being repeatedly told that the American election process is deeply corrupted.

In fact, Mr. Mastriano’s candidacy has from its inception been propelled by his role in disputing the 2020 presidential election lost by Mr. Trump.

county by county, but election experts say they do not reflect factors as benign as changes in addresses.

“They’re in search of solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Kyle Miller, a Navy veteran and state representative for Protect Democracy, a national advocacy organization, said in an interview in Harrisburg. “They are basing this on faulty data and internet rumors.”

Some Republican lawmakers have leaned on false claims to call for changes to rules about mail-in ballots and other measures intended to make it easier for people to vote. Several counties have already reversed some of the decisions, including the number and location of drop boxes for ballots.

Mr. Miller, among others, warned that the flurry of false claims about balloting could be a trial run for challenging the results of the presidential election in 2024, in which Pennsylvania could again be a crucial swing state.

In Chester County, a largely white region that borders Delaware and Maryland that is roughly split between Republicans and Democrats, the effort to sow confusion came the old-fashioned way: in the mail.

Letters dated Sept. 12 began arriving in mailboxes across the county, warning people that their votes in the 2020 presidential election might not have counted. “Because you have a track record of consistently voting, we find it unusual that your record indicates that you did not vote,” the letter, which was unsigned, said.

The sender called itself “Data Insights,” based in the county seat of West Chester, though no known record of such a company exists, according to county officials. The letters did include copies of the recipients’ voting records. The letters urged recipients to write to the county commissioners or attend the commission’s meetings in the county seat of West Chester, in September and October. Dozens of recipients did.

The county administrator, Robert J. Kagel, tried to assure them that their votes were actually counted. He urged anyone concerned to contact the county’s voter services department.

Even so, at county meetings in September and October, speaker after speaker lined up to question the letter and the ballot process generally — and to air an array of grievances and conspiracy theories.

They included the discredited claims of the film “2000 Mules” that operatives have been stuffing boxes for mail-in ballots. One attendee warned that votes were being tabulated by the Communist Party of China or the World Economic Forum.

“I don’t know where my vote is,” another resident, Barbara Ellis of Berwyn, told the commissioners in October. “I don’t know if it was manipulated in the machines, in another country.”

As of Oct. 20, 59 people in Chester County had contacted officials with concerns raised in the letter, but in each case, it was determined that the voters’ ballots had been cast and counted, said Rebecca Brain, a county spokesman.

Who exactly sent the letters remains a mystery, which only fuels more conspiracy theories.

“It seems very official,” Charlotte Valyo, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in the county, said of the letter. She described it as part of “an ongoing, constant campaign to undermine the confidence in our voting system.” The county’s Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Disinformation may not be the only cause of the deepening partisan chasm in the state — or the nation — but it has undoubtedly worsened it. The danger, Ms. Valyo warned, was discouraging voting by sowing distrust in the ability of election officials to tally the votes.

“People might think, ‘Why bother, if they’re that messed up?’”

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Putin Denies Russia Intends to Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine

Credit…Sputnik/Sergei Karpukhin via Reuters

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday denied that Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, despite frequent hints in the past that it could do so, and he tried to appeal to conservatives in the United States and Europe with accusations that Western elites were trying to impose their “strange” values on the rest of the world.

The nearly four-hour speech and question-and-answer session, with reference to “dozens of genders,” “gay parades’’ and “neoliberal elites,’’ relied on arguments used to animate the culture wars in the United States and Europe, an apparent effort to sway global public opinion in favor of Russia at a time when his army is losing ground in Ukraine.

“In the United States there’s a very strong part of the public who maintain traditional values, and they’re with us,” Mr. Putin said. “We know about this.”

Mr. Putin claimed it was the West that was escalating nuclear tensions surrounding Ukraine.

“We have no need to do this,” Mr. Putin said of the potential Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine in his strongest denial to date of any such plans. “There’s no sense in it for us, neither political nor military.”

His comments, at an annual foreign policy conference in Moscow, are unlikely to reassure Ukraine or Western nations. He and other senior officials have repeatedly suggested that Russia might resort to nuclear weaponry. And the Kremlin’s assurances in the past have often proved untrustworthy; top officials issued multiple denials in the days before the war that Russia intended to invade Ukraine.

“This is a trick — it shouldn’t make anyone relax,” Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political analyst, said, noting that Mr. Putin has blamed every escalation in the war, including the invasion itself, on the West and its support for an independent Ukraine. “His goal is to show that escalation is the product of Western policies.”

In a speech and a lengthy subsequent question-and-answer session Thursday at an annual foreign policy conference in Moscow at the Valdai Discussion Club, a research institute close to the Kremlin, Mr. Putin coupled his denial of any nuclear plans in Ukraine with a bid for global support — including from conservative-minded people in the West who, he insisted, back Mr. Putin’s campaign to preserve “traditional values.”

