Boston bomber’s appeal ‘could last a decade’

A court in Boston sentenced Dzhokar Tsarnaev to death, as the Boston Globe reports, “for detonating a bomb amid Boston Marathon spectators that left wounds — emotional and physical — that will persist across lifetimes.”

* Full coverage from the Boston Globe is here.

Among survivors of the attack, there were mixed feelings at the verdict, while some, like the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who died in the blast, had called for a life sentence to avoid the constant reminder of their loss with each new twist in the appeal process.

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker writes

Massachusetts is a liberal place, where the death penalty is unpopular. Historically, it has been unevenly applied in this country, in ways affected by race (particularly the race of the victim), class, region, and blind chance. Its benefits are elusive. To sit on a jury in a capital case, one needs to be “death qualified”—to be willing to kill someone after voting to convict him. If you believe in the death penalty, the verdict form, with all its factors, may look as simple as a road map: How could it but lead to Tsarnaev’s execution? The ways in which death qualification can distort a pool are clear. But then the death penalty twists everything it touches.

At 21, Tsarnaev is to become the youngest inmate on federal death row, and as The Guardian reports, his fate “will take years to reach its conclusion: only three of 340 prisoners sentenced to federal death row have been executed in the last 50 years.”

Though the Justice Department could attempt to fast-track executions in the name of public interest, death penalty experts expect the very quickest timeframe from Friday’s sentence to Tsarnaev actually being put on a gurney and injected with lethal chemicals would be at least 10 years.

Here’s what happens now.

Nicky Woolf at The Guardian writes that 

Tsarnaev’s lawyers are the cream of American death penalty defenders. Clarke, probably the most famous of them all, successfully defended the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, from the death penalty, as well as Jared Loughner, the man who shot congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.

But this is perhaps the hardest case she has ever tried – partly because the defendant remained such an enigma. There was little opportunity for them to graft a fully cohesive narrative to his actions.

martin(image: Huffington Post)

O’Malley prepares ground for 2016 bid

The field for the Democratic Presidential primary looks set to grow after the Baltimore Sun reported that former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will on Friday sign a lease for a likely campaign headquarters in the city, where he also served as Mayor.

As was the case when his for-now would-be opponent Hillary Clinton signed her campaign HQ lease in Brooklyn, federal regulations stipulate that a declaration must follow within 15 days of such formal “campaign activity.” Mrs Clinton visited Brooklyn on Thursday for the first time since her campaign officially began.

O’Malley, who has been quietly campaigning for some time, courting the progressive wing of the party, is planning an official announcement on May 30 in Baltimore. The Washington Post reports that the location

“…is not without risk, especially given recent demonstrations and unrest linked to the arrest and death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. O’Malley, who spent seven years as Baltimore’s mayor, has faced renewed criticism of his “zero tolerance” policing policies since the death of Gray, who was severely injured while in police custody.

As he visited New Hampshire on Wednesday, O’Malley defended his policies, which were credited for reducing violent crime, and said the country needs to invest more heavily in its cities, which he said policymakers from both parties have neglected for years.”


O’Malley also recently found himself – like Republican hopeful Jeb Bush – on the uncomfortable end of questions over whether or not he would have started a war. But as The Guardian reports, “the war in question is not the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The past few news cycles have been dominated by Jeb Bush’s waffling on Megyn Kelly’s question “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion [of Iraq]?”…

…former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is a well-known War of 1812 buff but, emulating Jeb Bush, he refused to take a stand on whether, knowing what we know now, he would support James Madison’s decision to declare war on Great Britain in 1812.

The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent writes that O’Malley and the other progressive candidate so far in the race, Sen Bernie Sanders, should ensure frontrunner Hillary Clinton faces some tough questions as the campaign moves forward. Sargent runs down some of the issues for debate “even if Clinton’s ultimate victory seems all but assured.”

As for Hillary Clinton’s campaign itself, the issue of the Clinton Foundation continued to bubble through the news cycle, after ABC News host and former Bill Clinton White House aide George Stephanopolous admitted he should have disclosed donations to the Foundation totaling $75,000 over the past three years. It turned out also that another donor was none other than Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, whose work against the abuse of money in politics became the signature element of his Senate career, announced he was running again for the seat he lost five years ago.

(Russ For Wisconsin)

Alex Roarty at the National Journal explains why Democrats need Feingold to win.

Without Wisconsin, Democrats would need to run the table in less-inviting states such as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Florida or pick up an unexpected win in more conservative-leaning locales like North Carolina or Indiana. (Meanwhile, the party also has to defend seats against potentially stiff challenges in Colorado and Nevada.) That’s not impossible, but it’s a much more difficult path.


* WORLD * The jury in the Boston marathon bombing trial completed its first full day of deliberations in the penalty phase, and is expected to reconvene on Friday. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted last month of all 30 federal charges against him, including 17 carrying the possibility of the death penalty.

* Full coverage from the Boston Globe is here.

Investigations continue into the causes of the derailment of an Amtrak train near Philadelphia which killed eight people. Video showed the train speeding up immediately prior to the crash, but as CNN reports, the “jury is still out on the big questions”

* Full coverage from is here.

An attempted coup in Burundi has apparently failed, with President Pierre Nkurunziza and the military apparently back in control of the capital Bujumbura.


