The Ledes

Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Guardian: "The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful. The verdict – the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian – is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his 'particularly frank' interventions on public policy."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country. The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "Egypt said Thursday that it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to drive back the Iranian-backed Houthi advance, signaling the growing likelihood of a protracted ground war on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula."

New York Times: "As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a [Germanwings] jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: "The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft, French officials said Thursday, pointing to voice recorder evidence that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming. The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash, which obliterated the Airbus A320 and killed all 150 aboard, into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago." ...

     ... The Guardian's live updates are here.

... Washington Post: "A mother and daughter from Prince William County were among three Americans who perished when an Airbus jet plunged into a frozen ridge in the French Alps this week, officials said Wednesday. Yvonne Selke, a longtime government contractor, and Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University, died Tuesday along with 148 others on the Germanwings flight from Spain to Germany."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

New York Times: "On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant [Beau] Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life."

New York Times: "Rescuers on Wednesday resumed the difficult task of searching for the 150 victims of a deadly plane crash in the French Alps, as France’s interior minister said that terrorism was not at the top of the list of potential causes."

Washington Post: "Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base in a push to overrun the country’s second-largest city. The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear."

Put Some Ketchup on that Velveeta. New York Times: "Kraft Foods and H. J. Heinz, two icons of the American food industry, are merging in a blockbuster deal involving the billionaire Warren E. Buffett and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, creating what will be the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.... Heinz, which is owned by 3G Capital and Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will control 51 percent of the combined company, while Kraft shareholders will own 49 percent."

AP: "Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson. Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items."

CBS New York: "The Connecticut home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been demolished, Newtown officials said Tuesday. The 2-acre lot where the 3,100-square-foot house once stood in a leafy, suburban neighborhood will be left as open space under a plan approved by town officials.... Everything inside the home, including rugs and lighting fixtures, had previously been removed and incinerated so that no remnants were available to become memorabilia."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 26

4:10 pm ET: President Obama speaks about the economy in Birmingham, Alabama

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

"In March 2015, Robert Kenner, the Director of 'Food Inc' and other acclaimed documentaries, will debut his newest, 'Merchants of Doubt'. Based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, the film follows the development of sophisticated methods for distorting science, used by the Tobacco industry to hide the poisonous nature of their products, and adapted by the Fossil Fuel industry to distort the science around climate change":

... Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post discusses the documentary: "... Marc Morano, a professional climate-change denier and founder of the Climate Depot Web site ... is, arguably, the star of Kenner’s film. After a stint in the 1990s reporting for Rush Limbaugh, Morano worked briefly as a flack for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called global warming a 'hoax.' He also plays dirty. In 'Doubt,' Morano recounts with glee how he has published the e-mail addresses of climate scientists, subjecting them to intimidation and flaming attacks from anonymous critics. (Several of the abusive e-mails are read aloud in the film by their recipients...."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker on true-crime documentaries like "The Jinx," the story of Robert Durst: "In the past several decades, true-crime documentaries have emerged as a kind of secondary appeals system...."

New York Times: "Marilynne Robinson won the National Book Critics Circle Award on Thursday for her novel 'Lila,' the final book in her trilogy set in the fictional Gilead, Iowa." The story names the other winners of this award, which -- at least among writers -- is more prestigious than the Pulitzer.

Guardian: "A presenter on the Spanish-language network Univision has defended himself after he was fired for making comments which appeared to compare US first lady Michelle Obama to 'something from the cast of Planet of the Apes'.... The situation is slightly murkier than it may have at first appeared. In the segment of the show in question, [Rodner] Figueroa had been discussing the work of a Filipino makeup artist named Paolo Ballesteros, who specialises in transforming himself into celebrities.... In a letter released through his PR firm, in Spanish and translated by the Guardian, Figueroa apologised but argued his remarks had been misinterpreted, saying he had been disparaging Ballesteros’s makeup talent, not making a slur about the first lady." ...

... CW: For what it's worth (not much), I would not have fired Figueroa. This seems to be a rare instance in which the excuse "I used a poor choice of words" is accurate.

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Euro-African Trip - July 2009

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New York Times report on the President's day in Ghana.

President Obama speaks after he & his family toured Cape Coast Castle, a slave-holding & -trading fort on the Ghanian Coast:

AFP: President Obama and his family visited the Cape Coast, Ghana, castle that was once a slave-trading fort.

 

President Obama's speech before the Ghanaian Parliament. The audio here, which I obtained from the White House, is MUCH BETTER than the audio on the satellite videos. However, President Obama doesn't begin speaking until 24 minutes in. You can click the audio forward (pause between clicks) -- this was a wonderful speech & well worth the effort.

Reuters reports on President Obama's speech before the Ghanaian Parliament. Politico's report is here. And here's the BBC's transcript of key excerpts from the speech. The Washington Post has the full transcript.

AP: Presidents Obama & Mills speak during a joint press availability.

Here's a very newsy pool report.

BBC News report on the President Obama's visit to Ghana with updated video.

BBC News reports on the Obamas' arrival in Ghana & their schedule for Saturday. AP story here. South Africa Mail & Guardian story here. London Telegraph story here.

This one's pretty good, too; the voiceover is in Italian, but the announcer is just relating what's going on, most of which is self-evident. The documents on the tray are copies of the Pope's new encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate" -- "True Charity":

The Obamas give the Pope a stole belonging to Bishop John Neumann, sainted in 1977, and they also brought him a letter from Sen. Edward Kennedy. Pool report here.

