What We're Reading

Daily Reads: What’s Going on in the Middle East?; Report: Mueller Has Enough Evidence to Indict Flynn

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

What's Going on in the Middle East?

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Not a slow news weekend –> There appears to have been a coup, or “power grab,” in Saudi Arabia over the weekend. On the pretext of fighting corruption, crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman had ten other princes, four sitting cabinet members, and several former cabinet secretaries taken into custody on Saturday. Juan Cole tries to make sense of it all at Informed Comment.

David Kenner writes at Foreign Policy that “the crown prince is consolidating his own power to a degree that Saudi Arabia has not seen in generations. Recent Saudi monarchs… had tried to build consensus among all the branches of the royal family,” an arrangement that was often clunky but minimized overt internal conflict.

Ryan Grim writes at The Intercept that “Washington corruption enabled” the move.

Also on Saturday, the Saudis intercepted a missile allegedly fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen at the Riyadh airport. Iran is reportedly supplying the Houthi. CNN has that story.

That same day, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, a close ally to the Saudis, resigned, “saying he believed there was an assassination plot against him and accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world,” according to Reuters. The move “brought down the [country’s] coalition government and plunged Lebanon into a new political crisis.”

All of this is exacerbating what was already a “sharply escalating” cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to Asa Fitch at The Wall Street Journal.

And “US-backed local forces in Syria [reported that] more than a hundred people have been killed in a truck bomb blast in eastern Syria.” The victims were “refugees from the war against the ISIS group in the region.” The AP has more on that story.

Finally, on Sunday, Prince Mansour bin Muqrin and several other Saudi officials were killed in a helicopter crash near the Syrian border. According to the BBC, “the cause of the crash is unknown.”

And here at home –> Justin Carissimo and Peter Martinez run down what we know so far about Devin Patrick Kelly, the 26-year-old Air Force vet who allegedly gunned down dozens of people in a Texas church yesterday.

Kelly ended up dead from gunshot wounds after his vehicle crashed into a ditch 11 miles away from the crime. The Washington Post’s Kyle Swenson interviewed one of the men who chased Kelly down at high speeds after the shooting. Police say it’s unclear whether Kelly shot himself or suffered wounds during a gunfight with a man who lived near the church.

Flynn in the hotseat –> NBC reports that special counsel Robert Mueller currently has enough evidence to indict former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and his son on charges of money laundering, lying to investigators and unregistered lobbying for foreign governments. “If the elder Flynn is willing to cooperate with investigators in order to help his son,” write Julia Ainsley, Carol Lee and Ken Dilanian, “it could also change his own fate, potentially limiting any legal consequences.”

Mueller is “bracing” for a variety of attempts by Trump and his allies to challenge his authority or limit the scope of his probe, according to Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein.

Jon Swaine and Luke Harding report for The Guardian that the “Paradise Papers,” a trove of documents leaked last week from an offshore financial firm, reveal that “two Russian state institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin funded substantial investments in Twitter and Facebook through a business associate of Jared Kushner.”

More on that swamp –> On Sunday, a story months in the making went public. Journalists at a coalition of organizations released a series of stories on the Paradise Papers, something of a sequel to the Panama Papers which were published in 2015. Both were leaked caches of documents from tax havens detailing the rich and powerful’s corrupt relationships with one another and extensive efforts to avoid paying taxes. Using the documents, Mike Mcintire, Sasha Chavkin and Martha Hamilton wrote in The New York Times about Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ “significant business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law.” According to the report, Ross’s holdings were obscured by “a chain of companies in the Cayman Islands, one of several tax havens where much of his wealth, estimated at more than $2 billion, has been tied to similar investment vehicles.”

Maybe not until this summer –> According to a report by CBS’ 60 Minutes, Puerto Rico is still “mostly without electricity” some six weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. An official said that the last areas to see power restored will probably remain in the dark until next “spring or summer.”

This is like throwing away the medical records of a sick patient” –> Scientists say Trump and his congressional allies are “deliberately obstructing research on global warming after it emerged that a critically important technique for investigating sea-ice cover at the poles faces being blocked.” Robin McKie reports for The Guardian that “a key polar satellite broke down a few days ago, leaving the US with only three ageing ones, each operating long past their shelf lives.” Because Congressional Republicans “insisted that a backup sea-ice probe had to be dismantled because it did not want to provide funds to keep it in storage,” there will be a gap in coverage in the coming years.

An Attempt to Destroy Government” –> That’s how Robert Borosage writing for The Nation describes the tax bill released by House Republicans last week.

At The Hill, Alexander Bolton looks at some of the “red flags” that may put their Senate counterparts in a bind, “much like the House-passed Obamacare repeal bill did earlier this year.”

Bolton’s colleague, Jordain Carney, reports that whether or not the budget contains a provision protecting the Dreamers from deportation, a government shutdown over the issue looks like a real possibility.

Speaking of immigration… –> Even as he demonizes immigrants and laments that they’re taking American jobs, “Trump is boosting the number of employees he’s bringing from overseas this winter.” Jeff Ostrowski reports for The Palm Beach Post that Trump applied for and received visas “to hire 70 maids, cooks and servers at the Mar-a-Lago Club for the 2017-18 tourist season.”

Resigned –> Jeff Hoover, Kentucky’s Republican House speaker, “resigned his leadership position Sunday after acknowledging he settled sexual harassment claims from one of his staffers last month.” The AP’s Adam Beam has more on the controversy.

“L’etat, c’est moi” –> Greg Sargent reports for The Washington Post that Trump “once again telegraphed his desire to see the Justice Department investigate Hillary Clinton over the array of fake scandals that he and his allies have been talking about in recent weeks…but in this case, he went further than that,” openly stating “his frustration with his inability to get the department to do his bidding in this regard.”

Finally, check out this really a remarkable exchange, which was reported by Axios’ Jonathan Swan:

In late June, President Trump hosted a group of Native American tribal leaders at the White House and urged them to “just do it” and extract whatever they want from the land they control.

The exchange turned out to be an unusually vivid window into the almost kingly power that Trump sees himself as holding, and which he has begun describing with increasing bluntness. The scene was recounted by a source in the room and confirmed by another. The White House didn’t dispute the story.

The chiefs explained to Trump that there were regulatory barriers preventing them from getting at their energy. Trump replied: “But now it’s me. The government’s different now. Obama’s gone; and we’re doing things differently here.”

“So what I’m saying is, just do it.” There was a pause in the room and the tribal leaders looked at each other.

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



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