What We're Reading

Morning Reads: Pro-Assad Forces Tighten Grip on Aleppo, Massacre Civilians; Electoral College Members Demand Intelligence Briefing

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

Morning Reads: Pro-Assad Forces Tighten Grip on Aleppo

Syrian pro-regime fighters gesture as residents, fleeing violence, arrive in Aleppo's Fardos neighborhood on Dec. 13, 2016, after regime troops retook the area from rebel fighters. (Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.



“A complete meltdown of humanity” –> That’s how the UN has described the situation in Aleppo as the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including support from Russia and Iran, push deeper into the city. They anticipate winning control within a day or two. The advancing pro-regime troops have shot dozens of civilians and burned others alive, a UN human rights office spokesperson tells NBC News, and observers worry that thousands of civilians crammed into a rebel-held, 1-square-mile section of the city could die as well. “Real massacres” are taking place, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told The Guardian.

It’s official –> Rex Tillerson is President-elect Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

It’s unclear, however, whether Tillerson will be confirmed. Some Senate Republicans may peel off from the party and vote “no” on Tillerson’s nomination, joining with Democrats. All it would take is three GOP votes.

Republican concerns focus not on the general conflicts of interest that would come with an oil tycoon running the State Department, or Exxon’s environmental record, but with this particular mogul’s ties to Russia. “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState,” Marco Rubio tweeted yesterday. Meanwhile, some on the left see Tillerson’s nomination as a payoff for Vladimir Putin’s warm feelings toward Trump: If US sanctions on Russia are lifted, a $500-billion oil deal between Exxon and Russia can move forward, Joe Romm writes for ThinkProgress.

About those Russia ties –> Congressional leaders in both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are ready to investigate Russia’s involvement in the presidential election.

Meanwhile, 10 members of the Electoral College — nine Democrats and one Republican — have asked for a briefing from National Intelligence Director James Clapper before they offically cast their votes on Dec. 19. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has come out in support of the request. “The bipartisan electors’ letter raises very grave issues involving our national security,” Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta said in a statement, via Politico. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.”

Doubts –> More anonymous leaks to Reuters reporters Mark Hosenball and Jonathan Landay suggest that, like the FBI, “The overseers of the US intelligence community have not embraced a CIA assessment that Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Republican President-elect Donald Trump win the 2016 election, three American officials said on Monday. While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA’s analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named.”

Pipeline spill near DAPL –> “A pipeline leak has spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek roughly two and a half hours from Cannon Ball, where protesters are camped out in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline,” CNBC reports. This is exactly what the Native Americans protesting have feared — the proposed pipeline would cross beneath a lake that provides their drinking water. CNBC reports that “more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek.” The leak was discovered on Dec. 5 — over a week ago — “near the city of Belfield, which is roughly 150 miles from the epicenter of the Dakota Access pipeline protest camps.”

The future of press freedom –> Jeff Toobin at The New Yorker looks at the current activities of the lawyer who, working for tech billionaire and Trump advisor Peter Thiel, brought down the online publication Gawker. Toobin writes that attorney Charles Harder now works with Trump, for whom he brought a suit against The Daily Mail, and for Roger Ailes, who appears to be exploring a lawsuit against New York magazine, which produced some of the most in-depth reporting on his ousting from Fox. As the Gawker case demonstrated, enough lawsuits filed by someone with enough time and enough money can bring a publication to its knees.

Nixon’s the one –> We’re not making this up. Annie Karni at Politico writes that Donald Trump “has told friends he plans to hang in the Oval Office a personal letter written to him in 1987 by former President Richard Nixon that predicted he would win political office… The letter was sent to Trump after former first lady Pat Nixon saw him in a television interview and thought to herself, a political star is born.

“‘Dear Donald,’ reads the prescient correspondence from Nixon, dated Dec. 21, 1987. ‘I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me that you were great on the Donahue Show. As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!'”

Morning Reads was compiled 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!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.