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Manic Monday Markup 5/4/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Israel, where the announcement that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would not join Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyahu’s government has potentially epic consequences for the Middle Eastern democracy. Leiberman said the decision came amid the other deals Bibi has cut to form a coalition following the March 17 elections. Although Netanyahu is expected to (barely) have enough support to maintain a majority in the Knesset (61 seats), it would make governing all but impossible.

The sudden shift comes amid violent unrest in the country over discrimination against Ethiopian Jews, which both President Reuven Rivlin and the prime minister condemned in a speech to parliament. Netanyahu has until Wednesday to form his government or he loses his right to form one. The intrigue suggests Netanyahu may seek or be forced to seek a unity government with the center-left Zionist Union lest another election happen soon.

In a related item, The Times of Israel has a fascinating interview with Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List about civil and national rights in Israel.

Nepalese officials’ incompetence following last week’s earthquake is blamed for foreign aid piling up in warehouses.

The United Kingdom goes to the polls this week and the election is as tight as ever. Labour’s Ed Miliband has won the Russell Brand election, but it seems unlikely to carry him into a majority in the House of Commons. However, because anti-Tory parties will likely equal a majority, Miliband still has a chance to be PM. David Cameron, the incumbent premier and leader of the Conservative party, has to hope he cuts down on Labour’s lead in England in order to secure a second term. Still, it could lead to a very big constitutional mess.

Game changer in the British elections? Welcome Princess Charlotte!

The Feds:

The Republican Presidential race grew by 3 over the weekend with the launch of bids by neurosurgeon Ben Carson, formerly Hewlett-Packard head and known for demon sheep (really!) Carly Fiorina and ex-Fox News personality and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The Guardian reports on the number of malpractice suits against Carson, although these are not uncommon in Carson’s field. Greg Sargent notes the “diverse” field does not equal a diversity of opinions. The Guardian captures Scott Walker’s odd self-casting of himself as Princess Leia (well technically his wife cast him that way) on “May the Forth be with You” Day. Politico discusses the fringe’s entry into the Republican contest.

Last week’s indictments in the George Washington Bridge scandal—which The New York Times relates in detail—casts the freshest doubts on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s presidential hopes. His stature has fallen nationally and in his own state even as his aides insist he has a path. The indicted aides, Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, pleaded not guilty today.

Now it’s a party! The leader of the New York Senate, Republican Dean Skelos, was arrested alongside his son. Not too long the Democratic Speaker of the New York Assembly was charged, too.

The plainclothes NYPD officer shot in the head over the weekend, Brian Moore, has died. A suspect was already in custody.

While Connecticut legislators hunt for the votes to expand gaming to compete with MGM Springfield, tribal authorities are confident of the support they need outside the Capitol.

Philadelphia votes in its Democratic primary on May 19, which is tantamount to the election in this arch-Democratic city. PoliticsPA notes the reluctant endorsements for mayor from some of the city’s leading publications.

The curfew lifted, The New York Times and NPR look at the neighborhoods at the center of the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore.

The State of Things:

Former Congressman Marty Meehan, the Chancellor of UMass-Lowell, has been named President of the University of Massachusetts system.

The Boston Globe flags the dealings of Democratic State Senator Brian Joyce.

David Bernstein in this month’s Boston magazine writes about the apparent decline of black political power in Boston.

Boston and Harvard Law School are near a deal to revamp the police complaint process.

The House and Senate compromise on an early retirement bill for state workers.

In Holyoke potpourri: The City Council (finally) files its rather anodyne request for the Massachusetts Attorney General review Mayor Alex Morse’s separation agreement with former City Solicitor Heather Egan. School Superintendent Sergio Paez will stay on for now working under Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester following the state takeover of city schools. And another challenger in Morse’s reelection race emerges.

The Fourth Estatements:

The Reminder’s Mike Dobbs comments on media consolidation in the Pioneer Valley in light of CBS3 Springfield (WSHM) and WGGB’s merger into Western Mass News.

