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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

12:45 p.m. ET

In his first major speech since leaving office, former President Barack Obama endorsed the idea of providing a universal basic income.

Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday, Obama raised the notion of guaranteed income as a way to reduce what he called "yawning disparities" in wealth, education, and security across different socioeconomic groups.

"It's not just money that a job provides," said Obama. "It provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. So we're going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review of our workweek, how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level. But we're going have to worry about economics if we want to get democracy back on track."

He additionally called on the rich to support higher taxation, saying that "you don't have to take a vow of poverty just to say 'let me help out a few of these folks.'"

Watch the moment, along with Obama's other suggestions for improving on these "strange and uncertain" times below, via NBC News. Summer Meza

12:00 p.m. ET

Former President Barack Obama said that these "strange and uncertain" times can only be combated with an effort to "keep marching" and "keep building" away from discrimination and institutional inequality.

Obama made his first major speech since leaving office at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday. He warned of "strongman politics" that are ascendant, "whereby elections and some pretense of democracy is maintained, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning." He additionally condemned "far-right" political parties that "are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism."

The former president voiced concern that the world is "threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal way of doing business," and worried that social media is helping spread "hatred, and paranoia, and propaganda, and conspiracy theories." He said that humanity is at a crossroads, and hoped that people would be willing to work towards accepting a single "objective reality" in order to keep politicians honest.

Watch his full speech below, via the Obama Foundation. Summer Meza

11:00 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been a powerhouse in the Senate for the last 26 years. She's also 85 years old, and even her own party thinks it's time for a fresh face.

Feinstein doesn't think so.

In an interview with Politico, the centrist Democrat said she doesn't "really feel that pressure" to give up her six-term Senate seat to welcome in a new Democrat. The most likely replacement would be California state Sen. Kevin de León (D), who is running against Feinstein this fall — and who received support from 54 percent of the state's Democratic Party delegates at their annual convention. Just 37 percent opted for Feinstein. Neither candidate achieved 60 percent of the vote, so a runoff gave de León the endorsement.

The 51-year-old de León declared the landslide victory an "astounding rejection of politics as usual" in a statement, Politico says. But Feinstein, who's known for her cautious yet progressive politics, doesn't think her time is up. "I'm sure some people think that way," she told Politico. "But I look at my vote, and there aren't a lot of people that can win every county in the state," referring to the results of California's June primary, which Feinstein definitively won.

Now, the Senate's oldest member — who even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has referred to as "your majesty" — is planning to take on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. And she told Politico that "there's no question" other Democrats will have their day — once she's done having hers.

Read more about Feinstein's refusal to let go at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:49 a.m. ET
JAVED TANVEER/AFP/Getty Images

The Afghan government is planning its second-ever ceasefire with the Taliban since the U.S. invasion in 2001, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.

The ceasefire is scheduled to coincide with a Muslim holiday in August. Its announcement comes close on the heels of a United Nations report that civilian deaths for the first six months of 2018 are at a record high since the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began tracking casualties in 2009.

Taliban leaders agreed to an initial ceasefire timed for another holiday in June. The agreement did not include foreign troops, like U.S. forces, and other militant groups, like the Islamic State, were not involved.

The new ceasefire is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban, the United States, and the Afghan government. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said he does not think a "military victory" is plausible in Afghanistan; rather, "the victory will be a political reconciliation" between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Bonnie Kristian

10:26 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's tariffs and the trade war they launched have not been kind to American farmers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has conceded.

"Farmers love their lifestyle, but they're businesspeople," he said at an event hosted by Axios. "They have to make a profit. They're some of the best patriots in America, but they can't pay the bills with patriotism." Perdue said he hopes to have a relief plan in place by the end of the summer.

The secretary made similar comments in a late June interview with the Chicago Tribune. "There's legitimate anxiety if it's your livelihood," he admitted, but argued farmers are "patriots" who understand trade war is necessary retaliation against "a country that has been unfair at trade practices for a number of years." Still, Perdue added, "it's kind of like a drought: 'When will it end?'"

China has levied a 25 percent tax on 545 U.S. imports, including agricultural products like soybeans, rice, beef, pork, and more. Soybean farmers expect a particularly hard hit, as China previously bought fully one-third of their product. Maine lobster harvesters are already suffering, as Chinese buyers turn to Canada — subject to a 7 percent lobster tariff — to avoid 35 to 40 percent tariffs on American lobsters.

Farmers may be willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, said the National Farm Union's Matt Purdue, but "there's a lot of anxiety and I think that anxiety is growing over time." Bonnie Kristian

10:07 a.m. ET

President Trump may have lost quite a few supporters since his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But one of the loudest conservative voices is still on his side.

Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro appeared on Fox & Friends on Tuesday, vehemently defending the president's refusal to condemn Russian meddling in American elections. During his Monday press conference with Putin, Trump implied that he believed Putin's denials of interference over the conclusion of American intelligence agencies — a statement an array of conservatives, and even the Fox & Friends hosts themselves, had slammed earlier that morning.

But Trump had to be cautious because Russia is one of the world's biggest nuclear powers, Pirro said Tuesday. Plus, he has already placed sanctions on the country. "Come on everybody, snap out of it," Pirro said. "What was he supposed to do? Take a gun out and shoot Putin?" Pirro sarcastically questioned. "Putin said, 'I didn't meddle in your election,' so the president should say, 'Hang on, let me execute this guy'?"

It's enough that Trump has recognized that meddling happened, Pirro said. And there are probably better ways to prevent it from happening again than a round of Russian roulette. Watch the whole clip below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:57 a.m. ET

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is not known for his restraint, but even he thinks President Trump went too far in his effort to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

"He has to reverse course immediately," said the Mooch in a Tuesday interview with CNN. "He's got to get out there as soon as possible before the concrete starts to set on this."

Scaramucci said that those who are loyal to Trump must now demonstrate their loyalty by setting him straight. "Loyalty right now requires you to tell the truth and sit with him and explain to him the optics of the situation," he told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on New Day. The former White House staffer said that he understood Trump's comments at the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as an effort to "suppress the anxiety and the antagonism" between the U.S. and Russia, but said Trump's strategy is "not working."

"You've got to back up the U.S. intelligence agencies here," said Scaramucci. Watch the Mooch offer Trump his words of wisdom below, via CNN. Summer Meza

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