Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors


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I hope you’ve realized by now that Trump, the Alt-Right flavor of racists and bigots, know-nothings and nutballs, aren’t going to disappear the day after the election. Aside from deliberate hoaxters – who think they contribute to humor – the truthiness brigade of white nationalists and conspiracy nutballs will roll right along.

There are sufficient nooks and crannies in the Web and uneducated American brains to store their lies and slander for centuries. But, please, don’t get used to it. Among other resources, check in with snopes.com every now and then. Please.

Voter impersonation fraud – 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast

❝ Voter ID laws are back in the news once again, with two new opinions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court late last week dealing with the state’s ID requirement, which would allow people to vote only if they provide certain forms of government-issued ID. The Court made some minor changes to the law but otherwise upheld it. However, the ID requirement is still on hold pending a federal lawsuit.

Part of this litigation — and any rational debate about the issue generally — hinges on two things: costs and benefits. The costs of these sorts of laws vary, because the laws themselves differ from state to state (some are far more burdensome than others). The ostensible benefits, though, are all the same. And in addressing these purported benefits, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blew it. Twice.

❝ First, the court cited the idea that ID laws could enhance public confidence–that is, in theory, the laws might make us feel better about elections in that they might provide some security theater. It turns out, though, that this effect is hard to spot…

Second, the court said that ID laws can help stop fraud. It then cited an example of recent fraud … that ID laws aren’t designed to stop…

❝ Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.

❝ I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up.

To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.

To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.

So much for the happy horseshit shoveled atop public understanding of electoral fraud. The Republican Party in general – and lately, Donald Trump, el Supremo – have been parroting this crap at the expense of state budgets and constitutional rights.

Time to lose this latest Big Lie before it becomes any more acceptable by gullibilus voter americanus.

The Daily Show did what Donald Trump asked — it found he was lying about his meat and more

Phony products

A week ago, Donald Trump won primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii, and then proceeded to give perhaps the strangest victory speech in the history of American presidential races. Trump had assembled a pile of meat, wines, a pyramid of bottled water, and one magazine to make a point that he is a successful businessman.

You see, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had said that Trump was really bad at running companies and was good at running them into the ground, and mentioned things like Trump’s steak company and magazine as failures. Not content to let this go and walk away with his delegates, Trump assembled these things — the meat, the water, a magazine — onstage at a Republican primary victory speech to show that he’s good at running businesses.

You just have to go check the records, folks,” Trump said, specifically referring to Trump Wine. “In fact, the press. I’m asking you, please check.”

So the team at The Daily Show did. And they found out he was lying and telling half-truths about many of the products on stage:

“Trump Steaks” do not currently exist, and you can’t buy one for $50 (which Trump mentions in his speech). Trump Steaks were actually sold by Sharper Image, whose CEO at the time said that virtually none of the Trump Steaks sold.

“Trump Wine” is not affiliated with Donald Trump, who said he owned it without a debt or a mortgage to pay. On the Trump Winery website, it says clearly that it is not owned or affiliated with Donald Trump.

“Trump Magazine” went out of circulation in 2009 and published 10 issues. But Trump referred to a magazine called the Jewel of Palm Beach in his speech and called that his magazine. It’s the magazine that is supplied in his hotels, and he is not the publisher.

“Trump Water” is generic bottled water that “he slapped his name on.”

All that meat, that pyramid of water, the bottles of wine, and that lonely magazine that Trump brought onstage to prove that he’s a great businessman were all just bunk. And he had the audacity to ask the press to call him on his lies.

Lots of politicians lie. Trump lies all the time. Because he learned to be cunning while wasting his daddy’s money through several bankruptcies – doesn’t mean he’s smart. It doesn’t require lots of smarts to comprehend how gullible Americans can be. The history of phonies elected and re-elected – from Nixon to George W – proves that. The history of religious hustlers from radio days to palatial megachurches proves that.

The producers who put him on so-called reality TV – the cheapest serial programs in the history of the medium – proved that. And the obedient consumers of crap TV now line up for the ultimate crap politician.

Okinawa still fighting to get out from under the Japan-US “Security” Treaty

Okinawa officials have filed a lawsuit against the central Japanese government in a new bid to block the slated construction of a U.S. military base in the prefecture’s Henoko region.

“We will do whatever it takes to stop the new Henoko base,” Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said during a press conference… “Okinawa’s argument is legitimate, and I believe that it will be certainly understood.”

Residents and officials charge that the Japanese government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism…acted unlawfully when it suspended Onaga’s permit cancellation for work needed to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to its slated spot in Henoko…

The legal challenge is the latest effort to block the continued militarization of the southern Japanese island, which has long served as home base for more than half of the 50,000 American military service members in Japan, as well as over two-thirds of U.S. bases in the country. In late October, hundreds of Okinawa residents, largely elders, linked arms and physically blocked vehicles transporting building materials to the base.

