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Daily Reads: Are We Headed Toward War With North Korea? And, a Potential Social Security Cut in the Offing

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

Are We Headed Toward War With North Korea?

Participants of an expected upcoming parade gather during a rehearsal on Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang on April 6, 2017. (Photo credit ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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Ships en route –> Following repeated nuclear and missile tests, Trump has sent American military ships toward North Korea. North Korea, in turn, has warned of a nuclear strike against the US mainland if provoked. In a press conference yesterday, Sean Spicer dismissed the threat: “I think there is no evidence that North Korea has that capability at this time,” he said. Trump tweeted that China should also put pressure on North Korea in exchange for a more favorable trade deal; according to Chinese media, Trump and Chinese President Xi spoke yesterday by phone.

What would a war with North Korea look like? “Nasty, brutish, and short,” Steve Mollman argues at Quartz. It also could involve both nuclear and chemical weapons. At The Nation, Bruce Cummings looks at America’s history with North Korea — including some of the US aggression that is behind the country’s continuing provocations.

It’s not just North Korea and Syria. At The Guardian, Trevor Timm points out that America has been ratcheting up tensions with Iran and expanding wars in Somalia and Yemen, too.

A loss for Dems in Kansas special election –> Republican Ron Estes beat a Bernie Sanders-inspired Democrat, James Thompson, in a special election to replace CIA director Mike Pompeo in Congress, The Whichita Eagle reports. The campaign was a close one — at one point, Republican polling showed the candidates within one point of each other — and Donald Trump himself even recorded a robo call asking voters to support Estes.

Inevitably, many are trying to figure out what this race means for 2018. The answer may be “nothing.” It’s hard to extrapolate too much from a handful of special elections in an off election year. But Republicans are worried: “We should be concerned whether we win these races or not,” Chip Lake, a Republican strategist, told McClatchy newspapers. “They’re far more competitive than they should be.”

A trial balloon on social security cuts? –> Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept that, despite a campaign promise not to cut social security, the Trump administration is considering cutting the payroll tax that funds it. This would be a tax cut for workers and employers, Jilani explains, but social security would then have to get its funds somewhere else — and whether it actually does would be in Congress’ extremely unreliable hands. Slashing and potentially eliminating social security has long been a goal of Republicans, Heather “Digby” Parton writes for Salon. “They just love to tilt at this windmill and they get caught in the blades every time.”

America’s new War on Drugs –> Under Trump, America is likely to reboot and intensify America’s racialized War on Drugs, overseen by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, famously, joked that he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” At Mother Jones, Pema Levy digs into Sessions’ past to better understand what the War on Drugs will look like in the years ahead.

High-stakes game –> We wrote yesterday that the Justice Department, under Jeff Sessions, will not renew the charter for a team of scientists who have been advising the department on how to improve crime-lab forensics, which aren’t as reliable as many prosecutors seem to think, resulting in innocent convictions. In the latest issue of The Baffler, Brandon Garrett looks at a few cases of lives ruined. “Indeed, there is a national epidemic of overstated forensic testimony, with a steady stream of criminal convictions being overturned as the shoddiness of decades’ worth of physical evidence comes to light,” he writes.

Payment confirmation –> The drip-drip continues: Documents obtained by the Associated Press confirm earlier reports that a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine paid former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort at least $1.2 million between 2007 and 2009.

In other Russian election-meddling news, The Washington Post reports that, last summer, the FBI obtained a warrant to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a Trump aide who has advocated for warmer US-Russia relations. That means, The Post reports, that the FBI had to convince “a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.”

The latest palace intrigue –> In the wake of some particularly intense squabbling among White House aids and advisers — the “nationalists” vs. the “globalists” — the New York Post has a New York Post-y scoop: “Trump won’t definitively say he still backs Bannon,” Michael Goodwin writes.

The last of Bill O’Reilly? –> Probably not — the alleged sexual harasser goes on vacation tonight and will be back on air in two weeks, according to Fox. But, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports, “according to four network sources, there’s talk inside Fox News that tonight’s show could be his last. Lawyers for the law firm Paul, Weiss, hired last summer by 21st Century Fox to investigate Roger Ailes, are currently doing a ‘deep dive’ investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior.”

Daily Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Kristin Miller.



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