Still more questions than answers

 

UPDATE, FRI 1 MAY: Six Baltimore police officers were charged on Friday in the death of Freddie Gray. The charges cover crimes including murder and manslaughter. CNN reports:

“The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide … has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby told reporters from the broad steps of the downtown War Memorial.

 

* Full coverage from the Baltimore Sun is here

 

philly(image: Philadelphia Times-Union/AP – Protesters gathered in Philadelphia on Thursday in solidarity with Freddie Gray and the people of Baltimore)

As Baltimore entered its third night of a mandatory curfew, more details – but few conclusions – had emerged regarding the arrest and detention of Freddie Gray, the young man whose death prompted the unrest.

WBAL reports that the other man who was in the police transport van carrying Gray spoke out for the first time.

The local police department handed their initial investigation of the incident over to state prosecutors, but the force’s subsequent refusal to make further specific comment frustrated protesters who remained gathered on the streets after the 10pm deadline.

As demands for answers increase, the state’s attorney must now decide whether to bring charges against six officers involved in Mr Gray’s arrest.

Another insightful analysis by Ta-Nehisi Coates is published at The Atlantic‘The Clock Didn’t Start With The Riots’ in which he says:

..The fact of the matter is that the lives of black people in this city, the lives of black people in this country have been violent for a long time. Violence is how enslavement actually happened. People will think of enslavement as like a summer camp, where you just have to work, where you just go and someone gives you food and lodging, but enslavement is violence, it is torture. Torture is how it was made possible. You can’t imagine enslavement without stripping away people’s kids and putting them up for sale. And the way you did that was, you threatened people with violence. Jim Crow was enforced through violence. That was the way things that got done. You didn’t politely ask somebody not to show up and vote. You stood in front of voting booths with guns, that’s what you did. And the state backed this; it was state-backed violence.

***

* POLITICS * House Republicans passed the first joint House-Senate budget plan in six years. The Senate is expected to pass the non-binding resolution, which targets Obamacare, next week. Time reports:

This year, Republicans are focused mostly on finally delivering legislation to President Barack Obama that would repeal the bulk of his signature health care law. Successful action on Thursday’s budget plan would permit a health care repeal to advance through the Senate without threat of a Democratic filibuster. Obama is sure to veto the measure, which is scheduled to advance by late July.

Meanwhile, a potential nuclear deal with Iran could face another procedural hurdle after two GOP junior senators forced the scheduling of a vote on an amendment requiring Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as part of any agreement.

As trailed yesterday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders declared that he would seek the Democratic nomination for President. NPR reports why Hillary Clinton is just fine with that.

Sanders’ brother Larry is also running for office this year – as a candidate for the Green Party in one of Oxford’s constituencies in Britain’s general election.

***

* BRITISH ELECTION *

mail(Daily Mail/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

The final TV appearance by the three main party leaders before next week’s election – it wasn’t really a “debate” as they appeared on the BBC’s Question Time separately – saw some spirited questioning from the audience in Leeds. The Yorkshire Post reports:

Mr Cameron denied an audience member’s claim that he was not talking about the “moral dimension” of the issues and giving all his answers in terms of economics.

“To me, helping someone to get a job has a moral dimension. It gives them the dignity and pride that comes with work.

“Getting someone an apprenticeship, that has a moral dimension; it gives someone the chance of a career and success.

“Building a house that a young family can afford to buy and own, that has a moral dimension because it gives them a stake in the country they live in.

Both the Financial Times and The Economist both endorsed Mr Cameron, albeit with some reservations. The FT cites a “compelling case for continuity” while The Economist says:

In 2010 we endorsed David Cameron, the Tory leader, seeing in him a willingness to tackle a yawning budget deficit and an ever-expanding state. Five years on, the choice has become harder. The Tories’ Europhobia, which we regretted last time, could now do grave damage. A British exit from the EU would be a disaster, for both Britain and Europe. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are better on this score. But such is the suspicion many Britons feel towards Brussels that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is probably inevitable at some point. And we believe that the argument can be won on its merits.

***

* MEDIA * The Pew Research Center’s latest report on the State of the News Media makes for interesting reading as always, if not being particularly shocking in its trends – smartphones up, newspapers down. The Nieman Lab writes:

“While desktop visits are still valuable to publishers — especially when it comes to time spent on the site — the number of mobile visits now outpaces desktop visits for the majority of the top 50 sites and associated apps,” the report says. That time-on-site difference is real: Visitors to 25 of the top 50 news sites spent at least 10% more time per visit than readers coming in through mobile or apps. There were just 10 sites where mobile users spent more time per visit than their desktop counterparts.

Newsroom-Employment

Jon Stewart interviewed New York Times reporter Judith Miller on her recent book. He exercised great restraint.

(CNN)

Finally,

***

* SPORTS *  In Thursday night’s NFL Draft, two quarterbacks went as the top two picks as expected.  Florida State’s Jameis Winston was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Oregon’s Marcus Mariota went to the Tennessee Titans, despite NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s Adele Dazeem moment.

The second round of the NHL playoffs are under way, with a dramatic last-second goal by Joel Ward giving the visiting Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers and stunning Madison Square Garden.

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The politics of Baltimore

cspan(image/video – full remarks: C-Span)

Hillary Clinton used the ongoing crisis in Baltimore to make the first significant policy speech of her campaign, delivering what the New York Times called “an impassioned plea to mend the nation’s racial fissures and overhaul an “out-of-balance” criminal justice system.”

