Centrist Macron thrashes far-right Le Pen in French presidential election

Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen by about 66%-34% in France's presidential election Sunday, with few votes outstanding. Macron, a 39-year-old centrist newcomer, faced a strong challenge from his far-right adversary, but polls never gave her a serious shot at the job. And on the day, the margin was even wider than expected.

Mr Macron will also become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic's foundation in 1958. ...

The Macron team said that the new president had had a "cordial" telephone conversation with Ms Le Pen.

In a speech she thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between "patriots and globalists" and called for the emergence of a new political force.

The result came despite an internet-driven effort to torpedo Macron's campaign with hacks, leaked emails and conspiracy theories—a pattern that stoked fears of a similar outcome to last year's election in the U.S., where similar circumstances saw millionaire reality TV star Donald Trump prevail over Hillary Clinton.

It is indeed a sad day for American media who hoped the French were as dumb as us. Read the rest

You can already choose a new health plan under the American Health Care Act

With Obamacare all but history, Republicans are moving fast to provide replacement services that embody a principled conservative viewpoint on healthcare for America's poor. Check out the official ACHA website. Read the rest

Richard Mosse's striking Heat Maps, thermal images of refugees

Richard Mosse uses military-grade surveillance equipment intended for detecting enemy movement for an unintended use: to document the plight of refugees, an extension of an earlier project titled Incoming. Read the rest

The 19 Republicans who flipped positions to support Obamacare repeal

Meet the 19 Republicans who flipped their votes in favor of the ACHA, the bill that effectively repeals Obamacare and allows insurance companies to hike premiums and refuse to sell insurance to people on the basis of "pre-existing conditions" such as being the victim of domestic violence. There's something odd about them. Can't quite put my finger on it. Read the rest

Death is freedom: Republicans pass Obamacare repeal bill

In a 217-213 vote in the House of Representatives, every Democrat and 20 Republicans were not enough to prevent the passage of Paul Ryan's Obamacare repeal bill. The American Health Care Act (ACHA) will reportedly allow insurers to raise premiums and deny healthcare coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions (including being the victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault, or giving birth by c-section) and amounts to an $880-billion slashing of healthcare services in the form of a tax cut returning mostly to the rich.

The Senate, however, will not need any Democrats to pass it because they are using a procedural mechanism that allows the bill to pass the Senate to pass with just 51 votes instead of the usual 60-vote threshold. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate.

The House measure came to the floor without an updated accounting of how much the bill will cost or its impact. The last assessment, which was done before the bill was altered, said that 24 million people would lose insurance, it would save $300 million and premiums would go down ten percent after ten years.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia, said that having no updated CBO score is slightly concerning.

"It is a concern, but at this point we have to move forward. The American people are clear they want this done, so I think we have to strike when the iron's hot," he said.

The bill must still be voted on in the Senate. Then, assuming it passes, it will be signed into law by President Trump, who had promised before the election to provide healthcare coverage for all Americans. Read the rest

French far-right leader Le Pen plagiarized opponent's speech

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's nationalist movement and one of two candidates remaining in the country's presidential race, is a plagiarist—or at least one of her speechwriters is. The BBC reports that a speech of hers "seems to repeat one by beaten rival François Fillon" all but word-for-word.

• Mr Fillon's speech: "Then there is the Rhine frontier, the most open, the most dangerous, also the most promising - a Germanic world we have been so often in conflict with and with which we will yet co-operate in so many ways" Ms Le Pen's speech: "Then there is the Rhine frontier, the most open, also the most promising - a Germanic world we will yet co-operate with in so many ways, as long as we regain the relationship of allies and not of subjects"

• Both speeches refer to "waiting lists for the Alliance Française in Shanghai, Tokyo, or Mexico, for the French secondary school in Rabat or Rome"

• Both speeches quote World War One PM Georges Clemenceau, saying: "Once a soldier of God, and now a soldier of Liberty, France will always be the soldier of the ideal"

• Mr Fillon's speech: "France, as I have said, is a history, it is a geography, but it is also a set of values ​​and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords. It is finally a singular voice addressed to all the peoples of the universe" Ms Le Pen's speech: "France is also a set of values and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords.

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Review: Wolfen (1981)

Wolfen stars Albert Finney as Dewey, a grizzled NYC detective assigned to figure out why a rich developer gentrifying the Bronx got mutilated and spread over an acre of Battery Park. Set at the turn of the 1980s, it was the first movie with a clear vision of what should be done with Donald Trump. Read the rest

Trump's reign is sad for tech, too

The first 100 days of Trump's presidency were a shambolic festival of incompetence and looming catastrophe. But it's not all about beltway politics, you know! Because the intense (and reasonable) focus is upon on the media-friendly dimensions of his buffoonery, we sometimes miss how it affects specific aspects of American life. The Verge took a look at what's already happening to the technology business, from the threatened end of net neutrality to immigration lockouts. If you had hoped tech might have gotten through unscathed, somehow, perhaps you aren't paying attention to how much his corner of the establishment hates it.

