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Daily Reads: Debt Relief for Insurers, Not Puerto Rico; Dems Worry About Russian Interference in 2018 Election

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

Debt Relief for Insurers, Not for Puerto Rico

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Adding insult to injury –> House Republicans unveiled a big disaster aid package on Tuesday night, which includes $16 billion in debt relief that could come in handy for Puerto Rico, which is not only mired in debt but also struggling to keep its government open in Hurricane Maria’s wake. But David Dayen reports for The Intercept that the debt relief is going to bail out private insurers rather than the cash-strapped US territory. In lieu of relief, Puerto Rico will get yet another loan.

Meanwhile, Eliza Barclay and Alexia Fernández Campbell write for Vox that “everything that’s been reported about deaths in Puerto Rico is at odds with the official count,” which is currently 45. It appears that hundreds more have died, but the causes of death aren’t always clear and the government appears to be more conservative than it usually is in attributing fatalities to the storm.

Spy versus spy –> Israeli hackers reportedly observed Russian hackers spying on the US through anti-virus software sold by Kaspersky Lab. At New York magazine, Brian Feldman offers the backstory of how “the Eastern Bloc equivalent of McAfee or Norton” became a “security threat” to the US.

According to Politico, “Democratic senators fighting to hold on to their seats next year are increasingly worried about a troubling reality: Russia appears set to mess with US elections — again.”

And Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report for The Daily Beast that Cambridge Analytica, the “data firm backed by some of Donald Trump’s closest allies[,] is now facing scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the president’s team and Russian operatives.”

President Strangelove –> NBC News reports that Donald Trump “surprised” military officials this summer when he told them that he wanted to increase the US nuclear weapons stockpile tenfold.

At Mother Jones, David Corn looks back at Trump’s past statements about nuclear weapons and nuclear war, and writes that “you should really be terrified.” We are, David.

A White House in crisis –> Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman spoke to a “half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers” who say that Trump is “increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.” This is not the first report to suggest that Trump’s growing increasingly erratic. Last month, Bill Moyers talked to psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton about a new book offering perspectives from 27 psychiatrists who “feel it’s our duty to warn the country about the danger of this president.”

While White House chief of staff John Kelly and other aides have reportedly worked to contain him, the Los Angeles Times reports that Trump “has bristled at the restrictions and continues — usually alone on mornings, nights and weekends — to act on his own gut sense, using his own lines to contact allies outside the White House.”

Relatedly, we think, Trump took to Twitter to threaten to cancel NBC’s broadcast license for reporting stories he doesn’t like. Vox’s Matt Yglesias says that this would be “a terrifying threat, if it were remotely credible.” NBC reports that First Amendment advocates pushed back on the president, including FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who tweeted, “Not how it works,” with a link to the group’s manual for licensing.

Good gig, if you can get it –> Roy Moore, darling of the far-right and Republican nominee for Alabama’s open senate seat, “once said publicly that he did not take a ‘regular salary’ from the small charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to be a financial burden,” according to The Washington Post’s Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr. But it turns out that under an “undisclosed” deal with the group, Moore’s  been raking in $180,000 a year for part-time work. According to the report, “errors and gaps in the group’s federal tax filings obscured until now the compensation paid to Moore.”

Dubious YouTube videos –> Federal prosecutors are “attempting to convict nearly 200 people—including a journalist—of participating in an Inauguration Day protest in which some people broke windows and damaged vehicles,” writes Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast. They face sentences of up to 75 years if convicted. Weill reports that “the US attorney moved to introduce a series of videos ripped from right-wing and conspiracy-theorist YouTube channels, including a video produced by the far-right militia the Oath Keepers.”

Volunteering as a byproduct of coercion –> Across the country, immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in privately run facilities are being forced to offer contractors their labor, while officials claim it’s all voluntary. Michelle Chen reports for The Nation that the process then “exploits a series of loopholes to deny them their entitled wages.”

Dysfunction –> Danny Vinnick reports for Politico that the Census Bureau is “nearing a breaking point” because of longstanding budget difficulties and is now poised to “bungle” the upcoming economic Census.

Consequences –> You probably recall an incident in which a nurse working at a Utah hospital was arrested by a detective for not violating established policies at his request — it made headlines nationwide back in July. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the detective was fired this week, his supervisor was demoted and now people are debating whether there would have been any accountability had the incident not been caught on tape.

The Czech Republic’s Trump –> Harvard’s Yascha Mounk profiles Andrej Babiš, “a candidate for prime minister in upcoming parliamentary elections” who “owns a lot of the country’s media, revels in being politically incorrect, and strongly opposes immigration.” Mounk warns that if Babiš wins, right-wing “populists” may “soon rule Central Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean.”

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Theresa Riley.



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