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Cities lose the middle class --> Christopher S. Rugaber for the Associated Press: "In cities across America, the middle class is hollowing out. A widening wealth gap is moving more households into either higher- or lower-income groups in major metro areas, with fewer remaining in the middle, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center. In nearly one-quarter of metro areas, middle-class adults no longer make up a majority, the Pew analysis found. That's up from fewer than 10 percent of metro areas in 2000." (via ABC News)

Republican candidate's tax whiplash --> In an interview published yesterday, Donald Trump said he would very likely not release his tax returns before the November election. He then "clarified" on Fox News that he would love to release his tax returns, but is being audited and cannot. The IRS then clarified that, "Nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information," even during an audit. Hanna Trudo writes for Politico that the candidate insists there is nothing interesting to see.

"So, to summarize: Obama has to release his birth certificate and college transcripts but Trump’s tax returns are, meh," tweeted The Huffington Post's Sam Stein.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that in a Facebook entry, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney "is suggesting the real reason Trump is not releasing his tax returns is that the billionaire is hiding 'a bombshell of unusual size' in the documents... Romney called any refusal by Trump to release his tax returns before Election Day, 'disqualifying.'” (via Fortune magazine)

And: Robert Schroeder for MarketWatch: "Donald Trump’s chief policy adviser said Wednesday that the presumed Republican presidential nominee’s economic plans could result in a budget surplus of as much as $7 trillion in 10 years... Such a surplus would be a remarkable turnaround from what is currently projected. The Congressional Budget Office, in its latest estimate, said the deficit would be $1.3 trillion in 2026." No specifics were revealed nor was a time for the release of Trump's plans offered.

The Jungle, 2016 --> Shruti Singh at Bloomberg writes, "Workers in plants run by the largest U.S. poultry producers are regularly being denied bathroom breaks and as a result some are reduced to wearing diapers while working on the processing line, Oxfam America said in a report Wednesday. 'It’s not just their dignity that suffers: they are in danger of serious health problems,' said Oxfam America, the U.S. arm of the U.K.-based global development group." The report's authors spoke with workers from Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Perdue Farms Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc.

Bigger award, but no other changes for gig economy workers --> Dan Levine at Reuters: "Lyft has agreed to pay $27 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by California drivers who claimed they should be deemed employees instead of independent contractors, after a U.S. judge rejected a previous $12.25 million deal as too small. Lyft and larger rival Uber are attempting to resolve lawsuits by drivers who contend they should be classified as employees and therefore entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gasoline and vehicle maintenance. Drivers currently pay those costs themselves. A determination that these workers are employees would affect the profits and valuations at so-called on-demand technology companies."

Walking away --> Jennifer A. Dlouhy reports for Bloomberg that several big oil companies — including Shell and ConocoPhillips — have quietly given up rights to drill in the Arctic. Apparently, with crude oil prices so low, tapping these resources is no longer worth it. Past efforts have been marred by disasters and have beeen targeted by environmental activists. Reports have warned that, while the US Arctic contains an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil, every drop must stay in the ground if the world hopes to meet goals set by the UN Paris agreement.

Brazil reaches its decision --> Nick Miroff and Dom Phillips for The Washington Post: "Brazilian senators voted overwhelmingly Thursday to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and put her on trial, an impeachment push driven by mounting frustration at economic woes and revelations of rampant corruption throughout the country's political elite... Rousseff will be forced to step aside during the trial — with only a remote chance of returning — but it is unlikely to end the political turmoil that has roiled South America's largest nation. In an opening salvo, the president's supporters vowed to wage strikes and block highways."

A new low --> George Zimmerman is auctioning off the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin. He posted a description online, touting the gun he used to kill a black Florida teen as "a piece of American history." Claire Landsbaum reports for New York magazine.

RIP --> Human rights lawyer, activist, and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner died yesterday. From The Nation's obit by David Cole: "[H]e sued George W. Bush in early 2002 on behalf of some of the first Guantánamo detainees... He sued Ronald Reagan for funding the contras in Nicaragua and invading Grenada, George H.W. Bush for invading Iraq without congressional authorization, Bill Clinton for warehousing Haitian refugees with HIV at Guantánamo Bay, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for torture. He sued an Indonesian general, a Guatemalan defense minister, and a Haitian dictator, among others, for human-rights abuses. He sued the FBI for spying on Central American activists and the Pentagon for restricting press coverage of the Gulf War...

"Ratner knew that when you sue the powerful, you will often lose. But he also understood that such suits could prompt political action, and that advocacy inspired by a lawsuit was often more important in achieving justice than the litigation itself."

Morning Reads was written by John Light and edited by Michael Winship.

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