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Hacking The Electric Grid Is Damned Hard | FiveThirtyEight
The nightmare is easy enough to imagine. Nefarious baddies sit in a dark room, illuminated by the green glow of a computer screen. Meanwhile, technicians watch in horror from somewhere in the Midwest as they lose control of their electrical systems. And, suddenly, hundreds of thousands, even millions of Americans are plunged into darkness.
That scene was evoked in recent weeks as federal security experts at the Department of Homeland Security warned that state-sponsored hackers have targeted more than American elections — they’re after the electric grid, too. They’ve gotten “to the point where they could have thrown switches,” a DHS official told The Wall Street Journal. Both DHS and the FBI have linked these attacks to Russia — which was already pinned as the culprit in two attacks that shut down power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine two Decembers in a row, in 2015 and 2016. It’s all very urgent — a high-risk crisis that must be solved immediately.
security  hack  electric  538 
6 days ago by rgl7194
Is Chris Collins Toast? | FiveThirtyEight
How much scandals hurt candidates running for re-election
In the era of President Trump, it’s become fashionable to presume that politicians can do whatever they like and get away with it. But if recent elections to Congress are any guide, scandals do have large and measurable effects. So when U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, the Republican from New York’s 27th Congressional District, was arrested on insider trading charges on Wednesday morning, it took a seat that had looked to be fairly safe for Republicans and put it into the competitive category.
I’m going to be fairly circumspect in this article because I’m knee-deep in finalizing our House model, and I don’t want to scoop our own forecast. But one of the things we evaluated in designing that model is the electoral effects of scandals, based on the data set of scandals put together by my colleague Nathaniel Rakich.1
politics  crime  new_york  congress  538 
11 days ago by rgl7194
What You Found In 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets | FiveThirtyEight
Last week, FiveThirtyEight published nearly 3 million tweets sent by handles affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll factory.” That group was a defendant in one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments, which accused the IRA of interfering with American electoral and political processes.
We shared the data with the public in concert with the researchers who first assembled it: Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, both of Clemson University. Their hope, and ours, was that other researchers, as well as our broader readership, would explore the tweet data, share their findings and improve the data set, all with a goal of understanding Russian interference in American politics.
“So far it’s only had two brains looking at it,” Linvill said of the data last week. “More brains might find God-knows-what.”
538  election  gov2.0  politics  russia  troll  trump  twitter 
12 days ago by rgl7194
The Abortion Debate Isn’t As Partisan As Politicians Make It Seem | FiveThirtyEight
The debate over Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, is likely to be dominated by discussion about abortion as the court, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, would have five solidly conservative justices, which may mean it’s willing to strike down Roe v. Wade. And that discussion will likely be split by party: Almost all the Democrats you see on cable news and on the floor of the Senate will strongly defend abortion rights, while anti-abortion activists will be among Kavanaugh’s most prominent advocates, even if they don’t outright say they think he will vote to strike down Roe.
But the way the abortion debate plays out in national politics, particularly around judicial nominations, does not reflect how the broader public views this issue. The issue is not a 50/50 Democrat/Republican split, as the plurality of Americans consistently take the “pro-choice” position over the “pro-life” one. And the public, unlike political elites, is not completely divided along party lines on this issue. There is a large bloc of Republicans who support abortion rights. There is a smaller, but still sizable, group of Democrats who oppose abortion rights.
politics  abortion  debate  538  gov2.0 
13 days ago by rgl7194
We’re Divided On Patriotism Too | FiveThirtyEight
We at FiveThirtyEight hope you had a very patriotic Fourth of July — whatever that means to you. A YouGov poll, released this week, checked in on Americans’ feelings on patriotism and revealed some stark differences along — what else? — partisan lines.
