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Media Bits and Bytes - What You Don’t Know edition

Google says the FBI is secretly spying on some of its customers; Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson; "Actipedia" Crowdsourcing platform goes public; Digital Elite flirts with Socialism (and Nixon) at TED; Commotion wireless: free and open way to network; Moving from an age of Internet scarcity to abundance; Apps are creating new jobs, but also adding to unemployment; Meet the new mobile workers; Quantum Computing moves forward...


Google Says the FBI Is Secretly Spying on Some of Its Customers

By David Kravets

March 5, 2013

The terrorists apparently would win if Google told you the exact number of times the Federal Bureau of Investigation invoked a secret process to extract data about the media giant’s customers.

That’s why it is unlawful for any record-keeper to disclose it has received a so-called National Security Letter. But under a deal brokered with the President Barack Obama administration, Google on Tuesday published a “range” of times it received National Security Letters demanding it divulge account information to the authorities without warrants.

It was the first time a company has ever released data chronicling the volume of National Security Letter requests.


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Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson

By Kevin C. Brown

January 16, 2013
Remapping Debate

Each spring since 2010, some of Washington’s A-list politicians assemble in the capital to submit to questions from some of the media’s A-list journalists on the future of the federal fiscal policy.

These interviews, though, aren’t conducted on the steps of Congress, in the Washington bureaus of the nation’s newspapers, or in the television studios of major networks, but rather at private “Fiscal Summits” convened by Peter G. Peterson, the billionaire former commerce secretary and co-founder of the Blackstone private equity group.

Peterson, however, is hardly a disinterested and dispassionate observer of such discussions. In fact, he is now beginning his fourth decade of arguing that there is no alternative to enacting “entitlement reform” (read: cut Social Security and Medicare) and “tax reform” (read: raise regressive taxes and lower progressive ones) in the name of curbing the country’s “unsustainable” debt and deficits.

An essential and successful element of the Peterson strategy is to create an environment where it is widely if not universally believed that there is no alternative to his vision. In this view, it’s “not realistic” to believe the country can afford the same programs it once did. Those who are prepared to be “adults” will look at these “hard truths” without flinching and recognize that it is time to take citizens-have-to-do-with-less medicine.

"Actipedia" Crowdsourcing Platform Goes Public

By Stephen Duncombe

March 6, 2013

Common Dreams

The Yes Lab and the Center for Artistic Activism are announcing the launch of “” an open-access, user-generated database of creative activism case studies designed to inspire activists.

Actipedia is built on an open-source platform and is designed with simple formats for viewing, searching and posting examples. The site draws case studies from original submissions, reprinted news articles, and informal snippets of action reports. Although it is only now launching, Actipedia already hosts over 400 case studies and counting, from countries from all over the world.

Digital Elite Flirt With Socialism (and Nixon) at TED

By Ryan Tate

February 28, 2013

Amid the usual talk of robots, architecture, education reform, corporate creativity, and 3-D printing, wealth redistribution and even some properly socialist memes have emerged as popular topics of conversation at TED 2013. Leftist economic ideas were mentioned at least three times yesterday alone. First, designer Alastair Parvin cited the theories of Karl Marx, and said a combination of modern technologies and a renewed interest in community cooperation mean that ordinary people can take means of production.” for themselves. Then computer scientist Danny Hillis quoted another idea from Marx, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” was the communist credo that allowed techies to effectively route traffic on a straining computer network designed and funded to win a war against communists, he said.

Finally there was Andrew McAfee, an MIT “management theorist” who detailed the declining fortunes of the working class in an economy that’s full of increasingly sophisticated machines. “ if we’re moving into an economy that’s heavy on technology and light on labor,  then we have to consider something like the guaranteed minimum income,” McAfee said. McAfee then flashed pictures of Marc, Lenin, and Castro, before assuring the audience that the idea was also associated with right-wing icons Friedrich Hayek, Richard Nixon, and Milton Friedman.

The discussion at this year’s TED’s offers hints that the political orientation of the digerati has moved left of “cyber-libertarianism” and that the tech sector might even act as a counterbalance to more traditional and right-leaning industries on the politics of economic intervention.

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Commotion Wireless: Free and Open Way to Network

By Daniel Bean

March 8, 2013
ABC News

With recent debates over openness on the Internet, and the emerging concept that you might not have the right to do what you want with your cellphone, 2013 looks to be a pivotal time for expanded technology rights.  Enter the Open Technology Institute, providers of a new project meant to help spread free and accessible wireless communication. They call themselves Commotion Wireless.

Sascha Meinrath, vice president and director of the Open Technology Institute, told ABC News that its open sourced wireless "mesh network" system can serve many purposes.  A mesh network is created by connecting devices like computers and mobile phones through a "peer to peer" method -- meaning that instead of using an Internet service provider's connection through a centralized Wi-Fi access point or cell tower, the devices are communicating with each other directly, free of any interference.

Op-ed: Moving from an age of Internet scarcity to abundance

By Christopher Mitchell

March 3, 2013
Seattle Times

If the massive cable companies ran our electrical grid like they do their broadband networks, we would have to do without air conditioning, which puts a heavy strain on the grid during peak demand. In contrast, the cable networks get congested during periods of peak activity, failing to deliver the “up to” speed promised in their advertising.

Some new network builders are embracing a different approach, one that has major implications for the future of innovation: adopting a business model of abundance rather than scarcity.

Just as free public roads and low-cost universal electricity supercharged American economic growth in the 21st century, so can the Age of Internet Abundance now. I don’t know the maximum number of amps that can flow into my house and I don’t care. Soon, I hope to say the same thing about my megabits ... or even gigabits.

Apps Are Creating New Jobs, but Also Adding to Unemployment

By Greg Bensinger and Jessica E. Lessin

March 5, 2013
Wall Street Journal

Mobile apps have spawned new sets of jobs that people across the country are performing without having to have a computer-science degree.  Indeed, smartphones and tablets—which typically have built-in cameras, Internet connections and global-positioning systems—enable just about anyone to be a roving merchant or courier.

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Meet the New Mobile Workers

By Shira Ovide

March 11, 2013
Wall Street Journal

A half-built medical complex in San Leandro, Calif., is on the leading edge of an emerging workplace-technology boom.  Instead of working from the standard paper blueprints, supervisors on the construction site tote iPads loaded with digitized blueprints they can annotate with finger swipe. Each time the architect or building owner changes a paint color or the location of a wall in the plans, the information arrives electronically from the offices of Rudolph & Sletten, the contractor based in Redwood City, Calif.

The digitized documents partly replace hundreds of pages of construction blueprints that need to be updated so often that student interns handle the monotonous work. "The benefit of [digital-blueprint technology] has been so apparent," said Rebeca Ayala, a Rudolph & Sletten senior engineer, because the easily updated software means they don't have to worry about workers consulting an out-of-date blueprint, among other things.

The mobile revolution—which has changed life in so many ways, from getting driving directions to sharing photos—is seeping into corporate technology.

Quantum Computing Moves Forward

by Catherine Zandonella

March 8, 2013

New technologies that exploit quantum behavior for computing and other applications are closer than ever to being realized due to recent advances, according to a review article published this week in the journal Science.

These advances could enable the creation of immensely powerful computers as well as other applications, such as highly sensitive detectors capable of probing biological systems.

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