“In the United States there’s a very strong part of the public who maintain traditional values, and they’re with us,” Mr. Putin said. “We know about this.”

Lawmakers in Russia’s lower house of Parliament backed legislation on Thursday that would ban the “propaganda” of homosexuality in all aspects of public life, expanding a directive that currently only applies to media directed at children.

Mr. Putin insisted that Russia did not fundamentally see itself as an “enemy of the West.” Rather, he said — as he has before — that it was “Western elites” that he was fighting, ones who were trying to impose their “pretty strange” values on everyone else.

In a question-and-answer session after the speech, the event’s moderator, the foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, pressed Mr. Putin on the fact that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine does not appear to have gone according to plan. And he said that there was a widespread view that Russia had “underestimated the enemy.”

“Honestly, society doesn’t understand — what’s the plan?” Mr. Lukyanov asked.

Mr. Putin brushed aside the implicit criticism, arguing that Ukraine’s fierce resistance showed why he was right to launch the invasion. The longer Russia had waited, he said, “the worse it would have been for us, the more difficult and more dangerous.”

Mr. Putin repeated Russia’s unfounded claims that Ukraine was preparing to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” on its territory and blame Moscow. Ukraine and the West say that the claims are disinformation that could be used as a pretext by the Kremlin to use a nuclear weapon.

In Ukraine, officials ridiculed Mr. Putin’s speech. Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, said the Russian president was accusing the West of what he has been doing himself, like violating another country’s sovereignty.

“Any speech by Putin can be described in two words: ‘for Freud,’” Mr. Podolyak posted on Twitter.

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New PM Rishi Sunak pledges to lead Britain out of economic crisis

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  • Sunak meets King Charles on Tuesday morning
  • Vows to rebuild trust in the country
  • Expected to start forming a cabinet
  • Sunak faces huge challenge to rebuild stability

LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Rishi Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister in two months on Tuesday and pledged to lead the country out of a profound economic crisis and rebuild trust in politics.

Sunak quickly reappointed Jeremy Hunt as his finance minister in a move designed to calm markets that had balked at his predecessor’s debt-fuelled economic plans.

The former hedge fund boss said he would unite the country and was expected to name a cabinet drawn from all wings of the party to end infighting and abrupt policy changes that have horrified investors and alarmed international allies.

Speaking outside his official Downing Street residence, Sunak praised the ambition of his predecessor Liz Truss to reignite economic growth but acknowledged mistakes had been made.

“I have been elected as leader of my party and your prime minister, in part to fix them,” said Sunak, who broke with the tradition of standing beside his family and cheering political supporters.

“I understand, too, that I have work to do to restore trust, after all that has happened. All I can say is that I am not daunted. I know the high office I have accepted and I hope to live up to its demands.”

Sunak said difficult decisions lay ahead as he looks to cut public spending. Hunt, who Truss appointed to calm markets roiled by her dash for growth, has been preparing a new budget alongside borrowing and growth forecasts due out on Monday, and repeated his warning on Tuesday that “it is going to be tough”.

The new prime minister also restored Dominic Raab to the post of deputy prime minister, a role he lost in Truss’s 44 days in office, but reappointed James Cleverly as foreign minister and Ben Wallace at defence.

Penny Mordaunt, who ended her bid to win a leadership contest against Sunak on Monday, also retained her position as leader of the House of Commons, a role that organises the government’s business in the lower house of parliament.

Sources had said she wanted to become foreign minister.

With his new appointments, Sunak was seen to be drawing ministers from across the Conservative Party while leaving others in post – a move that should ease concerns that Sunak might appoint loyalists rather than try to unify the party.

TOUGH DECISIONS

Sunak, one of the richest men in parliament, is expected to slash spending to plug an estimated 40 billion pound ($45 billion) hole in the public finances created by an economic slowdown, higher borrowing costs and an energy support scheme.

He will now need to review all spending, including on politically sensitive areas such as health, education, defence, welfare and pensions. But with his party’s popularity in freefall, he will face growing calls for an election if he ditches too many of the promises that the Conservatives win election in 2019.

Economists and investors have welcomed Sunak’s appointment – Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the adults had taken charge again – but they warn he has few options to fix the country’s finances when millions are battling a cost of living crunch.

Sunak, who ran the Treasury during the COVID-19 pandemic, promised to put economic stability and confidence at the heart of the agenda. “This will mean difficult decisions to come,” he said, shortly after he accepted King Charles’s request to form a government.

Sunak also vowed to put the public’s need above politics, in recognition of the growing anger at Britain’s political class and the ideological battles that have raged ever since the historic 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Workers heading towards London’s financial district said Sunak, at 42 Britain’s youngest prime minister for more than 200 years and its first leader of colour, appeared to be the best of a bad bunch.

