Slatest PM: When Playing the Piano Could Make You a National Hero

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 27 2013 5:44 PM

Slatest PM: When Playing the Piano Could Make You a National Hero

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President Barack Obama congratulates musician Van Cliburn after presenting him with the 2010 National Medal of Arts, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on March 2, 2011

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

***We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. The most recent edition is below. Sign up here to receive The Slatest PM in your inbox daily.***

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Is the South More Racist?: New York Times: "A central provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 may be in peril, judging from tough questioning on Wednesday from the Supreme Court’s more conservative members. Justice Antonin Scalia called the provision, which requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal permission before changing voting procedures, a 'perpetuation of racial entitlement.' Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked a skeptical question about whether people in the South are more racist than those in the North. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked how much longer Alabama must live 'under the trusteeship of the United States government.' The court’s more liberal members, citing data and history, said Congress remained entitled to make the judgment that the provision was still needed in the covered jurisdictions."

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All Together Now: All eyes are on Kennedy, as they normally are. Washington Post: "How far the court goes in deciding the case will most likely be determined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. He seemed particularly disturbed, as he did four years ago, by the federalism problem that arises from treating some states differently than others. 'Times change,' he said. Kennedy suggested several times that another part of the law, which applies to the whole country, is enough to prevent discrimination. One possibility for the court would be to keep Section 5 but to declare that the formula used in selecting the covered states, which is based on 1972 data, is outdated and must be revisited. Proponents of the law say that would effectively doom Section 5, because it would be so hard to get a new formula through a partisan and polarized Congress."

For a more complete look at today's proceedings, check out Slate's Emily Bazelon's dispatch from the Supreme Court.

Happy Wednesday and welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

RIP, Van Cliburn: New York Times: "Van Cliburn, the American pianist whose first-place award at the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow made him an overnight sensation and propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career, though a short-lived one, died Wednesday morning in Fort Worth. He was 78. ... Mr. Cliburn, a Texan, was a lanky 23-year-old when he clinched the gold medal in the inaugural year of the Tchaikovsky competition, and the feat, in Moscow, was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. He became a cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions and brought overdue attention to the musical assets of his native land."

Then Give Him the Prize!: Chicago Tribune: "America had produced other gifted pianists before the Louisiana-born, Texas-bred Cliburn came along, but no American classical musician before or since captured the nation’s imagination as did the lanky young man with the wavy pompadour, soft drawl, prodigious technique and golden tone, following his triumph in Moscow. It was April 1958, only six months after the Soviets had flaunted their technological might by launching the first Sputnik satellite; the Tchaikovsky competition was supposed to display their cultural superiority as well. Cliburn, 23 at the time, came, saw and, against all odds, triumphed. His performances of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto and the Rachmaninov Third Concerto at the competition finale earned him a standing ovation that went on for nearly 10 minutes. When it was time to choose a winner, the judges were obliged to ask permission of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to award the first prize to an American. 'Is he the best?' Khrushchev asked. 'Then give him the prize!'"

The Only Thing Left To Talk About When It Comes to the Sequester Is How No One Wants To Talk About It: Associated Press: "President Barack Obama is pulling out all the stops to warn just what could happen if automatic budget cuts kick in. Americans are reacting with a collective yawn. They know the drill: Obama raises the alarm, Democrats and Republicans accuse each other of holding a deal hostage, there's a lot of yelling on cable news, and then finally, when everyone has made their points, a deal is struck and the day is saved. Maybe not this time. Two days before $85 billion in cuts are set to hit federal programs with all the precision of a wrecking ball, there are no signs that a deal is imminent. ...Still, for all the grim predictions, Americans seem to be flipping the channel to something a little less, well, boring."

The Racial Wealth Gap Is Still Growing: USA Today: "The wealth gap between white and African-American families has nearly tripled over 25 years,according to a study released today by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. Although African-American family income has increased over time, white families have accumulated much more wealth. By tracking families, the study found that the gap between white and African-American family wealth increased from $85,070 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009."

House Ready To Move on VAWA: The Hill: "A number of House conservatives are unhappy with the Republican leadership’s decision to allow for the passage on Thursday of a Senate-passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. After spending weeks hashing out their own proposal, House GOP leaders abruptly switched course and decided to approve a process to hold a vote on the Senate bill if their own version failed to pass. The two measures contained significant overlap but differed on a contentious issue affecting tribal courts. The move likely means that for the third time in the last two months, the House will pass a significant piece of legislation with minority Democrats carrying the vote."

The Detainees Weren't the Only Ones Who Walked Away: Associated Press: "The senior Homeland Security Department official in charge of arresting and deporting illegal immigrants announced his resignation the same day the agency said that hundreds of people facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to looming budget cuts, according to a resignation letter obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The government said he had told his bosses weeks ago that he planned to retire. Gary Mead, executive associate director over enforcement and removal operations at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, disclosed his departure in an email to his staff Tuesday afternoon. The announcement of the release of the illegal immigrants had come earlier in the day. President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, said Wednesday that the decision to release the immigrants was made without any input from the White House. He described the immigrants as 'low-risk, non-criminal detainees.'"

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

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