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August 26, 2014
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Through a National Science Foundation grant, the federal government is bankrolling a database of "suspicious memes" and other "false and misleading" political ideas posted on social media. So far, nearly $1 million has been spent on the plan, which is based at Indiana University and known as "Truthy," inspired by comedian Stephen Colbert's concept of "truthiness."

A major focus of the project is determining whether memes are created by professional political activists or regular internet users. Truthy's "About" page suggests that such content distributed by the "shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns" is just one example of "political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution" lurking on social networks. The ultimate goal of the project, as explained in the NSF grant, seems to include suppression of this content: "[Truthy] could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate." Bonnie Kristian

2:10 p.m. ET
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America is floundering in its intense rivalry with Europe to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world, Smithsonian reports. While the orange fruit is a New World native, farmers in Belgium, Switzerland, and Britain are approaching the benchmark of growing a 3,000-pound pumpkin while America lags behind. "They're doing very well, and I tip my hat to them," said Rhode Island pumpkin grower Ron Wallace, who, in addition to being a very good sport, grew the first squash to ever break 1,500 pounds in 2006.

America used to reign in the pumpkin department specifically because the plants adore the ideal environment of New England. "Summer days are in the mid-80s, maximizing photosynthesis without desiccating the bloated fruit, and the semi-northerly locale means bonus sunlight hours throughout the growing season," Smithsonian writes. "By June the burgeoning giants are growing at an exponential rate, and by August, they're packing on one to two pounds per hour, while guzzling about 100 gallons of water every day."

Europe, though, has figured out how to remedy its less-than-ideal meteorological conditions:

Europe's subsequent rise has been defined by the controversy over indoor growing. The Old World's big players cluster in Northern Europe, where the weather is often harsher than New England's. However, high-tech greenhouses with heating and air-conditioning, irrigation systems, automatic fertilization, and other frills allow growers to mimic, and in the last few seasons, maybe even improve upon a New England-like climate. There are no ravenous white-tailed deer in greenhouses, and it can be a perfect June afternoon in Vermont every day of the year. [Smithsonian]

That's good news if you like pumpkins big enough to be watercrafts — but bad news if you're an amateur pumpkin grower toiling in America's Northeast. Read more about how farmers and plant scientists are racing to grow the biggest pumpkin at Smithsonian. Jeva Lange

1:28 p.m. ET
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A copy of an Adolf Hitler speech was found in the home of a man accused of killing two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last week in what authorities now suspect were racially motivated attacks, The Associated Press reports.

Donald Smart, 49, a dishwasher, and Bruce Cofield, 59, who was homeless, were at first thought to have been killed randomly two days apart. Police have since charged Kenneth Gleason, 23, who is white, with two counts of second-degree murder as well as for allegedly shooting into the home of a black family in an incident where no one was injured. Gleason's DNA was found on shell casings in his car that matched ammo used in the attacks, The Advocate reports.

If Gleason had not been arrested last week, "he could have potentially created a terror in the fabric that holds this community together," said Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam on Tuesday.

District Attorney Hillar Moore said that if Gleason is convicted, his case "would qualify for the death penalty."

"It appears to be cold, calculated, planned [against] people who were unarmed and defenseless," Moore said. "We don't need to prove motive. There are a lot of things that are unanswered." Read more about the case at The Advocate. Jeva Lange

12:19 p.m. ET

John Bolton, a United Nations ambassador under former President George W. Bush, deemed President Trump's debut address Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly "the best of the Trump presidency." Bolton, known for his neoconservative views, heaped praise on Trump for vowing to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatens the U.S or its allies and for calling out Iran as a "rogue state," points Bolton described as the "centerpiece of the speech." "I think it's safe to say, in the entire history of the United Nations, there has never been a more straightforward criticism of the behavior, the unacceptable behavior, of other member states," Bolton said on Fox News, where he's now a contributor.

Bolton was also pleased with Trump's blunt criticisms of the Iran deal, which he said made clear this administration will not put up with "half-measures and compromises." Bolton's personal favorite line, however, was Trump's remark that Venezuela is in crisis because "socialism has been faithfully implemented." "There are a lot of people in the U.N. who have never heard anything like that from an American president," Bolton said. "I think this was an outstanding speech, and I think it will serve the president very well."