“I think he was competent, and that’s really what we should hope for at the moment,” said management consultant, James Eastbook, 43.

With two prime ministers appointed in two months without a popular vote, some called for a general election now but others hoped Sunak would stay until the next scheduled election, due by January 2025.

POLITICAL MACHINATIONS

Sunak, a Goldman Sachs analyst who only entered parliament in 2015, faces a challenge ending the factional infighting that has brought his party low. Many Conservatives remain angry with him for quitting as finance minister in July and triggering a wider rebellion that ended Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Others question how a multi millionaire can lead the country when millions of people are struggling with surging food and energy bills.

“I think this decision sinks us as a party for the next election,” one Conservative lawmaker told Reuters.

Historian and political biographer Anthony Seldon said Sunak would also be constrained by the mistakes of his immediate predecessor.

“There is no leeway on him being anything other than extraordinarily conservative and cautious,” he told Reuters.

Many politicians and officials abroad, having watched as a country once seen as a pillar of economic and political stability descended into brutal infighting, welcomed Sunak’s appointment.

Sunak, a Hindu, also becomes Britain’s first prime minister of Indian origin.

U.S. President Joe Biden described it as a “groundbreaking milestone”, while leaders from India and elsewhere welcomed the news. Sunak’s billionaire father-in-law, N.R. Narayana Murthy, said he would serve the United Kingdom well.

“We are proud of him and we wish him success,” the founder of software giant Infosys said in a statement.

($1 = 0.8864 pounds)

Writing by by Kate Holton and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jon Boyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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The very last thing the UK needs is more ‘grownup’ politics. That’s what got us into this mess | Nesrine Malik

It won’t be Boris Johnson, but whoever the new prime minister turns out to be, they will have been dragged into office by “economic orthodoxy” and its henchmen. Their mandate is pre-written in the data you have been deluged with about the impact of unfunded tax cuts, from the depreciation of the pound to rises in interest rates, and the untenable upward effect this has had on mortgages and rents. The charts have spoken – an ideological experiment has gone terribly wrong and must be reversed.

But it is a tale of two crises, and only one is being told. Attracting far less fanfare is another set of statistics about cold and hunger. More than a million people are expected to be pushed into poverty this winter. Their slide into deprivation will test an informal support network already stretched to its limit. Last week, the food bank charity the Trussell Trust launched an emergency appeal for donations because need for food banks has now outstripped donations. Charities like this, private citizens and schools are mobilising to bridge the gap.

The hole is too large to plug. Half of all primary schools in England are trying to feed children in poverty who are ineligible for free school meals because their parents’ income does not meet the threshold. But there are 800,000 of them. It can be hard sometimes to grasp the scale of the problem through bare statistics, but vivid and haunting details can flesh them out. Children are eating school rubbers to line their stomachs and dull the ache and nausea of hunger. Others are bringing in empty lunchboxes then pretending to dine on their phantom food away from classmates, too ashamed to reveal that they have nothing to eat.

If these children’s families can’t afford to eat, they definitely can’t afford to keep warm as winter approaches and energy prices rocket. How can children expect to learn with their minds impaired by hunger and cold? Over the past year, reading ability among seven-year-olds from poor families fell at double the rate of those from affluent families, their future prospects receding before they have even begun.

People burn their utility bills at cost of living protests – video

But my goodness, the scenes in Westminster! Kwasi Kwarteng sacked on a plane, Suella Braverman gone for a data breach, reported manhandling, jostling and shouting outside the voting lobby. And if that wasn’t already enough to drown out the rumble of tummies and chattering of teeth, Liz Truss threw in the towel, kicking off another attention-sucking vortex of new leadership speculation and horse-trading.

“I worry,” Naomi Duncan, chief executive of Chefs in Schools, told me, two hours after Truss resigned, “that the ongoing political turmoil will divert attention.” The solution for her is simple: to give one meal a day to all children based on need, not an income calculation that has long since ceased to be relevant.

It does sound simple, doesn’t it? But the sort of government that tackles poverty, hunger and cold is not the government anyone who matters is clamouring for. As the emergency intensifies, politicians and opinion makers are calling not for a firefighter to treat this as the crisis it truly is, but for a “grownup” to make those economic charts read better.

“The grownups are back,” declared Liam Fox, after Jeremy Hunt and Penny Mordaunt’s performance at the dispatch box last week. “If Truss cannot quickly sort herself out,” the Sun (of all papers) told us, ‘“the grownups need to get in a room” and “agree a peaceful transition to a sensible figure”. This trope exemplifies the detachment of both Westminster and Westminster watchers. As the country enters into the winter crisis proper, those at the top are looking for a leader with unspecified technocratic skills who, like a contracted management consultant, will be able to “stabilise” UK plc. It’s not the mouths of children that need feeding, but the markets.

