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First POST: Smorgasbord

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 23 2013


  • The review panel selected by President Obama to scrutinize the NSA's surveillance programs and report on ways to restore public trust is, according to the AP, "effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."
    "Its meetings in recent weeks with technology industry and privacy groups have been closed to the public even though no classified information was discussed, according to participants….'No one can look at this group and say it's completely independent,' said one attendee, Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute and vice president at the New America Foundation. Meinrath said the closed meetings 'leave the public out of the loop.'"

  • Security expert Bruce Schneier tells MIT's Technology Review: "The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change."

  • Speaking of which, the coalition, which includes Personal Democracy Media, has called for a "Rally Against Mass Surveillance" on Oct. 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act.

  • Just posted: Sarah Lai Stirland takes a close look at how police departments around the country are adapting to the use of body cameras.

  • Macon Phillips, the White House's digital director since 2009, is moving to the State Department to run the Bureau of International Information Programs.

  • The wealth of open data being released at by US AID, Treasury and the Millennium Challenge Corporation may have significant effects inside developing countries. Albert Kan-Dapaah, a former government minister in Ghana, tells that "Finding out that $10 million USD was allocated for a bridge over a certain river is a very powerful tool.” He called for more granular data so local representatives can audit their own government's spending claims more carefully.

  • The Government of Ecuador has begun a major research project, led by Michael Bauwens, the founder of the P2P Foundation, to "fundamentally reimagine Ecuador" on the "principles of open networks, peer production and communing," Writes Bauwens' colleague David Bollier, the country is pursing an approach to development that "does not focus on juicing up economic growth, exploiting nature and privatizing public resources, but on the idea of bien vivir, or 'good living.' The nation is self-consciously seeking to develop a paradigm change that focuses on a different 'cosmovision' for 'living life to the fullest.'"

  • From the Social Good Summit, happening this week in NYC: "Malaria will be the first disease beaten by mobile."

  • With a tweet during the Emmy's last night, Sean Eldridge formally announced his campaign for Congress in NY's 19th congressional district, pointing people to a YouTube video. As BuzzFeed notes, the video and his campaign bio make no mention of his marriage to Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes.

  • Just in time for the annual Clinton Global Initiative, the New Republic's Alec MacGillis has a long must-read on Doug Band, the former president's "butt man" turned master fixer and self-dealer, and his consulting firm Teneo. Hillary 2016 watchers--this article will probably be cited endlessly for the questions it raises about the Clinton machine. Nugget: Bill Clinton doesn't have a credit card because people just buy stuff for him.

  • Speaking of self-dealing, the Washington Post takes a close look at the practices of Terry McAuliffe's GreenTech electric-car company. McAuliffe is in a tight race for Virginia governor. The Post says "GreenTech fits into a pattern of investments in which McAuliffe has used government programs, political connections and access to wealthy investors of both parties in pursuit of big profits for himself."

  • The New York Times unearths mayoral hopeful Bill De Blasio's youthful history as a Nicaragua solidarity activist. De Blasio, who has never hidden this past, recently picked up Bill and Hillary Clinton's endorsement.

  • Socrata has launched a quarterly magazine, called Open Innovation (PDF). The first issue profiles Brett Goldstein, until recently Chicago's chief data officer; gives advice on how government agencies should structure their open data projects; offers some fresh open data success stories (that of course plus Socrata's role); and plugs some intriguing apps built on open data (from Socrata's open platform, of course).

  •, a cornerstone of Philadelphia's civic hacking movement, is in turmoil, reports Christopher Wink.

  • Kate Losse, the author of the terrific book The Boy Kings, a memoir of her time at Facebook during its formative years, takes to Medium to accuse acclaimed author Dave Eggers of appropriating her story with his soon-to-be-released novel "The Circle."

  • Looking for a fun new way to tease the signal out of your Twitter noise? Check out Twxplorer, a new tool from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University.

  • NY's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is cracking down on companies that sell fake online reviews as well as some of the businesses that buy them.

  • Jeremiah Owyang interviews Dan Schwabel on "Millennials in the Collaborative Economy ." Among Schwabel's nuggets: Millennials are buying fewer cars than their peers a generation ago; they'd rather rent than own, and "they want a transparent workplace that is open, honest, and ethical."

  • Going into effect today: Emerging growth companies will be able to raise up to one million dollars using crowd-funding techniques, without having to register for public trading. Only "accredited investors," however, people with a net worth of more than $1 million or who make more than $200K, will be allowed to participate at this stage.

  • "Vaginal Fantasy Hangout" is the name of an online bookclub sponsored by GoodReads, and the New York Times is ON IT.

  • ICYMI: Google is spinning off a new company to defeat death. At least that's how Time Magazine headlined its story.

  • A 16-year-old Redditor asks, "What was pre-911 america like?" and gets more than 10,000 comments and 11,000 upvotes. That's one way to get the Internet to do your homework.

  • Birthday wishes to Serenety Hanley, John Brougher, and Nicco Mele!

  • Housekeeping note: We made today's First POST extra chunky in order to hold you through the next two days, as yours truly is traveling. See you Thursday morning.