City Slickers:

ICYMI: Our analysis of Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri’s task to strengthen community-relations nearly a year after taking office, but especially in the context of Baltimore and the department’s own history.

Elsewhere in the Police Department, the patrolmen’s union reelected Joseph Gentile as its President.

Winter may be over, but the snow battle between the city and the PVTA is not. Talks are said to be progressing between the PVTA and the city’s Disability Commission.

Twitter Chatter:

With all the would-be president-ing going on, it is important to remember we are on the cusp of the darkest “dark money” election ever. With Congress unwilling to make changes to law, the only other hope would appear to be the Federal Election Commission, but the body’s Republican members have all but said “no,” too. Today we award the tweet prize to Greg Sargent of the Washington Post for conveying so well, the resign, many feel in the battle to control the outsize influence the rich have on our elections.

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Manic Monday Markup 4/27/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Nepal, where the earthquake that struck Katmandu has now believed to have killed 3,800 and some estimates peg the death toll at over 4,000. The city is in chaos, but one common denominator unites many of the victims: poverty. The quake also struck and trapped climbers ascending Mount Everest, amid avalanches. The Times reports on how the quake only added to the political and economic tremors that have rocked the country in recent years.

A list of places to donate to help with relief.

The general election in the United Kingdom is shaping up to be more intense than previously assumed. Tight polls and the Scottish Nationalists domination in their home court likely means no party will win a majority. The strength of the SNP comes at Labour’s expense to the north, but the polls still would suggest Opposition Leader Ed Miliband will have more options to form a government than incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron.

Australia’s foreign minister declares ISIS a bigger threat to Australia than Communism.

The board looks set for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new, narrow right-wing government. Jewish Home Party Leader, Naftali Bennett, perhaps cowed by his party’s losses in the March election, seems set to accept the Education Ministry after demanding his party (and likely he) lead the Defense or Foreign Ministries. If Bennett has backed down, Netanyahu will be able to form a government before the May 7 deadline. If he does not succeed, somebody else will be selected to form a government, but more than likely new elections would be held.

Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, has called for action to process asylum claims in Africa following last week’s capsizing of a boat carrying refugees that killed hundreds ahead of a meeting of European foreign ministers on the matter.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes for a boost during his trip to Washington.

As Ukraine struggles to fill its army ranks amid draft-dodging, Russian President Vladimir Putin defends his annexation of Crimea.

The Feds:

The Baltimore Sun writes a compelling editorial about the events surrounding the death of Freddies Gray, the black man who died in Baltimore police custody last week. The New York Times ed board chimes in with some equally important thoughts about the problems the inner-city poor face, particularly its male population.

The Guardian notes that whatever the jury decides in terms of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s fate, the odds are actually fairly low that he would be executed. Since reinstating the death penalty, the US government has only killed three death row inmates.

Via The Plum Line, Senate Republicans prepare for war against President Barack Obama’s efforts to address climate change by trying to undermine the president’s foreign policy powers, just as they have done with Iran. Though Americans seems to back the Iran efforts so far.

Loretta Lynch is sworn in as Attorney General.

Connecticut’s Democratic-led budget-writing panel released its proposed budget, which evades the state’s constitutional spending cap. Republicans, who are in the minority of both legislative chambers, released their own plan, which relies heavily on wage freezes or, failing that, layoffs.

Elsewhere in Connecticut politics, Tony Ravosa, a former Springfield City Councilor and, is proposing to use the site of a closed movie theater in East Hartford to house a casino to compete with MGM Springfield.

The State of Things:

Activists are gearing up to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot (the earliest date possible) that would enable Massachusetts to enact a graduated income tax rate (the rich would pay a higher rate).

Gov. Charlie Baker’s MBTA reforms are getting a frosty reception from Beacon Hill so says the Boston Herald. This weekend, we assessed what to make of Charlie’s recent surge in approval rating, partly thanks to the MBTA’s meltdown. The Globe checks in on the relationship among the powers that be: Baker, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and House Speaker Bob DeLeo.

The Defense begins its case in the penalty phase of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid tribute to the victims at the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston during his American tour.

