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Monday's Mini-Report, 9.26.16

09/26/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Today's mass shooting: "At least nine people were injured when a gunman opened fire at a Houston shopping center Monday morning, officials said. Police fatally shot the suspect, who started 'firing actively' at officers once they located him, said Houston Police Chief Martha Montalvo. Montalvo said the suspect lived in the neighborhood and was a lawyer who was having 'issues with his law firm.'"

* Friday's mass shooting: "The accused Cascade Mall killer was hit by Washington state authorities Monday with five murder charges after he admitted being the rifle-toting man in a surveillance video. And some of the key information that led authorities to 20-year-old Arcan Cetin was provided by his parents, according to an arrest warrant obtained by NBC News."

* Iraq: "A triple suicide bombing against a security check point north of Baghdad on Saturday killed at least 11 members of the security forces, a police officer said."

* Voting rights: "A federal appeals court Monday blocked the move earlier this year by a federal election official to approve a proof-of-citizenship requirement on the federal voting registration forms in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama."

* That's quite a difference: "Mylan said on Monday the auto-injector EpiPen's pretax profits were 60 percent higher than it told Congress, according to sources close to the matter."

* The Justice Department announced today it's "awarding more than $20 million for law enforcement agencies around the country to establish or enhance their use of body cameras, a move that comes after several fatal shootings of black men by police that have prompted widespread protests."
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Paul LePage

Paul LePage's racially charged claims start to crumble

09/26/16 02:00PM

A month ago, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) touched off the latest in a series of racially charged controversies, and there's fresh evidence that he wasn't even honest about his offensive observations.

At a town-hall event, a businessman asked the Republican governor, "Given the rhetoric you put out there about people of color in Maine, calling them drug dealers et cetera, how can I bring a company here given the toxic environment you create?" LePage replied that he maintains "a three-ringed binder" featuring "every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state." He added, "I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book ... are black and Hispanic people" from out of state.

Today, as the Portland Press Herald reported, the contents of LePage's three-ring binder were released to the public.
The 148-page document includes a variety of press releases, jail booking and courtroom photos of various individuals charged with trafficking crime in Maine since January. The photos in the book show men and women of a variety of races, and some pages of the binder include handwritten notes by LePage.

Of the 93 news and booking photos in the binder featuring people, 37 of them appear to be people who are either black or Hispanic, or about 40 percent of the photos in the binder, while 56, or about 60 percent, appear to be people who are white.
It's worth emphasizing that these numbers are imprecise. As the Press Herald article explained, pages from LePage's binder "were scanned or photocopied in black and white," which complicates the analysis.

That said, the newspaper's review of the governor's materials suggest LePage got it backwards: whereas he insisted that "90-plus percent of those pictures" showed people of color, it appears that a majority of the accused are white.

In other words, LePage wasn't just making an offensive argument; he was also wildly exaggerating the facts for reasons he has not yet explained.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks off his plane at a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sept. 17, 2016. (Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

Donald Trump's brazen dishonesty starts to catch up with him

09/26/16 12:27PM

By some measures, the most important aspect of the 2016 presidential election is also one of the least recognized: Donald Trump lies at an almost uncontrollable pace, but he's earned a reputation for racism and buffoonery, not dishonesty. Polls show Americans generally consider him more truthful than Hillary Clinton, which is a bizarre conclusion for any objective observer who's watched these candidates closely.

But as the race enters its home stretch, some are starting to take Trump's penchant for dishonesty more seriously. The New York Times published this striking piece on the Republican candidate's "week of whoppers" over the weekend:
All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random -- even compulsive.

However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump's falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating "an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with."
In this study, the paper chose a week seemingly at random -- Sept. 15 through 21 -- and singled out Trump's "biggest whoppers," many of which were "uttered repeatedly," leaving "dozens more" on the editing room floor for a variety of reasons.

And if it seems as if news outlets all stumbled upon this dynamic simultaneously, it's not your imagination. The Washington Post published a related piece the same day that reviewed one week's worth of Trump's speeches, tweets, and interviews. The analysis found a presidential hopeful "who at times seems uniquely undeterred by facts" and demonstrates a "disregard for the truth in numerous cases."

The L.A. Times ran a similar story of its own, explaining that the "scope" of Trump's falsehoods is "unprecedented for a modern presidential candidate," and adding, "Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has."

Politico published a related piece, too, fact-checking the major-party candidates over the course a week. It found, "Trump's mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration so greatly exceed Clinton's as to make the comparison almost ludicrous.... Trump averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds over nearly five hours of remarks. In raw numbers, that's 87 erroneous statements in five days."
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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.26.16

09/26/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* The editorial board of the Washington Post believes it's "beyond debate that Donald Trump is unfit to be president."

