Friday, September 30, 2011

News Nuggets 760

Two African spurred tortoises at the Nyiregyhaza Animal Park in Hungary.  From the Daily Mail.

U.S.-Born Qaeda Leader Killed by Drone from the New York Times
"In a significant and dramatic strike in the campaign against Al Qaeda, the Defense Ministry here said American-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a leading figure in the group’s outpost in Yemen, was killed on Friday morning. In Washington a senior official said Mr. Awlaki had been killed in an American attack by an unpiloted drone firing a Hellfire missile."

The Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is a Major Blow for al-Qaeda (Con Coughlin) from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"Another bombing raid, and another al-Qaeda terrorist mastermind bites the dust. The latest attack, which is said to have killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-born terrorist who masterminded the East Midlands Airport cargo bomb plot, means that 2011 is turning out to be an exceptional year for the West's counter-terrorist offensive against al-Qaeda."

Just Look at What You Did! (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"In a Mother’s Day column in the spring, I suggested that readers commemorate the day not only with flowers but also with a donation to lift up women around the world. Readers showered one group that I mentioned,, with more than $135,000 that was forwarded to a slum empowerment group in Kenya. So while in Kenya recently, I dropped by to see what was being done with your money."

Occupy Wall Street Growing Rapidly from Daily Kos
"Occupy Wall Street is experiencing a burst of rapid visibility and support. Several established groups are now getting involved:"
As some may have noticed, I haven't given this protest any coverage on this blog.  To be frank, it has yet to pass the "seriousness" test.  Based on what I've read and seen, the protesters are protesting "against Wall Street".  Now, I think such a protest is long overdue!  But what EXACTLY are they protesting against?  What are they advocating FOR?  So far, they have celebrated a "leaderless" approach -- but what shows up is a unusually unfocused movement that routinely lands for me as more a form of collective tantrum than a movement that has any substantive agenda worth being for or against.  The contrast with the protests in Madison could not be more stark.  Don't get me wrong -- I think the Wall Street protests have real PROMISE -- but, by my accounting, they are on no trajectory that I can see to fulfilling on anything.  Maybe the union folks who are joining the protests see something I don't.  I hope so.  I'm still watching.

For the Unemployed, Geography Can Be Destiny (Richard Florida) from the Atlantic
"the geography of unemployment remains incredibly uneven. The unemployment rate was a staggering 30 percent in El Centro, California and Yuma, Arizona—roughly ten times that of Bismark (3 percent) ... "

Hispanics Rise in Key States from the Wall Street Journal
"Both Parties Vie for Support Among an Ethnic Group That Has Voted Democratic."

Obama May Have More Than Five Votes to Uphold Health-care Law (Eva Rodriguez) from the Washington Post
"The Obama administration’s decision on Wednesday to seek review of a lower court’s ruling on the constitutionality of its signature health-care program almost guarantees a Supreme Court decision by next June. And the administration is predicting victory. ... So, does the president have the requisite five votes to prevail? I think so — and maybe more."

Obama Charts a New Route to Re-election from the New York Times
"With his support among blue-collar white voters far weaker than among white-collar independents, President Obama is charting an alternative course to re-election should he be unable to win Ohio and other industrial states traditionally essential to Democratic presidential victories."

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer Will Seek Health Care Law Waiver To Establish Single Payer In His State from Think Progress
"... another governor is looking to take advantage of flexibility in Obama’s health care law in order to establish a single payer system. Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) announced yesterday that he will be seeking a waiver to set up his own universal health care system in his state modeled after the single payer Canadian health care system that began in the province of Saskatchewan"

Americans Reject the Right’s Bogus `Class Warfare’ Charge (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"Fox News is out with a new poll that seems designed to gauge the public’s attitude towards Obama’s new posture. For those making the “class warfare” argument, these results won’t be encouraging. Question: Do you think Barack Obama’s political strategy for reelection is designed to bring people together with a hopeful message, or drive people apart with a partisan message? Bring people together: 56% Drive people apart: 32%"

Are Neocons The Real Conservatives? (Andrew Sullivan) from the Daily Beast
"The impulse to witness change and regard it as apocalyptic in its implications - and therefore to become more radical in attempting to arrest or mitigate it - is certainly a deep part of the conservative conversation. ... I would simply argue that alongside this strain there is an equally countervailing one of respect for existing institutions, pragmatic prudence in governing, and an understanding of the value of moderation in political life."
Sullivan is reflecting on this longer piece by Cory Robin.

Perry: Media Bubble Boy (Mark Yzaguirre) from the Frum Forum
"one reason for Perry’s lackluster performance is because he hasn’t faced direct, sharp questioning for much of his political career and he’s functioned in something of a bubble for quite some time. Right now, his policies and background are being scrutinized to a degree he isn’t accustomed to."
A good discussion as to WHY he has faced so little scrutiny in Texas.

Perry Slumps in Polls, but Not to Romney’s Gain (Nate Silver) from the New York Times
"The polls suggest that Rick Perry’s struggles in the debate — amplified by a storm of skepticism among influential Republicans — have taken a bite out of his numbers. But the spoils seem to have gone mainly to other conservative candidates in the race, rather than Mr. Romney."

Most GOP Voters Saying "Anybody But Romney" (Robert Tracinski) from Real Clear Politics
"The Republican primaries have been taking a weird, wrenching turn. The pattern could be described as chaotic, except that it has one consistent theme. That theme is that Republican voters are searching for someone, anyone, other than Mitt Romney."

Incomplete Buildings And Monuments Around The World (PHOTOS) from the Huffington Post
"Last week it was announced that Barcelona's iconic basilica, La Sagrada Familia, was finally given a completion date some 144 years after its groundbreaking. This got us thinking: What other monuments have been left incomplete? As it turns out, the answer is, "a lot.""

Thursday, September 29, 2011

News Nuggets 759

A sea star in the Maldives.  From National Geographic.

Germany Approves Expansion of Euro Bailout Fund from the New York Times
"The German Parliament easily approved the expansion of the bailout fund for heavily indebted European countries Thursday, the most important step in a tortuous process that has rattled markets and raised doubts about the ability of governments to react to the expanding debt crisis."
Will this be enough?  Doubt it.

A glimpse why I doubt it:
The Sick Men of Europe (Joshua Keating) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"A checkup on the continent's crisis-ridden economies."

Why China Won't Rule the World Anytime Soon (Jason Gots) from Big Think
"Economist Daniel Altman predicts that "deep factors," including endemic corruption and a Confucian business culture, will limit China's growth, causing it to surrender the top spot shortly after becoming the world's biggest economy."

