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December 23, 2015
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Manipulating search engine results can sway undecided voters by 20 percent or more, according to a study from Robert Epstein and Ronald E. Roberston at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.

Their report shares the findings of five double-blind, randomized controlled experiments involving more than 4,500 voters in America and India:

The results of these experiments demonstrate that (i) biased search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more, (ii) the shift can be much higher in some demographic groups, and (iii) search ranking bias can be masked so that people show no awareness of the manipulation... Given that many elections are won by small margins, our results suggest that a search engine company has the power to influence the results of a substantial number of elections with impunity. [PNAS]

The researchers also found that search engines' influence on voter decisions would be greatest in "countries dominated by a single search engine company" — like, say, the United States, where two out of three searches are performed via Google. Bonnie Kristian

10:01 a.m. ET
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A black St. Louis, Missouri, police officer was shot by a colleague while off duty this week, an encounter in which the injured officer's lawyer says race was a factor. "In the police report you have so far, there is no description of a threat [the shooter] received," said attorney Rufus J. Tate Jr. in a local news interview. "So we have a real problem with that. But this has been a national discussion for the past two years. There is this perception that a black man is automatically feared."

The off-duty officer was at home when he heard commotion outside and took his police-issued firearm to investigate. When two cops pursuing a suspect saw him, they "ordered him to the ground." He complied, and was recognized by his coworkers, who told him "to stand up and walk toward them."

At that moment, a fourth officer arrived. "[F]earing for his safety and apparently not recognizing the off-duty officer," the police report says, he immediately shot the off-duty cop in the arm.

All officers involved have been placed on administrative leave while the departmental investigation proceeds. The officer who was shot was released from the hospital after treatment. Bonnie Kristian

9:51 a.m. ET
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An oil tanker overturned and exploded in Pakistan Sunday, killing 153 people and leaving dozens more injured, including around 50 in critical condition. About 20 children are among the dead.

The truck tipped over on a highway after it blew out a tire, local officials said. A crowd gathered to collect the spilling fuel, putting them close to the truck when it exploded nearly an hour later.

"I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help," said Abdul Malik, a police officer involved in rescue efforts. "We saw bodies everywhere, so many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape." Bonnie Kristian

9:45 a.m. ET

No less than 18 large wildfires are burning in the West and Southwest regions of the U.S., aggravated by extreme heat and lack of rain. The two largest blazes are in Utah and Arizona, but there are also fires in California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon.

Wildfires have burned more than 2.5 million acres in the United States in 2017 alone, about 1 million acres more than is typical for this time of year. In Utah, 800 people have been evacuated, and 13 homes have burned. That fire began June 17 and is only 5 percent contained. Bonnie Kristian

8:29 a.m. ET
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The health-care proposal to replace ObamaCare expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week is insufficiently conservative, said Tim Phillips, president of Americans For Prosperity, a political outfit in the Koch brothers' network, in an Associated Press report published Sunday.

Phillips said the Koch network is "disappointed that movement has not been more dramatic toward a full repeal or a broader rollback of this law, ObamaCare," labeling the Senate bill "a slight nip and tuck" of current law which changes so little it is "immoral." To net his support, he added, the "Senate bill needs to get better."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he is willing to alter the health-care legislation to make it viable, but he faces incompatible demands from across the political spectrum. Bonnie Kristian

8:10 a.m. ET
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Conservative Republican opponents of the GOP's health-care proposal in the Senate have labeled the ObamaCare replacement package "ObamaCare lite," but the bill is taking fire from the center and left, too.

A group of moderate Republican senators are raising concerns about proposed Medicaid changes that would mean significantly less federal funding in their states. The fifth Republican senator to announce his opposition to the bill, Nevada's Dean Heller, specifically cited Medicaid in his Friday announcement that his vote is currently a "no." Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have not formally opposed the legislation so far, but both centrist Republicans have mentioned similar considerations.

Meanwhile, progressive critics warn the legislation could produce a "death spiral" in insurance markets in which premiums rise as healthier people — no longer bound by ObamaCare's individual mandate — drop coverage, producing a cycle of even higher premiums and fewer insurance customers.

President Trump fired back at critics twice on Twitter Saturday, noting premium hikes under the current system and writing that he "cannot imagine that these very fine Republican Senators would allow the American people to suffer a broken ObamaCare any longer!" The health-care bill can't pass the Senate if more than two Republicans vote against it. Bonnie Kristian

June 24, 2017
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The U.K.'s Houses of Parliament were hit with a cyberattack Friday evening consisting of "unauthorized attempts to access parliamentary user accounts," a representative of Parliament said Saturday. Members of Parliament were informed of the situation Friday night when they had difficulty accessing their email accounts remotely.

"We are continuing to investigate this incident and take further measures to secure the computer network," the representative said. "We have systems in place to protect member and staff accounts and are taking the necessary steps to protect our systems."

It is unclear how many MPs were affected or who is responsible for the attack. Bonnie Kristian

June 24, 2017
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Monday begins the Supreme Court's final week before its current term ends and summer break begins. SCOTUS is expected to hand down several major decisions in the next few days — among them its ruling on President Trump's stalled travel ban — but rumors are swirling that this Monday could see a retirement announcement from Justice Anthony Kennedy, too.

"Sources close to Kennedy say that he is seriously considering retirement," CNN reported Saturday, though "they are unclear if it could occur as early as this term." Kennedy's departure would give President Trump his second SCOTUS nomination after the successful appointment of Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

Kennedy has long served as a swing vote on the court, sometimes siding with the progressive wing — as in the landmark gay marriage case, 2015's Obergefell v. Hodges — but often joining the conservatives on issues like gun control and campaign finance. Kennedy will turn 81 in July and has served on the court since 1988 after being nominated by President Reagan. Bonnie Kristian

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