The Ledes

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

AP: "At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press."

New York Times: "Israeli airstrikes killed a wife and baby son of the top military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip, hours after rocket fire from Gaza broke a temporary cease-fire Tuesday and halted talks aimed at ending the six-week conflict collapsed in Cairo. The fate of the commander, Mohammed Deif, the target of several previous Israeli assassination attempts, remained unclear, though Palestinian officials and witnesses said his was not one of three bodies pulled Wednesday from the rubble of the bombed Gaza City home." ...

... AFP: "An Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday justified an air strike on Gaza that killed the wife and child of Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, saying he was a legitimate target. 'Mohammed Deif deserves to die just like (the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden. He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him'" Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio."

New York Times: "After nearly a week of inaction, a Russian aid convoy destined for the besieged, rebel-controlled Ukrainian city of Luhansk rumbled to life on Wednesday, with 16 of its trucks passing through a Russian border checkpoint. Before heading to Luhansk, though, the trucks still have to be checked by the Russian border service, Ukrainian border guards and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sergei Karavaytsev, an officer in Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said in a telephone interview."

Guardian: "Russia has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow for alleged sanitary violations in a move critics said was the latest blow in its tit-for-tat sanctions tussle with the west." CW: Now that could make Putin unpopular.

AP: "Germany says it is prepared to arm the Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and other European countries who are already delivering weapons to the Kurds."

The Wires

The Ledes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

Washington Post: "The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video released online purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government 'my real killers. A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that 'the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.'”

New York Times: "Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed late Monday to extend a five-day cease-fire for Gaza that expired at midnight for 24 hours, reflecting the difficulty of reaching more durable agreements after two weeks of Egyptian-brokered talks but also an apparent lack of appetite on either side to resume the conflict." ...

     ... UPDATE: "Another Gaza cease-fire collapsed on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets into southern Israel, drawing retaliatory airstrikes from Israel and prompting the Israeli government to withdraw its delegation from Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo for an agreement to end the latest conflict."

Guardian: "Armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy commercial planes, according to a new report by an international arms research group that cites the risk of the missiles being smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace."

Public Service Announcement

New York Times, August 15: "The Food and Drug Administration has approved Avastin — made by Genentech, a unit of the Swiss drug maker Roche — for a new use against late-stage cervical cancer, the seventh indication for the biotech drug, which had global sales of $6.25 billion last year."

White House Live Video
August 20

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Kevin Roose of New York: "How to make $200MM in 28 months." CW: Yeah, I know. Twenty-eight months is a lo-o-o-ong time.

Stupid Wiki Tricks. Telegraph: "Wikimedia, the non-profit organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright."

The Wrap: "James Corden is taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of 'The Late Late Show' on CBS, an individual with knowledge of the situation has told TheWrap.... Corden stars in Disney's 'Into the Woods' and can currently be seen alongside Keira Knightley in 'Begin Again.'”

John Oliver on "native advertising." Via Juan Cole:

Justice Ginsburg on the Tumblr site Notorious R.B.G.:

Washington Post: "Former president George W. Bush has been writing a book about his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The book will be published in November."

"Homophonia." Caroline Moss of Business Insider: "An education blogger in Utah is out of a job today after writing [righting] a blog post explaining 'homophones' for the Nomen Global Language Center. Tim Torkildson said he was fired by [buy] his boss and NGLC owner, Clarke Woodger, for [four] promoting a gay agenda." Here's Torkildson's blogpost on his firing. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times: "New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would do well to turn down the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion, which imagines replacing a prized garden on East 70th Street in Manhattan with a clumsy addition. The city should avoid another self-inflicted wound, and there are other options." CW: As I recall, the garden is that it is difficult to see from the street. I love the garden court & have spent a good deal of time there.

Martha Stewart has a drone.

Washington Post: "On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. 'If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,' physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA."

New York: "Governor Cuomo and CBS announced Wednesday that The Late Show will continue to be shot at New York's Ed Sullivan Theater, its home of 21 years, when David Letterman retires and Stephen Colbert takes over in 2015. While it had been assumed that the show would be staying put, CBS only made it official today, announcing that it had received $11-million in state tax credits and $5-million in renovation money for the theater in exchange for staying in NYC and guaranteeing the continuation of 200 jobs surrounding the show's production." ...

