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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats were a wired manifestation of the toxic trajectory of the country's politics, with President Trump and the media blaming each other for the worst terror-by-mail campaign of the post-9/11 era.

The big picture: With President Trump fanning fear ahead of the midterms a dozen days from now, the nation's political discourse is on track to be even hotter and more volatile during the 2020 campaign than it was when he ran the first time. We are playing with fire — and there are piles of dry kindling stacked throughout America and American politics right now. 

Right wingers, led by radio hosts, quickly claimed (without evidence) a conspiracy against them.

  • "On the pro-Trump Internet, ... the once-fringe idea of politically motivated 'false flag' attacks [was pushed] into the mainstream," per the WashPost.

Extreme language can inspire extreme deeds.

  • When Trump calls the media the "enemy of the people," some are bound to take that literally.
  • Why it matters: "The discovery of pipe bombs targeting prominent Democratic politicians and CNN is raising the threat of election-season violence largely unknown in the U.S. — and prompting uncomfortable questions about the consequences of leaders' increasingly vitriolic rhetoric," AP's Steve Peoples and Ken Thomas write.

The WashPost's Dan Balz calls it "a time of the politics of the apocalypse — an all-or-nothing view of the difference between winning and losing an election and of holding power or not holding it. ... This has been on the rise for a long time."

  • Capturing the mood of these times of fury on both wings, the N.Y. Times' lead headline is: "Bombs in Envelopes Jolt A Nation Riven by Vitriol."
  • The WashPost lead: "Bombs targeting Democrats leave U.S. on edge."

At a rally in Wisconsin last night, Trump followed a message of unity with an attack: "The media ... has a responsibility to set a civil tone and stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks."

  • The feeling was mutual. Shortly afterward, the headline on CNN was: "TRUMP ATTACKS MEDIA HOURS AFTER BOMB SENT TO CNN."
  • Fox News' Sean Hannity, with graphics saying "MEDIA BIAS" and "DOUBLE STANDARD," said in his opening monologue: "We have been saying for months that the rhetoric we're seeing, the mobs we're seeing in this country, that everybody needs to calm down ... before someone gets hurt — or worse."

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said in an extraordinary statement for a news executive: "There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media."

  • Sarah Sanders replied on Twitter that Trump "asked Americans 'to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the USA' Yet you chose to attack and divide. America should unite against all political violence."

Be smart: A sad, highly predictable cycle ignites with every new spark: attacks on the media, wild claims of conspiracy, Twitter taunts and tirades, and breathless, endless cable coverage.

  • Spark this much dry kindling, and it’s easy to see this burning into something far worse than mail bombs. 

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1 hour ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.