In Los Angeles, Stadiums Battle Heats Up – By KEN BELSON MARCH 1, 2015

An artist’s rendering of a proposed football stadium in Carson, Calif., that the Raiders and the Chargers say they plan to share. Credit MANICA Architecture, via Reuters 

For years, the N.F.L. played cat and mouse with the city of Los Angeles. Every so often a team in, say, Minnesota, would threaten to move to L.A. in an effort to crowbar concessions out of its government leaders back home. Once the team got public financing, it stayed put.

To move the ball, AEG, the sports and entertainment group, and Majestic Realty Group, a big real estate developer, promised to build stadiums in Los Angeles County if a team would commit to moving. For years, none did.

But the roulette wheel has spun a lot faster this year. In January, the owner of the St. Louis Rams, Stan Kroenke, said he planned to build an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Last week, the Inglewood City Council voted unanimously to give the project the green light. The Rams switched to a year-to-year lease at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, giving them the flexibility to move.

Alarmed by the possibility that the Rams could move back to Los Angeles, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders last month said they would build their own stadium in Carson, about 15 miles farther south. The move was viewed as a way for the teams to maintain leverage in stadium negotiations with their home cities and potentially forestall the Rams.

In the blink of an eye, the N.F.L. went from shadow boxing to boxing in Los Angeles. Faced with the possibility of three teams rushing to the city at once, the N.F.L. established an owners committee to oversee the process.

But the process appears to be a work in a progress. AEG, which secured environmental approvals and sold naming rights for its proposed stadium next to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, and which perhaps fears being shut out of the N.F.L. stadium sweepstakes, re-entered the fray.

The company commissioned a report by Tom Ridge, a former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who outlined several safety and operational risks of locating a stadium in Inglewood just a few miles from the runways at Los Angeles International Airport.

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On a cloudy, moonless night somewhere in northeastern China, three men creep through a stand of Japanese Clethra trees. They carry no flashlights, and the sky is so dark that they hear the sound of the rushing Tumen River before they see it: They’ve arrived at the North Korean border.

1 / 7 Former North Korean official Kim Heung-kwang used to search homes for illegal media; now he smuggles it into the country on flash drives. Joe Pugliese

Earlier in the evening at a nearby restaurant, they treated the local Chinese police chief and head of the border patrol to a blowout feast of more than 20 dishes, climaxing with a southern China delicacy—a carp deep-fried and served alive, its mouth and gills still moving. Following an after-meal session of pricey Chunghwa cigarettes and shots of Moutai liquor, the officials made phone calls telling subordinates to abandon their posts for several hours. After dozens of these bribe dinners, they had become routine, practically a tradition among friends; by now the smugglers even had their own key to the rusty bike lock securing the border area’s barbed wire fence.

Two hours later the trio’s leader, a middle-aged North Korean defector named Jung Kwang-il, steps into the tall weeds of the riverbank. He pulls out a cheap laser pointer and flashes it across the water. Then he waits for a response: If he sees an X slashed through the air by a laser on the opposite bank, the operation will be called off. Instead, he’s answered with a red circle painted through the darkness.

Soon after, a compact man dressed in only a hoodie and boxer shorts wades out of the waist-high water and onto the riverbank where Jung and his companions stand. Jung arranged the meeting earlier in the day using coded language over walkie-talkies. The men embrace and speak softly for a minute about each other’s health, the price of North Korean mushrooms, and Jung’s mother, whom he’d left behind in the North 10 years ago. Then Jung hands the man a tightly wrapped plastic bag containing a trove of precious black-market data: 200 Sandisk USB drives and 300 micro SD cards, each packed with 16 gigabytes of videos like LucySon of God22 Jump Street, and entire seasons of South Korean reality television shows, comedies, and soap operas. To bribe the guards on the North Korean side, Jung has included in the bag an HP laptop computer, cigarettes, liquor, and close to $1,000 in cash.

The man in the hoodie slings the bag of digital contraband over his shoulder. Then he says good-bye and disappears back into the world’s deepest black hole of information.

That smuggling mission was planned and executed last September by the North Korea Strategy Center and its 46-year-old founder, Kang Chol-hwan. Over the past few years, Kang’s organization has become the largest in a movement of political groups who routinely smuggle data into North Korea. NKSC alone annually injects around 3,000 USB drives filled with foreign movies, music, and ebooks. Kang’s goal, as wildly optimistic as it may sound, is nothing less than the overthrow of the North Korean government. He believes that the Kim dynasty’s three-generation stranglehold on the North Korean people—and its draconian restriction on almost any information about the world beyond its borders—will ultimately be broken not by drone strikes or caravans of Humvees but by a gradual, guerrilla invasion of thumb drives filled with bootleg episodes of Friends and Judd Apatow comedies.

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Supreme Court To Weigh Power Of Redistricting Commissions – Nina Totenberg MARCH 02, 2015 4:02 AM ET

Take a look at a congressional district map, and it can look like a madman’s jigsaw puzzle. The reason is, in part, that the district lines are drawn by state legislators seeking to maximize partisan advantage. It’s a process that critics say is responsible for much that’s wrong with Washington.

Arizona state Sen. Andy Biggs flips through redistricting maps during a special legislative committee hearing to discuss the state commission's proposed maps in 2011.

