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The New York Times – The health agency will license much of its material to the online encyclopedia, allowing the information to be reposted widely into almost 200 languages. “As part of efforts to stop the spread of false information about the coronavirus pandemic, Wikipedia and the World Health Organization announced a collaboration on Thursday: The health agency will grant the online encyclopedia free use of its published information, graphics and videos. The collaboration is the first between Wikipedia and a health agency. “We all consult just a few apps in our daily life, and this puts W.H.O. content right there in your language, in your town, in a way that relates to your geography,” said Andrew Pattison, a digital content manager for the health agency who helped negotiate the contract. “Getting good content out quickly disarms the misinformation.” Since its start in 2001, Wikipedia has become one of the world’s 10 most consulted sites; it is frequently viewed for health information. The agreement puts much of the W.H.O.’s material into the Wikimedia “commons,” meaning it can be reproduced or retranslated anywhere, without the need to seek permission — as long as the material is identified as coming from the W.H.O. and a link to the original is included…”
The New York Times – “President Trump signed an executive order this week that could substantially expand his ability to hire and fire tens of thousands of federal workers during a second term, potentially allowing him to weed out what he sees as a “deep state” bureaucracy working to undermine him. The executive order, issued late Wednesday and described by one prominent federal union leader as “the most profound undermining of the Civil Service in our lifetimes,” would allow federal agencies to go through their employee rosters and reclassify certain workers in a way that would strip them of job protections that now cover most federal employees. The White House, in a statement that accompanied the executive order, said the new employee classification was justified because under current rules “removing poor performers, even from these critical positions, is time-consuming and difficult.” Currently, only about 4,000 of the more than 2 million federal employees are so-called political appointees, who are typically replaced with each presidential administration. They include senior agency officials who oversee the development of federal policies. The bulk of federal workers are considered career civil servants, who have certain protections both in the way they are hired — typically based on a point system that is supposed to make the hiring competitive — and a time-consuming, appeals-based process that must be used if an agency manager wants to dismiss someone…
Trump administration officials had been discussing for months how to purge “bad people” who are part of the “deep state,” Axios reported in February. The effort accelerated early this year after Mr. Trump hired a new head of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, John McEntee, who served as a campaign aide to Mr. Trump in 2016. Federal agencies would have seven months to conduct a review of their work force to decide which existing employees could be reclassified into this new status, under the executive order. The reviews would then be redone annually. Because this would take place on an agency-by-agency basis, it is hard to predict how many employees could end up being reclassified, and any future president could revoke the order…”
“Using the Life Cycle of Media Manipulation, each case study features a chronological description of a media manipulation event, which is filtered along specific variables such as tactics, targets, mitigation, outcomes, and keywords…Led by Joan Donovan, PhD, the Technology and Social Change project (TaSC) is a team of interdisciplinary researchers analyzing how contemporary technologies of communication are used by different groups to bring about social change, for better or worse. The Media Manipulation Casebook is a research platform that advances knowledge of misinformation and disinformation and their threats to democracy, public health, and security. The Casebook is a new resource for building the field of Critical Internet Studies by equipping researchers with case studies, theory, methods, and frameworks to analyze the interplay of media ecosystems, technology, politics, and society…”
Politico: “The first 2020 U.S. election report by international observers makes for sober reading, Ryan Heath emails us. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe — which has 47 member countries including the U.S. — has deployed 30 experts around the U.S. to monitor all aspects of the election through October. While that’s well short of the 500 the organization hoped to bring (thanks Covid-19!), they’ll be joined by another 100 members of Parliament for the week of Election Day, Nov. 3. Among the report’s observations: Around 9.8 million Americans citizens can’t vote for their representatives. “Citizens resident in the District of Columbia and in U.S. territories are not fully represented in the Congress,” the report notes. “Some 5.2 million citizens, about half of whom have served their sentences, are disenfranchised due to criminal convictions. These restrictions disproportionally affect racial minorities.” In addition, “campaign expenditure is unrestrained” — thanks to court decisions and lack of a Federal Election Commission quorum — and will total around $11 billion. OSCE concluded that although America’s news media is “highly polarized,” the country’s 1,758 television stations, 15,460 radio stations and 1,300 news print publications help us wade through rising misinformation…”