In light of Cathedral High School’s troubles and Catholic education in Greater Springfield generally, the tale of St. Columbkille’s in Brighton seems worth sharing.

Holyoke news galore during the Friday news dump. Ward 2 Councilor Anthony Soto confirmed his plans to run for mayor and Mayor Alex Morse announced he and his partner Edwin Vargas are to be wed.

Elsewhere in Holyoke, the state board of education will hold a hearing on taking over the schools this evening.

In local election potpourri: Longmeadow School Committee member Katie Girard kicked off her reelection bid. The town election is June. Easthampton City Council Jennifer Hayes also announced her bid to win reelection in November.

City Slickers:

Former MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott will kick off an event sponsored by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission on transit equity.

More on Ravosa in East Hartford from Pete Goonan at The Republican: Nothing wrong with competition.

Twitter Chatter:

In times like these, there really is no one place to properly send people to provide assistance and by no means are the efforts of the UN’s World Food Program the only game in town. In light of the devastation and the pressing need in Nepal, the choice for Tweet prize must be one of those providing relief. We are featuring the World Program as no specific endorsement of them above anybody else. But help is gravely needed! Please consider donating to the WFP or one of the other charities linked to via the New York Times website.

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Manic Monday Markup 4/20/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Italy which is reporting that hundreds are feared dead after a boat filled with migrants fleeing Libya capsized. The illegal crossings have left leaders in European countries scrambling. Comparing it to the situation in Bosnia twenty years ago, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whom The Guardian described as “visibly agitated,” said the continent could not afford to “close our eyes again and only commemorate these events later.”

Europe has struggled with the politics of immigration, especially amid the recent Recession and other economic turmoil. The EU has launched military operations to try and intercept other vessels crossing the Mediterranean and shut down smugglers who ferry the migrants to Europe.

In Africa potpourri: South Africa struggles with its xenophobia following attacks against migrant workers, which in the past week led President Jacob Zuma to cancel a foreign trip to address the matter. Meanwhile in Ethiopia, a blogger faces terrorism charges in a test for freedom of expression there.

Iran charges a Washington Post reporter with espionage.

Polish leaders have taken umbrage at FBI Director James Comey’s remarks that left the impression that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. The issue has been a touchy subject in the Eastern European country, the invasion of which, started World War II.

Some Tories think David Cameron’s attempts to scare voters about a Labour-SNP government could instead threaten Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom itself.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got more time to form a government from President Reuvin Rivlin as coalition talks drag on. Agreements with the center-right, but economic populist Kulanu party and with the religious parties seem close, although nothing is certain there. Large gaps remain between other right-wing parties and Bibi’s Likud, which dominated last month’s elections largely at the expense of the former. Threats of bolting from talks by right-winger Naftali Bennett and Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon could upend Bibi’s new term in office. Opposition Leader and Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog ruled out a unity government with Netanyahu again and Haaretz implored Herzog to maintain that position.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis condemns the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe.

The Feds:

Hillary Clinton returns to the state that kept her campaign alive for President seven years ago: New Hampshire. Also Politico’s Glenn Thrush talks about the Clinton’s camp press policy. In short: less war, more containment.

Today in obvious: Chris Christie’s poll numbers in New Jersey continue to crater. One poll says a majority of Garden Staters think Christie knew about the now-infamous lane closings on the George Washington Bridge.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez says President Obama’s nominee for AG should get a vote.

The CT Mirror describes the difficult conversation Connecticut is having about the government it can afford and looks at the state’s unique spending cap. Last week, Attorney General George Jepson warned of legal risks in the proposed expanded gaming bill. Enfield will debate a resolution opposing a casino tonight.

After replacing the New York State Assembly’s long-serving speaker who resigned amid a corruption probe, Carl Hastie now faces his own ethical questions related to his mother’s dealings.

The State of Things:

With the penalty phase of the Boston Marathon bomber’s trial starting tomorrow, more victims are coming out against killing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, each of whom lost a limb (Kensky has since had a second amputated), called for Tsarnaev to serve life in prison. The family of 8 year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the bombing, likewise issued their opposition to the death penalty last week in an open letter on the front page of The Boston Globe.