Under Donald Trump, Silicon Valley’s ideal of a global community no longer seems like the foregone conclusion it might have a few years ago, and people are still figuring out how to deal with the barriers Trump is erecting. Mass protests and legal battles have stalled bans on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries, and the president’s love of Twitter isn’t doing him any favors in court. But there's still plenty more on the table that points to a future of isolation, not interconnection.

The change in course has shaken tech titans who are dedicated to getting the whole world online (and on their platforms). Mark Zuckerberg published a defense of "global community" that acknowledged its discontents, hoping to win the public’s affection before either running for president or making reality obsolete. Uber, meanwhile, stayed true to form and turned the protests into a way to make people hate it even more.

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Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai unveils his plan to kill Net Neutrality

Ajit Pai, the newly appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under Donald Trump, today announced his plans to undo government oversight of broadband ISPs, and destroy Net Neutrality.

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Vietnam complained of "toxic" anti-government Facebook content, now says Facebook has committed to help censor

Vietnam's government today said Facebook has promised to work with the communist nation to prevent the publication and distribution of banned online content.

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Iran sucks at censoring apps, so the Persian diaspora is using them for unfiltered political discussion

With a (symbolic) (but it's a potent symbol) election looming in Iran, the global Persian diaspora is not lacking for news organs that are producing the kind of unfiltered political news that would get you jailed or killed in Iran. Read the rest

Jimmy "Wikipedia" Wales just launched an anti-fake-news wiki: Wikitribune

Wikitribune (strapline: "Evidence-based journalism") is a newly launched project from Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, conceived of as a crowd-edited, crowd-funded tonic against fake news. Read the rest

Global spy agencies meet for "Five Eyes" intel-sharing network in New Zealand, including U.S. FBI, CIA, NSA

Intelligence officials from the so-called "Five Eyes" network, which includes the United States' FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, are gathering for an annual intelligence-sharing exchange today in New Zealand. Reuters confirmed the get-together, at which spy agency reps from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will also gather.

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Steve Bannon digs the occult

When occult historian Mitch Horowitz's excellent 2009 book Occult America was published, he received a phone call from an admiring fan: Stephen K. Bannon. Over at Salon, Mitch writes about the right wing's weird connection to New Age mysticism:

(Bannon) professed deep interest in the book’s themes, and encouraged me in my next work, “One Simple Idea,” an exploration of positive-mind metaphysics in American life....

Although the media have characterized Bannon as the Disraeli of the dark side following his rise to power in the Trump administration, I knew him, and still do, as a deeply read and erudite observer of the American religious scene, with a keen appetite for mystical thought.

Ronald Reagan, a hero of his, was not dissimilar. As I’ve written in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Reagan, from the start of his political career in the 1950s up through the first term of his presidency, adopted phrasing and ideas from the writings of a Los Angeles-based occult scholar named Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), whose 1928 encyclopedia arcana “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” is among the most influential underground books in American culture.

President Trump himself has admiringly recalled his lessons in the mystic art of “positive thinking” from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family’s longtime pastor, who popularized metaphysical mind-power themes in his 1952 mega-seller “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

What in the cosmos is going on? New Age and alternative spirituality are supposed to be the domain of patchouli-scented aisles of health food stores and bookshops that sell candles and pendulums, right?

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Macron and Le Pen to face off in French presidential runoff vote, May 7

Early projections in France's presidential elections today show that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron will now face off in a runoff election. Macron came in first, and Le Pen second, in Sunday's first round of voting. Moscow won't be happy if Le Pen loses the next round of voting for the French presidency, now slated to take place on May 7.

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Donald Trump says his own 100-day plans are "ridiculous standards" to be held to

Donald Trump, having failed to accomplish much from the 100-day plan laid out in the "contract with the American voter" still live on his website, now says that he is being held to "ridiculous standards".

Analyzing the accomplishments of a United States president after their first 100 days in office is a decades-old tradition and, of course, a relatively arbitrary one established by the news media to assess a leader’s direction and influence. However, to dismiss its importance after using it as a marketing tool for his policy agenda will surely only serve to shirk those who bought into it.

Aside from providing clear evidence of Trump’s flip-flop on the 100-day benchmark, the contract also provides a clear way to compare Trump as president-elect and president of the United States.

Trump has been unable to hold to many of the promises presented in the two-page document, achieving only 10 of the 28 action pledges.

No-one expected him to get anywhere near them, obviously, but "simulation collapse" is the dish of the day.

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Trump teases “massive” tax cut, “big announcement,” bigger than “any tax cut ever“

Former reality television star Donald J. Trump promised late on Friday to reveal plans for a “massive” tax cut for Americans next week. “Tax reform is way too complicated,” he added. Seriously.

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