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Morning Reads: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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

Morning Reads: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump talk to reporters in the spin room following the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Fear and loathing –> The Republican debate last night hammered away at terrorism and security, pivoting to a few other issues toward the end. The New York Times has some fact checks, while Mother Jones offers eight “biggest moments.” The moderators seemed interested in setting up confrontations between candidates with policy differences, pitting Christie against Paul on counterterrorism, Rubio against Cruz on immigration, Bush against Trump on each other’s temperaments. Rebecca Leber at New Republic: “If you blinked, you would have missed the only time the Paris climate talks came up in the GOP debate.”

The Guardian: “On a night that may be remembered for Trump’s defense of a policy of deliberately killing innocent civilians if they are the family members of Islamist fighters, his rivals for the Republican nomination appeared divided on issues as fundamental as immigration, surveillance, freedom of speech and regime change abroad.”

I guess they weren’t watching the debate –> Paul Ryan announced late last night that the White House and congressional leaders had reached a spending deal. He framed it as a necessary compromise between the parties that right-wingers might find unpalatable. The agreement would lift the crude-oil export ban, a major win for the fossil-fuel industry coming just days after world leaders in Paris announced greater efforts to transition away from fossil fuels. More to come as analysts burrow further into the details.

Point of interest –> Chair Janet Yellen will announce today whether the Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates. Vox has the answers to “9 questions about interest rates you were too embarrassed to ask,” including, “Is there a better way to do monetary policy than manipulating interest rates?”

The “uncampaign” –> Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy has a great long read on how much of what used to be run by a candidate’s official campaign has been taken over by super PACs, which can raise unlimited funds but have to bend in odd ways to get around the remains of our half-dismantled campaign finance laws. They can’t, for instance, be named after a candidate: “So after the Federal Election Commission threatened the group with penalties last summer, the super-PAC formerly known as ‘Carly for America’ became ‘Conservative, Authentic, Responsive Leadership for You and for America’ — that is, CARLY.”

Really, really not about the money –> Donald Trump privately met yesterday with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, whose Venetian hotel and casino was the site of last night’s debate. “What I told Sheldon through his people is that I’d love their support,” Trump said. “It’s unnecessary, but I’d like his support. I don’t want his money,” he told The Washington Post.

Gotta pay the bills somehow –> Shane Goldmacher at Politico: “Scott Walker has begun selling access to his email list to pay off his leftover presidential debt, renting out the email addresses of hundreds of thousands of supporters to former rivals, including Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson.”

Gaffney’s big day –> In recent years, Islamophobe Frank Gaffney has been kicked to the fringes by most mainstream politicians as he continues to push a Red scare-style conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the Obama administration. But the tenor of this campaign creates room for that kind of thinking. Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed: “On Monday, four Republican presidential candidates appeared either via video or in person at an event for Gaffney’s group, the Center for Security Policy, ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary debate here in Las Vegas.”

When parents are behind bars –> Two new reports — from the Center for American Progress and Child Trends — look at the incredibly disruptive effect our mass incarceration system has on families, Amy Alexander reports for National Journal. The CAP analysis estimates that “between 33 million and 36.5 million children in the United States — nearly half of US children — now have at least one parent with a criminal record,” exacerbating the challenges faced by low-income families.

But not a drop to drink –> When Flint, Michigan, stopped drawing water from the City of Detroit more than a year and a half ago, the city began using the polluted Flint River and the number of lead-poisoned infants in the city nearly doubled, Yanan Wang writes for The Washington Post. The connection to Detroit’s water has been restored but the damage is done. On Monday, newly elected Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency. “The City of Flint has experienced a man-made disaster,” she said.

Tired of the smarm? –>This conversation at Vulture between rapper Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders is a breath of fresh air.

Morning Reads is compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship.

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