* POLITICS * The House passed a bill giving Congress the right to review, and possibly reject, any international nuclear deal with Iran. The bill, which had already passed the Senate, now heads to President Obama.

The President himself on Thursday used the conclusion of a two-day summit at Camp David to reassure Gulf leaders that the US was committed to protecting them at a time of “extraordinary changes.” Tensions are high in the region, particularly after Iranian gunships fired warning shots towards a Singapore-flagged cargo ship in international waters.

The Senate passed a bill granting the President fast-track trade authorization power, a reversal of Tuesday’s move by the House to stall the legislation.


* BRITISH POLITICS * With murmurings of a second Scottish independence referendum amid the Scottish National Party’s post-election euphoria, Prime Minister David Cameron travels to Scotland on Friday to meet with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, with both sides braced for a confrontation that could likely help determine the direction of the Union in coming years.

Meanwhile, The United Kingdom Independence Party appears in some disarray, with leader Nigel Farage resisting calls to step down, telling BBC Question Time that he has “phenomenal” support within the party.



* MEDIA * In his latest Newsonomics column, Ken Doctor looks at how razor-thin profits are cutting into newspapers’ chances for innovation. He writes:

This paltry performance drives the landscape we see today. With little in net, these companies have little to invest. They’re still paying off debt, issuing dividends, keeping up with pension obligations, and anticipating print ad results that can’t find a bottom. That makes it tough to invest in new products and to travel with the audience as it moves to mobile. And of course it’s bound to mean even more reductions in workforces, including newsrooms, which are already down by more than 20,000 in less than a decade.


The decision by a Fox affiliate to censor its coverage of the big Picasso sale the other night drew what was probably a predictable reaction.


* CULTURE *  There’s a really nice little read – no pun intended – by Alex Johnson at Slate on the world’s smallest libraries.

Tiny libraries in converted phone booths, purpose-built kiosks, experimental art installations, quirky handmade boxes—and even one refrigerator—are springing up on street corners around the world at a rapid rate. These miniature lending libraries lead the communal book revolution, bringing reading material to the masses at a level that far exceeds their size.

Finally, the voice of Mr Burns leaving The Simpsons? Surely not.

Harry Shearer voiced several of the show’s best-loved characters.

But. maybe there’s still hope…

House backs curbs on phone data collection

The House of Representatives voted in favor of the USA Freedom Act – a bill that would restrict the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records – setting up a tussle over the measure in the Senate. The Washington Post reports:

Congress must act by June 1 or the NSA’s existing authority, under Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, lapses, and along with it not only the phone records program but also other intelligence authorities that the government says are crucial to detecting and preventing terrorist attacks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he plans to move forward with a renewal of the NSA’s existing authority. A federal appeals court in New York ruled last week that that law did not provide sufficient legal authority for the phone records program, but key backers of the program say they believe no changes to the law are necessary.

The New York Times reports:

So for the N.S.A., which has been internally questioning the cost effectiveness of bulk collection for years, the bill would make the agency’s searches somewhat less efficient, but it would not wipe them out. With the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the spy agencies or the F.B.I. could request data relevant to an investigation. Corporate executives have said that while they would have to reformat some data to satisfy government search requirements, they could most likely provide data quickly.

Wired writes that “Civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others are divided in their support of the bill. Many say it’s better than nothing, but hope that the Senate will add wording to strengthen protections before passage.”


* WORLD * The Amtrak train that derailed outside Philadelphia on Tuesday night was apparently traveling at 106 mph, more than twice the limit for that particular zone, which includes a sharp curve. Details have begun to emerge of the victims of the crash, while some passengers are still missing.

* Full crash coverage from is here.

The circumstances of the crash have prompted a fresh debate over the nation’s infrastructure spending, particularly on transportation. John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker:

It’s no mystery why much of our public infrastructure is overloaded and crumbling. America is a growing country, and investment in infrastructure has failed to keep up with expanding needs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties we spent close to five per cent of G.D.P. on new transport and water projects, and on maintaining existing systems. European nations still spend about that much today, while China and other rapidly developing Asian countries spend close to twice as much. In the United States, however, spending on infrastructure is only about half of what it used to be, relative to G.D.P.

It’s also worth revisiting this from the FT’s Robert Wright:


Reuters has an exclusive that the Czech Republic blocked Iran from purchasing “a large shipment of sensitive technology useable for nuclear enrichment” earlier this year, after false documents raised suspicion.


* CULTURE * Former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee is planning to launch her own late-night show.


* SPORTS * Juventus will play Barcelona for the Champions League title, after drawing 1-1 at Real Madrid, enough to see them through on aggregate.

The New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in an overtime thriller to advance to the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game One is on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.


Fatal Philly derailment a “disastrous mess”

TrainDerailment_c25-0-3432-1986_s561x327(image: Associated Press)

At least five people were killed and many injured, some seriously, when a New York-bound Amtrak train from Washington DC derailed just north of Philadelphia at around 9.30pm on Tuesday night.

Several cars derailed and some had flipped over. There was a massive response by emergency teams, working initially in almost complete darkness, with rescuers using flashlights to search for people in the mangled wreckage.

More than 200 people were thought to be on board, including five Amtrak crew. There was no official word so far as to the cause of the accident, but officials said there was no indication there had been a collision with another train or vehicle. Some passengers reported feeling a “vibration” before the incident occurred. The NTSB has dispatched a team to begin an investigation.