If this new leader must have an ideology, it should be one that aligns with the aim of “fiscal responsibility”, itself a byword for reduced state spending. They must “look like a leader”, and enact whatever callous cuts they have to, preferably while exhibiting suitable regret at having to make “difficult decisions”. The result of this settlement is a chilling absence of politicians able to articulate the exceptional pain the public is going through. Also absent are any policies that would tackle the cost of living and energy emergency through higher taxes on the wealthy, or an economic stabilisation agenda that addresses the goals not only of those who want to prosper, but those who need to survive.

Liz Truss, lettuce and a lectern: 25 hours of chaos in three minutes – video

Even among a fuming opposition there is a sort of bloodless anger. “The damage to mortgages and bills has been done,” tweeted Keir Starmer as if the economic impact is being felt by pieces of paper rather than people. It seems everyone has understood that injecting feeling and channelling the fear and deprivation that stalks people every day disqualifies you from being taken seriously as a politician. The “adult” approach seems to be keeping the markets happy and achieving abstract “growth”, rather than also prioritising the security of those so on the margins they cannot benefit from that growth; those who will suffer most when the next round of soberly dictated cuts arrive.

To include in your economic vision the importance of benefits, subsidies or improvements to public services to the wellbeing of those not able to fully participate in the housing or job market is somehow outside the parameters of acceptable politics.

But it is staying in that lane of acceptable politics that has resulted in our political and social crises. The delusion is that if we try just one more time with someone like Rishi Sunak, a man who flat out complained of funding being “shoved into deprived areas”, the right or right of centre will crack it. Despite the fact that this is the tribe which over the past two decades pursued the deregulation agenda of big businesses, allowed working conditions and wages to be run into the ground, slashed benefits, and failed to invest any money saved from painful cuts into, to take just one example, any future-proofing green energy that would have mitigated this winter crisis.

I wonder, even with attention constantly yanked back to the Westminster spectacle, just how many more chances the grownups can get away with when every day another adult or child starts to go without food, or another family bundle themselves up at night instead of putting the heating on. Just how much longer can people put up with a consensus that placates the financial system with an “acceptable” number of losers? Grownup politics is literally that: disregarding those who do not “matter”, considering the economically marginalised simply as collateral damage, excluding their passions from the cool halls of power and cultivating resignation to ever more suffering. But with their numbers rising and their pain intensifying, that may be about to become an impossible task.

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U.K. Live Updates: Liz Truss Resigns as Prime Minister

LONDON — For Liz Truss, the end came on Thursday in a midday meeting with grandees of the Conservative Party. But Ms. Truss’s fate as prime minister was all but sealed three weeks earlier when currency and bond traders reacted to her new fiscal program by torpedoing the pound and other British financial assets.

The market’s swift, withering verdict on Ms. Truss’s tax-cutting agenda shattered her credibility, degraded Britain’s reputation with investors, drove up home mortgage rates, pushed the pound down to near parity with the American dollar, and forced the Bank of England to intervene to prop up British bonds.

That repudiation, measured in the second-by-second fluctuations of bond yields and exchange rates, mattered more than the noisy departures of Ms. Truss’s cabinet ministers or the hothouse anxieties of Conservative lawmakers that ultimately made her position untenable.

For that reason, world leaders, buffeted by economic challenges, are watching the turmoil in Britain with anything but relish, concerned about the stability of Britain itself. Interest rates, energy costs and inflation are rising around the world. Labor unrest is proliferating across borders. Non-British pension funds potentially face the same financial stresses that afflicted those in Britain. The last thing leaders want is for Ms. Truss’s woes to be a harbinger for other countries.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, who recently mended fences with Ms. Truss after she refused last summer to characterize him as a friend or foe, said: “I wish in any case that Great Britain will find stability again and moves on, as soon as possible. It’s good for us, and it’s good for our Europe.”

Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Ms. Truss, economists said, is correct to argue that markets are driven by global trends broader than her tax cuts. Central banks worldwide are raising rates to battle inflation, which has been fueled by a surge in demand as the coronavirus pandemic ebbed and a spike in gas prices driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The problems are by no means all Truss’s doing but she should have known that getting blamed for everything comes with the territory,” said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a scholar of financial upheavals.

“What is really worrisome now,” he said, is that the situation in Britain “might be the canary in the coal mine as global interest rates keep soaring, especially as they do not seem likely to come down anytime soon.”

Ms. Truss long cultivated a reputation as a disrupter and a free-market evangelist in the tradition of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Her tax cut proposals made her an outlier among leaders of big economies fighting inflation. But she made no apologies for offending either economic orthodoxy or the expectations of financial markets in pursuit of her vision of a “low-tax, high growth” Britain.

