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Russia is among 30 countries now using social media bots and trolls to manipulate online information in order to undermine democracy, a report has found.
The Freedom on the Net 2017 report by human rights group Freedom House found that over the last 12 months, disinformation tactics employed by these countries had a role in influencing elections in the United States and at least 17 other countries.
The use of bots and trolls on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, pioneered by the Chinese and Russian regimes, helped contribute to a seventh consecutive year of declining internet freedom. For the third straight year, China was named by the report as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom, scoring just below Ethiopia, Syria and Iran.
The issue of “fake news” produced by online trolls and disseminated by automated bot accounts gained attention during last year’s U.S. elections, with Russian influence believed to have played a deciding role in Donald Trump’s victory.
The United States was among 18 countries to have its elections influenced by foreign bots. Dado Ruvic/Illustration/ REUTERS
Such influence led to a decline in internet freedom in the United States, the report states, and continues to play a part in the current media landscape. The U.S. placed fifth highest on the list behind Iceland, Estonia, Canada and Germany.
“Proliferation of ‘fake news’—particularly on social media—peaked in the run-up to the November 2016 presidential elections, but it continues to be a concern,” the report’s authors wrote. “Journalists who challenge Donald Trump’s positions have faced egregious online harassment.”
Read more: What a Trump presidency means for cybersecurity, net neutrality and internet freedom
One example of such harassment was against Newsweek’ s Kurt Eichenwald, who was targeted on Twitter with an animated message designed to provoke a seizure after he wrote posts critical of Trump.
The FBI has since arrested the alleged perpetrator, John Rayne Rivello, and charged him with criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm.
2017 freedom on the net improvements and declines. Freedom on the Net
The Freedom of the Net report also found that physical attacks on journalists spread to 30 countries globally, up from 20 the previous year. In eight of these countries journalists were murdered, while four countries—Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan and Syria—experienced the third straight year of such murders.
“Physical violence is a crude but effective censorship tactic, especially in countries where prominent websites provide a key outlet for independent investigative reporting, and where the traditional media are often affiliated with the government,” the report’s authors wrote.
“Perpetrators in most cases remained unknown, but their actions often aligned with the interests of politically powerful individuals or entities.”
Jose Mourinho has grown “frustrated” by Manchester United’s failure to make more than one signing so far this summer, according to reports.
United confirmed the capture of Swedish center back Victor Lindelof from Benfica last month for £31 million ($40 million), but Mourinho’s wish list is far from complete.
At the end of last season, after United won the Europa League, its third trophy of the season, Mourinho said he was “tired of football” and would be leaving transfer dealings to Ed Woodward, the club’s vice-chairman.
The Portuguese manager is believed to want at least three further signings, strengthening different departments of his squad. The midfield and attack are the two main areas Mourinho is focusing on, with Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata the two top targets.
Related: Jose Mourinho ‘Hopeful’ of Announcing Second Summer Signing This Week
United will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday to begin its pre-season tour of the United States, and Mourinho wanted to see the new arrivals ready to board the flight with his team, according to the Daily Mirror.
Matic is expected to cost United £40 million but Chelsea is waiting on the arrival of Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko before allowing the 28-year-old Serbian to leave Stamford Bridge.
Morata, 24, is a direct replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the 35-year-old Swede was released by United at the end of last season, having finished the campaign as the team’s top scorer. According to Spanish newspaper Marca, Real Madrid is holding out for £79 million for Morata.
Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic was also said to be a target for United this summer with Mourinho keen to have a deal complete this week. According to Sky Italia, an improved offer of £40 million has been made to bring the Croatia forward to Old Trafford.
LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona are among the opponents for United’s tour of the States.
Jimmy Kimmel Mocks Trump Over 'Fire and Fury' Book Claims: Why Did These Idiots Let Michael Wolff in the White House?
Despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts to block the publication of explosive new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, pretty much the entire world has been talking about the revelations in the nonfiction release this week—including Jimmy Kimmel.
