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Democratic lawmaker: Citizens United puts US on path to fascism

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The US Supreme Court’s striking down of nearly a century’s worth of campaign finance laws means the US government can now be “bought” and the country may be headed for fascism, says an outgoing Democratic House representative.

In an interview this week, Rep. John Hall (D-NY), who lost his seat in the mid-term elections, told the New York Observer that he sees a threat to American democracy in the court’s ruling.

“I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called fascism. So that’s really the question — is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?”

The Citizens United decision upended decades of campaign finance regulation, allowing corporations, unions and other groups to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns without having to identify themselves. In a decision split along ideological lines, the court ruled that restrictions on spending amounted to a violation of First Amendment rights. Others have challenged the notion that corporations and other organizations have the “personhood” needed to be granted constitutional rights.

Hall was a key player in efforts to mitigate the effects of the Citizens United decision. He backed the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required groups to identify themselves when campaigning. Hall added provisions to the bill limiting the ability of foreign corporations to spend money on US elections. But, after passing the House, the bill was defeated by filibuster in the Senate.

“The country was bought,” Hall told the Observer, arguing that the Citizens United decision was one of the reasons Democrats lost control of the House.

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The influx of unregulated cash into election campaigns has been linked to an increase in misinformation in campaign ads. CBS reported in October:

Outside groups, which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections this year (largely on behalf of Republicans), are most likely to stretch or ignore the truth on their advertising. These groups, which have exploded in size and influence in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, are often funded by donors whose identities are not revealed to the public.

Hall said that Bush appointees Samuel Alito and John Roberts “claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges [but] made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race.”

He described Alito and Roberts as “extremists.”

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Hall also suggested that the health care reform package may have contributed to the Democrats’ electoral losses. He said he and other Democrats were warned during the debate that it could cost them their House seats.

“I don’t think that is the only reason why I lost but if it is I am OK with it,” he said.

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Sailing among the stars: Here’s how photons could revolutionize space flight

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A few days from now, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will lift off from Florida, carrying a satellite the size of a loaf of bread with nothing to power it but a huge polyester "solar sail."

It's been the stuff of scientists' dreams for decades but has only very recently become a reality.

The idea might sounds crazy: propelling a craft through the vacuum of space with no engine, no fuel, and no solar panels, but instead harnessing the momentum of packets of light energy known as photons -- in this case from our Sun.

The spacecraft to be launched on Monday, called LightSail 2, was developed by the Planetary Society, a US organization that promotes space exploration which was co-founded by the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980.

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Russians to prod Putin on poverty and his personal life as his ratings tank

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Russians are set to ask President Vladimir Putin about growing poverty at home and tensions abroad during an annual televised phone-in Thursday, which comes following a fall in his approval ratings.

The leader is also likely to face a degree of grilling on his personal life, according to questions submitted by the public online ahead of the live show.

Set to be held for the 17th time since Putin came to power in 1999, the show starts at 0900 GMT and usually lasts several hours.

Ahead of the carefully choreographed show, more than one million questions had been submitted, organisers told Russian news agencies.

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Trump could turn on Hope Hicks just like Michael Cohen: Trump family biographer warns

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Trump family biographer Emily Jane Fox explained that she didn't think that the president would turn on long-time aide Hope Hicks, but then again, it was the same thought about Michael Cohen as well.

In a panel discussion about Hicks' testimony during MSNBC's Brian Williams' Wednesday show, Fox recalled that Micahel Cohen once said that he would take a bullet for the president. Once it appeared that Trump would throw him under the bus, Cohen began looking for a way out.

The same scenario seems to be happening with Hicks now.

"She works at new Fox, which is a company run by a Murdoch son," Fox said. "It's a company that's brand new. She's the head of communications there. And there are shareholders who would take issue with the fact that a senior member of this company is being put in this situation and being thrust on the world stage."

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