Morning Reads

As we continue our effort to keep you up-to-date on how money corrupts American government and politics, as well as other news of the day, we’re pleased to publish this daily digest compiled by’s Michael Winship.

Heartbreaking –> “The scale of the Syrian refugee crisis is hard to grasp,” Ishaan Tharoor writes at The Washington Post. “About 11 million people (half of Syria’s population) have either died or fled their homes since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. About 4 million of that number have been forced out of the country.” On Wednesday, a dozen drowned off the coast of the Greek Island of Kos and most indelible and horrifying are the photos of the dead, including a child. The images are not easy to view and have stirred a debate as to whether they should have been published, so be warned.

AND: Agence France-Presse: In Budapest, where the train station was closed to crowds of refugees, “early Thursday the station was fully reopened and hundreds of people stormed inside, cramming into trains. Hungarian Railways said however that there would be no trains going to western Europe.” Reportedly, at least one train went instead to a Hungarian refugee camp.

ALSO: Francoise Sauvignon and Janice Hughes at, “Europe’s refugee crisis: bridges, not fences, are the answer.”

Iran –> Robin Wright at The New Yorker reports, “The riskiest gamble of the Obama Presidency, the nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, was basically won today. A rancorous congressional debate is still to come, but thirty-four senators have now vowed to support the deal, effectively blocking efforts on the Hill to eventually kill it. The diplomacy will almost certainly be the centerpiece of Obama’s foreign-policy legacy.” But, notes The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer, “Republicans are considering legislative options to counter the deal, including the possible reimposition of sanctions the agreement is supposed to lift.”

China –> The People’s Republic had its massive military parade in Beijing, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II (and don’t miss the story about the monkeys that were used to tear up the nests of birds that might stray into the flyover of military aircraft). CNN: “Presiding over the extravaganza on Thursday, President Xi Jinping… said that China would remain committed to ‘the path of peaceful development’ and unexpectedly pledged to cut 300,000 troops from its 2.3-million strong military.”

Chutzpah Award #1 –> More than two years ago, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shelby County, Alabama, and eviscerated a big chunk of the Voting Rights Act. Incredibly, not satisfied with the court victory alone, Shelby County sought to be compensated for its legal costs, to the tune of $2 million. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit told Shelby to take a hike. According to Cristian Farias at The Huffington Post, “They’re not entitled to anything because they didn’t sue to protect citizens from voting discrimination. They sued because they didn’t like the law that protects citizens from voting discrimination, and the law wasn’t designed to award those who undermine it.”

ALSO, Richard L. Hasen at “Texas Two-Steps All Over Voting Rights.”

Chutzpah Award #2 –> “In case the shutdown of hundreds of coal plants wasn’t a sufficient indicator of the industry collapse, here’s another clue: coal companies’ rapidly deteriorating bottom lines,” Tim McDonnell at Mother Jones reports. “… [But] according to a report [Wednesday] from the Institute for Policy Studies, which bills itself as the country’s oldest progressive think tank, executive salaries and bonuses at the top 10 publicly traded coal companies increased an average of 8 percent between 2010 and 2014, even as the companies’ combined share price fell 58 percent. Meanwhile, the same executives cashed in well over $100 million in stock options.”

Good news, bad news –> A new study in Nature says there are 3.04 trillion trees in the world, “an order of magnitude higher than the previous estimate.” BUT, “we estimate that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.”

Dueling raffles –> Jeb! Bush is raffling off a free trip to NYC and a ticket to his appearance on the premiere of Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday night. So Colbert’s having a raffle of his own, which includes the right to submit to him one “non-obscene” question for Bush: “For example,” Colbert says, ” one question might be, ‘Don’t you wish you’d consulted Stephen before launching your contest?’” Entertainment Weekly’s Oliver Gettell has the details.

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