The Spectacle Blog

Simon & Schuster’s Director of Publicity Responds

By on 8.5.14 | 1:00PM

Earlier today we received this reply from Simon & Schuster’s director of publicity to my column today, “Reagan Authors in Plagiarism Fight”:

Dear Mr. Lord and Mr. Pleszczynski,

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Toledo Lives, But Every City Is Mortal

By on 8.5.14 | 10:15AM

The tap water is once again safe to drink for the residents of Toledo, Ohio, the state’s fourth largest city, the Associated Press reports. Toxin levels in the area’s water system caused by an algae bloom in Lake Erie were declared low enough for safe human ingestion on Monday. Whether the Eukaryotes were solely to blame for the incident is not completely clear, and investigators will be inspecting Toledo’s pipes to make certain that the aging system did not contribute to the problem.

The episode does highlight, however, the fragility of the modern city, which can be crippled not merely by hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. With many people packed into a relatively small area and dependent on bureaucracies for their very survival, it’s a miracle disruption is so infrequent.

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Pedants’ Corner: Jane Austen Wasn’t an ‘18th-Century Novelist’

By on 8.4.14 | 6:36PM

I've complained here before about seeing my second favorite novelist referred to as a "Victorian." This howler has been popping up less and less of late. (No credit due here, of course: people probably just started using Wikipedia….) But now I'm beginning to see a similar mistake. In a piece—not entirely without interest—in the Atlantic about Austenian political economy, one finds her referred to in the headline as an "18th-century novelist."

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Why Doesn’t The Obama Admin Consider Hamas Disgraceful?

By on 8.4.14 | 5:05PM

Yesterday the Obama Administration publicly rebuked Israel for an attack on a UN Relief Works Agency school yesterday which left 10 Palestinians dead and displaced 3,000 others.

The Obama Administration proclaimed it was "appalled" by the incident and characterized as "disgraceful". State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki lectured Israel when she said, The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israel Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties."

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Obama Makes News by Taking Reporters’ Questions

By on 8.4.14 | 4:18PM

For most of his tenure, Barack Obama has seemed content to ignore the White House press corps—so much so that now the president has made news simply by taking questions. Politico reports:

President Barack Obama had just done the unthinkable.

He took questions last week from the White House press corps — not just once, but twice. He didn’t call only on the reporters who were selected ahead of time by his senior aides. He even stuck around longer than he wanted at a briefing Friday to appease the room of shouting correspondents.”

“Hold on, guys. Come on. You’re not that pent up,” Obama joked. “I’ve been giving you questions lately.”

This never used to happen in the Obama White House, a place so obsessed with message control that the president could go months without talking with the press corps. However, in the past seven weeks, Obama has taken questions an average of once a week.”

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James Brady, R.I.P.

By on 8.4.14 | 4:17PM

Former White House Press Secretary James Brady passed away today. His family issued a statement indicating he died "after a series of health issues". He was 73.

Only months after being named Press Secretary, Brady sustained a gunshot wound to the head during the assassination attempt of President Reagan on March 30, 1981. It had been reported that Brady had died of his wounds, but he would pull through. Slurred speech and partial paralysis left him unable to continue in the job although Reagan saw to it that he kept the title of Press Secretary throughout his presidency. Larry Speakes and later Marlin Fitzwater held the titles of Deputy Press Secretary.

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Where Will the Islamic State Stop?

By on 8.4.14 | 2:16PM

Militants with the Islamic State, formerly known by the acronym ISIS, launched a complex invasion into Lebanon on Sunday, overwhelming Lebanese troops and securing Arsal, a city predominantly made up of Syrian refugees. The sophistication of the attack came as a surprise to Beirut, whose underfunded army “says it doesn't have the proper weapons to fight off militants,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Islamic State, meanwhile, might be making as much as $3 million a day selling crude oil on the black market.

It is too soon to tell where the expansion of the Islamic State will stop, but militants continue to gain ground and infrastructure—taking, for instance, Mosul’s largest dam on Sunday, putting in their hands control of the region’s electrical power and the ability to flood the valleys below. 

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Britain Reviewing Military Aid to Israel; Rewards Hamas

By on 8.4.14 | 9:28AM

This morning Jed Babbin draws our attention to the useful idiots giving aid and comfort to Hamas. He mentions the usual suspects - the Obama Administration, the UN Human Rights Council, prominent left-wing academic Cornel West, the crew at MSNBC's Morning Joe, several socialist Latin American governments and demonstrators in Europe, many of whom are Muslim.

Well, Babbin can now add Britain to that list. The Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government headed up by David Cameron has ordered a review of all military aid to Israel due to Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

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Pete Van Wieren, R.I.P.

By on 8.2.14 | 6:34PM

Former Atlanta Braves broadcaster Pete Van Wieren passed away this morning after a long battle with lymphoma. He was 69.

Van Wieren was in the booth with the Braves between 1975 and 2008. If you ever tuned into a Braves game on TBS you heard the voices of Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, Ernie Johnson, Skip Caray and Van Wieren. Only Sutton remains with us. 

I enjoyed Van Wieren's low key approach behind the mike. He was tremendously knowledgable, but he didn't let it get in the way of the game. 

David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shares his memories of Van Wieren here.

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What the Hell, Hamas?

By on 8.1.14 | 4:31PM

There was never any doubt that, for Hamas, continued violence in Gaza was the real path to victory. A mere 90 minutes into a three day ceasefire, as Israeli forces moved to destroy a tunnel—an activity permitted by the truce—Hamas militants emerged from the tunnel and engaged. Two soldiers were killed, one was captured, and the ceasefire was ended.

Palestinian authorities contest the timeline set forth by Israel, asserting that renewed Israeli attacks began before the kidnapping of the IDF soldier. Israel has dismissed these claims completely and vowed to rescue their man. The violation of the ceasefire has been condemned by the White House, and prompted the UN to question Palestinian good faith in the pursuit of peace.

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