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Facebook should ban campaign ads. End the lies.

Permitting falsehood in political advertising would work if we had a model democracy, but we don’t. Not only are candidates dishonest, but voters aren’t educated, and the media isn’t objective. And now, hyperlinks turn lies into donations and donations into louder lies. The checks don’t balance. What we face is a self-reinforcing disinformation dystopia.

That’s why if Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube don’t want to be the arbiters of truth in campaign ads, they should stop selling them. If they can’t be distributed safely, they shouldn’t be distributed at all.

No one wants historically untrustworthy social networks becoming the honesty police, deciding what’s factual enough to fly. But the alternative of allowing deception to run rampant is unacceptable. Until voter-elected officials can implement reasonable policies to preserve truth in campaign ads, the tech giants should go a step further and refuse to run them.

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This problem came to a head recently when Facebook formalized its policy of allowing politicians to lie in ads and refusing to send their claims to third-party fact-checkers. “We don’t believe, however, that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny” Facebook’s VP of policy Nick Clegg wrote.

The Trump campaign was already running ads with false claims about Democrats trying to repeal the Second Amendment and weeks-long scams about a “midnight deadline” for a contest to win the one-millionth MAGA hat.

Trump Ad

After the announcement, Trump’s campaign began running ads smearing potential opponent Joe Biden with widely debunked claims about his relationship with Ukraine. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter refused to remove the ad when asked by Biden.

In response to the policy, Elizabeth Warren is running ads claiming Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endorses Trump because it’s allowing his campaign lies. She’s continued to press Facebook on the issue, asking “you can be in the disinformation-for-profit business, or you can hold yourself to some standards.”

We intentionally made a Facebook ad with false claims and submitted it to Facebook’s ad platform to see if it’d be approved. It got approved quickly and the ad is now running on Facebook. Take a look: pic.twitter.com/7NQyThWHgO

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 12, 2019

It’s easy to imagine campaign ads escalating into an arms race of dishonesty.

Campaigns could advertise increasingly untrue and defamatory claims about each other tied to urgent calls for donations. Once all sides are complicit in the misinformation, lying loses its stigma, becomes the status quo, and ceases to have consequences. Otherwise, whichever campaign misleads more aggressively will have an edge.

“In open democracies, voters rightly believe that, as a general rule, they should be able to judge what politicians say themselves.” Facebook’s Clegg writes.

But as is emblematic of Facebook’s past mistakes, it’s putting too much idealistic faith in society. If all voters were well educated and we weren’t surrounded by hyperpartisan media from Fox News to far-left Facebook Pages, maybe this hands-off approach might work. But in reality, juicy lies spread further than boring truths, and plenty of “news” outlets are financially incentivized to share sensationalism and whatever keeps their team in power.

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Protecting the electorate should fall to legislators. But incumbents have few reasons to change the rules that got them their jobs. The FCC already has truth in advertising policies, but exempts campaign ads and a judge struck down a law mandating accuracy.

Granted, there have always been dishonest candidates, uninformed voters, and one-sided news outlets. But it’s all gotten worse. We’re in a post-truth era now where the spoils won through deceptive demagoguery are clear. Cable news and digitally native publications have turned distortion of facts into a huge business.

Most critically, targeted social network advertising combined with donation links create a perpetual misinformation machine. Politicians can target vulnerable demographics with frightening lies, then say only their financial contribution will let the candidate save them. A few clicks later and the candidate has the cash to buy more ads, amplifying more untruths and raising even more money. Without the friction of having to pick up the phone, mail a letter, or even type in a URL like TV ads request, the feedback loop is shorter and things spiral out of control.

Many countries including the UK, Ireland, and the EU ban or heavily restrict TV campaign ads. There’s plenty of precedent for policies keeping candidates’ money out of the most powerful communication mediums.

Campaign commercials on US television might need additional regulation as well. However, the lack of direct connections to donate buttons, microtargeting, and rapid variable testing weaken their potential for abuse. Individual networks can refuse ads for containing falsehoods as CNN recently did without the same backlash over bias that an entity as powerful as Facebook receives.

This is why the social networks should halt sales of political campaign ads now. They’re the one set of stakeholders with flexibility and that could make a united decision. You’ll never get all the politicians and media to be honest, or the public to understand, but just a few companies could set a policy that would protect democracy from the world’s . And they could do it without having to pick sides or make questionable decisions on a case-by-case basis. Just block them all from all candidates.

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Facebook wrote in response to Biden’s request to block the Trump ads that “Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is.”

But banning campaign ads would still leave room for open political expression that’s subject to public scrutiny. Social networks should continue to let politicians say what they want to their own followers, barring calls for violence. Tech giants can offer a degree of freedom of speech, just not freedom of reach. Whoever wants to listen can, but they shouldn’t be able to jam misinformation into the feeds of the unsuspecting.

If the tech giants want to stop short of completely banning campaign ads, they could introduce a format designed to minimize misinformation. Politicians could be allowed to simply promote themselves with a set of stock messages, but without the option to make claims about themselves or their opponents.

Campaign ads aren’t a huge revenue driver for social apps, nor are they a high-margin business nowadays. The Trump and Clinton campaigns spent only a combined $81 million on 2016 election ads, a fraction of Facebook’s $27 billion in revenue that year. $284 million was spent in total on 2018 midterm election ads versus Facebook’s $55 billion in revenue last year, says Tech For Campaigns. Zuckerberg even said that Facebook will lose money selling political ads because of all the moderators it hires to weed out election interference by foreign parties.

