Not a big fan of how Empire used the criminal justice reform and #BlackLivesMatter movements in its second season debut, but I guess it was supposed to be ironic.

Here are some more serious midday new/views treats:

* Death toll in Hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia reaches 717; it’s the second such disaster in the last decade, and a blow to the Saudi regime’s prestige.

* Trump wants FCC to fine Fox commentator (and National Review Editor) Rich Lowry for profane description of Fiorina’s “win” over The Donald in the CNN debate.

* TNR’s Rebecca Leber confirms my initial impression that Pope Francis avoided direct references to climate change altogether in his remarks to Congress.

* At the Plum Line, Paul Waldman notes another “betrayal” of conservatives by congressional Republicans determined to avoid government shutdown could give fresh impetus to the zero-experience presidential candidates, plus Ted Cruz.

* At the Atlantic, Graham Allison sees distant signs of a potential U.S.-China military conflict.

And in non-political news:

* The Latin Mass made a big comeback via Francis’ canonization celebration yesterday, as he used Latin and Spanish because of his shaky command of English.

As we break for lunch, here’s Willie Kent with Willie James Lyons performing “Blue Guitar” in 1975.

YouTube video

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.