Attorney General Maura Healey says her office will investigate the recent spike in prices for the anti-overdose drug Narcan. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg says the state should use its buying power to leverage better prices for anti-overdose medication that communities have increasingly purchased amid the commonwealth’s opiate crisis.

The Boston Herald flags an expenditure in Charlie Baker’s campaign finance report for polling in the immediate aftermath of last year’s gubernatorial election. Also in Charlie news, the governor gets good marks for his first hundred days in office, if on somewhat hazy grounds. The governor also sat down with WBUR and The Republican, among other outlets, to discuss the milestone.

However, Eric Lesser outdoes the guv by with a list of 100 actions taken over his first 100 days in office in an email to supporters.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse has scheduled a kickoff for his reelection campaign on May 27.

West Springfield Mayor Ed Sullivan forgoes reelection after one term.

East Longmeadow voters approve a charter commission to examine the town’s government.

The Fourth Estatements:

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today. In New England, The Boston Globe won for an editorial series on the issues facing food service employees. The Public Service award went to The Post and Courier in South Carolina, which documented deaths due to domestic abuse. Other notable wins include The New York Times for Ebola coverage and special interest influence on state attorneys general offices. The Washington Post was honored for its reports on the failures of the Secret Service as was Bloomberg News for explanatory reporting on corporate tax dodgers. The Seattle Times won the breaking news award for covering landslides last year that killed 43.

Our analysis of Politico’s planned expansion, which appears to include Massachusetts.

WGGB and WSHM formally merge tomorrow according to a report in Masslive. Their newsrooms will be merged, but the full implications have yet to be laid out.

City Slickers:

Reminder Editor Mike Dobbs slams an offensive piece about Springfield that appeared in, of all places, The Valley Advocate.

The Massachusetts Historic Commission raises concerns about MGM’s plans, but about the armory, not the YWCA.

Plans for the new railcar facility on Page Boulevard are moving ahead at full steam with CNR’s purchase of the land where Westinghouse once had a factory.

Twitter Chatter:

The New York Times observed that The Post and Courier, which took the public service award this year’s Pulitzers, is the smallest outlet to get the award in five years and follows The Washington Post and The Guardian‘s reports based on Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. The subject matter itself is particularly poignant, too. Deaths due to domestic abuse is necessarily a grim and tragic issue, but writing about it should seemingly spur a call to action.  Today we award the tweet prize to The Post and Courier itself both for its thanks and the link to its series. Perhaps the attention of the prize can amplify whatever impact the series itself has on addressing this heartbreaking issue.

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Manic Monday Markup 4/13/15…

The Feds:

We begin today in the United States where it finally happened after much anticipation and waiting. Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, former senator, former Secretary of State announced her campaign for president. Announcing in a video that emphasizes the people Clinton wants “champion” first and foremost, the long-running invisible primary on the Democratic side finally broke out into the open. She faces little opposition in the primary, which some see as a problem and others as a good thing.

…And the World:

President Barack Obama’s historic meeting in Panama with Cuban President Raul Castro signaled a big shift in relations between the two countries. Long blackballed from the Summit of the Americas, Cuba’s president did condemn the US’ treatment of his country, but praised Obama. For his party, Obama said it was time to end conflicts—in this case the last vestiges of the Cold War—that began before he was born. The thaw between the two countries is also popular across Latin America.

In Great Britain, polls are showing bizarre fluctuation with the Conservatives ahead one day followed by Labour the next and vice versa. Opposition Leader Ed Miliband launched Labour’s election manifesto today, perhaps in such a way that it might roll back some of the skepticism Miliband has faced over the years. Among the goodies in the manifesto are controlling the deficit and raising the minimum wage. NPR observes that amidst the election, Britain is backing away from its role on the world stage.

Meanwhile, the Tories (Conservatives) have found their wheels spinning after last week when a mean, personal attack on Miliband appeared to backfire and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne struggled to explain how his party would pay for an £8 billion increase in funding for health care.