“Not everyone will be in favor of change,” a defiant Ms. Truss said a week ago at the annual meeting of the Conservative Party, even though one of her planned tax cuts, for high-earning people, had already been reversed. “But everyone will benefit from the result: a growing economy and a better future.”

The prime minister’s fatal miscalculation, experts said, was to believe that Britain could defy the gravity of the markets by passing sweeping tax cuts, without corresponding spending cuts, at a time when inflation is running in double digits and interest rates were rising.

“It was the combination of the wrong fiscal policy at the wrong time — borrowing when rates were rising rather than, as in 2010s, when they were low,” said Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics and public policy at Kings College London.

He cited what he called Ms. Truss’s “institutional vandalism,’’ in particular the way she and her ousted chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, broke with custom by announcing sweeping tax cuts without subjecting them to the scrutiny of the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office of Budget Responsibility.

In that sense, he said, Ms. Truss was following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Boris Johnson, who resigned as prime minister barely three months earlier after a series of scandals prompted a wholesale walkout of his ministers.

Credit…Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Kwarteng’s budget maneuvering led many in the markets to suspect the government was engaged in a kind of fiscal sleight of hand, which would inevitably require massive borrowing to cover a hole in the budget estimated at 72 billion pounds ($81.5 billion).

Mr. Kwarteng, who studied the history of financial crises as a doctoral student at Cambridge University, brushed off the blowback in financial markets as a temporary phenomenon. Like Ms. Truss, he is a believer in disruptive change. Together, they were among the authors of “Britannia Unchained,” a manifesto for a Thatcher-style, free-market revolution in post-Brexit Britain. Among other things, the authors described Britons as “among the worst idlers in the world.”

When, or even whether, Britain can fully recover from this period of political and economic turbulence is not yet clear. On Thursday, as news of Ms. Truss’s resignation broke, the pound rose against the dollar and yields on British government bonds fell.

Virtually all the government’s planned tax cuts have been reversed, and the next prime minister, regardless of his or her politics, will have little choice but to pursue a policy of spending cuts and strict fiscal discipline. Some fear a return to the bleak austerity of Prime Minister David Cameron in the years after the 2008 financial crisis.

“Rishi or another can steady the ship and calm the markets,” Professor Portes said, referring to Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor who ran unsuccessfully against Ms. Truss and may seek to succeed her. “But it’s hard to see how, given the state of the Conservatives, any Tory prime minister can repair the longer-term damage.”

Much of that damage is to Britain’s once-sterling reputation in the markets. Economists have begun mentioning Britain in the same breath as fiscally wayward countries like Italy and Greece. Lawrence H. Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, told Bloomberg News, “It makes me very sorry to say, but I think the U.K. is behaving a bit like an emerging market turning itself into a submerging market.”

That is a humbling comedown for a country that in 2009 announced a $1.1 trillion emergency fund to bail out the global economy.

“If you’re an American fund manager, you’re not going to put Britain in the super-safe category you might have earlier,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. “It’s not about Britain’s standing in the world, but what category we’ve put ourselves in.”

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How Disinformation Splintered and Became More Intractable

On the morning of July 8, former President Donald J. Trump took to Truth Social, a social media platform he founded with people close to him, to claim that he had in fact won the 2020 presidential vote in Wisconsin, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Barely 8,000 people shared that missive on Truth Social, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of responses his posts on Facebook and Twitter had regularly generated before those services suspended his megaphones after the deadly riot on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.

And yet Mr. Trump’s baseless claim pulsed through the public consciousness anyway. It jumped from his app to other social media platforms — not to mention podcasts, talk radio or television.

Within 48 hours of Mr. Trump’s post, more than one million people saw his claim on at least dozen other media. It appeared on Facebook and Twitter, from which he has been banished, but also YouTube, Gab, Parler and Telegram, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

gone mainstream among Republican Party members, driving state and county officials to impose new restrictions on casting ballots, often based on mere conspiracy theories percolating in right-wing media.

Voters must now sift through not only an ever-growing torrent of lies and falsehoods about candidates and their policies, but also information on when and where to vote. Officials appointed or elected in the name of fighting voter fraud have put themselves in the position to refuse to certify outcomes that are not to their liking.

a primary battleground in today’s fight against disinformation. A report last month by NewsGuard, an organization that tracks the problem online, showed that nearly 20 percent of videos presented as search results on TikTok contained false or misleading information on topics such as school shootings and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

continued to amplify “election denialism” in ways that undermined trust in the democratic system.

Another challenge is the proliferation of alternative platforms for those falsehoods and even more extreme views.

new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of prominent accounts on those seven platforms had previously been banished from others like Twitter and Facebook.