Adm. Mike Mullen’s Legacy (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"Talking to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his final week in the job, I found myself wondering if we are entering a “post-military” age, when our top officers understand that the biggest problems can’t be solved with military power. But what are the deeper, intractable problems facing Mullen’s generation of officers? They are about culture, and governance, and the subtle psychological factors that keep people from doing what’s in their interest."

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's… A Hero of the Bulgarian Revolution? from the Wall Street Journal
"Mixed Feelings Toward Communist Past Make for Monumental Arguments in Sofia."

Americas to Become Mecca of World’s Energy (Andres Oppenheimer) from the Miami Herald
"The turmoil for reform sweeping most Middle Eastern oil producers is grabbing big headlines today, but that region may lose some of it’s economic clout in the future: there are signs that the Americas will replace the Middle East as the world’s biggest oil-producing region."

Old School: College's Most Important Trend is the Rise of the Adult Student from the Atlantic
"The media's "typical" college student lives on a campus at a four-year institution. But that describes no more than a sixth of the total college population. In fact, there are more college attendees over the age of 30 than such "typical" students. The most significant shift in higher education is the massive growth in the adult-student population."

No Casa Blanca for the GOP (Maria Cardona) from the Huffington Post
"As a Latina however, I find myself scratching my head and wondering whether the GOP candidates even know - or care - there is a powerful and growing Latino voting population in critical swing states that hold the key to any Republican who wants to work in the Oval Office. During the last several GOP Presidential debates, I sat dumbfounded on several instances where the GOP candidates were unwilling or frankly, unable to even articulate a single thing they would do to capture the Latino vote."
Cardona charts a lot of GOP cluelessness here.

The Best Colleges You Haven't Heard Of from the Huffington Post
"Using thousands of student reviews, Unigo recently named the top "hidden gems" among colleges. The list includes unconventional Bard College in Annandale on the Hudson, New York, and Maine's Bates College."
Bard College is No. 1?! My alma mater! Imagine that?

The Coming GOP Primary Calendar Mess from Talking Points Memo
"The Republican primaries and caucuses are coming soon for the many candidates competing for president — and thanks to the latest move by Florida, the crunch-time will be coming up sooner than everyone has previously planned on."

Rick Perry’s Wife Says Scrutiny Faced During Presidential Campaign Has Been ‘Intense’ from the Des Moines Register [of Iowa]
The scrutiny and the intensity of the presidential campaign just 45 days into the race has been unpleasant, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, told conservatives in Iowa this morning. “I thought I was pretty seasoned, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said."
You becha'!  And it will only intensify as the months go by.

Christie Says He’s Not Running ... as He Slams ‘Bystander’ Obama from Bloomberg News Service
"New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he plans to sit out the 2012 presidential race and then used a nationally broadcast appearance to assail President Barack Obama as a “bystander in the Oval Office.”"
For someone who is supposed to be so bright, what a dumb thing to say!

The Documentary Palin Will Hate (Marlow Stern) from the Daily Beast
In-your-face documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield turns his uncompromising lens on the former Alaska governor in ‘Sarah Palin: You Betcha!,’ opening Friday. He talks to Marlow Stern about his subject, Joe McGinniss’s Palin biography, and the Palin rumors too hot to include in the film."

Colbert Defends Rick Perry From Slick-Talking Critics (VIDEO) from Talking Points Memo
"So Colbert piled on a number of other conservative pundits slamming Perry's performance. After a a graphic explanation of Perry's performance, Colbert surmised that the GOP frontrunner "defiled himself with every bodily fluid known to man, other than Santorum."

Kindle Fire Vs. Apple IPad: What Amazon's Tablet Has That The IPad Lacks from the Huffington Post
"How do you choose between them? Given everything we already know about the iPad (which has been out for 18 months), and all the also-rans that could not dethrone the iPad, here are the biggest advantages the Kindle Fire has over the iPad:"

200 Tons of Silver Found on WWII Ship from Discovery News
"Now, 70 years after the dramatic sinking, treasure hunters have announced the discovery of the Gairsoppa's intact wreck about 300 miles off the coast of Ireland, at a depth of nearly three miles. Laying deeper than the Titanic, the wreck is believed to hold the largest haul of precious metal lost at sea."

Lost Beethoven Masterpiece to Get First Performance for 200 Years After Expert's Painstaking Reconstruction from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"A composition by Beethoven which has been lost for over 200 years has been reconstructed by a leading expert. The piece will receive its modern premiere tomorrow, two centuries after it was last performed."

In the Heart of a Stampede: Amazing Images Capture Herds of Animals as They Rampage OVER Photographer from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"This is the moment a wildlife photographer comes face to face with a stampeding herd of wildebeest as they trample OVER him. This amazing series of images was captured by Chris Weston, who dug a 4ft ditch in the rampaging animals' path in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

News Nuggets 758

Balloons flying over Cappadocia in Turkey.  From National Geographic.

As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe from the New York Times
"Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box."
A disturbing -- and sad -- development.  

Libya; The Losers (Max Rodenbeck) from the New York Review of Books
"The contrast between the sallow, whispering prisoners and their ebullient captors could scarcely be more striking. Behind the desk in Tuhami Khaled’s former office, with a trim black beard and a pistol holstered over desert combat fatigues, sits thirty-six-year-old Khaled Garabulli. The fellow revolutionaries who saunter nonchalantly in and out, sporting motley bandanas, shades, and firearms, treat him with jovial deference."

China’s Dictator Complex (Minxin Pei) from The Diplomat
"Chinese policymakers are often assumed to be the archetypal practitioners of realpolitik. But their coddling of dictators is counter-productive."

How Obama Excelled and Bill Clinton Disappointed During the Palestinian Statehood Showdown (Yossi Klein Halevi) from the New Republic
"This is also a time of inversion of expectations: Barrack Obama, Israelis’ least favorite president, emerges as the defender of truth, while Bill Clinton, whom Israelis adored, joins the distorters. Here is what the week, and some of its main players, looked like from Jerusalem:"
Now -- I will have to say I don't fully buy what this commentator is selling.  It reeks of the "Israel as victim" meme.

College Graduation Rates Are Stagnant Even as Enrollment Rises, a Study Finds from the New York Times
"The numbers are stark: In Texas, for example, of every 100 students who enrolled in a public college, 79 started at a community college, and only 2 of them earned a two-year degree on time; even after four years, only 7 of them graduated. Of the 21 of those 100 who enrolled at a four-year college, 5 graduated on time; after eight years, only 13 had earned a degree."

