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Morning Reads: Major Victory for North Dakota Protesters; Trump’s Taiwan Call Was Planned

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

Morning Reads: Major Victory for North Dakota Protesters

Activists celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota, after hearing that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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“Water Protectors” win, for now –> “The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline [DAPL], granting a major victory to protesters who have been demonstrating for months,” Nathan Rott and Eyder Peralta report for National Public Radio. “The decision essentially halts the construction on the 1,172-mile oil pipeline about half a mile south of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of demonstrators from across the country had flocked to North Dakota in protest.” The Army Corps of Engineers will seek alternative routes for the pipeline that do not threaten the Native American reservation’s water source.

But Trump probably will give the go-ahead. Brad Plumer reports for Vox that proceeding with DAPL lines up with President-elect Donald Trump’s policy priorities — and Trump stands to gain financially: “He’s repeatedly said that he’s in favor of more fossil fuel infrastructure. And the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had donated $100,000 to a Trump Victory Fund before the election in the hopes he’d greenlight it… There’s also a bizarre financial twist here: Earlier this year, disclosure forms suggested that Trump himself still had as much as $300,000 personally invested in the project, although spokespeople claim he has since sold much of that stock off.”

It’s official –> Trump has chosen brain surgeon Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Trump’s first major act of foreign policy –> His call with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen last week was not simply a blunder — it had been planned for a long time, The Washington Post reports: “The historic communication — the first between leaders of the United States and Taiwan since 1979 — was the product of months of quiet preparations and deliberations among Trump’s advisers about a new strategy for engagement with Taiwan that began even before he became the Republican presidential nominee, according to people involved in or briefed on the talks. The call also reflects the views of hard-line advisers urging Trump to take a tough opening line with China, said others familiar with the months of discussion about Taiwan and China.” The president-elect also has resumed attacking China on Twitter.

Right-wing populism wins in Italy… –> “On Sunday, a majority of Italians voted against legislative reforms in a referendum, according to major exit polls,” Rick Noack writes for The Washington Post. “Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who had pushed for the reforms and was forced to call the referendum, admitted defeat on Sunday evening and announced that he would hand in his resignation on Monday.” With Renzi out of the picture, the Five Star Movement, led by anti-immigrant (and former TV comedian) Beppe Grillo, is poised to sweep into power, which could, in turn, lead to Italy pulling out of the Eurozone. The UK Independent has an explainer on the Five Star Movement, which resembles right-wing parties in other countries — except for its support of environmentalism.

…but loses in Austria. “Austrians have elected a pro-European former Green Party leader, Alexander Van der Bellen, as their next president over a far-right candidate who had campaigned on an anti-immigration, ‘Austria First’ platform,” Jennifer Eccleston reports for ABC. “Austria’s presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but if Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer had won, he would have become Austria and Western Europe’s first far-right head of state since World War II.”

Why Trump’s claims of voter fraud matter –> On the Sunday shows yesterday, Trump’s team, including chief of staff Reince Priebus and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, refused to back away from Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally. Michael Wines reports for The New York Times that this sort of messaging — intentional or not — could be laying the groundwork to further disenfranchise populations that traditionally vote Democratic: “Mr. Trump’s claims of a ‘rigged’ election — made before he won — and his false declaration after his victory that ‘millions of people’ had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton made headlines. They also amplified longstanding Republican claims that rampant voter fraud justified a welter of state laws making it more difficult to register and vote. Democrats say the laws are not about combating fraud but about suppressing the vote of minorities and other Democratic-leaning constituencies. Mr. Trump will have enormous power to shape future policy on voting.”

Fake news, real gunman –> A gunman showed up to a Washington, DC-area pizza restaurant and fired one or more shots yesterday, later telling police he had come to “self-investigate” what has become known as “Pizzagate,” an online conspiracy theory. “‘Pizzagate’ claims that Democratic operatives placing orders at Comet Ping Pong were actually using code to talk about underage prostitutes,” Craig Silverman writes for Buzzfeed. “This strange and convoluted conspiracy theory, which also involves allegations of occult rituals, has its origins in false accusations about the Clintons that began spreading in late October. The original theory claimed that the Clintons and other government figures were involved in a global human trafficking and pedophilia ring.

“This one example shows how Trump supporters, members of 4chan and Reddit, and right-wing blogs in the US and in other countries combined to create and spread viral misinformation during the election season.”

The conspiracy theory has become popular among right-wing conservatives online, and was even shared by National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s son. (Flynn himself also has shared fake news online.)

Here’s a guide on how to spot fake news.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.