The Ledes

Tuesday, December 1, 2015.

Washington Post: "A former wife of the Islamic State’s leader was released Tuesday after more than year in custody in Lebanon as part of a prisoner swap involving Lebanese security forces held captive by militants in Syria. Lebanese authorities handed over Saja al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi who was briefly married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the presumed head of the Islamic State. Along with Dulaimi was a group of mostly Islamist detainees, according to officials in Lebanon’s military."

The Wires

White House Live Video
December 1

1:00 pm ET: World AIDS Day

8:30 pm ET: Vice President Biden speaks at the ONE Campaign's "A Night of Music at Carnegie Hall" (audio only)

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Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (October 26): "A research division of the World Health Organization announced on Monday that bacon, sausage and other processed meats cause cancer, and that red meat probably does, too. The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat yet taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States."

New York Times (October 20: "The American Cancer Society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to [breast-cancer] screening, issued new guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years. The organization also said it no longer recommended clinical breast exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps, for women of any age who have had no symptoms of abnormality in the breasts."

New York Times: "Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared from her home in Westchester County nearly 34 years ago.... On Monday, Ms. Durst’s mother, Ann McCormack, who is 101, and three sisters — Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes and Virginia McKeon filed a $100 million lawsuit against the man who they have long suspected of killing her: Robert A. Durst, her husband. The lawsuit contends that Mr. Durst violated the McCormack family’s right to sepulcher, a rarely used New York law granting family members the immediate right to possession of a body for burial."

Washington Post: "Christmas in Washington" annual TNT special, in which presidents & their families regularly appeared, ends 33-year-run. Ah, must be because of Obama's War on Christmas. Wait, it isn"t!

Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas tree, November 27:

Boston Globe: Michael Dukakis loves leftover turkey. A turkey carcass makes great soup, he said, inviting people to drop off turkey carcasses at his home. So they did.

Domenico Montanaro of NPR with everything you never wanted to know about the strange tradition of presidential "pardons" of turkeys.

Frank Rich reviews "Carol," the film based on Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel The Price of Salt, published under a pseudonym. As usual, Rich goes deep.

New York Times: "Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for nonfiction Wednesday[, Nov. 18,] night for “Between the World and Me,” a visceral, blunt exploration of his experience of being a black man in America, which was published this summer in the middle of a national dialogue about race relations and inequality.... The fiction award went to Adam Johnson for 'Fortune Smiles.'..."

Slate: Carly Simon told People magazine that "You're So Vain" is about Warren Beatty. CW: Somehow I think I knew that a long time ago.

Guardian: "Gawker, the gossip website..., is giving up on reporting gossip in order to refocus on politics and 'to hump the [2016 presidential] campaign'. The site, founded by British journalist Nick Denton in 2003, announced on Tuesday that Gawker was steering in a new direction that would “orient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire'.”

Washington Post: Actor "Charlie Sheen confirmed on Tuesday that he is HIV-positive, as rumored in recent days by an onslaught of tabloid stories. Sheen told Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he is going public with his illness for multiple reasons, including that he’s been blackmailed for upwards of $10 million since he was diagnosed four years ago."

... For about $880,000, you can purchase Julia Child's excellent little house in Provence; her kitchen is intact, except for the stove.

New York Times: "Archaeologists have over the years cataloged the rocks [forming Stonehenge], divined meaning from their placement — lined up for midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset — and studied animal and human bones buried there. They have also long known about the other monuments — burial chambers, a 130-foot-tall mound of chalk known as Silbury Hill and many other circular structures. An aerial survey in 1925 revealed circles of timbers, now called Woodhenge, two miles from Stonehenge." With slide show.


New York Times: "In an overheated art market where anything seems possible, a painting of an outstretched nude woman by the early-20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani sold on Monday night for $170.4 million with fees, in a packed sales room at Christie’s. It was the second-highest price paid for an artwork at auction."

Artist's rendering of the main exhibition hall of the planned wing of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "In designing its $325 million addition on Columbus Avenue, the American Museum of Natural History has opted for an architectural concept that is both cautious and audacious, according to plans approved by its board on Wednesday. The design ... evokes Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, in its undulating exterior and Turkey’s underground city of Cappadocia in its cavelike interior. The design, by the architect Jeanne Gang for the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, aims to unite the museum’s various activities, solve its notorious circulation problems and provide a multistory showcase for the institution’s expanding role as a hub for scientific research and scholarship.”