For David Plouffe, a Top Obama Adviser, a New Strategy and Old Doubts from the Washington Post
"While Plouffe appears to be pushing Obama toward a more partisan approach, doubts linger over whether he has sufficiently gotten over the last election to win the next one."

Hard Bargain (Hendrik Hertzberg) from the New Yorker
"Memo to Thomas Friedman: Compromise is not an option. Obama’s real choice is between a Grand Surrender and a Grand Fight…"

The American 'Allergy' to Global Warming: Why? (Charles Hanley) from the Associated Press
"... other powerful evidence poured in over those decades, showing the "greenhouse effect" is real and is happening. And yet resistance to the idea among many in the U.S. appears to have hardened. What's going on? "The desire to disbelieve deepens as the scale of the threat grows," concludes economist-ethicist Clive Hamilton."

Why No GOP Candidate Can Soothe The Angry Elephant (Benjy Sarlin) from Talking Points Memo
"After all, isn’t there a candidate out there — somewhere, anywhere — who is simultaneously electable, consistently conservative, and an easy sell to the Tea Party and establishment alike? Nope."

Another aspect of this phenomenon:
The GOP’s Messiah Complex (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"Christie’s powerful Tuesday night speech will inspire even more conservatives to view him as their savior. Too bad he’s bound to break their hearts, argues Michael Tomasky."

Defiant Team Perry's Plan: Hit Harder from Politico
"Rick Perry’s widely panned debate performances? Just a hiccup. Any major changes in debate prep? None planned. His unexpected and deflating Florida straw poll loss last weekend? Not a big deal. Even as some of his supporters grow anxious, the Texas governor’s top aides insist they have no plans for real or even symbolic changes to their campaign. The only pivot they’ll make, they say, is to become more aggressive with Mitt Romney."
WOW!  This could get really interesting.

Five Things Conservative Voters Would Hate About Chris Christie from New York Magazine
"Conservatives know the New Jersey governor is a straight-talker who slashes budgets and takes on the public unions and yells at people on YouTube. Which is all great, obviously. But on some issues, Republican primary voters would be in for a rude awakening."

Chris Christie Has Plenty of Reasons to Say No from the National Journal
"Latecomers to the presidential party have a history of flaming out."

Christie Our Savior (Dave Weigel) from Slate
"Why this week's Republican messiah is no better than last week's."

What is it About Herman Cain That's Got GOP So Gaga? from the McClatchy News Service
"... he appeals to many rank-and-file Republicans with a deep voice and direct message that's based on his record as a successful businessman, a can-do delivery that doesn't knock other Republicans and a proposal for a flat tax that touches deep in the Republican DNA of loathing for the Internal Revenue Service."

The First In-depth Look at a Nazi 'God of Death' from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"As the chair of the Wannsee Conference and head of the Reich Main Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich was the personification of the cruelest aspects of Nazi Germany. But the first scholarly biography of him finds that a combination of shame, love and luck -- rather than purely inherent evil -- led him to pursue a path of Nazi terror."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

News Nuggets 757

A 1930 Duesenberg Willoughby, a classic car favored by Chicago mobsters.   What a wonderfully maintained vehicle!

If This is 'Class Warfare,' the Middle is Getting Pounded (James Werrell) from the Kansas City Star
"America now has more poor people than at any time in the 52 years records have been kept, according to an article in Time magazine by economist Rana Foroohar. The number of people living below the poverty line - a family of four living on $22,000 a year - has been rising for the past four years and now stands at 15 percent of the population. Foroohar asserts that the American Dream, the notion that anyone with grit and determination can improve his or her status, has become a sad joke. Americans now are less upwardly mobile than many European nations, including even stratified countries such as England, France and Germany. If you're born poor in America, you're likely to stay poor."

Slump Alters Jobless Map in U.S., With South Hit Hard from the New York Times
"The once-booming South, which entered the recession with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, is now struggling with some of the highest rates, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show."
Some economic justice here -- given that it has largely been the southern states who have put the biggest GOP "juice the recession" clowns in office.

New-Home Sales on Track for Lowest Level on Record from MSNBC
"Sales of new homes this year could hit the lowest levels in the nearly 50 years the government has been tracking the data. New-home sales fell 2.3 percent in August to an annual rate of 295,000 units, the government said Monday."

And, why not, lets have some more good economic news:
Most Food Stamp Recipients Have No Earned Income from the Wall Street Journal
"Some 70% of households that relied on food stamps last year had no earned income, a new report shows. More than 40 million individuals and nearly 19 million households tapped the food stamp program in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While the recession technically ended in 2009, a sluggish economic recovery left millions out of work or underemployed and leaning on the government for assistance last year."

Three Reasons the White House is Taking Health Reform Straight to Supreme Court from the Washington Post
"The conventional wisdom has always been that, for the White House, a longer timeline on health reform’s legal challenges is better: it gives the law more time to be implemented and benefits to kick in. So why did it choose the faster route to the Supreme Court this time? There are at least three reasons that could make a 2012 Supreme Court decision a more compelling one for the White House:"

Johns Hopkins Scientists Figure Out How to ‘Disarm’ AIDS Virus from the medical journal Blood via Raw Story
"Research results published last week in the medical journal Blood indicated the treatment method could lead to a vaccine against the virus, which affected about 33.3 million people worldwide at the end of 2009.  Scientists said their new method works by eliminating a membrane of cholesterol used by HIV to disguise itself and disarm the immune system. ... By stripping it of that essential cholesterol membrane, the AIDS virus is attacked by the immune system and shut down."

U.S. To Hand Over Iraq Bases, Equipment Worth Billions (Dan Froomkin) from the Huffington Post
"With just over three months until the last U.S. troops are currently due to leave Iraq, the Department of Defense is engaged in a mad dash to give away things that cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars to buy and build.  The giveaways include enormous, elaborate military bases and vast amounts of military equipment that will be turned over to the Iraqis, mostly just to save the expense of bringing it home."
You betcha'!  No one is saying so but I remain convinced that the original plan under Bush 43 was TO STAY in Iraq.  Now we are faced with the biggest "Going Out of Business" sales in world history!

Obama Strength? Reshaping the Judiciary (DeWayne Wickham) from USA Today
"The president's greatest accomplishment, which he ought to mention in every speech to his core supporters, is what he has done to reshape the federal judiciary. Nothing is likely to have a longer lasting impact on the interests of the people who put him in office than his appointments of federal judges."

Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and the Argument Over `Class Warfare’ (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"...the arguments from Warren and Obama — and the conservative responses to them — suggest that it’s a good thing that we’re having this argument. ... In contrast to months of fighting it out on austerity/spending cut turf favorable to the GOP, Dems are now arguing for fairer taxation, in order to reduce the deficit, on the grounds that we’re all in this together. Meanwhile, Republicans are fighting to defend low taxes on the rich even as they decry “class warfare,” which gives Dems an opening to ask who, exactly, Republicans are fighting for. Whatever the political benefits of this argument for Dems, it’s a good one for the country to hear."

Rick Perry's Really Bad Weekend (Steve Kornacki) from Salon
"Rick Perry ended last week with conservative leaders and activists openly mocking his performance in a debate and expressing serious doubts about his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. And the bleeding didn't stop over the weekend."
Just the latest in the GOP's cascade of clowns!  We started with, let me see, I guess it goes back to Queen Sarah and her Gabrielle Giffords "It's all about me" moment.  From there, the GOP's presidential pageant has seen one debutant after another go careening off the runway: Mitch Daniels (whose wife rightly didn't want the spotlight); John Huntsman (whose GOP died with Gerald Ford years ago); Donald Trump (the first of the MEGA-clowns); Newt Gingrich (whose campaign went bad faster than processed fake cheese); Michelle Bachmann (someone shockingly viewed as a "more serious" candidate than Queen Sarah); all followed by our latest Gong Show contestant, Rick Perry with his guns blazing and his awe-inspiring 10-0 election winning streak -- and he barely scans the audience once before tripping into the tuba section.  Filling out this astounding field are none other than Ron Paul and Herman Cain (two "no chance Charlies" that have basically become placeholders for "none of the above").  

A related take on Perry:
Republicans Falling In and Out of Love (Eugene Robinson) from the Washington Post
"At this point, you have to wonder if the GOP will fall in love with anybody. I’m trying to imagine the candidate who can maintain credibility with the party’s establishment and Tea Party wings. If the ultra-flexible Romney isn’t enough of a political contortionist to do it, who is?"

And where is the latest "savior-of-the-minute" candidate, Chris Christie?
Christie Courted, Still Says No from the Wall Street Journal
"A determined cadre of Republican donors is casting wishful eyes on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in an 11th-hour push to persuade the former prosecutor to enter the 2012 presidential race. The drive reflects lingering discontent in some GOP quarters over the current crop of GOP candidates, particularly since the recent stumbles of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has led in national polls of Republican voters." 
Shocking!  It's a total mystery to me why he doesn't leap onto the stage!

Which leads naturally to this item:
How Lucky Is Mitt Romney? (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"Perhaps the latest non-Romney savior Chris Christie will jump into the race. Or perhaps Perry can learn to memorize his cue cards (or take dramatic action to shore up his anti-illegal immigration bona fides). Failing that, we may see a man walk into the nomination of a party whose electorate is dying to vote against him, simply because nobody else could stand in his path without keeling over."

Beltway Doesn't Get Romney's Vulnerability (Erick Erickson) from CNN
"The media, in effect, have become film critic Pauline Kael, who allegedly expressed surprise when Richard Nixon won, because no one she knew had voted for him. This is what is going on with Mitt Romney."

The GOP’s Purity Test (Howard Kurtz) from the Daily Beast
"The party now punishes any deviation from conservative orthodoxy in the presidential primaries. Howard Kurtz on why some candidates are running from their records."

The Republicans Can Win, but They Can't Lead (Charles Pierce) from Esquire Magazine
"It is not possible to run for president as a Republican these days without at some level having to become a parody of yourself. Running within a radicalized, self-contained universe with its own private, physical laws and its own private history, with its own vocabulary and syntax that has to be learned from scratch almost daily, requires an ongoing manic re-invention that can do nothing but make the candidate look ridiculous to people outside that universe."

At Least Perry Has an Excuse (Sandy Rios) from Townhall
"Florida’s straw poll results weren’t good for Perry, but they were worse for Romney. Voters may not think much of Perry’s position on immigration, but it seems they still prefer an honest hesitator over a slickster with all the answers.  And if Perry did so poorly, why did he still take second place? "

Monday, September 26, 2011

News Nuggets 756

Ice dunes in the southern hemisphere of Mars.  From NASA.

In Syria, Defectors Form Dissident Army in Sign Uprising May be Entering New Phase from the Washington Post
"A group of defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is attempting the first effort to organize an armed challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, signaling what some hope and others fear may be a new phase in what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful Syrian protest movement. For now, the shadowy entity seems mostly to consist of some big ambitions..."

Worried Greeks Fear Collapse of Middle Class Welfare State from the New York Times
An incredible story.  It doesn't bode well for the the long or medium-term political stability of Greece or other countries that face this scale of downsizing. 
"While banks and European leaders hold abstract talks in foreign capitals about the impact of a potential Greek default on the euro and the world economy, something frighteningly concrete is under way in Greece: the dismantling of a middle-class welfare state in real time — with nothing to replace it."

Euro's Troubles an Anglo-Saxon Plot (Theodore Dalrymple) from the Australian
"For many contemporary Frenchmen, including, but not only journalists, the Anglo-Saxons are what the freemasons were for their predecessors in the 19th century: participants in a vague but sinister plot to control the world and destroy French civilisation."

Saudi king: Women Given Right to Vote for First Time in 2015 Nationwide Local Elections from the Washington Post
"Saudi King Abdullah announced Sunday that the nation’s women will gain the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections to be held in 2015 in a major advancement for the rights of women in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom."

Weisberg Details Case Against Suskind (Erik Wemple) from the Washington Post
"The media shocker of the day isn’t that Slate’s Jacob Weisberg raised questions about Ron Suskind’s “accuracy, fairness, and integrity.” Or that Weisberg claimed that Suskind has “turned his egregious writing and dubious technique on the Obama administration.” It’s that Weisberg pretty much alleges that Suskind is a fabricator. "

Roger’s Reality Show (Howard Kurtz) from the Daily Beast
First, Ailes dialed back the Tea Party talk. Now he’s turning the GOP race into a political X-Factor—and steering the election agenda one more time."

Rick Perry Reels After Florida Flop from the Politico
"“Perry’s showing in the straw poll was disastrous. He was here, he worked the crowd, and it just proves that the debate performance really undermined his support,” said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who was at the straw poll in Orlando this weekend. “Perry’s gotta retool, reorganize and retrench very quickly.” Said one prominent conservative activist: “They’ve really got to go into damage control mode and right this ship, and they’ve got a relatively brief amount of time to do it. And if they don’t, I think he’s done.”
Breath-taking.  GOP voters are going through "front-runners" like blown kleenex!  Here's the guy who won TEN straight elections in Texas and was viewed as a hard-nut rabid campaigner -- and he's collapsing in what COULD be a fail of epic proportions!  Incredible.

