The Ledes

Sunday, September 21, 2014.

New York Times: "Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday pronounced Ashraf Ghani the winner of the country’s presidential election, but it withheld an announcement of the total votes won, despite an exhaustive and costly audit process overseen by the United Nations and financed by the American government. The suppression of the vote totals was apparently the final step necessary for the two presidential candidates to sign an American-brokered agreement to form a power-sharing government, giving the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, substantial powers in what is, in effect, the post of prime minister."

New York Times: "NASA’s latest Mars spacecraft, Maven, arrives Sunday evening to study the mystery of what happened to the planet’s air. A 33-minute engine firing, beginning at 9:37 p.m. Eastern time, will put Maven in orbit around the planet. Acknowledgment will reach mission controllers 12 1/2 minutes later, the time it takes for a radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars. NASA’s website will provide a live broadcast beginning at 9:30 p.m."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL":

The Ledes

Saturday, September 20, 2014.

Guardian: "The United States has quietly released 14 Pakistani citizens from military detention in Afghanistan, where the US holds its most secret cohort of detainees in its war on terrorism. The US military transferred the 14 to Pakistani government custody on Saturday. It did not publicize the release, as is typical with releases from the detention center on the outskirts of Bagram Airfield which is known formally as the Detention Facility in Parwan. A Pakistani human rights group instead announced the transfer and said it was the largest number of Pakistanis the US has thus far released."

New York Times: "Polly Bergen, an actress, singer and businesswoman who won an Emmy in 1957 for her portrayal of the alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan and was nominated for another 50 years later for her role on the television show 'Desperate Housewives,' died on Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn. She was 84."

New York Times: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan have agreed on a power-sharing deal that will give the losing candidate substantial influence in the next government, initialing the American-brokered deal Saturday night and promising to sign it at a formal ceremony on Sunday. The deal promised an end at last to the tumultuous, five-month-long aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections, although previous settlements have repeatedly collapsed at the last minute despite the candidates’ promises."

New York Times: "A Texas man who scaled the White House fence made it through the North Portico doors on Friday night before being apprehended, the Secret Service said. The intruder, Omar J. Gonzalez, 42, was arrested just inside the doors and taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of chest pains, said Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman. None of the Obamas were home when the security breach occurred about 7:20 p.m., but White House staff members were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. President Obama and his daughters had left for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., just minutes before the incident." ...

     ... New Lede: "The Secret Service will conduct an internal review of its security procedures around the White House after a man who jumped the fence Friday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue managed to make his way through the front door of President Obama’s home before being stopped, officials said Saturday." ...

     ... ** Washington Post UPDATE: "Within seconds, the man who relatives said served as a sniper in the Iraq War got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He was carrying a folding knife with a 2-1/2 inch serrated blade." ...

... Fox "News": "A New Jersey man was arrested Saturday outside the White House after driving up to a gate and refusing to leave, less than 24 hours after another man jumped the fence and got inside the presidential mansion before being arrested, which has resulted in increased security and a “comprehensive internal review,” according to the Secret Service."

New York Times: "Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul." ...

     ... Too Good to Be True? AP UPDATE: "Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world's most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo. But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital's airport, experts had doubts about the government's story."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, September 17: "Artificial sweeteners might be triggering higher blood-sugar levels in some people and contributing to the problems they were designed to combat, such as diabetes and obesity, according to new findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

New York Times, September 1: "People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study [financed by the N.I.H.] shows."

White House Live Video
September 19

10:00 am ET: Annoucement of Department of Defense awards on biofuel production

10:15 am ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden host a White House event to launch the "It's on Us" campaign

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

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

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

CW: Here's some cheery news. The MacArthur Foundation has named the newest recipients of its "genius" grants. I hope none of them is somebody you personally dislike (thus keeping it cheery). The AP article linked includes a slide show with mini-profiles of each grant recipient.