Surely, there would be some unfortunate repercussions from blocking campaign ads. New candidates in local to national elections would lose a tool for reducing the lead of incumbents, some of which have already benefited from years of advertising. Some campaign ads might be pushed “underground” where they’re not properly labeled, though the major spenders could be kept under watch.

If the social apps can still offer free expression through candidates’ own accounts, aren’t reliant on politicians’ cash to survive, won’t police specific lies in their promos, and would rather let the government regulate the situation, then they should respectfully decline to sell campaign advertising. Following the law isn’t enough until the laws adapt. This will be an ongoing issue through the 2020 election, and leaving the floodgates open is irresponsible.

If a game is dangerous, you don’t eliminate the referee. You stop playing until you can play safe.

Seth Meyers uses hilarious sports mascot fails to explain Trump’s John Bolton mess

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Look, nobody seems to really know what happened between Donald Trump and recently-former national security adviser John Bolton — not even the TV hosts who were getting texts from Bolton himself live on air, contradicting Trump’s tweets claiming Bolton was fired. But Seth Meyers does his best in Wednesday night’s A Closer Look segment.

After touching on Trump’s “scary stories” about refugees from Hurricane Dorian’s swathe of destruction in the Bahamas (“He should hold his rallies in the dark, holding a flashlight under his face — he’s like a racist Stephen King”), Meyers gets into the really terrifying stuff about John Bolton.  Read more…

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Seth Meyers explains why Trump can’t stop lying about that Alabama hurricane tweet

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We’re now several days into the Hurricane Dorian crisis threatening to engulf the nation — no, not the actual huge and destructive storm that made landfall in North Carolina on Thursday night. The president’s made clear that the much more pressing concern is that everyone knows his tweet claiming Dorian would impact Alabama was actually totally correct and not, in fact, extremely wrong.

Seth Meyers took a Closer Look at Trump’s pattern of aggressive, nonsensical lying and corncobbing whenever he’s clearly made a mistake but won’t admit it — from the “Tim Apple” incident to #Sharpiegate and his hilariously transparent denial of any knowledge about the doctored map. Read more…

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Stephen Colbert catches out Fox News admitting Trump might be a racist

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After comparing America’s gun culture to Chernobyl on Monday, Stephen Colbert began Tuesday night’s Late Show with a few more pointed minutes on Donald Trump’s continued struggles to respond presidentially to the previous weekend’s shootings in Texas and Ohio — including a quick rundown of the El Paso officials who really don’t want a President whose rhetoric seems to have inspired the shooter to pay them a visit. 

“It really speaks to your leadership when a town in mourning after an unspeakable tragedy thinks you would bring the mood down.”

After reading out Barack Obama’s equally pointed statement on language from leaders that “normalizes racist sentiment” — without naming any leaders in particular — Colbert played a Fox News clip where the gang at Fox & Friends deduce that Obama’s statement might have been referring to Donald Trump. Aggrieved Fox host Brian Kilmeade went on to ask whether George W. Bush ever condemned Obama after Sandy Hook. Read more…

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Stephen Colbert pulls apart Trump’s strange interview with Piers Morgan

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Well, after a very, very weird three days, President Donald Trump has left the UK.

But Stephen Colbert had one more fish to fry on The Late Show Wednesday night, a rather strange interview with “chat show chumbucket and TV’s loudest pile of teeth” Piers Morgan.

After speaking about being on his “good behaviour” around the royal family and “non-stop” conversation with Queen, Trump told Morgan he’d spoken at length to Prince Charles, who the president referred to as being “into” climate change.

“He’s really ‘into’ climate change? It’s a global crisis, not kombucha,” said Colbert.

One thing we can say, you must wait for the hat Morgan gifted to the president.  Read more…

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Stephen Colbert breaks down WTF happened at the White House on Wednesday

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What a morning.

On Wednesday, all eyes were on the White House, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Donald Trump of throwing a “temper tantrum” and leaving a meeting with Democrats meant to discuss potential infrastructure legislation.

Then, the president called a press conference in the Rose Garden, firing back at Pelosi for saying he’s currently “engaged in a cover-up.” In the briefing, Trump said he won’t work with the Democrats while they’re investigating him.

It’s a lot. So on The Late Show, Stephen Colbert broke it all down.

“Trump has a clear stance on infrastructure: It’s my way or no highways,” said Colbert. It’s ten minutes but proves quite the highlight reel. Read more…

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Tech stocks slide on US decision to blacklist Huawei and 70 affiliates

The United States has been lobbying for months to prevent its western allies from using Huawei equipment in their 5G deployment, and on Wednesday, Washington made it more difficult for the Chinese telecom titan to churn out those next-gen products.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it will add Huawei and its 70 affiliates to the so-called ‘Entity List,’ a move that will prevent the telecom giant from buying parts and components from U.S. companies without approval from Washington. That confirms reports of the potential ban a day before.

Despite being the largest telecom equipment maker around the world, Huawei relies heavily on its American suppliers, giving the U.S. much leeway to hobble the Chinese firm’s production.

Following the dramatic move, shares of a gauge of Huawei affiliates slumped on Wednesday. Tatfook Technology, which sells to Huawei as well as Ericsson and Bosch, dropped 2.84 percent in Shenzhen in morning trading. New Sea Union Telecom, a supplier to China’s ‘big three’ telecom network operators and Huawei, slid 4.88 percent. Another Huawei key partner Chunxing Precision Mechanical dropped as much as 5.37 percent.

