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Morning Reads: The Panama Papers May Lead to a New Banking Rule

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

Morning Reads: The Panama Papers May Lead to a New Banking Rule

View of bank headquarters in Panama City on April 4, 2016. (RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)

Slouching towards action –> Brett Wolf at Reuters: “The U.S. Treasury Department intends to soon issue a long-delayed rule forcing banks to seek the identities of people behind shell-company account holders, after the ‘Panama Papers’ leak provoked a global uproar over the hiding of wealth via offshore banking devices. A department spokesman said on Wednesday the rule would ‘soon’ be turned over to the White House for review and issuance, but did not confirm any timetable for the initiative, which has taken years.”

The shell company state of Delaware –> Why aren’t Americans featured more prominently in the Panama Papers? Libby Watson advances a theory at the Sunlight Foundation blog: “We’d all like to believe that it’s because most Americans are law-abiding folks, but there might be another answer: Americans don’t need offshore companies in tiny island nations to hide their money. America has Delaware.”

Eye in the sky –> Many parts of America are being watched by surveillance aircraft. Buzzfeed put together an investigation:

Each weekday, dozens of U.S. government aircraft take to the skies and slowly circle over American cities. Piloted by agents of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the planes are fitted with high-resolution video cameras, often working with “augmented reality” software that can superimpose onto the video images everything from street and business names to the owners of individual homes. At least a few planes have carried devices that can track the cell phones of people below.

Most of the aircraft are small, flying a mile or so above ground, and many use exhaust mufflers to mute their engines — making them hard to detect by the people they’re spying on.

Buzzfeed’s report includes maps that show some of the most common routes.

And now some good news –> Tom Randall at Bloomberg: “Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable. While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.”

Meanwhile, Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, will serve a year in jail for his role in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29. At the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail, families of the dead react: “Too little, too late.”

More problems at the polls –> Predictably, Wisconsin’s new voter ID made it harder for many students and minorities to vote. Ari Berman at The Nation:

Despite the high voter turnout, the problems in the primary don’t bode well for what could happen in November, when many more people will vote, there will be more competitive races, and Wisconsin will be a key swing state. Wisconsin Republicans believe the voter-ID law will help them in future elections and have been relentless in restricting voting rights. When asked why Republicans would carry Wisconsin in November, GOP Congressman Glenn Grothman said, “Now we have photo ID.”

And: Tuesday’s Supreme Court race in Wisconsin cost $4.3 million, according to an analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice. “Wisconsin is a perfect example of the politicized, high-cost judicial elections we’ve been seeing around the country,” said the Brennan Center’s senior counsel Alicia Bannon. “The candidates were backed by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors, raising concerns about conflicts of interest and leaving the public in the dark about who is seeking to shape Wisconsin’s courts.”

You say you want a political revolution? –> Bernie Sanders often argues that there is a large, untapped voter base in the United States that has become unengaged from politics and is far more liberal than most elected politicians. A new paper indicates he may be right. Vox’s Dylan Matthews writes: “There really is a reasonably large segment of the American population that most political campaigns aren’t reaching. It’s a segment that’s disproportionately black and Latino and decidedly more liberal than the American public as a whole. If they were turning out, it could conceivably push the American electorate to the left.”

Showing superdelegates the revolving door –> We’ve written about the Democratic Party’s system of superdelegates by which the elite get to vote for a candidate at the convention in numbers that makes them roughly as powerful as America’s most populous state, California. At The Intercept, Lee Fang writes that some Democratic lawmakers want to rid from the roster of super delegates those “who now work as lobbyists for banks, oil companies, foreign governments, and payday lenders, among other special interests.”

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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