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
November 27

11:00 am ET: Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas tree

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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."

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 -- Sept. 23, 2012

Art by Evan Hughes for the New York Times.Economist Robert Frank in the New York Times: "The nation doesn't actually face difficult economic choices. Many problems will be expensive to solve, yet we can solve them without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone.... The debt is an important long-run problem, but deferring infrastructure repairs will only worsen it. Relative to current policy, then, such projects would address multiple pressing problems without distress.... By shifting taxes toward activities having harmful side effects, we can raise substantial revenue while expanding the economic pie." CW: good luck getting Congress to do the right thing.

Kathleen Geier, writing in the Washington Montly, comments on the New York Times report (which I also linked a couple of days ago) on a new study that shows "that the least educated white Americans are experiencing sharp declines in life expectancy." Geier writes -- as the Times reporters do not -- that "there is a compelling body of research that suggests that inequality itself -- quite apart from low incomes, or lack of health insurance -- is associated with more negative health outcomes for those at the bottom of the heap." Thanks to Trish R. for the link. ...

... Paul Krugman agrees: "... high inequality isn't just unfair, it kills."

Kevin Begos of the AP: "It sounds like a free-market success story: a natural gas boom created by drilling company innovation, delivering a vast new source of cheap energy without the government subsidies that solar and wind power demand. 'The free market has worked its magic,' the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group, claimed over the summer. The boom happened 'away from the greedy grasp of Washington,' the [conservative] American Enterprise Institute ... wrote in an essay this year. But ... over three decades, from the shale fields of Texas and Wyoming to the Marcellus in the Northeast, the federal government contributed more than $100 million in research to develop fracking, and billions more in tax breaks."

David Kirkpatrick & Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt's new Islamist president Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger." The linked page has links to portions of the audio of Morsi's New York Times interview.

Gregory Wallace of CNN: Speaking at a Congressional Black Caucus gala, "Attorney General Eric Holder and first lady Michelle Obama weighed in Saturday on a battleground in the 2012 election: voting rights.... She did not specifically address voting laws, but stressed the importance of registering people to vote, calling it 'the movement of our era.'" ...

     ... Video of the First Lady's full speech is here.

Jeff McDonald of the San Diego Union Tribune: "Congressman Darrell Issa [R-Calif.] received a 'dishonorable mention' Wednesday on a list of the most corrupt lawmakers published Wednesday by ... Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for placing information from a sealed wiretap into the congressional record earlier this year. Twenty members of Congress -- 12 Republicans and seven Democrats -- were singled out for what CREW said was unethical or illegal behavior over the past year. Eight of those, including Issa, received the dishonorablemention citations." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link.

CW: Frank Bruni's column, in which he interviews McClatchy News CEO & former Pittsburgh Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy, is getting a lot of buzz today because McClatchy comes out as gay. My reaction is "Yeah, so?" but I guess this is a big deal over there in SportsWorld where at least one player wears gay-slur make-up to work.

Presidential Race

Quote of the Day. It's our turn, you guys. -- Mitt Romney, at a big-ticket fundraiser in California

Michael Barbaro & Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "... a review of [Mitt Romney's] remarks at dozens of fund-raisers, in well-off neighborhoods from Los Angeles to Miami over the past year, highlights differences both subtle and significant in how he speaks to voters and donors.... The intimacy of the receptions (at homes and hotels), their transactional nature ($75,000 per couple is often pledged) and familiarity with that audience (usually filled with fellow businessmen and -women), appears to put Mr. Romney at ease. He uses looser language, divulges strategy, tells detailed personal stories and takes pointed questions." CW: Barbaro & Parker never suggest -- directly, anyway -- the obvious: that Romney is more comfortable when he's with "his people."

David Firestone of the New York Times: "Mr. Romney really doesn't see much difference between giving to charity and giving to the government.... In his mind, apparently, you can just add up the two figures into a new hybrid column, perhaps called, Total Obligation to Society, and make yourself look even more generous.... Taxes represent the obligations citizens have to each other and to society.... Charity is entirely voluntary, even for those who, like Mr. Romney, are asked by their religious authorities to tithe a fixed portion of their income.... One would think that someone running to be the government's chief executive would be proud to make tax payments, and would not try to reduce them through exotic foreign tax shelters and an outsized IRA, as Mr. Romney has done for years." CW: Firestone doesn't say so, but Romney has made this argument before: in mid-August, responding to Harry Reid's remark that he'd heard Romney hadn't paid taxes for 10 years, Romney himself said, in part, "... every year I've paid at least 13 percent and if you add in addition the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent."

