Jeremiah Cornelius writes with a note that on Thursday of this week "The Electronic Privacy Information Center posted a brief and detailed notice about the removal of a petition regarding security screenings by the TSA at US airports and other locations. 'At approximately 11:30 am EDT, the White House removed a petition about the TSA airport screening procedures from the White House 'We the People' website. About 22,500 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the Administration were obtained when the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition. The site also went down for 'maintenance' following an article in Wired that sought support for the campaign."
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An anonymous reader writes "As we (very gradually) move away from feudal, leader-based forms of governance to collaborative and open source governance, some interesting new issues arise. The biggest is usually user authentication: how can we avoid sock-puppets and spammers from overtaking the voting process? Enter the concept of the streetwiki, an ingenious system for having humans validate their physical neighbors. Bleeding-edge social organization meets ancient validation protocol."
Shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, Republican candidate Mitt Romney officially announced (via phone app) his selection of 42-year-old Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as running mate for the 2012 U.S. presidential race. Ryan's selection was announced by the Romney campaign to various media outlets earlier this morning. Ryan is considered popular among a wide range of Republican voters, being a budget hawk who favors less liberal laws concerning abortion. Ryan's lauded popularity among Tea Party voters is mixed; some reports describe him as a Tea Party favorite, others as a far-right imposter.
An anonymous reader writes "Steve Yegge is back at it again. This essay is on the notion that software engineers range from conservative to liberal in their notion of software and how it should be built. He says, 'Just as in real-world politics, software conservatism and liberalism are radically different world views. Make no mistake: they are at odds. They have opposing value systems, priorities, core beliefs and motivations. These value systems clash at design time, at implementation time, at diagnostic time, at recovery time. They get along like green eggs and ham. I think it is important for us to recognize and understand the conservative/liberal distinction in our industry. It probably won't help us agree on anything, pretty much by definition. Any particular issue only makes it onto the political axis if there is a fundamental, irreconcilable difference of opinion about it. Programmers probably won't — or maybe even can't — change their core value systems. But the political-axis framework gives us a familiar set of ideas and terms for identifying areas of fundamental disagreement. This can lead to faster problem resolution.'"
ananyo writes "Almost one-quarter of the world's population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished, concludes a comprehensive global analysis of groundwater depletion (abstract). Across the world, human civilizations depend largely on tapping vast reservoirs of water that have been stored for up to thousands of years in sand, clay and rock deep underground. These massive aquifers — which in some cases stretch across multiple states and country borders — provide water for drinking and crop irrigation, as well as to support ecosystems such as forests and fisheries. Yet in most of the world's major agricultural regions, including the Central Valley in California, the Nile delta region of Egypt, and the Upper Ganges in India and Pakistan, demand exceeds these reservoirs' capacity for renewal."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "In 2008, as The Washington Post wrote at the time, 'just hours before [Sen. John] McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about Palin's approval rating and husband's employment. ... Palin's entry was updated at least 68 times, with at least an additional 54 changes made to her entry over the preceding five days.' The obvious — in hindsight — implications of the Wiki activity: Aides were going into the entries to tune them up and clean out any material that was either embarrassing or erroneous. Now Mark Memmott writes on NPR that today's Wikipedia activity may lend a clue to Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, expected to be announced within a few days. So what's going on now with some of those said to be among the leading possibilities to be joining Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket? On August 7, Rob Portman's Wikipedia page was revised 100 times, the Wikipedia page for Marco Rubio was revised 22 times, and the page for Tim Pawlenty was revised only 5 times. Of course, Memmott adds, somebody who knows about the 2008 Wiki tea leaves may just be messing with our minds."
theodp writes "ProPublica's Lois Beckett reports that the Obama for America campaign's new mobile app is raising privacy concerns with its Google map that recognizes one's current location, marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags, and displays the first name, age and gender of the voter or voters who live there (e.g.,'Lori C., 58 F, Democrat'). Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that 'anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public.' Harvard law prof Jonathan Zittrain said the Obama app does represent a significant shift. While voter data has been 'technically public,' it is usually accessed only by political campaigns and companies that sell consumer data. 'Much of our feelings around privacy are driven by what you might call status-quo-ism,' Zittrain added, 'so many people may feel that the app is creepy simply because it represents something new.'"
theodp writes "In 2005, Microsoft came under fire after withdrawing support for an anti-gay-discrimination bill. 'I don't want the company to be in the position of appearing to dismiss the deeply-held beliefs of any employee, by picking sides on social policy issues,' explained CEO Steve Ballmer. That was then. Microsoft — like Google and Amazon — has since very publicly declared its support for gay-marriage legislation, which means it — unlike Chick-fil-A — needn't worry about the 'deeply-held beliefs of any employee' causing it to be blocked from doing business by the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. I guess we'll never know what Microsoft versions of 'Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day' or 'National Same-Sex Kiss Day' would have looked like."
