California Legislator Tracker, Lesotho’s Lesiba, ProtonMail, More: Friday ResearchBuzz, September 10, 2021


Cal Matters: Use our new tool to learn about your legislators and monitor their voting behavior. “Six years ago, we started CalMatters with a bold mission to deliver strong public service journalism that empowers Californians to engage with their state government. I’m excited to share with you that we’re continuing this commitment with the launch of Glass House: California Legislator Tracker.”

The Conversation: Virtual exhibition breathes life into Lesotho’s musical tradition and clay art. “The start of the news broadcast on Radio Lesotho is signalled by an unforgettable vibrating sound, rather harsh, as if made by a large bird. This is the lesiba, a musical bow. The lesiba was played by boys and men as they herded cattle, before radios and cellphones began to take the place of the national musical instrument. Nowadays, there is little apparent concern for maintaining interest in the lesiba at school or any other national level in Lesotho. The unique sound of the instrument – once evocative of a rural way of life – seems to exist in a disconnected, disembodied fashion on the radio.”


Wired: ProtonMail Amends Its Policy After Giving Up an Activist’s Data. “As usual, the devil is in the details—ProtonMail’s original policy simply said that the service does not keep IP logs ‘by default.’ However, as a Swiss company, ProtonMail was obliged to comply with a Swiss court’s demand that it begin logging IP address and browser fingerprint information for a particular ProtonMail account.”

CNET: Epic Games is shutting down Houseparty, its video chat app for gamers. “Epic Games is shutting down its video chat service Houseparty, the company announced Thursday. The move comes two years after Epic acquired the app back in 2019.”

TechCrunch: Twitter introduces a new label that allows the ‘good bots’ to identify themselves. “Twitter today is introducing a new feature that will allow accounts to self-identify as bots by adding a label to their profile. This feature is designed to help people better differentiate between automated accounts — like bots that retweet the news, public service announcements, or other updates — from those operated by humans. It’s not, however, designed to help users identify the ‘bad bots’ which are those that pose as people, often to spread misinformation or spam.”


Governor of Virginia: Governor Northam Announces Artifacts for New Time Capsule. “Governor Ralph Northam today announced the artifacts for the new time capsule, crafted by Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale. The capsule will be placed in the concrete pedestal of Richmond’s Lee Monument. Historians believe a copper time capsule was placed in the cornerstone of the Lee pedestal on October 27, 1887…. The statue itself will be removed on Wednesday. On Thursday, the original time capsule will be removed and handed over to the Department of Historic Resources.”

Mashable: Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses are just an overpriced influencer toy. “…unlike Google Glass with its small screen and internet connectivity, there’s no promise of a futuristic, wearable computer here. Facebook’s newest bit of hardware comes with such a comically limited and shoddily executed feature set for the price that it’s hard to take it seriously as a product at all. This is just an expensive toy for influencers seemingly designed to make Facebook look ‘cool’ again, built for a world where ‘Stories’ are now widely known as ephemeral and easily forgotten snippets of our social media lives.”


POGO: Over 75 Organizations Urge Supreme Court to Make Live Audio Streaming Permanent and Accessible. “Providing live audio access to cases during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has convincingly demonstrated the public’s appetite to observe the operations of the Court. It has also shown that the Court can balance increased public access with the integrity of its proceedings. Equitable access to the Court as an institution is imperative for all Americans.”

Reuters: Hong Kong police raid museum commemorating 1989 Tiananmen victims . “Hong Kong police on Thursday raided the premises of the closed June 4th Museum, dedicated to the victims of China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.”


Swissinfo: New ‘green status’ launched to help endangered species. “The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), based in Switzerland, has a new tool and global standard – called ‘green status’ – to classify plant and animal populations. Oxford University researcher Molly Grace outlines the potential of the instrument to measure conservation progress.”

MIT News: A universal system for decoding any type of data sent across a network. “Researchers at MIT, Boston University, and Maynooth University in Ireland have now created the first silicon chip that is able to decode any code, regardless of its structure, with maximum accuracy, using a universal decoding algorithm called Guessing Random Additive Noise Decoding (GRAND). By eliminating the need for multiple, computationally complex decoders, GRAND enables increased efficiency that could have applications in augmented and virtual reality, gaming, 5G networks, and connected devices that rely on processing a high volume of data with minimal delay.”

The Conversation: Is Google getting worse? Increased advertising and algorithm changes may make it harder to find what you’re looking for. “Over the past 25 years, the name ‘Google’ has become synonymous with the idea of searching for anything online. In much the same way ‘to Hoover’ means to use a vacuum cleaner, dictionaries have recognised ‘to Google’ as meaning to undertake an online search using any available service. Former competitors such as AltaVista and AskJeeves are long dead, and existing alternatives such as Bing and DuckDuckGo currently pose little threat to Google’s dominance. But shifting our web searching habits to a single supplier has significant risks.” Good morning, Internet…

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