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Daily Reads: The GOP Health Bill Is Still Alive; Sixth Mass Extinction ‘Threatens Human Civilization’

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

Sixth Mass Extinction 'Threatens Human Civilization'

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The undead –> “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday the Senate would begin its August break two weeks later than expected, as the chamber labors to pass a health-care bill,” writes Richard Rubin at The Wall Street Journal. A new draft of the bill may be completed today. It also appears likely that Republicans, wary of the accurate criticism that they’re trying to deprive millions of people of coverage to finance a high-end tax cut, are likely to leave the ACA’s supplemental taxes in place.

But Jessie Hellman, Rachel Roubein and Peter Sullivan report for The Hill that “the Medicaid sections of the bill would remain largely unchanged from the initial draft, a blow to moderates who had pushed for easing cuts to Medicaid. That means a new cap on Medicaid spending will still take effect after 2025, leading to deeper cuts opposed by moderates. And funds for Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid will still end in 2024.” And Ted Cruz’s amendment allowing insurers to sell non-compliant McInsurance plans if they also sell a plan that conforms to the ACA’s coverage requirements is gaining steam, even as a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that premiums would spike sharply for 1.5 million people if it becomes law.

Sarah Kliff reports for Vox that a different loophole in the bill will likely make it exorbitantly expensive for self-employed people with pre-existing conditions to purchase insurance through the exchanges, undercutting a popular provision of the ACA.

Meanwhile, “Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday that he’s working with other senators to draft an alternative plan to replace Obamacare — and he hopes to win Democratic support,” according to Politico’s Austin Wright. The announcement comes as a surprise as Senate Republican leaders attempt to herd their own cats, but no details of the mysterious and potentially bipartisan plan were offered.

The dead –> Lisa Barrington and Ellen Francis report for Reuters that “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters on Tuesday that it had ‘confirmed information’ that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed.” Last month, the Russian military announced that al-Baghdadi might have been killed in an airstrike, but his death couldn’t be confirmed.

What’s the point of baseless conspiracy theories? –> Who needs them when the president’s son just goes ahead and tweets out evidence of a high-level conspiracy to collude with the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton. So now we know that Donald Trump Jr. “loved” the idea, thanks to Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo’s latest for The New York Times.

After interviewing some legal-eagles, Zack Beauchamp reports for Vox that the younger Donnie probably tweeted out evidence of various federal crimes.

And Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall looks at how these events fit into the larger timeline of the campaign. He writes that “the critical addition of the Don Jr. meeting fits right into a critical period when what we understand were Russian intelligence operatives were trying various vehicles to surface emails that were stolen during the spring.”

Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report for The Daily Beast that “the revelation of these emails immediately sent shockwaves through the White House. ‘This is sum of all fears stuff. It’s what we’ve all been dreading,’ said one White House official who is now exploring the possibility of retaining an attorney.”

And Jonathan Swan reports for Axios that the emerging White House strategy is to try to shift blame to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Democrats. “An extreme example of this approach is [from] Roger Stone,” Swan writes. The notorious “dirty trickster” texted Axios: “The president can turn the tables and dominate the dialogue by ordering the indictment of [James] Clapper, [John] Brennan, [Susan] Rice and [former president Barack] Obama for the wholesale unconstitutional surveillance of Americans… I would seriously arrest [and] perp walk every one of these criminals, making as big a show of it as possible.'”

Swan clarifies that Stone’s wacky suggestion is not being taken seriously, but there is a serious effort to equate the Trump campaign’s willingness to collude with the Kremlin to a DNC staffer’s attempt to find opposition research on former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort in Ukraine. Slate’s Osita Nwanevu runs down the many ways the two stories are totally different.

The elder Trump has said he has had no business dealings in Russia — aside from the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant — but Michael Isikoff reports for Yahoo News that he “entered into a formal business deal with Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, to construct a Trump Tower in the Russian capital.” Isikoff writes that the project “appears to have been further along than most previous reports have suggested,” and “was only abandoned after the Russian economy floundered. The economic downturn resulted in part from sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.”

More than 2,200 square miles in area and weighs a trillion tons” –> After much anticipation, the Larsen C ice shelf broke off from Antarctica this morning. Chris Mooney reports for The Washington Post that “the iceberg — one of the largest in recorded history to splinter off the Antarctic ice sheets — is close to the size of Delaware.” Because the ice was already floating, the iceberg’s calving won’t raise sea levels, but scientists are worried “that its loss could speed up the outward ice flow of the remainder of the Larsen C ice shelf, which would indeed increase sea level as glaciers feed their mass into the sea,” and they’re even more concerned about the possible “loss of ice shelves, and glaciers, farther southward in Antarctica, where the sea level rise potential begins to be measured in feet.”

In other news, a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that “a ‘biological annihilation’ of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is under way and is more severe than previously feared,” according to The Guardian’s Damian Carrington. “Scientists analyzed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilization, with just a short window of time in which to act.”

Give us the vote –> The Nation’s Ari Berman writes that before Trump’s voting commission “even held a single in-person meeting, its work has been an unmitigated disaster. Yet it’s already having a devastating impact on voting rights — which may have been exactly what [Kris] Kobach and company wanted.”

Reality Winner –> The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, is helping defend Reality Winner against charges of Espionage for allegedly sending an NSA document to the publication. Intercept editor Betsy Reed also notes that an internal review of their reporting on the matter — which included an examination of whether they took proper steps to protect their source — concluded that “our practices fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves for minimizing the risks of source exposure when handling anonymously provided materials.”

Terrorism? –> That’s how a Jewish woman in Montana describes the three-month, non-stop campaign of threats and harassment that neo-Nazis have subjected her and her family to after she got into a dispute over real estate with “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer’s mother. Mallory Simon and Sara Sidner have the disturbing details at CNN.

Speaking of harassment –> Jessica Mason Pieklo reports for Rewire that, “in addition to helping pass abortion restrictions at the state level, anti-choice activists are challenging those laws that… protect clinics and patients” from “protesters approaching them in cars, writing down their license plate numbers, or creating a shouting ‘walk of shame’  before they can get to the services they need.”

To get a visceral feeling for what it’s like at one North Carolina clinic that’s been the target of constant disturbances — all “while the police look on indifferently” — check out Rewire’s original short documentary, Care in Chaos, which was directed by Lindsay Beyerstein and Martyna Starosta.

In case you’re losing faith in humanity –> When an entire family was caught in a deadly riptide off of Panama City Beach in Florida, beachgoers rallied to their rescue by forming an 80-person human-chain leading 100 feet out from the beach into the dangerous waters. Some people who took part in the rescue said they couldn’t even swim themselves — they stayed in the shallows close to the shoreline.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

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