The Ledes

Thursday, January 29, 2015.

New York Times: "... Greece backed away from strong statements denouncing sanctions [against Russia] and joined other countries in the 28-member [European] bloc in a unanimous vote in favor of expanding a list of sanctioned individuals, mostly Russians, and of work to prepare 'any further action' to pressure combatants to respect a stillborn truce agreement from last year."

CNN: "The U.S. military and intelligence community now suspect that one of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May of last year has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar by making contact with suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan, multiple officials tell CNN."

Washington Post: Three American contractors and an Afghan national were killed in a shooting at a military base at Kabul’s airport Thursday, said a U.S. defense official."

Los Angeles Times: "Rod McKuen, a prolific songwriter and poet whose compositions include the Academy Award-nominated song 'Jean' for the 1969 film 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,' has died. He was 81."

New York Times: "Colleen McCullough, a former neurophysiological researcher at Yale who, deciding to write novels in her spare time, produced 'The Thorn Birds,' a multigenerational Australian romance that became an international best seller and inspired a hugely popular television mini-series, died on Thursday on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, where she had made her home for more than 30 years. She was 77."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

U.S. Air Force: "Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, in coordination with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, has determined the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One."

AP: "A disgruntled, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist promised to build 40 nuclear weapons for Venezuela and design a bomb targeted for New York City in exchange for 'money and power,' according to secret FBI recordings released Wednesday.... The recordings were played Wednesday in US District Court in Albuquerque before a federal judge sentenced [Pedro Leonardo] Mascheroni, 79, to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release as part of a plea agreement." CW: Um, isn't this guy just a crazy old coot? He hasn't worked at Los Alamos since 1988.

Jacksonville, Florida, Channel 4: "Marissa Alexander, a woman whose case helped bring national attention to Florida's stand your ground and minimum sentencing laws, was allowed to leave jail late Tuesday afternoon to spend the rest of her sentence on house arrest." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the lead.

Washington Post: "On Tuesday, two years after the attack, a jury in Nashville convicted two former Vanderbilt University football players of aggravated rape and related charges. They were among four players who allegedly participated in the assault. Two others, who have pleaded not guilty, will be tried later. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, now face 15 to 80 years in prison. They were convicted after a 12-day trial and about three hours of jury deliberation." The Tennessean story is here.

Weather Channel: "Winter Storm Juno pounded locations from Long Island to New England with heavy snow, high winds and coastal flooding late Monday into Tuesday. The storm is now winding down. The National Weather Service has dropped all winter storm and blizzard warnings for Juno.... In Massachusetts, up to 36 inches of snow has been measured in Lunenburg, while Boston has seen 24.4 inches. Juno was a record snowstorm for Worcester, Massachusetts (34.5 inches). Incredibly, 31.9 inches fell in Worcester on Jan. 27, alone!... uno's most severe coastal flooding occurred in eastern Massachusetts, in areas most exposed to north to northeast winds gusting from 50-80 mph, at times."

White House Live Video
January 29

12:30 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

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

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

Public Service Announcement

Get Off Your Ass! Los Angeles Times (Jan. 19): "New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death."

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

This is a real bill. Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott verified it. Check out the customer name on the account:

Is "Asshole" the customer's real given name? Well, no. Comcast got mad at the family for wishing to cancel the cable part of their Comcast service. Comcast not only refused to cut the cable, as it were, they changed the primary customer's name from "Ricardo" (his parents' idea) to "Asshole." When Ricardo's wife tried to get Comcast to change the account back to her husband's real name, both Comcast's local & regional "customer service" (Comcast's idea) offices refused. After Elliott took up the Browns' case, Comcast relented on both. ...

... Video via Karoli of Crooks & Liars. CW: I assure you, former Arkansas Gov. Fuckabee will be very upset by the vid.

Oh, lawdy, what will they think up next?

... www.cicret.com

In the New York Times, Barry Bearak remembers Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks.

Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, New Hampshire): "After going through the drive-through at Burger King [in Rochester, N.H.] Friday, a local woman discovered that instead of the sweet tea and junior spicy chicken sandwich that she ordered, she got a bag full of money. Rather than keeping the cash — totaling $2,631 — she came back to the restaurant with her husband and returned it."