Huawei did not comment directly on the Commerce Department’s blacklist when reached out by TechCrunch, but said it’s “ready and willing to engage with the U.S. government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security.”

“Restricting Huawei from doing business in the U.S. will not make the U.S. more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit the U.S. to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the U.S. lagging behind in 5G deployment, and eventually harming the interests of U.S. companies and consumers,” Huawei hit back in the statement.

This view is congruent with some of the harshest criticisms of Washington’s backlash against Huawei. Scholars and industry observers warn that Chinese tech firms have become such an integral part to the global economy that severing ties with Huawei will do ham to 5G advancement worldwide.

In addition, the Chinese company said the U.S.’s “unreasonable restrictions will infringe upon Huawei’s rights and raise other serious legal issues,” though it did not spell out what those rights and legal concerns are.

The announcement dropped on the same day U.S. President Donald Trump declared “a national emergency” over technology supply chain threats from the country’s “foreign adversaries”.

The Commerce Department said it has a reasonable basis to conclude that “Huawei is engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interest.”

Some of the U.S’s allies including the U.K. are still investigating Huawei’s possible security threat and deciding how close a link they should keep with Huawei, but the Shenzhen-based company has already taken a bold step to give its potential clients some assurance.

Just this Tuesday, Huawei told reporters in London that it’s “willing to sign no-spy agreements with governments, including the U.K. government,” and commit itself to making its equipment “meet the no-spy, no-backdoors standard.”

The U.S.’s tit-for-tat with Huawei also includes the push to arrest the company’s CFO Meng Wanzhou on charges that Huawei did business in Iran in breach of U.S. sanctions.

Stephen Colbert unpacks Joe Biden’s presidential bid

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After quite a bit of speculation, former Vice-President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential run over the weekend.

It got the attention of Stephen Colbert, who spent some time talking about Biden’s campaign video, which talked about Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville — something that the president had to explain again. 

“Trump’s already worried about Joe Biden,” Colbert said. “And the proof of that is that this ad did something none of the other Democrats have been able to do, and that’s put Trump on the defensive.” Read more…

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Stephen Colbert steps up his Trump impression after CPAC speech

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Stephen Colbert has already laid into Trump’s “epically weird” CPAC speech.

But there was one moment that the late show host had to talk about again: Trump’s admonishing of the people investigating him during his speech on Saturday.

And by talk, we mean totally mock the president with a new, weird impression that’s better if you just watch it (at 2:40). Colbert also tore into Trump’s press conference on Tuesday, where he answered questions about the investigations.

“It’s just so sad when his heart’s not in it, you know,” Colbert quipped. “He’s like an aging singer doing his 16th show of the week in Branson to a half-empty room.” Read more…

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Seth Meyers breaks down Trump’s attacks on Democrats running for president

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As Democrats begin to nominate for the 2020 presidential election, it’s beginning to get the attention of Donald Trump.

The president fired off a tweet in response to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s announcement in Minnesota on Sunday, making fun of her bid to fight global warming, as snow piled on her.

That got the attention of Seth Meyers on his segment “A Closer Look” on Monday, who broke down Trump’s attacks on Dems who are running for president. In Klobuchar’s case, Meyers pointed out the president’s misguided global warming comment.

“Why do we have to keep explaining to the president of the United States that weather and climate are two different things?” Meyers asked. Read more…

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Stephen Colbert skewers Trump’s use of rhyming in his State of the Union address

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It’s been 24 hours, so we’ve all had a little time to reflect on Donald Trump’s State of the Union address — including Stephen Colbert.

The Late Show host destroyed Trump’s speech one clip at a time immediately afterward on Tuesday, but on Wednesday night, he looped back to pick up one particular feature of Trump’s speech: rhyming.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump had said, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

“That’s kinda cute. He threatened our democracy with a little poem,” Colbert said, before composing his own limerick: Read more…

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Stephen Colbert is back, and had a field day roasting Trump’s government shutdown

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Stephen Colbert has returned from a short break, while the U.S. government has not.

So, to catch up, the Late Show host spent ten glorious minutes on Monday night absolutely roasting the president’s now 17-day shutdown of the government, in which Donald Trump has demanded $5.7 billion to build his border wall.

Colbert gleefully slammed Trump’s claims that former presidents told him the wall should have already been built (they didn’t), and that Barack Obama had the absolute nerve to build walls (!) around his property (he didn’t). 

Along with a solid Pong reference, Colbert made up for his absence during Trump’s misguided Game of Thrones-themed propaganda campaign with a deep burn. Read more…

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Stephen Colbert unpacks Trump’s dramatic meeting with Pelosi, Schumer

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House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer met with Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday, and uh, the meeting did not go smoothly.

So, naturally, Stephen Colbert unpacked the whole thing, hardly containing his delight and running videos of cat boxing to represent the encounter with the president.

The Late Show host ran through the highlights of the tempestuous meeting, in particular, Trump’s threat to shut down the government in order to fund his border wall, and his remarkable ability to spring to action on hearing his own name.

“He’s like Alexa, he only wakes up when he hears his name,” joked Colbert. Read more…

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Stephen Colbert on synagogue shooting: ‘Hate is not what America stands for’

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A very sombre Stephen Colbert responded to Pittsburgh’s synagogue shooting on The Late Show Monday. 

