In a chilling New York Times article, James B. Comey, director of the FBI, is quoted saying the threat of terrorism is worse than he imagined before assuming his current position:
By Mr. Comey's own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished. But nine months into his tenure as director, Mr. Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the United States still faces from terrorism.
"I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become," Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview in his sprawling office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. "There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated." [The New York Times]
One might interpret this information differently, based on preconceived notions.
Neocons, for example, might see this as further evidence that skepticism of the surveillance state is rooted in nothing but ignorance and naiveté. Meanwhile, folks on the other side of the debate might view this as yet another example of someone being co-opted once they gain a position of authority.
But Comey's credibility on this issue is hard to impugn. As the No. 2 in the Bush Justice Department, he famously refused to approve reauthorization of the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.
I don't know about you, but I'd be more comfortable if his credibility on this issue weren't quite so solid. Matt K. Lewis
While Donald Trump himself may speak at the level of a fourth grader, the controversy surrounding his campaign has had the positive side effect of making Americans brush up on their vocabulary skills.
The editors of Merriam-Webster's online dictionary have noticed spikes in research on a number of campaign-related words, and Trump, says Merriam-Webster Associate Editor Kory Stamper, "has brought up the motherlode of lookups." He has particularly inspired curiosity about "demagoguery" and "misogyny."
But Trump isn't the only candidate unintentionally making us a little smarter this campaign season. The release of Hillary Clinton's emails, for instance, fueled interest in "louche," a word used by one of her advisers to describe House Speaker John Boehner.
Stamper expects these lookup trends to continue throughout election season. "It's going to be a long, verbose 14 months," he said. Bonnie Kristian
When pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (Truvada) first hit the market, critics were skeptical of the pill's claims that it could keep clients HIV-free if it at the same time it lured people into believing they could have safe sex condom-free. However, 657 clients and more than two years later, it looks like that has, in fact, been the case: Not one person on the pill caught the virus, The New York Times reports.
However, critics who suggested the security provided by PrEP — which is close to 100 percent successful — would lead to a false sense of security about sexually transmitted diseases appear to have been correct. Gay men in the study did use fewer condoms, and about half became infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia within a year. Forty percent said their condom use decreased, although the vast majority said their number of sexual partners remained the same. At least there's this: While HIV (which can develop into AIDS) is controlled with antiretroviral drugs taken for life, most other STDs are treated with a run of antibiotics. Jeva Lange
Four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady has emerged victorious yet again. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman nullified the four-game suspension the NFL had slapped on Brady for his alleged role in the "Deflategate" scandal, in which Brady's New England Patriots were accused of breaking the rules by deflating footballs in a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Patriots won that game 45-7, and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Berman "did not rule on whether Brady tampered with the footballs in a bid for competitive advantage," The New York Times notes. "Instead, he focused on the narrower question of whether the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players union gave [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell] the authority to carry out the suspension. Judge Berman ruled that it did not."
Brady is now expected to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first game of the Patriots' season on September 10. And his star tight end, for one, certainly seems thrilled to have his QB back. Jeva Lange
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) September 3, 2015
Donald Trump reportedly plans to sign a loyalty pledge to the GOP, a source revealed to Politico Thursday. The pledge would force Trump to endorse the eventual GOP nominee, and theoretically prevent him from a third-party run if he doesn't win the Republican nomination. By signing the pledge, Trump will avoid complications of getting on primary ballots as a Republican and also rob opponents of an attack line at the next debate.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski would not confirm Trump's plans to Politico, saying, "I don't think you can 'expect' ANYTHING from Mr. Trump." Jeva Lange
Another elected official has challenged the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage — this time, a judge in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
Chancellor Jeffery Atherton denied the divorce petition of Thomas and Pamela Bumgardner, who filed for divorce last September citing irreconcilable differences. Among several listed reasons for denying the petition, Atherton noted that, in his view, the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage left Tennesseeans “incompetent to define and address such institutions as marriage and, thereby, at minimum, contest divorces.”
Atherton's decision comes amid a flurry of other state officials challenging the June 27 ruling, most prominently county clerk Kim Davis in Kentucky.
While the attorneys for the plaintiffs declined to comment to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, other members of the Chattanooga legal community expressed skepticism over the ruling. “I don't know for sure, but I suspect the U.S. Supreme Court did not intend to preempt divorce law,” one attorney told the paper.
As to where that leaves the Bumgardners, who remain married against their will? Atherton is optimistic: "Hopefully they can reconcile." Marshall Bright
When Sesame Street took on Donald Trump in their 2005 episode, "Grouch Apprentice," of course no one had any idea that 10 years later he'd be running for president. Luckily, The Daily Beast has resurfaced the clip — which skewers "Donald Grump," a grouch whose name "is on every piece of trash in town." Mr. Grump even has his own song in which he sings, "My name is Donald Grump and I have more trash than all of you, so nah-nah-na-na-nah!"
Spoiler alert: Elmo ultimately gets to be Donald Grump's apprentice, and as a reward for being a great helper, he is gifted Donald's hair. The other grumps aren't as lucky — "You're fired!" Grump shouts, just like the real-life Trump does on his show.
This episode wasn't even the first time Sesame Street took on the real estate tycoon. In 1994, the program featured a character named "Ronald Grump" in an anniversary special. The plot found Grump staking out Sesame Street as the perfect location for his Grump Tower.
Unfortunately, the Trump campaign did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for a comment. Jeva Lange
Sweden has maintained military neutrality for the past 200 years, but the threat of Russian aggression could bring an end to their centennials of peace. Swedish forces have already begun peacekeeping exercises, The Los Angeles Times reports, and one in three Swedes favors joining the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) in order to earn the full support of their allies in the case of an attack or threat.
Russia has increased its northern activities in the past few years and the annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in the spring of 2014 has made Swedes doubly suspicious of their nearby neighbor's motives (Sweden is separated from the Russian mainland by Finland, but shares access to the Baltic Sea). What's more, last fall, two Russian fighter bombers and a submarine entered Swedish territory uninvited.
The Russian ambassador in Sweden, however, has threatened that Moscow might react militarily were Stockholm to indeed join NATO. "Putin pointed out that there will be consequences, that Russia will have to resort to a response of the military kind and reorientate our troops and missiles," Ambassador Viktor Tatarintsev told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in June. "The country that joins NATO needs to be aware of the risks it is exposing itself to." Jeva Lange