Rick Perry as Sarah Palin (Aaron Blake) from the Washington Post
"Perry is now going to have to grapple with the very Palin-esque idea that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on issues of foreign policy. And in fact, the issue had already been raised quite a bit even before Thursday’s debate."

Praying for Rick Perry (Robert Shrum) from The Week
"Republicans pray that the floundering Texan will pick up his game. Democrats pray that President Obama gets to face a terribly damaged Perry in 2012."

Poll: No Confidence in GOP Front-Runners from United Press International
Who knew that UPI was even still around?
"Rick Perry's debate performance could be indicative of an overall weak group of Republican hopefuls in the 2012 U.S. presidential race, analysts said Sunday."
"Could be?"  What an understatement!

Retro TV Revisits Birth of 'Culture War' (Clarence Page) from the Chicago Tribune
"Do "Mad Men," "Pan Am," "The Playboy Club" and BBC America's "The Hour" exploit society's barely suppressed appetite for a more sexist, racist and conservative era? Fear not. The underlying message in these depictions of the bad old days is clear: We should be better than that now, even when we aren't."

Bulldozers Tear Into Big Washington Dams from the National Geographic Daily News
"Dignitaries and Native Tribe cheer on historic watershed restoration effort above Olympic National Park."

How Do You Start A Blog? (Rachel Gorgos) from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Blogging is fairly easy if you like to write. If you don’t like to write, but MUST have a blog presence, don’t worry, there are ways around the writing part to help ease your workload."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

News Nuggets 755

The new sport of highlining at Yosemite earlier this summer.  From National Geographic.

Libya: Revolutionary Forces Push Into Gaddafi Hometown Sirte from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"With NATO jets roaring overhead, revolutionary forces fought their way into Moammar Gadhafi's hometown Saturday in the first significant push into the stubborn stronghold in about a week. Libya's new leaders also tried to move on the political front, promising to announce in the coming week a new interim government that it hopes will help unite the country. However, disagreements remain about what the Cabinet should look like."

Multi-Trillion Plan to Save the Eurozone Being Prepared from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"European officials are working on a grand plan to restore confidence in the single currency area that would involve a massive bank recapitalisation, giving the bail-out fund several trillion euros of firepower, and a possible Greek default."

Slowdown, Debt Worries in China Add to Global Anxiety from the Washington Post
"To the long list of global economic anxieties — slow growth and high unemployment in the United States, the debt crisis in the euro zone, instability in the oil-producing Middle East — add a new concern: China. This week’s massive sell-off in world markets was sparked, at least in part, by fears that China’s huge economy may finally be cooling off. ... But the question now is whether the slowdown can be calibrated enough for a “soft landing,” or whether a more severe slump — a “hard landing” — is in the offing. The answer matters to more than just China."

Will America Survive the Great Recession? (David Frum) from the Frum Forum
An interesting long-form perspective Frum gave to a graduating class in Canada.
"One of the greatest of all American strengths is the willingness to examine national challenges remorselessly, in the confidence that only what is examined can be repaired.  For today, I’d like to discuss four of those challenges: human capital, natural resources (especially energy resources), the long-term debt, and the dysfunction of the US political system. All are implicated in today’s economic troubles. All impede recovery from the crisis. All overshadow hopes for American strength and prosperity in the years after recovery."

The Rapid Growth of the Suburban Poor (Elizabeth Kneebone & Alan Berube) from the Atlantic
"Significantly, the 2000s also marked a turning point in the geography of American poverty. The 2010 data confirm that poor populations continued their decade-long shift toward suburban areas. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor people in major-metro suburbs grew 53 percent (5.3 million people), compared to 23 percent in cities (2.4 million people)."

The Fraying of a Nation's Decency (Anand Giridharadas) from the New York Times
"Far beyond official Washington, we would seem to be witnessing a fraying of the bonds of empathy, decency, common purpose. It is becoming a country in which people more than disagree. They fail to see each other. They think in types about others, and assume the worst of types not their own. It takes some effort these days to remember that the United States is still one nation. It doesn’t feel like one nation when a company like Amazon, with such resources to its name, treats vulnerable people so badly just because it can. ... The more I travel, the more I observe that Americans are becoming foreigners to each other. People in Texas speak of people in New York the way certain Sunnis speak of Shiites, and vice versa in New York."

The Phony Solyndra Scandal (Joe Nocera) from the New York Times
"If Brian Harrison and W. G. Stover, the two Solyndra executives who took the Fifth Amendment at a Congressional hearing on Friday, ever spend a day in jail, I’ll stand on my head in Times Square. It’s not going to happen, for one simple reason: neither they, nor anyone else connected with Solyndra, have done anything remotely criminal. The company’s recent bankruptcy ... was largely brought on by a stunning collapse in the price of solar panels over the past year or so."

The Price of Political Gossip (Frank Bruni) from the New York Times
"I read “Game Change” and thought: Elizabeth Edwards shouldn’t have been mortified like this. I also thought: John Edwards should have been mortified sooner. Even so, we can adopt tactics more dignified and trustworthy and a tone less voyeuristic. And we should. If we persist in treating politics as a three-ring circus, we just might find ourselves with nothing but clowns."
The GOP is ALREADY THERE.  Look no further than the Florida Straw poll yesterday.  See the story further down.

On the GOP Debate: Yikes! (Bill Kristol) from the Weekly Standard
"THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s official reaction to last night’s Republican presidential debate: Yikes. ...none of the candidates really seemed up to the moment, either politically or substantively. In the midst of a crisis, we’re getting politics as usual—and a somewhat subpar version of politics as usual at that."

Grass is Greener on Other Side of GOP Fence (Ron Fournier) from the National Journal
"Romney, Perry – ho-hum. Give us Christie or Palin – anybody other than the current cast of GOP presidential candidates. Walk the halls of Republican gatherings in Florida and Michigan this weekend and you’ll likely hear such rumblings of discontent. The GOP faithful are unsettled by the prospect that their field is settled. "
What they are really confronting is the sheer ignorance and stupidity of the base of their own party.  They want a candidate who can really sell VERY DOPEY uninformed positions and policies.  They want a charismatic candidate who can convince their overwhelmingly white, working-class, under-educated base that the GOP really has something to offer them besides culture-war bromides and attacks on "big government" programs that their own base voters very much rely on.  The smart ones (Jon Huntsman) don't sell and the dumb ones (most of the rest) don't last.  And, sorry David Frum, Chris Christie is not it!  Him entering the race right now would only split the moderate primary vote and increase Perry's chances.  Moreover, given how things have gone so far, Christie would probably have a shelf life no greater than all the other over-ripe slices of GOP spam that have been thrown up so far.  