Arizona state Sen. Andy Biggs flips through redistricting maps during a special legislative committee hearing to discuss the state commission’s proposed maps in 2011. Ross D. Franklin/AP

That’s why some states have tried setting up independent commissions to draw the map. Arizona voters created such a commission in 2000. But when the commission chair displeased the governor and state Senate, they tried, unsuccessfully, to remove her.

The power of the commission to draw district lines has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hand that power back to the legislators in Arizona, California, and a dozen other states.

Although the Supreme Court has viewed partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts as a bad practice that deprives citizens of fair representation, the court has also thrown up its hands when it comes to policing the practice. The reason is simple: the justices have been unable to come up with neutral and judicially-manageable rules for drawing electoral boundaries. So, in recent years, some states have been experimenting with independent commissions.

The commissions vary in form and in how much influence they allow incumbents to have in drawing their own districts.

Arizona’s independent commission presents the test case before the Supreme Court on Monday. Fifteen years ago the state’s voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that amended the state constitution to put the decennial redistricting in the hands of an independent, five-person commission. Two of the commissioners were to be Republicans, two Democrats, and the commission’s chair was to be an Independent.

In a state with 35 percent registered Republicans, 35 percent Independents, and 30 percent Democrats, the congressional map the commission drew after the 2010 census had four safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats, and three competitive districts.

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Republicans say they have a plan if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare. They don’t. – Updated by Ezra Klein on March 1, 2015, 10:40 p.m. ET

On Sunday night, three Senate Republicans — Lamar Alexander, John Barrasso and Orrin Hatch — published a Washington Post op-ed promising that if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare and rips subsidies out of federal exchanges, “Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions.”

The problem is they don’t have a plan. And Republicans spent the last week showing that even if they did have a plan, there’s no way the House would pass it.”

Let’s start with GOP plan, such as it exists, or doesn’t. “First and most important,” the three senators write, “we would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period.”

How long is this transitional period? What happens when it runs out? They don’t say.

Next, they promise to “give states the freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices.”

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The World According to Kissinger – By Wolfgang Ischinger MARCH/APRIL 2015 ISSUE

How to Defend Global Order

How many authors could title their book simply World Order without sounding utterly presumptuous? Henry Kissinger still plays in a league of his own. For admirers and critics alike, he is more than just a former U.S. secretary of state and previous national security adviser. Some see him as the quintessential wise man of U.S. foreign policy; others, as a diehard realpolitiker hanging on to yesterday’s world; and still others, as a perennial bête noire. To all, he remains larger than life. And regardless of how one views Kissinger, his new book is tremendously valuable.

To call World Order timely would be an understatement, for if there was one thing the world yearned for in 2014, it was order. In the Middle East, the Syrian civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and allowed jihadist groups to threaten the stability of the entire region. In Asia, an economically resurgent China has grown more assertive, stoking anxiety among its neighbors. In West Africa, the Ebola pandemic has nearly shut down several states. And even Europe, the most rule-bound and institutionalized part of the world, has seen its cherished liberal norms come under direct assault as Russian President Vladimir Putin reclaimed military aggression as an instrument of state policy.

Even more ominous, the traditional guardians of global order seem to have become reluctant to defend it. Following long, costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States and other Western powers are suffering from intervention fatigue, preferring instead to focus on domestic concerns. And the rising powers have so far proved either unwilling or unable to safeguard international stability.

Yes, Mr. President? Kissinger in the White House barbershop, January 1972(Alfred Eisenstaedt / The Life Picture Collection / Getty Images)

Enter Kissinger. A strategist and historian by training, he takes the long view. The core of the book is his exploration of different interpretations of the idea of world order and competing approaches to constructing it. Kissinger opens the book by defining the term “world order” as “the concept held by a region or civilization about the nature of just arrangements and the distribution of power thought to be applicable to the entire world.” As he is quick to point out, any system of this kind rests on two components: “a set of commonly accepted rules that define the limits of permissible action and a balance of power that enforces restraint where rules break down, preventing one political unit from subjugating all others.”

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‘Never go into these things without a plan’ By Manu Raju, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan 3/1/15 11:38 AM EST Updated 3/1/15 7:13 PM EST

How an attack on Obama led to Republican embarrassment over DHS funding.


In December, at a meeting of the raucous Republican Study Committee in the basement of the Capitol, Georgia Rep. Tom Price made a recommendation he hoped would help resolve an uprising in his party over President Barack Obama’s immigration orders.

Republicans, who had just seized control of both houses of Congress, had howled in fury when Obama decided to protect roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally. Republicans were demanding an aggressive and immediate response.

That’s when Price — a trusted conservative and the next leader of the House Budget Committee — made a pitch that caught steam and ultimately made its way to Republican leaders: Hold hostage funding for immigration enforcement and force Obama to relent on his policies.

“At the time, we were at a roadblock and I thought — many of us thought — we needed a way to get around that impasse,” Price said last week. “My sense was if we were able to tie funding for the president…to the portions of the appropriations process that dealt with immigration itself, that that would allow for us to focus the nation’s attention on the real problem, which is the president’s illegal and unconstitutional executive action.”

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