Watch Killer Mike interview Bernie Sanders in Mike’s Atlanta barbershop.

In a six-part interview posted on YouTube earlier today, the rapper and the presidential candidate discuss economic and racial justice, mass incarceration, Donald Trump and fascism, and what socialism means in the black community. Killer Mike tells Sanders, “I rap about a lot of the stuff that you rant about.” Bernie both botches and successfully lands a fist bump with Mike over the course of the six installments. 

You can watch the first part of the interview below. When you’re done, check out our profile of Killer Mike.

July 18, 2018

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Facebook emojis concur: Trump’s America is an angrier America.

On Feb 24 2016, Facebook gave users five more emotions: “love,” “anger,” “wow,” “sad” and “haha.” (As Mark Zuckerberg finally realized, not everything is likable.) In an increasingly polarized America, social media aficionados could now respond, for example, to posts created by members of Congress with white hearts and frowning, red-faced emojis. But, according to a Pew Research Center analysis on Facebook users reactions to lawmakers’ posts, released on Wednesday, “anger” began topping “love” only after the 2016 election.

From the launch of these new reactions until Election Day, the congressional Facebook audience responded to lawmakers’ posts with the “angry” button 3.6 million times. Yet following the election, in the same amount of time, use increased to 14 million. By analyzing 360,173 individual posts from February 2016 to July 2017, Pew Research Center found that the use of the “angry” button had increased by 385 percent, compared with 169 percent for “love.”

Nowhere was the emoji’s widespread use more palpable than at a press conference with then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in January 2017, where a sea of angry faces flooded the event’s Facebook Live footage. This was his first official address as Trump’s Press Secretary and he began the job by lying about the size of the inauguration crowds: “I am saying that it was the total largest audience witnessed in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. According to the Pew Research report, the anger emoji beat out the love emoji shortly following the inauguration.

It would be easy to see the rise of the “anger” emoji as indicative of purely Democratic rage. However, another reason for the increased use is the way both Democrats and Republicans have begun to use Facebook. After Trump’s election, Democratic legislators’ opposition on Facebook spiked, with another Pew Research Center analysis showing they expressed their opposition five times more, while Republicans posted support twice as much. The new emojis, it seems, have become a way to visualize an increasing political divide.

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Trump resumes his Russia denialism.

Is Russia still trying to meddle in American democracy or not? In February, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress that it is: “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.” The directors of the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency all agreed.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said otherwise.

As The New York Times reports, “Trump’s comments were the latest in a dizzying collection of conflicting statements from Mr. Trump since he emerged from a private meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday in Helsinki, Finland.... The president’s changing statements on his perception of Russia’s intentions toward the United States underscore concerns that Mr. Trump does not believe American intelligence officials.”

The arrest earlier this week of Maria Butina, a Russian gun-rights advocate accused of what the Times called “a secret Russian effort to influence American politics,” is just the latest evidence of what the intelligence community has long confirmed: that Russians did attempt to interfere with the U.S. electoral process, though it’s still unclear how much they were able to accomplish. (Coats’s predecessor, James Clapper, thinks Russia swung the election to Trump.)

Trump, meanwhile, can’t make up his mind. In his press conference with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump said he didn’t see why Russia would meddle in the 2016 election. He later claimed he misspoke, adding, “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.” But then he added, “It could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

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The European Union just hit Google with another massive antitrust fine.

On Tuesday morning, European regulators levied a €4.34 billion fine against Google for abusing its Android operating system, which the EU says the company has used to “cement the dominance of its search engine.” The EU, which claims Android’s market share is as high as 90 percent, cites three ways in which Google—which is now part of Alphabet, a larger conglomerate—abused the operating system. According to the complaint, Google:

  • has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome) as a condition for licensing Google’s app store (the Play Store);
  • made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and
  • has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called “Android forks”).

If Google does not cease these practices in 90 days, it will “face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.” In 2017, Alphabet’s global revenue was $111 billion. While the 2018 figure will likely be higher, using last year’s revenue such a fine would come out to nearly $5.5 billion, or $15 million per day.

The EU’s argument is fairly simple: Google has, for the last several years, used the fact that its Android operating system is installed in most mobile phones, to further entrench other aspects of its business, notably its applications. In doing so, it has harmed competition by boxing out developers working on competing browsers, search engines, and other applications. A year ago, the EU hit Google with a $2.7 billion fine for using its search engine to illegally privilege its shopping platform.

Shortly after the EU announced the record fine, Google responded by tweeting that they planned on appealing the fine.

The EU’s investigation of Google, which began eight years ago, remains ongoing.

July 17, 2018

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Millions of public school kids were exposed to potentially unsafe levels of lead in drinking water.

