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August 13, 2014

The public debate over net neutrality isn't much of a debate, if the 1.1 million public comments on the Federal Communication Commission's proposed "open internet" rules are any guide. Wading through more than a million comments — the second-most the FCC has ever received on an issue, after the 1.4 million comments about Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction — is a daunting task. How do you make sense of that much data?

The Knight Foundation commissioned data visualization and analysis firm Quid to dig into the public comments and sift out common themes. Quid looked at a sample of 250,000 comments, then created this cluster map, shared via NPR's All Tech Considered:

(Quid, via NPR)

More than 30 percent of the comments were from letters or templates, primarily from five major advocacy groups — four in favor of net neutrality, one opposed — and Quid collapsed each template into one comment. The largest cluster of comments (15 percent) focused on how a pay-to-play system — proponents call it a fast-lane for web services willing to pay and a regular lane for everybody else — would harm the diversity of the internet.

But "taken with the entire body of comments sampled, there weren't enough unique or organic anti-net-neutrality comments to register on the map," explains NPR's Elise Hu.

The FCC's commenters are obviously a self-selected sample, and Quid also looked into their demographics. So, who are they? Men, mostly: Only 29 percent of the comments Quid studied appeared to be from women. And certain areas of the country were more prone to comment, as Quid shows in this map:

Historically, though, public comments don't have much impact on FCC rule-making, George Washington University law professor Richard Pierce told NPR in July. Data-rich input from industry sources is much more influential, he said, but there is a good way for the FCC commissioners to gauge the temperature of the country: "Take a look at things like public opinion polls," he said. "A public opinion poll is a far more reliable indicator of what the public thinks about an issue like net neutrality than a bunch of postcards or one-liners." Peter Weber

10:44 a.m. ET

The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to publicly testify at Wednesday's hearing on the ongoing Russia probe. Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) confirmed Tuesday that they requested Manafort's participation after they were "unable to reach an agreement for a voluntary transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee."

Manafort has agreed to a single interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee about his participation in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, but his notes and comments would unavailable to the Judiciary Committee. Grassley and Feinstein said they may excuse Manafort from the hearing if he agrees to an interview.

Read the Senate Judiciary Committee's entire statement below. Becca Stanek

10:26 a.m. ET
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Arizona residents perusing their state's official driver's license manual will find new information on how to interact with law enforcement roadside — or, in the words of state Rep. Reginald Bolding (D), who helped add the language to the handbook, how to avoid getting shot by the cops.

"When you look at what's taken place across the country, you have seen a majority of individuals who are people of color that have had higher incidence of interactions with law-enforcement officers, particularly in shootings," Bolding, who is black, explains. "Hopefully we can get to a place where that's not the reality."

The idea to add this update to the manual was particularly inspired by the death of Philando Castile, the black motorist in Minnesota who was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in front of his girlfriend and her young daughter. Bolding consulted with eight Arizona police departments and said he received eight different sets of conflicting advice. He ended up working with his state's departments of transportation and public safety to come up with something more consistent.

"I recognize this won't solve all officer-involved shootings," Bolding concedes. "I do hope that this could potentially save a life by giving a recommendation of what to do." You can read the resultant guidance beginning on page 56 of this PDF version of the manual. Bonnie Kristian

9:55 a.m. ET
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President Trump lambasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter on Tuesday, and new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci as well as incoming Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders each strongly suggested in interviews the same morning that Sessions' days in office are numbered.

Scaramucci was speaking with Hugh Hewitt when he said the radio host is "probably right" in his comment that "the president wants [Sessions] gone." "I don't want to speak for the president on that because he's a Cabinet official and I sort of think that has to be between the president of the United States and the Cabinet official," Scaramucci added, labeling Trump "obviously frustrated" with the situation.

Sanders was speaking on Fox & Friends when she made similar remarks. Trump's "frustration [with Sessions] certainly hasn't gone away," she said. "And you know, I don't think it will." Bonnie Kristian

9:17 a.m. ET
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People are not pleased that President Trump decided to unload the details of his electoral victory and political battles onto America's youth during his speech Monday night at the quadrennial Boy Scout Jamboree. In Trump's freewheeling speech before 30,000 Boy Scouts, he jokingly threatened a Republican senator and his Health and Human Services secretary over the ObamaCare repeal; criticized Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama; and pondered whether the "fake media" would miscount his "record-setting" crowd.

