The Ledes

Sunday, August 2, 2015.

Los Angeles Times: "The Rocky Fire exploded overnight, burning 47,000 acres as of Sunday morning and threatening 6,000 structures in [California's] Lake, Yolo and Colusa counties. The U.S. Forest Service said "fire activity dramatically progressed"  late Saturday, forcing the closure of several state highways in the area. The fire is just 5% contained; about 12,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. Nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze and more are coming into the area."

The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week's address, the President celebrated the fiftieth birthdays of Medicare and Medicaid, which together have allowed millions to live longer and better lives":

The Ledes

Saturday, August 1, 2015.

USA Today: "Staggered by a $72 billion debt load, Puerto Rico was likely to miss a debt payment due Saturday, setting the stage for what could be one of the largest U.S. municipal debt restructurings. Puerto Rico's government said Friday it would not make a $58 million bond payment due over the weekend."

CNN: "Three members of Osama bin Laden's family were among four people killed in a small plane crash in southern England, British police said."

White House Live Video
July 31

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing with Energy Secretary Ernest Munoz

2:00 pm ET: Open government public meeting

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Public Service Announcement

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

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

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

The Word Salad King. If Donald Trump's good friend & possible running mate Sarah Palin is the Word Salad Queen, it stands to reason that the Donald would be the king. Slate challenges you to diagram this "sentence." To help you out, Slate has transcribed the words in the order delivered. Not that the order delivered matters much:

Obama Slept Here

For a mere $22.5MM this Martha's Vinehard house on 10 acres can be yours. The Obamas stayed in the house for 8 days in 2013. The current owner bought the property, which has expansive views of the Atlantic & Chilmark Pond, in 2000 for about $3MM. So, hey, the price is negotiable. Slide show.

The Birth of Franklin. Washington Post: After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Glickman, a white California mother wrote to cartoonist Charles Schultz urging him to introduce a black character to his "Peanuts" cartoon strips. When Schultz demurred, saying he was afraid "it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends," Glickman got two of her "Negro friends" who backed the idea to write to Schultz. A short time later, Schultz introduced Franklin. Oh, yes, & strips showing Franklin in an integrated! classroom upset Southern editors, according to Glickman.

Jane Hamshire of Firedoglake: "... I have decided to pass the torch on to Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein, who will launch their own media organization called Shadowproof that will build on the success of FDL."

Dylan Byers: "MSNBC has formally decided to cancel three programs -- 'The Cycle,' 'Now with Alex Wagner' and 'The Ed Show' -- as part of a larger effort to shift its daytime lineup away from opinion programming.... Alex Wagner and Ari Melber, a 'Cycle' co-host and MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, will remain with the network. Ed Schultz, the host of 'The Ed Show,' will leave the network, as will 'Cycle' co-hosts Abby Huntsman, Krystal Ball and Toure.... In September, MSNBC will add a 5 p.m. program hosted by 'Meet The Press' moderator Chuck Todd, while Brian Williams, the former 'Nightly News' anchor, will serve as the network's breaking news and special reports anchor."

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

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

     ... UPDATE: Turns out the university's president is biased against the bias-free language guide & he was unaware of its existence until this week. Also, a Republican state legislator is "outraged" & finds the guide a good excuse to cut funding for the state university. Naturally. Thanks to MAG for the lead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stupid Pet Tricks, Reptile Edition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-- Constant Weader

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Monday
Jan282013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 29, 2013

Obama 2.0. Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. John Kerry received unanimous approval Tuesday from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state, quickly clearing a key hurdle on his way to become the nation's next chief diplomat. The full Senate is expected to take up Kerry's confirmation later Tuesday." Kerry told the committee he was "beyond words," but of course that wasn't true:

... Kathryn Wolfe & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Ray LaHood announced Tuesday that he will leave his post as secretary of transportation, the latest in a line of Cabinet members to step down following President Barack Obama's reelection. President Obama said 'every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger.'"

David Nakamura & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration has developed its own proposals for immigration reform that are more liberal than a separate bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, people with knowledge of the proposals said. President Obama is expected to provide some details of the White House plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas, where he will call for broad changes to the nation's immigration laws. The speech will kick off a public push by the administration in support of the broadest overhaul of immigration law in nearly three decades." ...

... Ashley Parker of the New York Times: "A bipartisan group of senators unveiled on Monday a set of principles for comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, contingent on first securing the nation's borders. The group hopes to have legislation drafted by March, and a vote before the August recess. Speaker John A. Boehner, whose support will be crucial for shepherding any bill through the Republican-controlled House, did not comment on the principles, but his office offered a brief [meaningless] statement." ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "... the plan ... also contains several tripwires that, if triggered, could destroy the entire effort.... The Gang of Eight's framework isn't all terrible -- it's just unworkable. It places conditions it's unlikely to meet, and then further compounds the problem by putting a veto in the hands of people who are likely to oppose the plan even if those conditions were met." ...

