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Russian trolls are planting feel-good stories in your social media feed in a new effort to subvert US democracy: report

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Anyone who spends much time on social media probably saw a viral tweet posted in late August about former NFL star Warrick Dunn’s charity work building homes for single mothers.

That tweet posted Aug. 22 by the account @IamTyraJackson drew nearly 290,000 likes — about three times more than the typical tweet by President Donald Trump — and represents the next phase in Russian disinformation campaigns against the U.S., reported Rolling Stone.

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Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, pair of experts on social media and propaganda, believe that account was set up by the successors to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) to harvest followers for another round of divisive political messaging.

The IRA was indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference in 2016, and Linvill and Warren have identified the Tyra Jackson account as part of a new effort to exploit American biases.

“Professional trolls are good at their job,” the pair wrote. “They have studied us. They understand how to harness our biases (and hashtags) for their own purposes. They know what pressure points to push and how best to drive us to distrust our neighbors. The professionals know you catch more flies with honey. They don’t go to social media looking for a fight; they go looking for new best friends. And they have found them.”

The authors identified another account, @PoliteMelanie, that repackaged an urban legend claiming that 55 percent of conservative Christians would disown their children if they came out as “homo sapiens” — and that post garnered 90,000 retweets and nearly 300,000 likes.

“This tweet didn’t seek to anger conservative Christians or to provoke Trump supporters,” Linvill and Warren wrote. “She wasn’t even talking to them. Melanie’s 20,000 followers, painstakingly built, weren’t from #MAGA America (Russia has other accounts targeting them). Rather, Melanie’s audience was made up of educated, urban, left-wing Americans harboring a touch of self-righteousness. She wasn’t selling her audience a candidate or a position — she was selling an emotion. Melanie was selling disgust. The Russians know that, in political warfare, disgust is a more powerful tool than anger. Anger drives people to the polls; disgust drives countries apart.”

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Tyra Jackson and Melanie pushed out other messages to their new followers consistent with past Russian disinformation about Brock Turner’s Stanford rape case and police targeting black people in Las Vegas — and that’s where things get tricky.

“Here is what makes disinformation so difficult to discuss,” wrote Linvill and Warren. “While these tweets point to valid issues of concern — issues that have been central to important social movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo — they are framed to serve Russia’s interests in undermining Americans’ trust in our institutions.”

The researchers found that Russia-linked accounts pushed support for Trump and sought to depress voter turnout for Hillary Clinton, but those efforts existed before the former reality TV star entered electoral politics — and they generated more content after his unlikely election win.

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“Russia’s goals are to further widen existing divisions in the American public and decrease our faith and trust in institutions that help maintain a strong democracy,” wrote Linvill and Warren.

“Their work was never just about elections,” the pair added. “Rather, the IRA encourages us to vilify our neighbor and amplify our differences because, if we grow incapable of compromising, there can be no meaningful democracy. Russia has dug in for a long campaign. So far, we’re helping them win.”

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SNL imagines Alan Dershowitz and Mitt Romney in hell during impeachment trial sketch

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NBC's "Saturday Night Live"

The skit began with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) meeting with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about impeachment.

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McConnell then showed up and thanked the devil for teaching him "that thing with Merrick Garland."

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CNN’s Don Lemon collapses on his desk in laugher as guests Rick Wilson and Wajahat Ali dunk on Trump

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CNN anchor Don Lemon was infected with a case of the giggles Saturday night while discussing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Lemon was joined by two hilarious guests, New York Times contributing op-ed writer Wajahat Ali and Rick Wilson, the author of the bestselling 2018 book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever and the new book Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump -- and Democrats from Themselves.

The three were discussing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interview with “All Things Considered” host Mary Louise Kelly, where he reportedly demanded she point to Ukraine on a blank map.

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2020 Election

Amy Klobuchar wins endorsement in first in the nation primary from the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) received a big endorsement on Saturday evening when her 2020 bid was endorsed by the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper.

"If there is to be any realistic challenge to Trump in November, the Democratic nominee needs to have a proven and substantial record of accomplishment across party lines, an ability to unite rather than divide, and the strength and stamina to go toe-to-toe with the Tweeter-in-Chief," the newspaper wrote. "That would be U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She is sharp and witty, with a commanding understanding of both history and the inner workings of Capitol Hill."

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