Overall, the survey found that 76 percent of Americans consider themselves “very” or “somewhat” patriotic. But between Republicans and Democrats, there were pretty big differences: A whopping 97 percent of Republicans placed themselves in the “very” or “somewhat” categories, compared with 71 percent of Democrats. That’s a gap of 26 percentage points. Even more starkly, 72 percent of Republicans consider themselves to be “very” patriotic (the highest level of patriotism), compared with 29 percent of Democrats — a 43-point gap.
gov2.0  politics  survey  538  patriots 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Americans Know Where They Stand On The Mueller Investigation | FiveThirtyEight
Friday’s news that the Justice Department had indicted 12 Russian agents in connection with interference in the 2016 U.S. elections was a major development in the fast-moving Robert Mueller investigation. But that doesn’t mean it will change anyone’s mind in the long run.
Since Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017, his investigation has brought charges against 35 people or businesses, including former Trump confidants Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn in late 2017. But while American opinion about Russian involvement in the 2016 election has shifted over that time, the shift hasn’t always been lasting.
crime  DOJ  gov2.0  legal  mueller  politics  russia  special_counsel  trump  538 
13 days ago by rgl7194
What Climate Change Looks Like In 2018 | FiveThirtyEight
It’s only July, but it has already been a long, hot spring and summer. The contiguous U.S. endured the warmest May ever recorded, and in June, the average temperature was 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.0 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas set record highs for their minimum temperatures in June, and as of July 3, nearly 30 percent of the Lower 48 was experiencing drought conditions. And it’s not just the U.S. During the first five months of 2018, nearly every continent experienced record warm temperatures, and May 2018 marked the 401st consecutive month in which temperatures exceeded the 20th century average.
climate_change  politics  economics  538 
13 days ago by rgl7194
How The Putin-Trump Press Conference Rates On Our Trump Opposition Scale | FiveThirtyEight
When President Trump backtracked (slightly) from controversial remarks he made on Monday in which he questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, I wasn’t surprised. It was another demonstration that what usually forces Trump to back down from a confrontation or concede defeat is not just the intensity of opposition (particularly if it’s coming only from congressional Democrats), but the breadth of that opposition: Trump usually feels compelled to respond in some way when powerful blocs in American politics combine to resist him.
In the 24 hours after Trump’s comments in Helsinki, Democrats on Capitol Hill were of course furious about them. But so were some Republicans, including those who typically criticize Trump and even a few Trump allies. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, issued a statement affirming his confidence in the intelligence community’s findings that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election; issuing the statement was an aggressive step, since Coats is a Trump political appointee. And the media was unusually unrestrained in attacking Trump, a tenor perhaps best illustrated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper declaring on air that Trump’s behavior was “disgraceful,” and Fox News’ Abby Huntsman writing on Twitter that “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”
politics  trump  gov2.0  congress  news  legal  538 
13 days ago by rgl7194
GOP Criticism Of Trump Is All Talk — But It Still Matters | FiveThirtyEight
Critics of President Trump want Republicans to do more. The argument goes something like this: Some Republicans like Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona have cast Trump as historically dangerous, leading a “daily disassembling of our democratic institutions,” in Flake’s words. Trump critics argue that, if this is their view, this moment in history compels them to do everything possible to limit Trump — to oppose Trump more than just rhetorically. With McCain suffering from brain cancer and not on Capitol Hill, the Senate is basically divided between 50 members who vote with the GOP and 49 who vote with the Democrats. Flake or any other Republican senator, their critics argue, could single-handedly grind Trump’s entire agenda to a halt. They could prevent a vote on Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, or force a vote on legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller.
Instead, the few Republicans in the Senate willing to criticize Trump1 have mostly done only that, spurring some eye-rolling exasperation from people who want action, not just words. But we think this vein of criticism of Trump-skeptical Republicans is, well, kind of wrong. It ignores the power of words to serve as a reminder that Trump isn’t an entirely normal Republican, and that he doesn’t have complete Republican support — at least, not all the time. It’s true that Flake and other Trump-skeptical Republicans could do much, much more. But that doesn’t mean what they’re doing now is meaningless.
gov2.0  politics  congress  trump  538 
13 days ago by rgl7194
What The Rise Of Kamala Harris Tells Us About The Democratic Party | FiveThirtyEight
In the days after Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the two people who seemed like the Democratic Party’s most obvious 2020 candidates, then-Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, hinted that Clinton had gone too far in talking about issues of identity. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman; vote for me,’” Sanders said. Other liberals lamented that the party had lost white voters in such states as Ohio and Iowa who had supported Barack Obama, and they said Democrats needed to dial back the identity talk to win them back.
