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First POST: #DearCongress

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 1 2013


  • It's registered to one Zach Seward, senior editor of Quartz. Which is conveniently the source of the two articles displayed on the bottom of its home page. Damn you, Seward!

  • Trending: The #DearCongress hashtag. It's more than 3 years old (a comedia going by the handle @lilduval appears to have started using it in response to a State of the Union address, but it's suddenly back with a vengeance, being promoted by NBC's Today show. It's an unscientific, pungent look at how the government shutdown is starting to play out across the country. The Tampa Bay Times has also curated a bunch.

  • Assignment for a data-analytics reporter: map these #DearCongress tweets by Congressional district.

  • Slate reports on the government shutdown as if the US was a banana republic far away. A sample: "The current rebellion has been led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a young fundamentalist lawmaker from the restive Texas region, known in the past as a hotbed of separatist activity."

  • Wondering what happens to .gov, aka, the federal web, during a government shutdown? All FOIA processing will be stopped; the FEC site will go static; but and THOMAS will stay online. Our friends at the Sunlight Foundation are finding out more details and updating this post as they do. Government employees are also being told to stay away from official email and stop using their government-issued Blackberries during the shutdown. And NASA's @AsteroidWatch account won't be warning us about approaching hazardous interplanetary objects either.

  • This is what Twitter is for: "Reporters tweeted Monday night that they could smell booze on the lawmakers working to strike a last-minute spending deal on Capitol Hill."

  • Over on, the Health Insurance Marketplace is open.

  • Just in time for the start of Obamacare's health exchanges, the folks at Consumer Reports have launched, a website that takes visitors through a series of simple questions to help them navigate the new law and figure out what steps they should take, if any, to benefit from it.

In other news around the web

  • Now's the time to register for the  to take advantage of the offer. More details here.

  • Phil Zimmerman, the inventor of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is developing a new feature for his Silent Phone app that will hide the knowledge of "who is talking to who" from eavesdroppers, reports The Guardian. This could thwart some NSA metadata collection.

  • Glenn Greenwald is doing a ("Ask Me Anything") session at 1pm ET today to talk about his NSA stories, along with Guardian US editor-in-chief Janine Gibson.

  • US Senate candidate Cory Booker is doing a Reddit AMA at 3:15pm.

  • Fortune Magazine reports that the Democratic National Committee is deep in debt and "struggling to pay its own vendors." Part of the blame is laid to the emergence of Organizing for Action, the extension of the 2012 Obama campaign. "There is some evidence it is siphoning resources from the DNC," Fortune's Tory Newmyer reports.

  • Felix Salmon explains what novelist Dave Eggers gets wrong about Silicon Valley. Eggers' new novel The Circle was excerpted in Sunday's New York Times. It depicts a social media behemoth a lot like Facebook, only its drive to make its employees share everything about themselves is even creepier than the real thing.

  • A branch of Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy Money Cooperative, is raising money to develop a low-cost debit card. As the New York Times reports, this innovation is not without detractors in Occupy circles.

  • The Airbnb user in New York City who was fined $2400 for renting his spare bedroom out in violation of local rental laws has had his fine overturned. His case, however, does not appear to clear the legal path for Airbnb in New York.

  • Twitter founder Ev Williams says innovators should stop trying to invent whole new ways of doing things using the Internet. Instead, they should just look at the things people already do and make them more convenient to do. “Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company,” he told the Xoxo conference recently. “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

  • Is this video a political statement? I think so. Five million views in 3 days. The kids are all right.