Developing –> North Korea claims to have tested a hydrogen bomb. Countries around the world expressed concern and alarm, and China, one of the few countries that generally supports North Korea, is not pleased, report May Shi and Echo Huang Yinyin for Quartz. South Korea doubts its neighbor’s claim is real but the UN Security Council will meet in emergency session today.
Strengthening background checks –> As he stood with relatives of the dead as well as survivors of gun violence, Obama wiped away tears and announced new executive actions on firearms yesterday. At Vox, German Lopez outlines what the actions actually do. They may not end up changing much — as The Marshall Project’s Eli Hager points out, many are steps the president already has tried to make. But the proposal to increase the FBI’s background check staff by 50 percent could make a big difference, Lopez writes.
Better late than never… –> Lawyer Edward Blum has been behind many of the most prominent, conservative legal battles, and in fact argued two cases before the Supreme Court just last month: the challenge to the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, and an important case on voter representation. But apparently Blum has second thoughts about his successful arguments before the court that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and the disenfranchisement of minorities that followed: “I think about it a lot, I worry about it a lot. I agonise over this,” Blum told The Guardian’s Andrew Gumbel. “It may be that one or two of the states that used to be covered by Section 5 has gone too far.”
Tyrant or loan officer? –> Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed militants occupying buildings on an Oregon wildlife preserve, says his group is taking a stand against government “tyranny” and overreach. But not long ago, that same federal government helped him out with a six-figure business loan, reports Russ Choma for Mother Jones. “Ammon Bundy runs a Phoenix-based company called Valet Fleet Services LLC, which specializes in repairing and maintaining fleets of semitrucks throughout Arizona. On April 15, 2010—Tax Day, as it happens—Bundy’s business borrowed $530,000 through a Small Business Administration loan guarantee program.”
AND: Bundy’s interview with the socialist magazine Jacobin is an interesting look at how his mind works. He claims to see a confrontation ahead: “I do think the government has violence on its mind. That’s why they have taken so long to show up. I believe they are planning something for us to finally get rid of us once and for all. If they use force against us we will fight back to defend ourselves. I hope we don’t have to do that. I hope this all ends peacefully and the government does the right thing for once.” (As we noted yesterday, the government is treating the whole thing carefully, and Bundy’s prediction of federal aggression seems unlikely.)
Bad track record –> The Supreme Court underestimated the deviousness of the nation’s campaign financiers. The “prompt disclosure” Justice Kennedy hoped for in the wake of the Citizens United opinion rolling back campaign financing laws never panned out. And now, reports The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal, “What was once characterized as a ‘wild hypothetical’ by Justice Samuel Alito in a 2014 campaign finance case is now a reality.”
Preparing behind our backs –> The LA Times’ Amy Lieberman and Susanne Rust advance the story of how the oil industry prepared for climate change while spinning it as a non-issue to the public. They look at a plan by Mobil Oil in 1997 to “build a collection of exploration and production facilities along the Nova Scotia coast that made structural allowances for rising temperatures and sea levels” at the same time that the oil company was publicly casting doubt on the science behind the Kyoto Protocol.
Grotesque –> An NRA Twitter account sent out a picture of two New York state legislators from Brooklyn with bullets near their heads. The tweet came weeks after the two proposed new gun control legislation, but only days before the fifth anniversary of the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. At the New York Daily News, Glenn Blain, Tobias Salinger and Leonard Greene report.
Found something better to do –> Rep. Steve Israel, former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, is not running for re-election to the House. Instead, he’s retiring to write novels. He published his first in 2014, and has completed a second — “a sendup of National Rifle Association lobbyists.” Israel says both were written on his iPhone. Jamie Fuller reports for New York magazine’s “Daily Intelligencer.”
Define irony –> Michael Holden at Reuters: “The masked militant in an Islamic State video showing the killing of five men accused by the group of being Western spies is believed to be a Londoner known as Sid who once sold inflatable bouncy castles.”
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