A census of leading Italian politicians' Twitter followings finds a horde of zombies and bots

As Italy heads into a national election in which mass inequality and food poverty have disrupted Italy's always-shaky political equilibrium, La Republica publishes its analysis (Google Translate) of the Twitter followers associated with each of Italy's political superstars and finds some pretty intense inflation in the numbers. Read the rest

Mittens to run for Utah senate seat

Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate and Trump "critic", is to run for the Utah senate seat vacated by Orrin Hatch's retirement.

Romney's run has already faced some resistance: the head of the state's Republican Party criticized him for not having deep enough ties to the state. Jenny Wilson, a Democratic candidate running for Senate in Utah, said this week that "Utah families deserve another Utahn as their senator, not a Massachusetts governor who thinks of our state as his vacation home." If elected, the former governor would bring strong name recognition and influence as a first-term senator. While former aides expect Romney to push for conservative policies in the Senate, they also believe he will rebuke the president when necessary and potentially clash with him on some policies.

What ... what if he only votes with Trump 85% of time, like GOP rebel Jeff Flake? This could be revolutionary. Read the rest

Teacher charged with child abuse after "dragging" boy who sat for pledge

Details have emerged about Karen Smith, the teacher who allegedly assaulted a boy who did not stand for the pledge of allegiance. The BBC reports that she was charged with "child abuse - recklessly and with injury" and with third-degree assault after picking him up by the clothes and dragging him out of class.

Local school officials say students can sit or stand during the pledge. Federal law permits students to sit.

The school district released a statement to parents after the arrest saying they "are co-operating with the District Attorney's Office and respect their decision on this matter".

"We are unable to comment further because it remains a personnel matter that the school district is actively investigating."

If the reporting is true, it wasn't simply inappropriate or excessively physical discipline: Smith committed an act of political violence against a child. Read the rest

Second WH official resigns over domestic abuse, David Sorensen's ex-wife tells of violence

News of Trump White House speech writer David Sorensen's resignation hit late Friday as the WaPo prepared a story on his ex-wife's allegations of violent domestic abuse. The White House said they learned of the accusations from her on Thursday.

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Trump will not declassify Democratic memo for release

The memo wars continue. This Friday night news dump brought to you by President Trump.

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Dozens of White House officials & Trump appointees never got security clearance — like Jared Kushner, Rob Porter

Some 30 to 40 White House officials and Trump administration political appointees are operating more than a year into the Trump regime without full security clearances. One of them is Jared Kushner. Until recently, another was noted wife-basher Rob Porter.

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32 Democratic senators demand to know if Trump's consumer finance boss has let Equifax off the hook

Following reports this week that Mick Mulvaney, Trump's new chief of the Consumer Finance Protection Board had stopped all activity related to probing the Equifax breach in which the sensitive financial data of virtually every adult American was stolen, 32 Democratic senators have written to Mulvaney demanding that he account for himself. Read the rest

Rob Porter's ex-wives told FBI of abuse, he got Trump WH job and security clearance anyway

Why is this bad, even if you don't care about violence against women? Because blackmail risk.🤷

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In the USA, Trump supporters are the most prolific users and sharers of "junk news" (a mix of untruth and distastefully presented materials)

Oxford's Computational Propaganda Project surveyed 13,500 "politically active" US Twitter users and 48,000 publicly visible Facebook pages, coding them for political affiliation, then measuring how much "junk news" (a news article that fails to live up to three or more of the following: professionalism, style, credibility, bias, counterfeit) was consumed and share by users based on their political affiliation. Read the rest

Here's the winner of Integrity Idol, the reality show for Nigerian government workers

Nuzo Eziechi said, "I am incredibly excited to be honored as Nigeria's Integrity Idol." The show featured government workers competing to be crowned most ethical. Read the rest

Trump's own White House official called him 'deplorable,' private messages show

White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah referred to President Donald Trump as “a deplorable” and described the release of the Access Hollywood tape as “some justice,” NY Mag reports, based on private messages independently obtained and verified by the publication.

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2018 world freedom map shows "democracy in crisis"

In Freedom House's 2018 world freedom map, 71 countries registered declines while only 35 saw gains: "emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role" have created a crisis.

Among those slipping into "not free" status were Turkey and the Central African Republic, which each saw dramatic declines of more than 30 percent in the last year, according to Freedom House's criteria. Ukraine, Mali, Nigaragua and Honduras were among those countries slipping from freedom to "partial" freedom. In Europe, Hungary slipped 20 percent, to stand only 2 points within the range of free countries. Tunisia, though, the Arab world's only "free" country, clung to that status despite domestic strife.

Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world. ... Perhaps worst of all, and most worrisome for the future, young people, who have little memory of the long struggles against fascism and communism, may be losing faith and interest in the democratic project. The very idea of democracy and its promotion has been tarnished among many, contributing to a dangerous apathy.

Most alarming, though, is America's drop to 86/100. Though still well within the range of free countries, it has slipped noticeably behind all those Northern European democracies lurking in the 90s. It's turning into a big crap Italy.

The president’s behavior stems in part from a frustration with the country’s democratic checks and balances, including the independent courts, a coequal legislative branch, the free press, and an active civil society.
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'NO.' God tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Al Franken's Senate seat

A billboard mysteriously appears in St. Paul, Minn. in which God offers a special message to noted crazy ex-congresscritter Michele Bachmann. Hope she obeys The Lord.

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Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians. Read the rest

Convicted criminal Silvio Berlusconi returns to Italian politics as a kingmaker

Silvio Berlusconi, a misogynist, racist creep-authoritarian who was caught paying a teenager for sex and then lied to cops to get them to stop investigating the case, is banned from holding public office in Italy thanks to a criminal conviction for fraud; but that hasn't kept Italy's media (a large slice of which he controls) from elevating him to the role of political kingmaker in the country's upcoming elections. Read the rest

Trump will not make a state visit to UK unless Theresa May bans protests

The President of the United States, whose Bill of Rights bans the government from making a law "respecting...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," has told the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, birthplace of the Magna Carta and signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of assembly, that he will only visit the United Kingdom if the residents of that country are legally barred from protesting his visit. Read the rest

Research report explains how adtech supercharges political deceit, allowing even bumblers to be master propagandists

A new report from the New America Foundation uses the current fear that Russian government elements manipulated the 2016 US election to explore the relationship between advertising technology, surveillance capitalism, and "precision propaganda," showing how the toolsuite developed for the advertising industry is readily repurposable by even modestly competent actors to spread disinformation campaigns. Read the rest

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