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First POST: "For the Dogs"

BY TechPresident Staff | Thursday, January 12 2012

Photo: Shutterstock
  • A new web ad produced by the Newt Gingrich campaign mocks Mitt Romney's statements on the campaign trail under the tagline "For the dogs," in reference to the oft-told anecdote that the Romney family drove to Canada with the family dog tied to the roof of their car on the 12 hour trip.

  • But Buzzfeed pointed out the pitfalls of online advertising, when a Romney ad showed up alongside a controversial YouTube video supposedly showing U.S. marines urinating on dead Taliban corpses.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new online interactive tool to track major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the New York Times reports.

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document, Reuters reported.

  • Stewart Baker at blog The Volokh Conspiracy writes:

    Readers of this blog could have learned exactly the same thing in one of my posts from, uh, February of 2010 ... That’s it. The story is that people at DHS are, gasp, browsing the Internet. As I said then, there’s no scandal, other than the electrons wasted by DHS agonizing over the privacy implications of browsing public Internet sources to find out what’s happening in the world.
    And if it was a nonstory in February of 2010, what does that make it in January of 2012?

  • A Free Bradley Manning billboard has been erected in Washington D.C. en route to Forte Meade, where the pre-trial hearing of the Wikileaks leak suspect was being held.

  • Memeburn reported on a virtual town hall by the U.S. State Department, during which Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, responded to numerous questions about how social media and the web have influenced U.S. foreign policy. As part of a "social media month," State is also taking questions on Twitter as part of its Friday press briefings — including, last week, on the controversial issue of continued unrest in Sudan. There, activists advocating for more American intervention in Sudan's South Kordofan region came to learn that being able to ask questions of a government spokesperson is just one step towards being able to get an answer. From an Act for Sudan press release:

    On Friday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland answered questions submitted by citizens around the world at its first Twitter briefing. Act for Sudan’s members and supporters had tweeted an identical question on Sudan in advance of the briefing and it was one of three answered. The question was, “Why doesn’t @StateDept support regime change in #Sudan where government-led genocide continues? Why Syria+Libya but not #Sudan?” ... In responding, Ms. Nuland made the obvious observation that “each country and each situation is different,” and therefore “each country, each situation, need to be dealt with differently.” She continued, “for many years, we have continued to press for concrete, meaningful, democratic reforms and accountability and an end to the violence,” yet she acknowledged that, despite these many years of effort, “the deplorable human rights conditions and unacceptable practices of bombing innocent civilians and denying humanitarian access continue.”
    According to Eric Cohen, an Act for Sudan member and spokesman, the State Department’s answer sidesteps the central issue in the question.

  • A California teenager in a Youtube video is urging a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because the organization accepted a 7-year-old transgender girl this past fall.

  • In response to escalating discontent with elected officials' support of the anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA, TechDirt reports that congressional backers are toying with the idea of removing the site blocking portions. Meanwhile, Jon Stewart promises to study up on SOPA (He could just ask Stephen Colbert)

  • A Finnish anti-piracy organization has claimed that it received a bomb threat from Anonymous, after it forced an Internet Service Provider to block access to The Pirate Bay. At the same time, a Dutch court has ruled that two Internet service providers must block access to The Pirate Bay.

  • The federal government's open data portal,, has led to the creation of around 1,100 new apps or data mashups during 2010 - 2011. However, the majority of these applications were not created by the public, but rather by the government or government contractors, Nextgov reports. This may lead some to question the efficacy of putting data in the hands of citizens, but the 1,100 different uses for the information on does not track how the data sets have been used by outside developers.

  • Twitter and Google are in a dispute with each other over Google's new way of including data from Google Plus in search results.

  • Politico explores the etymology of the term "Super Pac."

  • A survey has found that donations by text message decrease and are hard to replicate.

  • A WNYC reporter tests out New York City's BusTime system on Staten Island. New York City has also launched a new interactive map showing street closures. You can read more about BusTime here.

  • New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman yesterday called for an online prescription drug tracking system to combat abuse and crime.

  • The British Education secretary has called for a new "wiki" approach to the school curriculum. In a speech, he said he was inspired by a U.S. military method described in a recent book by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

  • An Oxford University study analyzed how information spread on Twitter during protests in Spain.

  • Twitter was able to track a cholera outbreak in Haiti faster than the established public authorities, according to a new study.

  • China now has over a half billion Internet users, Reuters reported.

  • In an interview, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof discussed early adoption of innovative journalistic approaches such as blogging, his plans for a Farmville-style game focused on activism, and what new styles of journalism mean for exposing government wrongdoing:

    We in the media have historically been gatekeepers. Now I think that's largely lost, and that's a disadvantage. But having people shooting videos everywhere provides a useful level of accountability. A lot of people including me were really taken aback by the videos of police violence during Occupy Wall Street. A decade ago nobody would have known about that because there wouldn't have been a reporter there and even if someone did write about it, it wouldn't have been that dramatic. Likewise in Syria, widespread video does provide some constraint on a government if it knows that if it massacres people, there will be video of that. They may still decide to massacre people, but it raises the price.

  • Greater connectivity also can also pose a danger of greater world instability, according to a World Economic Forum report. The New York Times takes this interpretation:

    The Internet, meanwhile, can magnify and spread the effects of a disaster in other ways. Rumors, even if incorrect, spread quickly on social networking sites — sometimes more rapidly than emergency services can communicate accurate information. As word of disasters like the terror attacks of Sept. 11 or the earthquake in Japan spreads globally, consumers hunker down in front of their computer screens or televisions, rather than going about their daily lives. This increases the economic effects of a crisis, even in areas far removed from the source.

With Miranda Neubauer and Raphael Majma