“There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts,” Mrs. Clinton said in a forceful address Wednesday at Columbia University.

Frank Rich talks at New York magazine about the politics of Baltimore and why Hillary “needs to take a stand” while John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker about how the political agenda on policing and minorities is emerging.

Still, after the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, it is surely encouraging to see the President and the leading Democratic candidate to replace him speaking so forcefully, and confronting the “lock ’em up” mentality that has dominated the public debate for so long. “I don’t want the discussion about criminal justice, smart policing, to be siloed, and to permit discussions and arguments and debates about it to only talk about that,” Clinton said. “The conversation needs to be much broader. Because that is a symptom, not a cause, of what ails us today.” In the next nineteen months, Clinton will give many speeches. But she might not speak a truer sentence than that last one.

Mrs Clinton’s pronouncements about condemning the “era of incarceration” were seen as distancing herself from elements of her husband’s legacy – in this case his 1994 Crime Bill. The Washington Post writes:

Hillary Clinton plans to unveil a detailed policy agenda on a variety of economic and other issues this summer, and progressive leaders said they are paying close attention to see where else she may deviate from her husband’s legacy.

So far, Clinton has made only vague statements about the most important domestic issues for Democrats, including the push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She also has not said definitely whether she supports expanding Social Security benefits, a top agenda item for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a favorite of the party’s liberal base.

Warren remains steadfast in saying she will not run. One progressive who is entering the race, however, is Vermont Sen Bernie Sanders, who is poised to officially announce his candidacy on Thursday. He told the AP:

“What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels…

“This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.”

Another as-yet-possible Democratic candidate, Martin O’Malley, came in for criticism from the creator of The Wire, David Simon, who called the city’s former Mayor “the stake through the heart of police procedure.” The Baltimore Sun also reports:

After cutting short an overseas trip this week to return to the city, O’Malley was heckled on Tuesday for the “zero tolerance” police strategy he adopted as mayor.

In 2005, more than 100,000 people were arrested in a city of 640,000. That led to a lawsuit that the city settled after O’Malley’s tenure for $870,000.

When O’Malley returned to the streets Wednesday to meet with Baltimore residents, many seemed genuinely glad for his presence. Some stopped to talk with him; others posed for photos as he helped distribute food at a Catholic church in Sandtown-Winchester.

In Baltimore itself, the city saw the second night of a mandatory curfew at 10pm, with the situation initially calmer than the previous evening.

(ABC News2 WMAR)

There were protests in major cities across the country, including Boston, Minneapolis and outside the White House in Washington DC. In New York, a solidarity march with the people of Baltimore resulted in clashes between police and protesters, with dozens of arrests.

newsweek(image: Newsweek)

Baltimore ‘stable’ after curfew

baltCNN(image: CNN/New York Daily News)

Police and National Guard troops in Baltimore enforced the first night of a week-long 10pm curfew, dispersing what appeared to be a relatively small crowd and quieting some minor disturbances within roughly an hour. By midnight the city was “safe” and “stable,” the city’s Police Commissioner told a press conference.

* Follow WBAL’s Live Wire updates here.

* Follow live updates from the Baltimore Sun here.

Elsewhere, hundreds of people gathered in Chicago in a peaceful protest against police violence, although two people were reportedly shot during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Earlier, footage was widely circulated of one Baltimore mother who didn’t take kindly to her son’s participation in Monday’s protests.

(ABC2 News WMAR)

Events of the past few days have focused attention on media coverage of the situation. As The Huffington Post points out:

Protests actually began in Baltimore the day before [Freddie] Gray’s death and continued for five days without violence. Over the weekend, some protesters clashed with police, although demonstrations remained largely nonviolent. Police have still not revealed details about Gray’s arrest or the circumstances of his fatal injuries.

The HuffPo reports how a protester challenged MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on-air: “My question to you is, when we were out here protesting all last week for six days straight peacefully, there were no news cameras, there were no helicopters, there was no riot gear, and nobody heard us,” she said. “So now that we’ve burned down buildings and set businesses on fire and looted buildings, now all of the sudden everybody wants to hear us.”

Justin Peters writes at Slate how CNN’s coverage has been “shallow and sensationalistic.”

CNN, like all televised media, specializes in nearsighted news, favoring big, easily apprehensible images and storylines. The limitations of the format often demand one central visual narrative, to which the reporting and commentary act in service. Burning cars and looted buildings are big, striking images that play well on television, but they too often end up reducing complicated issues to stories about property damage. If it sometimes seemed Monday as if CNN expected Baltimore to burn, that’s understandable: CNN mostly just sees the things that are already on fire.

But The Washington Post‘s Hank Stuever writes “Is CNN as bad as  everyone thinks it is? Yes.. and no.”

The strongest visual will always win. CNN would be shirking its duty if it declined to show such events to appease some nobler effort to accentuate the positive, which, in this case, included the many people who chose peaceful protest. TV news frequently finds itself explaining why non-burning buildings and people standing still (or staying home) don’t make the cut.

But viewers — from President Obama down to the rest of us — also recognize the corrosive effects of repeat footage of looting and fires. When CNN fixates on a burning car as its primary visual for 45 minutes, or when it appears to treat the loss of one CVS drugstore as a bigger tragedy than the death of a person in police custody, viewers pick up on that.