... Nice announcement, but not as long as Cuomo's 13-page response to a New York Times article that showed Cuomo is a pompous, corrupt, two-faced hypocrite.

Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."

 

New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.

 

CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:

 

Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

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Pennsylvania

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NBC News projects that Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey will win the Senate seat.

NBC News projects that Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett will win the governorship.

President Obama spoke at a Democratic National Committee event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, late this morning. AP Update: "President Barack Obama implored voters on Saturday to resist a Republican tide, warning that if the GOP prevails in Tuesday's midterm elections all the progress of his first two years in office "'can be rolled back.'"

One way for Congress to avoid Constitutional challenges to legislation: just defund the Supreme Court! What a concept! It's the brainchild of 4th Congressional District Republican nominee Keith Rothfus. You can't make this stuff up.

October 20: Pennsyvania Senate candidates Joe Sestak & Pat Toomey debate. Watch it on C-SPAN. Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

Politico, October 11: "Vice President Biden mentioned Karl Rove’s name a half-dozen times at a fundraiser in Scranton, Pa., on Monday, charging that the GOP strategist is raising money from 'shady sources' to attack Democrats.... Biden told Rove to 'tell us where that money is coming from,' and he filed a similar complaint against the Chamber of Commerce...."

Ben Smith finds "the dumbest use of the term 'race card' yet." (Smith's comment is here.) CW: yes, it is. If anyone played racial politics here, it was certainly the accuser.

New York Times: Rahm Emanuel, "President Obama’s chief of staff, used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to see if Representative Joe Sestak would drop out of a Senate primary if given a prominent, but unpaid, advisory position, people briefed on the matter said Friday." ...

     ... NEW: Here's a pdf of White House Counsel Robert Bauer's legal assessment that no "improper conduct" occurred....

     ... This statement from Joe Sestak confirms White House's version of events....

    ... NEWER: Here's a comprehensive Washington Post story.

Definition of Grandstanding. Jake Tapper of ABC News: "In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder..., all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee 'urge the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Congressman Joe Sestak's claim that a White House official offered him a job to induce him to exit the Pennsylvania Senate primary race against Senator Arlen Specter.'" Here's a pdf of the letter....

     ... Or, as Steve Benen puts it, "It's hard to overstate how incredibly dumb this is."

The (Allentown, Pennsylvania) Morning Call: "The White House and Joe Sestak should explain what happened with the alleged job offer, Gov. Ed Rendell said Wednesday...."

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to get him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted.... Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 'trust us' response from the White House has not exactly put the matter to rest." ...

... Related. Steve Benen says the brouhaha over the "Sestak Offer" is pointless; whatever transpired, unless money changed hands, no crime was committed & -- sorry, Republicans -- there's no scandal....

... Politico: on "Meet the Press," Rep. Joe Sestak confirms that "someone" in the White House offered him an administration job if he would quit the Pennslyvania Democratic Senate primary race. With video. Here's a better video:

... New York Times: "The White House appeared to confirm Sunday that the Obama administration had some kind of conversations with Representative Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania Democrat who was challenging Senator Arlen Specter, but asserted that the conversations were not inappropriate." ...

     ... The Hill Update, May 24: "Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid."

The Hill, May 19: "Congressman-elect Mark Critz (D-Pa.) will be sworn-in at a ceremony on Capitol Hill Thursday." Critz won a special election to replace his former boss Jack Murtha, who died this spring.

"Nothing makes friends like winning." New York Times: "Shortly after Representative Joe Sestak won an improbable victory Tuesday over Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary, President Obama called Mr. Sestak to congratulate him. The president pledged his full support."

AP: "An aide to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha won a special election to fill the final months of his boss's term - a nationally watched contest considered a potential bellwether for this fall's midterm election. In a tight race to the end, Mark Critz brushed back a strong challenge from Tim Burns."

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Rep. Joe Sestak, riding a call for 'new blood' in Washington, defeated incumbent Arlen Specter in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary Tuesday, ending the career of the longest serving senator in Pennsylvania history."