F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago thrust his latest pronouncements into the eye of the political storm once again.

study of Truth Social by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, examined how the platform had become a home for some of the most fringe conspiracy theories. Mr. Trump, who began posting on the platform in April, has increasingly amplified content from QAnon, the online conspiracy theory.

He has shared posts from QAnon accounts more than 130 times. QAnon believers promote a vast and complex conspiracy that centers on Mr. Trump as a leader battling a cabal of Democratic Party pedophiles. Echoes of such views reverberated through Republican election campaigns across the country during this year’s primaries.

Ms. Jankowicz, the disinformation expert, said the nation’s social and political divisions had churned the waves of disinformation.

The controversies over how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic deepened distrust of government and medical experts, especially among conservatives. Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election led to, but did not end with, the Capitol Hill violence.

“They should have brought us together,” Ms. Jankowicz said, referring to the pandemic and the riots. “I thought perhaps they could be kind of this convening power, but they were not.”

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Alex Jones Takes The Stand In Connecticut Defamation Trial

This is Jones’ second defamation trial in as many months for spreading false defamatory conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.

It was a testimony of fits and starts when Alex Jones took the stand Thursday in Waterbury, Connecticut.  

Attorneys for both sides as well as Alex Jones were admonished by the judge. The judge dismissed the jury several times during testimony so she could handle disputes between opposing sides.

Plaintiff attorney Christopher Mattei: “I asked you whether you believe the FBI is a plaintiff in this case?”

Alex Jones: “Yes, I believe this is a deep state situation.” 

While on the stand, the attorney representing those connected to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy pressed Jones on everything from his company’s finances to derogatory comments he’s made about the trial on his show just this week. 

“I’m talking to the people who went to that puppet courthouse and put Infowars stickers everywhere,” Jones said. “We commend you.”

JONES: “It’s peaceful protest when they burn down two million dollars, that’s good, but when conservatives put up stickers then we’re bad.”

More than a dozen family members of various Sandy Hook victims showed up to observe his testimony in Waterbury Superior Court Thursday. 

While this is Jones’ first appearance in the Connecticut courtroom, he’s given multiple statements outside of court — calling the proceedings a sham.  

JONES: “This is a travesty of justice, and this judge is a tyrant. This judge is ordering me to say that i’m guilty and to say that i’m a liar.”

Back in November of 2021, Judge Barbara Bellis, who is presiding over this case, entered a default judgment against Jones for “willful noncompliance” during the discovery phase of the trial.  

“This callous disregard of their obligations to fully and fairly comply with discovery and court orders on its own merits a default against the Jones defendants,” Bellis said.

This is Jones’ second defamation trial in as many months for spreading false defamatory conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that killed more than two dozen people.  

Over the last two weeks, jurors have heard powerful testimony from Connecticut parents who lost children during the shooting and endured harassment from Jones’ followers.   

In August, a Texas jury awarded nearly $50 million to the family of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old who was killed during the Sandy Hook shooting, in a separate defamation case. 

Source: newsy.com

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How a Spreader of Voter Fraud Conspiracy Theories Became a Star

In 2011, Catherine Engelbrecht appeared at a Tea Party Patriots convention in Phoenix to deliver a dire warning.

While volunteering at her local polls in the Houston area two years earlier, she claimed, she witnessed voter fraud so rampant that it made her heart stop. People cast ballots without proof of registration or eligibility, she said. Corrupt election judges marked votes for their preferred candidates on the ballots of unwitting citizens, she added.

Local authorities found no evidence of the election tampering she described, but Ms. Engelbrecht was undeterred. “Once you see something like that, you can’t forget it,” the suburban Texas mom turned election-fraud warrior told the audience of 2,000. “You certainly can’t abide by it.”

planting seeds of doubt over the electoral process, becoming one of the earliest and most enthusiastic spreaders of ballot conspiracy theories.

fueled by Mr. Trump, has seized the moment. She has become a sought-after speaker at Republican organizations, regularly appears on right-wing media and was the star of the recent film “2,000 Mules,” which claimed mass voter fraud in the 2020 election and has been debunked.

She has also been active in the far-right’s battle for November’s midterm elections, rallying election officials, law enforcement and lawmakers to tighten voter restrictions and investigate the 2020 results.

said in an interview last month with a conservative show, GraceTimeTV, which was posted on the video-sharing site Rumble. “There have been no substantive improvements to change anything that happened in 2020 to prevent it from happening in 2022.”

set up stakeouts to prevent illegal stuffing of ballot boxes. Officials overseeing elections are ramping up security at polling places.

Voting rights groups said they were increasingly concerned by Ms. Engelbrecht.

She has “taken the power of rhetoric to a new place,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, the acting director of voting rights at the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank. “It’s having a real impact on the way lawmakers and states are governing elections and on the concerns we have on what may happen in the upcoming elections.”

