CIA, Wheat, Public Health, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, January 18, 2017


The CIA has put its declassified documents database online. “Back in December, we wrote about how the CIA would be placing its previously-inaccessible CREST database online. The move was a response to our lawsuit, handled pro bono by with Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors, as well as Mike Best’s diligence in trying to manually print and scan the archive. Today, we’re happy to announce that all 25 years worth of declassified documents are now available – no trip to the National Archives required.”

Now available: a wheat seed database! “Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have developed a much-needed genetic resource that will greatly accelerate the study of gene functions in wheat. The resource, a collection of wheat seeds with more than 10 million sequenced and carefully catalogued genetic mutations, is freely available to wheat breeders and researchers, and is already aiding in the development of wheat plants with improved traits.” This is not the plant proteins database that was mentioned last March.

NewsWise: First-Ever Online Data Tool Allows City Leaders to Examine Health of Their Urban Populations & Take Action. “The user-friendly website presents 26 measures related to health across 5 areas: health outcomes, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. The data include traditional health metrics such as premature mortality, teen birth rate, and adult obesity prevalence, as well as non-health measures that impact health, including unemployment rate, third-grade reading proficiency, neighborhood walkability, and air quality.” The dashboard is only available for four cities at the moment, but I hope they expand it; it’s very well done.

Artsy: New App Finally Makes Virtual Reality Artworks Accessible to the Public. “On Thursday evening, the New Museum and Rhizome launched an exhibition of VR artworks in the form of a mobile app developed by virtual reality startup EEVO. As the first initiative of its kind from an art museum, the app creates a centralized space for six digital commissions by artists Peter Burr, Rachel Rossin, Jayson Musson, Jacolby Satterwhite, Jeremy Couillard, and Jon Rafman—arguably the young artists pioneering the nascent medium.”


Ned Potter: A Guide to Joining Twitter Now It’s An Unremittingly Bleak Document Of How Awful Everything Is. “As a librarian using Twitter, my experiences follow the classic three act structure of a movie. (Not a feel-good film. One of those more grown up films where you leave the cinema feeling depressed.)” You might find the title off-putting but there’s a lot of good advice in the post.


Oh, gross: from TheNextWeb: Dutch coder built thousands of websites with built-in backdoors. “Hiring a developer to build your website is always a bit of a minefield. There’s just so much that can go wrong, especially if you pick a developer that isn’t qualified or competent. Or just plain untrustworthy. One example of this comes from the Netherlands, where law enforcement are warning 20,000 people that their email accounts may have been hacked after an unnamed web developer left backdoors in the sites he built.”

The Guardian: WhatsApp vulnerability explained: by the man who discovered it. “There was an outcry when the Guardian published my information regarding a vulnerability within WhatsApp’s implementation of end-to-end encryption, but much of the response misses the point. Most of the arguments seem to revolve around what is and isn’t a backdoor. You can argue that we are looking at a vulnerability which would be something that is there by error, or a backdoor, which would be something that is there deliberately.” This is an excellent explanation if you were wondering about the WhatsApp hubbub.

More WhatsApp, from Naked Security: WhatApp scams spread widely thanks to trust between friends. “The big difference between a typical WhatsApp scam and an email scam is that the messages you receive come from someone you know, because they’ve been tricked into forwarding the scam…. WhatsApp scammers don’t need to mess around with malware to subvert your phone into sending unwanted messages, because they can use the goodwill and trust that typically exists between friends to convince people to spread their scams willingly.”


Which age group spends the most time on social media? Surprise! Not Millenials. “Folks who belong to Generation X spend more time on social media than any other age group, according to a new report from Nielsen. This group, made up of people ages 35 to 49, spend almost seven hours a week on social media. Millennials, ages 18 to 34, spend just over six hours on social media.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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