NBC10 Philadelphia reported that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called the scene an “absolute disastrous mess.” The Mayor later said it would be unlikely there would be any service on the line for the rest of the week.

(CBS News)

(Fox News)

* Live coverage from is here


* WORLD * After Nepal experienced a second large earthquake, in which dozens of people are reported to have died, a US Marine helicopter helping with emergency relief and evacuations was reported missing. The aircraft had six US Marines and two Nepalese military officials on board.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday in the sentencing phase of the trial of Boston marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

* Full coverage from the Boston Globe is here.

A five-day humanitarian cease-fire began Tuesday night in Yemen, with ships ready to deliver aid cargoes. But some fighting was reportedly continuing.

North Korea may have executed its defense chief according to reports in South Korea, while a high-level defector has been telling CNN about Kim Jong Un’s “reign of terror.”

Prince Charles’s “secret” memos to government ministers are set to be published on Wednesday. The release comes after the 27 letters were the subject of a lengthy Freedom of Information request by The Guardian. The paper writes that

[Former Attorney General Dominic] Grieve vetoed the information tribunal’s original decision to order publication in 2012, warning that the letters “contain remarks about public affairs which would in my view, if revealed, have had a material effect upon the willingness of the government to engage in correspondence with the Prince of Wales, and would potentially have undermined his position of political neutrality”.


* POLITICS * Senate Democrats defied President Obama by preventing a vote on fast-track trade authority from coming to the floor. The Hill reports that the legislation “faces even stronger opposition from Democrats in the House, and the surprise Senate failure could signal the beginning of the end for one of Obama’s top priorities.”

GOP Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush is set to skip the Iowa straw poll – and apparently “misheard” a question about Iraq from Fox News’s Megyn Kelly.

(CBS News)


* BUSINESS * Verizon is buying AOL for $4.4bn – Vox notes that the price paid is more than the combined value of BuzzFeed and the New York Times, “which sounds like a much more formidable content portfolio.” As you’d imagine, there were plenty of “dial-up” jokes. Verizon’s aim is to tap AOL’s mobile video advertising know-how. Robert Hof writes at Forbes on why “advertisers really want the deal to succeed, but fear it won’t.”


* MEDIA * A new partnership beginning on Wednesday between Facebook and a number of leading publishers including NBC News and the New York Times will see select content delivered directly into Facebook consumers’ news feed. Gabriel Sherman at New York magazine calls it “a tectonic shift in the publishing industry.” He writes:

Not surprisingly, the prospect of a Facebook partnership is generating palpable anxiety inside the Times newsroom, with some Times journalists casting it as an end-of-the-Times-as-we-know-it inflection point. When rumors of a deal surfaced last October, the Times‘ late media columnist David Carr articulated this view, writing “the wholesale transfer of content sends a cold, dark chill down the collective spine of publishers, both traditional and digital insurgents alike.”



* CULTURE * Prof Stephen Hawking will apparently appear at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. No information was available about his possible set.


* SPORTS * Barcelona will play either Juventus or Real Madrid in the Champions League final, after Luis Enrique’s team had enough from the first leg against Bayern Munich to hold off a spirited but ultimately futile fightback in Bavaria.


Kerry heads for talks in Russia

UPDATE 8AM ET May 12 – Secretary Kerry arrived in Sochi this morning, with a meeting with President Putin now confirmed. As well as the situation in Ukraine, the two are set to discuss Iran, Yemen and the campaign against ISIS. 


US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday in Sochi – the first cabinet-level visit to Russia since the start of the crisis in Ukraine. It was still unconfirmed late on Monday whether Kerry would also meet with President Vladimir Putin, although the Wall Street Journal reported that

The Kremlin didn’t immediately confirm the meeting with Mr. Putin, though a spokesman had said last week one was possible. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “It’s certainly our understanding that it’s confirmed.”

Meanwhile the White House continues to play down the absence of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman from President Obama’s gulf leaders summit later this week.

The Saudi foreign minister said the King’s decision to skip Thursday’s gathering was not a “snub” but Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post writes:

To say this is a slight or an insult is to minimize the symbolism of the decision. The Saudi king is telling America and the world: There is nothing President Obama can promise that is worth the trip.


* WORLD * Fallout continues from Seymour Hersh’s article on the official account surrounding the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden – which, incidentally, temporarily crashed the London Review of Books site. Max Fisher at Vox looks at the “many problems” with Hersh’s “conspiracy theory”.

If [Hersh’s account] seems like worryingly little evidence for a story that accuses hundreds of people across three governments of staging a massive international hoax that has gone on for years, then you are not alone.

On Sunday night, national security journalists and analysts on Twitter picked through the story, expressing dismay at its tissue-thin sourcing, its leaps of logic, and its internal contradictions.

Politico said US officials were left “fuming” by the story, while a former CIA official told Business Insider Hersh’s account was “not plausible.” NBC News, however, appeared to confirm elements of the story.

Separately, a former CIA agent convicted of sharing classified information with a New York Times reporter was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.


* POLITICS * The Senate will vote on Tuesday on whether to grant President Obama trade promotion authority – an issue that has sharply divided congressional Democrats.

