August 28, 2017 Last Updated 8:20 am

Newspapers lower paywalls, grant free access to digital editions in wake of Harvey

Morning Brief: Barcelona holds massive rally against hate following terrorist attack, while US appears more split than ever by hate as far-left groups battle far-right in Berkeley

The major hurricane that the president used for cover when issuing his pardon of racist sheriff Joe Arpaio continued to cause misery as a major rain storm, four days after landfall on coast of Texas. Many newspapers, including The New York Times, have lowered their paywalls during the disaster, and the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle said that its digital replica edition would be free to access today.

Schools are closed, roads impassable, houses flooded, and yet more rain is forecast as the storm stalled over Southeast Texas. While drones have been in use to shoot photos of the flooding, rescue workers complained that they were interfering with helicopters.

For local newspapers, it is all hands on deck. The lead story in the Houston Chronicle this morning features seven names plus the generic “Houston Chronicle” attribution.

Houston Chronicle, Lindsay Ellis, Houston Chronicle, Dug Begley, Susan Carroll, John D. Harden, Jacob Carpenter, Emily Foxhall, and Mike Tolson:

Concerns turn to creeks and bayous as Harvey hangs around

“If people need to get out, now is definitely the time,” said Alan Spears, deputy emergency management coordinator of Fort Bend County. “Granted, it is dark. We prefer people to try and evacuate during the day time, but if the water is down, take that opportunity and leave.”

Officials across the region were urging those in the way of waters – including some forced out by the release of floodwaters from Addicks and Barker reservoirs into Buffalo Bayou – to plan on escape. Conroe officials, concerned about Lake Conroe levels, were telling residents to leave.

Most of the Houston area, officials said, still reeling from water rescues and debris-strewn streets, should stay put and ride out lighter but still worrisome rain over the next few days, after two days of destruction.

Politico, Cristiano Lima:

Top newspapers lower paywalls for Hurricane Harvey

The nation’s three most storied newspapers — The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — lowered their paywalls this weekend for coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

The rare, concurrent move by the three titles gave non-subscribers unlimited access to their on-the-ground reporting as Harvey continues to inflict damage along the Texan coastline. It also gives readers access to weather and safety coverage….

…The three newspapers join The Houston Chronicle and other local Texas news outlets in reducing barriers to entry for content in the wake of Harvey.

The Globe and Mail, Glenn McGillivray:

Why the U.S. wasn’t prepared for Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, the swirling, megaflood-inducing menace that has set its sights on Texas, is the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in almost 12 years. While several less powerful hurricanes have struck over this period, Hurricane Wilma – which hit Florida on Oct. 24, 2005 – was the last Category 3 or higher storm to wreak havoc on an American coastal community…

…The span of 11 years and 10 months marks the longest period since records began that a major hurricane has not struck the U.S. mainland. It is a scientific mystery as to why this so-called “hurricane drought” has taken place (one research team has posited that a “buffer zone” of strong crosswinds and cooler water temperatures just off the coast has protected the U.S. from large hurricanes in recent years).

It is not, however, a mystery that the U.S. seems to have let its guard down when it came to preparing for an event like Harvey, and now it will pay a much bigger price.



While weather and presidential political news dominated US media, a massive demonstration in Barcelona has many media observers wondering what it will all mean for Spain and Catalonian independence.

The demonstration followed the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 14 in Barcelona, including several foreign tourists. The king of Spain attended the protest but was heard to be booed by supporters of Catalonian independence. But depending on your point of view regarding the scheduled October referendum on independence, the attack by a group of Moroccans either brought the country together, or showed its fractures.

El Pais, José María Irujo:

How imam who organized Catalonia attacks concealed his radical ideas

bdelbaki Es Satty, the Moroccan imam who headed the terrorist cell that perpetrated the attacks in Catalonia on August 17 and August 18, had been radicalized at least a decade ago. But his training enabled him to lead an outwardly normal life that drew no attention from residents of Ripoll, the small town in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees where he lived…

…Mrabet worked at the Al Furkan mosque by day, and by night he headed an Al Qaeda group that called itself the “Viceless of the West.” Personal documents belonging to Es Satty – which suggest he intended to kill himself in a major attack before his accidental death – turned up inside the home of Mrabet, who spent years sending a long list of volunteers to their death in Syria and Iraq after indoctrinating them at his home. Some of these volunteers achieved their goals: Belgacem Bellil, 31, drove a bomb truck into a group of people in Nasiriyah, Iraq, killing 28 people. Others were caught and sent to Morocco.

The Washington Post, Laia Balcells and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa:

Half a million marched this weekend in Barcelona. Do terrorist attacks make people more politically engaged?

