The Ledes

Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Guardian: Ukrainian troops are moving against pro-Russian separatists. The Guardian's liveblog is here.

Washington Post: "Three American medical staff members died when an Afghan security official opened fire Thursday at an American-run Christian hospital in Kabul in the latest violence targeting foreigners in Afghanistan."

Guardian: "Pupils at the elite Southbank International School in London were victims of serial paedophile teacher William Vahey, the school has confirmed. The scale of the abuse is expected to be revealed later on Thursday in a letter to parents.... Vahey, a 64-year-old American who taught at Southbank between 2009 and 2013, killed himself after being found with 90 images of boys. The FBI believe the children were drugged with sleeping pills and molested in assaults dating back to 2008."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

Guardian: "The Oklahoma supreme court has dissolved its stay of the executions of two men who challenged the state's secrecy about its source of lethal injection drugs. The court reversed the decision of a district court judge who said the law that keeps the source secret is unconstitutional. The turnaround heads off a potential constitutional crisis sparked by the state's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who had tried to override the stay by issuing an executive order to go ahead with the sentences.... The court's reversal on Wednesday came hours after a resolution by an Oklahoma House member to try to impeach some of its justices."

New York Times: "The latest accord between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared more serious than past attempts, experts said, and came as hopes faded for a resolution to peace negotiations with Israel."

New York Times: "Russia continued Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on the government in Kiev, warning that events in eastern Ukraine could prompt a military response and again accusing the United States of directing events there."

Not All Fish Are Created Equal. Time: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Barack Obama to Tokyo Wednesday by taking him to the greatest sushi restaurant in the world, the three Michelin star Sukiyabashi Jiro."

Reuters: "Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said on Tuesday they were holding an American journalist in the city of Slaviansk and the online news site Vice News said it was trying to secure the safety of its reporter Simon Ostrovsky."

AP: "When armed men seized the police station in this eastern Ukrainian city, mayor Nelya Shtepa declared she was on their side. She changed her story a few days later. Then she disappeared — the victim of an apparent abduction by the man who now lays claim to her job. On Tuesday, she resurfaced, expressing support once again for the pro-Russia insurgents — but possibly no longer as mayor."

AP: " A senior Canadian diplomat was expelled from Canada's embassy in Moscow in retaliation for Canada expelling a Russia diplomat as tensions grow over the Ukraine, Canadian officials said Tuesday."

AP: "A Moscow judge on Tuesday left open the possibility of jailing President Vladimir Putin's main critic for years, a sign of Putin's increasingly hard-line rule against opponents. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was fined $8,400 on Tuesday for slandering a lawmaker. His second trial starts Thursday, and prosecutors who previously secured his house arrest are widely expected to ask for jail for him pending trial, with Tuesday's verdict making him a recidivist. If there's a guilty verdict at that trial, he could get a prison term."

AP: "A Kansas judge will on Wednesday consider Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning's petition to legally change her name from Bradley, as she serves a 35-year sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks." ...

     ... Washington Post Update: "An Army soldier convicted of leaking classified military and diplomatic records persuaded a Kansas judge Wednesday to legally change her name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning."

Time: "President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for 'as long as it takes'”:

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: "The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the rare step of urging doctors to stop performing a surgical procedure used on tens of thousands of women each year to remove uterine growths, saying the practice risks spreading hidden cancers within a woman’s body. The procedure, known as power morcellation, has long been used in laparoscopic operations to remove fibroid tumors from the uterus, or to remove the uterus itself. It involves inserting an electric device into the abdomen and slicing tissue in order to remove it through a small incision. The surgery is far less invasive than traditional abdominal operations."

White House Live Video
April 23

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "The Hannity-Stewart feud: Day Three. During an 11-minute segment on the 'The Daily Show' Wednesday night, Jon Stewart called out Sean Hannity for what he perceived as hypocrisy on the Cliven Bundy issue and called the Fox News host 'The Arby’s of news.'”

CW: It's worth remembering that Stewart was the guy who brought down CNN's shouting pundits show "Crossfire." Of course the Blitzer Channel is, by comparison to Fox "News," a paragon of journalistic excellence.

Jon Stewart on the Cliven Bundy story:

... AND on Sean Hannity's support for Bundy:

... AND Hannity is pissed off. Apparently, it upsets him to hear his own blatant hypocrisy ridiculed.