Don’t the people of Okinawa have sovereignty? one protester, 70-year-old Katsuhiro Yoshida, told Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun at the time. “This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the U.S. military before Okinawa was returned to Japan (in 1972). Now we are facing off against our own government. It is so contemptible.”

Time and again the people of Okinawa revolt against domination of their island home by the US military, the capitulation of the old Japanese government in Tokyo. Treaties, secret and public, enacted 70 years ago should not control their destiny just because it suits Uncle Sugar’s imperial dreams in Asia.

Creepy journal accepts bogus study requesting removal from mailing list

An open-access “predatory” academic journal has accepted a bogus research paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist titled Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.

The paper, originally written by American researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohle in 2005, consisted of the title’s seven words repeated over and over again. It also featured helpful diagrams.

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Dr Peter Vamplew, a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Federation University in Victoria, submitted the paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology earlier this year after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the publication and other journals of dubious repute.

“There’s been this move to open-access publishing which has often meant essentially a user-pays system,” Vamplew said. “So you pay to have the paper published and it’s available to the public for free.”

An academic librarian at the University of Colorado, Jeffrey Beall, told Nature magazine last year that up to 10% of open-access journals were exploiting the model by charging a fee to proofread, peer-review and edit a research paper without actually carrying out the work.

“They’re predatory journals, preying on young, inexperienced researchers who unwittingly don’t realise they’re of questionable quality,” Vamplew said.

Weeks later he received good news: “It was accepted for publication. I pretty much fell off my chair.”

BTW, they still haven’t taken him off their mailing list – even with the event going viral in Australia and elsewhere.

Lawsuit focuses on “charities” funding Israeli nuclear weapons


Israeli nuclear facility outside DimonaPhoto/Reuters

The Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep) has filed federal lawsuit that seeks to disclose a report about how Israeli charities and educational organizations in the United States help funding secret nuclear weapon development program.

…IRmep says that an unclassified 1987 study conducted for the Department of Defense named “Current Technology Issues in Israel” discovered that three Israeli charitable and educational institutes were researching nuclear weapons programs. The organizations were tax-exempt at the time, meaning they were receiving a form of subsidy by the U.S. government…

– Technion University was developing nuclear missile re-entry vehicles and working at the Dimona nuclear weapons production facility;

– Hebrew University scientists were working at the Soreq nuclear facilities to develop “the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs”; and

– Israel’s Weizmann Institute “studied high energy physics and hydrodynamics needed for nuclear bomb design, and worked on lasers to enrich uranium, the most advanced method for making the material dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.”

IRmep says that the three institutions raised significant amounts of tax-exempt, charitable funding through affiliates in the United States. According U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the three organizations raised a combined $172 million in annual U.S. tax-exempt funding.

This “tax gap” was paid by U.S. citizens.

Of curse, they could have followed the usual route for our government subsidizing Israel. The Israeli government normally relies on “loans” courtesy of Congress and the White House – which are forgiven the following year or so.

Thanks, Mike

Banned dietary supplements back on the shelves – still adulterated

Many dietary supplements recalled by the FDA for containing banned ingredients find their way back on the shelves, still adulterated, researchers found.

In an analysis of products recalled between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2012, about two-thirds still contained banned ingredients when analyzed an average of nearly 3 years later, Pieter Cohen…and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Action by the FDA has not been completely effective in eliminating all potentially dangerous adulterated supplements from the U.S. marketplace,” they wrote. “More aggressive enforcement of the law, changes to the law to increase the FDA’s enforcement powers, or both will be required if sales of these products are to be prevented in the future…”

A total of 274 supplements had been recalled during the 4-year study period, and 27 of these met inclusion criteria and were analyzed. They had been purchased a mean of 34 months after FDA recalls.

Overall, they found that 67% of the recalled supplements still had pharmaceutical adulterants in them. In most cases (63%), it was the same adulterant identified by the FDA, but in some cases (22%) they contained different banned substances…Sometimes the products contained both the banned ingredient identified by FDA and additional adulterants, though the researchers did not give a specific percentage.

Cohen and colleagues also looked at supplements by type, finding that 85% of sports enhancement remained adulterated, along with 67% of weight-loss supplements, and 20% of sexual enhancement supplements…The majority…were made by U.S. manufacturers…

Golly. Think the manufacturers have anything to worry about? Will Congress spend as much time on this dangerous crap as they do on fancier – and useless – policies like examining planes landing from West Africa for Ebola? Since there are no planes landing in the United States directly from West Africa!