New York Times: "... Jon Stewart has signed a production deal with the premium cable channel HBO, the channel announced on Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, Mr. Stewart will work on some digital short projects that are expected to appear on HBO’s apps like HBO Now and HBO Go. Mr. Stewart could also pursue movie or television projects with the network. The contract covers four years."

Guardian: "Facebook has announced plans to water down its controversial 'real names' policy, after lobbying from civil liberties groups worldwide."

If you'd like to know whatever happened to former NYT food columnist Mark Bittman, the Washington Post has the answer.

Jennifer Senior of the New York Times reviews Notorious R.G.B., by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik: "It’s an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction."

Digital Globe photo, via NASA, republished in the New York Times. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.... New York Times: "Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old. The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.... Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes."

New York Times: "In a landmark study, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported that they had conducted an experiment that they say proved one of the most fundamental claims of quantum theory — that objects separated by great distance can instantaneously affect each other’s behavior. The finding is another blow to one of the bedrock principles of standard physics known as 'locality,' which states that an object is directly influenced only by its immediate surroundings. The Delft study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, lends further credence to an idea that Einstein famously rejected. He said quantum theory necessitated 'spooky action at a distance,' and he refused to accept the notion that the universe could behave in such a strange and apparently random fashion." CW: Everything is relative, Al.

Gizmodo: On Halloween, "a rather large asteroid — discovered less than three weeks ago — is set to to fly past the Earth at a distance not seen in nearly a decade.... NASA says that 2015 TB145 will safely pass by the Earth and continue to following along its exceptionally eccentric and high-inclination orbit — which may explain why it wasn’t discovered until only a few weeks ago. During the flyby, the asteroid will reach a magnitude luminosity of 10, so it should be observable to astronomers with telescopes."

For $299,000 you could buy the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote "Born to Run." It looks like a dump prone to flooding every time it rains, but it's a block-and-a-half from the Jersey shore beach.

New York Post: "During his time in the White House, President Richard Nixon — pug-nosed, jowly, irascible, charmless-yet-devoted husband to Pat — was known to awkwardly hit on middle-aged female staffers. In 'The Last of the President’s Men' (Simon & Schuster), veteran journalist Bob Woodward quotes Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s deputy assistant, about the commander-in-chief’s sad seduction techniques."

CW: I've completely ignored the buzz about the film "Steve Jobs," so this was welcome:

... Sharon Shetty in Slate: "As the latest attempt to mine every last bit of meaning from the life of Apple’s late founder, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs will probably make lots of money and spark lots of debate. For those preemptively exhausted by that debate, there’s Conan O’Brien’s less controversial take on a tech biopic: Michael Dell":

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MLK Day of Service

Michelle Obama & Jill Biden work at a community center putting together goodie packages for the troops.

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Photos of preinaugural events are on the Inaugural Gallery page on the dropdown menu un Photo Galleries on the navigation bar just below the masthead.

The parties. (Not my strong suit.) The Sleuth reports on Arianna Huffington's A-List bash where Sting sang "Every Breath You Take," the stalker song often misinterpreted as a love song. Anne Schroeder Mullins on the Arianna party. And on Al Gore's Green Ball at the National Portrait Gallery. At the Kennedy Center, not one but two bigs shows, one headlining Aretha Franklin & the other Wynton Marsalis. Muhammed Ali salutes Barack Obama at the Bluegrass Ball. Celebs at the Creative Coalition dinner. The arty Big Shoulders party ended when the police showed up. Best of all, Dana Milbank takes a wry look at Hollywood on the Potomac -- the Return.

The official release on Barack Obama's dinner honoring John McCain. The Caucus story here. Photos. "Not invited was Mr. McCain's running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska." Barack Obama's prepared remarks at the "bipartisan dinner honoring John McCain."

The Caucus: Michelle Obama & Jill Biden at the children's concert.

Pool report on Barack Obama's dinner honoring Colin Powell (doesn't say much).

Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire on Barack Obama's National Day of Service. Washington Post story, with video. New York Times story here.

Barack Obama thanks volunteers:


Do not miss Joe & Jill Biden on Oprah. Jill lets the cat out of the bag! It's great & it's news:

Comments from a couple of sharp Caucus readers on Jill Biden's Oprah-induced revelation (see link to video above):

     I guess that disease which destroys the connection between the brain and the mouth is contagious.-- Michael Feldman

     'If you’re secretary of state, you’ll be away, we’ll never see you, you know.”'-- Jill Biden. That’s the very same argument Bill used to encourage Hillary to take the job. -- Shooting from the Lip

     Another Caucus reader points out that this story is not exactly news. Joe Biden made similar, but more nuanced, comments to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza back in October. Link to the Lizza story.


