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Republican propaganda sites pretending to be local newspapers are on the rise: report

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Susan Collins photo by Keith Mellnick

A new pay-for-play network is popping up with the purpose of promoting Republican candidates or smearing their rivals – and readers might not even know it.
The websites implement templates that legitimize the source with titles such as Des Moines Sun, Ann Arbor Times and Empire State Today. But behind the localized content, many of the stories being published are placed by political groups and corporate P.R. firms.

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Maine Business Daily is part of a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country. Yet the network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public relations professionals, an investigation by The New York Times found.

The investigation uncovered that the network is largely overseen by TV reporter turned internet entrepreneur Brian Timpone, a Texas brand-management consultant and a conservative Chicago radio personality.

Interviews were compiled with 30 current and former employees, clients, as well as thousands of internal emails between reporters and editors spanning several years. Employees of the network shared emails and the editing history in the site’s publishing software that revealed who requested dozens of articles and how, according to the Times.

It was also revealed that client packages for $2,000 were being sold by a salesman for Timpone. These packages included running five articles and unlimited news releases with the stipulation that some articles would be decided by the reporter and not the client, necessarily.

Ben Ashkar, the chief operating officer of Locality Labs, one of the companies connected to the sites, said he didn’t think people could pay for coverage.

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“I hope not,” he said. “How would I know? Honestly I don’t think people are paying.”

“It’s astounding to see how quickly the sites have popped up across the country in an attempt to fill the news void,” said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina journalism professor. She estimated that  approximately 2,100 newspapers have folded across the country since 2004, a 25 percent decline.


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Moon may be richer in water than thought — and it could help propel humans farther from earth

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There may be far more water on the Moon than previously thought, according to two studies published Monday raising the tantalising prospect that astronauts on future space missions could find refreshment -- and maybe even fuel -- on the lunar surface.

The Moon was believed to be bone dry until around a decade ago when a series of findings suggested that our nearest celestial neighbour has traces of water trapped in the surface.

Two new studies published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggest there could be much more water than previously thought, including ice stored in permanently shadowed "cold traps" at lunar polar regions.

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Asymptomatic coronaagvirus sufferers lose antibodies sooner: study

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Asymptomatic coronavirus sufferers appear to lose detectable antibodies sooner than people who have exhibited Covid-19 symptoms, according to one of the biggest studies of its kind in Britain published on Tuesday.

The findings by Imperial College London and market research firm Ipsos Mori also suggest the loss of antibodies was slower in 18–24 year-olds compared to those aged 75 and over.

Overall, samples from hundreds of thousands of people across England between mid-June and late September showed the prevalence of virus antibodies fell by more than a quarter.

The research, commissioned by the British government and published Tuesday by Imperial, indicates people's immune response to Covid-19 reduces over time following infection.

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2020 Election

Early voting to be hit by heavy rain and flooding as Hurricane Zeta barrels towards the Gulf Coast

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Hurricane Zeta is expected to make landfall near Louisiana's border with Mississippi on Wednesday evening as campaigns work to get supporters to the polls and convince any undecided voters to back their candidate.

"Hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge are possible along portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and Storm Surge and Hurricane Watches are in effect," the National Hurricane Center warned.

"Between Tuesday night and Thursday, heavy rainfall is expected from portions of the central Gulf Coast into the southern Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic states near and in advance of Zeta. This rainfall will lead to flash, urban, small stream, and minor river flooding," the center explained.

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