 

One element of instant coverage that was widely welcomed and applauded was the live-stream work via Periscope by The Guardian‘s Paul Lewis; covered in a really interesting piece by Jonathan Albright, “The Revolution Will Not Be…Periscoped?” Also worth a look are the reactions here at Streamalism. Lewis himself wrestles with the openness of the platform as it’s running here:

News that Wednesday’s Orioles-White Sox game would be played behind closed doors and the team’s next home series against Tampa Bay would be moved to Florida, led Dave Zirin at The Nation to write:

This decision was clearly made on public safety grounds, but there will be something haunted about the visuals that will ensue. Whenever the Orioles play away from home, many of the surrounding businesses resemble a ghost town, revealing the instability of sports as an economic stimulus. Now the inside will be a ghost town. No screaming. No cheering: as quiet as Freddie Gray, and as searing as the promise of a stadium once built with the prospect of jobs and renewal, that has become a hub of police-protected boorish decadence and poverty jobs. It’s a place that may have acted as symbolic gasoline on the fires in Baltimore but it is not a Baltimore story. It’s the United States in 2015, and it’s a far cry from a game.

 

Zirin references the Twitter stream of Orioles’ executive John Angelos and his comments on the situation – they’re worth reading in their entirety.

As the city waits, uncertainly, for the next countdown to the next curfew, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced it would perform a free outdoor concert “in support of our community” on Wednesday at lunchtime, ending the announcement with Leonard Bernstein’s famous quote:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

***

* WORLD * Australia withdrew its ambassador to Indonesia amid outcry following the execution of eight people, including two Australians, part of the so-called Bali Nine.

The death toll from the weekend’s earthquake in Nepal passed 5,000, with more than a million people urgently needing food aid, as supplies finally start to reach remote villages.

The Saudi King appointed a new Crown Prince.

***

* POLITICS * The Senate rejected moves to require any nuclear agreement with Iran to be considered an international treaty, which would have forced any deal to be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate’s 100 members.

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is to enter the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination on Thursday, Vermont Public Radio reports. Sanders held a town hall meeting on, yes, Periscope.

Following oral arguments on Tuesday at the Supreme Court over the issue of marriage equality, there will be much speculation over how the justices are leaning until they rule in June. The Baltimore Sun writes in an editorial:

The present circumstances, this mishmash of marriage law, is neither tenable nor fair. What Mr. Obergefell and others seek is equal treatment under the law. Should that be denied until public opinion reaches 75 percent approval? Eighty percent? It’s time for the court to recognize that the Constitution’s guarantees of equality do truly extend to all.

***

* BRITISH ELECTION * An interview between Labour leader Ed Miliband and comedian Russell Brand is set to be posted on You Tube on Wednesday. The BBC reported that Miliband said he agreed to the interview “to liven up the election race,” while Prime Minister David Cameron had said he “did not have time to hang out” with Brand.

The Daily Star seems pretty confident it knows what was on the agenda.

star

Meanwhile, Ed Balls celebrated Ed Balls Day by manually retweeting himself.

***

* MEDIA * Wired magazine looks at How the NYT is sparking the VR journalism revolution. Angela Watercutter writes:

A lot of the questions about the importance of VR for journalism go back to empathy—the current buzzword in VR filmmaking. Taking a page from Roger Ebert’s assertion that a movie is an “empathy machine,” people excited about VR’s storytelling potential like to point out that nothing will make a person more empathetic to a protagonist than virtually living in their world. So when that protagonist is actually a resident of a war-torn country, say, or protester in the streets, that potential for empathy is quite sizable.

***

* SPORTS * The FA Cup, football’s oldest domestic knockout cup competition, is to be renamed the Emirates FA Cup as part of a £30m sponsorship deal. The deal replaces a three-year arrangement with Budweiser – but which did not formally require the re-naming.

As the current football season reaches it final stages, promotion and relegation issues are being resolved. Wigan, who won the FA Cup just two seasons ago, will next year play in the third tier of English football, after being relegated along with Millwall on Tuesday night.

 ***

* CULTURE * Jack Ely, co-founder of The Kingsmen and famously indistinct vocalist on their biggest hit – America’s favorite college party tune “Louie Louie” – died aged 71.

Ely, the only band member who knew all the words to Richard Berry‘s calypso-meets-R&B song that day had just had his braces tightened and couldn’t enunciate clearly. The producer moved the microphone away from him, capturing the music but muffling the words.

Ely’s incomprehensible vocal track famously spawned an FBI investigation  into whether the Portland-bred garage band violated federal obscenity laws with the lyrics of the hit, which was sweeping up the charts worldwide.

 

(YouTube/HollywoodAGoGo)

Violence flares in Charm City

The city of Baltimore is under a state of emergency after clashes erupted injuring several police officers and an unknown number of civilian protesters. Later, buildings were set ablaze and stores looted as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the National Guard had been activated to assist local law enforcement.

Violence began soon after the funeral of Freddie Gray, and continued after nightfall, despite appeals for calm by the Gray family and local pastors.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes at The Atlantic 

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

 

Demonstrators jump on a damaged Baltimore police department vehicle during clashes in Baltimore(image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

* Reuters live blog is here.

* Live video stream from WBALTV is here.

* A rolling update from the Baltimore Sun is here, and the paper’s full coverage of the Freddie Gray story is here.

