“As a general matter, it would be entirely lawful for the United States to target high-level leaders of enemy forces, regardless of their nationality, who are plotting to kill Americans both under the authority provided by Congress in its use of military force in the armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces as well as established international law that recognizes our right of self-defense.”—A vague, anonymous U.S. official • Discussing and defending the American role in killing key al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki, whose killing was sanctioned in a secret memo put together by the Justice Department. As we pointed out earlier, al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, making his assassination very controversial for some, most notably Glenn Greenwald. Does the explanation above hold water? source (via • follow)
“Muffingate still provides a telling illustration of how relatively minor revelations can be turned into blood-curdling controversies. It also shows how the political and media communities move much faster to trumpet an outrage-inducing story than to set the record straight.”—The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein • Offering a sobering take on the issue of $16 muffins from a story from a couple of weeks ago. Stein’s point: Despite the early coverage of the initial story, based on an infuriating Justice Department report, the follow-up coverage (where Hilton pointed out that the $16 wasn’t for “muffins” but a continental breakfast, written as shorthand on receipts), was a bit lacking. As a site, we admit that we didn’t even see the follow-ups ourselves (Editor’s note: I intended to do more with the story, but never got to it. Total fail on my part. — ES), but as this was a key fact, it throws the whole study into question. In retrospect, it feels more like a political hit piece — one that might have some truth to it, but blew its most important factoid. source (via • follow)
Stock market suckage: A crappy quarter, put to bed by a crappy day
bad Today was not a good day for the stock market in general, with all three major indexes down more than two percent amid negative economic data from China, which raised fears that another economic slowdown was coming.
worse This is the final day of the quarter on Wall Street, and the results aren’t very good. The S&P, for example, lost more than 14 percent this quarter. Fears of an economic slowdown weighed on investors’ minds after the 2008 crisis. source
“When viewers in the UK attempt to watch videos of the protest, they are met with the message, ‘This content is not available in your country due to a government removal request.’”—Paul Watson on YouTube’s new partnership with the UK government over protest videos • The British government is hoping the removal of certain protest images from the popular video sharing website will prevent copycat demonstrations from forming in the future. The British government isn’t the only one requesting YouTube pull demonstration videos: A geographic search reveals the US government has also requested YouTube remove certain videos along with keyword searches. (EDIT: Due to the source of the article, we did a fact-check and confirmed that videos were in fact banned by YouTube due to a UK government request.)source (via • follow)
Scott Walker's chief of staff resigns at a somewhat suspect time
what Scott Walker’s chief of staff, Keith Gilkes, just decided to resign from his post. The timing is suspect due to an investigation over Walker staffers possibly doing political activities on the taxpayer’s dime.
why Gilkes, who says he’s not involved in the “John Doe” investigation, claims that he’s returning to his being a political consultant, but will come in from the bullpen if Walker gets recalled next year. source
$209.63the amount the Amazon Kindle Fire’s parts are estimated to cost source
» Loss leader vs. straight-up leader: Amazon knows that the thing that was going to get the Kindle Fire to sell was the price, and it appears that even though the device is going to sell at a $10 loss per unit, they’ll make that back quickly through the sale of music and other stuff. This is a situation unlike that of Apple, which sells its devices at a profit and makes money through the sale of content. But that said, Jeff Bezos is looking particularly Jobsian these days.
“It is not uncommon for the First Lady to slip out to run an errand, eat at a local restaurant or otherwise enjoy the city outside the White House gates.”—Michelle Obama’s communications director, Kristina Schake • Stating the obvious in the wake of the AP getting a photo of her shopping at Target. To which we say: Duh. Do you think she spends all of her time just hanging out at the White House all day? She’d go crazy. Heh. Most people don’t, however, need plainclothes Secret Service agents to enter the Target half an hour ahead of them just so they can go shopping. source (via • follow)
“When people reach a point when they are in so much pain they just can’t stand it anymore, it was like being drunk. The ability to hold information was really impaired.”—Ig Nobel Prize-winning scientist Peter Snyder • Describing his team’s findings — that really having to use the bathroom creates an effect on drivers similar to driving drunk or on limited sleep — at the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony Thursday. Snyder’s bladder-busting team (who won for medicine) was only one of many to get awarded for their weird or dubious honors, including that crazy Lithuanian mayor who used a tank to prove his point about illegal parking (he won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize), a Norwegian group that produced a useless study on sighing (psychology), and a group of Japanese researchers who created a fire alarm that uses the smell of wasabi as its key alarm agent (chemistry). All in all, a pretty Ig Nobel night. source
California inmates hunger strike en masse … for the second time
first Roughly 6,600 prisoners went on a hunger strike in California, protesting the rough conditions due to lack of human contact. Officials said they would review their procedures.
then Officials reviewed their procedures, and decided, well, maybe there’s something to this whole prisoner-treatment thing, and said they would make changes.
now They haven’t done enough: Roughly 4,200 inmates haven’t eaten since Monday, despite the threat of punishment for inmates on hunger strikes. source
» Treating “gang members” differently: Many of the concerns the prisoners have with their treatment revolve around the fact that they were put into fairly extreme prison cells, designed to limit human contact, due to their perceived affiliation with gangs. One of the ways they can get out involves a process called “debriefing,” where the prisoner renounces his gang affiliation and discloses information about possible members — which has the effect of putting the prisoner directly in danger. Activists consider this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t approach to handling prisoners akin to torture. “These are inhumane conditions designed to extract information from someone,” noted Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, an activist group.
