A wave of powerful storm cells swept the southeastern United States this week, spawning hundreds of tornadoes that wreaked havoc from Texas to Virginia. While damage was widespread throughout the region, the most terrible toll was seen in Alabama, which has accounted for two-thirds of the more than 300 reported deaths -- the deadliest since the Great Depression -- and where many small towns were simply wiped from the map. Especially hard-hit was the university town of Tuscaloosa, the state's fifth-largest, where a monstrous F5 tornado (seen in this terrifying firsthand video) tore a vicious track through entire neighborhoods and business districts -- narrowly missing the region's primary hospital -- and continuing a path that rained debris as far as Birmingham, over sixty miles away. The disaster prompted a visit from President Obama today, who declared "I've never seen devastation like this" after surveying the area with Governor Robert Bentley, Senator Richard Shelby, and Mayor Walter Maddox. More: photos from In Focus and The Big Picture, aerial footage of the aftermath, "before and after" sliders, the path of the Tuscaloosa twister on Google Maps, People Locator, local aid information, MetaTalk check-in thread
What’s Left of the Left - Paul Krugman's Lonely Crusade for Liberalism. After President Obama met with a group of prominent economists in December of 2010, among them Alan Blinder, the latter remarked, somewhat bleakly and apologetically: "In the United States, there is no left left". Paul Krugman is a lonely man. [more inside]
"Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith. Or for that matter my citizenship." - President Obama
Handwritten 1961 memo in father's immigration file notes Obama born in Hawaii. "Documents obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service through a Freedom of Information Act request offer evidence that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. A memo dated Aug. 31, 1961 from William Wood of Immigration and Naturalization Services indicates that Barack Obama, Sr., was attending the University of Hawaii on a student visa and that a son, Barack Obama, II, was born in Honolulu on Aug, 8, 1961." [Image of Memo]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite Amnesty's recent denouncement of his treatment and a State Department official's comment that it is "stupid" among other things, Obama apparently stands by the current conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held. [more inside]
Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The announcements, coming more than two years after Obama vowed in another executive order to close the detention center, all but cements Guantanamo Bay's continuing role in U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Cartoonist Tim Kreider (previously, previously) of The Pain talks about the last decade, our "disastrous decline" and his latest book of cartoons and essays, Twilight Of The Assholes. Part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
SEIU past leader speaks on Wisconsin The battle is for the future our our country, the middle class, and public ownership of public goods
Inside the Secret Service. Sidebars: Radio Chatter and The Presidential Motorcade (Via) [more inside]
George Bush cancels a trip to Switzerland citing “threat of demonstrations” . However two victims of torture in U.S. detention have prepared a criminal complaint against Bush backed by a coalition of international human rights groups, two former United Nations rapporteurs, and two Nobel Peace Prize laureates. His legacy continues with the death in Guantanamo of Abdul Gul held without trial for 9 years. The official cause of Mr Gul's death is "Heart attack during exercise". The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trial nearly 50 detainees at Guantanamo.
The show Empire on Al Jazeera collects experts on various subjects and holds a roundtable discussion. This week was Obama 2.0, on the President's first two years, with focus on foreign policy. Guests this week are Ralph Nader, Roger Hodge, Stefan Halper, and As'ad Abu Khalil. Earlier weeks include: [more inside]
iHero: Mosaics of Steve Jobs - Charis Tsevis is a Greek artist and visual designer who creates interesting collages from objects related to the subject, often for publications like the Wall Street Journal and Time. Other works include Barack Obama, Charles Darwin, Jonathan Ive and much more.
