British PM pledges action on migrants

British Prime Minister David Cameron is promising to ramp up action to tackle a worsening migrant situation which he says “will last all summer” and which is sharply dividing opinion among Britons.

The Refugee Council previously criticized Cameron’s description of “swarms” of migrants, calling his language “irresponsible, dehumanising” and “extremely inflammatory”.

Daniel Trilling writes at The Guardian that Europe could solve the migrant crisis – if it wanted.

Refugees from many countries – not just Sudan but Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and beyond – are taking clandestine journeys across Europe in search of a country that will give them the chance to rebuild their lives. Living in Britain and watching what unfolds in Calais – such as the revelation that in recent days there have been 1,500 attempts by migrants to enter the Channel tunnel – it can seem as if they’re all heading here, but in reality Britain ranks mid-table in the proportion of asylum claims it receives relative to population. The number of refugees at Calais has grown because the number of refugees in Europe as a whole has grown. For the most part, their journeys pass unseen, until they hit a barrier – the English Channel; the lines of police at Ventimiglia on the Italy-France border; the forests of Macedonia – that creates a bottleneck and leads to scenes of destitution and chaos.

While Bethan McKernan at The Independent looks at “10 myths about the UK’s ‘migrant crisis’ debunked”

One of the most puzzling conundrums of the modern era is what a parody news site last year dubbed “Schrodinger’s immigrant”. Like the cat in the box, this migrant is both everywhere and nowhere, somehow managing to simultaneously steal jobs from hardworking Britons and scrounge off the benefits system.

And public reactions are increasingly reflecting signs of isolationism.


* POLITICS * Talking of isolationism, in a speech in Miami, Hillary Clinton called for an end to the US embargo on Cuba which has been in place since 1962.

Some of her leading Republican opponents disagreed.

Meanwhile, despite Donald Trump’s frequent claims of standing for the American worker, Reuters reported on Sunday night that his companies had sought to import at least 1,000 foreign workers on temporary visas.


* WORLD *  A new vaccine against Ebola is proving successful in early field trials.

But according to the World Bank, there is still a widespread level of caution about the level of preparedness for a global epidemic.

Negotiators at trade talks in Hawaii failed to reach a final 12-nation agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, “which would stretch from Japan to Chile and cover 40 percent of the world economy.”

Serbia’s national lottery is the subject of a police investigation after winning numbers were announced on live TV before the draw was made.

The future of Britain’s House of Lords is frequently pondered either as a hypothetical constitutional exercise, or a derisory conversation down the pub. But as John Lloyd writes for Reuters, the takedown by The Sun this week of a prominent member in deliciously salacious circumstances, prompts a potentially deeper backlash:

Beyond the Lords, it deepens the cynicism among members of the media and citizenry toward politics and politicians.  No point in saying that many men have sleazy episodes in their life that would look ill in a tabloid. Here was one who had a constitutional office of some importance, and who chaired a group of his fellows who sat in judgment on others’ ethics. If lawmakers make an ass of the law and ethicists flout basic morality, open season is declared on their Houses.

(YouTube/Pete Wishart)


* MEDIA * Some significant changes to MSNBC’s daytime schedule took effect on Friday, with three shows being cancelled as the network seeks to move away from opinion programming.


* SPORTS * South Korean businessman Chung Mong-joon may be set to stand for the Presidency of Fifa, believing that Uefa boss Michel Platini is “not the right man” for the top job. The BBC reported him as saying:

“If I get elected, my job is not to enjoy the luxury of the office. My job is to change it. It will be very difficult for Mr Platini to have any meaningful reforms.”

Meanwhile, Peter Berlin writes at Politico that the problem with Platini is that he is “Blatter with a French accent.”

The ferocity and speed of the criticism [against Platini] suggests that the rivals fear that the distinct whiff of dirty laundry may well prove an electoral asset with the FIFA voters who may not all want change. In the letter announcing his candidacy, Platini failed to address directly the issue of corruption. The UEFA website, quoting from the letter, said its president promised to “give FIFA back the dignity and the position it deserves.”

But one thing is sure – there is a lot of politics to be played before February’s election.


Finally, Canadian wrestler and star of John Carpenter’s 1988 cult movie They Live, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died aged 61.





Excitement grows for GOP’s mass debate

One week away from the first televised GOP debate and there is genuinely no clue who will actually be taking part.

Beyond this one guy who appears to be a shoo-in.

The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson writes the “gift of a Trump-fueled debate” means that “Christmas has come early.”

How could Thursday night in Cleveland fail to be one of the most entertaining political spectacles we’ve seen in a long time? There are, far as I can tell, 17 candidates for the GOP nomination. Nobody’s quite sure which 10 will qualifyfor the prime-time clash, with the rest relegated to an earlier also-rans debate. Fox News, which is organizing the festivities, says it will use an average of national polls to make the cut, but won’t say which polls.

One hopes the poor candidates at least hear the good or bad news before they arrive in Cleveland. Imagine the phone call Rick Perry’s campaign might get: “Um, has the governor’s plane landed yet? Because it turns out we need him on stage quite a bit earlier than we thought.”

As the confusion continues over which polls will actually be used, and which candidates will benefit, one notable absentee could be Gov John Kasich, on the cusp for inclusion in his home state – and incidentally where the Republican Convention will be held next summer.

Gabriel Sherman writes at New York magazine that the debate could “draw the biggest audience in cable history – and Roger Ailes is making all the rules.”

And the whole thing is – of course – great ratings fodder for Fox.

With the debate coinciding with Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show, expect a social media Sharknado of snark.

But the self-styled main attraction should probably get the last word. Except it won’t be. Remotely.


* WORLD *  Six people were stabbed in an attack at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. The perpetrator had recently been released from prison for a similar attack at the 2005 parade.

