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Morning Reads: White House Releases Civilian Drone Death Tally; Is America More Unequal Than Ever?

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

Morning Reads: White House Releases Civilian Drone Death Tally

Activists of Difa-e-Pakistan (Defence of Pakistan) Council gather in an anti-US drone rally in Lahore on June 12, 2016. The Difa-e-Pakistan Council is an umbrella coalition of more than 40 Pakistani Political and Religious parties. (ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)

Drone deaths –> Waiting until the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, the Obama administration released the long-awaited numbers on how many civilians the drone program has accidentally killed in strikes outside of war zones. Their estimate is that the program has “killed 64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups,” Charlie Savage and Scott Shane report for The New York Times.

That number seems very, very low, writes Naureen Shah, Amnesty International’s director of national security & human rights, in The Guardian: “While Amnesty International has not compiled overall data on drone killings, we know that the law professor president depiction is, at best, only a part of the truth. There are reports of hundreds of unidentified people killed in apparent ‘signature strikes,’ where targeting decisions were made on the basis of patterns of behavior rather than identification of a specific individual. Amnesty International and other groups have also documented so-called rescuer strikes, where the US killed or injured individuals who were trying to help the victims of an initial strike.”

ISIS in South Asia –> Gunmen took over a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Saturday, killing 20. Bangladesh has wrestled with a growing extremism problem in recent years, but the government continues to deny its severity. Samanth Subramanian writes for The New Yorker, “Given the sort of spectacular horror that Dhaka has just witnessed, it appears that ISIS has found firm traction within a segment of the populace. To forestall further acts of terror, Bangladesh’s government will have to face up to that grim new reality.”

Meanwhile, suicide bombing attacks at four locations in Saudi Arabia yesterday also are being attributed to the Islamic State. Reuters notes that as in other countries, “Saudi security officials say the group’s supporters inside the kingdom mainly act independently, depending on Islamic State based in Iraq and Syria for only limited logistical help and advice, making them harder to detect, but also less capable of mounting attacks on well-protected targets.”

Trump’s latest dog whistle –> On Saturday, the Trump campaign tweeted a picture of Hillary Clinton set against a backdrop of $100 bills with a Star of David reading, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” Once again, the campaign had retweeted a message originating in an online radical-right community. Mic’s Anthony Smith: “The image was previously featured on 8chan’s /pol/ — an Internet message board for the alt-right, a digital movement of neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white supremacists newly emboldened by the success of Trump’s rhetoric — as early as June 22, over a week before Trump’s team tweeted it… Of note is the file name of the photo, HillHistory.jpg, potentially a nod to the Neo-Nazi code for “HH,” or “Heil Hitler,” which the alt-right is fond of hiding in plain sight.”

New York magazine notes that “the first known use of the image seems to have been via a Twitter user who regularly tweets, and possibly creates, racist memes.” The Trump campaign replaced the star with a circle and denied charges of anti-Semitism, its social media director saying the image was “lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user where countless images appear,” and that it was meant to represent a sheriff’s badge and not a Star of David: “I would never offend anyone and therefore chose to remove the image.”

A friend in need –> Nick Corasaniti for The New York Times: “Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is not airing any television commercials at the moment, and the advertising effort by groups supporting his campaign is scattershot at best. To the rescue: the National Rifle Association, with a $2 million advertising campaign to run in seven battleground states and provide air cover for Mr. Trump’s campaign in June and early July.”

Jupiter, by Jove! –> After a journey of more than half a billion miles, Nicole Orttung at The Christian Science Monitor reports, “NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully entered orbit around the largest planet in the solar system, flawlessly executing a 35-minute engine burn to slow down enough to be captured into orbit. The execution was challenging but flawless: Juno’s main engine fired to slow down the space probe by about 1,212 miles per hour from the fastest speed any human-made object has ever traveled just as it was flying through the harshest part of Jupiter’s intense radiation belts.”

Unprecedented –> If their research is right, America is more unequal today than it has ever been. In writing a new book, Unequal Gains, two economists “spent the better part of the last decade piecing together tax records, local directories and historical accounts in a painstaking effort to reconstruct an economic portrait of the nation’s past. What they discovered was that we started out from a remarkably egalitarian place.” Jeff Guo reviews the book for The Washington Post.

The unintended effect of lobbying reform –> Isaac Arnsdorf writes that instead of making lobbying more transparent, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2000 has only encouraged lobbyists to operate in more creative ways as the profession grows ever more lucrative: “Nine years later, the result of the law is very nearly the opposite of what the American public was told it was getting at the time. Not only did the lobbying reform bill fail to slow the revolving door, it created an entire class of professional influencers who operate in the shadows, out of the public eye and unaccountable.”

RIP –> Nobel Prize laureate, human-rights activist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel died on Saturday at the age of 87. At Ha’aretz, Ronen Shnidman wrote that Weisel “was perhaps best known for his major role in promoting Holocaust education, and for perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust in the post-World War II era with his memoir ‘Night,’ based on his experience as a teenager in the Auschwitz concentration camp.”

In 1991, Weisel spoke with Bill Moyers for the series Facing Hate. Reflecting on his experience in the Holocaust, he said, “When language fails, violence becomes a language; I never had that feeling. Language failed me very often, but then, the substitute for me was silence, but not violence.”

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


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