... Kevin Cirilli of Politico: "Rush Limbaugh said Monday that it's up to him and Fox News to stop amnesty for undocumented immigrants.... Limbaugh said on his program that [Sen. Marco] Rubio is scheduled to appear on his radio program Tuesday." Rubio is a member of the bipartisan group of senators who drew up the immigration "principles." CW: let's see if Rubio can stand up to Rushbo.

** Jonathan Chait: "On November 8..., Charles Krauthammer laid out the way forward for" Republicans. They "needed to adopt immigration reform, including amnesty. Otherwise, the party' anti-government bromides offered a perfectly suitable ideological platform.... As the party's response has taken form..., it is following Krauthammer's prescription, almost to the letter. The key figures leading the way are Paul Ryan, the Republicans' de facto leader, and Marco Rubio, perhaps its leading presidential candidate. The two have moved generally in tandem, with Rubio leading the way on immigration, but the whole party apparatus has jolted into action." ...

... CW: so maybe Krauthammer, not Rush, is the actual new leader. We'll see. One thing about the GOP, their actual leaders are more apt to be media stars than politicians because for Republicans, the message is the medium. Their actual programs suck for average Americans, so they are almost wholly dependent upon hucksters to do their bidding. ...

Rachel Maddow interviews Paul Krugman on Republican governance. Thanks to contributor Diane for the heads-up:

The Two Faces of Paul

Look, if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now. That's not the kind of presidency we're dealing with right now. -- Paul Ryan on "Press the Meat," Sunday ...

... Steve Benen: " Perhaps now would be a good time to remind Paul Ryan that Clinton was able to eliminate the deficit, start paying off the national debt, and deliver the largest surpluses in American history after -- wait for it -- raising taxes a whole lot. He raised taxes on the wealthy, the middle class, and the private sector, despite howls from congressional Republicans who said Clinton's economic plan would obviously do lasting damage to the economy and force a deep recession. ... On raising taxes, Clinton was further to the left" than Obama.

I think the sequester is going to happen. We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others -- and they've offered no alternatives. -- Paul Ryan, "Press the Meat" ...

... Jed Lewison of Daily Kos: "... this is a perfect example of how Paul Ryan likes to straddle the fence. On the one hand, he's trying to sound like Republicans think these spending cuts are a good idea.... On the other hand, he's trying to blame Democrats for the spending cuts. If only Democrats would cut other (nameless, always nameless) things..., then we wouldn't have to embrace these automatic spending cuts." ...

... Lewison again: "... four months ago ... Ryan was making the case during the 2012 vice presidential debate that the sequester's potential spending cuts emboldened the terrorists who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.... now that Ryan once again supports moving forward with those spending cuts, isn't it fair to conclude that Ryan -- by his own logic -- is standing with the terrorists?"

Keynesian economics -- it's pretty clear that doesn't work. -- Paul Ryan, "Press the Meat" ...

... Paul Krugman: "... you know what has actually failed? Ryan's Paulite/Randite monetary economics.... Outside that bubble, a fair number of people have noticed that Keynesian economics has performed spectacularly in the crisis -- it successfully predicted that deficits wouldn't drive up interest rates, that monetary expansion wouldn't be inflationary, that austerity policies in Britain and elsewhere would hit economic growth.... Two years ago Ryan led the charge of Republicans demanding that Ben Bernanke stop his expansionary policies, issuing dire warnings about rising interest rates and soaring inflation.... How have Ryan and those of like mind reacted to the spectacular failure of their doctrine in practice? As far as I can tell, they haven't even acknowledged that they have a problem."

We're not preaching austerity; we're preaching growth & opportunity. -- Paul Ryan, "Press the Meat" ...

... Constant Weader: this is true. Ryan is not preaching austerity; he's writing & passing austerity programs. He is preaching growth & opportunity, but he won't vote for jobs & infrastructure bills. I had to watch a lot of the Ryan interview to get that citation about the failure of Keynesian economics. What was striking was how Ryan was able to distance himself from his own remarks the moment David Gregory played the clips. Ryan's responses: "That was said" (passive voice, as if somebody else had said it & was wrong); "That was taken out of context," etc. The man has zero trouble contradicting himself. He is either absolutely insane or a shameless flim-flam man. He isn't both. Take your pick.

New York Times Editors: "Harry Reid should ... secure Senate passage of the latest version of the Leahy-Crapo bill [which reauthorizes the Violence against Women Act]. That move would help put pressure on Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders in the House to stop playing ideological games and reach agreement with the Senate on extending this lifesaving law."

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "The nation's housing market is surging again after years of historic declines, and the unique forces powering its return could last well into 2013. The number of homes for sale is at its lowest level since before the recession, sparking competition among buyers that has led to 10 straight months of price increases. The volume of activity is the highest since 2007. Builders broke ground in December on the most new housing developments in four years. And interest rates on mortgages are expected to remain near all-time lows through much of the year, galvanizing once-skeptical buyers."..."

... CW: the itty-bitty upswing in the economy is another reason Obama's win over Romney was so important. It isn't just that Romney-Paul would be taking credit for the "confidence" their win inspired in homebuyers; it is that millions would believe them. All sluggishness would be Obama's fault; all green shoots would be Romney's doing.

Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times: Yair "Lapid's stunning success in last week's [Israeli] election, in which his new Yesh Atid became Israel's second largest party, is being viewed by many voters, activists and analysts here as a victory for the secular mainstream in the intensifying identity battle gripping the country."

News Ledes

AP "Parents of children killed in the Newtown school shooting called for better enforcement of gun laws and tougher penalties for violators Monday at a hearing [called by a Connecticut state legislative committee] that revealed the divide in the gun-control debate, with advocates for gun rights shouting at the father of one 6-year-old victim."

New York Times: "Reacting to the growing chaos in several Egyptian cities, including Cairo, [Egypt's] the Army chief of staff warned on Tuesday of the 'collapse of the state' if political forces in the country did not reconcile, reflecting growing impatience with the crisis from Egypt's most powerful institution."

AP: "There was no alarm, no extinguishers, no sprinklers and almost no escape from the nightclub that became a death trap for more than 200 Brazilian college students." CW: so, a brilliant place to stage a pyrotechnics display.

Sunday
Jan272013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 28, 2013

Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" interviews President Obama & Secretary Clinton:

Jessica Pressler of New York magazine interviews Tim Geithner in a downtown Manhattan restaurant. It turns out he did everything right, which simple-minded people just can't understand: "This is a deeply complicated world, in a fog of gray and ambiguity. It's easier for people to absorb the simple narrative of the black and white. And for them the black and white is, 'Those are the people that got us in the mess; you saved them and they paid themselves billions in bonuses, and they should have gone to jail, and they are still walking around.'" Suggested musical accompaniment:

Rick Hertzberg: "... the harmonizing, conciliatory side of the President's political and personal character has been eclipsed, for the moment at least, by the side of him that is at once more insistent and more visionary.... The modern crisis of liberalism began in the nineteen-sixties with the disintegration of New Frontier/Great Society euphoria in the quagmire of Vietnam, continued through the riotous turmoils of the late sixties and seventies, and crested with the Reagan ascendancy of the eighties. Liberal politicians, especially those with Presidential ambitions, assumed a long-lasting defensive crouch."

Bob Woodward in the Washington Post: President Obama & former Sen. Chuck Hagel "share similar views and philosophies as the Obama administration attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world.... [Hagel] privately voiced reservations about Obama's decision in late 2009 to add 51,000 troops to Afghanistan. "The president has not had commander-in-chief control of the Pentagon since Bush senior was president," Hagel said privately in 2011.

Paul Krugman: "... even as Republicans look for a way to sound more sympathetic and less extreme, their actual policies are taking another sharp right turn.... It's important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they're often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders." ...

... E. J. Dionne: "The moment's highest priority should be speeding economic growth and ending the waste, human and economic, left by the Great Recession. But you would never know this because the conversation in our nation's capital is being held hostage by a ludicrous cycle of phony fiscal deadlines driven by a misplaced belief that the only thing we have to fear is the budget deficit." ...

... CW: This post that Dionne linked, by conservative Bruce Bartlett, writing in the Fiscal Times, is pretty informative. For instance, if Krugman, et al., have ever told us about "pure transfer," I skipped that class. Bartlett's overall point: "it is silly to obsess about near-term nominal budget deficits. What matters is the deficit as a share of GDP minus interest spending, which economists call the primary deficit. On that basis, we are much closer to fiscal sustainability than even most economists realize. Relatively small adjustments to the growth path of federal revenues and Medicare would be sufficient to eliminate the primary deficit."

Krugman explains Econ 101 to the Very Stupid People who populate (& host) "Morning Joe":

     ... CW: what Krugman doesn't directly explain to the VSPs -- who are too fucking stupid to get it anyway -- is that the real problem is medical costs, NOT Medicare & Medicaid. If the government cuts healthcare benefits 5 percent or 100 percent, we are all still going to have to pay for medical care. Cutting government health benefits merely transfers (and actually raises) the cost of health care to individuals. The whole panel was talking in circles around one actual problem that we all -- not just the government -- share: (probably) rising healthcare costs. Europeans do a much better job at delivering effective health care than we do; we should STFU about the percentage of those costs the government pays & -- as Krugman did say -- start figuring out better ways to provide health services.

Jared Bernstein has a good post on the right's new "welfare queens" -- all those Americans faking disability to claim SSI disability benefits. T'ain't so. Plus: "... more than 90% of entitlement dollars go to people who are either elderly, disabled, or working. In other words, the makers/takers frame is factually wrong not to mention mean-spirited and divisive." ...

... Oh, and here's a P.S. to which Bernstein links. Kathy Ruffing in Off the Charts: "About 6 percent of the nation's working-age population receive disability payments from Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but some southern and Appalachian states have much higher rates -- over 10 percent." CW: The biggest "fakers" would appear to be your people, Republicans. However, as Ruffing points out, it makes sense that the GOP region has a higher rate of disability: the populace is less educated, so more likely to (a) have jobs that require physical labor and/or (b) are too mentally impaired to adapt to new jobs. ...

