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Morning Reads: Bombings in Brussels; Candidates Speak Out on Israel

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

Morning Reads: Candidates Speak Out on Israel

Hillary Clinton arrives to speak during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Developing –> Associated Press: “Explosions, at least one likely caused by a suicide bomber, rocked the Brussels airport and subway system Tuesday, prompting a lockdown of the Belgian capital and heightened security across Europe. At least 31 people were reported dead.”

“A light footprint in the world” –> In Washington for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Donald Trump told the editorial board of The Washington Post, “I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore… I think it’s proven not to work, and we have a different country than we did then. We have $19 trillion in debt.” He suggested he would consider cutting off aid to allies and leaving NATO.

AND: At the AIPAC meeting, Hillary Clinton sought to reassure the influential, conservative-leaning group that if elected, her administration would not continue tensions that arose between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Her speech, meant to position Clinton as a safe alternative to Trump, was well received by the crowd, although critics, including Clinton supporter Michelle Goldberg, accused the candidate of pandering.

Bernie Sanders did not attend but spoke on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a campaign appearance in Utah, arguing that both sides need to step up efforts to facilitate the peace process, with Israelis “pulling back settlements in the West Bank, just as Israel did in Gaza – once considered an unthinkable move on Israel’s part.” Sanders also said, “Those who advocate for stronger military involvement by the U.S. to oust [Syrian President Bashar] Assad from power have not paid close enough attention to history. That would simply prolong the war and increase the chaos in Syria, not end it.”

More on AIPAC speeches from Trump, Cruz and Kasich.

Obama in Cuba –> President Obama is wrapping up his historic visit to Cuba today with a televised speech to the Cuban and American people, a meeting with dissidents and attendance at a baseball game between the Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays. Yesterday, he and Cuban President Raul Castro sparred over human rights during a joint press conference at which Castro denied that his country was holding political prisoners and demanded to see a list. “Human rights groups quickly produced rosters, distributed over email and social media, of people they said had been imprisoned in Cuba for demonstrating against or otherwise challenging Mr. Castro’s government,” Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Damien Cave reported at The New York Times. “Mr. Castro sought to turn the human rights criticism on the United States, arguing that countries that do not provide universal health care, education and equal pay are in no position to lecture Cuba. He also said the United States military base at Guantánamo Bay should be returned to Cuba.”

Bye, Todd –> Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s head diplomat for climate change, is on his way out. The importance of the job will only grow as climate change worsens and the Paris climate deal — in which Stern was a key player — hits inevitable roadblocks. Joe Ryan reports for BloombergBusiness that “Stern will be replaced by Jonathan Pershing, a scientist who for the past three years has been the senior climate adviser to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Pershing was previously a member of the International Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.”

The energy transition inches along… –> As coal’s prospects dim — the result of increasingly affordable renewables, cheap natural gas and government regulations aimed at reducing America’s coal consumption — banks aren’t financing new coal-consuming projects. Michael Corkery reports for The New York Times’ Dealbook that “JPMorgan Chase, announced two weeks ago that it would no longer finance new coal-fired power plants in the United States or other wealthy nations. The retreat follows similar announcements by Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley that they are, in one way or another, backing away from coal.”

The establishment’s secret weapon –> Will Tucker at the Open Secrets blog reports that the forces trying to throw up roadblocks along Donald Trump’s path to the presidency have enlisted the forces of mega-lobbyist Rick Berman, aka “Dr. Evil.” Mother Jones reported in 2009 that, “Among Berman’s outfits is the Center for Consumer Freedom, which targets critics of fast food, alcohol, and mercury-laden fish… Berman’s Employment Policies Institute campaigns against minimum-wage increases. And his Employee Freedom Action Committee crusades against unionization.” (He’s also the father of indie rock hero David Berman and was the subject of this 2014 Bill Moyers essay.)  Will Tucker wonders: Has Berman met his messaging match in Trump?

When the donors get tired –> Carrie Levine at the Center for Public Integrity: “Donald Trump-fueled tumult in the Republican presidential race is prompting some major donors to abandon the field for now and instead funnel resources into downballot races. Some key political groups dedicated to promoting Republican congressional candidates say they’re seeing interest from donors who would otherwise be focused on the presidential race.”

Blunt response –> Dan Baum at Harpers: “‘You want to know what this was really all about?’ [John Ehrlichman] asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. ‘The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.'”

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

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