The Ledes

Thursday, July 30, 2015.

New York Times: "The commander of a group of Syrian fighters trained by the United States has been kidnapped by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, his group said in a statement Thursday. The commander, Nadeem Hassan, and seven of his fighters were taken by the Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State in Syria, as they were returning from a meeting in Turkey."

AP: "Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/11 attacks and led a 14-year insurgency against U.S. and NATO troops. The Taliban Shura, or Supreme Council, chose Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who had served as Mullah Omar's deputy for the past three years, as its new leader, two Taliban figures told the Associated Press...."

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy rebounded between April and June, new government data showed Thursday, expanding at an annualized rate of 2.3 percent. Growth in the second quarter remained modest, particularly compared with the breakneck pace seen in much of 2014, but it also signaled a bounce-back from a surprisingly sluggish winter when the economy was at a crawl."

New York Times: "Government officials and families of passengers lost on a Malaysian jet that vanished last year with 239 people aboard responded warily on Thursday to the discovery of possible wreckage from the aircraft, reluctant to fan hopes after more than a year of fruitless searching and false rumors. Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss of Australia, whose country has led the search for the jet, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, said that the discovery of an airplane part thousands of miles from the search area was 'a very significant development' but cautioned against concluding that it was from the missing aircraft."

The Wires

The Ledes

... Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. (This video tends to start near the end. If it does that for you, cursor back to the beginning.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

Guardian: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday continued to pave the way for an increase in interest rates as early as September. The US central bank left its key interest rate unchanged at near zero – where it has been since the 2008 financial crisis – but once again signalled that rates will rise later this year. While the Fed chair, Janet Yellen, has left little doubt that rates will rise this year, the Fed left itself wiggle room as it has set no timetable and said rates would only be raised if the economy continues to improve and unemployment continues to fall." ...

... The Fed's statement is here.

New York Times: "A large object that appeared to be an airplane part washed up Wednesday on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, prompting speculation that it might be debris from Flight 370, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared in March 2014." ...

     ... AP UPDATE: "Air safety investigators have a 'high degree of confidence' that aircraft debris found in the Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year, a U.S. official said Wednesday."

New York Times: "After months of speculation, Afghan officials announced Wednesday that they were now certain that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, died in Pakistan in 2013."

Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has approved the immediate construction of hundreds of settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a growing threat posed by pro-settler parties in his rightwing coalition government. The issue was brought to a head on Wednesday by a supreme court ruling that two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El – built on private Palestinian land without permits – should be destroyed, despite Netanyahu’s opposition."

Washington Post: "An Albuquerque 911 dispatcher has resigned after audio was released of him hanging up on a 17-year-old as she tended to a friend who was shot at the party. The victim, 17-year-old Jaydon Chavez-Silver, later died.... Emergency responders had already been dispatched to the house before [the dispatcher] hung up." Includes 911 audio.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "A big-game hunter from the Twin Cities found himself at the center of an international firestorm Tuesday over the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, but said he regrets killing the animal and believed his guides were leading him on a legal hunt.... Earlier Tuesday, the Telegraph newspaper of London identified [dentist Walter] Palmer as the hunter who shot Cecil and reported that he paid $54,000 for the hunt. The Telegraph said the lion was illegally lured out of Hwange National Park, where it had protected status, and onto a neighboring game farm, where Palmer was on safari." ...

... Salon: Yelp contributors are whacking Palmer.

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "A novel data-mining project reveals evidence that a common group of heartburn medications taken by more than 100 million people every year is associated with a greater risk of heart attacks, Stanford University researchers reported Wednesday."

AP: "Federal health advisers on Tuesday[, June 9,] recommended approval for a highly anticipated cholesterol drug from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, but with the caveat that more data is needed about its long-term ability to reduce heart attacks. The expert panel recommended by a 13-3 vote that the Food and Drug Administration approve the injectable drug, called Praluent."

Washington Post (June 4): "The first-ever 'female Viagra' came one step closer to coming to market, as a key advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the FDA approve the drug with conditions. The committee voted 18-6 to recommend that the FDA approve flibanserin, a drug designed to boost the low sexual desire of otherwise healthy women."

White House Live Video
July 30

2:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

2:00 pm ET: Open government public meeting

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

If you can memorize & learn to use the University of New Hampshire's long list of "bias-free language," you can be the most politically-correct person in your neighborhood. Via Jonathan Chait. ...

