Morning Reads

Good morning!

On this date in 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent 18,000 “military advisers” to South Vietnam to support the regime of President Ngô Đình Diệm. Six months earlier, Lyndon B. Johnson had called Diệm “the Winston Churchill of Asia.” Two years later, Diệm would be murdered in a US-backed coup. (After congratulating the coup leaders, Henry Cabot Lodge, our ambassador to South Vietnam, assured Kennedy: “The prospects now are for a shorter war.”)

Stat of the day: 372 — the number of oil and gas pipeline spills, leaks and other related incidents in the US over the past 16 months, according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity. Together, the incidents killed 20 people, injured 117 and resulted in $256 million in damages.

Slavery:  An Australian human rights group estimates that worldwide, almost 36 million people live as modern-day slaves. Their report defines slaves as people who were “born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, trapped in debt bondage or exploited for forced labour.”  Katie Nguyen has the details at Reuters.  RELATED: Nicole Flatow reports for ThinkProgress that California officials told a court that the state couldn’t expand parole in order to address a serious prison overcrowding problem because doing so would create a shortage of prison labor.

This means war –> The head of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota said that by voting to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Congress effectively would be declaring war on his people. Alice Ollstein has the story at ThinkProgress.

Drones –> Among the revelations in Steve Coll’s New Yorker piece about the US drone war is this insight from a Pakistani journalist: “If a drone missile killed an innocent adult male civilian, such as a vegetable vender or a fruit seller, the victim’s long hair and beard would be enough to stereotype him as a militant.”

This sounds like a job for J. Edgar Hoover–> Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a “pre-emptive” state of emergency and called in the National Guard in advance of a grand jury decision on whether or not to prosecute Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. According to the local CBS affiliate, “St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says they are concerned that the Black Panthers or communist activists might blend in with peaceful protestors and try to hurt police.” In response, Esquire’s Charlie Pierce writes, “The creation of bogeymen for public consumption has become a growth industry.”

Wage freeze leads to brain freeze –> EPI head Larry Mishel finds a Washington Post editorial that typifies the DC establishment’s attitude about rising inequality. The editorial first argues that stagnant wages represent a huge problem that’s now impacting a vast majority of Americans. Then it goes on to say that there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with US-style capitalism and offers no ideas about how to get wages moving upwards again. BUT: Fortunately, WaMo’s new issue is focused on inequality, and economist Alan S. Blinder offers seven ways to help raise wages.

My dinner with Uber –> Executives from Uber, the Silicon Valley ride-sharing company, sat down with a bunch of prominent journalists for what was supposed to be an off-the-record dinner over the weekend. Nobody told Buzzfeed about the off-the-record part, and Ben Smith reports one executive’s idea to hire opposition researchers to expose embarrassing personal details about journalists critical of the company’s business model. ALSO: At New York Mag, Jonathan Chait says that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s comment that Obamacare has been a crucial part of the company’s success “stuck a knife” in the heart of a key argument advanced by the law’s opponents. 

Everyone thinks they’re right –> WaPo’s Chris Mooney looks at a new study that suggests that fracking is likely to become as politically polarized an as climate change.

Ye shall know them by their fat cats –> Bill Mahoney and Laura Nahmias report for Capital New York that “Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top donors contributed six times as much to help elect Republicans to the State Senate as they did to similar efforts to help Democrats.”

Oh boy –> The BBC reports that “mass murderer Charles Manson, 80, has been granted a license to marry a 26-year-old woman who has been visiting him in prison.”

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