U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 21, 2015

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Week

1.Captain and crew member of capsized migrant ship arrested
Italy has arrested the Tunisian captain and a Syrian crew member of the overloaded ship that capsized off the coast of Libya, killing hundreds of migrants, prosecutors said Tuesday. The United Nations refugee agency said interviews with survivors indicated that 800 people had died. The European Union on Monday expanded its rescue effort, and plucked hundreds of refugees from two other boats. EU diplomats are preparing for a Thursday summit on stopping a surge in human smuggling voyages launching from politically unstable Libya.

Source: USA Today

2.Six Baltimore officers suspended as city investigates Freddie Gray’s death
Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended as the city investigates the Sunday death of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody, city officials said Monday. Gray, who was not a suspect in any crime, ran from police, and was tackled by an officer. Video of the arrest did not show how he was injured, but he was rushed to a hospital, and died a week later. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for calm as investigators try to determine what happened.

Source: The Washington Post, ABC News

3.Lelisa Desisa repeats Boston Marathon win two years after bombing
Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Caroline Rotich of Kenya won the Boston Marathon on Monday. Desisa also finished first in the storied race two years ago when it was struck by a deadly bombing. Then, he famously gave his medal to the grieving city. “This medal,” he said, smiling, “is mine to keep.” Rotich came out on top in the women’s field with a dramatic mile-long sprint to the finish, crossing the line in 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 55 seconds, four seconds ahead of Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia.

Source: The Boston Globe, The New York Times

4.Airstrike kills 19 in Yemen’s capital
Saudi-led airstrikes hit weapons caches in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa on Monday, triggering the most powerful explosions since the start of the coalition’s campaign against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels. At least 19 people were killed in the strike, and many more were believed buried in rubble. The Pentagon said Monday the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt had been moved off the coast of Yemen, meaning nine warships are now in place to intercept shipments of Iranian arms to the Houthis.

Source: Chicago Tribune

5.Blue Bell pulls ice cream over Listeria risk
Blue Bell Creameries recalled all of its ice cream products on Mondayafter Listeria was detected in some half gallons of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The company had been gradually pulling its frozen desserts from shelves for weeks before taking the more drastic action. Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse said the company would keep its products “off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe.”

Source: CNN

6.Iran charges Washington Post journalist with espionage
Iran is charging Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments,” and two otherserious crimes, Rezaian’s attorney said after her first meeting with him on Monday. Rezaian was arrested nine months ago, but the specific charges were not clear until the attorney, Leila Ahsan, got a look at the indictment. Rezaian also is accused of illegally collecting classified information. The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Morsi gets 20 years in prison for charges related to protester deaths
The Cairo Criminal Court on Monday sentenced former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for the deadly response to protests three years ago. Morsi, an Islamist, was Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, but the military overthrew him after millions of people took to the streets demanding his resignation. Judge Ahmed Youssef dropped murder charges against Morsi, but sentenced him to prison over unlawful detentions and the government’s “show of force.”

Source: NBC News

8.Indonesian court sentences American couple for Bali murder
An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced an American man, 21-year-old Tommy Schaefer, to 18 years in jail for the murder of his girlfriend’s mother, Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62. Wiese-Mack was beaten to death in a Bali hotel room, and her body was found stuffed in a suitcase. Wiese-Mack’s daughter, 19-year-old Heather Mack, was convicted by the same court of helping Schaefer, and sentenced to 10 years.

Source: USA Today

9. AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd pleads guilty in murder threat case
Longtime AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd unexpectedly changed his plea to guilty on a charge that he threatened to kill a former employee fired after a solo album failed to sell well, a court in Tauranga, New Zealand, saidTuesday. Rudd also pleaded guilty to drug possession. According to court documents, Rudd told an associate in September that he wanted one of the fired employees “taken out,” then later offered the same associate $150,000 plus “a motorbike, one of his cars, or a house.”

Source: BBC News

10.Small paper takes prestigious public-service Pulitzer Prize
The Charleston, South Carolina, Post and Courier — a paper with a daily circulation of just 85,000 — won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday for a series of stories on deaths resulting from domestic abuse. In the arts categories, the award for best novel went to Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See), best non-fiction book went to Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History), and the drama prize went to Stephen Adly Guirgis (Between Riverside and Crazy).