After declaring that “hate is not what America stands for,” and praising the Muslim group which raised more than $140,000 for the shooting’s victims, Colbert turned his attention to Trump’s indefensible response to the tragic event.

“Naturally, in times like these our nation looks to its president for comfort and guidance. That’s our first mistake,” he said.

Of particular annoyance to the late show host was Trump continuing with a rally hours after the attack, where he claimed that he did so because the New York Stock Exchange opened the day after 9/11That claim was in fact, false. Read more…

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Seth Meyers slams Trump’s ‘demeaning and sexist’ treatment of female reporters

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Late Night host Seth Meyers has slammed Donald Trump’s treatment of female reporters during Monday’s White House press conference, in which the president defended his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Multiple female reporters tried to ask Trump about FBI’s investigation into accusations of sexual abuse facing Kavanaugh, but as Meyers pointed out in his segment, “A Closer Look,” Trump “shot them down in super demeaning and sexist ways.” 

One of these moments happened when Trump called on ABC News’ Cecilia Vega, saying to her, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do.”

“I mean, how much of a sexist dick can you possibly be?” said Meyers.  Read more…

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Google denies Trump’s claim that it did not promote his State of the Union address

Google is pushing back against a claim by Donald Trump that the search engine stopped promoting State of the Union livestreams on its homepage after his presidency began. Trump’s claim came in the from of a tweeted video, which was still pinned to the top of his profile when this post was published at 9:30 PM PST, Aug. 29, 2018, after Google’s refutation and multiple media reports of its inaccuracy.

Hashtagged #stopthebias, the video appears to show that Google did not display links to livestreams of Trump’s first public speech to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017 or his first State of the Union on January 30, 2018, despite promoting Obama’s State of the Union addresses in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

#StopTheBias pic.twitter.com/xqz599iQZw

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018

Google, however, says it did indeed highlight Trump’s first State of the Union in 2018, but that it usually does not include links on its homepage to a president’s first public address to Congress, so neither Obama nor Trump’s were featured. In a statement sent to BuzzFeed News, the company said “On January 30, 2018, we highlighted the livestream of President Trump’s State of the Union on the google.com homepage. We have historically not promoted the first address to Congress by a new President, which is technically not a State of the Union address. As a result, we didn’t include a promotion on google.com for this address in either 2009 or 2017.”

Google statement to @JohnPaczkowski on Trump’s tweet pic.twitter.com/1w82mQqApg

— Jon Passantino (@passantino) August 29, 2018

The video shared by Trump does not make a distinction between a president’s first public speech to a joint session of Congress and his first State of the Union address.

A discrepancy in Google’s logo also suggests that at least one of the screenshots, which appear to have been taken from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, was doctored. A Gizmodo commenter notes that one of the screenshots in the video Trump tweeted, from January 12, 2016, shows a version with the previous Google logo, not the sans-serif version introduced in September 2015, which can be seen in a Wayback Archive’s screen capture from January 10, 2016 and other days from that month when a Google Doodle wasn’t featured.

Capture from the video tweeted from President Trump’s account

One of Wayback Machine’s captures on January 10, 2016

Furthermore, while a link to Trump’s State of the Union does not appear on archived versions of Google’s homepage from January 30, 2018, it does show up on a capture from 1AM on January 31, as Twitter user @WrockBro notes. That may be because the Wayback Machine uses Greenwich Mean Time time stamps.

Not only that, but also this: https://t.co/RfJIKpYGJX

🅱en🛸JPL (@WrockBro) August 30, 2018

The Wayback Machine capture linked by Twitter user @WrockBro

Trump’s tweet is the part of his current onslaught against Google, other tech companies and mainstream media, which he accuses of having a liberal bias and burying news about his administration. It is worth pointing out, however, that Trump’s 2017 first speech to Congress was widely praised as “presidential” by journalists across the political spectrum, even liberal publications. In turn, they were ridiculed by critics for being awed by a president acting presidential.

Michelle Wolf’s White House roast denounced by the people who booked her

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As you’d expect, comedian Michelle Wolf was hired to deliver some provocative jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Wolf roasted everyone from Trump, to the administration, and the media in her searing address on Saturday night. 

Wolf’s roast was shortly met with criticism, particularly for its jabs at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ physical appearance, which attracted the ire of pundits who said the comments were too mean.

“Watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable,” MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski wrote on Twitter.  Read more…

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The makers of the virtual influencer, Lil Miquela, snag real money from Silicon Valley

Brud, the actual company behind one of Instagram’s most popular virtual influencers (it’s a thing), has raised millions of dollars from Silicon Valley investors because this is 2018 and everything is awful.

Last week, the Los Angeles-based startup led by Trevor McFedries, outed itself as the collective consciousness behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela and her less well known contemporaries Blawko22 and BermudaisBae in a choreographed melodrama worthy of Los Angeles’ best reality television.

i am deeply invested in the drama surrounding lil miquela and now you all have to be too. sorry!!! https://t.co/ta1T4rDFGz

— maya kosoff (@mekosoff) April 19, 2018

The subject of numerous glowing profiles in online and print fashion and lifestyle magazines (including, most recently, in High Snobiety), Lil Miquela’s stardom (and her fellow avatars) fascinated because the characters’ creators coyly toed the line around “her” self-awareness and their own. In the process, they created a sensation that’s become well-known worldwide.