The Party of NO, Congressional Republicans care less about the health of Americans than almost anything else. Watching an assembly of hypocrites join and mingle in a dance of meaningless slogans is about as productive as guarding a landfill from scavengers. A healthy society has no need for garbage-pickers.

Meanwhile, the FDA has toothless authority to stop crap from being sold over-the-counter as diet supplements.

Taliban Tea Party advances their tactics


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The Taliban Tea Party will continue to press forward towards their version of the 19th Century whether or not the rest of the Republican Party volunteers. The Koch Bros will continue their funding at least as long as their ilk funded the John Birch Society.

The only surprise has been the number of Republicans in elective office with as little backbone as Democrats. You would think that with as many years experience as some have, dedication to Big Business and Capitalism as a class would trump fealty to Big Oil and extractive industries alone – and the promise of more support for hating women, Latinos, Black people, trade unions, intelligentsia, artists and pretty much everyone outside the borders of the GOUSA.

Turkey’s EU membership bid falters — Germany unrelenting

Turkey’s chances of a breaking a three-year stalemate and relaunching its bid to join the European Union look like being dashed because of the government’s ruthless response to three weeks of street protests amid worsening friction between Ankara and Berlin.

The foreign ministry in Berlin summoned the Turkish ambassador to Germany on Friday to explain the harsh language directed at the chancellor, Angela Merkel, by Egemen Bağis, the Turkish official in charge of negotiations with the EU.

Merkel had said earlier this week that she was “appalled at the very tough” response by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in ordering riot police to clear central Istanbul of thousands of protesters last weekend.

Bağis accused the chancellor of playing domestic politics, said that anyone using Turkey for political purposes would suffer “an inauspicious end” and warned of severe retaliation if the negotiations were called off.

Turkey opened negotiations to join the EU eight years ago, at the same time as Croatia. While Croatia joins next week as the 28th member, Turkey’s bid has been frozen for three years…Merkel and the German centre-right remain firmly opposed to Turkey joining. Her Christian Democrats’ draft manifesto for the general elections in September states: “We reject full membership for Turkey because it does not meet the conditions for EU entry…”

Negotiations were supposed to resume next week after a long hiatus because the French president, François Hollande, lifted the block imposed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a gesture of goodwill. Talks were to take place on regional development, an issue that could have influenced Ankara’s policy towards parts of the south-east populated mainly by Kurds who have long been campaigning for greater rights and more devolved government.

But Germany and the Netherlands are refusing a green light for next week’s resumption, triggering a European debate over the most sensible response to the turmoil in Turkey.

Discussions about how to respond to the turmoil in Turkey have nothing to do with either the causes of the turmoil or core reasons for the refusal of admittance. The turmoil results from a populist government trying to cure every modernist problem it sees with the hammer of suppression.

Rejection of Turkey’s membership in the greater economy the EU affords is a twofold reaction to a government in Turkey led by a liar and hypocrite. The years of Erdoğan’s populist government have been characterized by his wink and a nod to a goal of crushing modernism, secular freedoms central to Turkey’s constitution. He’s given the wink to his rural religious supporters and nodded assent to the constitution – while plotting its demise.

Background checks might be useful – if there was enough oversight to guarantee they’re not phony!

Investigators charged with conducting background checks of U.S. national-security workers have falsified records and aren’t receiving adequate oversight, according to an inspector general’s testimony.

One worker fabricated 1,600 credit checks before it was discovered her own background investigation had been falsified, Patrick McFarland, inspector general…said in prepared testimony…obtained by Bloomberg News.

While 18 investigators, including contract and government employees, have been convicted of falsifying reports since 2006, McFarland said the inspector general’s office lacks the resources to clear a backlog of an additional 36 cases.

“My office has been alarmed for several years about the lack of oversight,” he said in his written testimony. “Our resources remain woefully inadequate, preventing us from performing the level of oversight that such an important program requires.”

The disclosure of secret documents describing two U.S. surveillance programs by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who…had a top-secret clearance, has called attention to the government’s process of vetting people who handle sensitive information.

Two Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittees plan to hold a hearing addressing the government’s security-clearance process…

The Office of Personnel Management is responsible for some 90 percent of the background investigations of U.S. government employees and contractors. The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security are the biggest users of the program.

The personnel office conducts more than 2 million investigations a year, according to its website. It vets applicants for federal agency jobs and applicants for security clearances.

While the personnel office charges other federal agencies to conduct the checks, it isn’t allowed to include the cost of the inspector general’s oversight in its prices, according to McFarland.

Which gives you an accurate pictures of how much necessity is placed on oversight by the folks who approve budgets. House of Representatives isn’t it?

Whining about the cost of budgets, deficit ratios, and mouthing off about federal taxes still seems to be the highest priority among today’s conservative politicians. Perish the thought they check on whether or not anything is being accomplished.