Across the channel in France, the former leader of France’s far-right National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen will not seek a seat in France’s regional elections after facing criticism for anti-Semitic remarks from, among others, his own daughter who now leads the National Front.

Russia lifts a ban on missiles to Iran, in part due to the framework agreement on the latter’s nuclear program, raising the alarm in the US and Iran. Russia updated Israel before the move and Israel’s major concern is that the missiles will end up in Syrian or Hezbollah’s hands.

Also from NPR: Should Pakistan assist Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen? Parliament says no. Meanwhile, the Saudis ignore Iran’s calls to withdraw from Yemen.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff returned from the Summit of the Americas to more scandals at home.

The Feds (cont’d):

Today Florida Senator Marco Rubio also jumped into the presidential race on the Republican side. He tried to cast himself as a younger alternative to older figures, like one-time mentor Jeb Bush.  The Miami Herald says he will try to bank on relationships he has made in early primary states. Politico’s top Florida report (formerly of The Miami Herald) explains why Rubio just could not say no to a bid despite the long odds.

More Hillary: She is road tripping to her first events in Iowa from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. in a van nicknamed “Scooby,” on the heels of her journey to a decision on another run. Bill de Blasio, a longtime Clinton ally and former staffer, is reserving his endorsement for now to hear where Clinton will land on policy. The details of her campaign’s platform will begin to gel in the upcoming weeks and months. Clinton also got words of support from overseas. On announcement eve, campaign manager Robby Mook laid out a no-drama manifesto to staffers, a sign he is determined to avoid the gyrations that helped fell Clinton’s 2008 president bid.

Who’s the Mook? You don’t know Robby Mook? Mother Jones and The Guardian have profiles of the data geek at the helm of Clinton’s campaign and the challenge he faces.

California’s water restrictions have drawn ire because farmers are excluded. Farmers reply: they and city dwellers are in this together.

A federal appeals court upholds ban on gay conversation therapy.

Jeff Atwater, Florida’s state CFO and probably the best-known recruit for Rubio’s senate seat—which the incumbent is vacating to pursue the presidency—has taken a pass.

The State of Things:

The penalty phase for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzkokhar Tsarnaev will begin April 21. Our view: Send him to prison for life.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s extremely broad review of state regulations has unnerved environmental groups.

The State House News Service’s Matt Murphy and New England Public Radio’s Henry Epp lay out the week on Beacon Hill including the continuing committee standoff between the House and the Senate.

Holyoke police officer union held a vote of no confidence in Chief James Neiswanger. City officials call it a PR stunt and Neiswanger says he serves the public, not the union.

West Springfield names a new school superintendent.

The Springfield City Library will host the first of several presentations on elections and politics this Thursday. Organized alongside the Springfield Election Commission, Thursday’s event, Elections 101, is at 6:30PM at the Forest Park Branch Library.

City Slickers:

Diocesan officials will discuss proposed sites for a new regional Catholic High School. Although a source told WMassP&I that the site in West Springfield may be unsuitable due to soil conditions.

An update on Union Station from The Reminder.

Masslive looks at the potential of Pynchon Plaza, which still remains very much in the talk, rather than action phase of redevelopment.

ICYMI: Our review of the fracas over a job training program funded by disaster moneys.

Twitter Chatter:

The onset of the digital age of politics could not be any more apparent than with Hillary Clinton’s announcement yesterday. While Google was already very much a part of our lives in 2008, Twitter did not even exist and yet today both offer windows into people’s thoughts about major political happenings in a way that were simply impossible before. Today we award the tweet prize to Twitter Data and Google Politics, who together show how Clinton’s news sparked attention across social media and the Internet.

Twitter’s winning tweet (preceded by one saying Clinton’s announcement tweets were viewed 3 million times) showed the sudden spike in mentions for Clinton’s handle. Google, by contrast, featured the top questions people were asking about the former Secretary of State (and in turn, perhaps influence the search engine’s algorithm for autocomplete).