Source: The New York Times

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: February 3, 2015

Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

The Week

1.Second snowstorm hits already snow-covered Northeast
Boston authorities postponed a victory celebration for the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl victory, moving it from Tuesday to Wednesday due to a record breaking winter storm. The second blizzard to hit the Northeast in a week dumped another foot of snow on Boston, which was blanketed with two feet of snow last week, the most snow ever to fall on the city in seven days. The storm has been linked to at least 10 deaths, and forced the cancellation of 2,900 flights in Chicago, Newark, Boston, and New York.

Source: Reuters

2.Paul and Christie criticized for vaccine remarks
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates, faced criticism from medical experts on Monday after suggesting some child vaccinations should be made voluntary. Paul said some vaccines have caused “profound mental disorders.” Christie said parents need “some measure of choice” although, with a U.S. measles outbreak surpassing 100 cases, a spokesman said Christie believes “there is no question kids should be vaccinated” for measles. CDC director Tom Frieden said not vaccinating endangers other children.

Source: Fox News, The Washington Post

3.Obama sets new rules on NSA data mining
The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce new rules about how U.S. intelligence agencies manage the data they collect. The National Security Agency and other spy agencies will have to delete private information they collect about Americans that has no intelligence value, and do the same for foreigners after five years, The New York Timesreports. Obama will also begin a regular, formal White House assessment of NSA spying on foreign leaders.

Source: The New York Times

4.Obama releases his proposed $4 trillion budget
President Obama on Monday unveiled the specifics of a $4 trillion proposed budget that would roll back blanket spending cuts, raise taxes on wealthy Americans, and extend tax benefits to the middle class. “These proposals will put more money in middle-class pockets, raise wages, and bring more high-paying jobs to America,” Obama said in a statement. The budget covers the 2016 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The blueprint is largely a symbolic statement of the president’s priorities, as Congress will make significant changes to it over the coming months.

Source: The Associated Press

5.Google reportedly is developing an Uber rival
Google invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013, and put more money in the next year, but now the internet search giant reportedly is preparing to compete with Uber by starting its own ride-hailing service, possibly linked to its driverless car project. A person close to Uber’s board said David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and an Uber board member, informed fellow Uber board members of the possibility. Uber leaders reportedly have seen a prototype app being used by Google employees.

Source: Bloomberg

6.Cuba publishes first photos of Fidel Castro since August
Cuba on Monday released the first photos of former president Fidel Castro seen since August. With Cuba’s communist government and the Obama administration attempting to renew diplomatic relations cut off in the Cold War, rumors have surfaced that Castro, 88, was dead or near death. Last week, Cuba released a letter attributed to Castro in which he said he didn’t trust the U.S. but advocated a “peaceful resolution to conflicts.” The photos, published in the official Granma newspaper, showed Castro in a meeting with a youth leader.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Bus firebombing kills seven in Bangladesh
Attackers hit a packed bus with gasoline-bombs in Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring 16 others. The local police chief blamed the bombing on opposition activists, but they denied responsibility. At least 53 people have died in political violence, mostly vehicle firebombings, since the opposition launched a nationwide transportation strike in early January in a bid to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Suge Knight charged with murder
Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight was charged with murder and attempted murder on Monday for allegedly running over two men with his truck, killing one and injuring the other. His $2.2 million bail was revoked because authorities considered him a possible flight risk. Police said Knight argued with the men on the set of Straight Outta Compton, a film about the group N.W.A., and later ran them over. Knight’s lawyer said he accidentally ran over the victims while trying to get away from two men trying to attack him.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Charles Manson’s marriage license expires with no wedding
Eighty-year-old mass murderer Charles Manson’s marriage license is set to expire on Thursday without a wedding. Manson and his fiancee, 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, missed their last chance to marry over the weekend — weddings are not performed on weekdays at the California prison where Manson is incarcerated. Burton, who uses the nickname Star, intends to get another 90-day license and proceed with the wedding plan, according to a source in contact with her.