There was increasing evidence that the aircraft wreckage that washed ashore on Reunion Island is from a Boeing 777. The only missing aircraft of that type is Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370. On Friday, the debris will be flown to France where it will be examined.

US authorities at the Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe “to see if it was part of a conspiracy to violate U.S. laws against illegal wildlife trading,” Reuters reports.


* BUSINESS * Uber is set to invest $1billion in India, the Financial Times reported. “The US ride-hailing app company said the spending drive would see its service hit 1m daily rides by March 2016, the first time it has produced such a target in India,” the paper says.

LinkedIn easily beat expectations, reporting full-year revenues of about $2.94billion. Mobile traffic now accounts for 52% of the site’s total traffic.


* MEDIA * NBC Universal is reportedly in talks towards a significant investment in BuzzFeed and Vox.

Amazon signed up the Top Gear team to present a new internet car show. The Independent reports that Jeremy Clarkson “couldn’t resist a jibe at his old employer”.

“I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a space ship,” said Clarkson, in a pointed reference to the BBC, which fired him earlier this year following a fracas with a member of the Top Gear staff.


* SPORTS * The host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics will be announced on Friday in Kuala Lumpur. The two candidates are Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan.

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is at 4pm ET on Friday.

* Follow live updates at ESPN here.

There have already been some big deals – and some big non-deals, leading to this string of events at CitiField last night, and some predictable headlines.






Ohio officer indicted for murder of unarmed motorist

A campus police officer in Ohio was indicted for murder in the shooting death of an unarmed motorist on July 19. University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing was charged in connection with the death of Samuel Dubose, with the incident captured on the officer’s body camera.

Richard Perez-Pena writes at the New York Times:

The death of Mr. Dubose, who was black, at the hands of Officer Tensing, who is white, joined a string of recent cases — in places including Staten Island; Cleveland; Baltimore; North Charleston, S.C.; and Ferguson, Mo., among others — that have raised hard questions about law enforcement’s use of force and the role of race in policing. Video cameras have recorded many of these episodes and other, nonlethal encounters — like the arrest of Sandra Bland, who died three days later in a Texas jail cell — offering disturbing evidence of the confrontations that often contradicts the accounts of those involved.

Release of the footage had been the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Associated Press and other media organizations earlier this week.


* WORLD * Speculation intensified late on Wednesday that airplane wreckage which washed up on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean might be part of the missing Malaysian airliner MH370. CNN reported that a Boeing source said the debris “appears to be part of a Boeing 777.”

Russia vetoed a UN resolution at the Security Council introduced by Malaysia which would have established a commission to assign responsibility for the shooting down of MH17.

Reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar was apparently killed in 2013 in Pakistan, Afghan sources were reported as confirming. Joshua Keating writes at Slate “If Mullah Omar really is dead, what does that mean for the Taliban?”

The Pakistan-based negotiations with the Afghan government have reportedly split the movement’s leaders, and a prominent Taliban website has denounced the negotiating team as midlevel sellouts. Omar’s presumed support for the talks may have been the biggest thing they had going for them.

As online outrage continued, Minnesota Dentist  Walter Palmer apparently “regrets” killing Cecil the lion on a Zimbabwe hunting trip. His dental practice remained closed on Wednesday. In a compelling piece in The Independent, filmmaker Louis Theroux writes on how Palmer is “now discovering what it’s like to be hunted.”

What struck me reading the coverage was how similar he was in certain respects to many of the Americans I met in South Africa. They too were bowhunters from the mid-West, a place where there is a robust hunting culture, directly mainly at the large populations of deer. And like Palmer, some were involved in a years-long effort to bag as many big-ticket trophies as possible, a bit like trainspotters ticking locomotives off a list, only with more death.

And late night talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel found it hard to contain his emotion in last night’s monologue.


* POLITICS * With yet another poll of GOP primary candidates showing – you guessed it – Donald Trump with a clear lead, the field grew by one, when former Virginia Gov decided to go ahead and file papers to become the 17th candidate.

Meanwhile, Alex Isenstadt at Politico looks at Rand Paul’s “downward spiral” and what went wrong with the former top-tier candidate’s campaign.

Those close to Paul say there’s a simple reason for his lack of success: He’s simply not willing to do the stroking and courting that powerful donors expect. He’s downright allergic, they say, to the idea of forging relationships with the goal of pumping people for dough. And while he’s had no shortage of opportunities to mix and mingle with some of the Republican Party’s wealthiest figures, Paul has expressed frustration that donors want so much face time.

On the subject of polls, meanwhile, a CNN poll showed Sen Bernie Sanders beating the top Republican candidates head-to-head.

And the Sanders campaign had apparently signed up 100,000 people for more than 3,000 kick-off “house parties” across the country on Wednesday night – the biggest organizing event so far of the 2016 cycle.


* BUSINESS * Facebook reported strong 2Q earnings, saying that the number of its monthly active users jumped 13% year-over-year to 1.49billion. Mobile ads now make up more than three-quarters of the company’s total ad revenues.

The Federal Reserve appeared to inch closer to a possible interest rate rise in September. Reuters reports that the “central bank said after its regular policy meeting on Wednesday that the economy and job market continue to strengthen”.


* MEDIA * There’s a nice piece by Paul Farhi at the Washington Post on cursing on air at NPR. Clever headline too…

News organizations frequently wrestle with how to keep up with, or to resist, the coarsening of everyday speech. Most maintain written guidelines spelling out what’s acceptable, down to the number of dashes, asterisks or bleeps that must accompany the occasional f-bomb, s-bomb or n-word that becomes part of a news story.

And a piece by Merrill Perlman at the Columbia Journalism Review ponders just how relevant it is anymore to yell “Stop The Presses!” 


* SPORTS *  

RIP Peter O’Sullevan.





