The Ledes

Tuesday, December 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "A former wife of the Islamic State’s leader was released Tuesday after more than year in custody in Lebanon as part of a prisoner swap involving Lebanese security forces held captive by militants in Syria. Lebanese authorities handed over Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi who was briefly married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the presumed head of the Islamic State. Along with Dulaimi was a group of mostly Islamist detainees, according to officials in Lebanon’s military."

The Wires

White House Live Video
December 1

1:00 pm ET: World AIDS Day

8:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the ONE Campaign's "A Night of Music at Carnegie Hall" (audio only)

Go to


Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (October 26): "A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too. The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States."

New York Times (October 20: "The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to [breast-cancer] screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years. The organization also said it no longer recommended clinical breast exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps, for women of any age who have had no symptoms of abnormality in the breasts."

Wow! For just shy of $8MM, you can own Michelangelo's Tuscan villa. According to the listing agent, "In 1549, he purchased the property and it remained in the Buonarroti family until 1867. The current owner has restored the property to accurately tell the rich historical account of this property and he currently holds the original documents and deed to the home." The listing shows many views of the property. It's a dream!

New York Times: "Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared from her home in Westchester County nearly 34 years ago.... On Monday, Ms. Durst’s mother, Ann McCormack, who is 101, and three sisters — Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes and Virginia McKeon filed a $100 million lawsuit against the man who they have long suspected of killing her: Robert A. Durst, her husband. The lawsuit contends that Mr. Durst violated the McCormack family’s right to sepulcher, a rarely used New York law granting family members the immediate right to possession of a body for burial."

Washington Post: "Christmas in Washington" annual TNT special, in which presidents & their families regularly appeared, ends 33-year-run. Ah, must be because of Obama's War on Christmas. Wait, it isn"t!

Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas tree, November 27:

Boston Globe: Michael Dukakis loves leftover turkey. A turkey carcass makes great soup, he said, inviting people to drop off turkey carcasses at his home. So they did.

Domenico Montanaro of NPR with everything you never wanted to know about the strange tradition of presidential "pardons" of turkeys.

Frank Rich reviews "Carol," the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym. As usual, Rich goes deep.

New York Times: "Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday[, Nov. 18,] night for “Between the World and Me,” a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality.... The fiction award went to Adam Johnson for 'Fortune Smiles.'..."

Slate: Carly Simon told People magazine that "You're So Vain" is about Warren Beatty. CW: Somehow I think I knew that a long time ago.

Guardian: "Gawker, the gossip website..., is giving up on reporting gossip in order to refocus on politics and 'to hump the [2016 presidential] campaign'. The site, founded by British journalist Nick Denton in 2003, announced on Tuesday that Gawker was steering in a new direction that would “orient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire'.”

Washington Post: Actor "Charlie Sheen confirmed on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive, as rumored in recent days by an onslaught of tabloid stories. Sheen told Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he is going public with his illness for multiple reasons, including that he’s been blackmailed for upwards of $10 million since he was diagnosed four years ago."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

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The Commentariat -- July 15, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is titled "When Did He Leave & When Did He Know It?" You can guess the subject matter. The NYTX front page is here.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman for the New York Times.Frank Bruni: "WHENEVER you doubt that the future can improve upon the past or that government can play a pivotal role in that, consider and revel in the extraordinary greening of New York."

Digby: "According to Media Matters, with the exception of Spitzer and Chris Hayes, TV news has pretty much avoided even mentioning [the LIBOR] scandal, much less trying to explain it":

CW: I hope you readers who thought I was a dope for citing the case of Tomas Lopez -- the young man fired from his lifeguard's job for trying to save a swimmer outside his assigned "zone" -- as an example of the perils of privatization, will read Steven Pearlstein's Washington Post article on the story, which he describes as "a parable about outsourcing and how it is reshaping large swaths of the economy." Pearlstein makes a number of the same points I did, and then some. I might be a dope, but I have company!

Peter Maass & Megha Rajagopalan in the New York Times: "THE device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cellphone -- guess again. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Let's stop calling them phones. They are trackers.... The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ... noted that GPS data can reveal whether a person 'is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups -- and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.'"

Speaking of trackers, Scott Shane of the New York Times on "the moral case for drones." Something of a must-read, no matter what your opinion of drones is now.

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: "First, it was kings and queens. Now, it is heads of state -- and the secretary of state. During a CNN interview that aired Tuesday, Senator Scott Brown said that President Obama and other powerful Democrats are regularly phoning him to get help passing their legislation.... In reality, Brown's staff says he has spoken by phone with Clinton just twice during his Senate career -- most recently over a year ago, on July 5, 2011.... Brown's staff says he has spoken with the vice president by phone just once. As for Obama himself, Brown's staff says the two have spoken by phone just once, in April 2010.... But the president also hosted Brown in June 2010 for a face-to-face talk in the Oval Office."