Gawker: "Bill Clinton took repeated trips on the 'Lolita Express'—the private passenger jet owned by billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — with an actress in softcore porn movies whose name appears in Epstein's address book under an entry for 'massages,' according to flight logbooks obtained by Gawker and published today for the first time. The logs also show that Clinton shared more than a dozen flights with a woman who federal prosecutors believe procured underage girls to sexually service Epstein and his friends and acted as a 'potential co-conspirator' in his crimes."

New York Times: Director Martin "Scorsese’s partly finished documentary about [former president Bill] Clinton — which once seemed likely to be released as Hillary Rodham Clinton was navigating a presidential run — has stalled over disagreements about control, people briefed on the project said. Though parts of the film were shot over the last two years as Mr. Clinton made a philanthropic visit to Africa and elsewhere, the project is now indefinitely shelved, partly because Mr. Clinton insisted on more control over the interview questions and final version than Mr. Scorsese was willing to give, those people said."

Jessica Roy of New York: "Now that he's been released from jail after his kidnapping-conspiracy conviction was overturned, Gilberto Valle — the former NYPD officer dubbed 'Cannibal Cop' for allegedly planning to kidnap, kill, and eat women — is hungry for love on Match.com. Unfortunately for him, the online dating service told us that they've deleted Valle's alleged profile, even though frankly he can't be any worse than the other dudes you might find on there.... Also, he listed cooking as a favorite hobby!"

CW: Not sure why this is news. As a disconsolate Windows 8 user, I heard this -- in re: Windows 8 -- two months ago. New York Times: "Microsoft said people using the two earlier versions of its operating system, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, would be able to update their computers to Windows 10 free for the first year after the new software is introduced."

Ellen's Gay Agenda. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link:

The French discover Ken & Barbie News Fox "News." For some reason the journalistes at "Le Petit Journal" don't find it credible. With English subtitles. Thanks to Creegr for the link:

New York Times: "A person close to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing plans for the [presidential] library, anonymously told local reporters last month that foundation officials had 'major concerns' with proposals from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foundation officials were said to be alarmed that the University of Chicago does not yet control the land where the university wants to build the library. To the shock and horror of residents here, that left Columbia University in New York, where Mr. Obama received his undergraduate degree, as the apparent front-runner. And suddenly a fait accompli has become an open question."

Washington Post: Two treasure hunters may have found the Griffin, a ship that disappeared in the Great Lakes in mid-1679.

And the Winner Is ... A White Person! Tatiana Siegel of the Hollywood Reporter: "For only the second time in nearly two decades, the 20 Academy Awards acting nominations went to a group made up entirely of white actors and actresses. Among the notable snubs was David Oyelowo, who received praise for his turn as the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma." ...

... Scott Mendelson of Forbes: "... the most egregious omission is the sadly not-entirely-surprising absence of Selma’s Ava DuVernay from the five contenders nominated for Best Director.... She deserved a nomination." ...

... Steve M.: Given the sorry state of most of Hollywood's output -- the CGI roman-numeral blockbusters and comedies about farting boy-men, greenlighted mostly by white males -- and given the near-total freeze-out of women in directorial roles (or in most acting roles beyond male stars' arm candy), I guess I know the answer. And it's pathetic."

... Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: "Selma was snubbed because the average Oscar voter is a 63-year-old white man. VanDerWerff also lists other factors he thinks worked against Selma.

... CW: I don't think I linked to this essay by Chris Rock, published in the Hollywood Reporter last month. Subject: The movie biz is "a white industry." I guess so.

Dick Poop. USA Today: "Dick Pope..., the cinematographer for Mr. Turner, made international news after Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science President Cheryl Boone Isaacs mispronounced his name during the nominations, calling him 'Dick Poop.'"

Here's the L.A. Times story covering the Oscar nominations.

New York Times: "Amazon announced on Tuesday that it had signed [Woody] Allen to write and direct his first television series. The company said it had ordered a full season of half-hour shows, as yet untitled, which will make their debut on the service next year. It provided few other details."

Jareen Imam of CNN: "Jeweler Tiffany & Co., for the first time, is featuring a gay couple in an ad campaign. The new 'Will You?' campaign, shot by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, features seven scenes of couples. One in particular is drawing widespread praise for showing a same-sex couple. The pair, shown sitting on a stoop in New York City, are a couple in real life, Tiffany spokeswoman Linda Buckley said."

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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.