Some of Ms. Engelbrecht’s former allies have cut ties with her. Rick Wilson, a Republican operative and Trump critic, ran public relations for Ms. Engelbrecht in 2014 but quit after a few months. He said she had declined to turn over data to back her voting fraud claims.

“She never had the juice in terms of evidence,” Mr. Wilson said. “But now that doesn’t matter. She’s having her uplift moment.”

a video of the donor meeting obtained by The New York Times. They did not elaborate on why.

announce a partnership to scrutinize voting during the midterms.

“The most important right the American people have is to choose our own public officials,” said Mr. Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz. “Anybody trying to steal that right needs to be prosecuted and arrested.”

Steve Bannon, then chief executive of the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, and Andrew Breitbart, the publication’s founder, spoke at her conferences.

True the Vote’s volunteers scrutinized registration rolls, watched polling stations and wrote highly speculative reports. In 2010, a volunteer in San Diego reported seeing a bus offloading people at a polling station “who did not appear to be from this country.”

Civil rights groups described the activities as voter suppression. In 2010, Ms. Engelbrecht told supporters that Houston Votes, a nonprofit that registered voters in diverse communities of Harris County, Texas, was connected to the “New Black Panthers.” She showed a video of an unrelated New Black Panther member in Philadelphia who called for the extermination of white people. Houston Votes was subsequently investigated by state officials, and law enforcement raided its office.

“It was a lie and racist to the core,” said Fred Lewis, head of Houston Votes, who sued True the Vote for defamation. He said he had dropped the suit after reaching “an understanding” that True the Vote would stop making accusations. Ms. Engelbrecht said she didn’t recall such an agreement.

in April 2021, did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Engelbrecht has denied his claims.

In mid-2021, “2,000 Mules” was hatched after Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips met with Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative provocateur and filmmaker. They told him that they could detect cases of ballot box stuffing based on two terabytes of cellphone geolocation data that they had bought and matched with video surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes.

Salem Media Group, the conservative media conglomerate, and Mr. D’Souza agreed to create and fund a film. The “2,000 Mules” title was meant to evoke the image of cartels that pay people to carry illegal drugs into the United States.

said after seeing the film that it raised “significant questions” about the 2020 election results; 17 state legislators in Michigan also called for an investigation into election results there based on the film’s accusations.

In Arizona, the attorney general’s office asked True the Vote between April and June for data about some of the claims in “2,000 Mules.” The contentions related to Maricopa and Yuma Counties, where Ms. Engelbrecht said people had illegally submitted ballots and had used “stash houses” to store fraudulent ballots.

According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a True the Vote official said Mr. Phillips had turned over a hard drive with the data. The attorney general’s office said early this month that it hadn’t received it.

Last month, Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips hosted an invitation-only gathering of about 150 supporters in Queen Creek, Ariz., which was streamed online. For weeks beforehand, they promised to reveal the addresses of ballot “stash houses” and footage of voter fraud.

Ms. Engelbrecht did not divulge the data at the event. Instead, she implored the audience to look to the midterm elections, which she warned were the next great threat to voter integrity.

“The past is prologue,” she said.

Alexandra Berzon contributed reporting.

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U.K. Leader Liz Truss Vows Energy Relief, Rules Out Windfall Tax

By Associated Press
September 7, 2022

Truss rebuffed opposition calls for a new windfall tax, but refrained from explaining how she’d fund a plan meant to help the public pay energy bills.

Newly installed U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss told Parliament on Wednesday that she would tackle Britain’s “very serious” energy crisis while still slashing taxes, ruling out imposing a windfall levy on oil companies to pay for her plans to offset the soaring cost of heating and electricity.

Truss rebuffed opposition calls for a new windfall tax, even as she refrained from explaining how she would fund a plan meant to help the public pay energy bills skyrocketing because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the economic aftershocks of COVID-19 and Brexit.

She said during her first session of prime minister’s questions that she would set out a plan on Thursday to help with the immediate prices crisis so that people “are able to get through this winter,” as well as measures to bolster Britain’s long-term energy security.

But she added: “I am against a windfall tax. I believe it is the wrong thing to be putting companies off investing in the United Kingdom just when we need to be growing the economy.

“This country will not be able to tax its way to growth,” she said, to thunderous cheers from Conservative lawmakers in a packed House of Commons.

Truss’s spokesman said she wouldn’t cancel a windfall tax imposed in May by former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, her defeated Conservative leadership rival, but wouldn’t bring in a new one. She is also scrapping a previously announced increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25%.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said that amounted to handing billions to energy firms that have pocketed hefty profits because of high energy prices. Instead, the cost of price relief will have to be paid by British taxpayers, he said, branding Truss’s economic plans a “Tory fantasy.”

