The Ledes

Friday, December 19, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "Lowell Steward, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew more than 100 missions during World War II, died Wednesday, according to Ron Brewington, former national public relations officer for the Tuskegee Airmen. Steward was 95."

NBC News: "The Army has concluded its lengthy investigation into the disappearance of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in eastern Afghanistan and must now decide whether Bergdahl should face criminal charges. Bergdahl reportedly walked away from his base into the hands of the Taliban and was held hostage for five years. Based on the investigation, the Army must now decide whether Bergdahl should be charged with desertion or a lesser charge of being 'absent without leave,' AWOL."

New York Times: "The Pakistani military said on Friday that it had killed 62 militants in clashes near the border with Afghanistan, stepping up operations against insurgents after the Pakistani Taliban carried out an attack at a school that left 148 students and staff members dead."

New York Times: "Mandy Rice-Davies, a nightclub dancer and model who achieved notoriety in 1963 in one of Britain’s most spectacular Cold War sex scandals, died on Thursday after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said on Friday. She was 70."

Denver Post: "James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater two years ago, is 'a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,' his parents write in a letter that pleads for him to be spared from execution.'" The letter is here.

The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, December 18, 2014.

New York Times: "The stock market began the week burdened by geopolitical worries, but by the close of trading on Thursday it had bounced back to achieve one of its biggest upswings in recent years. Soothing words from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, saying that it would be 'patient' on raising interest rates, drove the surge, analysts said. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index jumped 2.4 percent on Thursday, to 2,061.23 — its biggest one-day gain since January 2013. That came on the back of a 2 percent rise on Wednesday."

CNN: "U.S. airstrikes have killed two top-level and one mid-level ISIS leader, a senior U.S. military official tells CNN. Haji Mutazz was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's deputy in Iraq; Abd al Basit was his military emir in Iraq; and Radwan Talib was his Mosul emir. Their deaths resulted from multiple strikes going back to mid-November -- it has taken until now to determine conclusively they were killed."

AP: "Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013."

New York Times: "A federal judge on Thursday refused to release Don E. Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, from prison as he continues to appeal a prosecution that Republicans say exposed pervasive corruption in state government but Democrats regard as a case pursued for political retribution."

Boston Globe: "Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stood in federal court in Boston this morning for a brief pretrial hearing, which was punctuated by an interruption in Russian and English from a woman in the gallery. Several journalists reported she exclaimed 'stop killing innocent people' in English as she was escorted out for yelling in Russian. The woman identified herself to reporters as a relative of Ibrahim Todashev: a friend of Dzhokhar’s brother who was killed by an FBI agent during an incident that arose from the investigation of a Waltham triple homicide."

AFP: "Two owners and 12 former employees of a US pharmacy were arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people across the country, prosecutors said. Barry Cadden and Gregory Conigliaro owned the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which lost its license in 2012 after inspectors found it guilty of multiple sanitary violations. the pharmacy, located in the city of Framingham, Massachusetts in the US northeast, voluntarily shut down and recalled all products following the unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis."

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

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

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

A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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Illinois

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Chicago Sun-Times, November 17: "By a margin of 291 votes out of more than 200,000 cast, GOP challenger Joe Walsh emerged Tuesday as the winner over U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean in their nail-biting 8th District congressional race." Walsh is a tea party-backed conservative.

Chicago Tribune, November 5: "Republican challenger Bill Brady this afternoon conceded defeat to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn...."

I Love You, Man. ABC-7 Chicago, November 4: "Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias spent months painting each other as unfit for the post of U.S. senator from Illinois. But that acrimony did not stop them from throwing back a beer together the day after Election Night at Chicago's legendary Billy Goat tavern...."

Chicago Sun-Times: "Gov. Quinn said Thursday he had built up an 'insurmountable' lead of 'way more than 19,000 votes' in his bid for governor. Hours later, the Associated Press reported that its analysis showed that Quinn was the winner."

The Illinois governor's race still has not been decided, but on Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reports, "Leading Republicans this afternoon are privately expressing doubts that Bill Brady can overcome Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's narrow lead following Tuesday's election, and a Tribune survey of election officials likewise indicates there may not be enough ballots left uncounted to make a difference."