... CW: In general, studies have showed conservatives are not as good as liberals at adapting to changed circumstances. Ergo, many conservatives are unable to learn new skills or adapt to new work environments. Ergo, conservatism is a drain on the economy AND on the government. Ergo, conservatives should eschew conservatism. See, liberalism is the economically sensible political theory.

... Krugman concurs with Bernstein: "... right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval -- but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are). And I don't think this is a problem that can be solved with a slight change in the rhetoric."

Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker on women in combat: "Notions of equality aside, the real factor that rendered the 'non-combat' distinction meaningless was the changing nature of the wars.... Who's in greater danger? A male Marine on a foot patrol in Helmand Province, or a female Marine driving a fuel truck on a highway to Kandahar? Technically speaking, the former is a combat job, and the latter is not. But the distinction, in both of our recent wars and in any we are likely to fight in the foreseeable future, is meaningless.... Who's in greater danger? A male Marine on a foot patrol in Helmand Province, or a female Marine driving a fuel truck on a highway to Kandahar? Technically speaking, the former is a combat job, and the latter is not. But the distinction, in both of our recent wars and in any we are likely to fight in the foreseeable future, is meaningless." ...

... BUT, but Dexter, what about "personal hygiene"? --

What I've raised is the issue of mixing the genders in those combat units, where there is no privacy.... Now, as a man who has been there and as a man who has some experience in those kinds of units, I certainly don't want to be in that environment with a female because it's degrading and humiliating enough to do your personal hygiene and the other normal functions among your teammates. -- Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, Ret.

War is hell. Peeing is intolerable. -- Constant Weader

So Gen. Boykin is so fastidious he feels "degraded & humiliated" when using a public urinal in a men's room. Whatever the reason for the general's phobia, it is a personal phobia & should have no bearing on normal people's accommodations to natural bodily functions. ...

... Joanna Walters of the Guardian on women who have been wounded in combat. Thanks to contributor Barbarossa for the link.

New York Times Editors: President Obama "should have his solicitor general file a brief in the Proposition 8 case being argued before the Supreme Court in March.... For the administration to be missing in action in this showdown risks conveying a message to the justices that it lacks confidence in the constitutional claims for ending gay people's exclusion from marriage or that it believes Americans are not ready for a high court ruling making marriage equality the law of the land -- impressions strikingly contradicted by legal precedent, the lessons of history and by the president's own very powerful words [in his inaugural address]."

Julia Preston of the New York Times: "A bipartisan group of senators has agreed on a set of principles for a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system, including a pathway to American citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants that would hinge on progress in securing the borders and ensuring that foreigners leave the country when their visas expire.... Their blueprint, set to be unveiled on Monday, will allow them to stake out their position one day before President Obama outlines his immigration proposals in a speech on Tuesday in Las Vegas...." The Washington Post story, by Rosalind Helderman & Sean Sullivan, is here. ...

... Update: the framework, by Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet & Flake is here.

... Jonathan Easley of The Hill: "Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) on Sunday revealed key details about a bipartisan immigration-reform plan, saying the legislation would be comprehensive and would include a pathway to citizenship. Durbin said the group of six senators was working on a comprehensive approach to the issue, as opposed to moving individual elements piecemeal and was optimistic they were close to their goal." ...

... Senator John Build-the-Danged-Fence McCain agrees. Wonders never cease. ...

Right Wing World

... Speaking of Arizona, State Rep. Bob Thorpe (RTP) has introduced an unconstitutional bill requiring all students "to recite an oath supporting the U.S. Constitution" to receive a diploma. Via Igor Volsky of Think Progress. How perfect is that?

News Ledes

Drones R Us. New York Times: "The United States military command in Africa is preparing plans to establish a drone base in northwest Africa to increase unarmed surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region."

The Hill: "In a 62-36 vote, the Senate on Monday approved legislation providing $50.7 billion to help New York, New Jersey and other states hit by Hurricane Sandy. All 36 no votes came from Republicans. GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Dean Heller (Nev.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Shelby (Ala.), David Vitter (La.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) voted yes. The House had already approved the measure, so the Senate action sends the bill to President Obama, who has said he will sign it." ...

... Politico: "President Obama said Monday that while he had hoped it would happen sooner, he commends Congress on passing funding for Hurricane Sandy relief."

Al Jazeera: "Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Egyptian cities of Port Said, Ismailiyah and Suez in defiance of President Mohamed Morsi's declaration of a curfew and a state of emergency after days of deadly unrest. The crowds shouted 'Down down with Mohamed Morsi, down down with the state of emergency,' in Ismailiyah and similar slogans were heard in the other cities along the Suez Canal. Five days of unrest has led to 50 deaths, and police once again clashed with protesters in Suez and downtown Cairo on Monday. At least two people were killed in Monday's clashes in Port Said...."