* Live updates from the Washington Post are here.

* Live updates from the New York Times are here.

Shortly before the unrest broke out, Loretta Lynch had been sworn in as Attorney General in Washington  DC. She met on Monday evening with President Obama to discuss the situation in Baltimore. Earlier, the President had spoken with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and told her the federal government is ready to provide “assistance as needed.”

With the city still on edge heading into Tuesday, the Mayor said the city’s schools would be closed and a curfew would be in place for the coming week.

***

* WORLD * With the death toll in the Nepal earthquake now apparently over 4,000 and still rising, there has been frustration at what many local people think has been a slow response to the crisis by the Nepalese government.

Here’s how front pages around the world covered the story, via Poynter, including an extra bonus letter…

nationalpost(National Post)

Here’s some drone footage from Katmandu showing the wreckage in the Nepalese capital:

(Sky News)

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that a nuclear deal with Iran is “closer than ever” but that some key issues “remain unresolved.” Meanwhile, the Senate is debating a bill to give Congress the authority to review and potentially reject any deal.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be guest of honor at a state dinner at the White House on Tuesday evening. The AP reports that when Abe and President Obama meet for talks, “a major subtext of their discussions will be the world leader not in the room — Chinese President Xi Jinping.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations also come as China is working to develop an international infrastructure bank for Asia to fill an estimated $8 trillion gap in infrastructure funding for the region over the next decade. Japan and the U.S., leading shareholders of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, have notably declined to participate citing concerns over the new bank’s governance standards.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reshuffled his bailout negotiating team to sideline Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. The move comes after three months of fruitless talks and was welcomed by the country’s Eurozone creditors as the next deadline approaches.

***

* BRITISH ELECTION * The Conservatives were under fire on Monday after the Telegraph published a letter apparently from 5,000 “small businesses” but really came from  Conservative Campaign HQ.

telegraph(The Guardian)

Jane Martinson at The Guardian writes that press coverage of the campaign is reflecting the disaffection generally among both papers and readers.

Other than the Telegraph, the most surprising thing on the first day of the start of the last full week before the general election, was how few political leads there were echoing grumblings from newspaper backbenches that this election is dull and turning readers off.

***

* POLITICS * Republicans will announce details on Tuesday of a compromise deal for the first joint House-Senate budget in six years. 

One of the most divisive issues in US politics returns to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with arguments over state recognition of Same Sex Marriage. Amy Howe of the always-brilliant SCOTUSblog explains what to expect.

Most of what you need to know about the plaintiffs’ arguments can be summarized with the term that they prefer to use to describe the same-sex-marriage movement more broadly:  “marriage equality.”  The plaintiffs emphasize that they are not asking the Court to create a new constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  Instead, they explain, the Court has long made clear that marriage is a fundamental right, and they are merely seeking equal access to that right.  But even if that’s not the case, they add, the Court’s decision in the Windsor case means that states can’t exclude same-sex couples from the dignity, rights, and benefits created by marriage just because they disapprove of them.  Moreover, the laws that prohibit a state from recognizing same-sex marriages that were conducted legally in another state are, the plaintiffs contend, “disrespectful” of those states and their decisions to allow same-sex couples to marry.

***

* BUSINESS * Oil giant BP is set to release earnings numbers on Tuesday morning before the London market opens, with analysts predicting a significant drop in profits as a result in part of the depressed oil price. The Motley Fool writes:

BP has many attractive qualities and the company’s valuation, on a per barrel of reserves basis, is one of the lowest around. These qualities make the company a perfect acquisition target. Unfortunately, the government announced this morning that it will look to block any attempted takeover of BP.

Reuters reports that Time Warner Cable is “open to merger talks” with Charter Communications.

Apple earnings surged by a third on the back of iPhone sales, particularly in China. The company said it sold 61.2 million iPhones in the three months ended March 28, up 40% year-on-year.

***

* SPORTS * After all-but securing a place in the Premiership for next season, Bournemouth are reflecting on the fact that in 2008, the club was five minutes away from going out of business.

Wait.. Game Eight? The New York Islanders can but hope.

 

‘The earth is trembling again’

Global aid is starting to arrive and the search for survivors continues amid aftershocks and fear of fresh tremors in Nepal, where the death toll from the weekend’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake has reached more than 3,400. It is expected to move higher still.

(The BBC‘s Justin Rowlatt gets caught in a heavy aftershock)

* The Times of India Live Blog is here.

* A series of resources for journalists reporting on the disaster, via Al Tompkins at Poynter is here.

* A list of charities soliciting donations for relief efforts is here. (via NYT)

In what is now Mount Everest’s worst disaster, authorities are still uncertain how many people might the trapped on the mountain, at or between the various camps.

(YouTube/Jost Kobusch)

Eric Holthaus writes at Slate on why poor countries like Nepal are falling behind in preventing disasters.

So what makes places like Nepal and Haiti so vulnerable to earthquakes? Poverty is a big factor, but so is politics. Preparedness funding routinely returns five dollars for every dollar spent. But governments with low resources find it difficult to justify extra spending to mitigate even likely disasters. Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, ranks near the bottom in a list of countries working to reduce their risk. Even in the United States, spending on disaster relief routinely outstrips investment in disaster preparedness by at least a factor of 10.