Hu Jintao, premier of China, is in the middle of his first state visit to the US, whose pomp and circumstance reflects China's growing economic stature and role in world affairs. Due to the linguistic and political differences between the US and China, few Americans know very much about Hu. Many of them will have had their first real look at him during an extended and surprisngly candid joint press conference held with President Obama and lasting well over an hour - something which never happens in China. Fears (or possibly hopes) of a trade war between the US and China a year ago have faded, and instead a trade deal involving $45 billion of American exports was announced, to mixed reactions. He was received less kindly by Congress, whose members expressed disquiet about everything from trade deficits to human rights and whose leaders declined to discuss matters over dinner - perhaps because they did not wish to be lost in the high-powered crowd of attendees. [more inside]
USA PATRIOT is up for renewal again. Tim Nichols of the Independent Examiner reports that "nobody notices" as Mike Rogers (R-MI) floats the renewal. As we noted last year during another quiet renewal, this is not the first time the Obama administration has been confronted with the idea. While groups as disparate as the Cato Institute and the Randolph Bourne Institute's antiwar.com speak out against the possibility, mainstream media sources seem uninterested.
Michael Chabon is currently blogging about President Obama's Arizona speech, Huck Finn, the return of hip-hop to his life, and his hometown.
Senate leaders are seriously considering modifying the traditional, divided seating arrangements for President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address. [more inside]
Since 10:24 AM ET, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has held "a filibuster [or] a very long speech" on the tax cut deal brokered between the president and congressional Republicans. Watch it live on C-SPAN 2. Vermont's Peter Welch leads the charge against the deal in the House. The President has called his opponents "sanctimonious" and "unrealistic."
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the lefty Jewish magazine Tikkun, wants to save Obama -- by primarying him from the left.
Obama proposes two year pay freeze for all civilian federal employees. The freeze would save $2 billion in the current 2011 fiscal year, $28 billion over the next five years, and more than $60 billion over 10 years, according to the White House. The freeze would require congressional approval.
Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore "Sal" Giunta became the first living recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration since the Vietnam War on Tuesday when President Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor. [more inside]
Depending on who you ask, Ohio's C3 Railroad project is either a) a conventional railroad project that's going to restore slow rail service between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati or; b) it's a visionary initiative of President Obama and Transportation secretary, Roy LaHood, that has the intention of rebooting Ohio's entire infrastructure. [more inside]
The Barack Whisperer. Robert Draper's in-depth look at Robert Gibbs, senior advisor and press secretary to President Obama, and his sometimes controversial relationship to the media.
Twice now, Mythbusters has tackled the story of Archimedes' "heat ray." Twice now it's been busted. So who could have persuaded them to revisit it a third time? ...President Barack Obama. [more inside]
During his campaign, skeptics warned that Barack Obama was nothing but a "beautiful loser," a progressive purist whose uncompromising idealism would derail his program for change. But as president, Obama has proved to be just the opposite — an ugly winner. Over and over, he has shown himself willing to strike unpalatable political bargains to secure progress, even at the cost of alienating his core supporters. This bloodless, if effective, approach to governance has created a perilous disconnect: By any rational measure, Obama is the most accomplished and progressive president in decades, yet the only Americans fired up by the changes he has delivered are Republicans and Tea Partiers hellbent on reversing them. Heading into the November elections, Obama's approval ratings are mired in the mid-40s, and polls reflect a stark enthusiasm gap: Half of all Republicans are "very" excited about voting this fall, compared to just a quarter of Democrats. But if the passions of Obama's base have been deflated by the compromises he made to secure historic gains like the Recovery Act, health care reform and Wall Street regulation, that gloom cannot obscure the essential point: This president has delivered more sweeping, progressive change in 20 months than the previous two Democratic administrations did in 12 years. The Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson argues The Case for Obama. [more inside]
"The first thing that needs to happen, I think, is to get these people out of their homes," a man wearing a bespoke blue-striped shirt, a Hermés tie patterned with elephants and Ferragamo loafers said recently. But, maybe Wall Street doesn't understand why foreclosure fraud is so dangerous to property rights? And, the Obama administration doesn't understand why HAMP has been a portrait in failure for homeowners (in eight parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII.)