Washington Post: in the "frank" and "cordial" discussion, Pope Benedict stressed his opposition to abortion & stem-cell research; a spokesman for President Obama said the President "was eager to listen to the Holy Father."

AP: President Obama has concluded his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI; the First Lady joined them toward the end of the meeting.

More Catholic than the Pope. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, writing in Newsweek: "Obama's agenda is closer to [American Catholics'] views than even the pope's."

President Obama held a press conference following the G-8 meetings. AP report here.

President Obama's full remarks at the end of the G-8 summit:

Reuters: in the final G-8 session, African leaders ask the developed nations to honor their past pledges of aid; also request new funding for an agricultural program. AP Update of this story: G-8 leaders launch $15 billion global food initiative.

President Obama discusses the results of G-8/G-5 talks on energy & climate control:

Here's the G-S Leaders' statement on energy & climate.

New York Times: developing nations, led by China & India, refuse to commit to heat-trapping emission standards. Without the participation of the developing countries, "no climate deal will be effective."

A President Who Can Handle More than One Summit at a Time. CBS News: from the G-8 Summit in Italy, President Obama phones the Flu Preparedness Summit at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

BBC News: President Obama chairs a key session Thursday morning in which G-8 leaders will try to push leaders of emerging nations to take steps to limit global warming.

AP: G-8 leaders open up their meeting Thursday to the "Group of Five" fastest developing market countries — Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa -- to try to secure their cooperation in dealing with global economic problems.

Jake Tapper of ABC News: President Obama & Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva -- a/k/a Lula -- take time out in their one-on-one meeting to rib each other, Lula concentrating on his country's defeat of the U.S. in a big soccer match.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: G-8 issues a weak statement against Iran, little different from earlier statement....

... BUT that's not the party line: Carol Lee of Politico on Wednesday's G-8 dinner meeting & Alexander Burns on Robert Gibbs' remarks.

AP: at the G-8 summit, leaders are drafting an agreement aimed at lowering trade barriers.

The G-8 leaders relax before dinner Wednesday. (CW: I can hear Sarkozy tell Obama, "Don't flatter yourself," which is what gets the laugh, but I can't hear what President Obama said that inspired Sarkozy's quip.):

 

AP: the Obama administration voices support for G-8 greenhouse gas emission control goals.

The G-8 leaders at the roundtable:

White House statement on the L'Aquila Earthquake Zone: U.S. is helping victims. Pool report on President Obama's tour, with PM Berlusconi, of the quake zone.

NBC News on President Obama's tour of earthquake-ravaged l'Aquila.

ANSA: Italian First Lady Clio Napolitano & Rome's First Lady Isabella Rauti Alemanno speak highly of Michelle Obama.

G-8 first spouses dined on a terrace of the Capitoline Museum as the guests of Isabella Rauti Alemanno, the wife of Rome's mayor. Here's the pool report by the Washington Post's Robin Givhan, & it's pretty funny.

Also, here's some dish on the first ladies' itinerary from Nick Squires of the London Daily Telegraph.

Herding cats world leaders; raw video:

Here's the pool report on President Obama's arrival in L'Aquila.

Time: President Obama sidesteps Berlusconi scandals by beginning his visit to Italy with a call on Italy's "largely ceremonial" president, Giorgio Napolitano.

Politico summarizes President Obama's brief remarks at a joint press availability with President Napolitano. I couldn't find a transcript or a video except this one with an Italian translator speaking over the President. Here's the pool report.

Raw video of the Obamas arriving at the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome:

AP: the three-day G-8 meeting in l'Aquila, Italy, will tackle climate change, global economy. BBC News report here; China's President Hu Jintau leaves the summit because of civil unrest in Western China.

New York Times: the Obamas dined at Moscow's Ritz-Carlton last night, enjoying some downtime before traveling to Italy.

Here's an informative pool report on the President's meetings with the Civil Society group & the oppo leaders.

Transcript: President Obama's opening remarks at a meeting with Russian opposition leaders (partial).

Transcript: President Obama's remarks at the Parallel Civil Society Summit.

Transcript: President Obama's remarks at the Russian Parallel Business Summit.

Clifford Levy & Ellen Barry of the New York Times: President Obama isn't a rock star in Russia.

President Obama speaks at the New Economic School in Moscow:

The text of the President's speech at the New Economic School.

Michael Shearer of Time: President Obama gets personal in his comments on democracy & universal rights.

New York Times: in a speech at Moscows's New Economic School, President Obama says the U.S. & Russia share many common interests.

Interfax: President Obama met with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, & Gorbachev attended the speech President Obama gave at the New Economic School.

 

President Obama comments during a photo-op with Russian PM Putin. Raw video:

Here's the full joint press conference called by Presidents Obama & Medvedev.

Here's the transcript.

AP: Presidents Obama & Medvedev agree to preliminary guidelines for reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles. New York Times story here.

AP: Michelle Obama & daughters Malia & Sasha tour the Kremlin.

Presidents Obama & Medvedev meet in the Kremlin:

CBS/AP story on President Obama's arrival in Moscow. New York Times story here.

President & Mrs. Obama at the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

BBC: President Obama has arrived in Moscow.