***

* WORLD * Japan‘s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has arrived in the US for a week of meetings including a speech to Harvard Business School on Monday. He is due to become the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Bloomberg reports:

Abe will also cite gains in bilateral trade talks in Tokyo last week aimed at progressing a 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership that would cover roughly 40 percent of global gross domestic product. The Japan-U.S. discussions have been bogged down at times by differences over Japan’s rice and auto sectors, while Congress has been debating whether to give Obama fast-track authority to expedite pacts such as the TPP.

Ukraine and the EU hold a summit in Kiev on Monday, with energy, a free trade pact and calls for peacekeepers expected to be on the agenda. Fighting continues in disputed areas, however.

As fighting again escalates in Yemen, the Wall Street Journal reports that a political deal “was close” before the start of Saudi airstrikes, according to a UN envoy who is due to address the Security Council on Monday. Iranian warships have moved away from the Yemeni coast as US vessels arrived.  Meanwhile, Al Arabiya reports that a video purporting to be created by ISIS claims the group has established a presence in Yemen.

The longtime leader of Kazakhstan, 74-year-old Nursultan Nazarbavev, was apparently re-elected with 97.7 per cent of the vote in a 95 per cent turnout.

With Freddie Gray’s funeral set for Monday, Baltimore is still on edge following weekend protests over the death of the 25-year-old, who was injured while in police custody. City leaders called for calm after 35 people were arrested and six police officers injured in clashes. WBAL reports that:

The problems happened near Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles game against the Boston Red Sox went on as scheduled, only fans were told toward the end of the game to stay in the stadium because of public safety worries. Before the game, demonstrators fought with fans at a bar.

***

* POLITICS * With the US Supreme Court set to take up the issue of Same Sex Marriage on Tuesday, Republican opposition to equality was on display at the weekend at the “Faith and Freedom” gathering in Iowa. James Hohmann at Politico writes:

Many GOP elites, in the donor and operative class, want to move beyond gay marriage. They think it’s a losing issue for the party in the long-term and makes outreach to younger voters more difficult. But social conservatives are the most influential constituency in the caucuses, which kick off the nominating process.

The nuanced answers from many Republican candidates in recent months took a backburner Saturday night, as several of the candidates tried to outdo one another on who could speak out most strongly against a right to gay marriage.

One of the weekend speakers, Sen Ted Cruz, said there was “a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers,” and that “today’s Democratic Party has become so radicalized for legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states that there is no longer any room for religious liberty.” Meanwhile, two gay businessmen who hosted a New York fundraiser for Cruz earlier in the week have faced widespread criticism from the gay community.

The so-called “Adelson primary” took place this weekend in Las Vegas, where GOP contenders reached out to one of the party’s biggest donors, “palms up.” Jason Horowitz at the New York Times writes:

In the last presidential election, many Republicans blamed Mr. Adelson for pumping $15 million into the primary campaign of Newt Gingrich, a long shot who used the money and time it afforded him to eviscerate Mitt Romney, the party’s eventual nominee, with political attack ads. This time, Mr. Adelson has expressed a desire to support a candidate who can win the general election.

And he finds himself on a political roll, at least in Israel, where his free and widely circulating newspaper, Israel Hayom, unabashedly backed Mr. Netanyahu.

When the prime minister made his controversial speech before Congressbefore the Israeli election, Mr. Adelson had a prominent seat in the House gallery. His wife accidentally dropped her purse on the head of a Democratic congressman, a mishap that many took as symbolic of what Mr. Adelson would like to do with his money.

 

On the Democratic side, the Clinton Foundation admitted “missteps” in donor disclosure. But Hillary Clinton’s campaign is still dogged by skepticism over possible conflicts of interest. An editorial in the Orange County Register calls it the “flaw Hillary’s resume can’t offset.”

No one, stated Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, “has produced a shred of evidence that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton foundation.”

Well, Mr. Fallon is absolutely correct. There is no smoking email – that we know of – from Mrs. Clinton to Mr. [Ian] Telfer [former chairman of Uranium One] in which she promised a quid pro quo.

But that’s beside the point. What troubles us is that it apparently didn’t occur to Mrs. Clinton that, as secretary of state, she not only should have scrupulously avoided conflicts of interest, but even the appearance of such conflicts.

A public official with an ethical compass would have known that.

***

* MEDIA * The fourth annual Interactive Advertising Bureau Digital Content NewFronts kick off on Monday. Randall Rothenberg at AdWeek writes that “the future may belong to web and mobile video, but TV will survive.”

True, the changes television is undergoing now are breathtaking, in volume and speed. Prime time has become an anachronism. Today, Emmy-winning, high-quality shows, once the domain only of a specific time and device, are available across multiple devices at any hour of the day. We rarely sit down together as families and friends to watch a TV show after dinner. We watch the programming we love, on our own, several times a day, wherever we happen to be. And that family and friends with whom we hashed it over? That would be our social graph—an ever-present (and ever-growing) real-time feedback loop.

The once-unmatchable power of the 30-second spot is also on the decline. So is the assumption that a bigger screen is always better, and the reliance on audience-size estimates based solely on samples. What we have to do now is identify the new standards that will take television, in its new digital form, into the future.

One of the stars of Yahoo’s NewFront presentation on Monday will be former CBS anchor Katie Couric. The Wall Street Journal reports that 

Ms. Couric’s first year at Yahoo was a test of whether television journalism’s big-name personalities and storytelling techniques, like the newsmaking interview, can survive on the Web.