Chris Christie apparently spent $82,000 of taxpayer money on food and drinks at NFL games. Philip Bump at the Washington Post looks at some other things he could have spent the money – more than $1,400 on 58 separate occasions at New York Jets and Giants games – on including

Three years of tuition at Rutgers. The amount Christie spent at football games is almost exactly enough to cover freshman through junior years at Rutgers.

Are the Governor’s presidential ambitions finally finished this time? Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast writes that “.. history suggests that Christie is a political cockroach, or a zombie, or a tomb-escaping, well-fed Jesus. But can he come back from the dead again?”

Christie’s fellow GOP Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told CBS “I don’t have to defend everything I’ve ever done,” but then kind of did exactly that. Meanwhile, Bloomberg‘s Mark Halperin apologized for questions he asked Sen Ted Cruz during an interview the Washington Post described as “cringey.”


* BRITISH POLITICS * As Ed Miliband headed for a post-election holiday in Ibiza, his brother David gave an exclusive interview to the BBC, in which he said that voters “did not want what was being offered” under his brother’s leadership of the Labour party.


UKIP’s Nigel Farage might not be stepping down as leader after all, withdrawing his resignation after the party said it had “refused to accept it.”


* CULTURE * Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting “Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”),” became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, when it was bought for $180million at Christie’s in New York, some $40million above estimates.

American Idol will end its run next year, after being cancelled by Fox. Simon Cowell said “We had a blast.”


* MEDIA * After the New York Times‘ remarkable investigative piece on nail salons and the “underpaid and underprotected” people who work in them – which the Columbia Journalism Review reports is being translated into four languages – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced emergency actions to improve working conditions. NPR reports:

“We will not stand idly by as workers are deprived of their hard-earned wages and robbed of their most basic rights,” said Cuomo in a statement. “This task force will crack down on these kinds of abuses in the nail salon industry, enforce all of New York’s health and safety regulations, and help ensure that no one, regardless of their citizenship status or what language they speak, is illegally victimized by their employer.”


There is anxiety in some quarters over the future of the BBC, amid a sense that the incoming Conservative government is “at war” with the Corporation by appointing license fee critic John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary. The Independent reports:

Mr Whittingdale is expected to make changes in the way the BBC is funded and governed. He has described the flat-rate, £145.50-a-year licence fee as “worse than the poll tax” and suggested it could become “unsustainable” in the long term. He said last autumn: “I think there’s quite an attractive option of linking it to a specific household tax – maybe council tax.”

Bellingcat, the investigative site that has pioneered the use of geolocating images to contextualize and amplify news stories, says it has a “big announcement” on Ukraine set for Tuesday.


* SPORTS * The NFL suspended Patriots QB Tom Brady for four games, and imposed additional sanctions on the team – including a $1million fine – for their alleged roles in the whole “deflategate” nonsense. Brady’s agent says he will appeal.



Greek debt again taxes Eurozone ministers

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday morning as Greece faces a $865m repayment to the IMF on Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the IMF is “working with national authorities in southeastern Europe” on contingency plans for a Greek default.

European officials expect no breakthroughs at a meeting of the currency union’s finance ministers on Monday. That means Greek lenders will remain under pressure, dependent on relatively expensive liquidity from the Greek central bank and at risk of bank runs in case doubts emerge over their ability to pay out deposits.

John Hooper at The Guardian writes that “There is a striking disconnection in Athens between the blithe lack of concern that the government evinces, and which it has successfully communicated to much of the public, and the objective seriousness of Greece’s plight.”


* WORLD * Thousands of people were forced to evacuate as Super Typhoon Noul crashed ashore in the Philippines although authorities said the damage wasn’t “as significant” as authorities had feared. Meanwhile, the first Atlantic tropical storm of the season made landfall in South Carolina – three weeks ahead of the official start of storm season – amid a weekend of “bizarre” weather across the US. 

The Peoples Bank of China reduced interest rates for the third time in six months as the country’s economy slowed. Last year’s growth rate – 7.4% down from 7.7% in 2013 – was the weakest in 24 years.

A Moroccan F-16 jet fighter taking part in Arab coalition air strikes in Yemen went missing after apparently being hit, a Moroccan Air Force statement said. Meanwhile, Yemen’s dominant Houthi group accepted a five-day humanitarian ceasefire proposed by Saudi Arabia on Sunday. The truce could begin by Tuesday.


* POLITICS * An article by journalist Seymour Hersh in the latest London Review of Books contends that the Obama administration “lied” about the account of the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Seth Maxon at Slate writes that it’s hard to know how trustworthy Hersh’s piece is, since it mostly relies on the information of a single anonymous source—and because it doesn’t appear in Hersh’s usual venue for blockbuster investigative pieces, the New Yorker.

Former President Jimmy Carter cut short a trip to Guyana after it was reported he was “not feeling well.” Carter, who is 90, was expected to return to Atlanta on Sunday.



Here’s a montage of Thursday’s election night in 90 seconds


With David Cameron continuing to shape his first all-Tory cabinet, Anne Applebaum at the Washington Post writes on what his victory on Thursday means for Britain:

Suddenly, a vision of a different future has opened up, especially for a certain kind of English Tory: Without dour, difficult, left-wing Scotland, maybe they could rule the rest of what used to be Great Britain, indefinitely. For U.S. readers who find the significance of this hard to understand: Imagine that a Texan secessionist party had, after years of campaigning, just taken every Texan seat in Congress. And now imagine that quite a few people in the rest of the country — perhaps in the Democratic Party — had, after years of arguing back, finally begun to think that Texan secession really might not be so bad and were beginning to calculate the electoral advantages accordingly.