* Four years ago, nearly a third of the CEOs from the nation's 100 largest companies contributed to Mitt Romney's campaign. This year, literally zero of them have extended support to Trump.

* Trump had previously said he would not accept an endorsement from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Friday, after the senator changed his mind about the candidate who went after his wife and father, Trump reversed course, too.

* In Pennsylvania's closely watched U.S. Senate race, CNN's new poll shows Katie McGinty (D) leading incumbent Pat Toomey (R), 49% to 46%, but a Morning Call/Muhlenberg poll shows Toomey narrowly ahead, 41% to 40%.

* Trump talks a lot about destroying ISIS, but his "scattered ideas" have often been "contradictory, impossible or even illegal."

* Donald P. Gregg, national security adviser to George H.W. Bush during his tenure as vice president, is the latest veteran of a Republican administration to throw his support to Hillary Clinton.

* The editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer has endorsed Republican presidential candidates in every U.S. election for nearly a century. This year, however, it believes "there is only one choice when we elect a president in November: Hillary Clinton."
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George Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative American newspaper columnist, journalist, and author.

George Will knows some candidates he'd like you to support

09/26/16 11:00AM

In June, George F. Will, one of the nation's most widely recognized Republican pundits, walked away from the GOP. "This is not my party," Will was quoted saying at a Federalist Society luncheon. He added that House Speaker Paul Ryan's endorsement of Donald Trump pushed him over the edge, prompting him to changed his Maryland voter registration to "unaffiliated."

But as it turns out, you can take George Will out of the GOP, but it's tough to take the GOP out of George Will.

In his latest column, published Friday, Will took an interest in one of the nation's most competitive U.S. House races, touting incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) as "a Republican worth voting for."

A week earlier, Will published a column about one of the nation's most competitive U.S. Senate races, celebrating the conservative virtues of incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania.

The week before that, Will took a closer look at another competitive U.S. Senate race, making the case to readers that incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) "deserves to" win another term.

And a few weeks before that, Will wrote a column on a different competitive U.S. Senate race, highlighting the perceived strengths of the Republican candidate, Rep. Joe Heck.

A pattern seems to be emerging.
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Voting booths await voters in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, ahead of the Iowa primary elections.

As the debate season begins, the latest polls show a dead heat

09/26/16 10:00AM

Democrats were probably feeling a sigh of relief last week when three major national polls were released over the course of three days, each of which showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by six points, even with third-party candidates in the mix. As of this morning, however, that sense of relief has all but disappeared.

Three national polls have been released over the last 24 hours, and each show Clinton's lead evaporating. Let's start with the Washington Post/ABC News poll, released yesterday morning.

Four-way race: Clinton 46%, Trump 44%
Head-to-head match-up: Clinton 49%, Trump 47%

This was soon followed by the new Bloomberg Politics poll:

Four-way race: Trump 43%, Clinton 41%
Head-to-head match-up: Clinton 46%, Trump 46%

And the new Quinnipiac poll:

Four-way race: Clinton 44%, Trump 43%
Head-to-head match-up: Clinton 47%, Trump 46%

On the day of the first debate, in other words, the presidential race is effectively a dead heat. For all the easy assumptions -- so many have argued, "The United States just isn't the kind of country that would elect a racist television personality to be president" -- there's no denying the unavoidable fact that Donald J. Trump has a decent chance of winning the 2016 election.
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Nordaby and Demidio, of Calvi Electric, remove the letter 'A' from the signage of Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Donald Trump has a new casino problem

09/26/16 09:26AM

A year ago, at the second debate for the Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush took aim at Donald Trump's history of corruption -- based on personal experience. The former Florida governor noted that Trump not only gave Bush money, but he also asked for something in return: "[Trump] wanted casino gambling in Florida."

Trump immediately interrupted, "I didn't," to which Bush responded, "Yes you did." The back and forth continued for a while, with Trump insisting that the claim is "totally false," and adding, "I promise if I wanted [casino gambling in Florida], I would have gotten it."

Even at the time, it was pretty obvious Trump was lying, but last week, Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald took this a step further, highlighting a "previously undisclosed deposition of the Republican nominee testifying under oath."
The deposition was part of a lawsuit he'd filed against Richard Fields, whom Trump had hired to manage the expansion of his casino business into Florida. In the suit, Trump claimed that Fields had quit and taken all of the information he obtained while working for Trump to another company. Under oath, Trump said he did want to get into casino gambling in Florida but didn't because he had been cheated by Fields.
The report included a transcript of Trump describing his efforts to bring casino gambling to Florida, including hosting what Trump described as then-candidate Jeb Bush's "most successful fundraiser."