More evidence of this:
Herman Cain Wins Shocker At Presidency 5 Straw Poll from Talking Points Memo
"It’s official: Cainmentum is back. In Florida anyway. In what can only be seen as a major defeat for frontrunner Rick Perry, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and tea party superstar Herman Cain swept the results of the Presdiency5 straw poll, a gathering of several thousand state Republicans, Saturday."

Fed Up With the Author of ‘Fed Up!’? (Maureen Dowd) from the New York Times
"Romney, a champion flip-flopper, has painted Perry as a floppier flipper. In the high school version of the 2008 Republican primary contest, Romney was regarded by John McCain and other contenders as the loathed hall monitor, prissy and hypocritical. It’s not that he has gotten so much more popular or less plastic, although he has improved his performance. It’s just that his rivals keep getting more implausible."

Perry's Baffling Debate Failures (Mark McKinnon) from the Daily Beast
"Bush spent six months prepping for debates. Cheney rehearsed like crazy. So why, asks Mark McKinnon, does Rick Perry not seem to care about one of the most critical parts of the campaign?"
Hard to believe - but Perry makes Bush look like Einstein.

When Kerouac Met Kesey (Sterling Lord) from the American Scholar
"The two counterculture heroes, one representing the Beat ’50s and one the psychedelic ’60s, had a lot less in common than you might expect."

Pencil vs Reality... Where Do You Draw the Line? The Incredible Optical Illusions Created by Artist from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"You have often heard about art imitating life, but an artist has taken the saying to a whole new level with an incredible collection of drawings that reveal a masterful eye for illusion. Reality meets fantasy in this amazing series of drawings which are to be exhibited at art shows in London next month."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

News Nuggets 754

A lion charging an automatic camera in Zimbabwe.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

U.S. Pushes Europe to Act With Force on Debt Crisis from the New York Times
"The Obama administration, increasingly alarmed by the spillover effects of Europe’s financial crisis, has begun an intensive lobbying campaign to persuade Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other leaders to act decisively to stem any contagion from the Greece debt crisis."
Obama has a potentially interesting role to play in the European debt crisis.  HIS poll numbers in Europe are outstanding (70% favorable or better) whereas virtually none of the European leaders have even positive numbers they can point to.  While not his style, he could easily put some of  the bigger players (Merkel or Sarkozy) on the spot.

America Has Lost Patience with Europe (Alex Brunner) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"The veteran U.S. monetary official did not mince his words in a private conversation over dinner. 'America is very, very angry over what has been going on in the eurozone.' As the markets went into freefall over the last few days, the deterioration in relations between the U.S. and the countries of the single currency has become frightening."

Welcome to Middle-Class Poverty— Does Anybody Know the Way Out? (Sara Horowitz) from the Atlantic
"A college grad with crippling debt. A freelancer with no insurance. It's going to take more than stimulus to help them."

A related item:
Only 55 Percent of Young Americans have Jobs, Lowest Since WWII from Yahoo News 
"Unemployment among young adults is at its highest point since World War II, new data show. And it's having a disconcerting impact on the trajectory of their careers and lives. "We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers," Andrew Sum, an economist with the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University told the Associated Press."

And to complete this trifecta of great economic news:
Older Jobless Twice As Likely To Become 99ers (Arthur Delaney) from the Huffington Post
"Older workers are less likely to lose their jobs than younger workers, but once they do, they're more than twice as likely to be out of work for 99 weeks or longer."

President Obama Shouldn’t be Afraid of a Little Class Warfare (Sally Kohn) from the Washington Post
"On Monday, defending his plan to raise taxes on the rich to pay for job creation, President Obama said: “This is not class warfare, it’s math.” No, Mr. President, this is class warfare — and it’s a war you’d better win. Corporate interests and the rich started it. Right now, they’re winning. Progressives and the middle class must fight back, and the president should be clear whose side he’s on."

DOJ: Rick Perry's Texas Redistricting Plan Purposefully Discriminated Against Minorities from Talking Points Memo
"The Justice Department said late Friday that based on their preliminary investigation, a congressional redistricting map signed into law by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry appears to have been "adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress.""

Gardasil and the Politics of Experience (Joseph Gabriel) from Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society
"...there is a longstanding assumption in our culture that vaccines are dangerous, that medical authority is not to be trusted, and that the pharmaceutical industry frequently places its own profit over the public’s health. This suspicion cuts across political lines – it animates both the populist left and the populist right – and in this context Bachman’s claims make a lot more sense than most pundits are giving her credit for. Indeed, Bachman’s arguments draw on a very long history of prioritizing personal experience as a source of medical knowledge over the elite opinion of expert authority."

Aftermath from the GOP Debate: The Anger Builds (Andrew Sullivan) from the Daily Beast
"When it came to it, even Santorum couldn't sanction firing all those servicemembers who are now proudly out. But that's because he was forced to focus not on his own Thomist abstractions, but on an actual person. Throughout Republican debates, gays are discussed as if we are never in the audience, never actually part of the society, never fully part of families, never worthy of even a scintilla of respect. When you boo a servicemember solely because he's gay, you are saying he is beneath contempt, that nothing he does or has done can counterweigh the vileness of his sexual orientation."

Texas Toast? Rick Perry Worries GOP from Politico
"The first line of Rick Perry’s campaign obituary may have been drafted Thursday night: He got in too late. It’s not quite time for his camp to panic but in his third debate in a month – nearly as many as he’s done in the entire decade he’s served as Texas governor – Perry demonstrated why so few presidential candidates who parachute into the race mid-campaign win the nomination."

Web Verdict on Perry: Brutal from Politico
"The conservative commentariat spoke with near-unanimity Friday on Rick Perry’s debate performance: The Texas governor didn’t just lose, he bombed. There was no election-ending gaffe or singularly disqualifying remark. But his second consecutive weak outing set off alarm bells on the right, where too many cringeworthy moments raised questions about Perry’s durability, his seriousness and ability to compete on a stage with Barack Obama. Worse, after a near-flawless August rollout fueled his rise in the polls and quieted critics who fretted about the quality of the GOP field, Perry’s nationally televised face-plant revived dormant talk—and hopes—about the possibility of new candidates entering the race."