Pressure mounts over Iran deal

With a new CNN poll showing the American people split over the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State John Kerry was back on the Hill on Tuesday, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

As well as warning that rejection of the deal would have “dire consequences” Sec Kerry said that the impending release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was not tied to the agreement.

Kerry wasn’t the only one lobbying for the deal today.

While if world leaders and senior members of the Obama administration can’t convince Congress, there’s always Morgan Freeman and Jack Black.

Aaron David Miller writes at CNN on why there is such public uncertainty.

Such skepticism is hardly surprising, partly because it’s based on negative attitudes toward Iran that have been building since the 1979 revolution and hostage crisis. A Gallup poll earlier this year found only 11% of Americans surveyed had a favorable opinion of Iran — the lowest percentage of 22 countries, including Syrian, Russia and North Korea.

Indeed, if the Iran story were filled with heroic acts of peacemaking — with pictures to highlight historic breakthroughs and handshakes, such as the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty — there might be a much more uniformly positive reaction. But President Obama is — fairly or not — a polarizing figure. And the Iranian mullahs are hardly poster children for pro-American sensibilities.

On the other side of the equation, there’s Ted Cruz,


while another GOP Presidential candidate, Mick Huckabee, doubled down on his inflammatory holocaust rhetoric in criticizing the deal.


* POLITICS * Talking of Donald Trump, as next week’s Fox GOP debate approaches, Billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thinks his fellow TV personality has “changed the game” of traditional politics. MSNBC reports:

Cuban took to his Cyber Dust messaging app this week to congratulate Trump, referring to the Republican presidential candidate as “probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long, long time.”

“I don’t care what his actual positions are,” Cuban wrote. “I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”

Trump, of course, has already picked up the crucial Dennis Rodman endorsement.

While, in the spirit of ‘game-changing’, the Trump campaign on Tuesday was on the back foot after comments by one of its top advisers were reported by The Daily Beast.


Away from the campaign trail, Conservative Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina began a formal challenge to oust House Speaker John Boehner. A “motion to vacate” has only ever been successful once, 105 years ago.


* WORLD * Britain and France are both pledging action over what Prime Minister David Cameron called a “very concerning” situation at the Calais Eurotunnel terminal.


Two men are due to appear in court in Zimbabwe on Wednesday in connection with the killing of a lion by a Minnesota dentist who reportedly paid $55,000 to do so. Walter Palmer felt the fury of the internet for most of the day on Tuesday. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

Chelsea Hassler, outreach director with the Twin Cities-based Animal Rights Coalition, said her group and “many outraged citizens” intend to protest outside Palmer’s office on Wednesday afternoon.


Authorities in Waller County, Texas, released new footage of Sandra Bland in custody, with the aim of countering rumors that she was already deceased in her booking photograph.

The White House rejected a petition calling for a pardon for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.



* MEDIA *  The New York Times editor, as well as the paper’s ombud, addressed the paper’s troublesome Hillary Clinton email story.

Meanwhile, Pew published a report on perceptions of trustworthiness in media organizations, broken down by audience age group.


(Pew Research Center)


* BUSINESS * Microsoft is preparing for the rollout of Windows 10.

Twitter executives were surprisingly candid on an earnings call on Tuesday. The New York Times reports:

Twitter’s top executives acknowledged on Tuesday that despite huge name recognition for its social network, the vast majority of potential customers did not understand how or why to use the service, stunting its growth. And even among regular users, less than half check it daily.

Despite a 61 percent increase in revenue and a narrower net loss than a year ago, the company’s shares fell sharply on the back of slow growth in user numbers.



* SPORTS * Michel Platini, the French President of Uefa, is expected to announce sometime this week that he will be a candidate for the Presidency of Fifa in succession to Sepp Blatter.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had his four-game suspension over the “deflategate” controversy upheld by the NFL. The Boston Globe writes that

But at this point, given how badly Brady feels he is being mistreated, he might as well fight this thing to the end. Take Goodell to court and shine a big microscope on the NFL’s appeals and discipline processes. It’s gotten bigger than the fate of the Patriots’ 2015 season. Sorry, Bill Belichick.

Finally, the NFL made some headlines of a positive kind involving women, hiring the first-ever female member of a coaching staff as Jen Welter took up an appointment with the Arizona Cardinals.




Game over

Boston will not, after all, be hosting the 2024 Olympics, after reports that the US Olympic Committee had “severed ties” with the city’s bid on Monday.

The Boston Globe writes:

Bid organizers and the US Olympic Committee jointly agreed to pull the bid after Mayor Martin J. Walsh declared at a hastily scheduled news conference that he was not yet ready to put city taxpayers on the hook for any costs related to the Games if local Olympic organizers ran out of money.

and the paper explains how “mistakes and missed opportunities” sank the city’s bid.

When the city was originally chosen, ESPN‘s Keith Olbermann explained why Boston’s citizens should probably be celebrating today.

(YouTube/Keith Olbermann)

And of course, many are…

The move could put Los Angeles back in the mix, and if chosen as the US city could face bids from Paris and Rome.


* POLITICS * Fallout continues from controversial remarks by former Gov and lower-tier Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee over the Iran nuclear deal, as the need for attention among the glut of candidates – especially ahead of the first debate on Aug 6 – appears increasingly to be clouding their better judgment.

But perhaps the only possible words in response were no words at all.

Before even the new low of this incident, Ed Kilgore wrote in the most recent issue of Washington Monthly how Huckabee “became the new Sarah Palin.”