New York Times: "David Letterman introduced his successor, Stephen Colbert, on his 'Late Show With David Letterman' Tuesday night on CBS with a monologue joke and some cordial conversation — but no measuring of the drapes":

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Paul Fahri of the Washington Post: The ratings for "Meet the Press" are so bad that NBC hired a psychologist to analyze Greggers. ...

     ... CW: Here's the rub. Fahri writes, "The impossible burden for Gregory, of course, has been to follow the beloved Russert. As one NBC colleague describes it, Russert is a 'ghost' who still haunts Gregory’s tenure at 'MTP' six years into his run." This is strictly VSP bull. Russert was a mediocre interviewer, who continually let politicians get away with evasive answers. He left big shoes to fill only because he had big feet.

MoDo loves her '65 Mustang.

USA Today: "Chelsea Clinton announced Thursday that she's pregnant with her first child."

New York Times: "It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday. The planet, known as Kepler 186f, named after NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, which detected it, has a diameter of 8,700 miles, 10 percent wider than Earth, and its orbit lies within the 'Goldilocks zone' of its star, Kepler 186 — not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures could allow for liquid water to flow at the surface, making it potentially hospitable for life."

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times argues that the real king of late-night comedy is Jon Stewart.

Whose Pulitzer Is It Anyway? Chris Hamby of the Center for Public Integrity was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this week for his multipart series on denials of benefits to black lung victims. ABC News, which used Hamby's work for a "Nightline" segment, now wants a piece of the Pulitzer, even though the Pulitzer Prize is given for print journalism. ...

... J. K. Trotter of Gawker has more: "Journalist-on-journalist carnage is rarely so open, or so bilious, especially when obituary-worthy awards are on the line. Then again, television news has never attracted, or rewarded, humble folk. According to Poynter, an ABC spokesperson repeatedly 'threatened [{Bill} Buzenberg {executive director of CPI}] and the Center saying they would make this very "messy" ... unless they got what they wanted.'” ...

... Dylan Byers of Politico has more on the feud. ...

... Capital New York: "Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed...."

Washington Post: Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff is leaving NBC News, by mutual consent. Isikoff told Erik Wemple that "this was a situation that was no longer working out."

Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: "Thursday night was a deft marriage of the best of the two Colberts: He didn’t break character, but the deference and affable nature that marks his out-of-character interviews was stamped all over the writing." With video. ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "Rush Limbaugh framed CBS's decision to replace retiring 'Late Show' host David Letterman with professional conservative skewer Stephen Colbert in some decidedly apocalyptic terms. 'CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America," Limbaugh said Thursday on his radio show. 'No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values. Now it's just wide out in the open.'" ...

... Bill Carter of the New York Times: "CBS made its choice, quickly and definitively: Stephen Colbert is the successor to David Letterman as the star of 'Late Show,' the late-night franchise created by Mr. Letterman. CBS made the announcement Thursday, exactly one week after Mr. Letterman announced on his program that he would be leaving his post after one more year on the air."

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "A faded fragment of papyrus known as the 'Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,' which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery. Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: 'Jesus said to them, "My wife..."' Too convenient for some, it also contained the words 'she will be able to be my disciple,' a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests." ...

... CW: Sorry, purists. Followers (& non-followers) had all kinds of ideas about what Jesus was like. Married Jesus & sexy Jesus (Gospel of Thomas, "Lost" Gospel of Mark) were among them. The Roman Catholic Church decided, beginning late in the 2nd century what was canon & what was not. And every story, IMHO, is fictional. BTW, the Egyptologist in Goodstein's story who insists the fragment is a fake uses some extremely shaky -- i.e., bogus -- rationales for his opinion.

CW: I think it's my job to run this:

... The full "Today" show segment is here, & it's mildly interesting (CW: NBC's embed code is screwed up, so I can't run it here).

Josh Dickey of Mashable: "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to replace the retiring David Letterman, and has indicated that he's willing to take over the Late Show when the time comes, people familiar with both sides of the discussions tell Mashable." Via New York.

Lauren Moraski of CBS "News": "David Letterman announced Thursday that he's retiring from CBS' 'Late Show' sometime next year. He made that announcement during the taping of his program Thursday afternoon at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater."

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Monday
Dec192011

December 19 -- Gifts for the Kids!