Rick Perry is Officially Blowing It (Steve Kornacki) from Salon
"When he entered the presidential race last month, the Texas governor had an extraordinary opportunity. The GOP base had strong, deep reservations about Mitt Romney, the only other heavy-hitter in the race, so if Perry could satisfy their thirst for purity while demonstrating competence as a candidate and campaigner, he'd be well-positioned to unify the party and run away with the nomination.  But he is failing at both tasks."

Some do not agree:
It’s Time to Buy Rick Perry Stock (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"Mitt Romney’s debate “win” won’t erase his evil socialistic Massachusetts history or make him any more likable—and by November 2012, Rick Perry just might not be too extreme or too Texas, says Michael Tomasky."

Dubya and Me: Over 25 Years, a Journalist Witnessed the Transformation of George W. Bush (Walt Harrington) from the American Scholar
"“Come on down and visit,” the man who would eventually be known to the world as President George W. Bush drawled cheerfully to me over the phone. “But I won’t tell you any good stuff until I’m sure you’re not going to do an ax job.” So began a long and fascinating acquaintanceship with the man who would become one of the most admired and, later, reviled presidents in U. S. history."

Kindle Connects to Library E-Books from the New York Times
"For years the availability of free e-books from libraries was something of an underground secret. But Amazon significantly increased the potential visibility of library e-books on Wednesday when it opened up its popular Kindle device to these books for the first time."

Just landed at Terminal One, the Perfect Cure for Stranded Air Travellers... the Sleepbox from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Behold the future of airport delays. All that slithering around on a seat being uncomfortable while waiting for your late-running flight could be about to end. Because Sleepbox has landed - bringing with it the prospect of a decent 40 winks while you wait for take-off."
Wow!  When was the last time airports or airlines actually did something that made flying more tolerable and not less!?  Check'em out!

Friday, September 23, 2011

News Nuggets 753

A Bird-of-Paradise Grasshopper from Honduras.  From National Geographic.

It's RADical Days in the 'Burgh Again from the Allegheny Regional Asset District!!
What is RAD?  The region's popular RADical Days event returns for the 10th time on September 24th with 50+ arts and culture organizations offering free admissions and performances.  RAD offerings are spread out from Sept. 24th thru Oct. 15th. 
CHECK the calendar to see when your favorite local institutions or activities are free to the public.  Just a few of the biggies that are immediately coming up:
On Saturday:
Pittsburgh Opera doing favorite arias, 6-7:30 [free but reservations needed]
On Sunday:
Pittsburgh Science Center [Free. Normally, very expensive]
On Monday
Phipps Conservatory [Free. Again, normally pretty expensive]
Next Saturday
Frick Mansion and Art Museum
Heinz History Center
Next Sunday
Carnegie Museums
Children's Museum
Mattress Factory
Get the word out!!

How the GOP Became the Anti-Science Party (Leonard Steinhorn) from Pundit Wire
How is it?  They stopped going to the Pittsburgh Science Center!  No -- this article is an EXCELLENT look at this topic from a former speech writer with implications that touch many other aspects of GOP and Tea Party "thinking."  The whole thing is worth checking out!
"... why are so many otherwise rational Republicans so seemingly irrational when matters of science enter the political arena? Four factors might explain.  Factor one is a driving force behind so much of what the Republican Party does today, hatred of liberalism. ... Factor two in the Republican denial of science is the anti-intellectual populism that pervades much of the GOP. ... Among intellectuals it’s an article of faith to think critically, yet this is precisely what bothers Republicans who mistake this culture of critical thinking for an assault on American life, which they then take very personally. ..."

Thousands Riot in South China Over Land Grab: Report from Reuters
"Thousands of people have attacked government buildings in southern China in protest at land sales, a newspaper reported on Friday, the latest outbreak of trouble in the economic powerhouse of Guangdong. Witnesses in Lufeng city said the protests, in which around a dozen residents were hurt, were triggered by the seizure of hectares of land and their sale to property developer Country Garden for 1 billion yuan ($156.6 million), Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported."
Doesn't quite fit the standard "China Rising" meme one hears endlessly in the media.

Obama to GOP: If This is `Class Warfare,’ Then Get Ready for a Very Long Fight (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"For any of you card carrying members of the professional left who had hoped to see Obama barnstorm the country and call out Republicans by name, well, you’ve now seen just that. As for the question of whether we’re going to see more of it, by all indications this is a fight that Obama intends to continue indefinitely. We are now seeing the professional left’s preferred script being put to the test."

The Social Contract (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"This week President Obama said the obvious: that wealthy Americans, many of whom pay remarkably little in taxes, should bear part of the cost of reducing the long-run budget deficit. And Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan responded with shrieks of “class warfare.” It was, of course, nothing of the sort. On the contrary, it’s people like Mr. Ryan, who want to exempt the very rich from bearing any of the burden of making our finances sustainable, who are waging class war."

The Agony of the GOP Establishment (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"If you're a Republican opinion leader, you want to promote Romney over Perry. At the same time, you have to account for the possibility that Perry might win the nomination anyway, which means that you can't say anything that could be used against him in the general election. You need to gently suggest to Republicans that Perry is too crazy to be elected president, without suggesting to swing voters that he's too crazy to be elected president."
The question is: would conservative GOP establishment types like David Frum, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, even Peggy Noonan REALLY vote for Rick Perry in 2012?

Boehner Can’t Control his Caucus (Steve Bell) from the Frum Forum
"This was not perfidy on the part of the President, or some RINO conspiracy. This was the word of the House of Representatives, given and vouched for by the Speaker to the President. For members of his own caucus to publicly fail to help the Speaker keep his commitment shows that Republicans in the House (and in the country) are divided. ... If the United States had a parliamentary system, the Speaker would have to step down. His leadership of his own party has been repudiated by the right of the right. ... A quick survey of very experienced former senior members of House and Senate staff showed unanimity this morning– none of them could recall such a public humiliation for any Speaker of the House in the past four decades."

Obama’s Fighting Chance (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"If Obama is dreading a run for re-election with the economy in the tank, these candidates must be easing his mind, says Michael Tomasky."

The More Perry Debates, the Worse He Gets (John Dickerson) from CBS News and Slate
"The Republican presidential debate in Orlando was sponsored by Google, but it was Gov. Rick Perry who was searching. The frontrunner's answers meandered. When fielding a hypothetical question about terrorists getting nukes in Pakistan, his response ribboned out like he was reading the first results that came up. Even when he read his attack lines on rival Mitt Romney from the notes on his lectern, it was muddy. With each successive debate in this campaign, his performance gets worse."