It’s less well-known that the company is backed by some of the biggest names in venture capital investment — firms like Sequoia Capital. Our sources put the company’s funding somewhere around $6 million in its recent funding round.

There are other notable investors from Silicon Valley and New York rumored to be in the round — like New York’s BoxGroup and the Bay Area’s SV Angel. Sequoia declined to comment for this article and Box Group’s David Tisch did not respond to a request for comment.

All of the virtual drama with Miquela started late last week when news outlets (including TechCrunch) reported that Miquela’s Instagram account (or that of her handlers) was hacked by operators of a social media account belonging to another virtual personality known as “Bermudaisbae” (a more right wing social media persona with fewer followers).

McFedries, brud‘s founder and chief executive, confirmed that the Miquela account had been hacked in a text exchange with me, writing, “some redditor idiots hacked the page we think.”

That was a lie.

The account “hack” was architected by brud as part of an ongoing virtual reality drama playing out on Instagram and other social media platforms between avatars it had developed, all designed to attract media attention, according to people with knowledge of brud and its plans. It worked. 

McFedries has not responded to further requests for comment after confirming that the Miquela account was “good”.

One Los Angeles investor familiar with the company said brud was “using conflict to introduce new characters… same as the Kardashians always have.”

The investor added that two years into the development of the Miquela persona, brud‘s founders knew that the fad could lose some of its luster as the is-she-or-Isn’t-she-real tension dissipates under the weight of continuously thwarted expectations — like a post-modern twist on the will-or-won’t-they dramatic tension defining most sitcoms since Cheers.

“People aren’t going to buy that she’s human so they make it seem as if she’s had an existential crisis and now she is the first in a breed of conscious AR characters that they will build a world around,” this investor wrote. “[Manufacturing] social influence.”

Blawko22 and Lil Miquela imposed over a gas station exterior simulating a pit stop on the road to Coachella

For his part, the 33-yar-old McFedries had been manufacturing social influence in Los Angeles through his talents as a dj, producer and director before entering the startup world.

First under the name of DJ Skeet Skeet and then as DJ Skeeter, and, finally, Yung Skeeter, McFedries has worked or performed with a number of the world’s best selling recording artists including Chris Brown, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry (and — interestingly — more obscure acts like Bonde do Role).  

Working as an an “artist advocate” for Spotify, a DJ for a radio show on iHeartRadio, and as a spokesman for VitaminWater sustained McFedries along with managing the career of BANKS and executive producing her first album and a single on Azealia Banks’ 2014 record “Broke with Expensive Taste” — at least according to a Wikipedia page on Yung Skeeter. 

Around this time McFedries also began investing in companies, according to AngelList.

Roughly two years after the Banks record release, Lil Miquela made her first appearance on Instagram. And the rest is history as written in Internet archives and memes. Ephemeral, but infinite.

The project that brud seems to be pursuing — turning celebrity into a virtual commodity; commenting on the unreality of the “real” entertainment industry by literally creating an unreal celebrity — is fascinating.

There’s certainly a valid criticism to be made about the ways in which celebrity operates, the ways in which our “social” media has corroded society, and the unbridled power of these platforms to transform messengers and their messages into movements.

Perhaps brud wants to make these critiques through its very existence — or at least use its low-brow as high-brow (or is it vice versa?) intellectual appeal as a veneer over the more crass (but potentially honest) mission of selling more shit more effectively through the use of spokespeople whose views only change when their creators want them to (it worked for Hollywood’s star system). That at least gets sponsors and advertisers out of the potentially messy situations that can come from working with spokespeople whose actions can’t be controlled by software — or an ingenious marketing team.

In the High Snobiety profile-as-honors-senior-English-thesis on Lil Miquela published yesterday, the avatar’s own spokesperson was quoted as saying:

“The internet is endlessly powerful, and that power has been wielded in many ways. It feels like we’re not going to put the genie back in the bottle, so we’ve got to learn how to leverage these tools in positive ways. I’ve used my platform to raise real money for important organizations throughout LA and I’ve seen lives changed as a result. I think the only chance we’ve got is to collectively teach our loved ones how to think critically and how to spot misinformation. I know that we can manifest the change we want to see, and the internet can be a part of that.”

It’s a lofty goal backed by a number of inarguably good works. However, lying to reporters may not be the best way to continue trying to achieve it.

Man, Shania Twain regrets saying she would have voted for Trump

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Well, that was fast.

Perennial country star of our hearts, Shania Twain, has backtracked on saying she would’ve voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. election.

The revelation came from an interview with The Guardian published on Sunday, which focused on the Canadian artist’s musical career and her shattering divorce with her collaborator and husband Robert Lange. 

On Trump, Twain said, “I would have voted for him because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest.”

“Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right?” she added.  Read more…

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Elon Musk just replied to Trump’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy tweet

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President Donald Trump has congratulated Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Musk replied, “An exciting future lies ahead.”

Trump tweeted at the SpaceX and Tesla CEO on Tuesday after the launch of the Falcon Heavy (and its payload of a Tesla Roadster) from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

It would have been a much more straightforward space-related moment for Trump than the time he looked directly into an eclipse without glasses

Congratulations @ElonMusk and @SpaceX on the successful #FalconHeavy launch. This achievement, along with @NASA’s commercial and international partners, continues to show American ingenuity at its best! pic.twitter.com/eZfLSpyJPK

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2018 Read more…

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Yes, this is the front page of the Washington Post after Trump’s speech

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Update, Jan. 31, 1:25 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include the final front page from the Washington Post

During his first State of the Union speech, Donald Trump characterized immigrants as violent gang members, pushed for more nukes, and vilified athletes who protest police brutality. 