Hugh Pickens points out an article by David Zweig at The Atlantic about the rise of fact-checking sites on the internet, and the power they give to journalists and average internet denizens to sniff out fiction parading as truth. Quoting: "Since the beginning of the republic (not the American republic, I'm talking the Greek republic) politicians have resorted to half-truths and bald-faced lies. And while tenacious reporters and informed citizens have tracked these falsehoods over the years, until now they've lacked the interconnectivity and real-time capabilities of the Web to amplify their findings. Sites like the Washington Post's Fact-Check column and FactCheck.org, which draws hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month, often provide fodder for public fascination with fact-checking. ... Perhaps the masses don't care about inaccuracies. Many Democrats and Republicans alike will believe what they want and ignore or disregard the truth. ... But there are enough experts within a variety of fields rabidly conversing about errors that content-creators—be they politicians, journalists, or filmmakers—are now forced to be on their toes in a way they never have been before. And that's a good thing.'" Zweig also points out Snopes, Prochronisms, and Photoshop Disasters as useful tools for spotting errors or misrepresentations.
wiredmikey writes "Despite a recent push by legislators, it remains unclear whether the Senate will manage to vote on the proposed comprehensive cybersecurity legislation (Cybersecurity Act of 2012) before Congress adjourns at the end of the week for its summer recess. Once all the amendments (over 70) have been dealt with, the Senate could decide to vote on the bill immediately, or wait till after the summer recess. As usual, the Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on which amendments will be considered, effectively stalling the bill. And most interesting, is that in typical U.S. political fashion, some of the amendments have nothing to with the topic on hand (cybersecurity): ... Sen. Frank Lautenberg has filed a measure to ban high-capacity ammunition clips as part of a gun-reform proposal. And Sen. Mike Lee filed a bill that would ban abortion in Washington, D.C. after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Sen. Michael Bennet and Tom Coburn filed an amendment to expand the Office for Personnel Management's federal government's data center consolidation initiative. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested an amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act."
colinneagle writes "Twitter today launched a new tool that leverages its estimated 400 million daily Tweets to gauge public opinion on the candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Progress in political polling is long overdue, and with Twitter providing a constant, international conversation for web users to join or leave at their own will, there may not be a better time than now to make that change. However, there are some concerns. One of the interesting points made in Twitter's description of its new tool is where it claims to be 'illustrating instances when unprompted, natural conversation deviates from responses to specific survey questions.' That assumes conversation on Twitter is natural. If parody accounts, Twitter trolls, and spam bots have taught us anything (and they usually don't), it's that Twitter conversation can be manipulated just as easily as it can be used naturally. How will Twitter distinguish between positive Tweets coming from voters or news outlets and those from spam bots designed to drive the conversation surrounding a candidate one way or the other? How easy could it be for an organization with a vested interest in positive poll numbers for one candidate to craft an army of Twitter bots designed to drive Barack Obama's positive numbers down, or vice versa? How many people reading the data, which is sure to make its way to TV news as election coverage increases in the coming months, will be aware that Tweets can be manipulated?"
redletterdave writes "In 2008, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama decided to announce his running mate, then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, over a text message, which was sent out to Obama's legions of followers. Four years later, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the likely presidential nominee from the Republican Party, has decided to make his VP announcement over a smartphone app. On Tuesday, Mitt Romney's campaign team launched a smartphone app called 'Mitt's VP,' which promises app users will be the first to know the official news of Romney's running mate for the November election. Once Romney makes his decision, he will announce the news over the app, which will alert smartphone owners with a text notification."
retroworks writes "J.D. Tuccille of the conservative think tank Reason Foundation discusses last week's news about the first working 3D-printed gun. According to the original article, the partly plastic '.22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper' fired 200 rounds without any sign of wear and tear. Tuccille takes the discovery in the direction of politically topical gun control. '...the development makes it clear that a wide range of bans, restrictions and prohibitions are becoming increasingly unenforcable.' But in my mind, this example of additive-manufacturing technology raises even more questions about patent law enforcement. Will 3D printing be to the Anti-gray-market-alliance what online porn became to neighborhood blue laws?"
pigrabbitbear writes "If the plane were around today — which some still fantasize about — it'd be like powering a stretch Hummer with dolphin blood. The airlines couldn't sell enough tickets on the small plane to even make up for the amount of fuel it needed to guzzle on its journeys, let alone cover maintenance for the technological marvel. (A Concorde's taxi to the end of a runway used as much fuel as a 737's flight from London to Amsterdam.) Customers were fine with ordinary travel times for a fraction of the airfare and the plane only took transatlantic journeys, because going over land was too disturbing. Too much noise."
An anonymous reader writes "F-Secure antivirus company of Finland has reported receiving e-mails from an Iranian nuclear scientist, who says Persian uranium-235 isotope refining efforts have just been hit with yet another cyber strike. (Stuxnet, Duqu and Flamer-Skywiper being the previous iterations of the same Operation Project Olympic attack plan.) Last month, President Obama's staff has admitted to the New York Times that there is a joint Israel-U.S. cybermilitary operation was behind the mishaps Iranians have recently been suffering with their UF6 gas refining centrifuge systems in the Natanz and Fordo plants. This time, the unverified e-mail claims, a new Metasploit-based malware owns Iranian VPNs, causes fault in the nuclear plants' Siemens-based industrial control systems, and randomly starts to play AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' aloud via the infected computers' speakers."