On Thursday’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, the comedian roasted Trump for giving the book even more publicity by threatening to sue publisher Henry Holt and Co. through his lawyers. The publisher responded by moving forward its publication date from January 9 to Friday.
“If you don’t want people to read a book about you, why would you take legal action to stop people from reading the book about you?” Kimmel questioned, echoing the notion of the Streisand effect. “Threatening the writer with legal action is literally the dumbest move you can make if you want to keep it on the down-low.”
The comedian added: “I wasn’t going to buy the book. I was going to read excerpts in magazines and move on. But now Trump’s lawyers are going all-out to try and stop it from being published, I’m buying 20 copies. I can’t buy enough of this book—I’ll buy it for my parents, my in-laws, my cousins, I’m going to walk up and down block stuffing books into my neighbors’ mailboxes.”
Extracts from Fire and Fury have been published this week by New York magazine, The Guardian and GQ and paint a bleak picture of Trump’s year-long presidency, including claims that he never wanted to be president.
But one shocking excerpt about Trump’s personal behavior caught Kimmel’s attention.
Kimmel read an extract in which Wolff detailed how the president reportedly enjoys seducing his friends’ wives by persuading “the wife that her husband was perhaps not what she thought.”
“Then he’d have his secretary ask the friend into his office; once the friend arrived, Trump would engage in what was, for him, more or less constant sexual banter. Do you still like having sex with your wife? How often? You must have had a better fuck than your wife? Tell me about it. I have girls coming in from Los Angeles at three o’clock. We can go upstairs and have a great time. I promise.… And all the while, Trump would have his friend’s wife on the speakerphone, listening in,” Wolff continues.
Kimmel joked that it “was like Fifty Shades of Orange or something” and added: “No wonder his only friends are Fox & Friends. Who does that to his friends?”
Trump slammed Wolff, who claims he had access to the White House and conducted 200 interviews for his book, in a fiery missive on Twitter Friday. He denied Wolff was granted any access to the White House and said his book is “full of lies.”
But, said Kimmel, if Wolff’s claims he was given White House access are true, “Why did these idiots let him in the White House in the first place? That alone indicates poor decision-making.”
A very valid question considering Wolff’s book pretty much tears Trump’s presidency a new one.
Giancarlo Stanton’s pursuit of Roger Maris is going down to the final days of the Major League Baseball season.
The race to be named National League MVP is about as tight.
Stanton was back crushing balls on Thursday evening, sending two enormous home runs to left-center field for Nos. 58 and 59 of a season for this or any other age. Statcast measured the second, a ridiculous moonshot that bounced off the back row and windows of Marlins Park, at 118.8 miles per hour, the fourth-fastest in the history of exit velocity being recorded.
That the Marlins hammered the Braves 7-1 was of little significance; for months Marlins games, at least for neutral observers and probably for those inside the park too have been about Stanton’s push towards two landmarks. There’s 60 home runs and then Maris’s mark of 61, bettered only by men who have an asterisks next to their greatest feats. Stanton has a long weekend left to pass Maris: the Marlins end their season with three more games against the Braves at home, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Passing 60, let alone Maris, would surely be enough to make Stanton National League MVP in most other seasons. Counting against him this year, though, is the stone-cold fact that the Marlins aren’t going to the playoffs, and the unusual number of credible contenders lining up just behind him. ESPN ticks them off: Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks, a playoff-bound team; Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon of the playoff-bound Rockies; Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds. Votto has a case although the Reds will finish a firm last in the National League Central. J.D. Martinez’s slugging feats have garnered as much press, if not more, than Goldschmidt. Arenado and Blackmon may cancel each other out, and they play in rarefied air in Denver. Marlins Park is the 25th-hardest place in the league to hit home runs.
For the Marlins there is only Stanton, still aiming for the back windows of Marlins Park even as the season dies for any team with a losing record. Three more home runs in three games could present an unassailable MVP case.
English People’s Teeth Are an “International Disgrace” and a “National Health Disaster”, UK Dentists Say
Austin Powers jokes aside, dental hygiene is reportedly a very big problem in the UK. In a recent letter to The Daily Telegraph, British dentists warned that their nation’s oral health was on its way to becoming an international disgrace, calling it a “national health disaster.”
