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Daily Reads: Russian Trolls Helped Fuel NFL Controversy; Trump Wants to Slash His Own Taxes

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

Russian Trolls Helped Fuel NFL Controversy

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People are starting to die” –> A week after Hurricane Maria leveled Puerto Rico, Doug Stanglin reports for USA Today that continuing power outages and distribution snarls are keeping aid from “desperate” Puerto Ricans who are running out of time.

The Wall Street Journal reports that another problem was The Jones Act, which required that any ship carrying goods from one US port to another be made in America, staffed with Americans, and owned by an American. The Jones Act was waived for Texas and Florida right after their recent mega-storms, but the Trump administration has only just now waved it for Puerto Rico for 10 days. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is calling for a full repeal of the “archaic and burdensome” law.

And at The Intercept, David Dayen reached out to 51 creditors holding shares of Puerto Rico’s massive debt and asked if they “would support a moratorium or cancellation of debt payments for the island, given the humanitarian crisis.” They responded by offering “a territory mired in debt the chance to take on more debt” with new recovery loans.

Trump moves on –> On Wednesday, Donald Trump launched a nationwide tour to promote his proposed tax reforms. He pitched the “politically challenging array of tax cuts for individuals and businesses that would constitute the most sweeping changes to the federal tax code in decades” as “the fulfillment of a promise to his coalition of working-class supporters,” write The New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Alan Rappeport.

But according to an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness, the plan would cut between $6.7 and $8.3 trillion over the next 10 years, and those cuts would “largely benefit the richest Americans and biggest corporations.” What’s more, as much as $3 to $5 trillion wouldn’t be offset by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions, and “the resulting jump in the deficit threatens funding of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education and other vital services.”

Trump would also repeal the estate tax, which would provide a huge windfall for his own family and another 5,400 estates that face the tax nationwide, according to Chloe Choe at The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump and his fellow Republicans are spinning this as relief for the middle class in part by touting the fact that it would double the standard tax deduction that most filers take. But Josh Barro explains at Business Insider that when you look at the fine print, the claim that this would represent a big cut for the middle class “is a lie.”

And at The Washington Post, Paul Waldman looks at all of this and concludes that it really just “shows how unserious Republicans are about governing.”

Attack –> The Taliban launched six rockets at the Kabul airport just hours after Defense Secretary James Mattis had left the area. Ahmed Mengli, Mushtaq Yusufzai and Alexander Smith report that, “although the trip was not publicized, two Taliban commanders told NBC News on condition of anonymity that their ‘insiders’ in the Afghan security establishment and at Kabul airport had tipped them off in advance.”

More on Russia’s campaign –> Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that Russian operatives used imposter accounts to stoke racial animus and hostility toward Muslims on social media. Now Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman report for The Daily Beast that this strategy cut both ways, as “a Facebook group [called] United Muslims of America” was a Russian front used to promote inflammatory memes within the American Muslim community.

And lest you think this is all old news, researchers who have been following a network of Kremlin-linked social media accounts say that they “seized on both sides of the [NFL national anthem] issue with hashtags such as #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee.” Daisuke Wakabayashi and Scott Shane have more at The Washington Post.

Speaking of –> “A Russian general killed in Syria had been seconded to the Syrian government as a military commander.” According to Reuters, “the role of the deceased general reveals the extent to which Russia has become an integral part of President Bashar al Assad’s ruling system.”

Roy who? –> When Politico’s John Bresnahan asked Republican senators about their opinion of Roy Moore, the radical culture warrior who won the GOP Senate primary for Alabama on Tuesday, “colleagues insist[ed] they’re not aware of the years of inflammatory comments and actions by the Alabama jurist.” Some said they weren’t even aware of the high-profile primary race.

And The Washington Post’s David Weigel profiles Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent. He writes that some outside groups are embracing his candidacy, but “after a string of high-profile defeats in special House elections, two of them in the Deep South, Democrats are approaching the Jones campaign carefully.”

Domestic terror –> Newly confirmed FBI chief Christopher Wray told a congressional committee on Wednesday that his agency has 1,000 open investigations “into potential domestic terrorists, including people who may be linked to extremist white supremacy, white nationalism and environmental movements,” reports Mike Levine for ABC News.

The Hillary treatment –> Rebecca Traister writes for The Cut that despite the fact that she has long been “a standard-bearer” for progressives, the right is trying to weaken Elizabeth Warren from the left by defining her as an “elite, ambitious candidate, saying one thing on the stump but another to wealthy donors, [and] willing to cede big dreams for incremental, pragmatic fixes.”

Fake news update –> You may not be familiar with the name Paul Horner, but during the 2016 election he was one of the most formidable purveyors of viral news stories that he invented out of whole cloth, including the claim that George Soros was paying people to protest Trump’s rallies. Last week, Horner was found dead at age 38 in his Arizona home. Authorities have ruled out foul play, saying that “evidence at the scene suggested this could be an accidental overdose.” Clarice Silver has more for The Associated Press.

Evacuating –> Nick Perry reports for The Associated Press that Vanuatu officials on Thursday ordered the complete evacuation of an island in the Pacific archipelago where a rumbling, belching volcano is threatening to blow. The evacuation of the island’s 11,000 residents could take up to a week.

Big date-a –> An EU law gives citizens a right to review the personal data internet companies collect on them, and journalist Judith Duportail did so. She was shocked when she went through the 800 pages of sometimes very personal information the online dating site Tinder had collected on her, but experts weren’t surprised, saying that every app has a similar pile of data on all of its users that it can use for targeted advertising or sell to third parties. Duportail wonders “what will happen if this treasure trove of data gets hacked, is made public or simply bought by another company?”

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



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