As the jockeying to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader starts to heat up, one man who was considered a possible front-runner – Dan Jarvis – ruled himself out, saying taking the job wouldn’t be fair to his kids.

Meanwhile, former Labour PM Tony Blair weighed into the debate on how the party needs to re-invent itself. “Ed [Miliband] was absolutely right to raise the issue of inequality and to say that Labour should focus anew on it,” Blair wrote in The Observer. “This will stand as his contribution to the party’s development. In so far as this was an implied rebuke to my politics, I accept it. But we still need ways relevant to today and tomorrow, not yesterday, to tackle it.”

David Miliband, the former Labour leader’s brother, is expected to make a statement on his own political future, in New York on Monday.

In the election’s “other” battle, between the two Obama advisers, Jim Messina was advising the Tories while David Axelrod worked for Ed Miliband. Next up, Messina will be working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Meanwhile, Brad Knickerbocker at the Christian Science Monitor looks at how the UK pollsters got it wrong, and whether there are lessons for the US.

Nate Silver, formerly of the New York Times and now writing his FiveThirtyEight blog as part of his gig with ESPN, was forecasting 272 seats for Conservatives and 271 for Labor – dead even. It takes 326 seats for a clear majority, and in the end Tories won big with 331 seats – 99 more than their main rival Labor.

How does Mr. Silver (who correctly predicted the outcome in the last three US presidential elections) explain this?

“Perhaps it’s just been a run of bad luck. But there are lots of reasons to worry about the state of the polling industry,” he writes. “Voters are becoming harder to contact, especially on landline telephones. Online polls have become commonplace, but some eschew probability sampling, historically the bedrock of polling methodology. And in the U.S., some pollsters have been caught withholding results when they differ from other surveys, ‘herding’ toward a false consensus about a race instead of behaving independently.”


* CULTURE *  Thousands of people turned out in Baltimore Sunday night to see a ‘Rally 4 Peace’ concert featuring Prince, who released a new song, “Baltimore” – what the Baltimore Sun describes as “an upbeat toe-tapping ode to ending police brutality.” The show streamed live on Jay-Z’s new music service Tidal.


Sunday night was the TV BAFTAs in London – winners and nominees are here.


* SPORTS * The word of the weekend was “clutch”. Rickie Fowler won golf’s Players’ Championship in a playoff; Andy Murray beat Rafa Nadal in the Madrid Open; Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton to win the Spanish Grand Prix; Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers held on to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 and force a Game 7 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden; and LeBron James’s buzzer beater beat the Chicago Bulls to tie their NBA playoff series at 2-2.


Columnist and commentator Bill Simmons will be parting ways with ESPN after almost 15 years. James Andrew Miller has the lowdown on the “shocking, abrupt divorce” at Vanity Fair.

You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see that things were looking bleak for the team of Bill Simmons and ESPN. When Simmons appeared on the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday, he once again attacked [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell, saying with a certain formality that Goodell lacks “testicular fortitude.”

Finally, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay has some suggestions for how the NFL should punish Tom Brady. An example: “During the two Patriots-Jets games, Brady must play every other quarter for the Jets. I know this sounds crazy but it’s simply a reversal of the normal routine, since the Jets offense historically plays every other quarter for the Patriots.”

(An actual announcement by the NFL on Brady’s punishment for his role in the “deflategate” episode is expected this week, according to the New York Daily News.)


This Disunited Kingdom

* Rolling – actually, slightly lurching – coverage and commentary is here *


David Cameron will remain as Britain’s Prime Minister after a remarkable election night where Labour’s optimism spectacularly evaporated, with Ed Miliband’s discomfort emphasized by his party being all but wiped out in Scotland by a series of remarkable swings to the SNP, which saw the loss of Jim Murphy, Labour’s leader in Scotland, and Douglas Alexander the shadow foreign secretary.

The biggest Labour casualty of the night, though, was Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who lost his Morley and Outwood seat to the Conservatives by just over 400 votes.

“Any personal disappointment I have at this result is as nothing compared to the sense of sorrow I have at the result Labour has achieved across the UK, and the sense of concern I have about the future,” he said.

Pressure on Miliband’s own position grew swiftly as the extent of the party’s disappointment became clearer, to the point where a shortlist of potential successors was already being discussed. The Labour leader is set to make a speech at noon London time.

* UPDATE * Miliband said he was stepping down and that Harriet Harman would act as interim leader. Nick Clegg also resigned as leader of the Lib Dems after what he called “the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded.” 

An initial BBC exit poll at 10pm appeared to repudiate the final pre-election opinion polls – which showed the main parties neck-and-neck – by indicating that the Conservatives would win the most seats – 316, against Labour’s 239 – but would still be short of a majority.

But as the evening developed, it appeared that not only was that original exit poll broadly accurate, but analysts suggested the Conservatives could even secure their own working majority. Their previous coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, had a hugely disappointing night, losing their deposits in some early seats and battling for third place in several constituencies with UKIP.

The BBC later revised its projections to show the Conservatives within touching distance of a parliamentary majority.

