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First POST: Unexpected

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, April 10 2012

NASA has published a fresh look at its open government plan, including open data.

Promising the moon

  • NASA unveiled the relaunch of its open government plan. On its website, the agency describes its new Flagship Initiative:

    As the Flagship Initiative for the second version of NASA’s Open Government Plan, the Agency will take a fresh look at its web architecture and processes to manage content in order build an accessible, participatory and transparent web environment based on open and interoperable standards. This effort will provide a new Agency-wide capability to create, maintain, and manage the websites and associated services. The Agency will aim to leverage open source software, as well as cloud computing technologies, and take an integrated approach to search, video, and social media.


  • The Washington Post highlighted how the Economic Development Administration has been functioning without Internet access for 81 days since a virus struck the Commerce Department:

    People are rediscovering what it is like to scribble down a “When you were out” slip. They pick up the phone, calling congressional staff members, for example, to announce a grant in their districts. They meet potential clients face to face. With their data frozen on infected PCs and no place in the field to scan federal forms, staff members have retyped hundreds of pages into word processors, key by key. “If someone told me I wouldn’t have e-mail for this long, I would have said it’s not possible,” said Jane Reimer, a planner in the Denver office who manually processed hundreds of grant applications. “I thought it was my lifeline.” Employees refer to the outage as “the disruption.” At Commerce Department headquarters on Constitution Avenue NW, managers panicked at first. How would business get done? “There were things like, ‘How are we going [to] do our payroll?’ ” external-affairs chief Angela Martinez recalled ...The agency is starting over, issuing employees new e-mail addresses, Blackberrys and laptops on loan from the Census Bureau. A skeletal Web site was restored last week.

Around the web

  • The FCC and a trade group representing wireless providers are expected to announce a plan today for a database to track stolen phones. The plan will also allow for the disabling of stolen phones. The proponents of the agreement also plan to propose legislation that would make it a federal crime to change a phone’s unique identifiers in an attempt to avoid the blocking process, the New York Times reported.

  • Buzzfeed noticed a rendering of the Obama campaign's logo in the code of all the pages of his campaign website.

  • The Obama campaign has created a new website explaining its proposed Buffett Rule.

  • Massachusetts candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren raised $6.9 million in the first quarter of 2012, double what Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown raised in the same period.

  • The man whose house was destroyed by an F-18 crash Friday held an IAmA session on Reddit, a freewheeling question-and-answer period with users of the link-sharing service:

    I mean, it is an epic story. I feel like if my house was going to go one day, at least it went out by a f**** F-18 Hornet and not something stupid like "oh I put tin foil in the microwave." We have insurance, just going to take awhile to kick in.

  • The New York Times looked into how a rumor of a supposed indictment of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley spread from a blog onto Twitter.

    In retrospect, there were clear reasons to doubt the March 29 report, from a blog called the Palmetto Public Record, that Ms. Haley was facing indictment on tax fraud charges. The blog’s editor, Logan Smith, never asked the governor’s office for comment before he posted his report. Later, in an e-mail, Mr. Smith said he could not be sure whether his sources were correct ... But journalists from news outlets that reposted Mr. Smith’s report on Twitter — including establishments old and venerable (The Washington Post, CBS News) as well as new and widely read (The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed) — had no way of knowing that in the minutes after it went online, and did not stop to check first.

  • George Zimmerman, who has admitted to shooting Florida 17-year old Trayvon Martin, has created a website to raise money for his legal expenses. On the website, he writes:

    I am the real George Zimmerman. On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life. This website's sole purpose is to ensure my supporters they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries.

  • The House committee on Oversight and Government Reform released another video from the now-infamous Las Vegas conference held by the U.S. General Services Administration. The video is titled POTUS Wants a Press Event, and according to ABC News, features "employees [singing] a fast-tempo melody, “Are you ready for a miracle? GSA’s going green.”

  • The Associated Press looked into how some political groups have been circumventing "opt-in" rules for text messages by using e-mail to send unsolicited messages to cell phone lists obtained through brokers.

  • MSNBC reported how a Silicon Valley company, Inflection, built and operated the National Archives' website for the 1940 census for free, in return for receiving a free copy of the 3.8 million images of records from the 1940 Census that it can use on its for-profit site, The site ended up crashing initially on the first day when the census data was more popular than expected.

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) blames autocorrect for his often hard-to-understand tweets:

    @toddruger: Your tweets draw attention/criticism, often because they sometimes have random punctuation or capital letters. What is the story behind why you leave those in there? Do you pay attention to anyone’s reaction to your tweets? @chuckgrassley: I think there are a couple of factors involved. I suppose a lot has to do with the automatic correcting done by my iPhone. Second, I love Tweeting, but I don’t like to type. So, I probably type and hit send a little too quickly.

  • An out-of-work man whose fate was highlighted in a Google Hangout with President Obama still hasn't gotten a job.

  • A judge has ordered New York City to release a review of its 911 system, and compared the city's insistence that the report should be private to President Richard Nixon's claims of executive privilege during the Watergate scandal. Mayor Michael Bloomberg compared the request to a journalist having to publish his or her notes. The internal review, according to the New York Post, has been widely read within city government and highlights underperformance and overspending on fixes to the emergency response system.

  • ICANN, the governing body for Internet domains and addresses, will stop accepting applications for new top-level domains on April 12, and will publish a list of applications on April 30, after which time objections to applied-for domains can be filed.

  • UNESCO has issued guidelines promoting open access to research findings.

  • The Wellcome Trust, which the Guardian says is the largest non-governmental funder of medical research after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is backing a campaign against traditional academic journals in favor of open access online, and plans to publish its own scientific journal called eLife to compete against traditional publications with articles that are free to view on the web.

  • is publishing 200,000 documents related to the Titanic for free until the end of May.

Around the world

  • The International Herald Tribune took a look at the initial proposals being suggested in the early days of the European Citizens' Initiative.

  • Feminist groups in the United Kingdom are finding it easier to organize through social media, the Guardian reported.

    New groups are popping up in the most remote places. Campaigners can be found in practically every area of Britain – even the Orkney Feminist Network has 40 followers on Twitter. Michael Moore, the regional organiser for UK Feminista in Northern Ireland, said sites such as Twitter and Facebook had enabled people in even the most remote parts of the UK to tap into the debate. "Now it's as easy as sending an email to mobilise people. There's no apologies, no minutes – people can engage and thrash out issues in an online space immediately. It's really sped up the power to communicate."

  • Reuters suggested that South Korea's liberal opposition in upcoming elections could be underestimated due its strong presence online:

    Views expressed in cyberspace are about 20 percent favourable to us and 80 percent against," said Lee Jun-seok, a 27-year old Harvard-educated computer expert brought in to help revamp the ruling conservative Saenuri Party's online presence. "It's almost like as soon as you say something for our party, you come under attack." The five most popular politicians on Twitter are all left-wingers. The top conservative is presidential contender Park Geun-hye who ranks eighth with about 180,000 followers, according to, a website on Twitter power ... "On Twitter, we are like birds talking to each other. That's something that can't be controlled," said Kim Mi-wha, 47, a television comedian with almost 290,000 Twitter followers who is part of a band of celebrity super-tweeters embracing liberal causes.

    Meanwhile, the president's party is under pressure after a TV station published files online from a memory stick that indicate possible misconduct by an ethics team in the Prime Minister's office.

  • Syrian activists online drew attention to the arrest of a woman after she publicly stood in traffic holding a banner denouncing violence. Other activists said she had previously cited Martin Luther King Jr. on her Facebook page.

  • Anonymous says it will attack more Chinese government sites.