Source: The Associated Press

10.Revenge-porn site creator convicted of extortion
A California court on Monday convicted revenge-porn site founder Kevin Bollaert, 28, on identity theft and extortion charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Bollaert set up one website, YouGotPosted.com, where women’s former husbands and boyfriends posted nude photos of them, and he established another website, ChangeMyReputation.com, where victims could pay up to $350 to get the photos taken down. “This is essentially 21st century blackmail,” Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Austin told jurors last week.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, The Washington Post

HBO's The Newsroom

‘Newsroom’ Premiere: Aaron Sorkin Puts CNN on Blast Over the Boston Bombing

Jeff Daniels plays ACN’s anchorman, Will McCoy on HBO’s Newsroom | Melissa Moseley/HBO

The Daily Beast

Who watches the watchdogs? Aaron Sorkin does! The première of The Newsroom is a scathing indictment on the state of the media, pegged to the mishandling of the Boston bombing.

When is it safe to broadcast the news? When Aaron Sorkin says it is, of course.

The season three premiere of HBO’s The Newsroom launched in classic Sorkin fashion. (Your visceral reaction to those last three words, as is the polarizing Sorkin fashion, likely dictates whether you thought the hour was brilliant or insufferable.) There was a tragedy. There were impassioned heroes rallying together to become better than they thought they could be. And there was, as there always is, moral grandstanding.

Titled “Boston,” the premiere centered on the show’s fictional ACN news network’s coverage of last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. More specifically, however, it focused on how the media screwed just about every single thing up.

Everything was put on blast: CNN reporter John King’s misreport that an arrest was made without getting confirmation, which every other news outlet then in turn began reporting as fact. The New York Post’s cover photo wrongly suggesting that two innocent men were suspects, which every other news outlet then in turn began reporting as fact. The conspiracy theory treasure hunt conducted on Reddit that surfaced dozens of false reports, which were then recirculated all over Twitter and then, again, which every other news outlet then in turn began reporting as fact.

The underlying—and Sorkin-ly overblown—theme? The industry-wide abandonment of basic journalism ethics, the rise of citizen journalism, and the conflation of social media reporting as credible news gathering is a danger to society.

Journalists are supposed to be the watch guards and they’re not guarding anymore, Sorkin is saying. They’re opening the gates and letting any and all information flood in, no matter how speculative or unsubstantiated or harmful. They’re not doing their jobs, and everyone is guilty.

Well, everyone but Sorkin’s noble battalion of infallible Journalists With Ethics, the reporters and producers at ACN.

“We’re going to do this well!” Sam Waterston’s Charlie bellows early on in the episode.

When rumors and suspicions begin flying across rival networks’ news tickers, Emily Mortimer’s Mack flits around the newsroom with signature virtuous gumption. “We don’t go based on tweets from witnesses we can’t talk to!” she pledges. “What credible news agency would do that?” A quick beat passes before a producer chimes in: “Fox is up!”

The bulk of the premiere actually put an unexpected spin on the ripped-from-the-headlines story. Rather than spend the hour tugging at heartstrings with exploitative sob stories about the heroes and victims of the Boston bombing, the episode was spent showing journalists talk about when it’s safe to report breaking news.

It’s not the sexiest angle. It’s not the angle you’d expect from a cable drama. But it’s the most quintessential Sorkin-esque angle there ever was, and he nails it.

In an interview last week, Jeff Daniels, who plays ACN anchor Will McAvoy, talked to me about this. “We got a problem here,” he said. “Major news agencies have a problem. We’re supposed to wait for the guys who get the double confirmation. We’re supposed to wait for the guys who are doing actual reporting.”

The tension of the episode comes as the clock ticks and ACN, at the order of Mack and Will, still haven’t gone live with the report of the bombing. The network suits are becoming exasperated, but they won’t budge. Mack and Will learn of the attack in the episode’s first 30 seconds. The ACN news team doesn’t go to air with it until minute 12.

That tension morphs later in the episode as Twitter and Reddit reports catch fire, much to the disgust of the professional journalists in the newsroom. Dev Patel’s Neal gets the Sorkin laugh line. “Social media is going to solve this crime,” he says, before facing a firing squad of death stares from his colleagues.