** CW: The best, most provocative piece of writing in the "news" today is A. O. Scott's piece in the New York Times Magazine on "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." If you don't watch a lot of TV & never see stupid movies, you will struggle with Scott's exemplary references. You may not accept all of his premises, & I think he falls short on defining "adulthood" (though maybe, like pornography, we're supposed to recognize it when we see it.). ...

... Adam Sternbergh responds in New York.

Jeff Weiss, in the New York Times, profiles comedian Bill Maher, who is in the midst of a schtick aimed to defeat the U.S.'s worst Congressperson. You would be a good idea to read Weiss's piece with A. O. Scott's essay in mind. Maher (& even Weiss, who -- in ticking off "bad things" about Maher -- never mentions Maher's offensive attitudes about women) is a fine example of Scott's thesis.

Guardian: "Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child, the royal family said on Monday morning. The announcement was made from Clarence House on Twitter.... The Duchess of Cornwall is suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with her first pregnancy, and is being treated by doctors at her apartments in Kensington Palace."

Washington Post: "After less than a year at the top of Politico’s masthead, veteran New York Times editor Rick Berke has resigned as the publication’s executive editor.... Friction had been on display in the newsroom almost from the beginning of his tenure. Berke, according to several current and former Politico employees, tried to impose some of the values of the world he came from — where multiple editors might weigh in, demand multiple drafts, and shape bigger, more ambitious stories — on Politico’s fast-moving, reporter-driven newsroom."

 

Jimmy Fallon & Maroon 5 singer & Voice judge Adam Levine stage a "musical impressions-off." This clip, from a show that aired this week (September 2), already has more than 8MM hits:

New York Times: "The jilted lover of President François Hollande of France has written a tell-all book about her days as France’s onetime unofficial first lady and of her version of events that led the couple to separate after the president was exposed as having an affair by a French gossip magazine. The book by Valérie Trierweiler, 49, who separated from Mr. Hollande in January, describes how news of the affair pushed her to the edge. She acknowledges that she 'cracked' and attempted suicide by trying to overdose on sleeping pills when she learned of Mr. Hollande’s affair with an actress, Julie Gayet.... The book drew a barrage of criticism for revealing secrets about the president, whose office embodies the nation and is rarefied like that of a monarch."

Washington Post: "Apple said that its iCloud systems have not been breached Tuesday and that thieves stole celebrity photos from Apple accounts by targeting individuals, rather than by breaking into the company's infrastructure."

Gabrielle Bluestone of Gawker claims she has compiled "everything we know about the alleged celeb nude 'trading ring' & leak." CW: I'll take her word for it, though I should warn you her post does not include any nude pix. My advice: If you wanna be in pictures, but you don't want photos of your naked self published on celebrity Websites, don't upload the pictures onto the Internets. There be hackers. 

... Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter interviews Jon Stewart, mostly on the making of his film "Rosewater," which is based on the arrest & incarceration of journalist Maziar Bahari in Iran in 2009.

AP: Actors "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in the French hamlet of Correns, a spokesman for the couple says. Jolie and Pitt wed in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends at Provence's Chateau Miraval. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France."

No, he isn't. -- David Chase, in answer to the question, "Is Tony dead?" ...

... However, it's more complicated than that. Follow-up story, with Chase's response to the original Vox story by Margaret Nochimson, here.

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox discusses the final scene of "The Sopranos":

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

Contact the Constant Weader

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

Monday
Jul302012

The Commentariat -- July 31, 2012

** Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "a personal note about ObamaCare and my recent absence." ...

... For Some, the Check Is in the Mail. Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: the Affordable Care Act "requires insurers to give out annual rebates by Aug. 1, starting this year, if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent. As a result, insurers will pay out $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, although not all of it will go to individuals."

Via Digby:

... Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) lets a lawyer for the Koch-funded Cato Institute have it. Whitehouse is a former prosecutor, & it shows, big-time. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link:

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post: "The deep federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of next year may trigger dismissal notices for tens of thousands of employees of government contractors..., and the warnings may start going out ... days before the presidential election.... Obama administration officials say that the threat of layoffs is overblown and that Republicans are playing up the possibility rather than trying to head it off.... Republicans reacted with fury, saying it is the White House that is playing politics."