** NBC News projects that Republican Mark Kirk will win the Illinois Senate seat, the seat held by President Obama.

New York Times: in the final days, an ugly Senate race turns polite.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee runs a tough ad against Republican Mark Kirk:

     ... Huh. The ultra-conservative Weekly Standard doesn't care for the "outrageous" ad & notes that the VFW-Pac endorsed Kirk. CW: it isn't true, as the WS article states, that the ad isn't on YouTube because that's where I got it. I couldn't find a fact-check on it, but the ad looks accurate to me.

Kirk & Giannoulias debate. Clip:

     ... You can watch the whole debate on C-SPAN. The Sun-Times pretty much characterizes the debate as one with "no answers to the questions."

Michelle Obama campaigns in Chicago:

Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times: "In their first debate, Illinois Senate rivals Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk drew stark contrasts Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press' over job creation -- and whose credibility is most flawed."

Monica Davey of the New York Times, October 6: "More is at stake in the race here than merely the balance of power in the Senate. Senator Roland W. Burris, a Democrat who was appointed to the post and is not seeking election, may hold this seat for the moment, but it remains, in the minds of loyalists of both parties, Mr. Obama’s."

Chicago Tribune: "... with federal prosecutors pushing for a quick retrial, Democrats seeking election this fall could find themselves up against a daily drumbeat of Blagojevich revelations during the heart of campaign season."

President Obama will speak on behalf of Democratic Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias today, August 5. Washington Post story here.

The Chicago Sun-Times, August 2, has tied Democratic Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to disgraced financier Tony Rezko. In 2006, a company in which Rezko had an interest obtained a $22.5MM loan from Giannoulias' now-defunct family bank. Giannoulias' spokesperson said the candidate knew nothing about the loan, which the bank made after Giannoulias had stopped working for the bank, although he still held an ownership stake in it.

Oh, boy. The appointment of Sen. Roland Burris is back in the news. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times reports: "A little-noticed federal appellate panel ruling may trigger two elections for an Illinois Senate seat on Nov. 2 -- one to fill a new six-year term and, in a stunning development, another to elect someone to finish the remaining days of Barack Obama's original Senate term.... The decision said that Burris is only a temporary appointee until an election is held."

Washington Post: "U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Sunday that he won't be hurt politically by his subpoena to testify at the corruption trial of ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but his Republican opponent pounced at the chance to try to shift attention from his own troubles in the contentious race for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat."

After lying about his military record, & after lying about lying about his military record (really!) Rep. Mark Kirk, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, is caught repeatedly exaggerating his teaching experience, according to a New York Times report.

Nitpicker Terry Welch gets confirmation from the Pentagon that Illinois Republican candidate for Senate Mark Kirk "was counseled" twice about his violations of military policy which prohibits servicemembers from participating in partisan politics while on active duty. Further, Welch notes that Kirk has since made a false statement about his violations of the policy. Related AP story: "The Pentagon said Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk has been cautioned twice for improperly mingling politics with his military service, but Kirk's campaign denied any improper conduct Tuesday." Both stories via Ben Smith. CW: Kirk seems to have a serious disconnect with the truth, especially in relation to his military service. See stories below.

Huffington Post: "In the latest twist in the ever-growing Mark Kirk military service fiasco, the Illinois Senate candidate appears to have violated military regulations by campaigning while on active duty. If Kirk did indeed campaign while serving, as a newly released Department of Defense memo suggests, the offense would be punishable by up to two years of confinement and dishonorable discharge from the military."

Chicago Tribune, June 3: "Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk apologized today for erroneous statements about his 21-year record as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer and acknowledged more discrepancies between his actual service and the political rhetoric describing his actions. Appearing before the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, Kirk would not directly answer questions about whether the series of errors amounted to an effort to embellish his military military history."

Mark Kirk Lies about Lying. Todd Lighty & Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune: "Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk says his staff discovered he was mistakenly claiming to be the U.S. Navy intelligence officer of the year, but a military spokesman said today the Navy alerted Kirk about the inaccuracy after media inquiries."

Washington Post: Mark Kirk, "the Republican candidate for President Obama's old Senate seat, has admitted to inaccurately claiming he received the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award.... Kirk, a Navy reservist who was elected to Congress in 2001, acknowledged the error in his official biography after The Washington Post began looking into whether he had received the prestigious award."

     ... Steve Benen reminds us that Kirk makes a habit of exaggerating his military creds, which is weird because Kirk really does have an admirable service record....

     ... Update: Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post turns up video of Kirk, during a House committee meeting, claiming to be Intelligence Officer of the Year.