Guardian: "Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands ... announced her abdication on Monday evening in a sudden move three days before her 75th birthday. After 33 years on the throne following her mother's abdication in 1980, Beatrix said she would relinquish the crown at the end of April, leaving the monarchy to Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander, the oldest of her three sons. The queen went on national television and radio on Monday evening to announce the departure, having recorded the broadcast earlier in the day. The prime minister, Mark Rutte, delivered a statement on television shortly afterwards, with both stressing that the crown prince had been intensively prepared for the role of monarch."

Washington Post: "The Pentagon has approved a major expansion of its cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold to bolster the nation's ability to defend critical computer systems and conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries, according to U.S. officials."

New York Times: "President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency and a curfew in three major cities on Sunday, as escalating violence in the streets threatened his government and Egypt's democracy."

New York Times: "French military officials said on Monday that Malian and French troops took control of access roads and the airport at Timbuktu, the fabled desert oasis and crossroads of ancient caravan routes, after French paratroopers backed by helicopters reinforced soldiers on the ground. The French action, which started Sunday night, was designed to permit Malian forces to advance into the city...." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "French and Malian troops have taken control of the historic Malian city of Timbuktu, after rebel occupiers fled the ancient Sahara trading town and torched several buildings, including a priceless manuscript library. The French-led coalition troops were welcomed by residents of the town, AFP news agency reported with some residents saying that the rebel fighters had left the city several days ago."

... AP: "Islamist extremists torched a library containing historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, the mayor said Monday, as French and Malian forces closed in on Mali's fabled desert city."

Saturday
Jan262013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 27, 2013

My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on a New York Times piece by reporters Jeff Zeleny & Jonathan Weisman in which the writers discuss how the GOP is doing some soul-searching. I zero in on Bobby Jindal's "soul."

Prof. Erin Hatton, in the New York Times, on "The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy": "American employers have generally taken the low road: lowering wages and cutting benefits, converting permanent employees into part-time and contingent workers, busting unions and subcontracting and outsourcing jobs. They have done so, in part, because of the extraordinary evangelizing of the temp industry, which rose from humble origins to become a global behemoth.The story begins in the years after World War II, when a handful of temp agencies were started, largely in the Midwest."

Ethan Bronner of the New York Times: "In recent months, federal courts have seen dozens of lawsuits brought not only by religious institutions like Catholic dioceses but also by private employers ranging from a pizza mogul to produce transporters who say the government is forcing them to violate core tenets of their faith. Some have been turned away by judges convinced that access to contraception is a vital health need and a compelling state interest. Others have been told that their beliefs appear to outweigh any state interest and that they may hold off complying with the law until their cases have been judged. New suits are filed nearly weekly." The issue will most likely come before the Supreme Court.

Obama 2.0

Franklin Foer & Chris Hughes of The New Republic interview President Obama. The part of the interview that seems to be getting the most attention is this: "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence."

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: "By nominating [Mary Jo] White, a former federal prosecutor, to head the S.E.C. last week, President Obama appeared to send a message that Washington was finally going to get tough with financial wrongdoers. Tough enforcement has been pretty much AWOL on his watch. Maybe Ms. White can change that with a new, aggressive approach." Morgenson gives White a to-do list. For more on White, see links in yesterday's Commentariat. ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "While everybody deserves a proper legal defense, even overpaid Wall Street C.E.O.s, it seems a bit peculiar for a President who has repeatedly pledged to crack down on Wall Street wrongdoing to pick as one of his top financial cops a figure who has spent much of the last decade defending senior bankers.... But if White actually is the fearless and fearsome slayer of Wall Street wrongdoers that the White House and her old mentor Senator Charles Schumer are building her up to be, then she may well have been appointed to the wrong job.... The federal agency crying out for a big bad financial prosecutor is the Justice Department, which has yet to bring criminal charges against any senior Wall Street figures for anything having to do with the subprime blowup." ...

... Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a Politico op-ed on the Wall Street-Washington revolving door: "Transition is afoot in Washington, and if the right people go back and forth, the country will develop smarter, stronger rules. But if the wrong people make the shuffle, then Washington will be rigged even more for Wall Street -- and every middle-class family will pay the consequences."

Wingers Find New Way to Waste Their Money. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "A brand new conservative group calling itself Americans for a Strong Defense and financed by anonymous donors is running advertisements urging Democratic senators in five states to vote against Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee to be secretary of defense, saying he would make the United States 'a weaker country.' Another freshly minted and anonymously backed organization, Use Your Mandate, which presents itself as a liberal gay rights group but purchases its television time through a prominent Republican firm, is attacking Mr. Hagel as 'anti-Gay,' 'anti-woman' and 'anti-Israel' in ads and mailers. Those groups are joining at least five others that are organizing to stop Mr. Hagel's confirmation, a goal even they acknowledge appears to be increasingly challenging."

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic, writing in the Washington Post, has a balanced, informative take on "Five Myths about Tim Geithner." ...

... Scheiber has more in The New Republic, in a short article titled "Tim Geithner, A Good Hire -- Who Stayed about Three & a Half Years Too Long."

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: Obama campaign guru David Plouffe left his White House job Friday. "And so it is now that President Obama has tapped as his new senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer," who has been Obama's communications director. ...