Fred Drumlevitch has assembled a nice toy collection to help you if you're having difficulty deciding on those last-minute gifts for the little kids on your list. The theme here: teach your children well -- so they'll grow up to respect police brutality. Drumlevitch's shopping catalogue is a bit limited, so perhaps you can suggest some more ideas for great educational toys. I, for instance, have been looking for Protester Barbie.

Write on this or something sensible.

P.S. My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's amazement that "believers" actually liked Christopher Hitchens, an atheist. Would someone please explain to me why Hitchens' death has been treated to so much hype & remembrance while comparatively little attention has been paid to the death of Vaclav Havel, who, you know, sort of brought down the Iron Curtain?

Reader Comments (14)

How can I be sensible when I was just as good as Fred all year long and I'm gettin' squat for Christmas? No coal, no nothin'. Fred is getting everything including Dr. Denton's with the built-in foot slippers and back side drop pocket in state police blue. Lucky bastard... Hey Fred, can I come over and play? I promise I won't fly the drone into the Christmas tree or cover the Leggos with peanut butter and watch the dog eat them. Marie and Karen want to come over too; but they're girls and girls got cotties.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@"Doubthat" I'm an atheist that believes in all religions just not the followers of them. As to "The Answer"; we'll know when we get there. Till then, just guessing.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

Hmmmm is there a Mitch McConnell doll in Fred's bag of gifts? Squeeze it and it lies. Automatically. Any time, day or night.

I see on the front page of RC that ol' Mitchy is up to his usual tricks, making demands that a Democratic president not do things he supported when they were done with impunity by the last Republican president. So Mitchy is apoplectic that Obama might make some recess appointments. It never bothered him that Bush made scores of recess appointments that included such lights of intellectual honesty and sobriety as raving lunatic John Bolton. But one recess appointment caught my eye as I reviewed the many wildly inappropriate and downright incompetents candidates set up by Bush when congress' back was turned (seven in one day in 2003!).

In January of 2002 Bush appointed one Eugene Scalia to be Solicitor for the US Department of Labor. If the name sounds familiar, it is. And it wouldn't be at all a problem that the guy is Nino Scalia's son. What made it bad were these facts: Scalia worked night and day to discount problems experienced by workers, especially those who suffered repetitive motion injuries. Some solicitor for Labor. But Bush specialized in fox-in-henhouse appointments, much as Reagan did (remember James Watt as Sec'y of Interior?????). One other interesting nugget about Scalia was that Bush had hired Scalia's law firm to represent him in his 2000 bid to make sure that legitimate votes in Florida that did not support his bid to become King were not counted. He won that bid because Scalia's dad did not recuse himself from case, the outcome of which had direct impact, personally, professionally, and financially, on his son. Two years later, Bush rewarded both Scalias by appointing little Eugene to a post in which he could continue his work of harassing American workers and standing up for the rights of corporations to fuck them over.

I don't recall Mitchy ever once demanding that Bush not make those appointments.

One other thing. Mitch had no problem with Bush's recess appointments, likely because most of those appointees were outrageously unqualified or inappropriate for the positions they were handed. He has a problem with a possible Obama appointment because he's afraid the appointee to oversee corruption on Wall Street WILL be competent and appropriate.

Welcome to Right Wing World.

Send that McConnell Doll COD. I may not want it after all.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@ Akilleus. Thanks. Nino's little boy Gino slipped right by me. In the Department of Nepotism, I do remember Bush's appointing Michael son of Colin Powell to chair the FCC (Powell the Younger was a holdover to the FCC, having been appointed by President Clinton to be a Republican member of the commission, and as such did not have to be confirmed by the Senate when Bush promoted him.) At the FCC, Powell made himself Deregulator-in-Chief, which was his most important bad work, but his most famous act of stupid was fining Viacom/CBS more than half a million bucks for briefly airing Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

I don't much care for Howard Stern, but he has his moments. To little Michael's face he said, "Guys like me who came from nowhere out of nothing and worked their way up and committed themselves to broadcasting and making a career of broadcasting have to answer to you. And it is a question as to how you got to where you got to. And let's face it: You got to where you got to, you got to the head of the class the way George W. Bush got out of the draft."