Jonathan Bernstein in the Washington Post: Paul "Ryan is either a radical or a fraud."

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones posts a lot of charts, which -- all told -- add up to this:  

Despite raking in such a large share of the national income, our nation's über-wealthy pay very little in taxes by global standards. -- Josh Harkinson

 

Sorry to be late with this, but it's worth reading Charles Pierce's reflections on -- mostly -- the Sunday shows. And let me just say that the fact ABC "News" would give Dana Loesch a prominent place to air her views suggests to me that the FCC should yank its broadcast licenses today.

New York Times Editors: "According to [a] study [released by Sen. Tom Harkin {D-Iowa}], taxpayers poured about $32 billion into for-profit colleges in the most recent year -- much of it spent on marketing or pocketed as profit. Meanwhile, 96 percent of their students were forced to take out loans, as opposed to about 13 percent in community colleges and 48 percent in four-year public colleges. A majority leave without degrees. And while the for-profit sector accounts for only about 13 percent of enrollment nationally, it accounts for nearly half the loan defaults." The overview of Sen. Harkin's investigative report is here, with links to particulars.

Think Progress: " A Pew Research Center ... poll, taken after the Colorado shooting, shows that 47 percent of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, compared to 46 percent who say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns. While Pew calls this 'no significant change' from April numbers, it does represent a 5-point swing since their previous poll...."

Ian Millhiser: once again Senate Republicans filibuster an Obama judicial nominee who has strong bipartisan support. Just because.

Prof. Colin Carter & Dr. Henry Miller in a New York Times op-ed: "By suspending renewable-fuel standards that were unwise from the start, the Environmental Protection Agency could divert vast amounts of corn from inefficient ethanol production back into the food chain, where market forces and common sense dictate it should go." CW: Miller is with the conservative Hoover Institution, but I think he's right.

Whistleblowers Can Be Obnoxious. Eric Lichtblau & Scott Shane of the New York Times on Robert Smith, the radiologist & lawyer at the center of an F.D.A. spying scandal.

Do not lie to Harry Reid.

Presidential Race

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "President Obama hinted Monday evening that his re-election campaign will transition to a more positive and forward-looking message by the end of next month and into the fall. Obama told a group of high-dollar donors at a New York City fundraiser that he intends to spend 'a lot of time talking about the specific agenda that I intend to pursue in the second term.'"

Julián Aguilar & Zoë Gioja of the Texas Tribune: "San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who was jokingly mistaken for a White House intern by Barack Obama less than three years ago, will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that will nominate the president for a second term."

... Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe: at this year's Democratic National Convention, "Elizabeth Warren ... will speak immediately before Bill Clinton speaks on what party officials hope will be an energetic penultimate night. Warren and Clinton will speak in prime time on Wednesday, Sept. 5...."

Jim Acosta of CNN: "The traveling press secretary for Mitt Romney lost his cool and cursed at reporters who attempted to ask questions of the Republican presidential candidate in a public plaza near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw Tuesday."

Steve Holland of Reuters: "Solidarity, the trade union movement which led the Polish struggle against communist rule, distanced itself on Monday from a visit to Poland by U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying he supported attacks on unions in his own country." But former Polish President Lech Walesa, who has broken with Solidarity (so not so solid), practically endorsed Romney. Current "Polish leaders enjoy fairly strong ties with the Obama White House."

NPR's Cokie Roberts says Romney was going to Poland to get out the white vote back home. AND the wingers wig out.

What a difference a candidate makes:

Pushback. Dana Davidsen of CNN: "Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said the Obama White House has been the most supportive administration throughout the two countries' diplomatic relations on matters of Israeli security, in an interview to air Monday on 'The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.' Barak -- also a former prime minister of Israel -- said that though historically administrations from both political parties have supported the Jewish state President Obama's support, security-wise, is unparalleled." Watch Blitzer -- he's so astounded you expect him to spit the GOP Kool-Aid he's been drinking:

Mitt Gives the Thumbs-up to Socialized Medicine. It's totally cost-effective! Charles Dharapak Zeke Miller of BuzzFeed: "Mitt Romney offered praise for the Israeli health care system today -- a medical plan that has been socialized since its founding in 1948. Romney ... marveled at how little Israel spends on health care relative to the United States." CW: Yes, it is marvelous, Mitt. Now, tell us why that is. ...