Flyin' no more: Boeing plant targeted in prescription drug bust
23people were arrested for selling painkillers such as Oxycontin, or anti-anxiety drugs, at the plant
14people were arrested for attempting to buy said drugs at the plant in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania source
» More serious due to nature of the job: With the 6,000-strong plant producing such military aircraft as the V-22 Osprey vertical take-off aircraft and the H-47 Chinook helicopter, officials took extra care with this drug ring. ”This investigation and prosecution focused not only on the sellers, but also on the users because of the critical role that these employees play in manufacturing military aircraft,” noted U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger. Officials say that the quality of the aircraft was not affected by the drug ring, and that current and former employees were arrested.
As an additional quip about Amazon's Silk and privacy issues. Amazon's EC2 cloud services already host traffic for countless other websites. Netflix for example, serves up it's content thru Amazon. Many webhosts lease out space to customers that they themselves manage on Amazon's servers.
“This makes Amazon like your ISP. Every site, everything you do online [through Silk] will go through Amazon. That’s a new role for someone like them, and I don’t think it’s at all clear that Amazon can step into that, or that it will be apparent to consumers.”—Center for Democracy & Technology spokesperson Aaron Brauer-Rieke • Offering up this claim that Amazon will use Silk, which Amazon claims will help speed up Web sites on the Amazon Kindle Fire, as a tracking tool. To that, we say this: Are you guys familiar with this Web browser called Opera Mini? It’s not as common as it once was, but for people using old-school phones, it was a bit of a lifesaver. It made the Motorola Razr, for example, a far more usable phone for surfing the Web, due to the way it handles content — through the company’s own servers, which cleared out all the extra stuff and sped up the sites you were downloading. Sound familiar? It’s exactly what Amazon Silk claims to do. Not buying this whole privacy argument. source (via • follow)
Fighting rages in Sirte, Libyan NTC reclaims airport
Dangerous times for civilians in Sirte: The Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) has regained control of the Sirte airport, amidst fighting throughout the city. The airport had been under NTC control previously, but two weeks ago loyalists of deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi (who was born in Sirte) recaptured it. Gaddafi loyalists have reportedly used rockets and sniper fire to fend off the NTC’s assaults on the city. Some of Sirte’s 100,000 residents have chosen to flee, as attacks by both sides pose fatal risks to the civilian population. source
“I am gravely serious when I write this — if I catch someone not replacing the milk, or at least, in the case where the downstairs store has closed already, not sending an e-mail to the office so the first person that arrives … can pick one up upon arrival — then I am going to fire you. I’m not joking. Have fun explaining that one to your next employer. This is not a empty threat, so PLEASE don’t test me.”—Beckerman Public Relations CEO Keith Zakheim • Freaking out over an empty milk carton and threatening to fire anyone who doesn’t replace it next time around. “Imagine my chagrin this morning when I stumbled in at 7:15 after enduring a typically painful Redskins loss and in dire need of a shot of caffeine,” he complained in an e-mail, “only to find that the skim milk in the refrigerator had three drops of milk left.” We love everything about this insane e-mail. (Thank you for this incredible tale of endurance imwithkanye!!)
NEW YORK—Bank of America Corp., the largest U.S. bank by assets, plans to charge customers a $5 monthly fee for making debit-card purchases starting early next year, according to an internal memo sent to bank executives Thursday. [more]
Seem to remember rumblings of a similar fee elsewhere. No matter. This is a bad idea for many reasons.
As a resident of NJ, I agree that we should not focus on the weight if Christie, but how much of a terrible Govenor he is! Yet I can't help but notice how this very sie posted a photo of Cornal West but reference his role on The Matrix not what he has done for civil rights & other social issues. If you want the people to focus on the real issues & the facts that matter maybe you should display such a concern as well....
» SFB says: Having a sense of humor about the issues does not mean we don’t take them seriously. If anything, we use humor as a tool to get people to think about more serious issues. Wit does not preclude seriousness. Also, we covered Christie’s political problems in our original post. — Ernie @ SFB
Here's another good-sounding economic story … with a catch
1.3%the increase in U.S. gross domestic product in the second quarter, based on updated final numbers
0.3%the improvement in that number from the initial estimates from the April-to-June quarter source
» Such evocative language in the source story: But before you get too excited about those three-tenths of one percent, just keep in mind the text that AFP used here: “The better-than-expected figure is unlikely to have a major impact on confidence in the enfeebled US economy, but tints the backdrop in a slight less gloomy hue.”