Rick Perry’s Natural Gas Cronyism (Steve McVicker) from the Daily Beast
"Exclusive: Documents from the Texas governor’s blind trust show he gave state jobs to friends from a natural-gas company he co-owned, raising more questions about his ‘crony capitalism.’"
SHOCKED!  I'm shocked!  A Texas governor sucking up to oil companies?  I am so surprised!

Why a Two-Horse Race Is a Problem for Mitt Romney (Walter Shapiro) from the New Republic
"Perry’s problem on a debate stage appears to be the same one that bedeviled him as a student at Texas A & M—not always doing his coursework. Repeatedly, Perry’s on-message responses started strong and then petered out as if the candidate was desperately trying to remember those parts of the briefing book he merely skimmed. ... Romney and Perry are total opposites—stylistically, culturally, and, for the most part, ideologically. That is why a Tea Party loyalist increasingly disappointed with Perry’s readiness to be president will not automatically shift to Romney."

GOPers Perceive Perry As More Electable, But Polls Say Otherwise from Talking Points Memo
"It’s a political golden oldie. Should partisan voters go with ideological purity or the candidate with the best chance of winning? Unfortunately, that only works when you’ve correctly identified the most electable candidate, and it doesn’t look like GOP voters have done that yet."

Don't Believe Ron Suskind (Jacob Weisberg) from Slate
"His book about Obama is as spurious as the ones he wrote about Bush."

Prosthetic Tail Dolphin's Story Made into Film (VIDEO) from CBS News
Something of an update here.  I had posted the original story on this dolphin back in 2009.
"Now, Winter can swim like other dolphins. Her inspiring story has made an international splash. ... Friday, her story hits the big screen. "Dolphin Tale" chronicles Winter's amazing journey of survival."
The ironic aspect of this story is that the folks at Clearwater Aquarium saved this dolphin -- and, due to the amazing increase in traffic at the facility, the dolphin has ended up saving the financially distressed aquarium!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

News Nuggets 752

A Sumatran Tiger with her cubs at the Los Angeles Zoo.  From ZooBorns.

The Surreal Ruins of Qaddafi’s Never-Never Land from the New York Times Sunday Magazine
"An abandoned amusement park inside Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound. Among the dead and the ruins, Libyans struggle to escape their country’s twisted history."

U.S. Assembling Secret Drone Bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Officials Say from the Washington Post
"The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said."

Moody's Downgrades BofA, Well Fargo, Citigroup On Fears U.S. Wouldn't Aid Banks from Reuters via Huffington Post
"Moody's Corp on Wednesday cut the debt ratings of Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup Inc, three of the largest U.S. banks, on worries the government would be less likely to support a large lender if it got into trouble."

Young Adults Make Gains in Health Insurance Coverage from the New York Times
"Young adults, long the group most likely to be uninsured, are gaining health coverage faster than expected since the 2010 health law began allowing parents to cover them as dependents on family policies."

Marines Hit the Ground Running in Seeking Recruits at Gay Center from the New York Times
"... one of the strangest days in the history of the United States Marine Corps unfolded without the protests and insults that Sergeant Henry had feared. Sergeant Henry, who had been invited to set up a recruiting booth on the first day of the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in downtown Tulsa, instead spent it in quiet conversation with a trickle of gay women who came in to ask about joining the Marines."
Savvy PR move here on the part of the Marines.

The Death of Troy Davis (Andrew Cohen) from the Atlantic
"The Georgia execution reminds us of the flaws in our capital punishment system."

Reality Check (Andrew Sullivan) from the Daily Beast
"Every time you think the ultras in the current GOP won't go there, they do. They'll sabotage economic growth for short term political advantage. ... If they claw their way back to power this way, our system really will be broken for a long time. And the great possibility of an adult conversation on pragmatic grounds to help the economy will be lost. And this is emphatically not Obama's fault. He tried. They threw it back in his face again and again. Which means, I believe, that we should double down in backing him, instead of the ear-splitting whine coming from the left."

Democrats Hit Back On 'Class Warfare' Claims, Call Out GOP For Cutting Aid To Women And Children (Amanda Terkel) from the Huffington Post
"Democrats are hitting back at Republicans who say President Obama's plan to increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires amounts to "class warfare," arguing that the GOP is the party that has been protecting the interests of a particular class -- the wealthiest Americans."

Vote Shows Boehner's Lack of Control from Politico
"House Republicans tried a fresh strategy Wednesday night: Go it alone on a spending bill. The result was an embarrassing setback."

House Republicans Regrouping on CR, Pondering Two Options from the National Journal
"House GOP leadership aides said the Republican Conference will be presented with two options: Either they revote on the continuing resolution that includes offsets to disaster-relief spending and force their membership to get in line for the 218 votes required for it to pass, or they move instead on a clean CR with no spending offsets that will bring Democrats on board but adhere less to the GOP’s fiscal principles."

Alliance for Christ (William Saletan) from Slate
"Rick Perry's pledge to stand with Israel "as a Christian" is a gift to Islamic extremists. ... Bush never said he had a Christian duty to stand with Israel, because to say such a thing would have been stupid and dangerous. By framing U.S. foreign policy in terms of a religious alliance between Christians and Jews, Perry is validating the propaganda of Islamic extremists. He's jeopardizing peace, Israel, and the United States."

Michele Bachmann Can't Win, HuffPost-Patch GOP Power Outsiders Say from the Huffington Post
"...we first asked respondents to use one word to describe their impression of Bachmann. Unlike with the two frontrunners, nearly half the words (48 percent) to describe Bachmann were negative, including "inexperienced," "crazy," "lightweight" and "scary.""

Hounded By Grief Over A Canine Companion (AUDIO) from NPR's All Things Considered
A VERY MOVING tribute to a special pet!
"I am torn between being glad he's at peace and hoping he haunts me, not unlike a dog version of Patrick Swayze in Ghost. Dogs love us like we wish we could love others; they are faithful where we are feckless. For as long as they are able, they endure."

Rent-A-Guinea Pig Service Takes Off in Switzerland from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"Guinea pigs are sociable animals and Swiss law prohibits owners from keeping the furry rodents on their own. But what happens when one dies? Don't fret, just call Priska K√ľng, who runs a 'rent-a-guinea pig' service to provide companionship for grieving, lonely animals in the twilight of their years."