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First POST: Presidents Day Edition

BY Nick Judd | Monday, February 18 2013

On the shelf

  • Romney strategist Stuart Stevens: "Listen, ... it would be a great mistake if we felt that technology in itself is going to save the Republican Party. Technology is something to a large degree you can go out and purchase."

Around the web

  • Nathaniel Heller, of Global Integrity, criticizes Florida lawmakers for failure to launch a new fiscal transparency website:

    What could Florida have done differently? First, paying anyone $5 million-plus dollars to build a simple (but certainly powerful) standardized database of government fiscal information is folly in the modern era (and to accept the allegedly draconian licensing and ownership restrictions imposed by Spider Data Services is simply amateur). There are completely free, open source software tools being used by governments around the world to accomplish budget transparency but at a fraction of the cost. For an example, visit www.openspending.org and take a few minutes to browse through the budgets of Nigeria, Germany, or local governments in Bosnia-Herzegovina. That project is based on the original www.wheredoesmymoneygo.org effort in the United Kingdom that allows the British public to easily search government vendors and budget expenditures with a few clicks of the mouse, all developed with free open source software. Would it really have been difficult for Florida, the 21st largest global economy, to build a budget transparency website at not only a reasonable cost but also with total ownership and control?

  • The Sunlight Foundation's John Wonderlich has sharp words for the fundraising practices of President Barack Obama's record on campaign finance: "The arc of the Obama presidency may be long, but so far, it has bent away from transparency for influence and campaign finance, and toward big funders."

  • Blowback from the Lower Hudson Journal-News' decision to publish a map listing the names and addresses of gun owners may compromise access to other public records.

  • At techPresident, Micah Sifry is enthused about a new piece of collaboration software.

  • A rolling conversation about employee privacy at NASA is now a centerpiece of a growing movement asking employers to better protect sensitive details about their employees.

  • Politico profiles RAP Index, software designed to highlight the connections between lobbying organizations and their targets. We wrote up the software last year.

  • What if the European Union was a single competitive market for telecommunications services?

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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