A House Divided
A lobbying firm took data from the National Journal’s annual congressional voter ratings to compare liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. From top to bottom, we have 1982 to 2013.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza attributes the polarization to redistricting, with the parties effectively creating safe voting districts. But, as he points out, the Senate is equally partisan:
More intriguing — and harder to explain — is how the middle has dropped out of the Senate, which is not subject to redistricting. Because senators represent entire states, self-sorting should be less powerful…
…[M]ore than half of the Senate fit between the most liberal Republican and the most conservative Democrat in 1982. For the last two years, there has not been a single Republican with a more liberal voting record than any Democrat and not a single Democrat with a more conservative voting record than any Republican. Not one.
Cillizza does the math: In 1982, 75 percent of congress fell into an ideological middle. Today, .7 percent does. Read through for the rest and to view the Senate chart.
Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing. —
Bruce Schneier, security technologist, in a presentation at the SOURCE Boston conference.
Via Security Week:
The data economy—the growth of mass data collection and tracking—is changing how power is perceived, Schneier said in his keynote speech. The Internet and technology has changed the impact a group can have on others, where dissidents can use the Internet to amplify their voices and extend their reach. Governments already have a lot of power to begin with, so when they take advantage of technology, their power is magnified, he said.
“That’s how you get weird situations where Syrian dissidents use Facebook to organize, and the government uses Facebook to arrest its citizens,” Schneier said.
Over the past few years, it’s become easier and cheaper to store data and search for the necessary item rather than to sort and delete. Email is a very good example of this shift in behavior. This change, spurred by the popularity of mobile devices and the push to move more data and services to the cloud has also made it easier to track user behavior. When corporations track users for marketing purposes, it seems benign, but the same actions come across as sinister when it’s the government…
…The government didn’t tell anyone they have to carry around a tracking device, but people now carry mobile devices. The government doesn’t require users to notify any agency about their relationships. Users will tell Facebook soon enough, Schneier noted. “Fundamentally, we have reached the golden age of surveillance because we are all being surveilled ubiquitously.”
Somewhat related programming note: Read up on Heartbleed, change your passwords everywhere.
A Story Told Well: NPR’s Borderland
NPR recently launched a special series, Borderland, in which Steven Inskeep traveled along the entire 2,428 mile border between the U.S. and Mexico to report on the nuances of immigration and the relationship between the two countries. Here are the radio stories, which are so worth listening to if this is an issue that you’ve had a hard time wrapping your mind around, or not seen fantastic reporting on before. And here is the stunning visual intro to the series, which breaks the piece down into 12 stories complete with moving characters, all the numbers (presented very digestibly) and a lot of context.
Rwanda, 20 Years Later
Twenty years ago this week, the Rwandan genocide began. It’s estimated 800,000 to a million people were killed over 100 days. Most were Tutsi but tens of thousands were moderate Hutu and others caught in the slaughter.
The country today is commemorating by holding a week of mourning alongside a longer 100-day vigil.
The #Rwanda20yrs hashtag on Twitter is an at times sobering, enlightening and inspiring access point to news, resources and personal accounts of the period.
Here’s some of what we’ve been reading through:
Image: Via National Geographic, “A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.” Photo by David Guttenfelder. Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press. Select to embiggen.
BBC using WhatsApp and WeChat to Engage Indians, Push News During Elections -
The BBC is using private mobile messaging apps to engage with their audience in India around this year’s presidential elections, the first phase of which begins on Monday.
Starting today, BBC News India is sending updates to users of WeChat and WhatsApp to distribute BBC content, engage with the audience and source user-generated content (UGC).
"A lot of these apps have huge, huge audiences," Trushar Barot, assistant editor of the BBC’s UGC and social media hub, told Journalism.co.uk, "so the potential is definitely there as we figure out an editorial product that fits with the platform."
Figures from February estimate the number of global WhatsApp users at 450 million, while WeChat claimed a total 355 million users worldwide in March.
The first messages from BBC News India included stories in Hindi and English, an introduction to users as to how the app process would work and an invitation to share “thoughts, comments and experiences of the campaign as well as their pictures and videos”.
WhatsApp users will receive three messages per day as push notifications, while the capability is limited to one message per day on WeChat
Welcome to the world’s largest online repository of structured, multilingual, usage-based hate speech. —
Welcome message from Hatebase.org, a project created by Canadian-based Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention.
Hatebase was built to assist government agencies, NGOs, research organizations and other philanthropic individuals and groups use hate speech as a predictor for regional violence. Language-based classification, or symbolization, is one of a handful of quantifiable steps toward genocide
The site maps incidents of hate speech, structures them across language and type, and invites people to contribute.
Developers can access the Hatebase API here.
‘Robot’ to write 1 billion stories in 2014 but will you know it when you see it? | Poynter. -
If you’re a human reporter quaking in your boots this week over news of a Los Angeles Times algorithm that wrote the newspaper’s initial story about an earthquake, you might want to cover your ears for this fact:
Software from Automated Insights will generate about 1 billion stories this year — up from 350 million last year, CEO and founder Robbie Allen told Poynter via phone.
FJP: Here’s a ponderable for you.
A few weeks ago, the New York Post reported that Quinton Ross died. Ross, a former Brooklyn Nets basketball player, didn’t know he was dead and soon let people know he was just fine.
"A couple (relatives) already heard it," Ross told the Associated Press. “They were crying. I mean, it was a tough day, man, mostly for my family and friends… My phone was going crazy. I checked Facebook. Finally, I went on the Internet, and they were saying I was dead. I just couldn’t believe it.”
