Mustard Gas, Opioids, Aerial Photography, More: Thursday Buzz, November 5th, 2015


NPR has created a database of World War II soldiers who were secretly exposed to mustard gas. “Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs told NPR that since 1993, the agency had been able to locate only 610 test subjects, to offer compensation to those who were permanently injured. NPR’s database, compiled over six months, includes more than 3,900 individuals and information about the last known location of more than 1,700 of them.” NPR says this database will continue to be updated over time.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released a mapping tool to show opioid claims across the US. The initial view is by state, but you can zoom all the way down to zip code level. “The data set, which is privacy-protected, contains information from over one million distinct providers who collectively prescribed approximately $103 billion in prescription drugs and supplies paid under the Part D program. The data characterizes the individual prescribing patterns of health providers that participate in Medicare Part D for over 3,000 distinct drug products. Of the 1.4 billion total Part D claims per year, there were approximately 80.7 million opioid claims for 116 distinct opioid products contributing to $3.7 billion of the total Part D prescription drug costs.”

In development: a huge digital archive of WW II aerial photography. “This partnership marks the first digitization of the National Archives’ aerial film holdings. Under the partnership, [the National Collection of Aerial Photography] will digitize more than 150,000 canisters of aerial film from the National Archives’ records of the Defense Intelligence Agency. These aerial photographs were taken by the U.S. Navy and Air Force for military reconnaissance and mapping projects.”

Followers of UK politics, you’ll love this. There’s a new tool for analyzing the words of UK’s Parliament. “Linguists and historians have worked together to compile all the Parliamentary speeches from 1803-2005 on a free, easy access online website which is launched today. The website includes 7.6 million speeches and 1.6 billion words and include some of the most memorable moments.” The direct link is here.


Firefox 42, with more privacy features, has been released. “While Private Browsing (which is Firefox’s counterpart to Chrome’s Incognito mode) ensures that none of your browsing history and cookies for this private session are saved locally, some of your data can still leak out to third-party sites. The new tracking protection ensures that third-party trackers, including those from social networks and analytics companies, can’t receive any data from your browsing session.”

Pinterest is adding a “dedicated shop” to its mobile app. I still don’t get Pinterest. “Pinterest says it will be rolling out the dedicated shopping section to both iOS and Android smartphone users over the next couple of weeks. It will feature products from retailers that are experimenting with Pinterest commerce.”

WordPress 4.4 Beta 3 is now available.


Hate Twitter’s new heart icon? Want to go back to the star for favorites? You’ve got options. “‘Fav Forever’ only takes a couple of clicks to install, and once it’s added to Chrome, it uses an algorithm to replace all hearts on with stars. All users have to do is refresh the page and hearts will automatically turn into stars.”

Hongkiat: How to apply Instagram filters to Web images. Warning: you’ll need to noodle around in CSS.

Hey! The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced a contest to create Web resources based on Chronicling America, the historical newspaper archive. “The Library of Congress has developed a user-friendly Application Program Interface (API) to explore the data contained in Chronicling America data. Entrants must use this API to access the data, but are welcome to use existing software or tools to create their projects, or combine Chronicling America data with other datasets.” Deadline is next July.


This is interesting: How Airlines Use Snapchat. “Aer Lingus is using Snapchat, a mobile app-based social media platform, to give its followers real-time, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the airline’s activities. Paul Buckley, head of Social Media at Aer Lingus, says the ‘snaps,’ which are ephemeral because they have expiry dates, allow the airline to build a story as a live event unfolds.” Snapchat — and not Periscope. Interesting.

Engineer Leslie Miley has has left Twitter over diversity concerns. (Mr. Miley is Black; you can read his Medium article about his experience here.)

Lauren Donovan does not like the changes to LinkedIn Groups. “The biggest changes LinkedIn thought would ‘improve the quality of conversation’ have, for me at least, done the exact opposite. Furthermore, the time I have to spend in LinkedIn Groups has increased threefold, and for all the wrong reasons. I don’t take issue with all of the updates, but a couple really have me seeing red.” If there’s an award for “funniest screen shot annotations,” this article wins. Good morning, Internet…

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