British news media have reported that Truss plans to cap energy bills. The cost to taxpayers of that step could reach 100 billion pounds ($116 billion).

“The prime minister knows she has now choice but to back an energy price freeze, but it won’t be cheap and the real choice, the political choice is who is going to pay,” Starmer said. “Is she really telling us that she is going to leave (energy companies’) vast excess profits on the table and make working people foot the bill for decades to come?”

In her energy plan Truss also is likely to greenlight more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and could lift a ban on fracking — both ideas that have been condemned by environmentalists.

Earlier Wednesday, Truss led the first meeting for her new Cabinet — a government diverse in race and gender and united in its support for the new leader’s staunchly free-market views.

Truss, 47, was appointed prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday after winning an internal Conservative Party election to lead the Tories. The former foreign secretary is Britain’s third female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. All three have been Conservatives.

She immediately put her stamp on the government, clearing out many ministers from the administration of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson — notably those who had backed Sunak in the Conservative leadership contest.

She made Kwasi Kwarteng her Treasury chief, a key role for a Cabinet whose inbox is dominated by the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which threatens to push energy bills to unaffordable levels, shuttering businesses and leaving the nation’s poorest people shivering at home this winter. Kwarteng is the first Black holder of the job whose formal title is Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Truss ally Therese Coffey becomes Britain’s first female deputy prime minister and also leads the health ministry as the state-funded National Health Service grapples with soaring demand and depleted resources in the wake of COVID-19.

For the first time, none of the U.K.’s “great offices of state” – prime minister, chancellor, foreign secretary and home secretary – is held by a white man. James Cleverly, whose mother is from Sierra Leone, is foreign secretary and Suella Braverman, who has Indian heritage, has been named home secretary, responsible for immigration and law and order.

In her first speech as prime minister on Tuesday, Truss said she would cut taxes to spur economic growth, bolster the NHS and “deal hands on” with the energy crisis.

“We shouldn’t be daunted by the challenges we face,” Truss said in her speech. “As strong as the storm may be, I know the British people are stronger.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Liz Truss Becomes Britain’s New Prime Minister

By Associated Press
September 6, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II formally asked her to form a new government in a traditional ceremony at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Liz Truss became U.K. prime minister on Tuesday and immediately confronted the enormous task ahead of her amid increasing pressure to curb soaring prices, ease labor unrest and fix a health care system burdened by long waiting lists and staff shortages.

At the top of her inbox is the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which threatens to push energy bills to unaffordable levels, shuttering businesses and leaving the nation’s poorest people shivering in icy homes this winter.

Truss, who refused to spell out her energy strategy during the two-month campaign to succeed Boris Johnson, now plans to cap energy bills at a cost to taxpayers of as much as $116 billion, British news media reported Tuesday. She is expected to unveil her plan on Thursday.

“You must know about the cost of living crisis in England, which is really quite bad at the moment,” Rebecca Macdougal, 55, who works in law enforcement, said outside the Houses of Parliament.

“She’s making promises for that, as she says she’s going to deliver, deliver, deliver,” she said. “But we will see in, hopefully, the next few weeks there’ll be some announcements which will help the normal working person.”

Truss took office Tuesday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, when Queen Elizabeth II formally asked her to form a new government in a carefully choreographed ceremony dictated by centuries of tradition. Johnson, who announced his intention to step down two months ago, formally resigned during his own audience with the queen a short time earlier.

It was the first time in the queen’s 70-year reign that the handover of power took place at Balmoral, rather than at Buckingham Palace in London. The ceremony was moved to Scotland to provide certainty about the schedule because the 96-year-old queen has experienced problems getting around that have forced palace officials to make decisions about her travel on a day-to-day basis.

Truss, 47, took office a day after the ruling Conservative Party chose her as its leader in an election where the party’s 172,000 dues-paying members were the only voters. As party leader, Truss automatically became prime minister without the need for a general election because the Conservatives still have a majority in the House of Commons.

But as a prime minister selected by less than 0.5% of British adults, Truss is under pressure to show quick results.

Ed Davey, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, on Tuesday called for an early election in October.

“I’ve listened to Liz Truss during the Tory leadership (campaign) and I was looking for a plan to help people with their skyrocketing energy bills, with the NHS crisis and so on, and I heard no plan at all,” he told the BBC.

“Given people are really worried, given people are losing sleep over their energy bills, businesses aren’t investing because of the crisis, I think that’s really wrong,” Davey said.

Johnson took note of the strains facing Britain as he left the prime minister’s official residence at No. 10 Downing Street for the last time, saying his policies had left the government with the economic strength to help people weather the energy crisis.

While many observers expect Johnson to attempt a political comeback, he backed Truss and compared himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who relinquished power and returned to his farm to live in peace.

“Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plow,” he said. “And I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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