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."

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 Short Life of Umbrella-Gate

An Investigative Report

President Obama & PM Erdogan of Turkey at a joint presser Thursday.

Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas. -- Sarah Palin

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post elaborates on conservative outrage over President Obama's elitist, unamerican activity. (The true challenge of the conservative life is that one must exist in a perpetual state of outrage. It seems likely that the only reason liberals are liberals is that they are too lazy & irresponsible to live in a constant cloud of fury and existential indignation.)

Hawaii, Birthplace of Umbrella-Gate. Not surprisingly, then-Vice President Richard Nixon began the tradition of having retainers hold the umbrellas of Presidents & presidential hopefuls. Nixon began this practice in Hawaii, of all places, a year before President Obama was allegedly born there. The obvious similarities between the Nixon & Obama scandals are stunning & incontrovertible:

Update. Contributor Dan Sheerin adds this excellent image of President Gerald Ford one-upping the guy who handed him the top job. Ford's umbrella-holding serviceman is Lt. Col. Robert Blake, a military aide with a chestful of medals. AND, as Sheerin points out, you can purchase the photo on ebay. Buy It Now for $23.88! Like Obama, Ford was hosting foreign dignitaries, among them West German President Walter Scheel. Unlike Obama, who called for the umbrellas specifically for the benefit of PM Erdogan, Ford did not bother to protect his distinguished guests from the rain. A shocking diplomatic catastrophe made all the more curious by Scheel's apparent indifference (he's smiling in the photo) to the affront. Not to mention, Col. Blake, the Umbrella Man, looks pretty content, too.

President & Mrs. Reagan greet guests while scandalously standing under an umbrella which a retainer holds:

Carrying on the grotesque tradition which Nixon & the Reagans firmly established, Reagan's successor George H. W. Bush stands beneath an umbrella held by a marine. Note how the marine has to hold his arm WAY UP because the upper-crusty Bush has placed himself on a pedestal. Not surprisingly, Bush lost his re-election bid. Later, combat veteran Sgt. Randolph C. Bumbershoot told reporters that holding an umbrella for a tall guy standing on a pedestal was the most difficult mission of his military career.

     Update: Commenter DTA1401 has assumed that Marine means "U.S. Marine." As s/he says, "those are not American military uniforms." I think Sgt. Bumbershoot is a Maltese Marine.

Campaigning in 2008, Palin's hapless running-mate John McCain stands under an umbrella which an aide is holding:

When asked why he couldn't hold his own umbrella, McCain apologized, explaining he has difficulty raising his arms as the result of injuries sustained while in captivity during the Vietnam War. But his real reason was likely a fear of looking like this:

Update. Commenter American Vet -- one of those perpetual-state-of-outrage people -- observes, "Not one picture you posted, shows any American Military Personnel holding an umbrella for any leader. Investigative report indeed, big difference." Howz this? The man to the left of Bush Pere appears to me to be an "American Military Person" as does the man to the right of Bush Fils. Each of these apparent American Military Personnel is holding an umbrella for the President. (Note also that the populist Democratic president appearing in photo with Bush I is holding his own umbrella, & perhaps coincidentally, looks like the happiest guy in the crowd):

OOPS! Palin herself is not like "most Americans" who "hold their own umbrellas":



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Reader Comments (17)

Those are not US Marines in the picture of George H. W. Bush under the umbrella being held by men in uniform. Those are not American military uniforms of any kind, and US servicemen do not salute like that. The picture was obviously taken in a foreign country.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTA1401

Well, well, well––wouldn't you know, the God's Own Party smarty Palin person, the one who has always been the wettest behind the ears says ya gotta carry your own umbrella just like a regular fella even though you are POTUS or a head of state–––BUT wait! Our very own intrepid Constant Weader has dug up a few photos that belie Miss Grizzly Bear's assertion ( on her asparagus, I imagine). The irony these days never tires of showing itself, does it?

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@DT1401: You are correct that they're not US Marines. Also note the salute with palm facing out. American service personnel salute with the palm down. The narrative never said US Marines, though. Sgt Bumbershoot clarified the matter.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarbarossa

Not one picture you posted, shows any American Military Personnel holding an umbrella for any leader. Investigative report indeed, big difference.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmerican Vet

Perhaps Obama should have run over and held PM Erdogan's umbrella. Yeah, black guying holding the umbrella, sounds about right to me.

Marie great observation that Republican = outrage 24/7.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

@American Vet. Point taken (although this was not Palin's point). See update.

And for those of you inclined to take me literally, even on a ridiculous subject, let me just say that I have no problem with the POTUS seeking shelter under an umbrella which another person is holding, particularly while conducting public functions. The "dignity of the office" & all.

In the case of Obama's calling for umbrellas, he did so during a joint presser with a foreign leader. To have left the prime minister of Turkey out in the rain would have been a diplomatic embarrassment, & to have asked for an umbrella for Erdogan but not for himself would have been just as bad, suggesting Erdogan was a wimp but he wasn't.

Palin's tweet was stupid on every level.


May 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

This report seems a bit incomplete, the product perhaps of typically lazy librul internet delving.

I would like to know who was holding the umbrellas ready to hand before the indolent, meanie President inflicted such horrid indignity on soldiers, whose limbs as we all know are trained, designed and intended to heft only weapons, via a kind of inverse Hippocratic Oath, to do only harm. Who were those umbrellas intended to embarrass? The President? The Marines? You and me? The entire country? Who looked at the forecast, anticipated the opportunity and provided the materiel to make yet another explosive scandal possible?

