• May 12, 2015

    A 10,000-word piece by veteran reporter Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books has caused a major stir—it tells a story about the killing of Osama bin Laden four years ago by Navy SEALs that has little in common with the version espoused by the US government. Among other things, the piece, which uses several anonymous sources, asserts that Pakistani authorities knew bin Laden’s whereabouts all along, that the US got the information from a Pakistani informant rather than through the work of CIA analysts in tracking his couriers, that the operation that killed him was a stage-managed collaboration between both countries, that taking him alive was never a possibility they considered, and that no cache of useful intelligence was recovered in the raid. This would imply a vast cover-up stretching from President Obama on down, and already there have been denials (a CIA official derided Hersh’s account as “utter nonsense” in the Washington Post, while White House spokesman Ned Price claimed it had “too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions” to check each one) and various attacks on the piece. That Hersh published in the LRB rather than the New Yorker, where he’s long been a contributor, also attracted notice: did the New Yorker’s reluctance imply problems with Hersh’s story, or was it, in Gabriel Sherman’s words, a sign that “Hersh’s relationship with the New Yorker has soured over Hersh’s sustained critique of the Obama national-security apparatus and Remnick’s reluctance to challenge it?” Either way, some of the major claims in Hersh’s reporting (about what Pakistani intelligence knew when and how the US found out where bin Laden was) were backed up late yesterday by NBC News.

    From the cover of the first US edition of Hard to be a God

    From the cover of Hard to be a God, first US edition

    The Strugatsky brothers, who for “at least three decades” from the 1950s onward were “the most popular science-fiction writers in Russia, and the most influential Russian science-fiction writers in the world,” are having another moment. New translations are appearing, plus new editions of their novels Roadside Picnic (1972), the source material for Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and Hard to be a God (1964), which is now a film (not for the faint of heart or stomach) by the late Aleksei German.

    Mark Halperin, co-author of Game Change and highly paid co-host of Bloomberg Television’s “With All Due Respect”, has said sorry to Ted Cruz for badgering him about his Cuban heritage in an interview. ThinkProgress declared Halperin the winner of a prize for most racist interview of a 2016 candidate.

    The New Yorker profiles the belatedly famous writer Nell Zink, who survived her difficult childhood “by pitching my tent outside the folds of humanity.”

    A Digiday profile of Meredith Kopit Levien makes clear that the New York Times invites its advertisers to attend the daily Page One meetings, in which editors decide what goes on the front page. “Talk about native advertising,” Ben Winkler of OMD said. “To get behind the wall and see how the sausage has been made, that’s pretty special.”

    Ezra Klein suggests that the real reason cable news is losing viewers is because the actual news just isn’t as exciting as it used to be.

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