... Digby adds, "Don't tell Mitt but it's funded with a progressive health care tax." Thanks to contributor Janice K. for the link. ...

... Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post has more: "Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system.... Israel's lower health care spending does not look to sacrifice the quality of care. It has made more improvements than the United States on numerous quality metrics, and the country continues to have a higher life expectancy." With charts! ...

... Jon Walker of Firedoglake: "While heavy government price control is the 'secret' to Israel’s lower health care costs, the simple fact is that it is the same secret used by every other first world country to keep costs down."

... Here's the Bottom Line. Romney Doesn't Know What He's Talking about. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: "So was Romney simply clueless about the details of Israeli health care? Was he too busy trying to ingratiate himself with his hosts to pay attention? Or does he secretly think government-run health care has its virtues? I don't know -- and I'm not sure Romney does either."

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon on Romney's "analysis" of Israeli v. Palestinian culture: "... as Romney often likes to remind us, government restrictions on commerce can be bad for the economy, and there are probably few places on earth where commerce is more restricted than in the Palestinian territories.... Meanwhile, Romney vastly underestimated the economic gulf between the two economies. He guessed the gross domestic product per capita difference between Israel and the Palestinian territories to be about two-to-one, along the lines of the U.S. to Mexico. But in fact it's more like 20-to-one. Israel's GDP per capita is about $31,000 compared to just $1,5000 [sic.; that's $1,500] for West Bank and Gaza, according to the World Bank." ...

... CW: as a couple of commenters to Seitz-wald's post pointed out, Romney's crediting the Jewish "culture" for creating a higher GDP than Palestine's is just his way of stereotyping Jews as good businesspeople. ...

... Ashley Parker & Richard Oppel of the New York Times report on the controversy. "Throughout the day, Mr. Romney's aides were grim-faced and exasperated as they tried to contain the aftermath of what Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist, called 'a completely manufactured story.'" ...

... Scott Wilson's report for the Washington Post has the same gist: "Romney has tried to follow an unwritten rule of American campaigning: Don’t criticize the president while on foreign soil. But he has struggled with another unwritten rule -- one that applies to travel more generally: It is also a bad idea to criticize foreigners while on foreign soil." ...

... Dan Amira of New York: "Mitt Romney is now two-for-two in insulting large swaths of people during his international tour. After he enraged the British..., Romney moved on to Israel, where he appeared to blame Palestinian poverty in part on 'providence' and the territory's inferior culture.... Ignoring Israel's role [in impoverishing Palestine] is a major omission if one is actually trying to explain the differences in GDP-per-capita between Israel and Palestine. Of course, an accurate and thorough analysis was not Mitt's goal." ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "John McCain refuses to believe that Mitt Romney said what he said." McCain actually defended Romney's remarks about Palestine, because, as he said, 'I am sure that Gov. Romney was not talking about difference in cultures, or difference in anybody superior or inferior.' It's "worth keeping in mind when you consider the fact that McCain not only vouched for Romney today, but he's also vouched for Romney's tax returns as well."

Secret Mitt's Secret Audits Shall Remain Secret. CNN: "Mitt Romney's campaign said Monday they would not release any more of the candidate's personal income tax information, despite an acknowledgement from Romney that he had been audited in the past." CW: actually, he said "from time to time."

Jonathan Chait of New York: actually, no, Romney isn't a wimp. ...

... Alex Pareene of Salon: he's a bully. And he doesn't care what John McCain thinks. And Barack Obama doesn't care what John McCain thinks. But if you care, the answer is "bomb everywhere forever." ...