For as much as the premiere seems like an indictment of the media, particularly against CNN and John King, whose blunder is a major point of the episode, it actually makes a point to defend them, too. In the Church of Sorkin, this is the prayer of humility: forgive them, for they know not what they do.

When the ACN newsroom begins cheering CNN’s retraction of King’s report, Sam and Will storm them in a fury: “What are you doing? Worst moment in this guy’s life and you’re cheering? Why?”

Daniels thought that was one of the more important moments of the episode. “Aaron took care to write in the episode that we weren’t beating up on CNN or John King,” he says. “We got lucky. That could’ve been Will McAvoy doing the false report. Sam and I are going, ‘We dodged a bullet there.’”

But that the CNN-John King blunder even happened is a cause for alarm. “How do you compete against that?” Daniels says, championing the plight of an ethical news producer. “We’re [society] not waiting for Brian Williams to get it right, when we can just go gab about the reports on Twitter.”

As much as all of the episode’s examination on the value of ethical news reporting is hyper-specific to the Boston Marathon incident, Sorkin pulls out to for a macro look at the fate of news organizations who dare to uphold their journalistic integrity. Basically, they’re screwed.

ACN’s numbers come in, and they learn that, since Will and Mack and Charlie made their manifesto that they were going to be the good guys doing the good reporting, the network has plummeted in the ratings. “Somehow in regaining our credibility we went from second to fourth place,” Will says.

What does that say about us, news consumers, that we demand fast and accurate news, but don’t really care so much about that last “accurate” part? That we’re willing to settle for shoddy reporting and a lack of ethics? For as much as Sorkin tends to tell you with incessant speechifying and grandstanding how you’re supposed to feel, he’s also at his best when he raises self-searching questions. And that’s a doozy.

“There’s no accountability, Daniels told me. “When you do get it wrong maybe there’s a retraction. Maybe there isn’t. You just move on to the next day.”

“Mostly it’s ignored that you completely fuck it up, that you didn’t do a professional job and got the story wrong,” he went on. “If you put a mission accomplished banner on the ship, they’ll believe it. Just tell them many, many times that this is going on and they’ll believe it. That’s not news. That’s not Murrow, Cronkite, and all those guys Aaron emulated and revered that first season. Those guys are still out there, but man they’re being stampeded.”

And with this being the last season of The Newsroom, soon there won’t be an Aaron Sorkin vehicle to remind us, albeit in a slightly holier-than-thou fashion, what a tragedy that truly is.

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 21, 2014

Runners get set. 
Runners get set. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Week

A huge field gathers to run the Boston Marathon, Biden heads to Ukraine, and more

1. Huge field lines up to run the Boston Marathon
About 36,000 athletes converged to run in the 118th Boston Marathon under tight security on Monday, part of the storied race’s emotional return a year after a deadly bombing at the finish line. The field is the event’s second largest ever — race organizers expanded it so roughly 5,000 runners prevented from finishing after last year’s blast could run again. “We’re taking back our finish line,” a runner from California said. [The Boston GlobeReuters]


2. Biden heads to Ukraine as diplomatic deal falters
Vice President Joe Biden began a two-day trip to meet with Ukrainian leaders on Monday as violence frayed a diplomatic deal calling for separatists to give back occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine. At least three people died Sunday in a gunfight reportedly between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russia separatists. New photographic evidence appears to confirm some of the “green men” occupying government facilities are Russian special forces. [USA Today,The New York Times]


3. Al Qaeda suspects targeted in unprecedented Yemen operation
A “massive and unprecedented” combination of drone strikes and raids by Yemeni commandos is underway against suspected al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, a Yemeni official told CNN early Monday. At least 30 militants reportedly have been killed. Strikes a day earlier killed at least a dozen. The attacks targeted a mountain ridge where Nasir al-Wuhayshi, leader of the terrorist group’s Yemeni branch, met with followers in a video released recently. [CNN]