... CW Etiquette Tip: calling out your friends for using outmoded terms like "overweight" & "rich" is not politically-correct. Simply try to steer the conversation in a more "inclusive" direction. So if your friend says to you, "My rich neighbor got so overweight he has to use a wheelchair now," you say, "Oh, that person of material wealth has become a person of size who is wheelchair mobile? Wow! He's your neighbor? I remember him when he was a person experiencing homelessness who lacked advantages that others have." It sounds so natural, your friend will never realize you've corrected his biased, dated stereotypes.

Will Oremus of Slate likes Windows 10. CW: I haven't had the courage to try switching over yet. I'll lose EVERYTHING!

Fuck off! I’m done with you. -- Jon Stewart, to Wyatt Cenac

... Alex Jung of New York: Jon Stewart repeatedly yelled at Wyatt Cenac when Cenac questioned a "Daily Show" segment meant to be a defense against Fox "News" allegations that Stewart's Herman Cain imitation was racist. ...

... Maron's WTF podcast of his interview with Cenac is here. ...

... CW: Here's the thing, black people. When you confront white liberals with accusations of racial bias, WE WILL NEVER ADMIT IT. We will remind you that we have been fighting for black civil rights for 50 years (Bernie Sanders). We will tell you all lives matter (Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley). We will tell you that white people are responsible for expanding your rights (Hillary Clinton). We will deny your accusations (Every one of us). And all the while, we will be highly insulted, even if we don't tell you to fuck off. Because white people's feelings matter. And, after all we've done for you, we can't believe you would accuse us of racism.

Even when they're only lip-syncing, some entertainers are pretty damned talented. I'm not much of a fan of Tom Cruise's, but ...

Tech Crunch: "It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned and now, after already moving Google Photos out of the service, it’s starting to decouple Google+ profiles from its regular Google accounts."

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast: NBC News Chairman Andy Lack is replacing MSNBC's Ed Schultz with -- Chuck Todd. [CW: Excellent decision! Let's change "MSNBC" to "VPN" -- "Village People's Network."] "The only programs that appeared safe from disruption were Morning Joe..., hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; Hardball ... with Chris Matthews; and The Rachel Maddow Show at 9 p.m. Those programs have performed respectably...." ...

We live in a time when much of the corporate media regards politics as a baseball game or a soap opera. Ed Schultz has treated the American people with respect by focusing on the most important issues impacting their lives.... I am very disappointed that Comcast [the parent company of NBC & MSNBC] chose to remove Ed Schultz from its lineup. We need more people who talk about the real issues facing our country, not fewer.... At a time when a handful of large, multi-national corporations own our major media outlets, I hope they will allow voices to be heard from those who dissent from the corporate agenda. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders

Washington Post: "The latest update from NASA's Kepler space telescope — designed to spot distant exoplanets — adds more than 500 new possible planets to the fray. That's in addition to the 4,175 planets already found by Kepler. And of those 500 new potential planets, scientists say, a dozen could be remarkably Earth-like. That means they're less than twice as large as Earth, are potentially rocky and are at the right distance from their host stars to harbor liquid water." ...

... Guardian: "Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered 'the closest twin to Earth' outside the solar system, Nasa announced on Thursday."

Worst Person Ratings in the World. Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: Rumors are a'flyin' that MSNBC is headed for another line-up shake-up, which could include the Return of Dr. Olbermann, who is departing ESPN -- again. Because their third place in cable ratings wasn't as bad as their third place is now (sometimes 4th, behind Al Jazeera). And because the New Olbermann is now a suits-licking pussycat, unlike the Old Olbermann from way last week.

Some Would Be Heroes. Washington Post: Coast Guardsman Darren Harrity swims a mile in choppy, fuel-slicked sea to save four men in a leaky lifeboat.

New York Times: "What Pet Should I Get?" -- an aide to Dr. Suess's widow found the manuscript in a box. Dr. Suess -- Theodore Geisel -- died in 1991.

     ... Via BuzzFeed, for the fun of it.

Washington Post: "On Monday, famed physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian tycoon Yuri Milner held a news conference in London to announce their new project: injecting $100 million and a whole lot of brain power into the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, an endeavor they're calling Breakthrough Listen." ...