These legacies are just more reminders of why it's better to have a Democrat -- no matter how bad -- in the White House than a Republican. Don't like Eric Holder? (I don't.) Reminisce a moment about Alberto Gonzoles. Think Ken Salazar sucks? (I do.) Think back to Gail Norton & -- as Akhilleus reminds us -- James Watt.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

@Akhilleus;
Great comment as usual, but I just had to mention Elaine Chao (Labor Secretary January 29, 2001 – January 20, 2009), the only person who served under both Bush terms all the way through... here are the highlights of her tenure from wikipedia;

{"...After analyzing 70,000 closed case files from 2005 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division inadequately investigated complaints from low-wage and minimum wage workers alleging that employers failed to pay the federal minimum wage, required overtime, and failed to issue a last paycheck.
A 2008 report by the department's inspector general found that despite implementation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER Act), mine safety regulators did not conduct federally required inspections at more than 14 percent of the country's 731 underground coal mines during the previous year. The number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47. A 2009 internal audit appraising an Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiative under the Bush administration to focus special attention on problem workplaces revealed that OSHA employees failed to gather needed data, conducted uneven inspections and enforcement, and sometimes failed to discern repeat fatalities because records misspelled the companies' names or failed to notice when two subsidiaries with the same owner were involved, resulting in preventable workplace fatalities.
During Chao's tenure, Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees' work to private firms, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued on November 24, 2008.
A report by the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alleged that Chao and other White House officials campaigned for Republican candidates at taxpayer expense. The report describes this as a violation of the Hatch Act of 1939, which restricts the use of public funds for partisan gain, but no action was taken by any entity with responsibility for enforcing the Hatch Act...."}

The esteemed Mr McConnell came into office with a net worth of approx. half a million dollars, he is now worth well over 10 times that amount. When he got married his father-in-law gave him a Mansion. His father-in-law is a billionaire Chinese shipping magnate. His wife is Elaine Chao, beautiful, powerful and incredibly wealthy. Mr. McConnell has all the charm and good looks of spoiled offal... He and his wife are arguably two of the most powerful people in the world, a world which they have had a large part in shaping.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Marie Burns:

Thanks for the mention and link.

It's a good point you've made (via your comment at my blog): Where are the protest toys?

At TOYS R US, TARGET, and WALMART, a search for "protest", "protester", and "protestor" either under "toys", or their "all categories" (or equivalent) doesn't produce any toys whatsoever.

Nothing at all at Toys R Us. Under some searches at Target and Walmart, served up are some books and CDs (any seemingly interesting ones requiring an online order, so not something to be picked up locally on impulse). There is (online) a "Protest Stencil Toolkit", which, not being under "toys", seems more directed at adults than kids. (It's also $10 cheaper at Walmart than Target!). Walmart does list "Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation", a National Geographic Society Childrens Book. I have no idea whether it's any good --- and it also requires an online order.

Which brings us back to your question: Where are the protest toys? Perhaps they are available via smaller manufacturers and retailers. Perhaps we should we glad that the majors aren't selling them --- appearance there might mean, like peace symbol pendants, that they are not considered to be a threat to the status-quo by the political and economic powers-that-be.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

Dok,

Thanks for that reminder of how much the McConnell/Chao family has profited off the backs of American taxpayers while using their lofty positions to ensure that their corporate buddies never have to worry about pesky things like complaints from workers damaged or killed by corporate negligence.

I love Marie's point about considering how bad things could have been with Republicans in the White House. You think Alberto Gonzales was bad? Just imagine who the kind of whack jobs the Teabaggers would have insisted John McCain install in the various seats of power. We already know what kind of upside down cloud cuckoo land can obtain with out of control right wing extremists in the White House. In addition to good ol' Gonzales, just think of the many other scary characters Bush foisted on the American public. Many of these were people, like David Addington and John Yoo, who most people didn't even know about. Then we had idiots like Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, John Ashcroft, Douglas Feith, Hank Paulson, Monica Goodling, Paul Bremer, Bradley Schlozman, Ari Fleischer, and the lowest of the low, Karl Rove. And plenty more.

Wow. Just remembering how bad it was give me a migraine.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus, The Doktor, & Marie Burns:

The whole propensity to nepotism shouldn't surprise. Beyond the usual family enrichment, nepotism is simply the most effective way of insuring that the head political honcho's desired agenda moves forward, with reduced risk that the underling will at some future point testify or otherwise expose illegal directives.

