US Levees, NASA Satellite Images, Bing, More: Thursday Afternoon Buzz, June 7, 2018


US Army Corps of Engineers: USACE Opens Updated National Levee Database. “The database includes attributes of levees and floodwalls relevant to flood fighting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, repair and inspection. Because the location and characteristics of levee systems can be viewed on a map with real-time data from other sources, such as stream gauges and weather radar, it is a useful tool for a variety of public agencies and individuals including flood plain managers, emergency management agencies, levee system sponsors and citizens who live or work behind a levee. Currently the NLD includes information on approximately 33,000 miles of levee, which includes 14,500 miles of levees systems associated with USACE programs, 15,000 miles from the FEMA mid-term levee inventory and several other states and federal agencies.”

NASA: 20 Years of Earth Data Now at Your Fingertips. “Powerful Earth-observing instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively, have observed nearly two decades of planetary change. Now, for the first time, all that imagery — from the first operational image to imagery acquired today — is available for exploration in Worldview. Thanks to the efforts of several NASA teams, the public can now interactively browse all global imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument quickly and easily from the comfort of a home computer. All global MODIS imagery dating back to the operational start of MODIS in 2000 is available through NASA’s Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) for viewing using NASA’s Worldview application. And there’s a lot to see.”


Search Engine Land: Bing will start banning more weapons-related ads starting July 1. “Bing is expanding the scope of its policy prohibiting certain weapons-related advertising. As of July 1, 2018, Bing will no longer allow ads for BB guns, paintball guns, air rifles or parts that can be attached to weapons, used to create ammunition or aid in the reloading of a weapon.”

Ubergizmo: Old Gmail Design Now Being Phased Out By Google. “It has only been a few weeks since the new Gmail design was officially confirmed by Google. The company first rolled it out for G Suite users, those who have paid company accounts, before bringing it to regular Gmail users as well. It has been gradually bringing the new design to more Gmail users across the globe but Google has now revealed plans to slowly phase out the old Gmail design for all users.” I hope it isn’t as bad as the Google News redesign.


New Delhi Times: Rising Attacks on Pakistani Journalists, Social Media. “Growing assaults against social media activists and journalists in Pakistan have alarmed defenders of free speech and human rights activists before the July 25 general election. There are also increasing allegations the military is also behind some of these incidents to stifle dissent. The latest incident occurred Tuesday when Gul Bukhari, who openly criticizes the military via social media and newspaper articles, was briefly abducted while she was on her way to participate in a television talk show in the eastern city of Lahore.”


TechCrunch: Cambridge Analytica’s Nix said it licensed ‘millions of data points’ from Acxiom, Experian, Infogroup to target US voters. “The repeat grilling by the U.K. parliament’s DCMS committee today of Alexander Nix, the former CEO of the now ex company Cambridge Analytica — aka the controversial political and commercial ad agency at the center of a Facebook data misuse scandal — was not able to shed much new light on what may or may not have been going on inside the company. But one nugget of information Nix let slip were the names of specific data aggregators he said Cambridge Analytica had bought ‘consumer and lifestyle’ information on U.S. voters from, to link to voter registration data it also paid to acquire — apparently using that combined database to build models to target American voters in the 2016 presidential election, rather than using data improperly obtained from Facebook.”

Techdirt: Court Not At All Impressed By Chuck Johnson’s Silly Lawsuit Against Twitter, Plans To Grant Anti-SLAPP Win To Twitter. “Back in January we wrote about infamous internet troll Chuck Johnson’s absolutely ridiculous lawsuit against Twitter for kicking him off the service. As we noted at the time, the lawsuit appeared to be nearly a carbon copy of Dennis Prager’s silly lawsuit against YouTube. And, if you recall, a court tossed that lawsuit earlier this year. And now it’s clear that a court is about to toss Johnson’s lawsuit as well on anti-SLAPP grounds.”

Ars Technica: VPNFilter malware infecting 500,000 devices is worse than we thought. “Two weeks ago, officials in the private and public sectors warned that hackers working for the Russian government infected more than 500,000 consumer-grade routers in 54 countries with malware that could be used for a range of nefarious purposes. Now, researchers from Cisco’s Talos security team say additional analysis shows that the malware is more powerful than originally thought and runs on a much broader base of models, many from previously unaffected manufacturers.”


CNET: MIT researchers use Reddit to create the first ‘psychopath AI’. “Meet Norman. He’s not your everyday AI. His algorithms won’t help filter through your Facebook feed or recommend you new songs to listen to on Spotify. Nope — Norman is a “psychopath AI’, created by researchers at the MIT Media Lab as a ‘case study on the dangers of artificial intelligence gone wrong when biased data is used in machine learning algorithms.'”

DNA India: Social media pics of culture can predict economic trends in cities, claims new study. “The rise and prosperity of an urban neighbourhood may not only be based on economic capital, but also the presence of a vibrant arts, music and science culture, scientists say. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physics, the researchers used social media images of cultural events in London and New York City on image hosting site Flickr to create a model that can predict neighbourhoods where residents enjoy a high level of wellbeing.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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