It will be interesting to see how much Palinism-without-Palin the 2016 presidential field ultimately produces. Aside from Huckabee and Jindal and Santorum, there’s Ted Cruz, whose father, Rafael, a conservative evangelical minister, warms up crowds for his son with culture-war bromides punctuated by comparisons of liberals with communists who share an “evil agenda” for “destroying what this country is all about.” The surgeon turned politician Ben Carson has become a huge crowd favorite via a stock speech that focuses on the supposed loss of fundamental liberties to the sinister power of elites imposing rules of political correctness to suppress dissent. Texas Governor Rick Perry has managed to turn economic development into a culture-war weapon via his constant “raids” on companies in liberal states, especially California, which has replaced New York and Massachusetts in the conservative imagination as the epitome of alien territory.


* WORLD * With Nato to meet on Tuesday to discuss Turkey’s security situation, details emerged of a US-Turkish plan to create an ISIS-free “buffer zone” on the country’s border with Syria.

After news yesterday that Britain is to fast-track a referendum on EU membership for next year, it was reported on Monday that another referendum on Scottish independence would not be held “before 2020.”

In a significant policy shift, the Boy Scouts of America ended its blanket ban on gay adult leaders. 


* BUSINESS * Vice President Joe Biden once described New York’s LaGuardia airport as like “something out of a third world country”. On Monday he stood beside New York Gov Andrew Cuomo and announced that it would be basically torn down and completely rebuilt in a $4billion revitalization plan over the next five years.

The New York Times writes:

La Guardia is not just one of the most delay-plagued airports in the country, but one of the busiest of its size in the world. It was built when air travel was a luxury and still a bit of a novelty. Its outmoded setup, combined with the density of the airspace in the New York metropolitan area, leave it at the bottom of the rankings for on-time performance year after year.

So far this year, La Guardia ranked last among the 29 largest American airports in on-time departures, with slightly more than 70 percent of its flights counted as on time, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

China’s stocks were hit hard again on Monday – Reuters called the session “the biggest rout in eight years” – with a knock-on effect for the rest of the global markets. 

Worth revisiting this from few weeks back, from my very smart former colleague John Authers:


* SPORTS * A “new” team representing Parma in the Italian football league has been cleared to join Serie D. The original club, former winners of the Uefa Cup, went out of business under a mountain of debt earlier this year.


* Apologies for a somewhat shortened Note tonight – I’m traveling.





Nato to meet as Turkey continues attacks on ISIS, Kurds

Nato ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Tuesday for a special session to discuss Turkey’s security situation and its ongoing air attacks, both against ISIS in Syria and against the Kurdish PKK in northern Iraq.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davotoglu said on Sunday night that his country had “no plans” to send ground troops into Syria, while Turkish air raids on Kurdish camps and a retaliatory ambush over the weekend appear to have effectively ended a two-year ceasefireReuters reports:

White House spokesman Ben Rhodes, on an official visit to Kenya with President Barack Obama, told a news conference in Nairobi: “The U.S. of course recognises the PKK specifically as a terrorist organisation. And so, again, Turkey has a right to take action related to terrorist targets. And we certainly appreciate their interest in accelerating efforts against ISIL.”

Patrick Cockburn writes at The Independent:

The US denies giving the go-ahead for Turkish attacks on the PKK in return for American use of Turkish air bases, or of any link with Turkish action against Isis fighters and volunteers, who were previously able to move fairly freely across Turkey’s 550-mile border with Syria.

But whatever America was hoping for, initial signs are that the Turkish government may be more interested in moving against the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq than it is in attacking Isis. Ankara has previously said that it considers both the PKK and Isis to be “terrorists”.


* WORLD * As Greece prepares to re-start talks on Monday with its creditors over bailout terms, reports surfaced of contingency plans for a return to the Drachma which, Reuters reports, served to highlight the chaos within the ruling Syriza party.

A five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen went into effect on Sunday, but there  were reports of sporadic fighting in two cities, while a Saudi-led airstrike on the city of Taiz reportedly killed more than 100 people just before the ceasefire started.

President Obama is in Ethiopia and is set for talks on the region’s ongoing conflict in South Sudan. He is also set to address leaders of the African Union in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron begins a four-day trade mission to SE Asia when he arrives in Jakarta on Monday. He aims to seal £750million worth of contracts for British businesses and is also expected to discuss the threat from Islamist terrorism with leaders in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Independent also reported at the weekend that the promised British referendum on EU membership would be held in June next year and announced at the Tory conference in October.

Finally, the deputy leader of the House of Lords resigned after a story in The Sun accompanied by a video allegedly showing him snorting cocaine with prostitutes.

sunsewel(The Sun/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)


* POLITICS * The Democratic convention in Philadelphia is exactly one year away.

New polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show Hillary Clinton still with a clear – if slipping –  lead over Bernie Sanders, but with the email story still bubbling as well as controversy over when and how she might testify on Benghazi, the former Secretary of State’s unfavorable ratings are trending upwards.


On the GOP side, polls in the early states show – yes – Donald Trump apparently consolidating his recent strong showing.

So you can probably expect to hear the word (ugh) Trumpmentum a few more times, at least while name recognition remains the leading indicator.


* MEDIA * It’s been a tough few days for the New York Times. After the confusion over its Hillary Clinton email story,

(Kurt Eichenwald)

the New York Review of Books published a piece apparently undermining one of the Times’s recent big hits, on conditions in New York City nail salons.

But not so fast. Here’s a rebuttal to the rebuttal by the article’s editor.

After announcing the sale of the Financial Times to Nikkei, Pearson is reported to be “in discussions” over the sale of its 50 per cent stake in The Economist, an asset that was held through the FT, but specifically excluded from the Nikkei deal.

The second part of an extensive series by the Washington Post examining “the human cost of reporting the news around the world” looks at the fate of journalism post-Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring was supposed to usher in an era of greater political inclusion and freedom, including press freedom. Instead, in every country but Tunisia, it has led to the opposite: the near-disappearance of independent news and opinion, especially about governments and their security forces.

