What We're Reading

Daily Reads: GOP’s Twisting Arms for Repeal; Bernie Sanders Offers Progressive Foreign Policy Vision

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

GOP's Twisting Arms for Repeal

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The big bribe –> The latest in Republicans’ repeal and replace saga: In an attempt to win over wavering Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a new amendment to the Graham-Cassidy bill would effectively exempt Alaska and Hawaii from the provision that would devastate Medicaid spending. But Georgetown legal scholar Brian Galle writes at Medium that what’s being called “the Alaska Purchase” would probably be unconstitutional.

And The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes that even if Republicans can cobble together 50 votes — with Veep Mike Pence as a tie-breaker — the whole project could still come crashing down in dramatic fashion if the Senate parliamentarian rules that one of the bill’s key provisions can’t be passed with a simple majority.

And you can find out how much federal health spending your state stands to lose if Cassidy-Graham passes by checking out the latest at The Kaiser Family Foundation’s site.

Poison –> According to a new study by David Slusky at Kansas University and Daniel Grossman at West Virginia University, “the city of Flint saw fewer pregnancies, and a higher number of fetal deaths, during the period women and their fetuses were exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water.” Keith Matheny has more details at the Detroit Free Press.

Corporate power run amok –> Wisconsin’s highly touted deal with Foxconn came to fruition this week when Gov. Scott Walker signed a law that will transfer $2.85 billion from taxpayers to the Taiwanese tech company. Eric Levitz writes for New York magazine that “the law also allows said company to forgo an assessment of how its plans will impact the state’s environment, and to flout laws meant to protect Wisconsin’s wetlands and waterways.” And that might not even be the worst of it.

Saber-rattling –>David Filipov and Liz Sly report for The Washington Post that “amid rising tensions in the Syrian desert between the United States and its Kurdish and Arab allies on the one hand, and Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias on the other,” Russian officials on Thursday “raised the threat of a direct confrontation with US forces in ­Syria, saying that it would target areas occupied by American units and US-backed militias if its troops came under fire.”

Speaking of Russia –> Mike Allen reports for Axios that former White House spokesman Sean Spicer took copious notes during the 2016 campaign and later at the White House, and they may represent “another honey pot” for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators. A White House Official told Allen, “People are going to wish they’d been nicer to Sean. … He was in a lot of meetings.”

And Elizabeth Weise reports for USA Today that recent reports that Russian hackers attempted to penetrate election systems in 39 states have led to renewed interest in paper ballots. We think that’s a fine idea.

Far-right looking for a foothold –> Eleanor Klibanoff at the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting looks at white nationalists’ “longshot” plan to win over converts by “start[ing] health clinics, support[ing] small businesses, combat[ing] food insecurity and work[ing] with those affected by the opioid crisis in underserved communities” in Appalachia.

Kim Jong Un slams back –> During his speech to the UN on Tuesday, Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man,” and the despot responded directly yesterday, describing Trump as “a mentally deranged US dotard.” Choe Sang-Hun has the story for The New York Times.

The Trump regime announced new economic sanctions on North Korea on Thursday, following reports that China, which “has grown increasingly tired of its client state’s actions,” instructed its banks to stop doing business with the isolated country. Krishnadev Calamur writes at The Atlantic that despite the White House’s bluster, this kind of coordinated effort to pressure Pyongyang into negotiations really represents the only hope of defusing the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

A progressive foreign policy vision –> Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a closely watched speech on foreign policy at Westminster College yesterday, and Stephen Miles runs down the high points for The Nation.

Like? –> Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the company would disclose the ads that it sold to Russian “bot-farms” during the election to Congressional investigators and vowed to “make political advertising more transparent” on the social media network. “Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad,” he wrote, “but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.” Brian Feldman has more at New York magazine.

Duterte’s death threat –> According to Agence France-Presse, “Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will have his son killed if drug trafficking allegations against the younger politician are true, and that the police who carry out the hit will be protected from prosecution.”

Rogue agency –> On NPR’s All Things Considered, John Burnett tells the story of a young undocumented couple who were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while their infant awaited a lifesaving operation at a Texas hospital. The couple have no criminal record, meaning they were guilty only of a civil violation. Their baby is a US citizen. Burnett notes that “under President Barack Obama, the Department of Homeland Security adopted a policy that immigration agents should avoid enforcement actions at hospitals, schools, churches and public demonstrations unless there are special circumstances.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Oregon are demanding answers from ICE after its agents approached a US citizen of Mexican descent who has worked for a local county government for 20 years and “demanded his name without identifying themselves and claimed he was in the country illegally.” Everton Bailey Jr. has that story for The Oregonian.

And George Joseph reports for ProPublica that while border crossings are down significantly, the number of migrants dying in the desert attempting to come to the US has remained tragically high as “government policies funneling illegal immigrants into more dangerous crossing areas have contributed to fatalities.”

Personnel is policy –> “Donald Trump’s appointees to jobs at Agriculture Department headquarters include a long-haul truck driver, a country club cabana attendant and the owner of a scented-candle company,” reports Jenny Hopkinson for Politico. “The agency has been stocked with Trump campaign staff and volunteers who in many cases demonstrated little to no experience with federal policy, let alone deep roots in agriculture,” and in some cases “appear to lack credentials, such as a college degree, required to qualify for higher government salaries.”

Trump’s hires may not be qualified, but most of them are in possession of a Y chromosome; Molly Redden reports for The Guardian that “80 percent of nominations for top jobs in the Trump administration have gone to men — putting Donald Trump on track to assemble the most male-dominated federal government in nearly a quarter-century.”

This is your brain on football –> Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who killed himself in April while serving a life sentence for murder, “had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” according to the Associated Press. “Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.”

Remarkable creatures –> During the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, cephalopods — squid, octopi and cuttlefish — ruled the seas. These intelligent, adaptive animals were more numerous and their reign of ascendancy lasted far longer than that of the dinosaurs. But while they survived multiple extinction events, we don’t know much about this era of cephalopod dominance. Danna Staaf’s new book, Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods, attempts to tell their story with a fresh eye, and Colin Dickey has a good write-up at The New Republic.

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



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