An ad from the online "Junior Shooters" magazine. Via the New York Times. I deleted the sales-contact info.Gunz 4 Kidz. Mike McIntire of the New York Times: "Threatened by declining participation in shooting sports, gun makers and sellers have poured millions into a campaign to get firearms into the hands of more, and younger, children. The industry's strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for 'junior shooters' and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers."

Ron Charles of the Washington Post: "Best-selling author Stephen King has just released a passionate call for greater gun control, titled 'Guns.' In a coup for Amazon, the essay is available only through its Kindle Store for 99 cents." the Amazon page for "Guns" is here.

Tweedle-Dee & Tweedle-Dumb

Art by DonkeyHotey.Samuel Knight in the Washington Monthly: "... neither the President nor any other Democrats need to portray [Paul] Ryan as 'cruel and unyielding' [as Ryan claims] because his policies do a fantastic job of that on their own. Ryan has time and time again demonstrated that he isn't interested in paying down the national debt or in 'reforms to protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid,' as he claimed on Saturday. He's interested in turning Medicare into a voucher program and in slashing Medicaid's budget by over a trillion dollars." And he's still talking about "keep[ing] the bond markets at bay" even though "interest rates are about as low as they can be and aren't expect to rise, and demand for U.S. Treasury bonds is robust." CW: Ryan either really has no idea what he's talking about or he's just making up more excuses for cutting social safety programs.

Art by DonkeyHotey.Boehner Sorry He's Not More of a Jerk. Russell Berman of The Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is sharing his regrets about his 'fiscal-cliff' strategy, less than a month after the House bitterly swallowed a last-minute deal hatched in the Senate."

Scott Keyes of Think Progress: "Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), who was the chief elections officer when the state experienced massive voting problems in 2004, is planning to lead a national effort to rig the electoral college in favor of the 2016 Republican presidential candidate." CW: sounds sensible. Blackwell already has excellent state-level experience in election-rigging. ...

... Keyes, again: "In 2004, Republicans fervently opposed manipulating the Electoral College when the Democratic candidate stood to benefit. A decade later, after Obama won his second term and pundits discuss a long-term electoral realignment, Republicans are abandoning that principled stand in an attempt to rig future presidential elections."


Hania Mourtada & Anne Barnard
of the New York Times on the tensions and disputes between (and among) Syrian secular activists & jihadists. CW: The post-Assad period is going to be a mess.

News Ledes

New York Times: "Egypt's new government lost control of a major city, Port Said, on Saturday as rampaging soccer fans attacked the main jail, drove police officers from the streets and cut off all access to the city.... By evening, fighting in the streets had left at least 30 people dead, mostly from gunfire, and injured more than 300."

Washington Post: "The United States is significantly expanding its assistance to a French assault on Islamist militants in Mali by offering aerial refueling and planes to transport soldiers from other African nations, the Pentagon announced Saturday night." ...

... New York Times: "French special forces took control of the airport in the Islamic rebel stronghold of Gao, the French government said Saturday, meeting 'serious resistance' from militants even as they pressed northward. Gao is one of three main northern cities in Mali that has been under rebel control for months, and the capture of the main strategic points in Gao represents the biggest prize yet in the battle to retake the northern half of the country." ...

... Al Jazeera: "Mali forces backed by French troops are advancing towards the northern key town of Timbuktu after seizing the rebel stronghold of Gao, French officials have said. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued the statement on Sunday after French airstrikes forced out the al-Qaeda-linked fighters from northern areas, clearing the way for the ground offensive."

Al Jazeera: "At least 200 people have been killed in a nightclub fire caused by a pyrotechnics show in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria, local media reports. Bodies were still being removed from the Kiss nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria, according to Major Gerson da Rosa Ferreira, who was leading rescue efforts at the scene for the military police. Ferreira said the victims died of asphyxiation or from being trampled, and there were as many as 500 people inside the club when the fire broke out."

Friday
Jan252013

The Commentariat -- Jan. 26, 2013

AP: "Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says he will not seek re-election in 2014. The 73-year-old Harkin tells The Associated Press in an interview, 'It's just time to step aside,' because by the time he would finish a sixth term, he would be 81. Harkin said it would also allow a new generation of Democrats to seek higher office. The announcement comes as a surprise, considering he had $2.7 million in his campaign war chest and was planning a fundraiser next month."

Obama 2.0
Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the U.S.S. Mammon

"President Obama discusses his nomination of Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and Richard Cordray to continue as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." Transcript here:

** BUT Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "If Barack Obama wanted to send a signal that he's getting tougher on Wall Street, he sure picked a funny way to do it, nominating [Mary Jo White,] the woman who helped [a future Morgan Stanley CEO] John Mack get off on the slam-dunkiest insider trading case ever to cross an SEC investigator's desk.... Irrespective of the Mack incident, which incidentally really was about as bad as it gets in terms of 'regulatory capture,' America's top financial cop should be someone who doesn't owe his or her nest egg to the world's biggest banks." Thanks to contributor MAG for the link. ...