"U.S. should be able to shut Internet, former CIA chief says" From the LA Times.
Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview In an Oval Office interview, the president discusses the Tea Party, the war, the economy and what’s at stake this November.
The latest attempt to mitigate the impact of the Citizens United decision has failed, with an attempt to pass transparency rules for corporations funding political advertising failing to reach cloture. Obama comments on this vote in his most recent weekly address. Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. [more inside]
Earning $250,000 Does Not Make You Rich, Not in My Town. A controversial blog post from a University of Chicago Law professor makes its way around the web as the debates about president Obama's tax plan get louder. "Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super rich...The problem is, we can’t afford it. Here is why." [more inside]
This week's issue of Forbes features a cover story by Dinesh D'Souza that argues that "the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s," along with an editorial featuring a picture of Obama's head photoshopped onto Joseph Stalin's body. [more inside]
Judge Rules "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is Unconstitutional - Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court struck down President Clinton's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy in an opinion (Scribd) issued late Thursday, ruling on the constitutionality of a complaint brought by the Log Cabin Republicans (PDF). President Obama's Justice Department has until a September 23 deadline to submit objections to the court regarding Judge Phillips's permanent injunction, which is uncertain given Obama's previous support of his Department of Justice defending the legality of DADT, despite his opposition to DADT in principle.
28,000 people can't be wrong: McDonald's voted worst burger by Consumer Reports. Obama endorsed Five Guys Burgers came out top. Of course, everyone has their favorite and sometimes it's not a matter of what tastes best, but of what's most convenient.
The Obama presidential campaign was an innovation in American politics and American design. For the first time, a candidate used art and design to bring together the American people—capturing their voices in a visual way. The Design Director of the Obama campaign, Scott Thomas, has collaborated with artists and designers to create Designing Obama, a chronicle of the art from the historic campaign. Funded via Kickstarter, they have created a book and an iPad app. You can download the book in PDF format for free.
A New Look for the Oval Office Obama makes his mark on the First Office. It is a different look than the office of George W. Bush and the presidents before him. And yes, the rug is gone (previously).
"Israel is our only hope as the post-American president is aiding and abetting a nuclear Iran. Barack Obama is enabling Iran’s Islamic bomb" - Pamela Geller
As the "ground zero mosque" story approaches bipartisan consensus, thanks to unexpected statements by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (joining a growing opposition), several journalists trace the origins of how the Park 51 community center became(warning: CNN) a toxic subject. What they found was Pamela Geller, a blogger at Atlas Shrugs, who has some very interesting vlogs. You may previously know her from this cozy 2006 interview with Bush's infamous anti-UN UN ambassador John Bolton.
Blago walks, mostly. Short and sweet: Jury was hung on 23 counts, convicted him on 1. That count was "lying to federal investigators" when he told them that he didn't care about nor was involved with fundraising. Max jailtime for this one is 5 years. They were, reportedly, 11-1 on all others. [more inside]
“It’s a little bit like the shooting gallery at the arcade. It’s hard to tell which rabbits are real and which aren’t. You have to have the discipline of not shooting at the wrong rabbit."
Washington, We Have a Problem. On the heels of a New Yorker feature exploring the question, "Just How Broken Is The Senate," Vanity Fair publishes a look at the (mindboggling) day-to-day life of the modern US Presidency.
Shane Harris of the Washingtonian looks at the increasingly aggressive pursuit by the Obama administration of people (especially journalists) who leak sensitive information to the public.
The Point of No Return. In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides—and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.
In late July the American Civil Liberties Union released "Establishing a New Normal" (pdf), an 18 month review of national security, civil liberties and human rights under the Obama Administration.
Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now. And what we should do about it. (one-page link)
A new movie based on Obama’s childhood in Indonesia has just been released in Jakarta. The film is based on a novel released just this year. Certain differences can be noted between the book and the movie – for example, a scene showing Obama praying in the direction of Mecca was dropped.