But that’s not the story the first edition of the Washington Post told.

Here’s the front page of tomorrow’s Washington Post: pic.twitter.com/5HQmDNoa4r

— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 31, 2018

People who saw Trump’s speech were, um, a little confused. Apparently, the fact that Donnie didn’t rip off his shirt and scream “MAGA!” in Nancy Pelosi’s face was very “presidential.”  Read more…

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Trump liked a tweet about his ‘great friend’ being accused of sexual misconduct

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Despite how active President Donald Trump is on Twitter, he rarely smashes that “like” button. But on Friday night, Trump liked” his 25th tweet. 

The tweet concerned Steve Wynn, a billionaire casino mogul and RNC finance chair, over recent sexual assault allegationsAccording to the Wall Street Journal, dozens of people have accused Wynn of sexual misconduct, including pressuring employees to have sex with him. 

By 10:25 p.m. ET on Friday, the like was gone, but the internet doesn’t forget so easily. 

Image: screenshot/twitter

But Wynn isn’t just some guy to Trump, who also owns hotel property in Las Vegas. In 2016, Trump referred to Wynn as a “great friend.” A great friend who also donated $729,217 in entertainment to Trump’s inauguration through Wynn Resorts Ltd. Read more…

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Trump’s racist ‘sh*thole’ comment: Who censored and who didn’t?

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Trump’s racist comment about “shithole” countries shocked with its crudity, leaving the press figuring out how to deal with the word.

The U.S. president used the word to refer to Haiti, El Salvador and other African countries. Trump questioned why its people were were coming to America, and asked lawmakers why the U.S. didn’t accept more people from Norway, a majority Nordic (white) country.

In the original Washington Post report, “shithole” appears in all its unsightliness throughout the article and in its headline.  Read more…

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Pete Souza throws shade at Trump for ‘nuclear button’ tweet

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Pete Souza is back with more Instaburns for Donald Trump, after the latest scary-beyond-all-reason tweet from the president.

The former Chief Official White House Photographer during the Obama Administration, Souza has posted two images on Instagram in response to President Trump’s boast on Twitter that his “nuclear button” was bigger than the one apparently on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s desk.

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018 Read more…

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Someone made a bad lip reading Trump Christmas song and it’s annoyingly catchy

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Bad lip readings are mostly unrealistic, which makes them a hoot to watch. Their latest video, however, is all about Christmas and the Trump. It doesn’t ask you to stretch your imagination too much, except imaging the president singing with a reasonable pitch. 

The Donald sings and dances his way through a holiday song we didn’t really need in our lives, but it’s here and it’s unfortunately for us all, a little catchy.  Read more…

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Roy Moore lost the election and everyone made the same joke

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Roy Moore is bad at riding horses, and on Tuesday night, he was bad at winning elections. 

Moore lost the Senate race in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones and a lot of people were happy about it. Moore’s win came as a surprise, as Democrats haven’t fared well in Alabama elections for about a quarter decade.

But back to the horse thing. Here is the Republican candidate — who was endorsed by Donald Trump, even though he’s been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women and said America was last “great” when slavery was legal — trying to play cowboy earlier in the day.  Read more…

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MSNBC trolls Donald Trump with Obama ‘Merry Christmas’ montage

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According to Donald Trump, Donald Trump is solely responsible for coining the term “fake news,” Making America Great Again, and of course, bringing the phrase “Merry Christmas” back into the White House.

On Wednesday, Donny T. delivered a tax reform speech in St. Charles, Missouri, that started and ended with a focus on Christmas. Trump bragged and bragged about how he is the one bringing Christmas back to America, acting as though former presidents straight-up banned the holiday from the calendar or something.

MSNBC decided to investigate his claims, and believe it or not, it turns out Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, did in fact have those two words in his vocabulary. Can you imagine? Read more…

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This pic of the White House decked out for Christmas looks like hell on Earth

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Goodbye, Thanksgiving. Hello, Christmas. 

The official war for Christmas has begun in the Trump White House as the administration unveiled a sneak peek at its decorations for the holiday season. 

We’re living in dark times, folks.

The holidays are upon us!! Right now: flotus is seeing to every last detail here at the @WhiteHouse pic.twitter.com/TglHYDVUx1

— Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45) November 27, 2017

On Sunday, Stephanie Grisham, the White House director of communications for First Lady Melania Trump, tweeted this nightmarish scene from inside the White House, as she was putting finishing touches on the decorations. Bunches of dead trees illuminated only from the bottom cast a horrifying shadow on the hallway’s ceiling, leading to a lonely Christmas tree at the end. Read more…

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Trump’s ‘Time’ tweet got better with every internet spoof

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and you know what that means: Time for Donald Trump’s annual tiff with Time magazine and it’s “Person of the Year” issue. 

Trump won the honor last year, which should have silenced his irritation forthwith. But because he’s Donald Trump, he will not be satisfied unless he is the center of all attention always. 

Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017 Read more…

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Some poor guy had to sit between Trump and South Korea’s president for a ‘casual’ meal

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Oh man, imagine having to be this guy.

On Tuesday, U.S. president Donald Trump stopped by military base Camp Humphreys for lunch, during his official visit to South Korea.

