March 10, 2016
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Americans are so leery about the possibility of Donald Trump picking the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's replacement that they'd just as well put the decision in the hands of Taylor Swift. A new Public Policy Polling survey out Thursday about who Americans want to make the Supreme Court appointment reveals that Americans find Donald Trump equally as qualified as the pop star to make the pick, with both getting 40 percent of the vote.

Against actor Tom Hanks and quarterback Peyton Manning, the Republican presidential frontrunner loses: Americans would prefer Hanks making the decision over Trump (47 percent to 35 percent) and Manning over Trump (45 percent to 35 percent). The one star Trump does manage to beat is a cartoon character — Trump narrowly edges out Mickey Mouse 43 percent to Mickey's 39 percent.

The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points. Becca Stanek

8:26 a.m. ET
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SeaTac, Washington, City Manager James Payne plotted to create a "tactical map" of Muslims in the neighborhoods around Seattle's SeaTac airport, apparently due to terrorism concerns, The Seattle Times has learned. Payne, who has since resigned, reportedly "stated an interest in knowing with a great deal of specificity (to the neighborhood, house, and even person) where Sunni and Shiite Muslim residents lived," an investigator in the case found.

Payne justified his map, which never came to be, as necessary in case he "needed to go into the neighborhoods to 'make the peace,'" the report said. It further concluded that, "Mr. Payne's concerns about Muslims committing acts of terrorism seem to be the main motivation for his GIS mapping request."

Payne defended himself against accusations of ethnic profiling by saying he was "trying to provide good governance to a diverse population."

"This is what is so outrageous to me: Because it was a white male asking for this information, suddenly people jumped to the conclusion that I must be out to get certain people. I'm deeply offended by that," Payne said. Jeva Lange

7:52 a.m. ET
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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may have nearly clinched their respective parties' nominations, but they have a long way to go before they win over Americans, a new poll finds. The latest NBC News/Survey Monkey poll out Tuesday reveals that the majority of Americans dislike, or even hate, Clinton and Trump. Nearly 60 percent say they don't like the former secretary of state, while slightly more — 63 percent — have bad feelings towards Trump.

That intense dislike doesn't seem to be balanced out by exceptional fondness, either. The poll found that just four in 10 voters say they either "admire" or "like" Clinton. Just 36 percent say the same about Trump.

The poll, conducted from May 16-22 among 16,710 adults nationwide, has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point. Becca Stanek

7:32 a.m. ET

Analyzing human faces to detect character traits sounds like something out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, but the Israeli start-up Faception in fact already has a contract with a homeland security agency. Faceception claims it will be able to help identify terrorists for the government, but also has said that the face-scanning technology can pick out everyone from a great poker player to a pedophile to a genius, The Washington Post reports.

"Our personality is determined by our DNA and reflected in our face. It's a kind of signal," Faception's chief executive Shai Gilboa said. The company reports that they are able to evaluate certain traits with 80 percent accuracy.

Skeptics caution that the software is a slippery slope, and only as strong as the samples it has been taught. "Just when we thought that physiognomy ended 100 years ago. Oh, well," facial perception expert and Princeton professor Alexander Todorov said.

"If somebody came to me and said 'I have a company that's going to try to do this,' my answer to them would be 'nah, go do something more promising,'" computer science professor Pedro Domingos added, although he admitted, "On the other hand, machine learning brings us lots of surprises every day."

The science indeed remains uncertain. For example, a colleague of Domingos built a computer to identify with 100 percent accuracy the differences between dogs and wolves by looking at photographs — only, it turned out the computer was actually noticing snow as the common unifier in the background of the wolf photos. Artificial intelligence also risks focusing on traits that can be changed, like beards, further skewing its accuracy.

"Can I predict that you’re an ax murderer by looking at your face and therefore should I arrest you? You can see how this would be controversial," Domingos said. Jeva Lange

6:14 a.m. ET

Donald Trump is winning the support of many religious conservatives even though he has a spotty issue on opposing abortion, which conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer calls "the central issue of the conservative movement for the last 30 years, in terms of social issues." But before the early 1980s, Samantha Bee chronicled on Monday's Full Frontal, evangelical Christians and Southern Baptists didn't care much about abortion, considering it an issue for the Catholics to fret over. They had to be convinced to oppose abortion by religious-Republican leaders like Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, Bee says, and Falwell and his peers got "an assist from a talented young sci-fi filmmaker," Frank Schaeffer.