... CW: What a waste. You know all they'll find is angels hovering around a pantheon of some sort & maybe, if they're lucky, their long-dead pooches floating around Pet Heaven, which is real & wonderful.

New York Times: "In a pair of legal filings on Friday, two nuns who object to [singer Katy] Perry’s proposed purchase of their order’s convent on eight acres [in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles] disclosed an email describing any sale to the saucy pop singer as a breach of their sacred vows.... The court papers include claims by several of five surviving nuns in the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the archdiocese is betraying them and bullying them into supporting a sale other than their preferred transaction with [another buyer]."

NASA: "In the latest data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named 'Tombaugh Regio' (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930."

Hill: "President Obama is making a final 'Daily Show' appearance before host Jon Stewart leaves the political comedy program after 17 years. Obama will sit down for his final chat with Stewart on Tuesday, the White House confirmed Friday."

For an actual feel-good moment, Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post tells the story of 16-year-old small-plane crash survivor Autumn Veatch. Veatch, who was injured in the crash that killed her grandparents, walked untold mild through rough terrain until she came to a public road & parking area.

Washington Post: "Nearly two months after a molestation scandal prompted TLC to pull reruns of the popular reality program '19 Kids and Counting' from the air and online, the network announced that it has officially canceled the program."

Washington Post: "Filmmaker George Lucas, singer-songwriter Carole King and dancer-actress Rita Moreno are among an unprecedented six honorees to be saluted at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors. Seventies rockers the Eagles, actress Cicely Tyson and conductor Seiji Ozawa will also be honored at the Dec. 6 event, Kennedy Center officials said Wednesday. A major fundraiser for the arts center, the gala celebration will be televised on CBS on Dec. 29."

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker reviews Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. ...

... Laura Marsh of the New Republic: "Scolars have been pointing out Atticus Finch's racism for years."

New York Times (July 15): "It was the last day of business at F. A. O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan."

New York Times: "A day after its successful flyby, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back the first close-up photographs of Pluto, revealing a young surface dotted with ice mountains. The piano-size spacecraft traveled nine years and three billion miles to study the dwarf planet and its five moons." Includes one close-up photo from 25 miles out. More on NASA's site.

New York (July 14): "We're halfway through July, but until this morning, there was still snow on the ground in Boston. The last of the city's historic snowfall, a disgusting frozen mass of dirt, snow, and trash, was officially pronounced melted this morning"."

Here are time-lapse photos of the long melt:

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Wednesday
Jul112012

The Commentariat -- July 12, 2012

CW: it's another day in DemoLand, so again I'll be ignoring you in favor of salvaging baseboards & door moldings, choosing lovely, affordable fixtures for the bahth & making other executive decisions.

CW: Linda Greenhouse has a fascinating take on Chief Justice John Roberts' switcheroo on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and it please me that she agrees with a theory I proffered in a NYTX column: "I doubt there was a single reason for the chief justice's evolution..., but let me suggest one: the breathtaking radicalism of the other four conservative justices. The opinion pointedly signed individually by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. would have invalidated the entire Affordable Care Act.... This astonishing act of judicial activism has received insufficient attention..., but it surely got the chief justice's attention as a warning that his ostensible allies were about to drive the Supreme Court over the cliff and into the abyss."

They’ve got a website, God bless them. It's always good to put a website up with some black faces on it. Outreach. -- Michael Steele, former RNC chair, on the GOP's effort to woo black voters

... Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM: "Even that website, it turns out, doesn’t exist."

Presidential Race

Gail Collins: "Barack Obama, who ... has royalty income, is a small business. Possibly the only small business the Republicans do not love."

"Don't know much about his-to-ry, Part 1":

... Part 2:

We've of course released all the financial statements that are required by law and then two years of tax returns -- the most recent year will be released as soon as that's prepared. Other financial disclosure is there, the same information that John McCain, or John Kerry for that matter released when they were running for president. -- Mitt Rmoney

Shushannah Walshe of ABC News: [Romney] has released one year of his returns and an estimate of his 2011 returns.... He received an extension and said at the time he would release them in the next six months, which would be October. John McCain released two years, but John Kerry actually released more than that in his 2004 race, going back to 1999. He released many more returns as a United States senator, as many as twenty. McCain released a total of six documents, two for himself, two for his wife Cindy McCain, and two for the McCain Family Foundation.

