Air Pollution, Steamboats, Wildlife Trafficking, More: Friday Buzz, August 12, 2016


A new online tool provides information about air pollution across the US. “Users can view the number of deaths, morbidities, and impacted days for any given metropolitan area. To use the tool, enter a zip code: you will see your particular metro area’s estimated annual number of deaths and morbidities from excess air pollution. Individual metro areas with the highest air pollution-related health impacts typically have large populations and relatively high concentrations of at least one of the two pollutants.”

The good news is: Tulane now has an online finding guide to its Steamboat Image Collection. The bad news is that it’s only an index and the images themselves are not yet online. “The images document all stages of the steamboats’ production —from construction to wreckage —providing a fascinating view of the country’s steamboat era in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is one of the larger collections of steamboat images in the world and was purchased for Tulane by the Joseph Merrick and Eugenie Penick Jones Foundation in 1966 from the estate of Capt. Donald T. Wright, editor and publisher of the Waterways Journal.”

A new app is designed to fight illegal wildlife trafficking in Cambodia and southeast Asia. “WildScan is a comprehensive species identification app designed to help law enforcement and the general public stop wildlife trafficking. The app was developed by the Bangkok-based NGO Freeland, with support from the U.S. Agency of International Development and multiple partners. The app is quickly becoming the leading tool for species identification in Southeast Asia. It supports 5 local languages and features more than 500 species that are trafficked in the region. The app is available for free on both Android and Apple devices.”

Colonial Williamsburg will grant free access to its digital library.
“According to a news release, the Colonial Williamsburg Education Resource Library, which includes educational videos and supporting course content, will be made available free online beginning Aug. 16…. The library contains 800 minutes of video, including 27 productions that garnered 16 Emmys, and more than 100 lesson plans, background texts and primary source media, the release stated.”

Montreat College now has an online collection of digitized student newspapers. “The newspapers here range from 1937-2016, starting with The Dialette (in 1937) and ending with The Whetstone (the newspaper’s current name).”


Facebook is tweaking its news feed AGAIN. “Facebook is altering the formula that determines what its 1.71 billion users see when they log into the social network to give priority to posts that make them feel informed, the Silicon Valley tech giant said Thursday.” Facebook news tweaks are like Google Algo updates ten years ago.


AdBlock Plus and Facebook are in an arms race. “The makers of Adblock Plus (ABP) have already found a way to defeat Facebook’s anti-ad-block tools. An updated filter list for ABP will disappear web ads on Facebook’s desktop site – including banners the social network said it would force people to see even if they are using ad-blocking tools.”


And now, today’s security news that makes your hair go gray: Linux vulnerability lets ‘anyone in the world’ hijack Internet traffic. “Security researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have uncovered a major Linux vulnerability that enables hackers to hijack Internet traffic which, if exploited, can be used to intercept communications, launch targeted attacks, and lower Tor’s anonymity. The vulnerability impacts iterations of the open-source kernel released in the past four years.”

Russia’s anti-monopoly watchdog has finally imposed its fine on Google. “Russia’s anti-monopoly watchdog said on Thursday Google (GOOGL.O) would have to pay a 438 million rouble (5.25 million pounds) fine for pre-installing applications on mobile devices running its Android operating system.” According to my calculator, 438 roubles is about $6.8 million US at this writing.

A judge has tossed the suit of a woman who sued Twitter after her husband was killed in an ISIS attack. “Even if Section 230 wouldn’t have resulted in the case being tossed, Judge William Orrick notes a number of other problems with the lawsuit, including that the claims in the lawsuit don’t even make sense (that seems like a big problem). The judge first focuses on how the plaintiffs’ arguments shift back and forth between whether it’s the mere providing of service to ISIS members that’s the problem or the failure of Twitter to prevent the spread of ISIS content. These two things are different, but the lawyers for the plaintiff don’t do much to distinguish the two from one another.”


It turns out we’re actually pretty good at distinguishing social media from social interaction. “If you worry that people today are using social media as a crutch for a real social life, a University of Kansas study will set you at ease. Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communication studies, found that people are actually quite adept at discerning the difference between using social media and having an honest-to-goodness social interaction. The results of his studies appear in the journal New Media & Society.”

From Drexel University: your brain on Google Glass. “Wearable displays also have the potential to enhance cognitive ergonomics, or more simply, make it less mentally taxing to complete certain tasks. But before technologies like Google Glass become a part of daily life, engineers need a way to monitor exactly how they affect the brain in everyday situations. At Drexel University, researchers have developed a portable system that can do just that.” Good morning, Internet…

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