... AND here's Eliot Spitzer on Mary Jo White. He's agnostic:

... Wal-Mart in the White House. Mike Allen & David Rogers of Politico: "Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a respected veteran of the Clinton White House budget and Treasury operations, is expected to be tapped by President Barack Obama as the next director of the Office of Management and Budget, administration sources said. Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, was chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and came over to OMB as deputy director when Jack Lew moved up to head the budget office in the last years of the Clinton administration."

White House photo.... BTW, the President does have plenty of female advisors. Above is a photo from January 10. The caption: "President Barack Obama talks with Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Director for Immigration, left, and Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, at the end of a meeting with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. Pictured in the background are: Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Nancy-Ann DeParle; Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jeffrey Zients; National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; and Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President." These women do not get the coffee.


Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times: "The National Labor Relations Board has been thrown into a strange legal limbo -- with the possibility that more than 300 of its decisions over the last year could be nullified -- as a result of a federal appeals court ruling on Friday that President Obama's recess appointments to the board were invalid." ...

... CW: I agree with comments Ken Winkes made in yesterday's thread. The D.C. Court's ruling is a disaster. Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money, in a post titled "Neoconfederate Judges Rule NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional": "The opinion is an atrocity, classic 'hack originalism for dummies,' relying heavily on the fact that recess appointments during nominal sessions of the Senate are a relatively recent phenomenon (although there's precedent going back to 1867, and '[t]he last five Presidents have all made appointments during intrasession recesses of fourteen days or fewer'), without considering that the Senate systematically refusing to consider presidential nominees is also a contemporary phenomenon." Read the whole post, especially the part about Obama's "strange inattention to federal judicial appointments," making him "the first president in at least 50 years not to get a single nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... the federal appeals court of the District Of Columbia ... today laid down the most singular piece of partisan hackery to come out of a court since Antonin Scalia picked the previous president.... This, children, is what you get when you operate politically under the theory that They're All The Same. You get 20 or 30 years of primarily Republican judges ... drawn from the legal chop-shops in the conservative movement bubble, and doing their partisan duty like performing seals.... David Sentelle, [who wrote the opinion]..., is [a] career Tenther who believes the Constitution [w]as written on a napkin at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Small wonder he went batty on people appointed to the NLRB. This is a guy who thinks the NLRB itself is constitutionally illegitimate.... He doesn't think the agencies should exist." ...

Donovan Slack of Politico: "White House press secretary Jay Carney, who blasted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling as 'novel and unprecedented,' said that he did not expect any broader application. 'It's one court, one case, one company,' Carney said. Carney said ... the ruling Friday 'contradicts 150 year of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations.... So we respectfully but strongly disagree with the ruling.' Carney declined to say if the administration planned to appeal, referring questions about next steps to the Department of Justice. Justice Department officials did not outline their plans, saying only,'We disagree with the court's ruling and believe that the President's recess appointments are constitutionally sound.'" ...

... Adam Serwer of Mother Jones: "The court's position would invalidate the vast majority of recess appointments made by Republican and Democratic presidents over the course of the last century.... If the decision holds, then Senate Republicans just acquired even more power to block presidential appointments than they already had. Good thing the Democrats decided to cave almost entirely on filibuster reform just a day earlier." ...

... Take That, Harry Reid. New York Times Editors: "Democrats could have ... curb[ed] filibuster abuses this week, particularly on high-level presidential appointments, but they squandered the opportunity. The court's decision demonstrates how their timidity is being used against them. With no sign that Republicans are willing to let up on their machinations, Mr. Obama was entirely justified in using his executive power to keep federal agencies operating." ...

... The reliable Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog has a sober assessment. ...

... The McConnell Camp Dances the Filibuster Fandango. Alexandra Jaffe of The Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) campaign is touting what it characterizes as the senator's work to stop filibuster reform in a new fundraising pitch that proclaims, "We beat the liberals. A group of the Senate's most liberal senators, fueled by left-wing groups like MoveOn, have been pushing a dangerous scheme to change the rules of the United States Senate...," the email, written by campaign manager Jesse Benton, reads. He goes on to declare that McConnell 'stopped that scheme dead in its tracks.'"

** Bob Lewis of the AP: "The prospects appear doomed in Virginia this year for Republican-backed legislation that would replace the state's winner-take-all method of apportioning presidential electoral votes with one that awards one vote to the winner of each congressional district.... The Virginia legislation survived a state Senate subcommittee on a 3-3 vote this week, but two Republicans on the full committee said Friday they would oppose the bill when it comes up for a committee vote next week, effectively killing it. And should it clear the legislature, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Friday he opposes it." CW: did Gov. Transvaginal, now that he wants to be POTUS, have a Transfusion, or what??? Maybe he figures he can carry Virginia, & he wants those Northeastern Virginia Electoral College votes. I dunno. ...