Presidential Race

Sing along with Mitt:

Your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. -- Mitt Romney, referring to the people who booed him at the NAACP convention ...

... Suzie Madrak: "As far as free lunches go, we of course just witnessed the biggest government handout in history, one that Romney himself endorsed. Four and a half trillion dollars in bailout money already disbursed, trillions more still at risk in guarantees and loans, sixteen trillion dollars in emergency lending from the Federal Reserve, two trillion in quantitative easing, etc. etc. All of this money went to Romney's pals in the Wall Street banks that for years helped Romney take over companies with mountains of borrowed cash. Now, after these banks crashed, executives at those same firms used those public funds to pay themselves massive salaries." Read her whole post on Willard's "character." ...

... Here's the piece by Matt Taibbi -- which Madrak cites -- on Romney big "outreach" to "those people" who are all about "free stuff." ...

... Digby: "... as usual, it's only the average Joe in a bind who needs to be taught a lesson in personal responsibility."

Tony Soprano Explains "Planned Bankruptcy a la Mitt":

Jordy Yager of The Hill: "Rep. Ron Paul said that the Republican Party is scared to let him speak at the national convention in Florida next month.... 'I think the Romney campaign organization is very insecure,' said Paul in an interview with Fox Business News on Friday."

"Perhaps there's a contradiction there":

Local News

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "The federal government has granted Florida election officials access to a database of noncitizen residents for use in Republican-backed efforts to remove people who are not American citizens from voter registration rolls."

News Ledes

New York Times: "As regulators ramp up their global investigation into the manipulation of interest rates, the Justice Department has identified potential criminal wrongdoing by big banks and individuals at the center of the scandal. The department's criminal division is building cases against several financial institutions and their employees, including traders at Barclays...."

New York Times: "A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama."

Washington Post: "Japan on Sunday recalled its ambassador to China as the result of a reigniting territorial dispute between the East Asian neighbors. The uninhabited and long-contested Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by China, have again turned into a flashpoint amid Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's recent proposal to buy the territory from a private Japanese landowner. China sent three ships to the area last week as an apparent response, prompting a protest from Japan."

AP: "Syria on Sunday denied U.N. claims that government forces used heavy weapons during a military operation that left scores dead and brought immediate international condemnation, while the International Committee of the Red Cross said it now considers the conflict in the country a civil war."

Reader Comments (6)

I liked Frank Bruni's point that NYC 's explosion of parks is an object lesson in the wonders that can be achieved by responsive and pro-active government.
It's sobering to consider, however, that the residents of our cities are underrepresented in Congress due to our unique governmental system mandated by the Constitution.

July 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

LIBOR IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS: Oh, how we wait for the collapse of various inflated parties–– like the stars that become black holes––oh, how we wait!!!

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marie, I sure hope you did not think that I thought you were a "dope" for citing that article when I suggested that we need to be careful of how we use events to support our shared belief in the dangers of privatization. My point was that we need to pick fact-based evidence that shows that the private management is behaving differently than a public management would. The article you cited did not have enough details - we needed to know a lot more to really judge. That is why I said if we argue with so little evidence then we can't complain when someone generalizes that liberals are incompetent when one thing goes wrong. I think the reason I even wrote is that I read a lot of liberal blogs and see a lot of comments from people that come across as stereotypically whiny as the conservatives complain about. I think you are an amazingly smart, insightful person, which is why I visit your page many times a day. I just think our fight against privatization is stronger is we have data to back up our arguments.

On a related note, my daughter is a lifeguard so I asked her about what her training has taught her. She said "rescue first." Their policy/procedure is to first ensure that their station is covered and then go rescue the swimmer. Assuming that the lifeguard did that and followed proper procedure, he did the right thing. I was not giving him the benefit of the doubt.

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Citizens somtimes forget that privatization immediately adds about twenty five percent to the costs of anything taken private. This represents the new profit margin. To avoid looking crazy, the take over group must reduce costs twenty five percent to avoid increasing prices and a immediate out cry. Services quickly decline. There is a wealth of information about Great Britain's experience with privatization of rail and electricity. Prices up, service down and there is a momement afoot to take the rail roads back
The universal means of making a sucess of privatizing anything is cheaper help. Cheaper teachers? Cheaper cops? American workers are under paid now, is peonage next?

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Regarding the dispute between Direct TV an Viacom that is causing a number of stations to go dark for Direct TV subscribers (but the only one I care about is Comedy Central): When I learned that I would likely be unable to view The Daily Show and Colbert Report, my immediate thought was that was okay I could watch online if I had to. Au contraire! Apparently that's exactly what Direct TV was telling its subscribers, which caused Viacom to issue a statement that they are pulling the two shows from internet view for a while.
This is starting to resemble an episode of the imaginary show "Corporations Behaving Badly."

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

Marie: Fabulous column today in the New York Times eXaminer! I'm in awe of your brilliance and energy in marshaling facts and arguments!

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban
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