That’s the takeaway from a 106-page report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, which surveyed school districts across the country in 2017 and found that 41 percent of districts had not tested for lead at all in the last 12 months. Of the 43 percent of districts that did test for lead, 37 percent found “elevated levels” of the neurotoxin.

The children exposed to lead last year are apparently no longer at risk. “All school districts that found elevated lead in drinking water reported taking steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to lead, including replacing water fountains, installing filters or new fixtures, or providing bottled water,” the GAO said. But school districts serving 12 million children aren’t testing for lead at all. If 37 percent of those districts had lead contamination, that would mean 4.4 million children at risk of lead exposure.

gao.gov

As I wrote in February, lead exposure is a solvable problem. But damages can be permanent for kids who have already consumed contaminated water, depending on the level of exposure. Philip Landrigan, a renowned lead expert and the dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine, told me that lead exposure unquestionably harms developing brains. “Even the very lowest levels of exposure, we know that lead erodes a child’s IQ, shortens attention span, and disrupts their behavior,” he said. “We know when we do follow-up studies that children exposed when they were kids are more likely to be dyslexic, have behavioral problems, and get in trouble with the law. There’s no question about that.”

No federal law requires testing of drinking water for lead in schools that receive water from public water systems,” the GAO found. The agency also found that the EPA was partially responsible for the lack of testing. Landrigan said the only reason the lead contamination crisis hasn’t been solved is a lack of political will to do so. Perhaps this report will help change that.

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Is Andrew Cuomo insecure about his small donations?

The New York governor has seen no shortage of major contributions to his primary campaign against Cynthia Nixon. Campaign finance reports released on Monday night have the two-term governor leading with $31.1 million in his war chest compared to Nixon’s $660,000. Despite this lead, it has become a sore point for Cuomo that Nixon’s campaign vastly outpaces him on donations of under $250.  

In what may be an attempt to compete with Nixon’s more grassroots campaign, the New York City roommate of Cuomo’s creative director Julia Yang appears to have donated 69 times to Cuomo’s campaign in increments of $1, $3, and $5 donations in the final days leading up to campaign finance reporting deadline, according to New York Times reporter Shane GoldmacherPolitico reports that governor has also been offering raffle tickets for a Billy Joel concert in exchange for campaign donations of $5.

Even still, donations of $250 or less make up just over 1 percent of Cuomo’s total contributions, but 47 percent of Nixon’s. She received more small donations in the first 24 hours after launching her campaign than Cuomo had in years.

Campaign finance reports also indicate that Cuomo has received more than $120,000 from internet entrepreneurs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (also known as the Winklevoss twins), and has spent $1.7 million on TV ads this campaign season. A recent Intercept investigation revealed that since 2011 Cuomo has received campaign donations from landlords who collect millions of dollars in rent from Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE). 

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Rap music is still a wedge issue in American politics, somehow.

Earlier this month, The New York Post reported that Antonio Delgado, the Democratic nominee for New York’s 19th Congressional District, released a hip-hop album under the stage name “AD the Voice” in 2006. The album, Painfully Free, critiques capitalism, boasts about his sexual exploits, refers to dead presidents as white supremacists, and repeatedly uses the n-word—par for the course for rap music today.

But Representative John Faso, the district’s Republican nominee, saw an opening to question his opponent’s character. “Mr. Delgado’s lyrics are offensive,” he told The New York Times for an article published today. “It’s his responsibility to answer for the controversial views he expressed in his lyrics and whether he continues to hold these views today.” Delgado, in defending his music to the Times, cited Lauryn Hill and Kendrick Lamar as inspirations. “Issues like income inequality, issues like gender equality, issues like the pollution of our environment and climate change—these are all issues that I talked about back then as an artist that I’m now talking about” as a candidate, he said.

Gerald Benjamin, a friend of Faso and director of the Benjamin Center at State University of New York at New Paltz, went as far as to ask, “Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values?” The 19th district, which includes the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, is 83 percent white—one of the whitest congressional districts in the country, the Times notes. “People like us, people in rural New York, we are not people who respond to this part of American culture,” he said.

Benjamin also claimed that rap isn’t “real music.” In April, Kendrick Lamar became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer prize for music—something not even a rock or country musician has ever accomplished.

Trump blames bad grammar for his calamitous press conference with Vladimir Putin.

Twenty-four hours ago, Trump publicly accepted Putin’s denial that Russian actors attempted to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump. On Tuesday, after sustained criticism from just about everyone, including congressional Republicans, he attempted to walk it back, though in the most confusing way possible.