In Cameron’s acceptance speech in his Witney constituency, he talked about governing for “one nation” and delivering on devolution pledges for Wales and Scotland, as well as a referendum on Britain’s role in Europe. He said:

This is clearly a very strong night for the Conservative party. I think it has a positive response to a positive campaign about safeguarding our economy, about creating jobs, about our record in government over the last five years but above all our plan for the next five years, based on clear values of wanting to reward work in our country, that those who put in and do their best should find the system is on their side.




* WORLD * Friday marks the 70th anniversary of VE Day – the German surrender and the end of World War Two in Europe.


Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US military had begun training moderate Syrian fighters “at a foreign location” as part of anti-ISIS efforts.

A court in New York ruled that the NSA program for the bulk collection of phone records was illegal. The New York Times reports:

The court, in a unanimous ruling written by Judge Gerard E. Lynch, held that Section 215 “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.” It declared the program illegal, saying, “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the decision was “being reviewed.” Orin Kerr writes at the Washington Post why the ruling, on Edward Snowden’s biggest leak, is “largely symbolic.” 

Hillary Clinton tweeted:


* MEDIA * 

The Huffington Post marked its ten-year anniversary by, according to founder Arianna Huffington, “looking to the next ten.” She writes:

Above all, in the next 10 years we are determined to reimagine journalism with our What’s Working global initiative, taking it beyond the tired “If it bleeds, it leads” approach. We will of course continue covering the crises, the stories of violence, tragedy, dysfunction and corruption, but we’re dramatically increasing our coverage of stories of innovation, creativity, ingenuity and compassion, because we believe we owe it to our readers to give a full picture of what is happening in the world. At the moment we talk about media coverage inspiring a lot of copycat crimes. We also want to produce the kind of journalism that inspires copycat solutions.


* SPORTS * Tom Brady’s camp pushed back over yesterday’s NFL report into the so-called “Deflategate” episode. Even as the New England Patriots quarterback himself said he was “still digesting” the report, his agent Don Yee said the report was a “significant and terrible disappointment” and “a sad day for the league.”


* CULTURE * ABC‘s late night host Jimmy Kimmel said he would not broadcast a new show on May 20, the night of David Letterman’s final Tonight Show. The New York Times reports:

“I have too much respect for Dave to do anything that would distract viewers from watching his final show,” Mr. Kimmel said in an email. “Plus, I’ll probably be crying all day, which makes it hard to work.”

Also at the New York Times magazine, former Letterman writer Steve O’Donnell lists the Top Ten Letterman on-air moments, including Bud Melman welcoming travelers to the PABT, Warren Zevon’s final show and, of course, Dave’s monologue on the first show back after 9/11. Gems all.

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert, who takes over from Letterman later in the year, made a great charitable gesture by offering to fund every grant request by a teacher in his home state of South Carolina, something that could cost the comedian up to $800,000.

(USA Today)

More probable than not

Britain votes on Thursday, with a hung parliament seeming to be more probable than not.

The bookies are stumped, and we’re all down to our last cliches; but in spite of an apparent across the board freak out among the papers, it’s highly likely that the fun isn’t over just yet.

Here’s 11 weird memes that help explain the election via the Washington Post, while here’s five things you need to know, according to USA Today, and the BBC has six reasons anyone else should care.

CNN says the election is about “fish, bacon and beer,” while there have even been newspaper ads telling voters to ignore  other newspapers.

David Axelrod, who is advising Labour’s Ed Miliband – in opposition to his former Obama White House colleague Jim Messina, who is working for David Cameron’s Tories – tells Politico about the differences in the two countries’ campaign processes.

First is money.  It’s huge. I was a media consultant for 25 years and while I did all the things I’m doing here I also produced advertising. That’s a huge difference between American politics and British politics. Ads help define campaigns in America and they’re absent here — which may be better for the commonweal but it’s one less really powerful tool in the tool box.

Second difference is length of campaign, which is quite short. So you have a short time to communicate your message.

As a result there is a disproportionate power in the media and a much more aggressive media that you have to navigate.

The BBC’s first Election Night Special live coverage was in 1955. Here’s what’s changed since, and what hasn’t.

And here’s the Beeb’s reporting rules for election day (via Nick Sutton)


* Polls close in the UK at 10pm (5pm ET) — Check back with The Note tomorrow for live coverage as the results come in *


* US POLITICS * The Senate is set to vote on Thursday on a bill that would let Congress review the terms of any upcoming nuclear deal with Iran. The AP reports:

Supporters want the bill passed free of controversial add-ons they claim could scuttle negotiations with Tehran, draw a presidential veto or leave lawmakers with no say on a national security threat. Negotiators for the U.S. and five other nations are rushing toward a June 30 deadline to finalize a deal in which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions choking its economy.


Vox explains the increasingly bizarre controversy around the pseudo-conspiracy over Jade Helm 15, “which, depending on whom you ask, is either an unusually large training exercise or a plot to shred the Constitution and place Texas under martial law.” West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin weighed in thus..

(Comedy Central)

Former Senator Rick Santorum – who won 11 states in the 2012 GOP primary – said he would announce his plans regarding a run for President on May 27th.

(Bad Lip Reading)


Former House Speaker Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat who resigned in 1989 amid an ethics investigation, died aged 92.


