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Daily Reads: Is Russia Fiddling With the French Election? Why Charging Assange Threatens US Press Freedom

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Is Russia Fiddling With the French Election?

French presidential election candidates (left to right) right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party François Fillon; En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron; far-left coalition La France Insoumise Jean-Luc Mélenchon; far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen; and left-wing French Socialist (PS) party Benoît Hamon before a debate on March 20, 2017. (Photo by Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

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It’s France’s turn –> French voters will go to the polls on Sunday to cast ballots in what has become a very interesting presidential election. The top two candidates will face each other in a run-off next month. On the far right is the Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen, who openly admires Donald Trump and plans on putting “France first.” Scandal-plagued conservative François Fillon and centrist Emmanuel Macron were long seen as her likely opponents among a crowded field. But now a fourth candidate has also entered the picture: Leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon has seen a recent surge in popularity, and is also likely a contender for the May runoff.

The Russians have a horse in this race as well. Marine Le Pen is their favored candidate, and has received quite a bit of support from Moscow, Sebastian Rotella writes for ProPublica. “Her campaign has been propelled by a loan of more than $9 million from a Russian bank in 2014, according to Western officials and media reports. Meanwhile, aides to Emmanuel Macron, the center-left former economy minister who is Le Pen’s top rival, have accused Russia of hitting his campaign with cyberattacks and fake news reports about his personal life.”

President Trump has also weighed in on the upcoming election. Aurelien Breeden and Adam Nossiter report for The New York Times that “President Trump inserted himself into the tumult of French politics on Friday, declaring that the fatal shooting of a police officer in central Paris would have a ‘big effect’ when voters go to the polls on Sunday to choose among 11 presidential candidates.”

Threat to the press –> The US Justice Department is considering charging Julian Assange for Wikileaks document dumps containing US secrets, The Washington Post reports. “But if the US Department of Justice prosecutes Assange, as it reportedly may soon, he could become something else: the first journalist in modern history to be criminally charged by American courts for publishing classified information,” Andy Greenberg writes for Wired. “WikiLeaks may not look like a traditional journalism outlet, but it shares the same ends—publishing true information from its sources. And that means legal action against Assange could threaten the freedom of the press as a whole.”

Executions in Arkansas –> After a court cleared the way yesterday, Arkansas executed its first death-row inmate since 2005. Liliana Segura of The Intercept documents the ongoing battle to obtain DNA testing that could exonerate some of the condemned. On our own blog, Martin Clancy reflects on how the fight over medications used for lethal injections in Arkansas is part of the continuing battle over capital punishment in America.

Inspiring confidence –> “The company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is under fire in Ohio, where construction of a separate pipeline resulted in spills of millions of gallons of drilling fluids into nearby wetlands,” Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokesman James Lee said the drilling fluids spilled into an estimated 30,000-square-foot area of the wetland. “The drilling fluids coated the wetlands with a layer of mud and impacted water quality, according to the Ohio EPA documents.”

The Sierra Club has now waged war on this separate Ohio pipeline, the 713-mile Rover pipeline, which is meant to transport natural gas from southeastern Ohio to distribution points in western Ohio, Michigan and Canada, Bloomberg reports.

Need a job? –> “The official leading the Justice Department’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election is leaving her position next month,” Sadie Gurman reports for the Associated Press. Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord is leaving to pursue “other opportunities.” That leaves yet another spot unfilled in an increasingly vacant DOJ. The AP: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ picks for deputy and associate attorney general — the No. 2 and No. 3 officials at the Justice Department — await Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration has not announced other top political appointees. A month after Sessions sought the resignations of the nation’s US attorneys, their replacements are not yet in place.”

User-friendly –> Climate Central has a good visual representing climate change’s gradual creep across decades to become the dire threat it is today.

You’ve come a long way, Paul –> Donald Trump is, unsurprisingly, included in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people list. More surprising: His glowing profile is written by none other than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a man who once denounced candidate Trump’s bigotry. “He always finds a way to get it done,” the House speaker writes. We’ll see, Paul.

Daily Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Kristin Miller.

 


 

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.