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Morning Reads: The Preventable Tragedy in Orlando; Billionaires Out to Destroy Press Freedom

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

Morning Reads: The Preventable Tragedy in Orlando

People gather near the Stonewall Inn, a civil rights landmark in New York City, during a vigil in reaction to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. (BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Orlando –> Sometime just before 2 a.m. Sunday, a man named Omar Mateen entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and using an assault rifle and a handgun began the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Fifty are dead, including the assailant, and 53 injured. Though the man had twice been investigated by the FBI about “inflammatory” comments he had made and “possible ties” with a suicide bomber, he purchased the AR-15 assault weapon — called by the NRA the “most popular gun in America” — within the last two weeks. This is legal under current federal and Florida gun law.

At Wired, Brendan Koener writes that the gunman, who reportedly swore allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call during the attack, may represent the beliefs and goals of the extremist group even if it has never heard of him: “The Islamic State wants us to question our commitment to pluralism, to make us view it as a vulnerability rather than a strength. Its greatest dream is that we turn against Muslims and Islam right now. In being vigilant about avoiding that well-laid trap, we can demonstrate why our vision for society is the one that offers the world a true way forward. ‘I think ultimately, the strength of our society is going to emerge in how we deal with this,’ says Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation. ‘Our success is not going to come from how many concrete barriers we can plant in front of buildings; it’s going to be come from how we’re able to let our fundamental values prevail.'”

And at The Nation, executive editor Richard Kim describes what the gunman violated: “Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression… We may never know how much homophobia drove Mateen to do what he did, or what other springs of madness and extremism he drank from. But we can definitely say this: Just as Dylann Roof preyed upon the specific openness and hospitality of the Mother Emanuel Church, Omar Mateen exploited the specific things that make gay bars magic. He took the dark, the loudness, the density, the chaos of the dance floor — and he made them his accomplices in what is the largest mass shooting in this nation’s history.”

Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times reports that hours before the gunman opened fire in Orlando, an Indiana man was arrested in Santa Monica headed for Los Angeles’ gay pride parade with a car full of weapons, ammunition and materials that could be used to make explosives. It is still unclear if he intended to stage an attack at the parade.

“Democracy issues” front and center –> Justin Miller at The American Prospect: “Senate Democrats focused on taking back control of the upper chamber in 2016 have unveiled an ambitious package of campaign-finance and government-reform measures designed to tap into voter outrage over big money and special interest influence. At a press conference outside the US Capitol Thursday, Democratic senators — along with leaders from campaign-finance advocacy groups — declared that they were committed to curtailing the influence of special interests and big money.”

The media vs. the angry billionaires –> The website Gawker is filing for bankruptcy after Hulk Hogan won a $140 million legal judgment against the site. Hogan’s suit, now on appeal, was paid for by tech billionaire and conservative political donor Peter Thiel, who bankrolled Hogan’s case while the wrestler filed the suit over and over again, looking for a sympathetic court. Thiel wanted revenge for a story Gawker published in 2007 revealing that he was gay. While many have mixed feelings about Gawker’s irreverent, tabloid style (and about outing gay people, even famous ones), Vox’s Timothy B. Lee points out that this is part of a broader trend — for one, Mother Jones faced a suit from billionaire Frank VanderSloot, who tried to punish the publication for a harsh but accurate report on his political activism. Although Mother Jones won, it incurred steep legal fees, and VanderSloot “announced that he was setting up a $1 million fund to pay the legal expenses of people wanting to sue Mother Jones or other members of the ‘liberal press.'”

Those crazy kids –> A British researcher named David Crystal thinks 20-somethings are not using periods anymore, according to this New York Times article, which is also written without periods — except in certain circumstances: “The period is being deployed as a weapon to show irony, syntactic snark, insincerity, even aggression… If the love of your life just canceled the candlelit, six-course, home-cooked dinner you have prepared, you are best advised to include a period when you respond ‘Fine.’ to show annoyance… ‘Fine’ or ‘Fine!,’ in contrast, could denote acquiescence or blithe acceptance”

Morning Reads was written 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!

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