Trump claimed that he misspoke, saying that he meant to indicate that he had no reason to believe that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election. However, in an attempt to avoid a “double negative,” he said he mistakenly made it appear that he was siding with Putin. Watch the video for the whole convoluted explanation:

Trump also stressed that he accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia did, in fact, meddle in the 2016 election, asserting that he has “full faith in our intelligence agencies.” But he added, “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

However, it’s abundantly clear that Trump did not misspeak in Helsinki. He endorsed Putin’s story in Monday’s press conference, and the “would”/“wouldn’t” explanation does not exonerate him.

The point of these remarks was to stem the bleeding among Republicans. Even still, he wasn’t able to fully endorse the findings of American intelligence agencies. It was a muddled, half-hearted attempt to stop a damaging news cycle; the question is if it will be enough for Republicans to move on.

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Obama: “rabid nationalism” and racist ideology lead to civil war.

In delivering the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture today in Johannesburg, South Africa, former President Barack Obama warned about the rise of right-wing nationalism around the world. “Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly,” he said. “Those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

“Look at history. Looks at the facts,” he said. “The fact that countries which rely on rabid nationalism and xenophobia and doctrines of tribal, racial, or religious superiority as their main organizing principle—the thing that holds people together—eventually those countries find themselves consumed by civil war or external war. Check the history books.”

Obama also criticized “unbridled, unregulated capitalism,” adding that we must “recognize all the ways that the international order has fallen short of its promise.” And he closed his speech with a reminder of the anti-apartheid leader’s legacy: “Madiba reminds us that people must learn to hate. And if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

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Donald Trump thanks his lone defender, Rand Paul.

After his bizarre press conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Trump has been abandoned—at least for now—by nearly all of his typical allies. While the harshest reviews came from Republicans who have squabbled with him in the past, like Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, Trump was also criticized by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Even Fox News—with the exceptions of stalwarts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity—turned on the president, while his own advisers spun the situation by claiming Trump was “delusional.”

Trump’s only notable defender on Capitol Hill has been Senator Rand Paul. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Paul dismissed the conventional wisdom that Trump had kowtowed to Putin, sold out U.S. interests, and dismissed U.S. intelligence. “Any country that can spy does, and any country that can meddle in foreign elections does,” he told Wolf Blitzer. “All countries are doing this, but we’ve elevated this to a higher degree, and we’ve made this all about the sour grapes of Hillary Clinton losing the election, and it’s all about partisan politics now. This is truly the Trump derangement syndrome that motivates all of this.”

On Tuesday morning, Trump embraced Paul, quoting his endorsement of the president’s “witch hunt” claim in a tweet.

This tells us two things. The first is that Paul is once again inching closer to the president, with whom he’s had a mercurial relationship. Paul had been labeled the new “Trump whisperer” in the fall, though the two quickly drifted apart again. Most recently, Paul had threatened to oppose the nomination of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As with his (likely overblown) concerns about Kavanaugh, Paul is most likely using this situation to add to his libertarian credentials.

The second is that, despite near universal condemnation, Trump is not backing down. Trump has publicly praised Carlson, Hannity, and Paul, his only defenders. And, despite all of the concern tweeted out by congressional Republicans, he won’t face any consequences, aside from a sternly worded resolution that may pass the Senate.

July 16, 2018

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Is anyone not investigating Uber?

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the ride-hailing giant has been under investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since August 2017, after complaints were made about gender discrimination. According to the WSJ, The EEOC seeks information relating to pay disparity, hiring practices and other matters related to gender. 

Sadly, this comes as no surprise from a company riddled with a plethora of scandals including racial discrimination and sexual harassment, bribery, price fixing, and underpaying its drivers. Just last year, a Bloomberg report revealed the company faced five separate Justice Department investigations; former employee Susan Fowler published a meticulously detailed, and now viral, personal essay: “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber,” which chronicled what the New York Times says is a “brozilla culture of kegs, sexual coarseness and snaky competition”; and Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick resigned after his flippant responses to harassment.  

These scandals at the company, The Information claims, might have sent the company’s value down by as much as $10 billion. 

But, with a new Chief Executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, things were starting to look up. Uber hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Uber’s workplace practices and in a 13-page document he recommended the company’s total transformation, accountability and a new tone from the top down. While, in May, Uber launched its “Moving Forward” apology campaign that ran on billboards, emails, online posts and TV advertisements (unfortunately 71 percent of respondents to one survey hadn’t seen the company’s ads). 

Unfortunately, while the company publicly claims to have made “a lot of changes” to workplace culture and discrimination, figures show that women in leadership roles at the company have fallen from 22 percent to 21 percent this year: hardly the optics a company might want when trying to recover from gender-related scandals.