What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Under Trump, Civilian Casualties in War Against ISIS Reach New High; GOP Govs Create Their Own Media Outlet

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

Civilian Casualties in War Against ISIS Reach New High

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“Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades” –> The AP’s Christopher Sherman, Peter Orsi and Mark Stevenson report on the aftermath of yesterday’s magnitude-7.1 earthquake that has left 217 people confirmed dead so far.

“Going to Hell” –> In his first speech to the UN on Tuesday, Donald Trump threatened “to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea and its ‘Rocket Man’ leader, warned the ‘murderous’ Iranian government that it cannot endure, and declared that much of the world is ‘going to hell.'” Nahal Toosi and Nolan McCaskill report for Politico that the gathered leaders had set a low bar for the speech, and weren’t surprised.

One country Trump didn’t attack was Russia, and Spencer Ackerman writes at The Daily Beast that Trump’s speech echoed the themes of one that Vladimir Putin delivered in 2015. “Whatever nexus between Putin and Trump exists for Robert Mueller to discover,” he writes, “the evidence of their compatible visions of foreign affairs was on display at the United Nations clearer than ever.”

On a related note, John Haltiwanger reports for Newsweek that “the United States has dropped a record number of bombs on the Middle East, roughly 10 percent more under Trump than his predecessor.” The increase has been fueled, in part, by looser restrictions on the military, and “civilian casualties from America’s war on ISIS have reached an all-time high in Iraq and Syria.”

And Melvyn Leffler, a historian at The University of Virginia, writes for Foreign Policy that while new presidents have historically struggled with foreign affairs in their first years in office, Trump “isn’t just repeating all the early errors that beleaguered his predecessors — he is magnifying them in unprecedented fashion.”

Undercover Swede –> A Swedish graduate student infiltrated hard-right white nationalist groups in the US on behalf of a British anti-racist watchdog group. Jesse Singal has his remarkable story at The New York Times.

Speaking of anti-racism watchdogs, Sharona Coutts reports for Rewire News that the venerable Southern Poverty Law Center has become “the target of a concerted campaign to discredit it by the very far-right groups it tracks,” and “that campaign is being amplified by the right-wing media, including Fox News.”

The high cost of bad governance –> It’s unclear if Senate Republicans will win enough votes to pass Graham-Cassidy, the latest bill to repeal Obamacare, but Bloomberg’s Max Nisen reports that “even if it fails, this effort adds to more than seven months of health-care uncertainty. That, and a lack of consistent government support, has helped prompt insurers to either leave Affordable Care Act markets in some states or to substantially hike premiums.”

Caitlin Owens reports for Axios that “Republicans are on the verge of passing a sweeping health care bill not only without knowing what’s in it, but without particularly caring.” A GOP staffer told her that among Senate Republicans, only two — the bill’s authors — could pass “an oral exam on the contents of the proposal.”

And late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel weighed in on the measure with a segment that could ultimately prove damaging to the bill’s chances of passage.

The GOP gets its own media outlet –> “The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media,” according to Bill Barlow at the Associated Press. The Free Telegraph was launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.

And on Tuesday, Steve Bannon ordered Breitbart to “step up its overwhelmingly negative coverage of” Luther Strange, “the Alabama Senate candidate backed by President Trump.” Oliver Darcy reports for CNN that the website is pulling out all the stops in support of Strange’s primary opponent, Roy Moore, the extremist former state Supreme Court justice who was twice removed from the bench for refusing to comply with rulings from higher courts.

Finally, Bill Buzenberg writes at Mother Jones that Vladimir Putin’s “pro-Trump operation may have been far bigger than we yet know.”

Guns or butter? –> At The Intercept, Alex Emmons noted that the $80 billion increase in military spending that the Senate “overwhelmingly approved” on Monday evening could have paid for Bernie Sanders’ proposal for free college tuition at public institutions, an idea that “critics from both parties” called “a pie-in-the-sky idea [that] would bankrupt the country.”

Speaking of guns –> “The Trump administration is preparing to make it easier for American gun makers to sell small arms, including assault rifles and ammunition, to foreign buyers,” report Mike Stone and Matt Spetalnick for Reuters. Approvals for gun sales would be shifted from the State Department, which “is primarily concerned about international threats to stability and maintains tight restrictions on weapons deals,” to Commerce, which “typically focuses more on facilitating trade.”

When ICE comes –> Labor unions are training hotel workers “on how to handle visits from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” writes Josh Eidelson at Bloomberg. “The sessions, organized by the labor union Unite Here!, teach workers how to effectively stonewall ICE agents, emphasizing employees’ right to refuse to answer questions or show identification.”

Speaking of labor –> “Despite Trump’s campaign rhetoric that promised to bring a voice for workers into the White House,” writes Justin Miller at The American Prospect, “he is filling the [Department of Labor] with lobbyists, anti-union activists, industry executives, and management-side lawyers who appear hell-bent on erasing the work of Obama’s Labor Department.”

Fake News –> The Daily Mail, a right-leaning British tabloid that is often picked up by conservative publication in the US, published a story in February alleging that climatologists had manipulated their data. The story turns out to have been totally false, but that didn’t stop climate-change-denying Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who has received huge sums from the fossil fuel industry, from using it in what HuffPost’s Chris D’Angelo calls his “years-long crusade… to discredit all-but-universally accepted climate science.”

 
Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

 


 

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