Yahoo’s bet on Ms. Couric is one of the most high-profile moves Chief Executive Marissa Mayer has made in her attempt to turn around the lumbering tech company.

 

Another former anchor in a somewhat less optimistic position is NBC’s Brian Williams, with Politico reporting that recent leaks have put pressure on the newsman to quit. “Look for a resolution over the next several weeks,” Politico says.

The New York Times’ data explainer site The Upshot was a year old this week – here are some of its most-read pieces.

The White House Correspondents Dinner saw President Obama deliver a wonderfully-paced 20-minute piece of stand-up to kick off the “fourth quarter” of his presidency. If you haven’t seen it in its entirety, it’s well worth the investment of your time.

(The White House)

After Patrick Gavin’s piece ahead of the “mess” that is NerdProm, Will Bunch writes brilliantly on “the night the news died.”

No, only one thing could really screw things up last night, actual important news. The day started with unspeakable tragedy in Nepal with news of a massive earthquake and an ever-rising death toll — the kind of overseas natural disaster that cried out for coverage, not only for the human interest but to drive a global response and donations for the victims. (If you wish to donate, here is more info.) As night fell, another type of tremor — a social one — was hitting much closer to home. Less than an hour up I-95 from the posh ballroom where the correspondents and President Obama were gathering, tensions over policing seemed about to erupt in a major American city. The violent killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose spine was snapped in the custody of Baltimore police who’d stopped him for no obvious reason, is an American tragedy, driving thousands of people into the streets on Saturday. Most were peaceful, but some young people on the fringes shattered windows, looted convenience stores, and stomped on police cruisers. Some 40,000 baseball fans at Camden Yards were abruptly told by city officials that it wasn’t safe to leave.

Think about that for a moment, in relation to TV news. CNN and their rival networks have been known to cut away from regular programming to show planes with stuck landing gear circling a runway, or random police chases of random suspects in a random city. But now a city telling 40,000 people not to leave a baseball game because of social unrest, albeit briefly, wasn’t news? Are you kidding me? More important was the broader stakes, that the citizens of a great American city, stripped of its factories and caught between high crime and appalling levels of police brutality, were trying to make a statement, that their lives mattered. But to the Beltway revelers…they just didn’t.

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* BUSINESS * Jury selection begins in New York on Monday in the trial of three senior lawyers at the firm of Dewey & LeBouef.  The New York Times reports that  the trial “promises to be a long legal slog with the proceedings expected to last about six months, meaning a verdict may not be reached until after Labor Day. The process of seating a jury could itself take several weeks.”

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* BRITISH ELECTION * Jim Wells, a candidate for the DUP in the South Down constituency, resigned as a Northern Ireland health minister, saying he wanted to spend more time with his sick wife. The BBC reports:

The resignation follows his remarks at a hustings where he linked same-sex relationships to child abuse. He later apologised for those comments.

Police also said on Sunday they were investigating after an incident during an election canvas in County Down. It is understood it involved Mr Wells and a lesbian couple.

 

In what The Economist called “an embarrassing gaffe” and The Guardian said was “an astonishing own goal,” David Cameron appeared to forget which football team he’d said he supported.  The Prime Minister said mistaking Aston Villa for West Ham was “just one of those things.”

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* SPORTS * Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard won the PFA’s Player of the Year award. Spurs striker Harry Kane was voted Young Player of the Year. Meanwhile Chelsea edged closer to sealing the Premiership title with a 0-0 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates. The home fans’ taunting of “boring, boring Chelsea” drew a typical response from Blues manager Jose Mourinho.

sunjose(The Sun/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

***

* CULTURE *

rosie(Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art/AP)

Mary Keefe, the model for ‘Rosie The Riveter’, Norman Rockwell’s 1943 painting and patriotic embrace of wartime labor, died this week aged 92.

History changes hands

The nation’s first African-American Attorney General is about to hand over to the nation’s first African American woman Attorney General, and in his final day on the job, Eric Holder paid a sincere and passionate tribute to to his staff and their work, Politico reports.

“This department is restored. It’s restored to what it always was and certainly was when I got here and what it must always be: free of politicization, focused on mission and making sure that justice is done without any kind of political interference from outsiders,” Holder told a crowd of current and former officials gathered in the Great Hall at Justice Department headquarters.

NPR reports:

[Holder] had a famously rocky relationship with Republicans in Congress, who held him in contempt a few years ago for refusing to turn over documents in a gun trafficking scandal along the Southwest border. But on his last day on the job, inside his ornate fifth floor conference room, even those scuffles became a source of humor.

“I will certainly miss your turning to me in the midst of hearings and giving me that look of, ‘why am I here and how can you get me out of here?'” Legislative Affairs Chief Peter Kadzik said.

New York magazine looks at how Holder “has become a black political superhero.”

Holder’s long-awaited successor Loretta Lynch is expected to be sworn in on Monday, and takes office at a time when relations between police and black communities are strained. One such conflict is in Baltimore, where thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets on Saturday in what could be the first in a series of high-profile demonstrations over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray a week after he was injured while in police custody.

While the circumstances of Gray’s arrest and injury remain unclear, police appeared to acknowledge on Friday that Gray had not received “timely medical care” after being transported in a police van without being buckled in.