... Does he know one and one is two?

CW: a vignette in a piece by Adam Serwer on Romney's "long, troubled history with the NAACP": "in 2006 the local NAACP slammed Romney for referring to a perennially unfinished public works project in Boston, the Big Dig, as a 'tar baby.' Eric Fernstrom, a top Romney adviser (then and now), claimed that Romney was unaware of the racial connotation and was merely trying to describe 'a sticky situation.' Still, Romney apologized." CW: I find it totally believable that Romney would have no idea he was making a racial slur. The guy has never had anything but the most minimal contact with people of color, and no interest in any cultural niche that differs from his own. When you're busy making millions, you don't have time to consider the sensibilities of others.

I believe his vested interests are in white Americans. You cannot possibly talk about jobs for black people at the level he's coming from. He's talking about entrepreneurship, savings accounts -- black people can barely find a way to get back and forth from work. -- Charlette Stoker Manning, chair of Women in NAACP, on Rmoney's speech before the NAACP convention

Judd Legum & Scott Keyes of Think Progress have a good follow-up report on reaction to Romney's speech at the NAACP convention. Um, people didn't like it. ...

Right Wing World

... Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Rush Limbaugh said Mitt Romney’s speech Wednesday to the NAACP fell flat because it was 'over these people's heads' and that the group booed the Republican candidate, who 'sounded like Snow White with testicles,' simply because he's white. Limbaugh... claimed that President Barack Obama insulted the group by sending Vice President Joe Biden instead. CW: I didn't see anything in the news about attendees booing Biden, and he looks as white as Romney. Of course recognizing the internal inconsistency in his own argument is "over Rushbo's head."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The most senior officials at Penn State University failed for more than a decade to take any steps to protect the children victimized by Jerry Sandusky, the longtime lieutenant to head football coach Joe Paterno, according to an independent investigation of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the university last fall." Former FBI director Louis Freeh led the investigation. The group's report is here.

New York Times: "Wells Fargo, the nation's largest home mortgage lender, has agreed to pay at least $175 million to settle accusations that its independent brokers discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom, the Justice Department announced on Thursday. If approved by a federal judge, it would be the second largest residential fair-lending settlement in the department's history."

Washington Post: "Vice President Biden made an impassioned appeal to the nation's oldest civil rights group Thursday, calling on members to rally behind the first black president and reject a Republican vision for the country that would roll back progress for minorities. Speaking at the NAACP conference in Houston a day after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appeared there, Biden delivered a sharp rebuttal to Romney's contention that his policies would be better for black families than President Obama's have been...."

New York Times: "Yahoo confirmed Thursday that a file containing approximately 400,000 usernames and passwords to Yahoo and other companies was stolen Wednesday. A group of hackers, known as the D33D Company, posted usernames and passwords for what appeared to be 453,492 accounts belonging to Yahoo, but also Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, MSN, SBC Global, Verizon, BellSouth and Live.com users."

Reader Comments (10)

My favorite line from Willard the Rat's lecture to the NAACP about how much they don't understand about him or about, you know, the real world, they being black and all, is that he has a secret plan to keep people from "becoming poor".

Really Willard? KEEP them from becoming poor? So let me get this straight. In your tiny little Richie Rich brain, all African Americans are born driving little baby Cadillacs, dripping in bling and living in mansions, is that right? But somehow along the way they "became" poor. And you have a plan to stop that horrible outcome because, you know, being poor sucks so much. A condition you have such empathy for and knowledge about.

It must have been that mean 'ol nasty nee-groe with the funny name who made all those people poor. You know, the one so many of your supporters say is a Muslim, a completely false assertion you're just too polite to correct.

No wonder all those meanies at that Nee-gro whatchamacallit AAP thing booed you.

Insulting moron is too polite a description. And we won't even get into what Rush Limbaugh is. Just let me say that he resembles the reason he was unable to assist our brave boys during the Viet Nam war, a conflict he staunchly supported and in which would have been happy to wade into battle killing scores of commie creeps except for that oozing pimple on his fat ass. So he got a deferment. Just like Willard. Too bad all those African American boys had to go. They just "got" poor and had no way to get their own deferments.