... Humorist Paul Bibeau: "Last election, Barack Obama won 51.16% of the vote. Under the new bill he would have won four of the states [sic] electoral votes. And do you know how much it counts an Obama voter as? (It's 4/13 divided by 51.16%. I'll wait. Do it. Get a calculator. You'll crap yourself.) IT IS ALMOST EXACTLY THREE FIFTHS. This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person. I don't know if that fraction rights a bell with you." Thanks to contributor Lisa for the link. ...

... CW: I don't think the two Virginia Republican senators' opposition to the bill offers serious relief to Democrats. Here's why, from the AP story: "Republican [State] Sen. Jill Vogel..., a former Republican National Committee election lawyer, said she saw no problem with the bill's legality, but objected to the image it creates for her party so soon after Obama's victory last fall. 'It's the timing of it,' she said. 'It's just an awful impression it makes.'" I do believe Virginia Republicans will find a better time to re-introduce & pass the bill -- closer to the 2016 election, when it's too late for Democrats to, say, get a suit through the courts challenging the gerrymandered districts, which effectively make every Virginia Democratic voter 3/5ths of a person. If that suits Gov. McConnell, as well it might, he'll sign the bill.

Rosalind Helderman & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "A working group of senators from both parties is nearing agreement on broad principles for overhauling the nation's immigration laws, representing the most substantive bipartisan effort toward major legislation in years. The three Democrats and three Republicans, who have been meeting quietly in recent months, plan to announce a final agreement as early as next Friday." The group members are Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) & Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "Two others, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), have also been involved in some of the discussions."

Ryan Lizza & Rick Hertzberg discuss the President's inaugural speech & how it may predict his second term with host Dorothy Wickenden of the New Yorker:

Bad Lip-Reading the Inauguration:

CW: Gail Collins goes limericky on the fiscal cliff. Apparently she does read Akhilleus & me.

David Gonzalez of the New York Times: "The planned closing of Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx -- a haven amid the housing projects in the Soundview neighborhood -- has left many parents and graduates upset. That includes the valedictorian of the class of 1968 ... Sonia Sotomayor.... The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced this week that it would close 24 schools, including 7 elementary schools in the Bronx." Gonzalez interviews Justice Sotomayor about the closing. Includes cute anecdote.

Romney, a few days after the 2012 election.The Last Ha-Ha. "I'm Not Going Away." Anna Palmer of Politico: Mitt "Romney told top Washington bundlers, donors and senior campaign leadership in a meeting Friday morning that he would help out GOP candidates for governor in 2013, during the upcoming midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race, according to two people who attended the meeting. Romney also made clear his ambition for elected office has ended, according to another source present.... Romney will also attend Alfalfa Club's annual dinner Saturday night."

So Long to Another Dirtbag. Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), one of the Republicans most vulnerable to a conservative primary challenge, will retire in 2014 rather than seek a third term." CW: bear in mind that Georgia will probably elect a senator who is worse than Chambliss. Maybe former Rep. Joe Walsh (RTP-Ill.) should move to Georgia & run for Chambliss's seat. Like Chambliss, Walsh is good at mocking the sacrifice of war veteran amputees. ...

... Jeff Zeleny & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times go soul-searching with leaders of the Stupid Party (hey, that's Stupid Bobby Jindal's label, not mine). ...

... ** Jamelle Bouie in the Washington Post: "... there are no real reformers among the leadership class of the Republican Party.... At most, these leaders offer a whitewash: Underneath all the new rhetoric of change and inclusiveness lurk the same unpopular policies and priorities skewed in favor of the rich and against the middle class and poor." ...

... Joan McCarter of Daily Kos: "The backlash from Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to cut hospice care from the state's Medicaid program as of Feb. 1 has been loud and sustained. Loud and strong enough to force Jindal to reverse that decision."

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Obama administration is debating how much more aid it can give the French military forces who are battling Islamic militants in Mali, weighing the benefit of striking a major blow to Qaeda-linked fighters in Africa against concern about being drawn into a lengthy conflict there."

AP: "The hacker-activist group Anonymous says it hijacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide. The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, was taken over early Saturday and replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago 'a line was crossed.' The hackers say they've infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information that they now threaten to make public."

AP: "Residents from Newtown, Conn., are joining a march on Washington for gun control on Saturday with parents, pastors, survivors of gun violence and Education Secretary Arne Duncan."

AP: "An Egyptian court sentenced 21 people to death Saturday on charges related to one of the world's deadliest incidents of soccer violence, touching off an attempted jailbreak and a riot that killed 16 in the Mediterranean port city that is home to most of the defendants."

AP: "Algeria's foreign minister acknowledged that security forces made mistakes in a hostage crisis at a Saharan gas plant in which many foreign workers were killed by Algerian military strikes.Mourad Medelci, in an Associated Press interview, also conceded that Algeria will need international help to better fight terrorism. Algeria's decision to refuse foreign offers of aid in handling the crisis, and to send the military to fire on vehicles full of hostages, drew widespread international criticism."

Al Jazeera: "At least six garment workers have been killed and 10 others injured in a factory fire in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, according to fire fighters and witnesses. The blaze on Saturday comes just two months after the country's worst factory fire that killed 112 workers."