ADL Launches Online Election Incident Reporting Tool in Response to Concerns of Extremist Interference
“In response to growing concerns that extremists could attempt to interfere at the polls in the next few weeks as Americans cast their ballots, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) has established a new online incident reporting tool that will enable voters to flag any potential hate crimes or disruptions involving extremists. In addition to an online reporting form, where the public will be able to report possible hate crimes or extremism-related incidents quickly and confidentially, ADL has established a text short code to provide convenient access to the reporting form. Anyone can text “hatehelp” to 51555 to receive a link and additional information on how to report extremist activity or other manifestations of hate, such as antisemitic or racist graffiti…”
Law.com – LegalTechNews [paywall] Pandemic Reality: Law Librarians Grapple With 24/7 Availability, Accelerated Digital Transition – “HBR Consulting revealed some early survey findings highlighting the impact COVID-19 has had on firms’ law librarians’ workload, print materials and innovation. In law firms’ “new normal,” lawyers may have to quarantine books for 72 hours before they’re placed back into rotation. But that’s not the only change many can expect for law firm libraries, according to a group of Big Law librarians assembled for “Highlights From the HBR 2020 Benchmarking + Legal Information Services Survey (BLISS): Hot Topics” webinar…”
Via LLRX – Increased ebook lending popularity leaves publishers worried, librarians still dissatisfied – Chris Meadows was a Editor and Senior Staff Writer at TeleRead, a site focusing on e-book and library news. It is with sadness that I share one of his last articles – he passed away last week after a hit and run accident. Chris was an expert on all facets of digital content issues, and the son of two librarians. I have included more information in my editor’s note at the end of the article. He will be missed. My deepest condolences to his family.
Life Hacker – “You can use the internet to find almost anything: a good restaurant, a recording of a half-remembered old commercial, recommendations for a good book, a podcast about basically anything, and yes, even public records. While our most private information (usually) can’t be found online, you can track down items like birth certificates, marriage and divorce information, obituaries, licenses, and mortgage and bankruptcy info. Keep reading to learn where to find public records online. First, a brief note – All of the following web sites and methods of discovery are absolutely free, unless stated otherwise. There are many sites out there that advertise themselves as being free, but once you enter in the details of what you’re looking for, they’ll try to charge for their services—and even then, they typically are not providing anything that you can’t find yourself. If you do end up having to pay for something, it will most likely involve heading to a physical location (i.e., a courthouse) in order to procure a copy of a particular public document…”
Consumer Reports – “American consumers are increasingly concerned about privacy and data security when purchasing new products and services, which may be a competitive advantage to companies that take action towards these consumer values, a new Consumer Reports study finds. The new study, “Privacy Front and Center” from CR’s Digital Lab with support from Omidyar Network, looks at the commercial benefits for companies that differentiate their products based on privacy and data security. The study draws from a nationally representative CR survey of 5,085 adult U.S. residents conducted in February 2020, a meta-analysis of 25 years of public opinion studies, and a conjoint analysis that seeks to quantify how consumers weigh privacy and security in their hardware and software purchasing decisions. Given the rapid proliferation of internet connected devices, the rise in data breaches and cyber attacks, and the demand from consumers for heightened privacy and security measures, there’s an undeniable business case for companies to invest in creating more private and secure products.
This study shows that raising the standard for privacy and security is a win-win for consumers and the companies,” said Ben Moskowitz, the director of the Digital Lab at Consumer Reports. “Given the rapid proliferation of internet connected devices, the rise in data breaches and cyber attacks, and the demand from consumers for heightened privacy and security measures, there’s an undeniable business case for companies to invest in creating more private and secure products.”..
Fast Company – “A powerhouse list of professors from Stanford University, MIT, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard School of Public Health, and others want you to know there’s a big problem in AI research. Dozens of AI experts signed an article in Nature saying that unlike research in other scientific fields, top AI studies are often not transparent and reproducible, and they’re frequently published without details such as full code, models, and methodology. Those findings are then picked up in mainstream media headlines worldwide. They point to a study also published in Nature this past January, where Google Health reported an AI system that could screen for breast cancer faster and better than radiologists. The study apparently lacked details like methodology and code. “On paper and in theory, the study is beautiful. But if we can’t learn from it, then it has little to no scientific value,” says lead author Benjamin Haibe-Kains, senior scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “Journals are vulnerable to the hype of AI.”..