Jobless claims fall to super-low level … but there's a catch
good news Weekly jobless claims reached their lowest level in nearly six months, which seems like it’s a cause to celebrate, especially since it greatly beat analysts’ estimates. On the surface, it seems like a cause for dancing in the streets, folks.
catch However … the Labor Department claims that report is off because of some sort of weird anomaly regarding the calendar, making it harder to seasonally-adjust the numbers. So, things are still crappy for the workforce. source
I don't see a problem with the ladies of The View criticizing Chris Christie for being fat. I think in this day and age if you can expect your leader to be morally righteous, by not being involved in extramarital affairs, the least you can do is expect them to be healthy. I don't know why the media has not made more of an issue about his weight. Everyone can point out that people are too young, too old, too much of a woman to run for office but it's taboo to say someone's too fat to run?
» SFB says:Chris Christie's weight isn't his politics. End of story. Sure, he could be healthier, but we should be accepting of people different from us. (And who claims people are “too much of a woman”? Age arguments are slightly more understandable, but kind of in the same boat.) It’s a cop-out when there are more important issues. There are so many better reasons to criticize him than for his weight, and if it were any other job in the country where mental agility was the key requirement, precluding someone from this job for this reason would be discriminatory. If that’s what we focus on as a society, we’re a terrible society. — Ernie @ SFB
In Acapulco, Mexico, a brutal manifestation of the drug war's violence
5severed heads discovered in front of a primary school in Mexico source
» A sign things are getting worse: The city, once noted as a popular tourist destination, is now one of the drug war’s most violent battlegrounds, and this particular story is no exception in this often-disturbing tome. In this case, the heads were discovered while young students and pedestrians stood nearby, causing panic. But for those perpetuating the violence, that’s not their concern; their concern is power and control. (And apparently, stealing teachers’ salaries.) The police say it’s likely that the heads to belong to five decapitated bodies they discovered on Monday.
“If it’s not Jensen Farms, it’s okay to eat. If you can’t confirm it’s not Jensen Farms, then it’s best to throw it out.”—CDC director Thomas Frieden • Discussing the tainted cantaloupes that have killed and/or sickened dozens of people. The CDC is calling this listeria outbreak the deadliest one of its kind in the past decade. There’s no official list of the distributors in 25 states of the listeria-ridden cantaloupe, and on top of that, not all of the cantaloupes are labeled — or have such obscure labels as “Colorado Grown,” “Distributed by Frontera Produce,” “Jensenfarms.com” or “Sweet Rocky Fords.” The CDC recommends you ask your grocer where the cantaloupe came from. If it came from US3, however, you should be fine. source (via • follow)
That’s right; all it takes for someone to plan a robbery at your house is Google Maps. It was actually a strategy that worked incredibly well … and took months to solve. EDIT: We just did a test with this, and the results were stunning.
Reebok's EasyTone shoes didn't exactly have a kick-butt day
claim In 2009, Reebok launched these shoes called EasyTones, which they said would help you exercise while merely walking around. They also claimed they would make your butt and legs get toned. Kim Kardashian wore them.
rebuttal However, consumers saw through these shady claims, as did the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which led to a settlement for the fairly massive sum of $25 million bucks. Butt-toning never cost so much. source
“Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed. We believe the challenges to Affordable Care Act … will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”—A statement from the Justice Department • Defending Obama’s Affordable Care Act ahead of a Supreme Court decision expected to come next year, after the Obama administration decided to appeal the case — specifically the individual mandate, which is the bill’s most controversial part. Expect the decision in this case in the middle of 2012, just as Obama takes on … uh … let’s say Herman Cain … for the presidency. source (via • follow)
“I want to be able to say, meaningfully, ‘Bring it, fat boy!’ If you can’t honestly say, ‘Bring it, fat boy!’ then the terrorists have won.”—David Letterman • Talking about Chris Christie, and in the process, ticking us off for similar reasons that the women of “The View” did. You want to make fun of Chris Christie? Find a better reason than his weight, buck tooth. He’s given you plenty of ammo.
The Kindle Fire launch today is big news. Amazon is putting out a game-changer: a low-priced tablet with an awesome user interface (UI). We’ve seen cheap tablets placed on the market before, we’ve seen well-designed tablets (cough iPad cough), but never a product that combined the two qualities.
This will be a real game changer. For my fellow journalists, a major question we’re dealing with right now is the multi-platform one. How do we simultaneously produce for print, web, mobile and tablet? For writers, this is a minor issue. For producers, designers and photographers, this is a major one.
Good analysis on what the Kindle Fire means for us content schlubs.
Deadly listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes kills, sickens dozens
13+people killed in a deadly listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes
72+people sickened by the worst outbreak in over a decade source
» Not like E. Coli or Salmonella: While those diseases are more well-known because outbreaks happen more often, listeria is deadlier, especially for those who are elderly, pregnant or have a weakened immune system. And the disease often manifests itself in a way that makes it tough to detect immediately. “That long incubation period is a real problem,” said the CDC’s Dr. Robert Tauxe. “People who ate a contaminated food two weeks ago or even a week ago could still be falling sick weeks later.” The cantaloupes, from Colorado, were sold in 25 states between late July and early September.