For some reason, they sat one single soldier between Trump and South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. So that guy sat awkwardly while Trump and Moon talked across him.

"Why me?"

“Why me?”

Image: weibo

A video clip of the incident has been picked up on South Korean TV, highlighting the poor guy’s stunned expression as he sat between the two world leaders, apparently too terrified to eat. Read more…

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Why it's so messed up that Trump just used the word “ingrates” in relation to Puerto Rico

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There isn’t a low bar for Donald Trump comments anymore. The bar has been obliterated. Everything he says is terrible, including Sunday morning’s tweet about political “ingrates” in Puerto Rico.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, has been explicit about the horrific conditions of the people in Puerto Rico, and transparent about the lack of support the island has been receiving from Donald Trump. She hasn’t attacked Trump outright, but she’s resorted to outright begging for help.

In response to Cruz, the president has been tweeting—and golfing—amidst one of the most horrendous humanitarian crises of his administration. His latest tweets, on Sunday morning, seemed to imply that Cruz and the people of Puerto Rico aren’t thankful enough for the minimal amount of aid that’s been provided so far. Read more…

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NFL players slam Donald Trump for rant against protests

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Football players are lashing out at Donald Trump after the president went on an extended rant about athlete activism at a rally Friday night.

Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who kneel or otherwise protest during the national anthem and encouraged fans to boycott the league.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!” Trump said.

Read the transcript from Trump’s racist rant on Black players in the NFL

It’s WAY worse than I thoughtpic.twitter.com/WbbUEZvVgr

— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 23, 2017 Read more…

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Trump's nominee for NASA administrator is really into the moon

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James Bridenstine is ready to take America back to the moon. 

With Donald Trump’s Friday announcement that he intends to nominate the Oklahoma representative as administrator of NASA, Bridenstine is one step closer to his moon dreams.

Rep. Bridenstine is already on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and has been gunning for the head boss role at NASA. The position has been open since Trump’s inauguration with acting administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. serving in the role. 

The long wait on a nomination for NASA administrator could end as soon as Tuesdayhttps://t.co/jhnYEA7ccP

— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) September 1, 2017 Read more…

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Amazon, Facebook, Google and other tech giants urge Trump to continue DACA program

 America’s tech industry has urged President Donald Trump and other political leaders to continue a program that allows undocumented young immigrants to remain in the country. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an initiative that was established by former President Obama. Also known as the Dreamers Program, it gives young immigrants the opportunity to stay in the U.S., to… Read More

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Trump says he doesn't 'do Twitter storms' – uh huh, ok, sure

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President Donald Trump, who can both make the world cower in fear and belly laugh in response to his very well-known tweetstorms, wants you to know a very important fact: He doesn’t ‘do Twitter storms.’

“Do you notice when I go on and I’ll put out like a tweet or a couple of tweets, ‘He’s in a Twitter storm again,'” he said at a Phoenix rally Tuesday night. “I don’t do Twitter storms.”

OK, um, but what about the tweetstorm when ex-FBI Director James Comey got fired or the one about his failed Muslim travel ban or that time he tweetstormed the hell out of his Obama wiretapping accusations, oh and don’t forget the tweetstorms about the “illegal leaks,” Democrats, and the “fake media?” Read more…

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Bannon back at Breitbart after Trump White House ouster: 'I've got my hands back on my weapons'

Hold on to your butts, America. Steve Bannon is, as an ally told one reporter, “unchained” after being relieved of his White House duties as Trump’s strategic advisor

In an interview this evening, Bannon tells the Weekly Standard he’s returning to run Breitbart.com, as he was before becoming Trump’s campaign manager exactly one year and one day ago today.

Bannon will become Executive Chairman of the white supremacist “alt-right” publishing firm. “I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart,” Bannon said, “And now I’m about to go back…and we’re about to rev that machine up.”

(more…)

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Tina Fey eats a cake for America on SNL's 'Weekend Update: Summer Edition'

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Tina Fey didn’t like seeing racists march through her college town. 

“It broke my heart to see these evil forces descend upon Charlottesville,” the University of Virginia graduate told Colin Jost on Weekend Update: Summer Edition.

Then she laid into Donald Trump. 

“Donny John comes out and he says that he condemns violence on many sides, on many sides, Colin. I’m feeling sick because, you know, I have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. I wasn’t confused by it. No, Colin, Nazis are always bad, I don’t care what you say.”

When talking about a planned alt-right rally on Saturday in New York City, she settled on a desert-based method of protesting. Read more…

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Jimmy Fallon fights back tears as he delivers powerful attack on Trump after Charlottesville

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We already knew that Jimmy Fallon doesn’t hold back when it comes to addressing serious, critical issues. 

But this time, in the aftermath of the horrific events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, he might have delivered his most powerful, politically charged statement yet. 

“What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting. I was watching the news like everyone else, and you’re seeing Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists, and I was sick to my stomach,” he said, tears welling in his eyes.  Read more…

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U.S. court tosses murder conviction of Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten in massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians

A U.S. Federal appeals court today threw out the murder conviction of former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten, who had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

Slatten and other former staff of military security contractor Blackwater (renamed Xe Services, now Academi, run by Erik Prince, brother of Trump DOE chief Betsy DeVos) were the focus of a high-profile legal case that has stretched on for a full decade.

