Trump Administration, Wild Wheats, Elsevier, More: Friday Buzz, April 6, 2018


ProPublica: Here’s How You Can Use Trump Town. “Trump Town is a searchable database of 2,684 Trump administration political appointees, including their jobs and offices, employment history, lobbying records, government ethics documents and financial disclosures.” New genomic tool searches wheat’s wild past to improve crops of the future. “A new genetic directory launched today will enable researchers and breeders to scan the genomes of wild relatives of modern wheat to find disease-fighting properties lost to domestication. The time-travelling trawl is possible following the launch of the Open Wild Wheat, a directory which includes the genetic sequences of 150 wild wheats belonging to a goat grass species called Aegilops tauschii ssp. strangulata. This wild relative, found in the fertile crescent round the Caspian sea, has contributed the D genome pillar, one of the three genomes found in bread wheat.”


Techdirt: Hated Science Publisher Elsevier To Help EU Monitor Open Science – Including Open Access. “Techdirt has written many stories about the publisher Elsevier. They have all been pretty negative: the company seems determined to represent the worst of academic publishing. It’s no surprise, then, that many academics loathe the company. Against that background, news that the EU ‘Open science Monitor’ will use Elsevier as a subcontractor is surprising, to say the least.”

TechCrunch: Zuckerberg says Facebook will offer GDPR privacy controls everywhere. “Mark Zuckerberg refuted a Reuters story yesterday that said Facebook would not bring Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation privacy safeguards around the world. ‘Overall I think regulations like this are very positive’ Zuckerberg said on a conference call with reporters today. ‘We intend to make all the same controls available everywhere, not just in Europe.'”


Gizmodo: How to Use Social Networks to Find Out What’s Going On in Your Neighborhood. “The web connects us to people on the other side of the globe in an instant, but sometimes you just want to know what’s happening down the street. Here’s how to use your social networks and more to get the local lowdown and stay in the loop with what’s going on nearby, whether that’s snowstorms or street parties.”


Hyperallergic: A Portrait of Black Life in Florida, One Neighborhood at a Time. “In one of the many photographs that Johanne Rahaman took in Perrine, Florida as part of her Black Florida series, a woman gazes into the distance, bedecked in a blue, green, and red dress. Parts of it are so fluorescent they seem lit from within; the woman holds a certificate from her alma mater, Hastings Colored Vocational Training School. There’s something subtly regal about the shot: the woman’s steady gaze, the marble coffee table at her side, the plush red chair she’s sitting on. In one image alone, Rahaman captures both the history of segregation and the day-to-day experience of someone who lived through it, a stately woman who appears throughout the series, speaking and gesturing with her hands.”

The Observer (Uganda): Social media taxation aimed at promoting local content – Tumwebaze. “President Yoweri Museveni’s proposed taxation of use of social is purposely to curtail consumption of foreign content and use of foreign mobile applications according to minister of Information Communication and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze. In a March 12 letter to the minister of Finance Matia Kasaija, Museveni suggested that users of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatApp, Twitter, Skype, Viber among others should be taxed ‘a small fee of Shs 100 per day.'” I think Shs stands for the Uganda Shilling. To give you a comparison, 1 United States dollar is worth 3,692 Uganda shillings according to Google. Of course, incomes in Uganda are very different from the US.

New York Times: ‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon. “Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes.


Bloomberg: Facebook Privacy Scandal Unleashes Nationwide ‘Litigation Swarm’. “Lawsuits are piling up from users and investors. U.S. lawmakers are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress next week. The Federal Trade Commission is jumping into the fray, along with states and local government that are launching their probes or taking the company to court over its business practices. It’s not money that’s the issue. The legal and regulatory pile-on threatens to deepen the company’s woes, as plaintiffs and government officials demand responses to subpoenas, which could potentially reveal more damaging information. And the headlines keep privacy concerns related to the world’s largest social media network fresh in the public eye, eroding its user base.”


The Guardian: Algorithms have become so powerful we need a robust, Europe-wide response. “Whenever the nefarious consequences of their profit models are exposed, tech companies essentially reply, ‘don’t regulate us, we’ll improve our behaviour’. But self-regulation is simply not working well enough, especially when we have no way of knowing whether tweaking algorithms makes matters better or worse. Opaque algorithms in effect challenge the checks and balances essential for liberal democracies and market economies to function. As the EU builds a digital single market, it needs to ensure that market is anchored in democratic principles. Yet the software codes that determine which link shows up first, second, third and onwards, remain protected by intellectual property rights as ‘trade secrets’. ”

The Conversation: Indigenous voices are speaking loudly on social media but racism endures. “Social media are a vital resource for Indigenous Australians, connecting them to community and culture, helping identify those at risk of suicide or self-harm, and offering a powerful outlet for political activism. But racism is a major problem for Indigenous people online. A new report, Social Media Mob: Being Indigenous Online, unpacks the complex role social media play in the lives of Indigenous Australians.”

NPR: How Social Media Can Reveal Overlooked Drug Reactions. “When Allison Ruddick was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in October 2014, she turned to the world of hashtags. After her initial diagnosis it wasn’t clear if the cancer had metastasized, so she was in for a nerve-wracking wait, she says. She wanted outside advice. ‘But they don’t really give you a handbook, so you search kind of anywhere for answers,’ Ruddick says. ‘Social media was one of the first places I went.’ Under the hashtags #colorectalcancer and #nevertooyoung on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, other patients were sharing a fuller picture of their experience with cancer treatments.” Good morning, Internet…

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