Reuters

Incompetence (Paging Mr. Trump)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Carter Page in Moscow, Russia, 12 July 2016.  (Photo: Reuters)

There are days when the primary argument against the idea we really are witnessing this debacle is, really, it just seems impossible that anyone could possibly be so bad at this. It seems even more impossible that the Trump administration should be inflicting so many wounds against itself. To wit, the lede from Reuters seems, by comparison, nearly harmless:

President Donald Trump sought to insert himself into congressional investigations on Russia on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to hear from one of his former advisers, Carter Page, to counter testimony by directors of the FBI and CIA.

Well, okay, we are discussing Carter Page, which is never quite as harmless as it ought to seem.

For instance, the lede and some detail from Roll Call:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Democrats of resisting testimony from Carter Page, his former campaign adviser, because he “blows away” allegations they have made.

In two tweets, the president went on to say that this alleged change of heart by Democratic members comes because they have concluded Page “blows away their … case against him.”

Trump, referring to the FBI director he fired and the Obama administration’s last CIA director, wrote that his former adviser “wants to clear his name by showing “the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan…”

A’ight, so, are we ready for the tricky part? Is there always a tricky part? Never mind.

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Not a Comedy (Write Your Own Ship of State and McMaster and Commander in Chief and Hand on the Tillerson Joke, Damn It—Why Do I Always Have To Do Everything?)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is not supposed to be some manner of comedy. Or, several paragraphs from Reuters:

Tillerson and McMaster were present at the May 10 meeting where Trump discussed his firing of James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

The New York Times, citing officials familiar with an internal White House summary of the meeting, reported that Trump referred to Comey as a “nut job” and said his removal would relieve “great pressure” coming from the agency’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Lavrov denied that the subject of Comey came up during the meeting, according to Interfax news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered to provide the U.S. Congress with transcripts of the same meeting to counter reports that Trump also disclosed classified information to Lavrov about a planned Islamic State operation.

However, neither McMaster nor Tillerson on Sunday disputed that the subject of Comey’s dismissal came up in the meeting with Russian officials. Both said that Trump’s remarks had been misinterpreted.

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Rather Quite Obvious (Priorities)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City on 22 February 2017. The visit is the second foreign trip of Tillerson’s tenure at the State Department. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

The lede from Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, U.S. officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs.

And a bit of the detail:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment on whether Tillerson would skip the NATO meeting or visit Russia. Two U.S. officials said Tillerson planned to visit Moscow on April 12.

“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” said one former U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies,” he added.

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Donald Trump’s Flaccid Machismo

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 17 March 2017. (Detail of photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Much ado is or not, but something about a block of paragraphs from Reuters rings a bell:

Trump and Merkel shook hands when she arrived at the White House but did not do so in the Oval Office where she frequently leaned towards him while he stared straight ahead, sitting with his legs apart and hands together. In the Oval Office both leaders described their meeting in brief remarks to reporters as having been very good.

She began her remarks at the news conference by saying it was better to speak to each other than about each other.

“We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but we tried to bring people together … (and) tried to find a compromise that is good for both sides,” Merkel said.

They shook hands again at the end of the press conference and then exited the East Room together.

Honestly, I think we’ve seen this before. Something goes here about Vladimir Putin and a dog.

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Some Business News (Mind the Gap)

This is just one of those bits of news that feels important:

ReutersWal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is running a new price-comparison test in at least 1,200 U.S. stores and squeezing packaged goods suppliers in a bid to close a pricing gap with German-based discount grocery chain Aldi ALDIEI.UL and other U.S. rivals like Kroger Co (KR.N), according to four sources familiar with the moves.

Wal-Mart launched the price test across 11 Midwest and Southeastern states such as Iowa, Illinois and Florida, focusing on price competition in the grocery business that accounts for 56 percent of the company’s revenue, said vendor sources with direct knowledge of the matter who did not wish to be identified for fear of disrupting business relations with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart’s tests are aimed at finding the right price point across a range of products that will attract more shoppers, and then adjusting prices as needed.

(Bose)

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President Trump at War (Dead SEAL Club Mix)

A woman in Sana, Yemen, on Sunday walking past a graffiti protesting United States military operations in the war-torn country. (Detail of undated photo by Yahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency)

There are a couple of ways of looking at President Donald Trump’s first military action: It’s a disaster, or, It’s not quite a disaster. Mohammed Ghobari and Phil Stewart explain, for Reuters:

A U.S. commando died and three others were wounded carrying out a deadly dawn raid on the al Qaeda militant group in southern Yemen on Sunday, in the first military operation authorized by President Donald Trump.

The U.S. military said it killed 14 militants in a raid on a powerful al Qaeda branch that has been a frequent target of U.S. drone strikes. Medics at the scene, however, said around 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

Two more U.S. servicemen were injured when an American military aircraft was sent to evacuate the wounded commandos but came under fire and had to be “intentionally destroyed in place,” the Pentagon said.