Dozens of people from Iraq traveled to the United States for the trial, as we reported ten years ago here on Boing Boing. And the judge who sentenced Slatten to life in prison decided he was a nice guy who deserved a break (from the death penalty).

From Reuters:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered a new trial after tossing out the murder conviction of former security contractor Nicholas Slatten.

The three-judge panel said Slatten should have had a separate trial instead of being tried alongside his former colleagues. At a new trial, Slatten would be able to introduce evidence that one of his co-defendants had fired the first shot.

Separately, the court said Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty, who were all convicted of manslaughter and other offenses over their respective roles in the incident, should be re-sentenced because their 30-year prison terms were too long. The court also threw out one of Liberty’s convictions for attempted manslaughter.

No word from the Justice Department, or lawyers for the defendants.

The mass killing at a traffic circle in Iraq’s capital city on Sept. 16, 2007 was notable for its sheer brutality, and brought into focus concerns over the growing number of private military contractors working alongside U.S. military forces in Iraq and other mideast war zones.

Erik Prince, the founder and chief of the many-times-renamed firm at the center of this story, is now advising President Donald Trump’s regime on how to further privatize American military operations overseas.

We’ll always have the Seychelles.

In the Reuters photo above from September 20, 2007, one of the people who was wounded the Blackwater shooting attack is helped by his relatives in a hospital in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the time said the U.S. embassy should stop using American security firm Blackwater after the deadly shooting, saying he would not allow Iraqis to be killed in “cold blood”.

PHOTO, TOP: Blackwater Worldwide security guard Nick Slatten (C) and attorneys leave the federal courthouse after being arraigned with 4 fellow Blackwater guards on manslaughter charges for killing unarmed civilians in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad, in Washington in this January 6, 2009 file photo. (Reuters)

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Crunch Report | Apple Rolls Out Early Version Of Its Safe Driving Feature

Crunch Report June 22 Today’s Stories  Do Not Disturb While Driving feature rolls out in Apple’s newest iOS 11 beta Sean Parker has left Spotify’s board; Padmasree Warrior, Thomas Staggs join in lead up to IPO Trump might kill next month’s new startup visa before it takes effect Facebook is testing a feature to prevent profile pictures being abused by other users Tantan, China’s… Read More

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Read the Trump team's pathetic anti-Comey talking points

These RNC talking points to Trump allies on Comey’s testimony tomorrow are making the internet rounds. Pretty rich. You can also see these words and phrases start to percolate through statements coming from various members of Team Trump, on social media and in the press. Fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate intelligence panel is expected to start at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. Hold on to your butts.

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Macron rewrites Trump campaign slogan as “Make Our Planet Great Again”

Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, rewrote U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘MAGA’ campaign slogan today in protest of the administration’s absurd withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. “Make Our Planet Great Again,” says Macron. We’re in alignment with Nicaragua and Syria, says Trump.

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A Trump aide perfectly captured the FBI disaster by texting 2 emoji

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It looks like White House was in total chaos following the news that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

How bad was it? Too crazy for words. 

“When asked Tuesday night for an update on the unfolding situation, one top White House aide simply texted a reporter two fireworks emoji,” according to a juicy story from Washington Post. The piece claims the White House was totally unprepared for the fallout and had to scramble to put together a response. 

The president was “irate” as he watched coverage of the firing on TV, the Post reported. Here’s a “West Wing official” on how it went down: Read more…

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Trump 'Crazy': President described by fired FBI director Comey as 'outside realm of normal'

When President Donald Trump accused outgoing President Barack Obama in March of ‘wiretapping’ him, James B. Comey, then the FBI director, was “flabbergasted,” reports the New York Times in a breakdown of Comey’s thuggish dismissal that includes jawdropping detail. The president, Comey told his FBI associates, was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”

Those are the words he used, reports the Times.

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Stephen Colbert has a brilliant explanation of why Donald Trump fired James Comey

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The big news everyone is talking about is Donald Trump firing FBI director James Comey. 

It happened just 10 minutes before Stephen Colbert taped The Late Show, but the late night host had plenty of rounds to fire. 

“That shows no gratitude at all. Did Trump forget about the Hillary emails that Comey talked about?” Colbert said. 

Trump said in a letter that Comey was “not able to effectively lead the Bureau” after the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, but Colbert thinks he has a more plausible explanation. 

“I think he was fired because Comey couldn’t guess the name Rumpelstiltskin,” he joked. Read more…

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Russian flags rained down in a confetti-style protest during Trump's rally

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Trolling is mostly dumb, but sometimes it’s an art. 

President Donald Trump held a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday and, as he was speaking, someone tossed a bunch of tiny Russian flags, confetti-style, in front of the cameras streaming his speech to news networks. 

As far as protests go, it certainly earns points for creativity. 

The Trump campaign and administration officials have had a lot of unexplained contact with Russian officials, much of which is currently under investigation. A former campaign manager allegedly laundered money for a Ukrainian political party with ties to the Russian government. The FBI got a surveillance court order in the summer of 2016 to watch a Trump adviser because of an investigation into links between the Kremlin and the current president’s campaign. And if you’re looking for more…oddities…they’re not hard to find. Read more…

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Obama to end silence with first post-presidency speaking appearance in Chicago

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama have been enjoying an extended post-presidency vacation around the world, but that’s about to end. Barack Obama is slated to break his silence in Chicago on Monday, April 24. If you’re hoping he will rip into Donald Trump, we’ve got sad news for you.

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