4. South Korean president harshly criticizes ferry captain
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that the actions of the captain and some crew of the sunken ferry Sewol were “akin to murder.” Capt. Lee Joon-seok is facing several charges in connection with the sinking and botched evacuation last week. A crew member said in a radio transcript released Sunday that the ship rolled over so fast passengers couldn’t reach lifeboats. Sixty-four people are confirmed dead; 238 remain missing. [CNN]


5. Teen survives flight to Hawaii in jet’s wheel well
A 16-year-old stowaway survived a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet. FBI investigators said the teen was “lucky to be alive” after facing severe cold and a lack of oxygen at 38,000 feet for several hours. “Doesn’t even remember the flight,” said Tom Simon, FBI spokesman in Honolulu. “It’s amazing he survived that.” A 16-year-old died after stowing away on a 2010 Charlotte, N.C., flight to Boston. [The Associated Press]


6. Crowd gathers for Colorado marijuana celebration
Tens of thousands of people turned out on Sunday to celebrate the once-underground 4/20 marijuana holiday in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational pot use. The celebration, long observed by diehard pot smokers, culminated this year with a massive smoke-out in a Denver park. “It feels good not to be persecuted anymore,” said Joe Garramone, puffing on a joint while his 3-year-old daughter played in the park. [The Associated Press]


7. Malaysia Airlines flight makes an emergency landing after tire bursts
A Malaysia Airlines flight was forced to turn back during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangalore, India on Sunday after a tire in its landing gear burst on take-off. The plane made an emergency landing back in Kuala Lumpur after about four hours in the air. None of the 159 passengers and seven crew members were injured. Search crews are still looking for another Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished on March 8. [CBS News]


8. Economy set to bounce back from chill of winter storms
A harsh winter hurt the U.S. economy’s growth in the first three months of 2014, but warm spring weather should trigger a rebound, according to a quarterly survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics. A series of brutal snow and ice storms probably dragged first-quarter growth below the 2.6 percent rate of the last quarter of 2013, but forecasters expect a rate as high as 3.6 percent in the second quarter. [CNBC]


9. Afghan presidential frontrunner appears unlikely to avoid a run-off
Figures released Sunday suggested that Afghanistan’s presidential election is headed for a run-off. With half the votes cast on April 5 counted, frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah widened his lead, but still appeared unlikely to take the 50 percent of the vote needed to win without a second round. Abdullah, who finished second behind Hamid Karzai in 2009, had 44.4 percent of the vote, ahead of Karzai adviser Ashraf Ghani, who had 33.2 percent. [The New York Times]


10. Wrongfully convicted former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter dies
One-time middleweight boxing contender Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who spent 19 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted for a triple murder at a Paterson, N.J. bar, died in Toronto Sunday of complications from prostate cancer. He was 76. Carter, who was black, was convicted twice by all-white juries. He became a cause celebre, with his case inspiring a song by Bob Dylan before a judge set aside his conviction in 1985. [Los Angeles Times]

Boston Marathon Bombings · Glenn Beck

Boston Marathon Bombing Victim Sues Glenn Beck for Defamation

Image: Commentator Glenn Beck arrives at the 45th Country Music Association Awards in Nashville in this file photo
Commentator Glenn Beck arrives at the 45th Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tennessee in this file photo from November 9, 2011.

NBC News

A Saudi Arabian national who was injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings has filed a defamation and slander lawsuit against firebrand conservative commentator Glenn Beck for publicly accusing him of being the “money man” who funded the horrific attacks.

Abdulrahman Alharbi, a 20-year-old exchange student who lives in Revere, Mass., said in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Boston that his reputation was “substantially and severely damaged” after Beck made on-air comments tying him to the twin explosions that killed three people and injured more than 260.

The lawsuit also names as defendants the broadcast companies linked to Beck’s show: The Blaze, Inc., Mercury Radio Arts, Inc., and Premiere Radio Networks, Inc. It seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Alharbi said in the court filing obtained by NBC News that Beck “repeatedly and falsely identified” him as an “active participant” in the April 15, 2013, attack, “repeatedly questioned the motives of federal officials in failing to pursue or detain” him and “repeatedly and falsely accused” of him of being a “criminal who had funded the attacks.”

In the lawsuit, Alharbi said he has been called a “murderer, child killer and terrorist” in the wake of Beck’s statements.