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* WORLD * Speaking on the 10th anniversary of the setting up of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, President Obama praised members of the US intelligence community and said that the deaths of two aid workers in a drone strike, announced on Thursday, would be reviewed and any lessons identified. Politico reports:

“I was asked by somebody — how do you absorb news like that that we received the other day. And I told the truth: It’s hard,” he said. “The one thing I wanted everybody to know — because I know you, because I work with you, because I know the quality of this team, is that we all bleed when we lose an American life, we all grieve when any innocent life is taken,” Obama said. “We don’t take this work lightly.”

Despite Saudi Arabia saying it was changing its emphasis in Yemen to a more political approach to the crisis, Reuters reports that air strikes and violent clashes are continuing seemingly unabated, with the death toll mounting.

With an end-of-April deadline looming, Greece is under renewed pressure from EU finance ministers to deliver economic reforms and avoid a default and possible exit from the Euro.

A powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck in Nepal, less than 50 miles from the capital, Katmandu. Tremors were also felt in towns in neighboring Pakistan and India. There were reports of damaged buildings, but no immediate information about casualties.

* The Times of India‘s Live Blog is here

***

* POLITICS * With rumblings continuing over the finances of the Clinton Foundation and the possible impact on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign – but as yet smoke not fire; or quid not quo – it might be time to look at other Democrats in the field.

Josh Krushaar at The National Journal writes how Dems “went all in on Hillary – it’s looking like a terrible bet.”

Democrats are badly misreading the polls showing Clinton as a formidable Democratic force. Her strong numbers are as much a product of a lack of primary competition as a result of her political strength. She’s also benefiting from the country’s partisan polarization at a time when there aren’t many other Democrats offering themselves as an alternative and joining in on the criticism. But those benefits are looking awfully short-lived, as Clinton looks unprepared to tackle questions that undermine her credibility for higher office. The more Democrats bet on Clinton, the uglier the recriminations will get if things go wrong.

The Washington Post looks at how Martin O’Malley, who was in Hollywood this week, might use support from the entertainment industry to “signify his potency as the non-Clinton candidate in the Democratic field.”

Meanwhile, Vermont Independent Sen Bernie Sanders appears to be “days away” from a decision and is leaning towards running, MSNBC reports.

(Bernie Sanders at the National Press Club – March 2015)

On the GOP side, the Washington Post‘s David Farenthold writes on how Sen Marco Rubio is “running away from the most prominent item on his resume.”

Former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee apparently believes that the US is “is moving toward “criminalization of Christianity” as a result of legalizing same-sex marriage.”

Finally Saturday is the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This year’s guest speaker is Saturday Night Live‘s Cecily Strong.

Patrick Gavin writes at Politico on why “Nerd Prom is a Mess.”

..Now it’s not just one night of clubby backslapping, carousing and drinking between the press and the powerful, it’s four full days of signature cocktails and inside jokes that just underscore how out of step the Washington elite is with the rest of the country. It’s not us (journalists) versus them (government officials); it’s us (Washington) versus them (the rest of America).

Something has to change.

***

* MEDIA * NBC’s internal inquiry into Brian Williams has been expanded, according to the New York Times. Earlier, Paul Farhi at the Washington Post reported that journalists at NBC’s DC bureau had “strongly opposed” Williams’s return.

Here’s your Headline of the Day, via Reuters/The Guardian.

***

* CULTURE * In a much-publicized interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Olympic gold medal-winner Bruce Jenner spoke frankly about his transition from male to female and his long struggle with his gender identity.

(ABC News)

 

Hostage deaths prompt fresh scrutiny on drones

The admission by the US that a drone strike on an Al Qaeda compound in Pakistan in January inadvertently caused the deaths of two hostages – an American and an Italian – has thrown fresh scrutiny on the long-standing program of remote killing.

President Obama apologized and said he took “full responsibility” for counterterrorism operations.

(CNN)

Scott Shane writes at The New York Times that the incident “reveals an uncomfortable truth – the US is often unsure about who will die.”

By most accounts, hundreds of dangerous militants have, indeed, been killed by drones, including some high-ranking Qaeda figures. But for six years, when the heavy cloak of secrecy has occasionally been breached, the results of some strikes have often turned out to be deeply troubling.

Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess.

The Wall Street Journal walks through a Q&A on the drone program and reports that the “intelligence that underpinned the drone strike turned out to have been tragically incomplete.”

Five Thirty Eight writes that while the President’s apology “was highly unusual…the death of civilians in U.S.-led drone strikes is not” and says that “it’s hard to know how many casualties may be missing” from data on such deaths.

Congressional reaction across both parties was one of regret that innocent people were killed, but, the National Journal writes, it would seem “drone strikes are here to stay.”

On Capitol Hill, the incident has brought into sharp focus the unintended consequences and risks associated with the president’s drone program—a cornerstone of his counterterrorism strategy in the Middle East.

Yet, the same Congress that spent years reviewing and chronicling the enhanced-interrogation techniques administered under the Bush administration does not appear to be moved to overhaul the lethal drone program over Thursday’s revelations. Nor, do they seem to think the program is fundamentally flawed in a major way.

While Politico reports that hawkish Republicans “remain staunchly committed” to the drone program, many GOP Presidential hopefuls were restrained in their response. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has called for limits on drone use and staged a 13-hour filibuster two years ago protesting drone policy, offered a brief statement on the hostages’ deaths. “It is a tragedy that these hostages lost their lives,” he said. “My prayers and thoughts are with their families.”

Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who joined Mr. Paul’s filibuster and is now running against him for the Republican presidential nod, put the blame for the hostages’ death squarely on the militants holding them.

“Today we received another reminder that radical Islamic terrorism remains a deadly threat to our nation,” Mr. Cruz said.

***

* WORLD * Thursday’s emergency summit of EU leaders agreed to triple spending on search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean in an effort to curb the shipwreck deaths of migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East. But as the BBC‘s Chris Morris writes:

Even if naval operations manage to rescue the vast majority, there are bitter disputes about how to deal with the tens of thousands who make it to safety. Britain for example has said it will provide significant naval support, but it won’t accept more asylum seekers.

Some people in southern Europe say that’s not enough. The burden has to be more equitably shared. But there is no common asylum and immigration policy within the EU. Different countries have very different priorities.

It will take years to get the balance right. This summit is only the start.

 

In Vienna, diplomats from the US, the EU and Iran are pressing on towards a final draft of a  nuclear deal, as the June 30 deadline approaches. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif could meet next week in New York during the UN conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

EU ministers said there would be “no deal” struck on Greece‘s debt arrangements on Friday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a “constructive” meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday and said  “everything must be undertaken” to prevent Greece running out of money before reaching a reform deal with creditors. But The Economist explains why a Greek exit from the Euro “may soon become inevitable.”

Unless Syriza suddenly capitulates—and a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers on April 24th is one of its last chances to do so—Greece will fail to pay its creditors. If that happens, its exit from the euro will be just a step away.

 

Friday and Saturday will see ceremonies in Turkey marking the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli, “arguably the most ill-conceived, poorly led and, ultimately, senseless campaign of the first world war,” according to Jon Henley in The Guardian. He says there have been accusations

..that Ankara deliberately brought the Gallipoli centenary commemorations forward to deflect attention from the 100th anniversary – also on 24 April – of the Ottoman massacre of between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians, which Turkey has always refused to acknowledge as genocide.

***

* POLITICS *

After a lengthy journey in the Senate, Loretta Lynch was finally confirmed as Attorney General, a day after her father’s 83rd birthday. ABC News in Raleigh, NC reports:

Reverend Lorenzo Lynch carried a young Loretta Lynch on his shoulders through churches and the civil rights movement of her youth.
On Wednesday, the Durham pastor turned 83, and got the call to head to the nation’s capital, and watch his daughter make history.
Even after she’d experienced the longest confirmation wait of any U.S. Attorney General, Lynch believed in his daughter.
“I never had any doubts that my daughter was qualified. I never had any doubts that my daughter should be nominated, but I wasn’t sure of the technicalities or the slip-ups, or the things beyond her control,” the elder Lynch said Thursday.

 

With further stories emerging about the finances of the Clinton Foundation and their possible effect on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the author of Clinton Cash is reportedly working on a similar investigation of Jeb Bush’s finances that he hopes to publish in the summer, according to Bloomberg.

In a column for New York magazine, Jonathan Chait analyzes the “disastrous Clinton post-presidency,” writing that

The best-case scenario is bad enough: The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy. The news today about the Clintons all fleshes out, in one way or another, their lack of interest in policing serious conflict-of-interest problems that arise in their overlapping roles.

Dylan Byers writes at Politico that Hillary’s dismissal of the book is now “dead in the water,” while a New York Times editorial says the “problem is not going away.” 

The candidate’s Congressional difficulties also seem to show no sign of easing anytime soon.

***

* BRITISH ELECTION * Following the recent furore over Wikipedia edits and so-called “sock-puppetry” The Drum’s election podcast looks at politicians’ relationship to the online oracle, as well as whether personal attacks are having the desired effect.

Meanwhile, there’s an interesting post by Peter Jukes on the declining influence of print newspapers in the campaign.

More acutely, the industrial model of newsprint – press a lever and millions of copies of your ideas and arguments arrive on doorsteps –  is fast fading. To communicate your views in the peer to peer world of Twitter or Facebook, you have to be able to defend them, cajole, persuade and amuse assailants and interlocutors.

 

The BBC looks at the likely influence of potential voters who weren’t born in the UK.

***

* BUSINESS * Comcast could announce on Friday that it is abandoning its $45billion merger with Time Warner Cable after chasing the deal for more than a year. Bloomberg reports that 

The decision marks a swift unraveling of a deal that awaited federal approval for more than a year. Opposition from the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission took shape over the past week, leaving officials of the two companies to conclude the deal wouldn’t pass muster.

Deutsche Bank is to pay a record $2.5billion in penalties to settle a case involving accusations of interest rate manipulationDeutsche Welle writes that “many questions remain unanswered and a raft of other problems facing the bank still simmer.”

HSBC bosses are gearing up for a “testing” shareholder meeting on Friday. The FT writes: “Interviews by the Financial Times with six of the top 20 shareholders at HSBC found that while there is widespread support for the top two executives, some feel the bank needs more radical action after a string of scandals and missed financial targets.”

(Financial Times)

 

Apple Watch. Want one?

***

* SPORTS * Every ticket for the May 2nd fight in Las Vegas between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao sold out within sixty seconds. Yahoo Sports’ Jay Hart looks at how the secondary market is shaping up, while Kevin Iole reports on the last minute deal among the fight’s promoters, and how Senate minority leader Harry Reid got involved.