President Obama shook Cuban president Raúl Castro's hand as he approached the podium at the Johannesburg memorial service for Nelson Mandela this morning. It was a stark departure from the standard protocol for American presidents, which consists of reaching your hand out to the Cuban president, pulling it away at the last moment, and telling him "too slow" before walking away.
Following yesterday’s upsetting news that “wildlife specialists” at JFK Airport have killed at least three of the white-winged creatures with shotguns, the brutes have softened. “The Port Authority is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to move immediately toward implementing a program to trap and relocate snowy owls that pose a threat to aircraft,” the agency announced. Pigeons and geese, not so much — yet another advantage of being beautiful.
It's certainly starting to look like the New Jersey governor's crew sought petty retribution against a political enemy by purposely causing traffic on the George Washington Bridge. Yes, really. It all feels very New Jersey, which is not the best thing for Chris Christie's national aspirations.
The brewing scandal all started with a jam on the bridge in September, when three lanes from Fort Lee, New Jersey, were shut down for a “traffic study.” But testimony from Port Authority officials yesterday confirmed the initial, somewhat outlandish speculation (and later, solid reporting): There was no study — instead, Christie appointee (and high-school buddy) David Wildstein may have ordered the lanes shut to get back at the Fort Lee mayor, a Democrat, for not endorsing the governor in his landslide run for reelection.
As healthcare.gov slowly lurches into functionality, the battle lines around the health-care law are returning to their pre-October state. Giddy conservative hopes for the law’s immediate disintegration, or its quick repeal, have ebbed, and in their place opponents have returned to hoping that the law will fail because not many people will want to buy health insurance. Ross Douthat warns, or perhaps fantasizes, that the immediate collapse may have been averted, but the long, slow collapse may yet beckon on the horizon.
Congress has plenty to do before it recesses for the year, and with Majority Leader Harry Reid threatening to make senators work through the weekend – at Christmas! – lawmakers managed to reach a bipartisan deal on the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday. The bill is considered "must pass," as it's been approved every year for more than five decades and will allow the Pentagon to continue paying troops in combat. This year's slimmed-down version contains mixed news on the effort to reform how the military handles sexual assault. While the deal would implement the most significant changes in years to the military's rules on sexual assault, it omits a more wide-reaching amendment proposed by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would have military prosecutors decide whether to prosecute sexual assaults rather than victims' commanders.
Some crossword puzzle-writer at Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Telegraph, in Australia, should start dusting off the old resume after what has got to be an intentional joke (if it's a coincidence, we're all doomed). The word-search puzzle in this week's edition included these letters: LIVESIHCODRUM, which spell "Murdoch is evil" backwards. And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for that meddling Sydney Morning Herald, which couldn't help but pile on: "As Satanic messages go, it certainly has a ring of truth about it."
The New York Post's editorial board is absolutely incensed at the temerity of the New York Times for suggesting there is anything wrong with the city's homeless shelter system, which the Grey Lady did in a five-part series called Invisible Child. In a damning rebuke to the Times' year-long reporting project that documented one girl's journey through a broken system, the Post spoke with an unnamed spokesman for an unnamed city agency, who said her family's situation was "atypical," and that "New York City provides families in need, including this one, with subsidized health care, child care, shelter, job-training, counseling and placement services." The Post is pretty sure that means the family of ten is pulling a fast one on the city with its 540-square-foot shelter room.
After the recent high-profile spate of so-called shop-and-frisk incidents at stores such as Barneys and Macy's, and the subsequent high-profile meetings with the Rev. Al Sharpton, everyone pretty much had to come up with something to show they were making progress. The result: a "customers bill of rights" that expressly prohibits profiling by "race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, ancestry, appearance, or any personal or physical characteristics." Most stores have a policy to this effect, the New York Times points out. Now they're posting it on the wall. The gesture falls flat for actor Robert Brown, who was detained at Macy's in October after he bought an expensive watch. He told the Times: "We don’t believe that this is a solution. We’re moving forward with our lawsuit."
Given the intensive level of investigation the NYPD has carried out in its administrative case against whistle-blower Adrian Schoolcraft, the cop who secretly recorded his superiors issuing quotas and fudging statistics, it's a little surprising the city hasn't already subpoenaed the man who chronicled his tale for the Village Voice (and later for This American Life and the book The NYPD Tapes): former staff writer Graham Rayman. But it has now. According to the New York Times, it demanded that Rayman hand over hundreds of tape recordings Schoolcraft made, as well as "reams of notes, correspondence and e-mails." Rayman says he has no plans to comply: "I think it would be malpractice for a journalist to cooperate with a subpoena like this and would have a chilling effect on what all journalists do." Damn right.
Andrew Cuomo's presidential ambitions have been a constant source of speculation since he was elected in 2010, but now several Democratic activists in early primary states tell Politico it's already too late for the New York governor to run. While other potential candidates have been speaking, networking, and fundraising across the nation, Cuomo has avoided the national stage (possibly because he insists he isn't running) and with only 1,065 days until the 2016 election, he doesn't have time to make those connections. At the end, Cuomo's 2016 campaign regretted spending so much time doing its job, rather than enjoying all the ridiculous speculation political life has to offer.
- 1. Matt Zoller Seitz’s 10 Best TV Shows of 2013
- 2. Uber Might Be More Valuable Than Facebook Someday. Here’s Why
- 3. Global Urban Design - A Tree House in Bali
- 4. David Edelstein’s 10 Best Movies of 2013
- 5. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the Present Tense: How the Actress Made Her Transformational Turn on Veep
- 6. First Look: Unpublished Nude Photos of Bettie Page [NSFW]
- 7. Taylor Kitsch on Lone Survivor, The Normal Heart, and Why He’d Never Do the Friday Night Lights Movie
- 8. The 2013 Culture Awards - Jerry Saltz on the 10 Best Art Shows
- 9. Yes, Bryan Singer Will Direct X-Men: Apocalypse