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Morning Reads: Obama Halts Coal Mining on Public Lands, Last Night’s Debate

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

Morning Reads: Obama Halts Coal Mining on Public Lands, Last Night's Debate

Coal trucks line up and wait to be loaded with coal at the Sufco Coal Mine, 30 miles east of Salina, Utah on May 28, 2014. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Debate –> If you’re debated out and decided to skip last night’s Republican dust-up on Fox Business, the last before the caucuses and primaries begin, you probably made a fine choice. John Nichols at The Nation calls the event “nasty, brutish and long.” Justin Nichols at Slate says it was “weird, raucous, and generally terrible.” But at Five Thirty Eight PoliticsNate Silver points out that, slog or not, the debate did encapsulate this election cycle’s odd GOP campaign; if you had been living under a rock but emerged to tune in to Fox Business last night, by the time it was over, “you’d have a reasonably good understanding of the dynamics of the Republican race.”

MEANWHILE, The New York Times (which came under attack last night from Ted Cruz) offers some fact checks and, eesh, only one statement they looked at was “close enough” to be called correct.

Shoring up his climate legacy –> Obama has announced plans to halt coal leasing on public lands, at least temporarily, while his administration rethinks the program. It’s a move activists have long called for and, Coral Davenport notes at The New York Times, represents “a significant setback for the coal industry… sending a signal to energy markets that could turn investors away from an already flailing industry.” If leasing gets started again, writes Grist’s Ben Adler, the administration’s plan will likely be “higher rates for fossil fuel leases that reflect the social costs of pollution, especially climate pollution.”

Counterpunch –> “Planned Parenthood’s California affiliate filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against the people behind the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group [that] made a series of undercover videos targeting PP. The lawsuit accuses the CMP and its officers of violating federal racketeering laws, as well as both federal and state laws against invasion of privacy and trespassing,” Anna Merlan reports for Jezebel. CMP’s videos inspired some of the nastiest rhetoric around abortion this election cycle, and figured into November’s Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado Springs, the perpetrator of which told police he was angry about the “baby parts.”

Paying up –> Goldman Sachs will pay more than $5 billion as part of a settlement related to mortgage-backed securities it sold between 2005 and 2007, helping spark the financial meltdown. Kevin McCoy, Kaja Whitehouse and Paul Davidson at USA Today write that the fine is big enough to wipe out most of the bank’s fourth-quarter 2015 earnings.

What’s the worst that could happen? –> “A catastrophe caused by climate change is seen as the biggest potential threat to the global economy in 2016, according to a survey of 750 experts conducted by the World Economic Forum,” reports Larry Elliott at The Guardian. “The annual assessment of risks conducted by the WEF before its annual meeting in Davos on 20-23 January showed that global warming had catapulted its way to the top of the list of concerns.”

Endorsement –> The Nation magazine is endorsing Bernie Sanders for president: “This magazine rarely makes endorsements in the Democratic primary (we’ve done so only twice: for Jesse Jackson in 1988, and for Barack Obama in 2008). We do so now impelled by the awareness that our rigged system works for the few and not for the many.”

What really causes inequality –> Some Silicon Valley venture capitalists and start-up types (cough, Paul Graham, cough) have been claiming  that rising inequality is not that big a problem, and is merely a side effect of innovation, which is a good thing for any country. But a recent economic study shows that they’re way off base — 86 percent of inequality is not attributable to innovation. The real problem, many economists argue, is something called “rent seeking.” At The Washington Post, Jim Tankersly explains, “Really simply put, it’s people making extra money not because they deliver a good or a service that the market values, but because they’ve bent the rules of some system to shuttle more compensation their way. Examples of this would include chief executives who pad their profits by lobbying for government favors, and reap big bonuses as a result. Or financial pros who score huge fees helping clients game the tax code to pay less to the IRS.”

American idol –> In Pensacola, Florida, three girls called the “Freedom Kids” put together a song-and-dance in support of Donald Trump’s candidacy and on Wednesday performed it at one of his rallies. Things get weird and Inae Oh at Mother Jones has the video.

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

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