For the above reasons, nepotism can occur in administrations of either political party. (Consider the Chicago Democratic machine). The real difference between Republican and Democratic nepotism is that Republican nepotism more directly and deliberately advances an agenda of reducing the effectiveness of government with regard to what I consider some essential functions, whereas most efficacy reduction under Democratic nepotism is probably incidental.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch

@Fred; I know you are a big kidder by your writing style but you can only yank my chain so far. Protest toys? Come on; your target market is protesting the very carp that you'd be trying to sell them. The real protest toys are the same ones I played with as a kid. My folks did not buy weaponry of any kind. We made our swords out of broom handles, shields out of garbage can lids and guns out of sticks. That's what the real occupy protest is about. People are sick and tired of having commercialism occupy their imaginations. They just don't know that yet. Corporate America wants to occupy your soul and they will sell you a little Lenin doll with a little coil of capitalistic rope if they can just open your wallet.
@nepotism; Not such a bad thing; think about Jesus and his Dad. Now that's a joke. But really it depends on the characters, certainly you all know someone who took over the family business or got a job by knowing somebody who knew somebody. Deny that and you live in a world I don't know. Whether the person is up to the job is another matter. Public office is different; civil service jobs should not be offered as a reward for being geneticly connected otherwise I think nepotism doesn't have to be bad. And, No. My father said I would never make it in the blue no collar world because my family was not of that world.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@Marie. Vaclav Havel's problem is that he wasn't an alzheimers addled murrican. He should've thought about that if he wanted us to revere him in death.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Singer

@FD;
I was alluding to something much more insidious. mcconnell is from a backwoodsy state of people who may be easily manipulated into voting for him repeatedly. he is no catch. his wife comes from a society with a distinct history of arranged marriages. while the Chinese think in terms of centuries Americans think about a new flat screen in 3D that'll just fit on their credit card. think trade deficit. think outsourced jobs. think stolen intellectual property that China has no cultural concept of. think about the fact that the U.S.has done almost nothing while China has eaten our lunch for almost 20 years.
That might be the only good thing that has come out of the economic crisis... Americans are finally starting to notice what country their widgits are made in.

The best protest toys are books.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Doktor

@Dok; couldn't agree more. Salud.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

On NPR this afternoon, moving tribute to Havel by Madeleine Albright.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

@JJG

Yes, I know that "protest toys" might be considered an oxymoron. But the fact is, unless they have grown up without exposure to television, computers, and contact with other children, most of today's kids have had enormous exposure to consumer products and slick sophisticated toys, and I believe that they are quite impressed — overly impressed — by such things. Unless they are dirt-poor, many kids nowadays aren't likely to be satisfied with the homemade toys familiar to someone your age or mine. Many of the toys I see advertised seem absurd to me — but probably are objects of envy to many kids.

Sure, it would be better if parents encouraged basic creative play by their kids rather than look for a ready-made, slick solution — better for the kids, and better for the family budget, which all-too-often takes an unaffordable hit from the spending done for Christmas presents. It would be better if parents could communicate to their kids what commercialism and other manipulations are all about, and why they aren't going to succumb to them. It would be better if parents spent adequate time with their kids, rather than try to substitute presents for attention.

But fact is, different parents vary greatly on how well they would rate with regard to those above considerations. Despite the political polarization in the country, I'd bet that parents would be distributed along a much smoother continuum with regard to toy-buying behavior. And unless the parents are willing to go against some very strong forces, they'll probably buy something.

So it's in that context that I actually see a place for "protest toys". IF parents buy their child a Barbie, I'd rather it was a "protest Barbie" than a fashion or paramilitary one. Better yet might be a cloth protest doll made by a small entrepreneur. If parents buy their child a toy vehicle, I'd rather it was a hippie VW bus replica — or a plumber's truck — than a police car. As far as the "Protest Stencil Toolkit" I mentioned is concerned, that's a true product, but yeah, my mention of it was sort of tongue-in-cheek, an example of what these stores were actually carrying.

With regard to my comment about nepotism, I was thinking about nepotism in government. As far as nepotism in private enterprise is concerned, while it may be within the business owner's right to operate that way, he or she should be careful, even if for no other reason than a purely business one. Nepotism can be awfully disheartening to loyal unrelated employees who may have done more over a long period of time to build up that business than the newly-installed relative of the owner ever will.


@The Doktor:

I do agree that, in general, the best protest toys are books. But my point about "protest toys" was related (as was my piece about police toys) to younger kids who are probably not yet big readers.

Your point about the dynamic with McConell wasn't what I was thinking about, but it's well taken, and correct.

December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred Drumlevitch
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