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#NPRreads: 3 New Angles On Stories You Thought You Knew

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From digital editor Chris Hopkins:

Viewed up close, every presidential campaign seems bizarre – a Sisyphean whirl of glad-handing, door-knocking, fundraising and speech-repeating. But the 2016 campaigns are especially surreal because, as Mother Jones reports, they're all shell companies.

The Supreme Court threw out many campaign finance rules not long ago, dumping unfathomable quantities of cash into the 2012 race via superPACs. But one rule that still stands: Official campaigns can't work directly with superPACs. In 2016, coordinating-without-coordinating has been elevated to an art form:

"One evening in October, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Republican candidate for president, hit the stump at an elementary school in Windham, New Hampshire ... unbeknownst to the voters in the room ... the event was run by a super-PAC, one to which Fiorina has, to an unprecedented degree, outsourced virtually every aspect of her operation but the stump speech itself. Signs, shirts, stickers, phone calls, canvassing, event staffing, ads ... "

Here's how it works: Fiorina accepts an invitation to speak, posting the date and time online. Unprompted, the superPAC sweeps in to handle every other aspect. The campaign just makes sure Fiorina shows up.

It's all legal, and it's the sort of thing almost every 2016 candidate is doing.

From NPR Music producer Lars Gotrich:

For a certain subset of the music underground, Seattle was mecca ... and not for the bands you're thinking of.

MxPx, Ninety Pound Wuss, Pedro the Lion, Roadside Monument – these bands were part of the late '90s Christian music scene that stemmed from punk and indie-rock, giving youth group outcasts a way out of mega-church-y worship music.

Kathleen Tarrant examines the oddity and the influence of Christian punk on the Seattle scene at large, and the rise and the fall of the Mars Hill church as it ushered in a new era of "alternative" faith-based marketing, all-ages venues and complicated church vs. punk politics.

As much as Seattle has embraced these artists, and their cultural/financial capital, the city's relationship with Christianity is still tenuous, Tarrant writes:

"The way Seattle music culture typically deals with the question of religion is simply not to acknowledge it—this also applies to both sides. We walk out, we send the album back. We cannot bear to acknowledge each other's pain as real, and each other's art as influential. Christians feel they have to be secretive or unbending about it, and nonbelievers are hostile to the possibility that religious themes have a place in rock music."

From international web producer Hannah Bloch:

This is a fresh look at the Syrian refugee crisis through the lens of climate change. Author John Wendle, whose photos accompany the story, hears from Syrian refugee farmers and others fleeing the country who are on the Greek island of Lesbos, in transit to Europe. What they tell him squares with the findings of a climate study published earlier this year, linking Syria's 2007-2010 drought to the current war.

Many stories about Syrian refugees, understandably enough, focus on the violence they're fleeing or the challenges that lie ahead. But this one digs deeper, examining the human-caused pressures on a water-scarce environment that may have helped exacerbate conditions leading to the current crisis. "The war and the drought, they are the same thing," one farmer tells Wendle. "The start of the revolution was water and land."

Says another refugee: "A farmer today can't find water to irrigate, can't find government support, and always the rebels or the Syrian army is putting pressure on him. There are a million ways to die in Syria, and you can't imagine how ugly they are."

Meanwhile, Wendle writes, climate experts warn that "the region's droughts will be more frequent and more severe for the foreseeable future."