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

Make America Eight Again: U.S. drops to #8 on "Best Countries" list

Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Britain and Canada are the best places to live, reports U.S. News and World Report, with the USA lurking back in number 8.

This is the second straight year that the U.S. has dropped in the rankings. In 2017, the U.S. came in 7th place. Switzerland came in at the top spot for the second year in a row. U.S. News said the drop can be attributed to Trump's unpopularity, with other countries viewing the U.S. as less trustworthy and more politically unstable since he took office.
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Americans, not Russians, are mostly behind #ReleaseTheMemo, Twitter early analysis shows

“Despite claims the Kremlin is driving a campaign to disclose an anti-FBI memo, a source says an early in-house analysis concludes the hashtag has been mostly pushed by Americans,” reports Daily Beast.

“If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, two California Democrats, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier on Tuesday.

#ReleaseTheMemo has been trending widely since late last week.

Snip:

But a knowledgeable source says that Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo. There are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian.

In short, according to this source, who would not speak to The Daily Beast for attribution, the retweets are coming from inside the country.

The source pointed to influential American users on the right, including Donald Trump Jr., with his 2.49 million followers, pushing the hashtag forward. It’s become a favorite of far-right Republican congressmen, including Steve King, who claimed the still-secret memo shows the FBI was behaving “worse than Watergate” in one viral tweet. Mark Meadows called it an “absolutely shocking” display of “FISA abuses,” referring to a counterintelligence process.

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#Shutdown to end, Senate votes to reopen government, #Dreamers in limbo

The Senate voted to reopen the government after 81 senators broke a Democrat-led filibuster that shut it down for 2 days and 17 hours. The fate of the 'Dreamers' is still undetermined. A crucial House vote to end the shutdown is next.

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If one only more GOP senator flips, the FCC's Net Neutrality order will be up for grabs

After Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai rammed through an order killing Net Neutrality -- citing easily disproved lies, ignoring millions of public comments -- activists started pinning their hopes on something called the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress and the Senate the power to overrule the decisions of regulators from the administrative agencies like the FCC. Read the rest

Congress votes to give NSA 6 more years of spying on Americans without a warrant

On January 11, the House passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill which renews a controversial NSA surveillance program that allows the spy agency to intercept the communications of Americans without a warrant.

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Bannon leaves Breitbart

Stephen K. Bannon is departing his post as executive chairman of Breitbart News, the company is said to be announcing on Tuesday.

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Is Oprah going to run for President?

Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globe awards last night has a lot of people wondering if she's considering a run for President of the United States.

A White House spokesliar said Trump would happily run against the media mogul as an opponent in the 2020 presidential race. Public response on social media to Oprah's awards show speech suggests that many Americans would welcome her in the race, too. Winfrey, who is 63, received the Cecil B. DeMille award for achievement, and Twitter lit up as she delivered her acceptance speech with “#Oprahforpresident” and “#Oprah2020.”

I'm fine with that. But let's hope we don't have to wait until 2020 for Trump to be out of office.

From Reuters:

She is actively thinking about a run, CNN reported on Monday, citing two of her close friends. CNN did not name the friends, who it said had spoken on condition of anonymity. At least one emphasized that Winfrey had made no firm decision.Winfrey has said in the past she is not interested in running for president, but the Los Angeles Times quoted Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime partner in business and life, as saying on Sunday that, “It’s up to the people ... She would absolutely do it.”

Wearing a black gown to show support for victims, she used her platform to promote the “Time’s Up” movement against sexual harassment and assault, throwing her support behind others who have exposed sexual misconduct in Hollywood and elsewhere in politics and the media.

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Watch artists turn a toxic abandoned mining facility into a powerful environmental message

Political art collective INDECLINE (previously) create provocative works. Their latest repurposes a gold ore processing facility on the Mojave National Preserve that was closed in 1994 and declared a Superfund site. Read the rest

Gorgeous map of ten of the world's shortest borders

Anders Kvernberg, aka PisseGuri82, created this lovely map of ten of the world's shortest borders. Here's the full-size version. Read the rest

Bannon: Trump Jr and Kushner meeting with Russians was "treasonous"

In a new book, former Trump campaign manager and presidential strategist Steve Bannon is quoted as saying contacts the campaign had with Russian agents before his involvement were “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” singling out a meeting attended by the president's son and son-in-law.

The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon comparing Breitbart, his own media outlet, to "other more legitimate publications" is something of a buried lede. But it's not as if anyone's pretending otherwise.

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"The efficiency gap": understanding the math behind a crucial Supreme Court gerrymandering case

Last October, the Supreme Court heard argument in Gill v. Whitford, a Wisconsin gerrymandering case that has far-reaching implications for the November midterms in 2018; the court is expected to rule next June. Read the rest

Nearly half of Republicans think Trump has repealed Obamacare

Choose Your Own Adventure: 44 percent of Republicans think Donald Trump has repealed Obamacare.

If you want to just shut yer mouth and let them think it, go to page 1933.

If you want to engage the dangerous mix of political obsession and ignorance, go to page 1789. Read the rest

Roy Moore denies he lost Alabama Senate election

Despite the official certification of Doug Jones' victory, a quick booting from the courts, pleas from fellow Republicans, and the sheer implausibility of his voter-fraud claims, Roy Moore continues to deny that he lost this month's special Senate election. Though losing by some 20,000 votes after teen sex assault allegations came his way, all that matters is God's truth.

“I have stood for truth about God and the Constitution for the people of Alabama. I have no regrets. To God be the glory,” the accused child predator said.

“Election fraud experts from across the country have agreed that this was a fraudulent election,” he claimed, offering no specifics.

“I’ve had to fight not only the Democrats but also the Republican Senate Leadership fund and more than $50 million in opposition spending from the Washington establishment.”

The obvious falseness of Roy Moore's denials on this matter should tell you a lot about Roy Moore's denials on other matters. Read the rest

Republican Roy Moore files lawsuit to block Alabama senate result (Update: fail)

Roy Moore, a Republican of such unusually disgusting character that he lost Alabama to a Democrat, is not taking defeat well. He's filed a lawsuit to prevent the state's election board from certifying Doug Jones' victory.

Moore's attorney wrote in the wide-ranging complaint that he believed there were irregularities during the election, including that voters may have been brought in from other states. He attached a statement from a poll worker that she had noticed licenses from Georgia and North Carolina as people signed in to vote.

The complaint also noted the higher-than-expected turnout in the race, particularly in Jefferson County, and said Moore's numbers were suspiciously lower than straight-ticket Republican voting in about 20 Jefferson County precincts. The complaint asked for a fraud investigation and eventually a new election.

Moore lost by 20,000 votes. He's claiming they shipped in tens of thousands of out-of-state voters, got them all fraudulently balloted, and that none of them have since revealed the plot or how it was accomplished. It's an insane lawsuit, tailored exclusively to needs outside the courtroom: like a SLAPP, but instead of trying to deny public participation, it exists only to reinforce a media narrative.

Update: Judge already tossed it.

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