But that view never took hold among party activists. Liberal-leaning women were emboldened to talk about gender more, not less, after the 2016 election. We’ve had women’s marches and women running for office in greater numbers than ever — all while emphasizing their gender. President Trump’s moves kept identity issues at the forefront, too, and gave Democrats an opportunity both to defend groups they view as disadvantaged and to attack the policies of a president they hate.
politics  gov2.0  Dems  congress  immigration  538  women 
13 days ago by rgl7194
How Catholic Bishops Are Shaping Health Care In Rural America | FiveThirtyEight
lmost as soon as President Trump took office, he began rolling back health care rules that had angered religious groups for much of the last decade. First, Trump signed an executive order declaring that his administration would protect religious freedom. Then, his administration ruled that health insurance plans offered by large employers don’t have to cover contraception for employees, an about-face from a contentious Obama policy. The Department of Health and Human Services created a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, signaling a new focus for the agency. A proposed rule could require all 5,500 hospitals in the U.S. to post notices informing individuals and entities that they are protected from religious discrimination.
The changes are all designed to ensure that employers, health care institutions and providers don’t have to participate in health care practices they object to for ethical or moral reasons. But even decades before the Trump administration moved to roll back Obamacare policies, some religious hospitals — in particular, Catholic hospitals — already had the green light from the government to deny certain treatment options to their patients. These hospitals’ right to refuse care is generally unquestioned, creating a dilemma for the people who walk in the door: What happens when you need or want a standard medical service, but the hospital won’t provide it?
538  church  health  insurance  medical  religion 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Russians Are Targeting Private Election Companies, Too — And States Aren’t Doing Much About It | FiveThirtyEight
The American election system is a textbook example of federalism at work. States administer elections, and the federal government doesn’t have much say in how they do it. While this decentralized system has its benefits, it also means that there’s no across-the-board standard for election system cybersecurity practices. This lack of standardization has become all the more apparent over the past two years: Hackers probed 21 state systems during the lead-up to the 2016 election and gained access to one. But the federal government and states don’t appear to have made great strides to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. To do so, they’d need to deal with not only their own cybersecurity deficits but also those of the private companies that help states administer elections.
Voting machine manufacturers and the makers of election software and electronic poll books (which are lists of eligible voters) are crucially intertwined with state election systems. All states, to some extent or another, rely on these private companies for election products. But despite the central role these companies play, state regulations of them are relatively lax. That’s a problem, especially at a time when these companies are, along with state governments, targets of foreign agents of chaos.
election  gov2.0  politics  state  hack  russia  security  privacy  538 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Why We’re Sharing 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets | FiveThirtyEight
When historians try to appraise Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which historical artifacts will they use? Then-candidate Donald Trump’s speech imploring Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails, perhaps. The soccer ball Vladimir Putin gave President Trump at their summit in Helsinki probably merits inclusion. And then there are the tweets — millions of them.
Earlier this year, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Justice Department charged 13 Russian nationals with interfering in American electoral and political processes. The defendants worked for a well-funded “troll factory” called the Internet Research Agency, which had 400 employees, according to one Russian news report. From a bland office building in St. Petersburg, the agency ran a sophisticated and coordinated campaign to sow disinformation and discord into American politics via social media. This often involved Trump’s favorite medium: Twitter.
politics  russia  twitter  troll  gov2.0  trump  election  538 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Damn, We Wish We’d Done These 4 Stories Last Month | FiveThirtyEight
“Nike Says Its $250 Running Shoes Will Make You Run Much Faster. What if That’s Actually True?”