Now there was the evil genius I'd like to uncloak. Was there a grinning Cheney standing just offstage out of camera range? My suspicions are aroused.

I could research the matter a bit more, but as a librul, I'm far too lazy.

Have a great weekend, all.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@American Vet; no disrespect, Sir. The following quote is from US Marine Colonel David E. Lownds about his orders to hold Khe Sanh in 1968; "Marines have one funny habit- they do what the hell they're told." The President is Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces. When he says, "Jump" on the way up a US Marine says "Sir, How high? Sir" Again, no disrespect, Sir The President didn't want to get wet. Where the hell was the meteorologist; is my question. Probably Air Force.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

How and why is this a problem? How does the holding of an umbrella for the Commander in Chief become a scandal?

Seriously? This is a problem?

Lou Dobbs, who, like so many other whining chicken hawks, spent zero days in uniform, deems it an outrage that the president ask a Marine to hold an umbrella, seems to be one and the same with so many others who find this situation unacceptable. Why then, did they, or any of the multitude of critics and haters, find it completely acceptable that Army Green Berets held umbrellas over the heads of both Bush 41 and Bush 42. Army Special Forces personnel are somehow less deserving of the kind of "respect" that a request for holding an umbrella over the head of their Commander in Chief might suggest?

And why is it an outrage to ask military personnel to accept this task but okay for civilians or military personnel from other countries? And why is it such an outrage to ask a member of the American Military to perform this task for their Commander in chief? It's not like he's demanding that they mow his lawn or walk the frickin' dog.

This is nothing but another made up scandal by the right and all those who hate this president, whether for his party affiliation, skin color, or both. And THAT is the true scandal here.

I have never in my life heard anything so ridiculous as these caterwauling babies crying about how Obama "disrespects" the military because they had to hold an umbrella. Are you freakin' kidding me???

You want to talk about disrespect? How about a president who deserted in time of war and then primps and prances about in a flight suit when declaring that the war he lied to start has been finished (we won't mention that that war is still going on a decade after that disgraceful, mendacious, insulting, and eminently disrespectful action).

So anyone who is up in arms about this had better be ready to explain why it was okay for plenty of former presidents to request such assistance but not for this one, because if they can't, that is the real disgrace.

And those who suggest that the president should have demanded that Secret Service agents hold umbrellas at the expense of their actual jobs are either completely bereft of rationality or simply stupid.

This is nothing but Obama Hatred and I'll be thrilled to debate anyone who thinks differently. What's next? OUTRAGE because the president doesn't drive his own car or drop off his own dry cleaning?


None of these people would dared have complained about this had it been Saint Ronald of Reagan or Deserter Bush.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Oops, sorry, I meant Bush 43.

And Marie, thanks for your investigative report.

It answers all the questions and rebuts the ridiculous and stupid, stupid, stupid questions surrounding this non-scandalous scandal.

Is this really all we have to worry about?

If that were the case, the problems of the country, the hemisphere, the world, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe, would all be put to bed, neatly.

Oh, wait, you mean that hasn't happened??

Shit, we better be more concerned with freakin' umbrellas from here on out.

What kind of "investigation" would suffice? I'd love to know. Would it be one that confirms the outrage of the haters?

Yeah, probably. That might do it.

Black, Mooslim, Kenyan, Democratic president dares to ask Marine to hold an umbrella, which becomes a scandal even though white presidents have been doing this thing for decades.

Whooooooo.....seems pretty fucking scandalous to me.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The army personal had an umbrella and the president HAD to ask him to hold it for him when it started raining?
pff. only in murricca

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

I kinda like this as a scandal marginally intelligent citizens can jump on. Provides humor; keeps them occupied.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@American Vet: That most certainly is a US Marine holding the umbrella for the Commander in Chief. The people who said the Army personnel holding the umbrellas for Bush pere are Green Berets, They're not, The beret was the standard Army headgear at the time. If you look closely, the berets are black, not green.

Honestly, I saw more mature behavior in Junior High than the current crop of Republicans.


May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarbarossa

@anonymous. Catchy name. Clearly you're not following the thread.


May 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@James Singer. I would wholeheartedly agree with you but for the racial animus that surrounds this ludicrous "issue." Looking for pix, I trolled a few Websites where the mouthbreathers comment, & many have projected their own racial hatred onto Obama: thus, in their twisted little minds, Obama only asked for umbrellas because he wanted to humiliate white Marines & make them look like lawn jockeys on the black man's turf. The lowlifes are alive & well on the Internets.

There's a whiff of racism in Palin's criticism, though I'd put most of it down to her rampant case of sociopathy: it's okay when I do it but not when Obama does it, even if I do it routinely & Obama does it at official events.

When Palin acknowledges that the Bushes & other presidents didn't always hold their own umbrellas at official functions, I'll take back my whiff-of-racism charge. In any event, she owes the President another apology.

Some commenters complained that it was atrocious Obama made a Marine hold an umbrella for a "foreigner." Wait till they find out the "foreigner" is a Mooslim, something they can't tell because Erdogan wears Western suits & presumably did not show up at the White House gate astride a camel, which are likely scarce in Turkey.


May 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Marie: One of my ex-wives, a Turk, will attest to the fact that there are no free-ranging camels in Turkei.

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

Also this one of President Ford ... and it's even for sale!

May 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan Sheerin

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