A spokesman for Beck declined to comment.

Alharbi was a spectator near the marathon finish line at the time of the explosions and was injured. Federal authorities investigating the attack questioned him and searched his apartment before concluding he was not involved in the attack, the lawsuit said.

Authorities blame the bombing on two brothers: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died in a shootout with police four days after the bombings, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, who was captured and is being held pending trial in November. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction.

— Daniel Arkin, with The Associated Press
Boston Marathon 2013 · Boston Marathon Bombings · New York Post

Bystanders wrongly pegged by New York Post as Boston ‘Bag Men’ file suit

New York Post fingers 17 year old kid as bombing suspect

Here’s hoping the two get a large pile of Murdoch money in exchange for this mess. A very, very large pile of money ~ Daily Kos on Facebook

Daily Kos

Here’s hoping the two get a large pile of Murdoch money in exchange for this mess. A very, very large pile of money.

I’m only surprised it took this long:

A Massachusetts teenager and his 24-year-old friend filed a defamation lawsuit against the New York Post Wednesday in Boston, accusing the tabloid of falsely portraying them as suspects in the deadly Marathon bombings by plastering their photograph on the front page under the headline, “Bag Men.”

As the picture above demonstrates, the Post wasn’t shy about it, calling them the “bag men” in large type even while their own story admitted that it wasn’t actually clear if the two pictured were the ones law enforcement were actually investigating. As it turns out, they weren’t—it was a picture that some online sleuths found suspicious, and that was all it took to make the Post front page, and to therefore make the two a conspicuous public target:

When Zaimi arrived at work that day, a company vice president called him into his office. Zaimi did not understand why until the office manager showed him a copy of the Post.“He immediately started shaking, his mouth went dry, and he felt as though he was having a panic attack,” the complaint said. […]

That night, the complaint said, as he waited for the train home, someone pointed him out as the person in the New York Post. Zaimi fled.

Given that we’re living in an age when would-be public heroes even fire shots at fleeing shoplifters, I’d say hightailing it out of a crowd that thinks you might be a terrorist based a front-page picture saying so was probably a very good idea. The Post should count themselves lucky no worse harm came to the two.

Here’s hoping the two get a large pile of Murdoch money in exchange for this mess. A very, very large pile of money. The crooked, reckless sensationalism of the Post was demonstratedthroughout the Boston story, but in this instance it could have gotten someone killed.


What Really Went Wrong For MSNBC, And How To Really Fix It

To paraphrase a famous quote: The reports of MSNBC’s demise are greatly exaggerated.  

We’ve seen this before, but in reverse.  Last fall, MSNBC was beating Fox News in certain demographics.  Ratings go up and down and with that thought, there’s no doubt in my mind that MSNBC is here to stay…period.


There has been a lot of virtual ink devoted to the two months of dismal ratings that MSNBC has just endured, some of it sincere, some of it concern-trolling, and much of it tinged with Schadenfreude. There has even been talk that the network might never recover, at least not unless it abandons its Lean Forward identity. In order to figure out how to fix MSNBC’s problems, you have to understand what went wrong in the first place, and you have to actually want the network to thrive.

Before I even start, and more importantly, before any of you even start, let me set the record straight: I hate everything about TV ratings. I hate writing about them, reading about them, and I especially hate getting PR pitches about them. ratings are a terrible way to measure quality, especially in news programming, there are a million ways to slice and dice them, and just looking at them gives me a headache. This is not an invitation for you to email me about how your show is #1 with carpentry aficionados age 63-97. My concern for ratings is confined to their effect on whether I can continue watching programming that I enjoy.

That’s why I took notice when Salon‘s Alex Pareene, in an otherwise excellent column, suggested that MSNBC’s bad stretch has put the network’s progressive-leaning orbit into fatal decay. Are the ratings really that bad?