The new U.S. president called the operation a success and said intelligence gathered during the operation would help the United States fight terrorism.

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A Threshold (Choices)

Detail of frame from "Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor", episode 9, 'They Met One Day, Unexpectedly ...'. L-R, Kiko Kayanuma, July, and Suou Pavlichenko discuss the profitability of a cat café versus more mundane work as a book editor, and Mao (lower right) hides in Suou's satchel.

The exclusive lede from Reuters:

American women are ending pregnancies with medication almost as often as with surgery, marking a turning point for abortion in the United States, data reviewed by Reuters shows.

It has apparently been something of a long time coming. Pharmaceutical terminations won approval sixteen years ago; the report from Jilian Mincer explains, “the method was expected to quickly overtake the surgical option”. Political opposition to abortion slowed the transition:

Although many limitations remain, innovative dispensing efforts in some states, restricted access to surgical abortions in others and greater awareness boosted medication abortions to 43 percent of pregnancy terminations at Planned Parenthood clinics, the nation’s single largest provider, in 2014, up from 35 percent in 2010, according to previously unreported figures from the nonprofit.

The national rate is likely even higher now because of new federal prescribing guidelines that took effect in March. In three states most impacted by that change―Ohio, Texas and North Dakota―demand for medication abortions tripled in the last several months to as much as 30 percent of all procedures in some clinics, according to data gathered by Reuters from clinics, state health departments and Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Among states with few or no restrictions, medication abortions comprise a greater share, up to 55 percent in Michigan and 64 percent in Iowa.

What, really, can we add? It seems somewhat inappropriate to glibly note that Americans do catch up to the rest of the world, now and then, despite our best efforts to the other.

Oh, right.

Damn.

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Mincer, Jilian. “Exclusive: Abortion by prescription now rivals surgery for U.S. women”. Reuters. 31 October 2016.

An Unfinished Sketch (Trumping the Polls)

[An unfinished sketch of a post; the text file says 13 October. This is just how it goes sometimes; it’s exhausting trying to keep up―you might have noticed we haven’t. Still, herein we find a glimpse of the moment, recorded for the sake of the historical record, and, you know, not really so much my ego, since this could have afforded some better planning and writing.] (more…)

The Donald Trump Show (Blood & Cannon)

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University, 9 October 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty Images)

It is not entirely certain just how we ought to take James Oliphant’s headline for Reuters, “Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying”. The lede is one of those double-takes, not because it is unbelievable but because it seems worth checking to make certain you read it correctly:

Donald Trump may have done just enough in Sunday’s presidential debate to keep his leaky presidential campaign afloat―and that may have put Republicans considering abandoning him in an even tougher position.

It is, in fact, a reasonable thesis but not exactly reflective of the headline. Indeed, the most curious thing about bleeding is just how the Trump campaign is bleeding, or not, might well be the section header, “Red Meat for the Base”, describing the last third of the article, and here Oliphant brings the point home:

Against this backdrop of panic and condemnation, Trump on Sunday sought to rally the party’s base with a fresh barrage of provocative attacks on Clinton that will give the media something other than the tape to talk about.

He offered a blistering critique of her handling of foreign policy while the country’s chief diplomat and brought his rally cry for her to be jailed to the debate stage. He also carried out a threat to make an issue of her husband’s sexual history.

In doing so, Trump may have stopped the bleeding, but he did nothing to stop the worrying.

The base. Donald Trump stopped the bleeding, but not the worrying, among his base? Suddenly the lede, with Mr. Trump having “done just enough” to “keep his leaky presidential campaign afloat”, seems nearly an overstatement. That is to say: What counts as afloat?

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Peace, and May It Live Forever

It probably embarrasses sufficiently to suggest that had I been paying attention―

Colombia’s center-right government and the Marxist FARC rebel group signed a peace deal on Monday to end a half-century war that killed a quarter of a million people and once took the Andean country to the brink of collapse.

After four years of peace talks in Cuba, President Juan Manuel Santos, 65, and rebel leader Timochenko―the nom de guerre for 57-year-old Rodrigo Londono―warmly shook hands on Colombian soil for the first time and signed the accord with a pen made from a bullet casing.

(Murphy and Acosta)

―this wouldn’t be such a surprise.

Alright, then: Congratulations. Good luck.

Something about holy shit goes here, or perhaps I overstate myself. That I did not expect this in my lifetime only suggests I never cared to attend closely enough that I could reasonably expect a thing about how it goes.

Still, I’m pretty certain we’re supposed to be impressed.

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Murphy, Helen and Luis Jaime Acosta. “Colombia, Marxist rebels sign accord ending 52-year war”. Reuters. 27 September 2016.