When the lawyer asked, "You knew that Governor Bush, Jeb Bush at that time, was opposed to expansion of gaming in Florida, didn't you?" Trump replied, "I thought that he could be convinced otherwise."
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Podiums a presdential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum on Jan. 19, 2012 in Charleston, S.C.

Debate commission director balks at real-time fact checking

09/26/16 08:40AM

Heading into the first presidential debate tonight, Donald Trump and his campaign team have made it quite clear they don't want moderator Lester Holt to do any fact checking during the event. That's not exactly surprising: the Republican nominee has an unfortunate habit of lying, and it'd be embarrassing for Trump if his falsehoods were exposed in real time.

But outside of Republican circles, many are concerned that if moderators overlook obvious whoppers, and allow the debates to turn into literal "he said, she said" disputes, the public won't actually learn anything.

Janet Brown, the Commission on Presidential Debates' executive director, talked to CNN's Brian Stelter yesterday about the broader dispute, and she seemed to come down firmly on Trump's side.
STELTER: What about the issue of fact checking that has been talked about so much in the past few weeks? Does the commission want Lester Holt to fact check?

BROWN: The commission asks independent, smart journalists to be the moderators and we let them decide how they're going to do this. But I have to say, in our history, the moderators have found it appropriate to allow the candidates to be the ones that talk about the accuracy or the fairness of what the other candidate or candidates might have said.

I think, personally, if you are starting to get into the fact-check, I'm not sure what is the big fact, and what is a little fact? And if you and I [have] information, does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source?
I'm not entirely clear what Brown meant when she drew a distinction between "big" and "little" facts, but it's her comment about the unemployment rate that seemed especially problematic.
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A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Trump campaign faces new questions about Russian ties

09/26/16 08:02AM

When Donald Trump's presidential campaign parted ways with campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, there was no real mystery surrounding the shake-up. Manafort's connections to pro-Putin forces made his position untenable.

Of course, the ties between Trump and the Russian autocrat's government go further than just Manafort. The candidate himself has repeatedly praised Putin and given contradictory statements about his relationship with the foreign president, and Trump's team includes other advisers with Russian connections.

Take Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser, for example. On Friday, Yahoo News published a report, which has not yet been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, that said U.S. intelligence officials are "seeking to determine whether [Page] has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials -- including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president."

Pointing to the report, Tommy Vietor, a former National Security spokesman for President Obama, suggested Trump may very well be "an unwitting Russian agent."

CNN's Jake Tapper asked Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, about the allegations. Conway didn't comment on the accuracy of the reports, but instead argued that Carter Page has no role on Team Trump.
TAPPER: He is not part of the campaign anymore?

CONWAY: No, he's not. He's certainly not part of the campaign that I'm running.... And I also will say, if he's [engaging in back-channel communications with Russian officials], he's certainly not doing it with the permission or knowledge of the campaign, the activities that you described.... He is certainly not authorized to do that.
At a certain level, Conway and other Trump aides have two defenses to choose from. They can either question the accuracy of the reports, or they can accept the reports at face value -- perhaps Page really is secretly trying to strike deals with Vladimir Putin's government -- and insist Page isn't a Trump adviser. Apparently, the Republican ticket is going with the latter.

The problem, of course, is the evidence pointing in the opposite direction. read more

This image combines a background picture taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (blue/green) with a new very deep ALMA view of this field (orange, marked with circles).

Week in Geek - Hubble redux edition

09/25/16 12:55AM

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) just took the Hubble Ultra Deep Field to the next level.

ALMA is an array of 66 radio dish antennas located at an altitude of over 16.000 feet in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Much like the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, these dishes all work in concert to create a telescope used to observe radio emission at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. Astronomers use radio telescopes to probe phenomena such as star formation by observing gas and dust clouds that are too distant and/or too faint to be see by infrared or optical telescopes.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image released by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 of a patch of sky roughly as big as 1/10th of the full moon. The filed was found to contain 10,000 galaxies of all shapes, sizes, and ages and is the deepest view of the universe to date. Now ALMA has begun to to peer at the same area of the sky to uncover what else might be there that Hubble was unable to see.

The recent results are from only 50 hours of ALMA observing the HUDF. ALMA is slated to observe an additional 150 hours in the near future. They show that total mass of stars in a galaxy is highly correlated with its rate of star formation. Additionally, astronomers were able to identify regions where star-formation was likely to happen next based on the concentration of molecular gas, regions Hubble could never "see". The video below highlights these areas (in orange) superimposed on the HUDF (in blue).

"This is a breakthrough result. For the first time we are properly connecting the visible and ultraviolet light view of the distant Universe from Hubble and far-infrared/millimeter views of the Universe from ALMA." - Jim Dunlop, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Here's some more geek from the week:

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