Morning Reads

Happy Friday.

On this day in 1918, nearly a month after the armistice ending World War I, President Woodrow Wilson set sail for France and peace talks at the Palace of Versailles that would officially end hostilities between Germany and the Allied powers. At the talks, Wilson was a major advocate for the establishment of the League of Nations, a precursor to the UN that had little effectiveness in part because the US Senate would not ratify the Versailles treaty.

Recently, Woodrow Wilson’s legacy as a progressive and a statesman has come under scrutiny for his racist views, with protests against a school bearing his name at Princeton, where he once served as university president.  

Guilty –> After 50 hours of jury deliberations, Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, “once one of the most powerful men in the region’s coal industry, was convicted Thursday by a federal jury of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 miners died in an April 2010 explosion.” He was cleared on charges of securities fraud and making false statements and faces a maximum sentence of a year. Ken Ward, Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail that Blankenship’s lawyer said he would appeal.

Not having it –> Mitch McConnell has some trouble on his hands. The long-time advocate of deregulating campaign finance has drawn the ire of his party’s right-wing Freedom Caucus, which has come came out against a McConnell plan to raise caps on party spending. Politico’s Lauren French reports,”… Critics of the revision say it would give mega-donors even more sway over individual lawmakers and help GOP leaders block candidates who don’t back their agenda.”

Big step forward for the military –> Austin Wright at Politico: “Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday said he’s ordering the military to open all combat jobs to women, overruling Marine Corps commanders who requested exceptions for a small number of front-line combat jobs and furthering President Barack Obama’s legacy of making the military more inclusive.”

Order of magnitude –> Alvin Chang writes at Vox: “Since the Vietnam War, about 67,000 Americans have died in combat. In that same time frame, about 1.5 million have died in the US after being shot by a gun.”

Good for business –> Gun sellers and manufacturers and analysts that track the industry have learned to view mass shootings and the “panic buying” that follows as great for the bottom line, reports Lee Fang for The Intercept. He “reviewed investor transcripts for gun companies, ammunition manufacturers, and sporting stores, and found many instances of industry executives discussing mass shooting incidents and the resulting political dynamics as lucrative.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that in the US Senate Thursday, just a day after the killings in San Bernardino, “Democrats tried to expand background checks to those purchasing weapons at gun shows and through intrastate Internet transactions. They also proposed closing a loophole allowing people on ‘terror watch lists’ to buy guns and explosives. Both efforts failed in the face of heavy Republican opposition.”

Taking a stand –> Earlier this month, William Ruckelshaus, who served as EPA chief for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, spoke out against the Republican party’s climate change denial. “If they are successful, that will set us back a fair bit. It won’t look good to the world and it won’t be good for the US,” he told The Guardian. Yesterday, he and George H. W. Bush’s EPA Chief William K. Reilly announced they would file an amicus brief supporting Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is under legal assault from Republican politicians and the fossil fuel lobby.

A PR coup and a tax break –> When he announced his plan to donate 99 percent of his Facebook stock to “advance human potential and promote equality,” Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make a donation — he created an LLC. In other words, “Zuckerberg was depicted in breathless, glowing terms for having, in essence, moved money from one pocket to the other,” writes Jesse Eisinger at ProPublica. As a result, he has  “amassed one of the greatest fortunes in the world — and is likely never to pay any taxes on it. Any time a superwealthy plutocrat makes a charitable donation, the public ought to be reminded that this is how our tax system works. The superwealthy buy great public relations and adulation for donations that minimize their taxes.”

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John Light is a writer and digital producer for the Moyers team. His work has been published by The Atlantic, Grist, Slate, Vox, Mother Jones, Al Jazeera, Public Radio International and elsewhere. He’s a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.
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