The Guardian – “The leading US federal public health agency has rewritten its definition of who is at risk of contracting coronavirus to include people who come into close contact with infected individuals in multiple short bursts over a 24-hour period. The new definition of “close contact” issued on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will sharply expand the pool of those deemed in danger of being infected by the virus. It will have implications for authorities carrying out contact tracing of those potentially infected by contagious individuals, and could lead to many more people being required to go into quarantine. Under the old definition, “close contact” was defined as being within 6ft of an infected person over a solid block of 15 minutes or more. That has now been amended to cover a cumulative 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
The change was made on the back of a study also released by the CDC on Wednesday that showed how the virus could be passed between individuals who were only in contact with each very briefly but on multiple occasions. The study was based on an incident at a prison in Vermont in August. A male correctional officer came into contact with six detained individuals who were put into the quarantine unit at the facility. At that point the inmates were showing no symptoms and were awaiting test results for coronavirus. Footage captured by prison surveillance cameras showed that the correctional officer only came within 6ft of the inmates for short periods of about a minute at a time. But when the exposure was counted up it exceeded a total of 15 cumulative minutes. The six inmates all went on to test positive for the virus, and the officer later received a positive result as well even though he had come into contact with no other possible source of infection…”
Institute for Jewish Policy Research: “This detailed and thorough report is rapidly becoming the ‘must-read’ study on European Jews – Jews in Europe at the turn of the Millennium – Population – trends and estimates – taking the reader on an extraordinary journey through one thousand years of European Jewish history before arriving at the most comprehensive analysis of European Jewish demography today. Written by leading Jewish demographers Professor Sergio DellaPergola and Dr Daniel Staetsky, the Chair and Director of JPR’s European Jewish Demography Unit respectively, it explores how the European Jewish population has ebbed and flowed over time. It begins as far back as the twelfth century, travelling through many years of population stability, until the tremendous growth of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, followed by the dramatic decline prompted by a combination of mass migration and the horrors of the Shoah. Extraordinarily, after all this time, the proportion of world Jewry living in Europe today is almost identical to the proportion living in Europe 900 years ago. Using multiple definitions of Jewishness and a vast array of sources to determine the size of the contemporary population, the study proceeds to measure it in multiple ways, looking at the major blocs of the European Union and the European countries of the Former Soviet Union, as well as providing country-by-country analyses, ranging from major centres such as France, the UK, Germany and Hungary, to tiny territories such as Gibraltar, Monaco and even the Holy See. The report also contains the most up-to-date analysis we have on the key mechanisms of demographic change in Europe, touching variously on patterns of migration in and out of Europe, fertility, intermarriage, conversion and age compositions. While the report itself is a fascinating and important read, the underlying data are essential tools for the JPR team to utilise as it supports Jewish organisations across the continent to plan for the future.”
The Atlantic: A NASA mission to a distant space rock could reveal clues about the early solar system. “For most of human history, the only way for scientists to get their hands on an asteroid was to wait for small chunks of one to fall through Earth’s atmosphere and smash into the ground. Incoming rocks can break apart and even vaporize during their fiery descent, so the world’s inventory of meteorites—the names given to asteroids once they’ve made it through the atmosphere—consists of only the hardiest samples…
Scientists believe that the solar system’s more ancient asteroids might have been responsible for delivering water to early Earth. Remarkably, the origin of our oceans, unmatched in the solar system, remains a mystery, one that bits of Bennu could help solve. “We are really curious to see if the water that is bound up in Bennu’s hydrated minerals has signatures that are similar to water on Earth,” Daniella DellaGiustina, an OSIRIS-REx scientist who works at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, told me. Researchers are also keen to see whether the organic materials they snag from Bennu resemble the ancient precursors that led to life on Earth…”
eSecurity Planet – “With more and more employees working remotely, either from home or on the go, enterprises need a way to secure their communications with the corporate network. One solution is a virtual private network (VPN), which enables employees to securely send data between computers across a shared or public network. VPNs were developed to solve two challenges: the high cost of leased lines for branch offices, and the growing need to enable remote workers to access the corporate network securely. While VPNs provide security by encrypting data and sending it through a “tunnel,” there are limitations to that security. Before examining those limitations, let’s take a look at how VPNs work…”
Via Mary Whisner – news that Tom Lehrer Has Put His Songs into the Public Domain, Marketplace [if you are not familiar with his work, and have not been singing the lyrics to his songs like “Pollution” for many decades as have I, now is your chance to become a Lehrer enthusiast and an aficionado!)
