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It’s Been a Bad Month for Political Liars


Friday, February 16th, 2024


Today’s newsletter is: 986 words; 4 min.

Heads up: The Bagel will be away Monday and Tuesday for President’s Day! 

See you Wednesday!


Former President Donald Trump’s first criminal trial will start on March 25. The date was set after New York Judge Juan Merchan denied Trump’s attempt to toss the charges related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The Justice Department and international allies disrupted a Russian espionage hacking network. The FBI disabled a “global cyber espionage platform” Russian intelligence was using to install malware on vulnerable computer routers around the world.

Greece legalized same-sex marriage. It’s the 16th E.U. nation and 35th worldwide to legalize same-sex unions, and one of the first Orthodox Christian countries to do so.

The U.S. Senate appears poised to pass its first significant attempt at regulating social media. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and several LGBTQ+ advocacy groups dropped their opposition to the Kids Online Safety Act after updates to the bill alleviated concerns that it could be used to target LGBTQ+ youth and stifle speech.


A new study found Donald Trump is a key influencer of climate change denial on X


Trump Is a Key Influencer of Climate Change Denial on X

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan used AI to analyze 7.4 million tweets posted between 2017 and 2019, finding former President Donald Trump has the most influence in shaping climate change denial on X, followed by three influential groups that heavily retweeted his posts: The Daily Wire, Breitbart, and Climate Depot.

  • Why it matters: The study also found 15% of U.S. adults deny that climate change is real, a figure in line with other work, with the highest concentration of denialism among people in the central and southern parts of the U.S. 



A new study found bipartisan agreement that disinformation is a risk, but differences in who’s responsible


Democrats and Republicans Agree Disinformation Is a Problem, But Each Group Blames the Other

A new study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma found most Americans, including both Democrats and Republicans, agree that disinformation poses serious risks to national security, public health, the economy, international relations, and governmental stability.

  • Who’s responsible: The researchers also found strong partisan differences regarding who’s responsible for disinformation, with Democrats blaming right-wing and Republican actors and Republicans blaming left-wing and Democratic actors. The researchers say the findings underscore how difficult it will be for policymakers to find and implement solutions about responsibility.



A new study found Americans who live alone report higher rates of depression


Americans Who Live Alone Report Higher Rates of Depression

A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found living alone is linked to higher rates of self-reported depression, particularly among Americans ages 45 to 64, who are more than twice as likely to report depressive feelings than people their age who don’t live alone.


It’s Been a Bad Month for Political Liars

You might have had a bad February, but liars who’ve denigrated our democracy had it worse, as three big legal hammers came down this month in a sign that everything may not be lost after all.

Lying informant:

On Thursday, prosecutors announced Alexander Smirnov was indicted for falsely telling FBI agents that executives at the Ukrainian energy company Burisma said Hunter Biden was hired to use his dad’s influence to “protect” the company, and that both men had been paid $5 million each to make it happen.

  • Smirnov’s allegations were central to House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into the president and their bogus narrative about the so-called “Biden crime family.”

No “mules”:

On Wednesday, conspiracy theory-promoting group True the Vote admitted in court that it had no evidence to support its claims about widespread voter fraud in Georgia during the 2020 election.

  • In 2021, the group brought a formal complaint claiming to have evidence that “mules” dropped off multiple fake ballots at multiple voting locations, also alleging certain unnamed organizations paid for the supposedly massive scheme.

  • The assertions were relied upon heavily in 2000 Mules, a widely debunked “documentary” by conservative pundit and generally off-putting guy Dinesh D’Souza. 

But, when repeatedly asked for actual evidence to substantiate the claims, True the Vote stalled and dodged until the Fulton County Superior Court got involved, when the group finally admitted it has no evidence to back up the claims. 

  • Funny how the lying stops when legal proceedings start and real consequences are on the line.

A settlement:

Finally, all of the above came about a week after the former head of the far-right group Project Veritas also had to admit — as part of a legal settlement — that he too has no evidence of his 2020 election fraud allegations (his concerned Pennsylvania), despite repeatedly spreading the false claim that postal workers illegally backdated mail-in ballots. 

It certainly has been one hell of a month for the truth!


  • 200+ - The number of school districts suing social media companies, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube, over the apparent mental health harms the platforms cause for young people. New York City also filed a similar (but separate) lawsuit this week against the companies.

  • 100 - The number of Starlink internet satellites SpaceX says it will deorbit due to an unspecified defect. To date, the company has had to dispose of 406 of its satellites. 


Long Video. Learn how Panda Express serves 110 million pounds of orange chicken each year (but still got rid of the Eggplant Tofu for some reason). (11 min) 

Short Video. Contrails are a massive contributor to global warming, so here’s how AI can help planes avoid making them and create more sustainable aviation. (7 min)

Fun Video. Watch Put Your Cart Away, a bizarre dark comedy short film with a vital lesson. (5 min)

Good Read. A weekend read on how parking reform is transforming American cities. (1,793 words; 8 min)

Neat List. Here are six big ways climate change could impact the U.S. by 2100.


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Written by Ryan Wittler