What We're Reading

Morning Reads: Wildfires in California, Floods in Louisiana; Aetna’s Threat to Obamacare

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

Morning Reads: Dispatches From a Changing Planet

A firefighter battles the Blue Cut wildfire near Cajon Pass, north of San Bernardino, California on August 16, 2016. (RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)

Dispatches from a changing planet –> A wildfire swept through the Cajon Pass north of San Bernardino yesterday, destroying 18,000 acres and leading to more than 80,000 evacuations. The fire ate up ground quickly — as of noon yesterday, it was only 300 acres. At 11 p.m. yesterday, with the fire “zero percent contained,” Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency.

Some climate context from Rory Carroll at The Guardian: “Recent fires have claimed hundreds of homes and killed eight people in California — an ominous record because traditional fire season starts only in autumn with the arrival of hot Santa Ana winds. It’s part of a trend of drier winters, warmer springs and hotter summers. Climate change has extended the west’s traditional fire season by 78 days since the 1970s, running from June to October. Fires start earlier and burn longer.”

Meanwhile, in Louisiana: Tens of thousands have been displaced by floods in what the Red Cross is calling “the worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy.” At Forbes, meteorologist Marshall Shepherd reflects on why this flood has received so little attention from the press — including a media news cycle preoccupied with Olympics and election politics and the fact that, because it’s a flood, it’s a disaster without a name.

Chipping away at emissions –> Brady Dennis for The Washington Post: “The Obama administration on Tuesday finalized new fuel-economy standards for large trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles, the latest in a series of efforts aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions and weaning the nation from its dependence on fossil fuels.”

Blow to Obamacare –> Aetna, a one-time supporter of the Affordable Care Act, is pulling the majority of its plans out of the health care exchanges, threatening the future of the program. The company is citing a $200 million pre-tax loss in the second quarter for its decision, writes Adam Chandler at The Atlantic.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren sees something else going on: “In July, the Justice Department announced that it would sue to block Aetna’s merger with another health insurance company because it would create monopoly-like conditions that reduce competition and drive up insurance costs,” Warren writes on Facebook. “Aetna says this change of tone about the Affordable Care Act has nothing to do with the merger — but some analysts have suggested that Aetna might ‘use its future participation in the exchanges in bargaining over its purchase of Humana.'”

What now? Columnist Michael Hiltzik has some ideas at the Los Angeles Times. “When you provide a public benefit using private companies,” Sabrina Corlette of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute tells him, “those companies are going to make business decisions that are not in the public interest. Policy makers have to be ready to manage that.”

Let the leaks begin –> Rachel Bade and Josh Gerstein for Politico: “The FBI on Tuesday handed over to Congress classified records from its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the latest development in the scandal that the Democratic nominee just can’t shake. Among the materials turned over to Capitol Hill was an FBI summary of the 3½-hour interview Clinton submitted to at FBI headquarters early last month, according to the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California.”

Rearranging the deck chairs? –> Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster to Mike Pence, will become Trump’s new campaign manager, an effective demotion for Paul Manafort, who will remain campaign chairman. But the most surprising new hire is Stephen Bannon, head of the right-wing news website Breitbart. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Jose DelReal write that this is a return to the “let Trump be Trump” theory of the campaign that former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had embraced. Interestingly, it was one of Bannon’s Breitbart reporters that Lewandowski famously attacked — an episode that likely contributed to his ousting. For an insightful look at the strangeness that is Breitbart, see Joshua Green’s profile of Bannon for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Also aboard the Trump ship: Roger Ailes. The former head of Fox News, who resigned just weeks ago after multiple accusations of sexual harassment surfaced, is now prepping Trump for the debates, according to a report by Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker for The New York Times. (The Trump campaign denied the report.) Before becoming a media exec, Ailes often worked as a debate prepper, including prepping Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Clinton transition team –> The Clinton campaign has announced the names of the people who will be helping ease the new administration into the White House, should Clinton win. Some progressives were dismayed to see that she selected former lawmaker Ken Salazar, who has more recently worked as a lobbyist pushing TPP and fracking, as her team leader. But her chief economist, Heather Boushey, is a progressive stalwart.

Joshua Holland interviewed Boushey for our site in 2014 about the ways in which the US lags behind other developed countries in supporting working families. “The reality is that most other countries have had a national conversation about the importance of care and how workers need to be able to provide for their families, and yet, we in the United States have not had that same conversation and made that same decision,” Boushey told him. “It’s an embarrassment, quite frankly. When you tell people from other countries about this, you get these wide eyes. It really is quite humbling to see just how un-‘family friendly’ we are.”

Apple CEO has some advice for politicians –> “I’m optimistic that, in 2017, there will be some sort of corporate tax reform,” Tim Cook told The Washington Post. “The US needs to invest more in infrastructure — so what would be great is if they take the tax proceeds of a corporate tax reform and invest it in infrastructure and roads and bridges and airports.” But, Jon Schwartz notes at The Intercept, Apple is currently holding $181 billion overseas — and doesn’t have to pay any tax on that sum until it “brings it back” to America. And the company won’t be doing that, Cook says, until it feels the tax code is more fair. So if you want to deal with those infrastructure problems, lawmakers, then get on it: corporate tax reform.

What? –> Before print and web journalists can report on what Trump says, someone has to decide how to transcribe his words. And that’s pretty darn hard, writes Daniel Libit for CNBC. After his “Second Amendment people” comment last week, Libit writes, “before the media attempted to measure how out-of-bounds this latest inflammatory remark was — and before Trump eventually claimed it to be ‘sarcastic’ — the question was where to put the periods and commas in a quote that defied both campaign and grammar norms. Because that can matter.”

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Theresa Riley. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!


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