arsenal, raise the risk of a nuclear exchange, and plunge the country into a new arms race.... Trump's NPR marks an abrupt shift from the last eight years, when the nation's nuclear-weapons policy enjoyed a surprising bipartisan consensus.... The compromise reflected principles of responsible nuclear policy in place since the late Cold War. According to these principles, national security is better served by maintaining a rough balance of forces between the United States and Russia.... The Trump administration is preparing to shatter this consensus. The leaked draft moves to expand U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, develop new nuclear capabilities, and embrace competition in strategic weapons." --safari

Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "In a tweet sent late Thursday evening, President Trump said he had canceled his trip to Britain next month because he was unhappy with the new U.S. Embassy in London -- and accused the Obama administration of making a 'bad deal' for an 'off location.' Many Britons disagreed, suggesting instead the president was simply worried his arrival in London would be greeted by mass protests. Those involved in the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in London also say Trump, a former real estate mogul in New York City, has a bad understanding of the deal. 'As usual, he's dead wrong,' said former ambassador Louis Susman, who served under the Obama administration between 2009 and 2013. 'He's 100 percent wrong.'" Taylor goes on to relay the explanations -- from people involved in the move, some from the Bush II administration -- of how Trump is wrong in every particular." Mrs. McC: I don't think Trump would tell the truth about the time of day. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

YOU: What time is it, Mr. President?

TRUMP: 3:30.

PENCE: Uh, begging your pardon, your royal highness; it's 4:30, not 3:30. Maybe your watch is set to Daylight Savings Time.

TRUMP: I never said it was 3:30.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post: "A company that once had financial ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was one of two firms selected Thursday by the Education Department to help the agency collect overdue student loans. The deal could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The decision to award contracts to Windham Professionals and Performant Financial Corp. -- a company DeVos invested in before becoming secretary -- arrives a month after a federal judge ordered the department to complete its selection of a loan collector to put an end to a messy court battle. Windham and Performant beat out nearly 40 other bidders for contracts valued at up to $400 million, but their win may be short-lived if the losing companies fight the decision.... Historically, the department has used as many as 17 companies to recoup past-due student loans. Earlier attempts to whittle down the number of firms have been met with resistance."

Tierney Sneed of TPM: "Comments by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, which may have been an attempt to save face as his voter fraud commission was dissolved, have created a number of headaches for the Justice Department attorneys defending the defunct commission in the various lawsuits against it. 'The investigations will continue now, but they won't be able to stall it through litigation,' Kobach told Breitbart News after the commission was dissolved.... Kobach's claims -- as well as similar claims made by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and by President Trump himself -- about the next steps for the commission's so-called investigation ... have given those who were suing the commission ammo to continue their litigation." --safari

Adam Beam of the AP: "Kentucky has become the first state to require many of its Medicaid recipients to work to receive coverage, part of an unprecedented change to the nation's largest health insurance program under the Trump administration. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the approval on Friday. The change will require adults between the ages of 19 and 64 to complete 80 hours per month of 'community engagement' to keep their coverage. That includes getting a job, going to school, taking a job training course or community service. It's a big change for Kentucky, a state that just four years ago embraced former President Barack Obama's health care law under a previous Democratic governor who won praise for posting some of the largest insurance coverage gains in the country.... The changes also require people to pay up to $15 a month for their insurance. Basic dental and vision coverage is eliminated, but people can earn those benefits back through a rewards program."

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "Though pretending to examine a crime against America, [Republicans in Congress] are instead working to cover one up.... Because Republicans don't have to prove their alternative theory, you rarely see it fully elaborated. But it goes something like this: Hillary Clinton's campaign hired Fusion GPS to gather anti-Trump misinformation from Russia. Fusion GPS, working with the retired British spy Christopher Steele, then delivered the Russian smears to the F.B.I., which was determined to thwart Trump. So if anyone was guilty of collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, it was Clinton and her allies.... This tapestry of disinformation is the background to one of Trump's tweets on Thursday morning, which said in part, 'Disproven and paid for by Democrats "Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign. Did FBI use Intel tool to influence the Election?" @foxandfriends Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians?'... [Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse [D-R.I.] told me Thursday, '...You can't solve a crime when you're more interested in protecting the suspects.'"

** Raphael Satter of the AP: "The same Russian government-aligned hackers who penetrated the Democratic Party have spent the past few months laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate, a cybersecurity firm said Friday....' They're still very active -- in making preparations at least -- to influence public opinion again,' said Feike Hacquebord, a security researcher at Trend Micro Inc., which published the report.... Hacquebord said he based his report on the discovery of a clutch of suspicious-looking websites dressed up to look like the U.S. Senate's internal email system.... Attribution is extremely tricky in the world of cybersecurity, where hackers routinely use misdirection and red herrings to fool their adversaries. But Tend Micro, which has followed Fancy Bear for years, said there could be no doubt.... Fancy Bear's interests aren't limited to U.S. politics...." --safari (Also linked yesterday.)

The Zombie Senate Race. Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby is confronting a fierce backlash from conservatives over his refusal to support Roy Moore in last month's special election -- with Moore backers pushing a censure resolution and robocall campaign targeting the powerful lawmaker. Moore's supporters are furious with Shelby over his remark days before the Dec. 12 election that he 'couldn't vote for Roy Moore,' a controversial former state judge who was facing allegations of child molestation. Instead, Shelby said he would write-in the name of another unnamed Republican.... This week, three Moore supporters submitted a resolution to the Alabama Republican Party executive committee calling for Shelby to be censured."

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Hayley Peterson of Business Insider on WalMart's closing 63 Sam's Clubs yesterday: "In some cases, employees were not told their store had closed before showing up to work on Thursday. Those employees learned their store would be closing when they found the store's doors locked and a notice announcing the closing, Sam's Club workers told Business Insider. At some stores, employees were turned away by police officers." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: How nice that a multi-trillion-dollar company (I guess) decided to screw these hourly-wage employees one last time. Obviously, there are expense of both time & $$ to get from home to work & back. Many of these workers had to take public transportation, for instance. And some probably had incurred extra expenses like daycare for children or disabled dependents. But WalMart doesn't care.

... Ian Crouch of the New Yorker reviews the interview. Thanks to David R. for the link.

News Ledes

ESPN: "Keith Jackson, who was widely regarded as the voice of college football by several generations, died late Friday night, his family said. He was 89. Jackson, who retired in 2006, spent some 50 years calling the action in a folksy, down-to-earth manner that made him one of the most popular play-by-play personalities in the business."

Los Angeles Times: "Former U.S. Sen. John V. Tunney, who as a young lawyer and rising California political star toppled an entrenched Republican incumbent before facing his own defeat just six years later, has died. He was 83."