Watch Bolton praise Trump's speech below. Becca Stanek

12:17 p.m. ET
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Moscow unveiled a 30-foot-tall bronze monument to the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle on Tuesday in a ceremony that "contained no mention of the untold millions of people who have been killed or maimed by the weapon since its creation in 1947," The New York Times reports. Instead, the chairman of the Russian Military Historical Society, Vladimir Medinsky, praised Lt. General Mikhail Kalashnikov, citing the rifle designer as being "the embodiment of the best elements in a Russian man," Russia's Tass News Agency reports.

"[Kalashnikov's] extraordinary natural aptitude, simplicity, integrity, and organizational talent helped him create a whole range of weapons to protect the motherland, among which is, of course, the Kalashnikov assault rifle, a true Russian cultural brand," Medinsky said.

The statue, which is mounted on a 13-foot-tall pedestal, depicts a larger-than-life Kalashnikov holding an AK-47 "like a violin," in the words of the local media.

Muscovites weighed in on the statue to The Moscow Times, with Sveta Agayan, 26, asking, "What's not to like? The size is good. And people should know their heroes." Nadezhda Yermakova, 46, said she also liked the statue, telling The Moscow Times: "I would want my children to know what he's done for the motherland."

One lone protester demonstrated against the statue at the unveiling ceremony with a sign that read "a creator of weapons is a creator of death," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. The use of AK-47s kill an estimated 250,000 people annually, The Guardian writes. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m. ET

Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee sent a letter on Monday to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) expressing her "deep concerns" about his proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. "In its current form, the harm to Louisiana from this legislation far outweighs any benefit," Gee wrote about the health-care bill, which was introduced last week by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as the Republican Party's last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Gee wrote that she's particularly concerned about the consequences that ending Medicaid expansion in 2020 would have for Cassidy's home state. She noted that in "only one year," Louisiana has been "able to provide more than 433,000 Louisianians with coverage, resulting in more than 100,000 primary care visits, tens of thousands of screenings for cancer, and thousands of new mental health services." "This would be a detrimental step backwards for Louisiana," she wrote, warning that the bill's proposal to end the expansion could cause "thousands" of Louisianians to "lose coverage and access."

She also worried that the Graham-Cassidy bill includes the "same per capita cuts" as the summer's failed health-care bill, which would have resulted "in profound cuts to Louisiana's most vulnerable citizens, including children, the disabled, and pregnant women." Also problematic, Gee wrote, is the fact that the plan makes it easier for states to waive essential health benefits and price protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions or "complex and costly conditions." "Finally, this bill, like ones before it, uniquely and disproportionally hurts Louisiana," she wrote.

Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill with a majority vote. Three 'no' votes in the Senate would kill it. Already, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has come out firmly as a 'no,' and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is expected to oppose it, too.

Read Gee's letter in full below. Becca Stanek

11:01 a.m. ET

President Trump informed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that some countries are "going to hell." "Major portions of the world are in conflict and some in fact are going to hell," Trump said in his debut U.N. address in New York City. Reuters' Jeff Mason noted that leaders at the U.N. meeting reacted "seemingly in bafflement."

On a brighter note, Trump assured the diplomats and world leaders gathered for the annual meeting that the "powerful people in this room" can "solve many of these vicious and complex problems." In his wide-ranging speech, Trump specifically identified North Korea and Iran as among those problems, warning that North Korea's "Rocket Man" (a.k.a. Kim Jong Un) is "on a suicide mission" and deeming the Iranian government an "economically depleted rogue state" whose chief export is violence.

It was not immediately clear if these were the countries Trump believes are going to hell. Becca Stanek

10:55 a.m. ET
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

In his debut address before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Trump doubled down on his America First outlook as he warned of the threats posed by "rogue regimes."

He declared that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he referred to as "Rocket Man," is "on a suicide mission," and noted that the U.S. "will have no choice but to totally destroy" the country if it threatens the U.S or its allies. Vowing to "stop radical Islamic terrorism," Trump also referred to the Iranian government as an "economically depleted rogue state" whose chief export is violence.

"Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell," Trump said. Becca Stanek

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