By Kevin Quealy and Josh Katz, The Upshot
Nike claims that runners who wear the company’s pricey Zoom Vaporfly 4% running shoes can see efficiency gains of up to 4 percent. That’s a lot in a sport with slim margins between winning and losing. But are those numbers correct? Lab studies are limited by their small sample sizes, but The Upshot was not. Kevin Quealy and Josh Katz used tens of thousands of real-life performance records from the Strava app to look beyond the Nike-sponsored lab studies and find out how the shoes performed in real events. That’s really cool, and what I really admired about the piece was the detailed yet accessible way that Quealy and Katz described their methodology and explained the strengths and weaknesses of the numerous analytic approaches they tried. No matter how they sliced the data, it pointed to a similar conclusion: Runners really did seem to perform better when wearing the Nike shoes.
— Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer
538  analytics  footwear  performance  sports 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Insurers Can Send Patients To Religious Hospitals That Restrict Reproductive Care | FiveThirtyEight
Last fall, about a month before her Medicaid coverage was scheduled to expire, Darolyn Lee realized that she needed to get her contraceptive implant replaced. Lee, a 37-year-old in Chicago, called the managed care organization in charge of her plan to find out where she should go to get the new implant. She was told that the closest in-network provider was Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic hospital about 30 minutes away by bus.
When she got to the hospital for her appointment, the doctor said she couldn’t replace Lee’s birth control, but wouldn’t say why. Instead, she gave Lee a referral card for the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department. Lee, assuming that hospital bureaucracy was to blame, made another appointment and returned to the hospital a few weeks later. But when the second doctor walked into the room, she explained that she, too, could not replace the implant. She offered Lee a pap smear instead.
538  church  health  medical  religion  insurance 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Why Religious Health Care Restrictions Often Take Patients By Surprise | FiveThirtyEight
When Angela Valavanis was deciding where she wanted to give birth, she didn’t give the matter much thought. Her obstetrician was affiliated with Presence St. Francis, a well-regarded hospital just north of Chicago, and that was where she had delivered her previous child almost four years earlier. She saw no reason not to return for her second and — she hoped — final delivery. She was planning for a natural delivery, but she wrote in her birth plan that if she had to have an emergency C-section, she wanted the doctors to perform a tubal ligation (commonly called “getting your tubes tied”) during her surgery so she wouldn’t get pregnant again in the future.
It wasn’t a secret that St. Francis was a Catholic hospital. If the name wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the crosses on the walls made the religious connection hard to ignore. But the implications of Angela’s decision to have her baby at this particular hospital didn’t become clear to her until she was being wheeled into the operating room for a C-section after three exhausting days of labor. It was the middle of the night, and she and her husband, Stel Valavanis, were foggy and frightened. But as she was being prepared for surgery, Angela reminded the doctor she wanted a tubal ligation.
There was a pause. And then the doctor said, “We can’t do that.”
religion  health  medical  538  church  insurance 
13 days ago by rgl7194
Can Science Save Politics? Or Will Politics Ruin Science? | FiveThirtyEight
Science has never truly been separate from the political system that funds it and uses the tools it creates. But scientists have not traditionally pushed so hard to make that relationship explicit, or to be the ones in charge of it. In the past, said Shaughnessy Naughton, the former chemist who founded 314 Action, scientists have sort of believed that they could just put the facts out there and the evidence would speak for itself. Before this, it had been rare for scientists to get involved in politics. “But it’s clear now that politicians are unashamed to meddle in science. And the way to push back is getting scientists elected. We have to have a place at the table,” she said.
When Gupta tries to win the Aug. 7 Democratic primary in the Michigan 11th, he won’t be just a lone guy with a science background running for Congress — a single data point, if you will. Instead, he’s part of a much larger sample — dozens of people trying to grant science some political power. It’s not clear that a commitment to STEM will help him win, though, nor is it clear what happens if Gupta and other science candidates do make it into office. That could mean more evidence-based policy — or more well-intentioned newbie politicians absorbed into the same old political machine. It could mean newfound respect (and research dollars) for science. Or it could turn “science” into a dog-whistle word for “liberal.”
Nobody knows what the result will be. There’s a word for what Gupta is running in this election, and it’s not “campaign.” It’s “experiment.”
gov2.0  science  politics  election  538 
14 days ago by rgl7194

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