March 25, 2014

People do all kinds of stupid, crazy things, but what kind of a monster sneaks into a zoo and beheads sleeping flamingos? Officials at Germany's Frankfurt Zoo want to know rather urgently, after discovering 15 dead Chilean flamingos late last week, several of them with severed necks. The attacks happened Thursday and Friday nights, and police and zookeepers are flummoxed. Three flamingos were killed at the same zoo in 2007, and that case was never solved.

"Who would do such a thing?" asked Germany's Die Welt on Monday. "Psychopaths? Was it a completely out-of-order test of courage among young people? Or was it Satanists?" The stab wounds in some birds point to a human culprit, though zoo director Manfred Niekisch says bite marks suggest foxes may have been involved — or bitten the animals after they were already dead. An oddly chilling factoid from the Associated Press: "Flamingos don't normally cry for help when attacked." --Peter Weber

8:03 a.m. ET

Donald Trump limps behind Hillary Clinton in available campaign funds going into the final 11-day stretch of the presidential race and to add salt to the wound, The Daily Beast has found that Trump's own children and inner circle have not ponied up money for his campaign. Ivanka Trump, who donated to Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2007 and 2008 respectively, has not given to her father, nor has Donald Trump Jr., who also contributed to Clinton in 2007. Tiffany Trump has also apparently given zilch. Eric Trump did donate — $376.20, labeled as "meeting expense: meals" — but he also appeared to get the money refunded.

Then there are Trump's own friends — Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson, Rudy Giuliani, and Trump's campaign manager, Steve Bannon — who have apprently not contributed anything, despite most having been active financial supporters of other candidacies in the past.

Trump himself has vowed to put $100 million of his own money into his campaign, but with less than two weeks left, he's totaled a smidgen under $57 million. He has been soliciting donations from his supporters since June.

By comparison, Clinton's own campaign chairman and daughter have both donated $2,700, with additional contributions from DNC chair Donna Brazile, Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook, and David Axelrod. Clinton had $62 million by Oct. 19 for the final stretch of the election, while Trump only had $16 million. Jeva Lange

7:52 a.m. ET

Maybe call it self-rigging the polls. A group of Republican activists, strategists, and operatives in 11 battleground states — Politico's Caucus group — overwhelmingly believes that Donald Trump's support is being undercounted in the polls, because people are embarrassed to admit that they are supporting the GOP nominee. "I personally know many Republicans that won't admit that they are voting for Trump," one Virginia Republican said in the anonymous survey. "I don't like admitting it myself. It won't matter if Hillary is up more than 5 points, but we might be in for a surprise if Hillary's lead is less than 5 points on Election Day."

While 71 percent of Politico's GOP insiders believe there is a "shy Trump" effect in play, 74 percent of Democrats say the polls aren't undercounting Trump voters.

There was no real evidence of a "shy Trump" effect in the Republican primaries, FiveThirtyEight found, and many of Politico's insiders said that even if there were bashful Trump voters out there, it probably wouldn't tip the scales — 59 percent of the GOP insiders said they think Clinton would win their state if the election were held right now. Republican insiders, of course, aren't Trump's best demographic. "He doesn't understand policy, he doesn't care about policy, and he's not a conservative," a Virginia GOP participant told Politico. "So you just handed a one-year-old an iPhone. He'll try to push the buttons but not in any manner that makes sense or works." Peter Weber

7:22 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Robust early October fundraising has left Hillary Clinton's campaign with a comfortable $62 million for the final days of the presidential election, while Donald Trump's own fundraising efforts over the same period of time disappointed, leaving him with only $16 million in his campaign coffers by Oct. 19, The Washington Post reports.

Trump's campaign raised just $28.9 million in the first 19 days of the month, filings show, down from $100 million in September; Clinton raised nearly double that, $57.2 million. Despite Trump's repeated claims that he will donate $100 million to his campaign by Election Day, his personal contributions total, to date, just over $56 million.

RealClearPolitics' average of the polls has Clinton up 5 points nationally; both candidates will be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday for different events. Jeva Lange

6:25 a.m. ET

Eleven days before Election Day, at least 12.6 million Americans have already voted in 37 states, according to data collected by CNN and Catalist. The partisan split is generally slightly better for Democrat Hillary Clinton than for President Obama in 2012, but that's not true across all key swing states — and early voting isn't all that predictive of which candidate actually wins in the end. Still, 12.6 million is a pretty impressive number.

To put it in context, 12.6 million is more than the entire Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, 11.2 million, and a little less than the total ballots cast in California (13.2 million), the largest and most electorally important state. It's roughly equal to the number of votes cast in 2012 in Florida and North Carolina combined, or the total population of Pennsylvania (12.8 million), and greater than the number of people who live in Ohio, 11.6 million.

