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First POST: Lines

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, November 29 2011

The new map of Massachusetts legislative districts that contributed to Rep. Barney Frank's (D-Mass) decision not to seek re-election next year. Source: Massachusetts State Legislature
  • Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) apologized on behalf of his staff for their reaction to the Twitter scorn of a Kansas teenager, 18-year-old Democrat Emma Sullivan:

    “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize,” Brownback said in a statement posted on his Facebook page Monday. “Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.”

    Officials with the Shawnee Mission school district also said Emma Sullivan would not be disciplined or required to write a letter of apology for the tweet, which she posted during a school trip to Topeka last week.

    Another gem picked up by the Wichita Eagle: The Shawnee Mission school district said in a written statement that "the issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media."

  • Social theorist Nathan Jurgenson explores Occupy Wall Street's use of sound, from the mic check — see also techPresident on Nov. 17 — to UC Davis protesters' silent treatment of Chancellor Linda Katehi after campus police deployed pepper spray against Occupy members there:

    It has been fascinating to witness the politics of sound deployed by and against the Occupy movement. As I write, there is some confusion about what the movement will become as the weather gets colder and cities less welcoming. The question might be restated: What might happen if the movement becomes silent? What if there is nothing for authorities, protesters and the rest of us to hear? The role of sound as a technology of protest has been too important for the Occupy movement to move forward on mute.

  • A new memo from President Barack Obama directs agencies to come up with a plan for improving or maintaining records management "particularly with respect to managing electronic records, including email and social media, deploying cloud based services or storage solutions," among other things.

  • Herman Cain not only wound up pre-emptively denying allegations of a 13-year affair with an Atlanta, Ga. businesswoman, he bought Google search ads against that woman's name.

  • A new batch of White House visitor logs were released last night.

  • Off-topic but of interest to techPresident: all that dreck you embed in your site to count visitors and serve ads to them is ruining the user experience you offer. Technology Review covers some of the worst performance hogs.

  • NextGov's inquisitive Joseph Marks analyzes petitions on the White House's We the People e-petitioning platform and finds that only 8 percent of petitions he could review dealt with tax reform, economic reform or housing:

    Only one petition as of Nov. 14 addressed the mortgage crisis. It has since been removed from the site and archived after garnering barely 1,000 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response. Some petitioners have taken a lesson from Congress, tacking on the phrase "and create jobs" at the end of petitions largely unrelated to job creation. There are no petitions, though, that directly address the high level of U.S. unemployment.

  • Clay Johnson's new book, "The Information Diet," is scheduled for release in January. He tells O'Reilly Radar:

    ... We don't suffer from information overload — we suffer from information overconsumption and poor consumption habits. The solution is just as simple as a successful food diet. It's about building habits and healthy choices for yourself, and sticking to it.

  • Preliminary plans for members of the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral international transparency initiative, are expected to debut in December at a meeting in Brasilia.

  • Microsoft Research New England is looking for social science Ph.D students to study social media, danah boyd writes:

    Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for PhD interns to join the social media collective for Spring and Summer 2012. For these positions, we are looking primarily for social science PhD students (including communications, sociology, anthropology, media studies, information studies, etc.). The Social Media Collective is a collection of scholars at MSRNE who focus on socio-technical questions, primarily from a social science perspective. We are not an applied program; rather, we work on critical research questions that are important to the future of social science scholarship.

  • The New York Times wonders why the Supreme Court consistently refuses to allow cameras in courts:

    Justice Elena Kagan, the member of the court who has been most outspoken about the value of television coverage, recently recalled what it was like to see Supreme Court arguments before she joined the court.

    “Everybody was so prepared, so smart, so obviously deeply concerned about getting to the right answer,” she said at the Aspen Institute in August. “I thought if everybody could see this, it would make people feel so good about this branch of government and how it’s operating. And I thought it’s such a shame actually that only 200 people a day can get to see it.”

    There will probably be just 50 seats available to the public at the arguments in the health care case. People hoping for a shot at one of them will probably wait in line in the cold for two nights or longer. Forcing citizens to endure that sort of hardship for a chance to see their government at work would seem to require a substantial justification.

  • In Venezuela, allegations that pro-government agents are hacking and owning the Twitter accounts of longstanding members of that country's political opposition.

  • Foreign Policy presents the Twitterati of 2011.

(With Miranda Neubauer)

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO

YouTube Still Blocked In Turkey, Even After Courts Rule It Violates Human Rights, Infringes on Free Speech

Reuters reports that even after a Turkish court ruled to lift the ban on YouTube, Turkey's telecommunications companies continue to block the video sharing site.