Washington Post [paywall – Seattle Times no paywall] “Let’s Google together. Open a Web browser and search for T-shirts. I’ll wait. Is the first thing you see a search result? I’m not talking about the stuff labeled Ads or Maps. On my screen, the actual result is not in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or even eighth row of stuff. It’s buried on row nine. Googling didn’t used to require so much … scrolling. On some searches, it’s like Where’s Waldo but for information. Without us even realizing it, the internet’s most-used website has been getting worse. On too many queries, Google is more interested in making search lucrative than a better product for us. There’s one reason it gets away with this, according to a recent congressional investigation: Google is so darn big. An impending antitrust lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department is expected to make a similar point.
How does Google’s alleged monopoly hurt you? Today, 88 percent of all searches happen on Google, in part because contracts make it the default on computers and phones. But whether Google is actually fetching you good information can be hard to see. First, Googling is easy and free, which blinds everyone a bit. Second, we don’t have a great alternative for broad web searches – Microsoft’s rival Bing doesn’t have enough data to compete well. (This is the problem of monopolies in the information age.)..”
“This brief guide to online teaching offers assistance in selecting between the synchronous and asynchronous online format, before proceeding to a brief step-by-step guide on the design elements of both asynchronous and synchronous online courses. The focus remains on content delivery and student engagement, hallmark characteristics of online teaching.”
The New Yorker – Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of the end-to-end encrypted messaging service Signal, is “trying to bring normality to the Internet. “…Marlinspike is the C.E.O. of Signal, the end-to-end encrypted messaging service, which he launched in 2014; he is also a cryptographer, a hacker, a shipwright, and a licensed mariner…Marlinspike believes that encrypted-communication tools are necessary not just in times of political tumult. Most people who use social networks and chat services, he argues, assume that their digital communications are private; they want to share their thoughts and photographs with their friends—not with Facebook and Google, not with advertisers, and certainly not on the dark Web…Signal, as a nonprofit, is an outlier in the tech industry. It runs entirely on donations. “Signal’s mission has always been to make end-to-end encryption as ubiquitous as possible, rather than a commercial success,” Marlinspike said. Its code base is open-source—publicly available for anyone to download and comment on—and subject to peer review. Most tech companies readily coöperate, and make contracts, with governments, but Signal was founded on the premise that mass surveillance, particularly by governments and corporations, should be impossible. Signal itself cannot read the messages that its users send, and does not collect user metadata. It keeps no call logs or data backups. Signal claims that it has no “backdoors”—built-in circumvention methods designed to give law enforcement or corporations access to encrypted content…”
CRS Insight via LC – COVID-19: Government Resources for Real-Time Economic Indicators, October 21, 2020: “This CRS Insight presents select real-time economic indicators that attempt to measure the impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the U.S.economy. Created by select federal government agencies, these new or unique indicators attempt to measure the demographic, social, and economic impacts of COVID-19 in real-time, or on a weekly or monthly basis, rather than quarterly or annually…”
Publishers Weekly – In the wake of the pandemic, can publishers and libraries finally hash out their differences? “…But in mid-March, when the reality of the pandemic became apparent, everything changed. As libraries closed their doors and began shifting their print budgets to digital, dozens of publishers began slashing library e-book and digital audio prices and easing restrictions. And after nearly two tense years dating back to its 2018 “experiment” with its Tor imprint, Macmillan abruptly abandoned its embargo on new release library e-books. It’s worth noting that despite the tension in the marketplace, library e-book lending has still managed to post strong, consistent, double-digit growth every year for most of the last decade. But when the Covid-19 crisis hit and libraries and schools were suddenly forced to serve their communities remotely, the digital library market found a whole new gear. “From March through August 2020, our digital usage is up 42% over the same period in 2019,” says Lisa Rosenblum, director of the King County (Wash.) Library System. A perennial leader in digital circulation prior to the pandemic, Rosenblum says KCLS has seen a staggering 333% increase in new eCards issued since the pandemic forced the library to close its doors in March, adding some 18,000 new digital users to the library’s existing base…”