Well, they are pretty bad, from what I can see, and as Pareene notes, lots of people are taking this opportunity to beat up on All In host Chris Hayes. The launch of the former Up star’s 8 pm show just happened to coincide with an extended series of news cycles that played to rivals CNN and Fox News’ strengths, along with the climax of the HLN-owned-and-operated Jodi Arias trial. Here’s how Pareene describes it:

Meanwhile, CNN’s been given gift after gift by whichever minor demons are responsible for the creation of cable news stories. The channel’s new Zucker-approved softer focus and lack of dignity allowed it to capitalize on Jodi Arias nearly as much as its trashy sister station HLN did. The Boston bombings were a perfect CNN story, even if CNN botched the hell out of its coverage. The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev manhunt was precisely the sort of story that makes people go through their channel guides trying to remember which one CNN is. And then there was the West, Texas, explosion. CNN capitalized on all of this because CNN’s brand is “breaking news.” Fox capitalized because there are simply a whole bunch of people out there whose TVs are tuned to Fox basically all the time. MSNBC’s brand is “people either talking calmly or yelling at you, or each other, about politics.” These weren’t stories that made people think, “What does Chris Matthews have to say?” (Another problem: During huge stories, like the Boston bombing and subsequent manhunt, MSNBC frequently finds itself in the odd position of competing with its own sister network, when NBC News takes over the broadcast network.)

Ironically, MSNBC was alone among its cable news competitors in getting the Boston manhunt story right, a good deed for which they appear to be being punished. Fox News, meanwhile, has been carb-loading like Jabba the Hutt with ringworm on the three-headed Scandalabra™, and bloating its endlessly voracious audience in the process.

Continue here…

MSNBC · Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow – ‘Something weird is going on’ in FBI shooting of Ibragim Todashev

Maddow 053113

(Revised from earlier post)

The Raw Story

On Thursday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed the swirl of questions around the shooting of Ibragim Todashev, an associate of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two men charged with the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

FBI officials have given conflicting accounts of the questioning and killing of Todashev, who knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev through Mixed Martial Arts fighting. Todashev, who, like the Tsarnaevs, was Chechen, lived in Boston for a time before moving to Florida. Agents from the FBI traveled to Florida to question Todashev repeatedly about the bombing.

“Last week while being questioned again in Florida,” said Maddow, “something went very, very wrong and he ended up dead.”

Law enforcement officials were interviewing Todashev in his apartment in Orlando on Wednesday, May 22, when something occurred that resulted in the young man being shot multiple times.

On Thursday, Todashev’s family held a press conference in Moscow, where they showed autopsie photos of their slain son. Ibragim Todashev was shot six times in the torso and once in the back of the head.

“We have not been able to authenticate these photos,” said Maddow. “No one has.”

But, she said, if they are genuine, “something weird is going on.”

“How does that comport with the FBI’s story that he was killed during questioning by armed agents who were only acting in self defense?” she asked. “Shot seven times, including in the back of the head?”

Todashev was questioned because of a possible connection to a bizarre 2011 murder in Waltham, Massachusetts in which three men were found with their throats cut, covered in marijuana, with $5,000 in cash untouched nearby. Law enforcement officials theorize now that Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have murdered the men with the help of some other person or persons.

“That cold case got hot again” after the marathon bombing, Maddow said. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was close friends with one of the victims, but, after his murder, Tsarnaev declined to attend his friend’s funeral.

After Todashev was shot during questioning, Maddow said, law enforcement officials “leaked an elaborate story” that purported to justify the killing. The officials also claimed that Todashev had implicated himself in the Waltham murders prior to being shot. They said that just before the man was about to sign a confession, he snapped, and “lunged at the interrogator with a blade.”

“That initial story has fallen apart,” Maddow said. Within 12 hours of the shooting, two of the three law enforcement officials who were talking to the media about the case changed their story, saying they were no longer sure whether Todashev had a knife.

Now, multiple sources have come forward to papers like the Washington Post to say that, in fact, Todashev was unarmed. NBC News reported on Thursday that Todashev may have been brandishing some kind of “metal rod.”

“So they shot him seven times?” Maddow asked, “Including in the back of the head?” She added that no one actually knows right now if that was the actual number of gunshot wounds on Todashev’s body since officials will neither confirm nor deny that the post-autopsy photos are accurate.

“What we’re left with here is a baffling mess and a story that does not make sense,” she said.