And the Post also reported the passing of its former Diplomatic Correspondent Don Oberdorfer. He was 84.

“He was the kind of reporter who was so accurate and so fair that other reporters always read him, and so did the people in the government,” Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview. “I don’t think there was any better-read reporter . . . in the foreign-policy business than Don Oberdorfer.”


* BUSINESS * In a US record for such penalties, automaker Fiat Chrysler was ordered to pay a fine of up to $105million and buy back more than 500,000 vehicles in a settlement over a number of previous recalls.

The Detroit News reports:

“Today’s action holds Fiat Chrysler accountable for its past failures, pushes them to get unsafe vehicles repaired or off the roads and takes concrete steps to keep Americans safer going forward,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Sunday. “This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously.”

Burt, of Burt’s Bees fame, passed away earlier this month, it was reported at the weekend.


* SPORTS * Chris Froome became the first Briton to win the Tour de France twice. This time in somewhat strange circumstances.

Mexico won the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday night, beating Jamaica 3-1. Their captain Andres Guardado opened the scoring:


* CULTURE * Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston and R&B singer Bobby Brown, passed away aged 22, six months after being found unresponsive in a bathtub in her Georgia home.

‘The headlines all start to sound the same..’

As further details emerged of Thursday’s fatal shooting in Louisiana – and as police in Los Angeles shot and killed a man apparently firing into the air on Ventura Boulevard – the American epidemic of gun violence is again in the spotlight, together with the nation’s perpetual and polarized debate over second amendment rights.

Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post breaks it down perfectly thus:

Events were given a cloak of sad inevitability in part because of the seemingly prescient interview President Obama gave the BBC hours before the Lafayette incident.

(BBC News)

Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal told Fox News that he was “suspending” his Presidential campaign in order to “do whatever we can to support our community.” He did not say how long such a suspension might last. Jindal sparked criticism from the left after silencing a reporter who asked him about his state’s gun laws – some of the weakest in the county – by saying that it was not the right time for such a discussion. The Hill reports:

“There will be an absolute appropriate time for us to talk about policies and politics, and I’m sure that folks will want to score political points of this tragedy, as they’ve tried to do on previous tragedies…”

“You can ask me these questions in a couple of days. I’m not going anywhere. I’m happy to talk about this, we’re happy to talk about politics, but not here.”

But some believe the Governor has enabled his state’s gun violence problem – Louisiana has the second-highest gun death rate in the nation.


* POLITICS * The New York Times got itself into something of a kerfuffle on Thursday night over multiple alterations to a story about Hillary Clinton’s personal emails.

The fallout largely overshadowed a speech the Democratic front-runner gave on Friday on the economy. Worse still for the Clinton campaign, the email issue shows little sign of abating anytime soon. Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek – a former Times staffer – was excoriating.

After the Des Moines Register wrote an editorial last week urging Donald Trump to drop out of the Republican primary contest, the Trump campaign banned the paper from covering the candidate’s Iowa events on Saturday.

New photographs emerged of senior figures in the Bush administration reacting in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001.


* WORLD * Jonathan Pollard, the American who has spent 30 years in prison after being convicted of selling classified information to Israel, is apparently set to be released soon. He is eligible for parole in November this year, but reports are suggesting he could be freed earlier. Adam Taylor writes at the Washington Post on why Israel wants him free, why the US doesn’t, and what might happen next.

For some Israelis, the idea that a Jewish American could be sentenced so harshly for service to Israel is horrifying, and there have been a number of campaigns to free Pollard. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995 after a request from his lawyer, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has played a specific role in support for Pollard, admitting in 1998 that Pollard was an Israeli source (though it has also been denied) and visiting him in prison in 2002 while Netanyahu was not in office.

After being welcomed to the Kenyan capital Nairobi by cheering crowds and having dinner with members of his extended family, President Obama begins the formal part of his trip on Saturday, when he will open a major business summit and visit a memorial to the 1998 US Embassy bombing in the city.

Turkey said it had continued its air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria for a second day, but also announced that it had launched air and artillery attacks against camps in northern Iraq operated by the anti-ISIS Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The New York Times reports:

It was the first time Turkish jets have struck Kurds in northern Iraq since a peace deal was announced in 2013 between Ankara and the rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The group has been fighting Turkey for autonomy since 1984 and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and its allies.


* BUSINESS * In the first-ever automotive recall for a cybersecurity issue, Chrysler announced it was recalling 1.4million vehicles in the wake of the recent hack of a Jeep’s systems, reported by Wired earlier this week. Federal regulators are investigating the circumstances of the recall, which is being handled by the company sending a USB drive with corrective software to owners. 

AT&T and DirecTV completed a merger making the combined organization the nation’s largest pay-TV company. Reuters reports:

The No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier AT&T Inc and the biggest satellite-TV provider DirecTV became the country’s largest pay-TV company on Friday, completing their $48.5 billion merger after receiving final regulatory approval.

The newly expanded AT&T leapfrogs the biggest U.S. cable company Comcast Corp. The company said it will serve more than 26 million U.S. customers and more than 19 million in Latin America, making it the world’s biggest pay-TV company.


* MEDIA * After what appeared to be something between an existential wrestling match and a Damascene conversion in recent days, Gawker is set to relaunch on Monday and according to co-founder Nick Denton, it will be “20 per cent nicer”. Staffers who don’t like the idea can take severance packages. 


* SPORTS * Saturday sees the world’s football great and good gather in St Petersburg, Russia, to observe the draw for the qualifying stages of the 2018 World Cup.

