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First POST: Truth and Consequences

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, April 24 2013

Onward for FWD.us

  • The immigration-reform advocacy group backed by Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley worthies is putting television ads on the air, Politico reports. What's more, the group will launch subsidiaries to reach out to Republicans and Democrats separately:

    The conservative-oriented FWD.us affiliate running the ads has assembled its own blue-chip board of advisers, including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Sally Bradshaw, the former chief of staff to Jeb Bush; Dan Senor and Joel Kaplan, the former George W. Bush advisers; and Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who serves as the campaign manager for FWD.us.

    Brian Walsh, the former NRSC communications director, is working closely with the group on communications and strategy.

    In a statement, Jesmer said the TV offensive was aimed at giving air support to Republicans in Washington who have gone out on a limb to forge an immigration deal.

Truth and consequences

  • The stock market took a brief tumble Tuesday after the Associated Press' Twitter account, which had been hacked, announced to its tens of thousands of followers the fake news that there had been two explosions at the White House and Barack Obama was injured.

    Reuters reports:

    Reuters data shows that the benchmark S&P 500 index fell 14.6 points, or 0.93 percent, in the space of three minutes when news of the tweet hit the market. With the S&P valued at roughly $14.6 trillion at the moment of the false tweet, that three-minute plunge briefly wiped out $136.5 billion of the index's value.

    Reuters also says that more than 180,000 front month 10-year Treasury futures contracts traded hands in the few minutes after the tweet.

    The S&P index finished the day with solid gains Tuesday and is expected to rise again Wednesday.

Digital fingerprints

  • In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani writes about online efforts to sleuth out motives behind the Boston Marathon bombings by combing the online profiles of the suspects:

    For that matter, does this Amazon wish list really belong to him? Or does our fascination with the list simply reflect our own desire to gain insight into his thinking, our hunger for more dots to try to connect? Indeed, online and off-line conversations around the nation last week were filled with hypotheses, theories and deconstructions as to why the Tsarnaev brothers might have committed the terrible acts they are suspected of. There were shrewd Nancy Drew-like insights, dangerous red herrings (which hurt some innocent people and underscored the dark side of crowd-sourcing and the mob mentality that can infect the Web) and silly speculation.

  • Kakutani is really following Quartz, which posted this very pretty graph showing frequency by time of day of tweets posted from what has been repeatedly suggested is suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Twitter account.

    Like Kakutani, Quartz's Zach Seward seems to admit that his piece is motivated more by a need to write something that addresses the Tsarnaev brothers' online persona than by a genuine belief that this analysis will be meaningful. Joined by Leo Mirani and Ritchie King, he writes:

    Of course, we don’t really know whether we know the things about the Tsarnaev brothers that we think we do. It is entirely possible that the Amazon wishlist belongs to another person with an interest in document forgery, criminal empires, and Chechen grammar, who used the handle “Tamerlan” because he admired the founder of the Timurid dynasty. Already two Twitter accounts registered in Dzhokhar’s name have turned out to be fakes, though the one we analyzed shows all signs of being genuine.

    But those caveats are almost beside the point. We don’t know what we think we know because these digital details don’t connect the dots; they merely draw the dots. They offer trivia but not insight.

    We know when Dzhokhar sleeps but not what he dreams about.

    These pieces of trivia bubbled up online as police went door to door on the outskirts of Boston, hunting for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They filled the dead air of the Internet when it was either what Tamerlan Tsarnaev liked to watch on YouTube or succumbing to the fever swamps of imagination. That they had received so much attention already made them, presumably, worthy of the Times' attention. But it's telling that Kakutani, a literary critic, caught the assignment. What could be divined here were not facts and analysis, but the kinds of intangibles better suited to her talents: Themes, tropes, character development, style. Reflections of reality — not the reality that so many Americans struggled to understand as Friday brought an awful week to a close.

Around the web

  • Gun control advocates have released this gripping website to punish members of Congress who opposed legislation mandating more background checks for potential gun owners.

  • Tony Romm crunches lobbying numbers:

    "Facebook by itself spent $2.4 million in the first quarter of the year, according to disclosures that were due to the feds at midnight Monday, as the company tried to ward off strict new online privacy rules and facilitate immigration reform. In the end, it’s a $1 million increase from what the social network spent at the end of 2012."

  • Technology Review's list of breakthrough technologies for 2013 include several — like smart energy grids, now renamed "supergrids" — that also herald a need for breakthroughs in government's approach to technology regulation.

  • Openthegovernment.org says a technical amendment to the SECURE IT act is "really a massive change to FOIA," exempting materials shared with cybersecurity centers from public review.

  • This afternoon: A Senate hearing on Do Not Track.

  • A new Canadian government website tracks government expenditures.

  • Can a provision of the Affordable Care Act help create a database of effective medical procedures?

  • Open Government Partnership reviewers take a look at the UK's new national action plan on open government.