GOP Conspiracies

Rachel Maddow – Formerly fringe conspiracy theorists find voice in congressional GOP

When I saw this show last night I had hoped that the You Tube video would be available online so that I could share Rachel’s genius for explaining anything with wit and intelligence beyond any newscaster on TV today.

This particular opening segment of the Rachel Maddow Show expounds on my Think Progress post from a couple of days ago…

Democratic Underground

David Gregory

‘Meet The Press’ Drops All Pretense Of Journalism And Embraces Right Wing Conspiracies


It has always been obvious that David Gregory is no real liberal…

Addicting Info

After watching Sunday’s Meet The Press, one could be forgiven for wondering exactly when the United States went from being a country that faced down nuclear armageddon in the Cold War to cowering under the sheets from the threat of terrorists that may or may not exist.

David Gregory, clearly one of the liberal elitists that are in the tank for Obama, did his very best to conflate Benghazi, Boston and Syria as if they were all part of a grand terrorist plan to destroy America 3 or 4 people at a time:

 I want to widen this out a little bit, because I think there’s the broader topic that we’re broaching here about national security, about our personal freedoms in America, coming out of the Boston bombing is, in part, ongoing concern about terrorism. The graphic this week in The Wall Street Journal about that growing al-Qaeda threat, even a couple of years now after Osama bin Laden is killed.

Looking in North Africa, in the Persian Gulf states, where you either have al-Qaeda with a safe haven, or, indeed, more activity. And it leads, too, to what happened last 9-11 in Benghazi, and the ongoing questions about what the United States knew about that, what the administration knew. Did they do enough to stop it? And now, new hearings coming up, new details being reported on, Mr. Mayor [Guiliani]. Is there something here that somehow gets to why we’re more vulnerable now and whether the administration has done enough, in your estimation? (Emphasis mine) 

I’m curious to know in what sense are we more vulnerable under Obama? Did terrorists hijack 4 airplanes and use them as missiles aimed at American buildings? Was anthrax used to kill several people using the mail? Were several different American consulates attacked resulting in dozens of causalities? If I’m not mistaken, so far in Obama’s 4+ years in office, terrorists have killed exactly 4 people on American soil and 4 Americans not in an active war zone.

Gregory goes on:

“Jane Harman, and Mayor Giuliani, as we look at all of this, whether it’s jihadist elements operating in Syria, whether we look at, now, this widening plot out of the Boston bombings, they wanted to attack, reportedly, on July Fourth, there are others now involved, friends of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, who show their pictures, who are involved, at some level, of clearing out some of the materials from his room, what does this tell us about what we’re up against here, specifically in the Boston plot, and this question of, “Are we any safer?”” 

“Widening plot?” Until they can put a finger on who, if anyone, trained the older brother, Tamerlan, the “widening plot” amounts to three young idiots doing something phenomenally stupid. That these imbeciles, which one official referred to as “the Three Stooges,” tried to (poorly) cover up something of this magnitude doesn’t make them part of a grand terrorist conspiracy that makes America less safe; it just makes them dumber than a sack of hammers. No lovable goofball ending here, just a lot of jail time.

But it wasn’t a total fear-fest. Mr. Gregory did accidentally allow Sen. Patrick Leahy to make a point that interferes with the whole “It’s all Obama’s fault we’re under attack” narrative:

DAVID GREGORY: –how vulnerable we are and what we’re doing about it?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Oh, there are questions should be asked. I know I chair a committee that handles the State Department’s budget. We put in extra money, a great deal of extra money, for embassy security.

DAVID GREGORY: I mean that’s what we’re hearing about– (Translation: ERROR! ERROR! That is off script! We can not blame Republicans for their actions!)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Let me finish. And that was blocked by the House. They said they didn’t want to spend the money. Whether that would have made a difference or not, I don’t know. Should we look at Benghazi? Yes. But keep in mind that’s just one place. We should look at our security throughout our embassies, because there will always be easy targets.

DAVID GREGORY: Were warnings ignored on Benghazi, Congressman, in your judgment? (Translation: Let’s get back to promoting the right’s conspiracies!)

Continue reading here…