Morning Reads

Good morning — and a happy National Day to our friends in Belgium! Here are some of the stories we’re reading as we start the new week…

Gruesome –> The bodies of those killed on the Malaysian airliner shot down last week are gruesome pawns in a PR battle between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government. The remains are being held in limbo in rebel-controlled territory, according to The New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise and Noah Sneider. “Neither of the conflicting story lines fully reflects the chaos at the scene, where an incoherent recovery effort is being carried out by motley groups of mostly untrained people.”

Bloodiest day –> At least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli troops were killed in a single Gazan neighborhood on Saturday night. Anne Barnard and Isabel Kershner report for The New York Times that two of the IDF soldiers killed were Americans. After 13 days of fighting, at least 425 Palestinians have died. A flurry of diplomatic activity pushing for a ceasefire is underway. AND: John Kerry was caught on a hot mic lamenting the Israeli military’s lack of restraint and high civilian death toll, according to The Hill. ALSO: Last week, the French government banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in several cities after two synagogues were attacked, and riots broke out over the weekend as protesters defied the ban. ALSO, TOO: Right-wing Israeli activists turned violent in Haifa on Saturday, shouting “death to Arabs” and beating the city’s deputy mayor and his son, according to a report in Ha’aretz. (registration required)

A cradle of violent extremism” –> Brian Bennett and Richard Serrano report for the Los Angeles Times that the conflict in Syria and Iraq is drawing thousands of foreign fighters. Many hold Western passports and defense experts worry that the region may become a training ground for violent extremists, as Afghanistan was during the 1980s and 1990s.

After Hobby Lobby –> Nina Liss-Schultz reports for RH Reality Check that New York state lawmakers are considering a bill that would “blunt” the effects of the Hobby Lobby ruling. AND: Obama announced that the executive order he’s expected to sign today barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT Americans will not contain exemptions for religious employers.

Civil rights –> Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is introducing legislation that would bar employers from discriminating against workers who favor unionization. Ned Resnikoff has the story for MSNBC.

Sitting at “the heart of government he helped transform”The Washington Post’s Matea Gold profiles billionaire Art Pope, the North Carolina mega-donor who now works for the state government his dollars helped make one of the most conservative in the country.

Christian left –> At Salon, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes that liberal Christian traditions are making a big comeback — and threatening the political dominance of the religious right.

A war we enthusiastically support –> The Pentagon’s “war on climate change” is proving false all the arguments against taking immediate action to tackle global warming, according to Bloomberg View. ALSO: Experts say California’s epic draught “will only get worse,” according to Veronica Rocha at the Los Angeles Times.

Between a rock and a hard place –> On PBS NewsHour’s Rundown blog, Xander Landon reports that “laws that criminalize homelessness are cropping up in cities throughout the country, while simultaneously, a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system.”

Constitution-free zone –> Slate’s Amy Lieberman reports that in Arizona, a loose coalition of liberals, libertarians and locals are rebelling against immigration checkpoints located up to 100 miles inland from the border.

Fanboy –> At The Daily Beast, James Kirkchik profiles Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a conspiracy theorist and  arguably Vladimir Putin’s biggest supporter in Congress.

Broken –> John Oliver and a couple of puppets explain why America’s prison system is such a nightmare.

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