Meanwhile, the man in charge of Russia’s 2018 tournament organization tells the BBC that resigning Fifa President Sepp Blatter is a “victim” and has always been “a friend of our country.” The draw marks Blatter’s first trip outside Switzerland since the Fifa corruption investigations escalated. He will appear at Saturday’s draw alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Things are all getting a bit fraught as the Tour de France heads towards its concluding stage, with leader Chris Froome hitting out at the “appalling behavior” of some spectators.

“Primarily we’re human beings and then we’re sportsmen. People need to remember that. You can’t come to a bike race to spit at someone, or to punch them or to throw urine at them. That’s not acceptable”

guardiansport(The Guardian)


Obama returns to the land of his father

President Obama arrives in Kenya on Friday for a five-day trip to Africa – his fourth visit to the continent, but his first to his father’s homeland since winning the White House. It also marks the first time a sitting US President has visited Kenya.

Fortune writes that “a dominant focus of the President and his delegation will be expanding business and enterprise in Africa, as he hosts the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi, bringing along over 200 U.S. investors.”

It could also be the President’s most dangerous foreign trip, with the State Department warning that large-scale events like the summit “could be a target for terrorists.”

CNN‘s Jeff Zeleny recalls covering Obama’s 2006 visit to Kenya as a Senator and writes:

It’s taken nine years for Obama to return to Kenya, a place to which he has ties like no other because of his father. Obama met him only once, at the age of 10, before he died in a car crash in 1982.

Obama was raised by his Kansas-born mother, Ann Dunham, and his grandparents in Hawaii. But it is the bloodline of Barack Obama Sr. that has stirred so many questions about his roots, fueling a “birther” movement that still simmers today.

His advisers once feared it might keep him from being elected — or re-elected — and he eventually marched into the White House briefing room on April 27, 2011, to present his long-form birth certificate to quiet the controversy stirred by Donald Trump and others.


* WORLD *  A gunman described by police as a 58-year-old “lone white male” opened fire in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana on Thursday night, killing at least two people and injuring nine others before fatally shooting himself.

The incident comes three years almost to the day after one of the nation’s worst mass-killings, when James Holmes opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 70.

Ironically, on Thursday, President Obama talked in an exclusive interview with the BBC that the biggest frustration of his Presidency has been the failure to enact gun control legislation. The President said it was “distressing” not to have made progress, “even in the face of repeated mass killings.”

“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands,” he said.

Turkey said its warplanes had struck ISIS targets across its border in Syria. The decision to authorize the action came after a Turkish soldier had died when suspected ISIS militants had fired across the border at a military base. US officials also said Turkey had authorized US airstrikes from a Turkish base near the border, although Ankara had not yet confirmed this.

Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Iran nuclear deal in front of a Senate committee. He had something of a rough ride. Republican committee chairman Sen Bob Corker told him “you’ve been fleeced.” (Although I’m not sure I totally understood Corker’s “hotel guest” analogy – is he saying Kerry’s the guest, in which case he got away with something, but it sounds like its his only thing, or is Kerry the hotel, and he’s had something stolen from him? Is the bathrobe made of fleece? Like much of the debate, it sounds like the soundbite was more important than the reasoning.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s domestic approval numbers are at record levels, according to an extensive opinion poll covering all aspects of life in Russia, reported in The Guardian.

Nasa scientists revealed a “world sharing many characteristics to earth” discovered by the Kepler telescope – the BBC reporting that “it may be small and cool enough to host liquid water on their surface – and might therefore be hospitable to life. Nasa’s chief scientist calls it “Earth 2.0”


* POLITICS * It was always going to be something of a circus.

After being tripped up in a recent TV interview when he was asked how long it had been since he had visited the US-Mexico border, Donald Trump had to admit it had been three years. From that moment it was only a matter of time before he showed up to give full, flamboyant voice to his controversial stance on illegal immigration and the vulnerability of the southern crossing.

He had earlier hinted in an interview with The Hill that he may be open to running as a third-party candidate “if the Republicans aren’t fair.”

The Washington Post reports on how Hispanic broadcasters Univision and Telemundo covered the visit.

During one of the two news conferences Trump held in Texas, [Jose] Diaz-Balart reminded the candidate that 53,000 Hispanics turn 18 each month and that many are offended by his suggestion that Mexicans crossing the border are rapists or criminals.

“No, no, no, we’re talking about illegal immigration and everybody understands that. And you know what? That’s a typical case — wait — that’s a typical case of the press with misinterpretation,” Trump shot back in response. “They take a half a sentence — by the way — they take a half a sentence, then they take a quarter of a sentence. It’s a typical thing. And you’re with Telemundo and Telemundo should be ashamed. And I tell you what — what’s really going to be fun? I’m suing Univision for $500 million and I’m gonna tell ya — we’re going to win a lot of money because of what they’ve done.”

“You’re finished,” Trump told Diaz-Balart.

and finally, or – most probably not:


* BUSINESS * Online retail giant Amazon is now bigger than Wal-Mart by market capitalization, after its shares surged in after-hours trading on a surprisingly strong earnings report.

As for consumers having disposable income to purchase the things Amazon sells, US jobless claims plunged by 26,000 to 255,000 in the week ended July 18, the fewest since November 1973.


* MEDIA * One of Europe’s most venerable journalism institutions will soon be in Japanese hands after Nikkei said it would buy the 127-year-old Financial Times from Pearson for about $1.3billion. It is the biggest-ever acquisition by a Japanese media company.

A statement from Pearson, which has owned the distinctively pink paper since 1957 (it’s officially “salmon” colored), signals that the company will now be 100% focused on its core education business.

Reports of the sale of the paper have been pretty frequent in recent years, with the strategic shift to education and particularly since the departure two years ago of former CEO Marjorie Scardino, who once famously said that the title would be sold “over my dead body.”  But as speculation intensified over the past 24 hours, it appeared that the buyer would be German, with media giant Axel Springer widely reported – even by the FT itself – to be in talks with Pearson.