The official Boy Scouts of America Facebook page quickly filled up with comments expressing outrage and concern. "I have no problem with a president speaking to scouts but what occurred at Jamboree today was reprehensible ... One of the main concerns that leaders have is trying to recruit more scouts from minority communities; that effort was dealt a serious blow today," a father of three Scouts wrote. "As a Cub Scout den leader and mom of 2 scouts, I am livid," another commenter posted. "You owe all of us, especially the scouts who were present, a sincere apology and assurance that you are not okay with what happened."

Several other commenters demanded an apology and questioned how Trump's speech jives with Boy Scout values. "As the mother of two soon-to-be Eagles and the wife of an Eagle Scout, this man goes against everything scouting stands for," a commenter said. An Eagle Scout and 1985 Jamboree attendee posted that he was "still awaiting a statement denouncing the president's speech and his attempt to turn the BSA into the Trump Youth."

On Tuesday, Boy Scouts released a statement responding to the Trump backlash. "The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate, or philosophy," the statement said. "The invitation for the sitting U.S. president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any party or specific policies." Becca Stanek

8:30 a.m. ET
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Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is confident that his party won't repeal and replace ObamaCare. "Here we are, seven months into this year, and yet they've not passed this bill. Now, they're never — they're not going to repeal and replace ObamaCare," Boehner said at a private event last week in Las Vegas, of which The Washington Post obtained video footage.

Boehner explained "the American people have gotten accustomed to" ObamaCare at this point, so he suggested that Republicans' best bet at rolling back the health-care law is just to chip away at its tax provisions and regulations. "When it's all said and done, you're not going to have an employer mandate anymore, you're not going to have the individual mandate," Boehner said. "The Medicaid expansion will be there. The governors will have more control over their Medicaid populations and how to get them care, and a lot of ObamaCare taxes will probably go."

Boehner readily acknowledged that Republican leadership might not appreciate his candid commentary, especially as they're poised to vote Tuesday afternoon on health care. Boehner recalled the last time he made waves, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) texted him, "Gee, thanks."

Read more of Boehner's insights — including his advice to President Trump — over at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

8:16 a.m. ET
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In April, top U.S. military commanders strongly suggested that Russia has been arming the Afghan Taliban, whom the U.S. has been battling since 2001. On Tuesday, CNN presented footage it says backs up those claims. In the videos, two different Taliban factions show off weapons they claim were donated by Russia, in one case to a rival Taliban faction. The weapons — sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, and a variant of the Kalashnikov — have been scrubbed of any identifying marks. Russia has denied earlier reports that it is arming the Taliban.

In one video, a Taliban splinter group near Harat, in western Afghanistan, says the weapons it is displaying were seized from a mainstream Taliban group that attacked it. "These weapons were given to the fighters of Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran," said the faction's deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi. "The Russians are giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they are using them against us too." The second Taliban group, near Kabul, said they were given the weapons at no cost across the border with Tajikistan, probably from "the Russians."

CNN asked weapons experts from the Small Arms Survey to examine the videos, and the experts said there was nothing concrete to tie the arms to Moscow, though the lack of any identifying marks in itself was a little suspect. "The Russians have said that they maintain contact with the Taliban, we have lots of other reports from other people they are arming the Taliban," Afghan government spokesman Sediq Sediqi tells CNN. "There is no smoke without fire." You can watch the videos and read more about the weapons at CNN. Peter Weber

7:56 a.m. ET

Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski suggested Tuesday that President Trump's recent treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn't all that different from Trump's treatment of one of his greatest mortal enemies. "It feels like he's treating Sessions and many others along the way in this administration like Rosie O'Donnell," Brzezinski said.

Now, Trump has not called Sessions "crude, rude, obnoxious, and dumb" — all among the words he's used to describe O'Donnell in their decade-long insult battle. On Tuesday, however, Trump did call Sessions out on Twitter for his "VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes." The day before, Trump labeled Sessions "beleaguered."

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough contended that Trump's tweets indicate he's "still in that mindset" of his old days battling O'Donnell and "insulting each other back and forth." "It was just a media spectacle," Scarborough said. "He doesn't understand that when he's in Washington, D.C. and he is fighting his attorney general and he is fighting Bob Mueller and he is fighting James Comey that this isn't a media game."

When you're president you don't just "boost your ratings up," Scarborough quipped. "Even Rosie O'Donnell would say that — it's not a game," he added.

Watch it below. The O'Donnell comparison comes in around the 6:36 mark. Becca Stanek

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