... In Stupid v. Evil, Stupid Gets the Last Word. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: after Dick Cheney said McCain's choice of Sarah Palin was a mistake, McCain reminds Fox "News" viewers that Cheney was America's Torturer-in-Chief.

Different Cast, Same Story. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "The star of the most recent Mitt Romney campaign ad criticizing President Barack Obama for arguing that government can play a constructive role in helping business has major business dealings with government entities."

Local News

New York Times Editors: Florida Gov. Rick Scott (RTP) & a Tea Party-associated group are trying to oust the only three state Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats. "If the three justices lose their retention battle..., it would ... send a message of intimidation undermining judicial independence and impartiality...."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "Republican congressional investigators have concluded that five senior ATF officials -- from the special agent-in-charge of the Phoenix field office to the top man in the bureau's Washington headquarters -- are collectively responsible for the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation that was /marred by missteps, poor judgments and inherently reckless strategy.'"

AP: "The two Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate nomination in Texas spent the final hours of their white-hot runoff race rallying their bases Monday, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst making a hard appeal to veterans and tea party-backed Ted Cruz taking his anti-establishment message to radio and television stations." ...

     ... Houston Chronicle Update: "Texas' drift toward the Tea Party brand of GOP conservatism continued Tuesday when lawyer Ted Cruz scored a surprisingly easy win over David Dewhurst in the Republican primary runoff for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison."

Washington Post: "Syria’s top diplomat to Britain defected Monday, according to the British Foreign Office..., as tens of thousands fled heavy fighting in Aleppo, the most populous city in the country and its commercial capital."

AP: "India's energy crisis cascaded over half the country Tuesday when three of its regional grids collapsed, leaving more than 600 million people without government-supplied electricity in one of the world's biggest-ever blackouts."

Washington Post: "Japan raised concern Tuesday about China's growing assertiveness in regional waters at a time when it's becoming less clear who in Beijing is making decisions about the military."

New York Times: "Tony Martin, the debonair baritone whose career spanned some 80 years in films and nightclubs and on radio and television, died on Friday at his home in West Los Angeles. He was 98."

Reader Comments (4)

So lets sum up the day. A person running for POTUS who knows that the entire world is evaluating every word out of his mouth manages in just one day to insult one culture, support the racist stereotype of another culture and announces his support for socialized medicine. Can't wait for tomorrow!

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

The Romney foreign tour is beginning to take on the aspect of a comic opera.....or a Grade B movie. Setting : "Holy" site in Warsaw, Poland. Cast: Reporters from major American news organizations such as the NYT, Washington Post and CNN; and Romney press secretary Rick Gorka. Action: reporters vigorously shout out questions to Gorka about the many gaffes of Mitt Romney on the tour. Gorka: "Kiss my ass. This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect."

July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

Marie, I'm sure you'll see this, but Krugman blogpost, "Fire DeMarco"
get me riled up. In particular, a commenter suggested that Krugman should use this topic for his Friday column to gain more traction and perhaps even some petitions going. I hope he does and it does and DeMarco goes!

Peggy Noonan––a thorn in my liberal flesh for decades––and our Mr. Brooks agree that this campaign season is DULL– BORING–nothin's happenin, baby. Gee, right from the beginning we had a bunch of them there Publicans that gave us comic relief debate after debate–-especially Herman whose rhetoric was straight out of Comedy Central. So now that we have only two contenders, it has become, for Peggy and David, just such a bore. Gosh, Peggy probably thinks, if only I could write speeches for Romney like I did for Reagan––those syrupy, honey laden platitudes that beguiled the nation––we could have some excitement here. Where is the passion, they ask? We Obama voters lack passion? They both need to get out more, circulate among the crowds that are welcoming Obama when he goes out on the road. Well, Peggy has the answer for Romney anyway––Condi Rice for VP––that will liven up the campaign, get people excited again. Plus, for Pete's sake, the woman is black––a real plus for the party of NO. She knows this because when she gave a speech somewhere and offered this up the crowd went wild. She may be right, but then she is so often wrong one can only grimace at her suggestion as I imagine Condi herself is doing.

July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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