Pearson CEO John Fallon said the media industry had reached an “inflection point, driven by he explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company.”

Pearson reports its earnings on Friday.

(disclosure: I was a proud FT employee for almost 20 years)


The Wall Street Journal reports that Twitter announced new tools to help event-based ad targeting.

Marketers often buy Twitter ads in an attempt to capitalize on buzz around major cultural and sporting events like the Oscars, the Super Bowl and “Sharknado” movie premieres. Now, the social network wants to make it easier for advertisers to do so.

On Thursday, Twitter announced the availability of new tools designed to help advertisers find events with which to align their brands, create content relevant to those events, and ultimately to buy ad placements targeted to users who might be interested in those events.


* SPORTS *  Columnist Bill Simmons is set to host a weekly TV show for HBO, the network announced. Richard Sandomir writes at the New York Times:

At HBO, almost anything goes, and for someone who likes to pop off, Simmons could not have found a more welcoming place to say what he pleases about anyone in the sports world. Consider how much [Bill] Maher gets away with on his series, “Real Time,” and you can appreciate the very wide berth Simmons is receiving.

He received plenty of freedom at ESPN, too, but in the end, he learned that he could not harshly criticize Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, without being suspended for three weeks last year. Further criticism of Goodell this year probably played a part in ESPN’s decision to let him take his talents elsewhere.

Drug research raises hopes of Alzheimers breakthrough

Researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington DC on Wednesday reported on trials of experimental drugs – developed by pharma giants Eli Lilly and Biogen, which appear to display encouraging signs of being able to slow the disease.

But, as NBC’s Maggie Fox writes, as in many such cases, there’s a danger of headline hype getting ahead of practical applications.

[the drugs are] not even close to being a cure, experts said — and they’re also not close to being on the market.

Dr. David Knopman of the Mayo Clinic said he knew headlines would have his patients asking about when they can get the drugs.

“How am I going talk to my patients on Friday?” he said at a news conference. “These results aren’t going to lead to something they can get next week. What you are hearing here represents solid advances.”


(Financial Times/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

Andrew Ward at the FT writes:

Eli Lilly hopes its solanezumab drug can help ease the cost of Alzheimer’s on society while delivering a multibillion-dollar windfall for the company by allowing patients to remain independent for longer.

Analysts cautioned that the drug’s fate would remain in the balance until the results from a further big clinical trial are reported late next year. Many previous Alzheimer’s studies have failed at this stage, causing heavy financial losses.


* WORLD * Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz brief Congress on Thursday on details of the Iran nuclear deal.

Watch live here on C-Span

They write in a joint op-ed at the Washington Post:

We recognize that Iran remains a threat to stability in the Middle East. That danger is precisely why this deal is so necessary and why we fought so hard for the multilateral arms embargo to remain in place for five years and the embargo on ballistic missiles for eight. U.S. sanctions related to terrorism, human rights and missiles will also continue.

A nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to our allies in the Middle East, as well as to the United States and the international community. By taking this threat off the table, this deal makes it far less complicated to address the many other problems that we have with Iran’s regional actions.

NBC‘s Richard Engel also reports that Kerry says diplomats are “working very hard” on the case of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who on Wednesday marked one year  in detention in Iran.

Meanwhile thousands of anti-Iran deal protesters gathered in New York’s Times Square.

The Greek parliament voted to approve a second tranche of reform measures tied to a potential bailout by the country’s creditors. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was successful in restraining a rebellion by members of his Syriza party. Reuters reports:

The legislation easily passed with the backing of 230 votes in the 300-seat chamber, once again due to opposition support.

But 36 Syriza deputies – or almost a quarter of the party’s 149 lawmakers – voted against the overall bill or abstained, though significantly for Tsipras that was a smaller rebellion than the 39 deputies who defied him in last week’s vote.

The White House is apparently in the “final stages” of a plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But the New York Times reports that 

The administration’s fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again. Ashton B. Carter, in his first six months as defense secretary, has yet to make a decision on any newly proposed deals to transfer individual detainees. His delay, which echoes a pattern last year by his predecessorChuck Hagel, is generating mounting concern in the White House and State Department, officials say.

There are ongoing developments late on Wednesday in the disturbing case of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in a Texas police cell following a traffic stop.


* POLITICS * A new Quinnipiac opinion poll indicates that if Hillary Clinton is eventually the Democratic presidential nominee, she continues to face strong opposition in a key group of swing states, regardless of who her opponent would be. MSNBC reports:

Back in April, Quinnipiac found Clinton leading the majority of those same hypothetical contests. But the likely cause of that declining support may be more concerning to Clinton than the poll’s headline results – majorities in all three states said they believe Clinton is “not honest or trustworthy.”

While of course it’s too early to take any poll seriously, this one’s just completely nonsensical..

On the GOP side, it was Rick Perry’s turn to take a pop at Donald Trump, calling him “the kind of leader John Adams prayed would never occupy the White House.”

He had a great line about the “empty calories of Trumpism” but as Ezra Klein points out, this emerging trend is as much about the accusers generating ink for themselves as it is about admonishing their party’s bogeyman.

Trump himself, meanwhile, is headed to the US-Mexican border on Thursday, telling Fox and Friends “I may never see you again, but we’re going to do it.”

Another lower-tier Republican, Gov Chris Christie has apparently changed his tune, as it were, but luckily no-one apparently noticed.


* BUSINESS * Health insurer Anthem is “close to finalizing negotiations to acquire peer Cigna Inc and could announce a roughly $48 billion deal as early as this week,” Reuters reports.

The New York state wage board unanimously recommended that the minimum wage for fast food workers should be increased to $15 an hour.

Meanwhile New York backed down temporarily in an ongoing dispute with car service app Uber, over limits on the number of vehicles the service operates in the city.