Schaeffer sat down with Full Frontal and explained that "one of the things that I did, back in the day, when I was young, was help found, start, begin what became known as the pro-life movement." He made a series of creepy anti-abortion films, featuring his father, evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer, and future surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop. Making those films is "the single greatest regret of my life," he said. Bee set up them up: "Two pals who shared a love of theology and novelty beards, plus a 20-something raised on Fellini films: What could go wrong?" Evangelical leaders didn't like the films, but thanks to Jack Kemp and congressional movie night, they came around. Watch below for the full story, and be warned, there is some NSFW language and disturbing imagery. Peter Weber

5:53 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday, a senior Egyptian forensics official said that human remains salvaged from the wreckage of EgyptAir Flight 804 suggest there was an explosion on board before the plane went down in the Mediterranean last week. So far, 80 remnants of the 66 people aboard the flight have been brought to the Cairo morgue, and "there isn't even a whole body part, like an arm or a head," the unidentified official told The Associated Press. "The logical explanation is that it was an explosion."

UPDATE: The head of Egypt's Forensics Authority, Hesham Abdelhamid, denied the report, telling state news agency MENA: "Everything published about this matter is completely false, and mere assumptions that did not come from the Forensics Authority."

The plane's fuselage and black boxes have not yet been recovered. But the head of Egypt's National Air Navigation Services Co., Mohi El-Din Azmi, told Egyptian state TV on Sunday that, contrary to assertions by the Greek defense minster, the plane did not swerve before disappearing from radar about a minute after entering Egyptian air space. Peter Weber

4:28 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first of two scheduled hearings on a motion to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, but Koskinen said Monday he won't be there, citing the late invitation and other commitments that have left him no time to prepare "for what could be a wide-ranging and complex discussion regarding claims that may only become clear after the hearing's first panel." Instead, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the House Oversight Committee chairman who filed the impeachment motion, will testify under oath, along with Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

Chaffetz accuses Koskinen of lying under oath and defying a House subpoena to turn over emails from Lois Lerner, a former IRS official at the center of a scandal involving extra scrutiny of Tea Party groups and other organizations seeking tax-exempt status. Koskinen, who was appointed months after the scandal, denies lying and said the IRS has turned over the relevant Lerner emails but lost other ones due to "the inadvertent destruction of very old tapes." The Justice Department found mismanagement but no criminal wrongdoing in its investigation of the IRS, but Chaffetz said the House has no choice to but impeach Koskinen. "You can't be under a duly issued subpoena and mislead Congress, and when you provide false testimony there has to be a consequence," he said.

Congress hasn't tried to impeach a U.S. official other than the president since 1876, when the House went after War Secretary William W. Belknap, and no official below cabinet level has ever faced impeachment. "This is unprecedented in many respects," University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt tells The New York Times. But "lying to Congress is a very serious charge, and if somebody were actually guilty of that, that is a perfectly legitimate basis for their removal."

Koskinen says he plans to attend the next hearing, in June, but barring some bombshell revelation, his job is probably safe. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said that the Senate won't convict the IRS commissioner even if the House approves impeachment, noting the two-thirds vote needed and the lack of appetite for going after Koskinen, a businessman known for managing organizations in crisis. Still, The Washington Post observes, "by holding hearings, House leaders are allowing IRS opponents to keep their constituents' frustration with an unpopular agency in the foreground — and a good political target in their crosshairs." Peter Weber

3:16 a.m. ET

On Monday's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee shook her head at "the Democratic Party's growing, festering tensions pimple," which finally "came to a head" and popped "when angry [Bernie] Sanders supporters turned Nevada's Democratic convention into a... a something." (She settled on "donnybrook", which is "apparently what you call civil unrest when it involves white people.") You're surely familiar with that, um, donnybrook by now, but if you need a refresher, Bee has one — including the vile calls and text messages sent to Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange.

The Nevada Democratic delegate selection rules are arcane and stupid, Bee said, but Clinton won the most democratic part, the caucus; Sanders won the county conventions; and then came the state convention, and "that's when Lady Luck said 'I'm with her.'" Bee said that "if there were actual misconduct by party officials, I'd be furious, too. But ask yourself, what makes more sense? That party chair Lange changed the rules to disqualify Sanders delegates, 50 of whom Hillary Clinton had drugged and tied up in a basement with the skeleton of Vince Foster, or that first-time delegates backing a guy who became a Democrat just before breakfast couldn't get their shit together?" You can guess Bee's answer.

"Should the Democratic Party make its primary process more democratic? God, yes," Bee said. "But the fact is, nobody stole the Nevada election. Sanders just got beat ... You know, I love the passion of Sanders supporters, but why is it curdling into rage at their own party? Who's giving them the idea that any outcome they don't like is illegitimate and rigged?" You can probably guess where she's going here, too, but watch to the end for Bee's coup de grâce on the fraud and election-rigging allegations from Sanders and his supporters. (Yes, there is NSFW language.) Peter Weber

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