* WORLD * Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized a deal to form a coalition government, apparently 90 minutes before the midnight deadline.

Yemen appealed to the UN Security Council for an intervention by land forces to “save the country.” Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Riyadh to press the Saudi government on a pledge to suspend its air war.

Tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska on Wednesday, as heavy storms and resulting floods ripped across the plains, destroying homes and disrupting travel.


* MEDIA * Al Jazeera America on Wednesday replaced CEO Ehab Al Shihabi after a week of management uncertainty. The New York Times writes: “Al Jazeera, its newsroom in turmoil, is now the news.”

Banjo, a platform for instantaneously scanning social media for trending topics and images, raised $100million in new funding. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Damien Patton, Banjo’s founder and chief executive, likes to call the program a “crystal ball,” because it gives users a view of the entire globe. His team has overlaid a map of the globe with a grid of 35 billion squares, each one about the size of a football field. Any time an image is publicly shared to the Web and tagged with a specific location, Banjo’s system automatically places it within the grid and keeps track of what time it happened and classifies objects within the image. Patton said his computers currently process about 1 quadrillion computations every 10 seconds, and by the end of the year that will be up to 1 quadrillion per second.




As an exquisite performance by Lionel Messi helped Barcelona take a commanding 3-0 first-leg lead over Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final, the Spanish football federation announced that the domestic season would be suspended on May 16 amid a dispute over TV rights.

At the completely other end of the sporting spectrum, the NFL’s report into “deflategate” was released, as the Boston Globe says, “tarnishing the Patriots’ legacy, [and] this time tainting Tom Brady.” Sports Illustrated says there are still plenty of grey areas, and Brady’s father has already labeled the whole thing “framegate”, but as SI writes: “it’s the appearance of a cover-up (and how that feeds into the image of the envelope-pushing, rule-bending Patriots) that has more impact than the crime itself.”

The report says:

“ is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel … were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules…. we also have concluded that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”


Defending the dreamers

Hillary Clinton marked Cinco de Mayo by making a bold pronouncement on immigration policy, calling for a path to citizenship. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Although many details of her immigration policy remain to be filled in, Clinton’s comments in Las Vegas drew a purposely sharp line between her stance and that of the large GOP field — none of whom supports a path to citizenship for people lacking proper legal documentation.

It also highlighted a split among Republicans, between hard-liners who favor an enforcement-driven approach to illegal immigration and others who support a more comprehensive overhaul that, in some fashion, would allow millions of people in the country without proper documentation to stay permanently.

(C-Span/Jamie DuPree)

According to the AP, Clinton said she supported President Obama’s executive actions and would “defend” them against Republican opposition while seeking ways to expand them if elected President.

President Obama himself also talked immigration with a group of Hispanic leaders and activists at the White House, saying: “Congress still needs to step up and ultimately pass comprehensive immigration reform,” and that passing a bill is “the right thing to do.”

The DNC announced it would host six primary debates starting this fall.

On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee launched his bid for the nomination, as Philip Bump writes at the Washington Post, “with a violation of campaign finance law.”

Jeb Bush, still to formally join the race, also issued a Cinco De Mayo message, as New York magazine observes, “recorded for some unknown reason on the floor of a factory.”

(YouTube/Right To Rise PAC)

With the GOP field continuing to expand, Time magazine notes that the party’s first big test will be “fitting candidates on the debate stage.”

The first debate, in Cleveland in August, will be the most pivotal, according to GOP operatives and campaign aides. Failure to earn a place on the stage will likely be the death knell to a campaign, depriving a candidate of an opportunity to shine, and a visible mark of failure in a crowded field. Republicans who have traveled the country boosting their name recognition but who haven’t made any steps toward actually running, like Rep. Pete King and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, are, by all accounts, out.

Carly Fiorina, who entered the race on Monday, sat down with Yahoo’s Katie Couric, who expertly knocked back Fiorina’s attempt to plead sexism when asked if she was really running for vice-president.

Away from potential Presidential politics, in Staten Island on Tuesday, Republican Dan Donovan won a special election to replace Rep Michael Grimm, who had been elected to a third term while under federal indictment, and resigned in January after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges.


* WORLD * ISIS claimed credit for the recent shooting attack in Texas, but there appears little proof of a connection beyond social media activity and a possibly inspirational – rather than operational – role. Time writes:

On Tuesday, a statement from ISIS’s Al Bayan radio claimed responsibility for the attack, marking the first such ISIS claim for an attack on U.S. soil. “We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of ISIS do terrible things,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the US offered $20million in rewards for four men described as ISIS leaders.

In France, new legislation gives the government broader surveillance and intelligence-gathering powers.The BBC‘s Hugh Schofield writes: “It has been an unusual debate. Many in the Socialist Party who would normally have spoken out against the new powers have instead kept quiet. In the wake of the January attacks, there is little political mileage in raising doubts about the intelligence services…The consensus means that the powerful civil liberties arguments have had little of an airing in the National Assembly. In some sessions there were no more than a handful of deputies in attendance.”


* BRITISH ELECTION *  With one more full day of campaigning to go, the papers are fairly ramped up, many pushing their proprietors’ preferences.

With the parties still almost inseparable in the latest party vs party polls, almost half of respondents to an IPSOS/MORI issues poll say the future of the NHS is most important for them – which The Economist writes, should be good news for Labour. 