* MEDIA * In an extensive and interesting profile for The Independent, Peter Oborne looks at Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, his views on the BBC and his plans for the Corporation.

John Whittingdale’s views on the BBC repay inspection because the organisation’s charter comes up for renewal next year. The new Culture Secretary is the spokesman for a very powerful body of right-wing opinion that has long been determined to weaken and even to destroy the BBC as a national institution, and clearly sees its opportunity in the wake of the 2015 general election victory.

There are two fundamental grounds for this assault on the BBC. One is connected to neoliberal dogma. Right-wingers ask why a publicly funded body should be asked to produce mass entertainment, when the private sector is capable of carrying out the same function just as well if not better. The neoliberals would therefore like to slim the BBC down to a handful of core functions, above all news and current affairs, which the market is unable to provide.

The BBC itself, meanwhile, appointed its first female political editor. Laura Kuenssberg will take over from Nick Robinson, who will join Radio Four’s Today program in the autumn.


(Daily Telegraph)


* SPORTS * Jamaica will play Mexico in the final of soccer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday in Philadelphia. The underdog Reggae Boyz upset the United States 2-1, while in the other – somewhat chaotic and ugly – semi-final, Mexico came from a goal down to beat Panama through two Andres Guardado penalties.

This Mexican commentator even credited the American referee with Mexico’s first goal, after a controversial call led to a late spot-kick equalizer for El Tri.



Everyone’s – literally – a critic..

and, of course,

Fight escalates over Iran deal

The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian was arrested one year ago on Wednesday. “His incarceration is the longest, by far, for a Western journalist in Iran since the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power,” the Post’s Joby Warrick writes.


As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to attempt to sell the Iran nuclear deal to Congress this week, the anti-deal lobby is kicking into high gear. The Boston Globe reports that The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is supporting a group called Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran that is planning to run up to $40 million worth of TV ads against the deal.

post(Washington Post)

The Republican Jewish Coalition, an advocacy group opposing the deal, is co-sponsoring a rally in New York’s Times Square on Wednesday evening.


President Obama, meanwhile, took his case for the deal to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Pittsburgh and equated the opponents of the current deal with those who had pressed for military action against Iraq.

(White House – Speech begins at 46:00 mark)

The CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh reports that

While the reception was generally warm to the commander-in-chief, a VFW member from South Dakota tried to unfurl a sign that read “the emperor of Benghazi has no clothes.” When his sign was taken, he stood in protest until he shouted during the president’s speech, which led to his being escorted from the ballroom.

Meanwhile, the White House took the fight to social media.

As Israel’s opposition ramps up, The Guardian reports on how satire almost imitates life.

On a more serious note, Shibley Telhami writes at Reuters on how “Netanyahu steered the US towards war with Iran – the result is a deal he hates.”

How would war have been good for Israel? The Jewish state would have been, for the first time, at war with a Persian civilization (since all Iranians would likely have unified against the enemy) that would inevitably develop nuclear weapons anyway. It would have seemed that the United States was deliberately dragged into war on behalf of Israel — undermining the Israeli-U.S. relationship. How in the world is that good for Israel?


* WORLD * The Greek parliament will vote on Wednesday on a second round of domestic reforms necessary to facilitate the bailout talks.

At a gathering in The Vatican, Pope Francis met with mayors of more than 60 cities worldwide to discuss his encyclical on climate change and urge action in advance of the UN Paris summit in December.


* BUSINESS * Maybe the story of the day is by Andy Greenberg at Wired

“When I saw we could do it anywhere, over the Internet, I freaked out,” Valasek says. “I was frightened. It was like, holy fuck, that’s a vehicle on a highway in the middle of the country. Car hacking got real, right then.”


* POLITICS * The Republican Presidential field grew to 16 on Tuesday, when Ohio Gov John Kasich declared his candidacy at a press conference at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

Yet Donald Trump continues to suck the oxygen out of the GOP primary contest. Hadas Gold writes at Politico:

Just 35 days since the brash real-estate mogul launched his presidential campaign with all the subtlety of a rhinoceros, Republican candidates have been gasping for air, choked off from media access and desperate to break out beyond an egomaniacal celebrity who is polling better than most of the field. The early jostling has a special urgency this year: The first GOP debate on Aug. 6 is just two weeks away, and only 10 candidates will make the cut.

Even Rand Paul’s (remember him?) stunt with a chainsaw and a copy of the tax code went largely unnoticed.

Trump trolled South Carolina Sen Lindsey Graham in his own early-primary backyard, by giving out his cellphone number, after Graham had called Trump a “jackass.”

Graham later tweeted:

On the subject of that first debate, by the way, Fox is apparently set to change the format – not of the main event, but the “kids table” forum set to take place earlier in the day. Dylan Byers writes at Politico that

If the debate were held tomorrow, such criteria would likely see Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki relegated to the 5 p.m. forum.


* CULTURE * President Obama also addressed the Iran deal – teasing Dick Cheney  – during his seventh and final appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart’s final show will be on August 6th, although the President joked about “signing an executive order” preventing Stewart from leaving.

Writer E.L. Doctorow died in New York City aged 84. Bruce Weber writes in the New York Times:

Subtly subversive in his fiction — less so in his left-wing political writing — he consistently upended expectations with a cocktail of fiction and fact, remixed in book after book; with clever and substantive manipulations of popular genres like the Western and the detective story; and with his myriad storytelling strategies. Deploying, in different books, the unreliable narrator, the stream-of-consciousness narrator, the omniscient narrator and multiple narrators, Mr. Doctorow was one of contemporary fiction’s most restless experimenters.


Finally, although most likely not the end of the franchise, Sharknado 3 hits the Syfy Channel on Wednesday night.

Of course it does.