New York Times illustration.Jill Lepore in the New York Times: Mitt Romney has been characterizing himself as an "underdog" since the primaries. "Mitt Romney is no Downtrodden Man. In May, at a fund-raiser in Florida, Mr. Romney expressed contempt for the '47 percent.' ... This is not a man who loves underdogs.... Research ... demonstrates that telling a story about yourself in which you are an underdog builds brand loyalty...." CW: you might think a man famous for riding in his car literally "under the dog" could find another term to call himself. ...

... Here's how UnderShamus treated Univision, the Spanish-language network which sponsored forums last week with him and with President Obama: according to McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed, both camps agreed to groundrules that the audience for the forums would be comprised mostly of students. But when the Romney camp couldn't come up with enough students, they demanded they be allowed to bus in "rowdy activists from around South Florida" or else Romney might have to "reschedule." Obama stuck to the rules. Then, with cameras rolling, Romney refused to appear on stage because he didn't like his introduction. He demanded it be changed & retaped before he would show his special brownface. One of the show's anchor, Maria Elena Salinas, called Romney's high-handed snits "a little bit of disrespect." ...

... CW: hey, what did she expect? The place was crawling with 47-percenters. At least Romney didn't demand they all show their papers or ask them for tips on lawn maintenance, for Pete's sake. Univision should have called his bluff & let the anchors spend the hour talking to an empty chair, which is of course a favorite GOP routine anyway. ¿Cómo se dice "major douchebag" en español?

Robert Reich: "So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it."

Jonathan Bernstein, in Slate, blames Tea Party conservatives, Fox "News" & Rush Limbaugh for Mitt Romney's faltering campaign.

Maureen Dowd disses Stuart Stevens, Romney's campaign guru & self-conscious dilettante. The New Republic profile of Stevens by Noam Scheiber, which Dowd refers to a couple of times, is here. Scheiber, BTW, blames Romney. ...

... Dowd also refers to a comment Lady Romney made on Radio Iowa Thursday, which contributor Forrest M. mentions in the Comments section:

Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it's an important thing that we're doing right now and it's an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country. -- Ann Romney, addressing Republicans who have criticized her husband

... CW: I didn't see Lady Romney's little tantrum as anything more than another display of her customary petulance of privilege. But Jim Fallows of The Atlantic writes, "True as it might have been, Mrs. Romney's 'break' was also sad and damaging. Self-pity is doom for candidates.... Running for president is hard, but there is one thing harder. That's what happens if you win." One of the annoying downsides of our so-called democracy is that we tend to make our top royals sing & dance for the sorts of perks royals elsewhere simply inherit. Surely Republicans plan to fix that constitutional quirk soon.

Are Willard M. & Ann Romney "real Americans"? Not according to their just-released 2011 IRS 1040, where they claim their Belmont, Massachusetts, residence is in the "foreign country" USA.

CLICK RETURN TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.    ... Tax preparers say actual U.S. citizens would have left the "Foreign country name" space blank. As this couple did:


Jennifer Agiesta & Nancy Benac of the AP: "The challenge for President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is how to lay claim to [undecided voters,] this small but mightily important swath of the electorate. These people are truly up for grabs, claim they're intent on voting and yet aren't paying that much attention." ...

... Just who are these undecided voters? Here are a few of them:

CW: The following belongs in Infotainment, but -- ironically enough -- I can't shrink the video, so I'm posting it here:

Bone-ified. Rushbo blames shrinking penis size on feminazis:

Reader Comments (12)

Check out Lady Ann's Friday diatribe, speaking in Iowa, the gist of
which was "you people (republicans) have to quit attacking my Mitt".
"You're so fortunate to have him to vote for" (I guess meaning that he
is someone other than Pres. Obama). Can't link, but search

September 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

In the comments recently someone cried "Where's the IRS?!" in reference to a piece about the superpacs. Bill Moyers ( has a pretty good primer this week. If what Mr. Potter (oh, the irony!) is true, there's not much the IRS can do. It's up to the courts and congress to mandate disclosure.

Good luck with that people. For the time being we are so screwed.

September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Here's a tip for Limbaugh:
"Pull quote (

“Being very thin makes your dick look enormous.”