Here’s how the parties have performed on social media during the campaign:

BBC Newsnight explains “who gets to be PM if nobody wins”

And finally,


* MEDIA * News Corp saw its profits halved in the third quarter, year-on-year, but is apparently now “a global leader in digital real estate” due to the growth of its property site.


* SPORT * After the opening Champions League semi-final, Juventus will take a 2-1 lead into next week’s second leg against Real Madrid. Wednesday sees Barcelona host Bayern Munich in the first leg of the other semi, as Pep Guardiola returns to the scene of his previous success.

A German TV crew said they had their recordings wiped and were detained in Qatar while filming a documentary on conditions for migrant workers preparing for the 2022 World Cup. Qatari officials said the journalists did not have the proper permits for filming in the country. German television on Monday aired the documentary the crew had been working on, about FIFA and the awarding of the 2022 tournament.

With Floyd Mayweather apparently realizing that there could be plenty of lucrative mileage left in fighting Manny Pacquiao, there are a couple of fascinating legal situations arising from their initial “event” at the weekend. Pacquiao is apparently being sued by two fight fans over failing to disclose his shoulder injury, while the bout’s broadcasters, HBO and Showtime, are dealing with the new reality posed by live-streaming technology, specifically Twitter’s app Periscope.


* CULTURE * There is new audio from some of Thomas Edison’s 19th century talking dolls, and it’s very very creepy indeed.

You take the high road


With three days until polling day in the UK, perhaps the most crucial battleground is north of the border – which remains a major challenge for the Labour opposition. As the BBC says: “Scotland, once an impregnable Labour redoubt, has become increasingly hostile territory for the party – and the political implications for governing the UK are significant.

The latest YouGov poll showed the two main parties still neck-and-neck, on 33 per cent, increasing speculation about a hung parliament – something Jonathan Jones at The Guardian says could be “the greatest thing for British culture since the 1970s.”

Meanwhile, for the Lib Dems, the challenge remains making sure they’re not left out in the cold.

The Independent endorsed a continuation of the current coalition. Its Sunday sister did not. The IoS leader says:

Thursday may not, of course, be the end of the democratic process. Our politics seems to have entered a new world in which the post-election negotiations are as important as the pre-election campaigning. Our view is that the coalition was too rushed last time, and that if there are to be multi-party negotiations, they should take time, they should be transparent and the people should feel that they reflect how they voted rather than being stitched up behind closed doors. To be continued next week …


* WORLD * According to Paul Farhi at the Washington Post, Fox News briefly reported that Baltimore police had shot a man on Monday afternoon before a network anchor corrected the report. The Baltimore Sun reported that a shot had been fired by a “fleeing suspect” but that no-one had been hurt. Other media outlets also covered the erroneous report before police issued a statement.

The Post’s Farhi writes:

[Mike] Tobin’s report caused about 30 minutes of unease in Baltimore before Fox anchor Shepard Smith went on-air to correct the story and apologize for the incorrect information. His apology followed a statement from Baltimore police that there had been no shooting.

Live news reports often have errors, and Tobin’s is merely the latest in a long series of them. Yet few recent reports have had as much potential as Tobin’s to stir a violent reaction, considering it came amid more than a week of protests about alleged police misconduct.


A new report by Amnesty International says people in the Syrian city of Aleppo are suffering “unthinkable atrocities,”  the BBC reports.

syria(image: AFP/Yahoo)


* US POLITICS * Tuesday is shaping up to be a crunch day for congressional legislation on review of any Iran nuclear deal. The Hill reports that the full Republican conference is to discuss procedural approaches to the bill at their lunchtime meeting.

After two former aides of Gov Chris Christie pleaded not guilty over charges related to the so-called “Bridgegate” episode, Robert Hennelly writes at Salon on “the outrage no-one is talking about.”

As Hillary Clinton agreed to testify “later this month” before a House panel investigating Benghazi, her husband talked about recent criticism surrounding his Foundation. Politico reports:

Bill Clinton firmly asserted that the foundation he started after his presidency has not done anything “knowingly inappropriate” in accepting foreign cash while his wife was secretary of state. He also veered into territory that was classic Clinton, and not in a good way.

His justification for his own $500,000-a-pop speaking fees — “I gotta pay our bills” — and his insistence that his family is held to unfair standards, in an interview aired Monday on NBC, raised eyebrows inside of Clinton world and out.


After Ben Carson – with his “over the top ego” according to Dana Milbank – and Carly Fiorina (who seems to have a domain name problem) joined the GOP field on Monday, Mike Huckabee looks set to be the latest to declare his candidacy, at an event in Hope, Arkansas on Tuesday.


* MEDIA * The FT’s Shannon Bond reports that a “third top executive in a week” has left Al Jazeera America.


* CULTURE * Tuesday sees the controversial PEN Literary Gala in the wake of a boycott by some prominent writers over an award to Charlie Hebdo sparked what the New York Times calls “an unusually intense war of words in the heart of the American literary establishment.” The event comes in the aftermath of the shooting incident in Texas on Sunday in which two gunmen were killed after attacking an event organized by a group  considered to be anti-Muslim.

Muslim groups condemned the attack.

Finally, the AP reports that scholars at Berkeley have uncovered a number of newspaper columns written by Mark Twain dating from 1865, when Twain was 29.