Barack Obama is helping renovate the boys' dorm in a D.C. emergency shelter. Joe Biden brought doughnuts for everybody at the Habitat for Humanity home he helped build. Michelle Obama & Jill Biden are putting together goodie bags for troops.

Barack Obama makes his first stop on the day of service at Walter Reed Medical Center. Uninformative pool report.

Barack Obama issues a statement honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.


Bloomberg: Barack Obama issues a call to service. The video of his speech in the left column of this page.

Washington Post: Obama, Powell ask Americans to participate in national day of service on Martin Luther King Day, January 19, the day before the inauguration. Updated story. With video. 

Barack Obama promotes

Michelle Obama talks about her family's plans for volunteering:

The Washington Post's interactive party map is excellent.

Sunday Concert

If you're interested in the party scene (I'm not) here are a few sources.(A year later, most of these stories have disappeared.) There seems to be general agreement that the best A-List bash Sunday was Maureen Dowd's, so crowded Tom Hanks & Bruce Springstein couldn't get in. Jennifer Lopez seems to have been the star of the Latino Inaugural GalaHere's more from the Boston Globe. And the scoop on the Declare Yourself Ball.

Los Angeles Times story on the Lincoln Memorial "We Are One" concert. Washington Post: the "We Are One" concert. New York Times story here. The Caucus here. Like me, commenters on the blogs want to know what happened to Gene Robinson, who was supposed to give the invocation.

NBC has a very good slideshow covering the day here. And here's Politico's slideshow.

     Update: the Caucus blog now explains what happened. Nonfunctioning speakers were a "technical difficulty." But the fact remains that the inaugural committee scheduled Bishop Robinson (a) before the HBO broadcast was to air (at 2:30 pm) and (b) before the Obamas & Bidens arrived (at 2:52 pm). We Are One.*

          *As long as we are heterosexual.

          Here is the text of the Rev. Robinson's prayer.

          Update: there's a pretty good amateur video of the invocation here.

          More: Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star has a good post -- he says NPR has some 'splaining to do, too. One of his commenters who attended the concert said the sound systems were working fine immediately before & after Bishop Robinson's invocation, but not during it.

          Ben Smith of Politico does some excellent reporting on this issue (at the CW's request). First, he reports that the Presidential Inaugural Committee takes responsibility for not broadcasting the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson's invocation. Second, Smith reports the PIC has ensured that when the concert is replayed on the Mall to entertain the crowds Tuesday, the Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation will be included. New York Times: story here.

Barack Obama speaking at the "We Are One" concert at Lincoln Memorial.

Transcript of Barack Obama's remarks.

Link to Politico's video of Joe Biden's speech at the Lincoln Memorial.


Joe and Jill Biden attended mass at Holy Trinity, where John F. Kennedy worshipped.

Washington Post: Barack Obama, his wife and daughters attended services at the historic 19th Street Baptist Church. With video.

     Update: pool report on the Obamas' arrival inside the church.

     Update from the pool: the sermon.

Barack Obama will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery Sunday morning.

     AP Update: Obama, Biden honor war dead at Arlington.

Washington Post: Springstein does a soundcheck at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday. Includes video.

Saturday Whistlestop

The Bidens and Obamas on the rear platform as the train pulls out of the Wilmington station.

Here's an excellent video of the whistlestop tour the inaugural committee made:

New York Times slideshow here. MSNBC has quite a good slideshow here. The Chicago Tribune's slideshow is good, too.


Washington Post story here. With video.

Tens of thousands gather in Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza to greet Obamas, Bidens; train made rolling stop in Edgewood first. Link to photos.

 Jen Miller of the New York Times mingles among the well-wishers at Edgewood. A few good photos, too.

President-Elect Obama speaks in Balitimore:

     Here's the transcript of his prepared remarks.

Washington Post: "huge turnout for a hometown hero."

Text of Obama's Wilmington speech.

Mark Silva of the Swamp on Joe Biden's remarks.

Early afternoon pool report. 11 am ET pool report.

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times Caucus: the Obamas are "on track for the White House." Washington Post story here.

AP story: Barack Obama and his family begin their train journey to Washington at Philadelphia's 30th Street station; Obama cites founding fathers and calls for "a new Declaration of Independence" in his remarks.

     Transcript of prepared remarks.

Pool report: Obama arrived in Philadelphia Friday afternoon.


The Obamas and Bidens will be taking an historic train car on their Philadelphia-Washington trip -- the Georgia 300. Here's the story from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen. Photos of the interior of the Georgia 300 here and here and here.

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