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.

Journalists freed –> To mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi freed 100 prisoners, including two Al Jazeera English TV newsmen who had been held since December 2013, “charged with broadcasting false news,” Kareen Fahim of The New York Times reports. “The pardoning of the journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and of prominent leftist activists arrested at protests, provided their families with a measure of relief and stanched a source of international criticism of Mr. Sisi’s government a day before he was scheduled to fly to New York for a United Nations General Assembly gathering…

“Amid the celebrations, Mr. Sisi’s willingness to discard the convictions with the stroke of a pen revived questions about why the defendants had been charged at all. The pardons also raised new doubts about the ability of Egypt’s judiciary to fairly settle the cases of thousands of other people also imprisoned on political charges.”

Meanwhile, the holiday was tragically disrupted by the deaths of more than 700 in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage, and a suicide bombing at a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen, killed 25.

Il Papa in DC –> On Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke at the White House, St. Matthew’s Cathedral and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. At Campaign for America’s Future, Richard Eskow writes, “You don’t have to agree with all of the Catholic Church’s doctrines to recognize that the Pope’s message has a timeliness and urgency. New data underscores his call to reduce economic inequality. The ongoing deaths of African Americans in police confrontations highlight his message of social justice. And the planet itself is in peril.” ALSO, at Raw Story, meet Sophie Cruz, the five-year-old who delivered a message to the pope on immigration reform.

At Immaculate Conception, the pope canonized Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar who brought Catholicism to California in the 18th century. The decision to canonize has been controversial. As the pontiff spoke in Washington, Lauren McCauley at Common Dreams writes that in Sonoma, California, Caroline Ward-Holland and her son, Kagen Holland, began a 650-mile Walk for the Ancestors “to honor the Indigenous ancestors who suffered and perished in the Mission system and assert California Indian rejection of sainthood for Junipero Serra.”

Meanwhile, from Havana, AP’s Anne-Marie Garcia and Joshua Goodman report, “Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the country’s largest rebel group announced on Wednesday an important breakthrough in peace talks that sets the stage to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict… Negotiators said the surprise advance came as rebels rushed to demonstrate progress ahead of a visit this week to Cuba by Pope Francis, who during his stay on the communist-led island warned the two sides that they didn’t have the option of failing in their best chance at peace in decades.”

Pope Francis speaks to a joint session of Congress this morning. He flies to New York later this afternoon.

And just as the Pope leaves DC –> Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Washington. Xi and President Obama will hold a summit that doubtless will include discussion of Chinese cybertheft and hacking as well as trade, human rights and economic reforms. The meeting comes on the heels of news that 5.6 million fingerprints were stolen in that massive breach of computer security at the government’s Office of Personnel Management, the one that compromised the files of 21.5 million people. China has been accused of the breach. Kaveh Waddell at National Journal has details.

In Seattle on Wednesday, AP reports (via The Guardian) that Xi denied involvement in cyberattacks and “addressed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, billionaire investor Warren Buffett and other top American and Chinese business leaders… vowing that his country would work to remove barriers to foreign investment and improve intellectual property protections… Representatives from Twitter, Facebook and Google were notably missing from the event. China blocks those companies’ websites.”

VW bug –> Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday in the wake of revelations that 11 million of the company’s diesel cars had been equipped with software designed to falsify emissions tests. In a Wired article headlined, “VW Is Going to Pay for Its Smog Scandal. But How Much?” Eric Niiler writes, “If US officials absolutely throw the book at VW, EPA rules stipulate a maximum fine of $37,000 per affected car. At 482,000 cars on American roads, that comes to $18 billion. But according to attorneys who work on these kind of cases, that number is way too high for what’ll actually happen.” Read on.

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