Will the 2017 attack lead to political fallout for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s PP? Will it change support for the Catalan regional government led by Carles Puigdemont? While ETA, al-Qaeda and ISIS are different actors with different goals, our research on the political consequences of ETA terrorist attacks can give us a clue as to how Spaniards might react to the latest attacks…

…We find that people did not plan on changing the direction of their vote after the attacks, which suggests that they would not “punish” the incumbent party for failing to protect citizens from this sort of political violence. However, Spaniards interviewed after the ETA attacks expressed a greater intention to actually go out and vote. Voter participation reported in surveys is not the same as actual political participation, but our design and identification strategy bring us close to estimating the causal effect that a terrorist attack would have on voting behavior.

The Independent, Robert Fisk:

We need to talk about the Spanish and Catalan reactions to the Barcelona attack – even if it’s not a nice conversation

Unless you were a Catalan – or a Spaniard – you might have missed the signs of grave political division behind the Barcelona massacre. International reporting almost willfully dodged the tricky bits of the story. We were invited to gape at the horror, fear and sorrow created by Islamist murderers – without contemplating for a moment that some of the reactions to this act of barbarism were quite different from the stories of national and international “unity” that Europe and the world were supposed to share.

There was a guilty clue to all this when the first reports emphasised the “unity” of the Barcelonan and Spanish people, merely mentioning the 1st October referendum on Catalan independence which the Madrid government claims is illegal. Terrorism, ran the message, could heal such divisions. Indeed, the subliminal story was thus quite simple: some things – terror, murder and pain – could not be beaten by notions like regional independence and freedom from central government control.



One wishes that one could be optimistic about the future of the United States, but the signs are all around that the nation is coming apart at its seems. Far-right forces have found not only vocal support from the president, but now a green light for future crimes thanks to the pardon issued late on Friday. On the far left, a growing and violent Antifa movement has appeared.

And while sane voices, such as that of former Vice President Joe Biden, can be heard, one wonders if it will matter.

This weekend I went to dinner with two couples that would appear to most as normal as any in America. The conversation was dominated by talk work and children, cars and sports. But at several times the conversation veered off into strange areas. One woman calmly said at one moment that President Trump was not fit to be president, but the next that she would vote for him again rather than vote for a Democrat. She also calmly stated that it would alright with her if Trump nuked North Korea, or Syria, or Iran or Iraq. In fact, she looked forward to it.

The Atlantic, Joe Biden:

‘We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation’

If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation.

The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America. Are we really surprised they rose up? Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight?

Did we think the charlatans and the con-men and the false prophets who have long dotted our history wouldn’t revisit us, once again prop up the immigrant as the source of all our troubles, and look to prey on the hopelessness and despair that has grown up in the hollowed-out cities and towns of Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and the long-forgotten rural stretches of West Virginia and Kentucky?

We have fought this battle before—but today we have a special challenge.

San Francisco Chronicle, Lizzie Johnson, Erin Allday, Michael Cabanatuan and Nanette Asimov:

Masked anarchists violently rout right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley

An army of anarchists in black clothing and masks routed a small group of right-wing demonstrators who had gathered in a Berkeley park Sunday to rail against the city’s famed progressive politics, driving them out — sometimes violently — while overwhelming a huge contingent of police officers.

Hundreds of officers tried to maintain calm in and around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park before the 1 p.m. “No to Marxism in Berkeley” rally, putting up barricades, searching bags and confiscating sticks, masks, pepper spray and even water bottles. The goal was to head off the type of clashes that sprang from similar rallies in the city earlier this year.

But once again, counterdemonstrators frustrated efforts by police, who numbered about 400. As the crowd swelled to several times that size, officers stepped aside and allowed hundreds of people angered by the presence of the right-wing rally to climb over the barriers into the park, said Officer Jennifer Coats, a spokeswoman for Berkeley police.
The masked counterprotesters, often referred to as antifa or antifascists, significantly outnumbered the people who had come for the rally, many of whom wore red clothing indicating support for President Trump.

Breitbart News, Matthew Boyle:

Projecting Weakness: President Trump Allows Inner Circle to Publicly Disparage Him as Globalists March

In the past several days, several members of President Donald J. Trump’s inner circle have publicly disparaged him—and the president has done nothing public to stop them.

First, National Economic Council (NEC) director Gary Cohn—the former number two banker at Goldman Sachs and a top Democrat who joined the Trump administration after the president’s election—bashed the president in an on-record interview with the Financial Times…

…Now, after Cohn’s threats to resign over his disagreements with the president, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on Fox News Sunday this weekend to also disparage the president. Tillerson declined to say that the president supports American values, saying that the State Department does but that “the president speaks for himself.”

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