Daily Bread for 2.7.18

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater be mostly cloudy with a high of sixteen. Sunrise is 7:01 AM and sunset 5:16 PM, for 10h 15m 39s of daytime. The moon is in its third quarter. Today is the {tooltip}four hundred fifty-fourth day.{end-texte}Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.{end-tooltip}

On this day in 1497, the most famous bonfire of the vanities takes place in Florence: a burning of objects condemned by authorities as occasions of sin. The phrase usually refers to the bonfire of 7 February 1497, when supporters of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence, Italy, on the Mardi Gras festival. Such bonfires were not invented by Savonarola, but had been a common accompaniment to the outdoor sermons of San Bernardino di Siena in the first half of the century.”

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Greg Gordon reports ‘Junk’ political news shared more widely by Trump backers, study finds:

Backers of President Donald Trump are sharing more “junk” political news – ideologically extreme, conspiratorial, sensationalist and phony information – over Twitter and Facebook than all other groups combined, significantly magnifying the polarization in the American electorate, according to an analysis by British researchers.

Rather than obtaining news over social media from mainstream outlets, these Americans shared posts from 92 Twitter accounts of fringe groups such as “100PercentFEDUp,” “Beforeitsnews,” “TheAngryAmericans” and “WeArethenewmedia” during the three months before Trump’s first State of the Union address, the Oxford University researchers reported.

The study, which culled data from hundreds of thousands of social media accounts, found similar patterns among Facebook users.

Although the “junk” news sites considered in the analysis included those on both the left and right, lead researcher Philip Howard said the findings suggest “that most of the junk news that people share over social media ends up with Trump’s fans, the far right. They’re playing with different facts, and they think they have the inside scoop on conspiracies.”

➤ MotokoHow South Korea Left the North Behind:

In 1988, the last time South Korea hosted the Olympics, North and South Korea were more alike than different, separated by an arbitrary line yet joined by history, language and the bonds of family.

Both Koreas had come a long way, emerging from colonial rule and rebuilding their economies after a devastating civil war.

But the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 ended up being a turning point. Over the past 30 years, the two countries have diverged sharply — economically, politically and culturally.

South Korea rapidly industrialized, growing at one of the fastest rates in the world. The North stagnated.

The South shed its military dictatorship and opened up to the world. The North remained isolated and authoritarian, and endured a devastating famine that killed an estimated 2 million people, according to some estimates.

➤ Dan Friedman writes The Justice Department Has Apparently Debunked the GOP’s Phony Uranium One Scandal (“A bad week for Republican talking points”):

At issue is the 2010 sale of a uranium company with extensive US holdings to a Russian firm. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have charged that as secretary of State, Clinton authorized the deal in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation. The allegations are misleading for a number of reasons, but Republicans have nonetheless sought to use them as a counterweight to the Trump-Russia probe.

Democrats now say that senior Justice Department officials told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staffers in a December 15 briefing that the whistleblower had offered no evidence about Clinton. The Justice Department officials also said during the briefing that they considered the whistleblower, who has been identified in media reports as William Campbell, too unreliable to use as a witness due to inconsistencies in his story, according to a letter sent Tuesday by Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.)—the top Democrats on the House oversight committee and the House intelligence committee—to the Republican chairmen of those panels.

After hyping the Uranium One case throughout much of 2016 and 2017, Republicans have grown relatively quiet about the issue in recent weeks. Instead, they’ve sought to focus attention on the controversial memo written by staffers of House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), attacking the process through which FBI agents sought a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide suspected of acting as a Russian agent. Tuesday’s letter may help explain why Republicans have largely stopped talking about the Uranium One whistleblower after raising the matter repeatedly last fall.

“The Department of Justice has now provided us with a detailed briefing that directly contradicts these Republican allegations,” Cummings and Schiff wrote in their letter.

➤ Garrett M. Graff contends Bob Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think:

PRESIDENT TRUMP CLAIMED in a tweet over the weekend that the controversial Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him, clearing him of the cloud of the Russia investigation that has hung over his administration for a year now.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, if anything, the Mueller investigation appears to have been picking up steam in the past three weeks—and homing in on a series of targets.

The first thing we know is that we know it is large.

We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office—some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads. But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe.

As special counsel, Mueller has broad authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” a catch-all phrase that allows him to pursue other criminality he may stumble across in the course of the investigation. As the acting attorney general overseeing Mueller, Rod Rosenstein has the ability to grant Mueller the ability to expand his investigation as necessary and has been briefed regularly on how the work is unfolding. Yet even without being privy to those conversations, we have a good sense of the purview of his investigation.

➤ Yesterday was a good day for SpaceX:

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