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Re: Weighing in on something I know nothing about; The old joke about why men die before their wives came to mind after reading the articles about the decline in life expectancy among under-educated whites.
None of the researchers was willing to venture a guess on why; outside the fast growing inequality gap, but I'm sitting in my lab coat with my furry research team gathered around (they do not wear lab coats) and we've come up with some pretty obvious reasons.
High school dropouts marry(or not) other high school dropouts and have babies at a younger age and more often than people that have high school educations. More babies at younger ages takes its toll.
Garage drugs fuck you up, the studies mention script drugs but no mention at all about garbage can meth. There are places in the south and the mid-west that would qualify for a Fed toxic waste clean-up if all the meth shops were identified. "Meth, takin' the last tooth out of the south".
Finally, hard to prove but we here at JJG research believe that the spark of life burns longest when the atmosphere of wonder is present. What's life without curiosity? Sure, we lose a few gatos, but all of us perros say a life without sniffing is a shortened life.
With no education there's no base to build curiosity. To be or not to be maybe the question but the question is the reason to be.
Most 90 and up aware people I have met (including my mother who was a life long learner) are still engaged and fascinated by life. When my mother was no longer interested in her books, music and art I knew she was ready for the next big adventure.
Interesting that the 'Party of Life' is doing its damnest to shorten our lives, isn't it?

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Gotta love the how Lord and Lady Rat never quit on this bullshit about "turns". Mitt might want to cease and desist with his "It's my turn" whining, as if the presidency were an amusement park ride. Otherwise a helpful attendant will show him that sign outside the Oval Office with the chart indicating that "OCCUPANTS MUST HAVE BALLS VISIBLE TO THE NAKED EYE".

Then again Lady Rat might get in.

Maybe Limpbaugh's theory is true after a fashion, at least for Republicans.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Okay. Everyone needs to check out Sarah Siverman'a tirade against the teabagging Steal the Vote swine.

Go to YouTube/sarahsilverman

and look for her video on Republican cockblockimg at the polls. You can also find a link to this clip on Marie's pal Jim Fallows' Atlantic blog.

Best part is when Sarah determines that veterans who have lost limbs fighting for Bush and Cheney's invented war can't use their IDs to vote in vote stealing states but that NRA turds can use their membership ID (how is this any different from using your Captain Marvel Fan Club card as am "official" ID?????) to cast votes, as long as they vote "correctly".

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Usually I come here to be educated but occasionally, were this a newspaper, I would have the satisfaction of hurling it across the room with a stream of Akhilleus worthy invective. Such is my reaction to the "Are Willard M and Anne Romney....." article. Does anyone think that Mitt actually sits down to create a 300 page tax return? The article is neither Foxnewsworthy nor Bill O'Reilly humorous. At least when someone on MSNBC goes on at nauseum I can switch to CBC for 5 minutes and usually we're on to another subject when I return. Here, for days, I will see that cute headline.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercowichan

Wasn't gonna post today, but... Most days, I spend a lot of waking hours rummaging around in backwater news sites, trying to grasp what the hoi pololi are really worried about. And I gotta tell ya, I sense an enormous shift from republican bullshit to democrats... much of it down-ballot stuff.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@cowichan: Actually, no one other than their team of accountants sits down and creates a tax return over 2 pages. And we all know that.
My tax return is only a little less than 100 pages (small business, very
small) but I know enough to look at the first page to know that it's my
name, SSN, where I reside, etc. before I sign it. You should stay with

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

@cowichen: Lighten up. Of course I don't think the Romneys complete their own tax returns. (I don't do mine, either, & they're a lot less complicated than the Romneys'.) The Romneys' tax preparers at PriceWaterhouse Coopers have been prominently in the news this weekend, & I've linked to stories & posts that mention PWC. In addition, Romney mentioned numerous times in the past 6 months or so that he'd release his returns when the tax preparers got them ready.

I also don't think either the tax preparers or the Romneys themselves consider the U.S. to be a foreign country in which the Romneys happen to be residing in their quest to control the world or something -- any more than does Elizabeth Flock, whose piece I linked.

PWC screwed up the front page of the Romneys' estimated return, & -- especially given Mitt Romney's willingness to accommodate birthers, who actually do believe Barack Obama is a foreign agent who was born someplace else -- I thought it was funny.

Tossing your computer across the room is ill-advised. I'm glad you were able to control your rage. And next time, save it for something worthwhile. There is plenty out there that's PC-tossing-worthy.


September 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

DaveS thank-you for the Moyers link. I read the transcript with interest. It seems that the IRS could pursue the gift tax angle with mega secret donors but bullying by Congressional Republicans coupled with limited resources were the catalysts to shutting those inquiries down. Although Potter, suggests that passing stronger disclosure laws in the best response, I am cynical that will work. That has been soundly rejected to this point. I see no evidence that the extreme judicial activists on the Court will do little but double down on destroying the basic American ideal of one man one vote.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

The Kevin Begos story on energy subsidies is well worth reading. Especially in light of the fact that Congress, in its wisdom, may cut off further subsidies for wind power at the end of the year. The Republican argument is that the subsidies have dragged on two long and there is no certainty of a payoff. The article points out we have been subsidizing different forms of energy research and exploration for decades, with overall success, even though the condition of uncertainty always applies, and the lengthiness of the search often does as well.

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.
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