Ho hum. Well, he gave it his best. If they don't want to listen to him, he'll just let them all go poor and not tell them his secret. Besides, who cares if they don't want to vote for him? His pals in the Republican Party are working day and night to disenfranchise all those mean nee-groes. The state of Florida has practically criminalized the mere fact of being born black.

The GOP. Making America safer for rich white people.

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus

And what was that strange look on Mitt's puss after they booed him? A half awkward smile, as though he had delivered a bad joke that went over like a lead balloon, or someone who just passed gas in a crowded room.

Let us not forget who married Rush the last time he married: our favorite Supreme being, the one who, himself, is married to Ginny, she of the long claws and sunny disposition.

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

To Marie: There's nothing like a new bathroom to liven up a woman's spirits––sort of like bathing in the lap of luxury. Enjoy!

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

PD,

Pimple Butt's connection to see no evil (on the right), hear no evil (of the right), speak no evil--or anything else, Justice Thomas, provides him with the age-old protective shield hoisted by racists since the Emancipation Proclamation: "Some of my best friends are black."

Another favorite moment in The scared Rat's visit to non-white world appeared in an article describing the reaction of NAACP members who heard Willard's lecture in person. One woman, trying to keep a straight face, offered that he tried his best--before "dissolving in laughter".

I guess it was funny, in a kind of gruesome way.

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

As much as I deplore the denigrating use of " Uncle Remus" " Br'er Rabbit " and the "Tar Baby " I must admit I love the idea of the Republicans being stuck with their short sighted attacks on Affordable Care forever. Hopefully, this error in judgement and lack of compassion will stick to the Republican party forever just like a...

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

The Linda Greenhouse post is a great one. When the ACA brouhaha blew up I was in full agreement with Marie's take on what, perhaps, was going through Little Johnny's head.

Greenhouse's ruminations on the subject seem to support a reading of the tea leaves that has Roberts, as if he were in a movie serial from the 30s, frantically working to unchain himself from the maniacs dragging him over a precipice into a pit of boiling lava below. They, of course, being denizens of the nether regions would survive to fight another day. Roberts, it appears, may have been looking at future history books, wondering whether he wanted his name plastered across such an overweening disposition. Even after a century and a half the names Roger Taney and Dred Scott are inseparably linked, Taney's reputation forever besmirched by his disgraceful disputation of the basic right of human beings to be treated as such.

Does Roberts fear becoming a 21st century Roger Taney? I don't know.

I'm still not convinced, by a long shot, that Roberts has renounced the goal of completing a major paradigm shift on the high court, but Posner's postulation offers a tiny glimmer of hope that someone at long last remembers what the hell the Supreme Court is supposed to be about.

On the other hand, Johnny may feel the need to reclaim his conservative bona fides--history be damned--and put the iron boots back on to walk over people's faces in the next term.

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Back in May Ronald Dworkin had a piece in the NYRB on how the mandate is constitutional. He ended his essay by reminding us that we could not ignore the political dimensions of this case–– that the Republican Party's relentless denunciation of the ACA is because it is Obama's main domestic achievement.

"Our recent history is marred by a number of very badly reasoned Supreme Court decisions that, deliberately or not, had a distinct partisan flavor: "Citizen United," for example. which, most critics agree, has already had a profound and destructive impact on our democratic process. These decisions soiled the Supreme Court's reputation and they harmed the nation. We must hope, though perhaps against the evidence, that the Court will not now add that to that unfortunate list."
And Dworkin, as we know, was not the only voice singing this song. Roberts saved his ass and the Court by this ruling even at the expense of the Republicans calling him a turncoat––as if the Court is at all partisan––heaven forbid!

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

PD--The irony is that by calling Roberts a traitor they explicitly demonstrate that they believe that individual Supreme Court Justices should relentlessly pursue personal political aims. The Court has always been political, but as Earl Warren and David Souter have demonstrated, sometimes judges, like Billy Pilgrim, become unfastened from their original ideologies and gravitate in a statesmanlike direction.

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Jack: Billy Pilgrim––Vonnegut's baby-faced day dreamer in "Slaughterhouse Five"?

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Yes, he became "unstuck in time." The way some conservative justices have become unstuck from ideology. One can only hope that Roberts is recognizing the power he holds and that such a realization turns him from a Republican into a citizen of America and the Earth. Where are Tralfamadorians when you really need them?

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney
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