The root of the problem does not seem to be simply individual poor oral hygiene. National health service issues also appear to play a major role. The letter states that unreasonable targets and unnecessary red tape regulations have made it increasingly difficult for many dentists to provide the public with the care they need.Related: Bad Teeth? Don't Blame Your Genes, Blame Yourself
In the UK, health services are provided through an agency known as the National Health Service (NHS). This organization uses national taxes to cover the cost of healthcare for everyone in the UK, regardless of who they are and how much they earn. The system has struggled to keep up with the massive supply and demand, The Guardian reported. As a result, some individuals may fall through the cracks and not receive the care and treatment they require.
Charities have come to help out with dental care in the UK. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Last year, The Guardian reported that twice as many children in England received hospital treatment for tooth decay as those who needed to be treated for broken arms. Although high sugar diets likely do not help the problem, lack of proper intervention allows the decay to progress dangerously. Nearly four out of five children in England between one and two years old had not seen an NHS dentist in the past year, The Guardian reported.Related: Mystery Tooth Fossil Baffles Archeologists And Could Mean First Humans Lived In Europe Not Africa
This is not the first time that UK dentists have spoken out about the state of the system they currently work in. In 2016, dentists penned another letter to The Daily Telegraph likening UK dental health to that of a developing country.
Reportedly, the dental healthcare in the UK is so bad that they are enlisting help from international organizations. For example, last year Dentaid, a charity that normally helps to care for people’s teeth in the developing countries, set up clinics in the UK specifically addressed to help low-income families, homeless people, and migrants who were especially in need of dental care, The Independent reported.
The clinics have helped a number of people who have struggled to get an appointment with an NHS dentist. However, these charities can only do so much. Dentists are now insisting that a bigger solution is needed to address the national dental problem.
Pep Guardiola Sends Two Ominous Messages to The Rest Of Europe After Manchester City Beats Real Madrid
On Wednesday evening, in the sweltering heat of the Los Angeles Coliseum, Pep Guardiola sent two warnings to the rest of Europe, one on the pitch and the other off.
Guardiola’s Manchester City purred as it continued its preseason tour of the United States, easing past La Liga and Champions League holder Real Madrid 4-1. A goalless first half was followed by a blitz from City, with three goals in 14 minutes, from Nicolas Otamendi, Raheem Sterling and John Stones.
Brahim Díaz, the 17-year-old Spaniard, added a fourth in the 82nd minute after replacing Gabriel Jesus, meaning Óscar Rodriguez’s stoppage time goal was a mere consolation. But this is, of course, still preseason; results remain almost worthless.
So when Guardiola stepped into his post-match press conference, his words may have been even more powerful than his team’s performance. The Spanish coach explained that City was not only capable of matching Real on the pitch but also in the transfer market.
“Madrid doesn’t have more than Manchester City have,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “Players are very important and we always try to get the best players possible.
Related: Is This How Pep Guardiola New-Look Manchester City Will Line Up Next Season?
“Abu Dhabi came in and invested in the team. Over the past five or six years we climbed to the top and we’re now in the top three or four. In order to get to the level of Madrid or Barcelona we just need time.
“The Premier League is so attractive and the agreements are good. All the clubs think about their potential and their squads getting better. We try and we will see.”
Both City and Real are reportedly trying and seeing whether they can convince A.S. Monaco to part with its 18-year-old starlet Kylian Mbappe, the most sought after player in European football. But it will cost them.
Real is renowned for its financial might. Four of the past five world-record transfer deals have been made by the Spanish club. On Tuesday, Real was reportedly looking to extend that statistic after Spanish newspaper Marca said Real had bid £161 million for Mbappe.
Less than 24 hours later, reports suggested Manchester City had matched the offer. Guardiola, who went shoulder-to-shoulder with Real while managing Barcelona, is apparently keen to do the same from Manchester.
Related: How Was Manchester City Able to Spend $110 Million Before the Transfer Window Opened?