If you want to know who's going to win the presidential race, you'll have to wait until the night of Nov. 8. But if you haven't cast your ballot yet, the BBC has a short reminder of things you shouldn't do in the voting booth (see: selfies) — inspired by this year's most famous early voter, Justin Timberlake. Peter Weber

5:07 a.m. ET

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave final approval to new rules that prevent broadband internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from collecting your private digital information and sharing it with third parties, unless you give your explicit permission. The 3-2 vote followed months of intense lobbying by the broadband industry, which opposes the new rules, and was welcomed by privacy and consumer advocates. "There is a basic truth: It is the consumer's information," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information."

Previously, internet providers could gather up your web browsing habits, location data, and app usage unless the consumer told them not to. They used this sometimes sensitive data to help advertisers target ads at users. The companies have a year to comply with the new rules. The broadband industry complained that the regulations will cost consumers by reducing the number of free, ad-supported services — though internet companies like Google and Facebook aren't directly affected, since they fall under the umbrella of the Federal Trade Commission, not FCC.

"For the first time, the public will be guaranteed that when they use broadband to connect to the internet, whether on a mobile device or personal computer, they will have the ability to decide whether and how much of their information can be gathered," Jeffrey Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy tells The New York Times. "Today the government did something that benefits you," said William Turton at Gizmodo. "Remember: There is literally zero benefit for you as a customer and user give up your personal information so that rich guys at tech companies or telecoms can sell it." Peter Weber

3:23 a.m. ET

For an operation that appears to be run via Donald Trump rally and Donald Trump tweets, Donald Trump's presidential campaign actually has a very sophisticated data-mining operation, called Project Alamo, that was detailed in BloombergBusinessweek on Thursday. Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon told Bloomberg that Trump has built the "underlying apparatus for a political movement" that will "dominate Republican politics" after the election, and Trump's digital director, Brad Parscale, added, "We own the future of the Republican Party." Megyn Kelly asked columnist Charles Krauthammer on Thursday's Kelly File if he thinks that is true.

Krauthammer said it depends on whether Trump wins. Any successful president, like Ronald Reagan, will dominate and change his party, Krauthammer said, and Trump is backed by a plurality of Republicans now. If Trump loses, however, what he does next is up to him. "If Trump decides to stay in the game, the first test will be whether he can successfully bring down Paul Ryan, who's become a nemesis of his, and then we'll know how transitive is his influence," Krauthammer said. Kelly was skeptical.

All along, she noted, Trump "has said, 'If I lose, this was all for nothing, it has been a complete waste of time, and I'm going to go back to running my successful business and, you know, focus on profit-making.'" It's up to Trump, and we don't know if he'll want to build a media empire, try to become a kingmaker, or return to his business, Kelly said. "But we know one thing from his entire life history," Krauthammer said. "He loves the spotlight, he finds it hard to be away from it." Win or lose, Trump will have changed, "he'll have acquired a powerful instrument, a political instrument — he didn't have that before he ran," Krauthammer said, and "it's extremely tempting because he built this, essentially on his own and out of nowhere, and he's got a lot of options. He's not the retiring type, you might have noticed." Kelly had noticed. They laughed. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:12 a.m. ET

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents this election, and he probably didn't help his chances to retain his seat in his debate Thursday night with his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Kirk had been pretty low-key in their first debate, but he was decidedly more feisty on Thursday night, accusing Duckworth of lying about a workplace discrimination lawsuit and calling her record of serving veterans "very questionable." His biggest hit, however, was also his loudest thud.

Duckworth had just explained why she wanted to serve in the Senate "when the drums of war sound," to explain the costs and risks of war. "My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution," she said. "I am a Daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation." That's not hyperbole — Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, and she lost both her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade took down her chopper in 2004. "I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington," Kirk said, apparently referring to the fact that Duckworth's mother is Thai of Chinese descent; Duckworth was also born in Thailand.

Kirk's comment was met with an awkward silence, then a moderator told Duckworth, "You're welcome to take some time to respond to that, too," and Duckworth laughed: "There's been members of my family serving on my father's side since the American Revolution.... I'm proud of both my father's side and my mother, who's an immigrant."

Kirk, who served as an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve for 23 years until a serious stroke prompted his retirement in 2013, had been urged by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to "stay out of the media" as much as possible this election, the Chicago Tribune reports, and he has mostly made news so far for being the first Republican to unendorse Donald Trump after Trump attacked a Mexican-American judge. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway joined the many jeers of Kirk's gaffe, because revenge is a dish best served five months later. Peter Weber

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