The original reporter on the story? A robot. Specifically, Wikipedia Live Monitor, created by Google engineer Thomas Steiner.
Slate explains how it happened:
Wikipedia Live Monitor is a news bot designed to detect breaking news events. It does this by listening to the velocity and concurrent edits across 287 language versions of Wikipedia. The theory is that if lots of people are editing Wikipedia pages in different languages about the same event and at the same time, then chances are something big and breaking is going on.
At 3:09 p.m. the bot recognized the apparent death of Quinton Ross (the basketball player) as a breaking news event—there had been eight edits by five editors in three languages. The bot sent a tweet. Twelve minutes later, the page’s information was corrected. But the bot remained silent. No correction. It had shared what it thought was breaking news, and that was that. Like any journalist, these bots can make mistakes.
Quick takeaway: Robots, like the humans that program them, are fallible.
Slower, existential takeaway: “How can we instill journalistic ethics in robot reporters?”
As Nicholas Diakopoulos explains in Slate, code transparency is an inadequate part of the answer. More important is understanding what he calls the “tuning criteria,” or the inherent biases, that are used to make editorial decisions when algorithms direct the news.
Read through for his excellent take.
(Source: futurescope, via emergentfutures)
Photographing Afghanistan’s Elections
The New York Times has a great photo essay by Bryan Denton on Afghanistan’s tomorrow’s presidential election.
Via The Times:
As they registered with the Independent Election Commission in October, some of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates took offense when told they had to leave their guns at home. Brawls broke out. It was not a promising beginning to the first election in modern Afghan history with the potential to bring a peaceful change of leadership, as President Hamid Karzai’s 12 years in power come to an official end.
In the months since, a Taliban campaign of attacks has taken its toll in lives and fear. Insurgents even managed to strike the election commission, killing workers and setting a ballot warehouse on fire. But the overall violence across the country has been lower than before the 2009 vote, and the most dire predictions have so far not come to pass.
Image: Supporters of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, by Bryan Denton, via The New York Times. Select to embiggen.
Internet slang. We used to make an effort to avoid this, and now I see us all falling back into the habit. We want to sound like regular adult human beings, not Buzzfeed writers or Reddit commenters. Therefore: No “epic.” No “pwn.” No “+1.” No “derp.” No “this”/”this just happened.” No “OMG.” No “WTF.” No “lulz.” No “FTW.” No “win.” No “amazeballs.” And so on. Nothing will ever “win the internet” on Gawker. As with all rules there are exceptions. Err on the side of the Times, not XOJane. — Max Read, Editor, Gawker, in a memo to staff, via Poynter. Gawker bans ‘Internet slang’.
The Internet is a Series of Tubes
Mark Graham and Stefano De Sabbata from the Oxford Internet Institute map the world’s submarine fibre-optic cables to appear like the London’s Tube Map (PDF). But they also go a few steps further.
Via Information Geographies
For the sake of simplicity, many short links have been excluded from the visualization. For instance, it doesn’t show the intricate network of cables under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the South and East China Sea, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. The map instead aims to provide a global overview of the network, and a general sense of how information traverses our planet. (The findings reported below, however, are based on two analysis of the full submarine fibre-optic cable network, and not just the simplified representation shown in the illustration.)
The map also includes symbols referring to countries listed as “Enemies of the Internet” in the 2014 report of Reporters Without Borders. The centrality of the nodes within the network has been calculated using the PageRank algorithm. The rank is important as it highlights those geographical places where the network is most influenced by power (e.g., potential data surveillance) and weakness (e.g., potential service disruption).
Image: Internet Tube, by Mark Graham and Stefano De Sabbata.
AP photographer killed, reporter wounded in Afghanistan
AP: Veteran Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and AP reporter Kathy Gannon was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan.
Follow more on this story at Breaking News
Photo: Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus poses for a photograph in Rome. (AP File Photo)
FJP — Via the BBC:
The attack took place in the town of Khost near the border with Pakistan…
…[The two journalists] had been travelling with election workers delivering ballots in the Tanay district of Khost province.
An eyewitness said a police unit commander had opened fire on the journalists as they were waiting for their convoy to move inside a security compound.
The police officer behind the attack was taken into custody after surrendering to other police…
…The BBC’s Afghanistan correspondent, David Loyn, says the election is being protected by the biggest military operation since the fall of the Taliban.
Nearly 200,000 troops have been deployed across the country to prevent attacks.
Rings of security have been set up around each polling centre, with the police at the centre and hundreds of troops on the outside.
Reporting restrictions are in place, limiting what can be broadcast about the candidates.
For what it’s worth, Niedringhaus was a former Nieman Fellow. Some of her work can be seen on her Tumblr. See also her 2007 essay in Nieman Reports on the emotions of photography, and this 2013 photo essay of her work in Afghanistan from the Atlantic.
How “no worries” infected American English -
The handy Australianism “no worries”—usually used in place of “you’re welcome”—has been burrowing deeper into the heart of American English.
According to the Corpus of Contemporary American English, a free, 450-million word trove assembled by Brigham Young University’s Mark Davies, the phrase has been popping up in stateside lingo with increasing regularity. Usage of the phrase rose to 1.5 per million words in 2011…
In modern times where “I’m good” means “No thank you” and “No worries” means “You’re welcome,” it’s interesting to know the root of this trend in language.