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March 28, 2014

Ever since Edward Snowden leaked documents suggesting (probably erroneously) that the National Security Agency had unfettered access to Google's servers, Google has been pretty tetchy about its customer-privacy safeguards.

But blog posts about transparency and legal processes are boring, so Google hired the ad agency Enso to produce a stop-motion video using wooden figures on a game board. Whether or not this reassures you that your Gmail account is in safe hands, I think we can all agree that it beats reading a dry article on the subject. --Peter Weber

Clashing values
10:16 a.m. ET
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Kentucky's Rowan County isn't as conservative as this week's hoopla over issuing same-sex marriage licenses may have made it out to be, The Wall Street Journal reports. While the county's elected local clerk, Kim Davis, has rejected same-sex marriage in her refusal to grant marriage licenses, the county's demographics and voting records suggest that not all of Rowan County shares Davis' conservative standings:

Rowan County is classified as a College Town in the American Communities Project, a data analysis project based at American University. It was one of only eight counties in Kentucky that voted for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2013, Morehead, the home of Morehead State, became only the sixth city in Kentucky to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people. [The Wall Street Journal]

However, while Rowan County may have less socially conservative leanings, it is nestled amid counties classified as "Working Class Country counties," which The Wall Street Journal reports are "places that are marked by strong socially conservative attitudes and values." While 56 percent of those in counties classified as College Towns support gay marriage, a 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that only 36 percent of those in Working Class Country counties do.

The juxtaposition of that conservatism with Rowan County's more liberal leanings might be exactly why tensions between religion and social issues erupted there this week. Read the full analysis of Rowan County over at The Wall Street Journal. Becca Stanek

welcome to the good life
9:45 a.m. ET

Forget Thomas Dewey and Harry S. Truman: There's a new triumphant presidential upset brewing. Just ask The New Yorker:

The cover is for the magazine's Sept. 14 issue, out next week. Start preparing your "President West" playlists accordingly. Kimberly Alters

Presidential polling
9:01 a.m. ET
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

There's one 2016 matchup that Donald Trump doesn't stand a chance at winning, a new Monmouth University poll finds. While The Donald dominates just about everyone else in the Republican field in a head-to-head matchup, he loses to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson by a whopping 19 percentage points. Faced with the choice of Trump versus Carson, voters chose Carson over Trump, 55 percent to 36 percent.

However, outside of a head-to-head matchup, Trump still leads Carson — and everyone else — by a strong margin in the national polls. The Monmouth University Poll shows Trump in first place with 30 percent of the vote, followed by Carson with 18 percent of the vote. But even if Carson isn't beating Trump in the national polls just yet, Trump had still better watch his back. Carson is quickly gaining traction among Republican voters, with support for him up 5 percent from the last Monmouth poll taken before the Republican debate.

The poll, conducted between August 31 and September 2, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points. Becca Stanek

Jobs Numbers
8:32 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The American economy added 173,000 jobs in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. It's a definite downgrade from the 215,000 initially reported in July, and the 244,000 average of the past year. But on the plus side, both June and July numbers were revised up: from 231,000 to 245,000, and from 215,000 to 245,000, respectively.

On top of that, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent, while the labor force participation held steady for the third month in a row at 62.6 percent. Average hourly earnings rose 2.2 percent from where they were a year ago.

Analysts were expecting 217,000 new jobs, an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent, and 2.1 percent growth in average hourly earnings.

Earnings growth is still flat compared to what a real recovery would signal, and even at the higher 244,000 average rate of job creation, the hole in the economy will not close until well into 2017. Jeff Spross

European migrant crisis
8:18 a.m. ET

Keleti, the central international train station in Budapest, Hungary, has essentially turned into a refugee camp, with 3,000 refuges from Syria and other conflict areas camped out, trying to get to Germany and Austria but prevented from leaving by the Hungarian government. A train purportedly bound for Germany that left the station with hundreds of migrants on Thursday was stopped a short distance away, in Bicske, and surrounded by armed police who planned to escort the migrants to a nearby camp for Syrians and others seeking asylum. The passengers, some of whom bought tickets to Berlin or Austria, have refused to get off the train; they want to apply for asylum in Germany or Sweden or another wealthy country.

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban has taken a hardline stand against refugees, building a fence to try to keep them out and saying on national radio Friday, "We have to make it clear that we can't allow everyone in, because if we allow everyone in, Europe is finished." As this video montage from the BBC shows, many of the Syrians that are fleeing now are middle class or even wealthy, reluctantly leaving their homes as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bombs some areas indiscriminately, Islamic State captures more territory, and the economy goes into freefall. Lebanon and Jordan have reached their limits and are turning away refugees, The New York Times says, steering the wave of migrants to Europe. But on Friday, ground zero of the crisis is in Budapest. Here, from the BBC, are scenes of what that looks like. Peter Weber

Ancient artifacts
8:10 a.m. ET

When archaeologists overturned a marble stone at Kerameikos Cemetery in Athens, they discovered the first known place in the city where Apollo, the ancient Greek god of prophecy, was invoked to foretell the future. The Greek Culture Ministry announced Friday the discovery of an ancient well bearing inscriptions calling upon Apollo, leading archaeologists to surmise that Kerameikos seers used the site for "hydromancy rituals," in which Ancient Origins reports seers would consult "the waters to see if the god would deliver messages or visions in them." Archaeologists believe the well was in use in early Roman times.

Archaeology News Network notes that this finding is "exceptionally significant as it identifies the spot as the first and unique Apollo divination site in Athens, confirming the worship of the ancient god." The well's wall bears a phrase meaning 'Come to me Paean, and bring the truthful prophecy,' alongside 20 or so other similar inscriptions. Apollo was likely worshipped at the site along with his twin sister Artemis, goddess of the wilds, chastity, and girls. Becca Stanek

campaign 2016
6:56 a.m. ET

Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech on national security in Atlanta on Thursday night, and in the process made his most extended public statement on whether or not he will seek the Democratic nomination in 2016. The short version: He doesn't know. He's not thinking about his potential rivals or fundraising or the challenge in setting up a national campaign apparatus, Biden said, sometimes getting emotional. "The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run," he explained. "The factor is, can I do it? The honest to God answer is I just don't know."

After losing a son and a brother, Beau Biden, earlier this year, "can my family undertake what is an arduous commitment?" Biden asked. "Unless I can go to my party and the American people and say I am able to devote my whole heart and soul to this endeavor, it would not be appropriate." You can watch his comments below. Peter Weber

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