Monday, October 30, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 30 Edition

Public Spaces, Terrorism

"“In the US, a debate has raged about whether these kinds of measures—many of which went into effect after 9/11—detract from the very purpose of public spaces: to be free, comfortable, and open for all.With each tragic mass shooting that takes place in US cities, that debate rekindles. There’s also the question of equity. Certain types of people may be disproportionately scrutinized as a result of their race, religion, or income. They may pay unfairly for something someone else did in the past, Vonier said, speaking of low-income populations, in particular. “That’s something we must be cognizant of and sensitive to.”

Of course, less intrusive tweaks can go a long way. One example is the sunken wall around the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. Recently, the European Commission released a new action plan, which allows cities to share effective but subtle solutions and fund them. “I think we can find the middle ground between closing down everything and security for citizens,”said Séverine Wernert, who is a part of the European Commission’s Security Union.”"


"In Helsinki, like many cities, there isn’t enough housing to keep up with demand. Some people blame a lack of land to build new housing, but one design firm argues that there is enough land–if you know where to look. The firm’s new building is designed to fit in a single parking spot.

“The city is not designed because of humans–it’s designed because of cars,” says architect Marco Casagrande, principal at the Helsinki-based Casagrande Laboratory, which designed the new tiny house. “All the streets in cityscapes are based on car dimensions. This I found a little bit strange. We have all this talk about the density of cars getting less and less in cities, and at the same time, we are talking about people moving into cities . . . but we don’t have space to build. Nobody has been questioning car parking spaces. They are everywhere. So this talk about no land to build in cities is nonsense: It’s everywhere, but it’s just for cars.”

A prototype of the design, called Tikku (Finnish for “stick”), built for Helsinki Design Week, has a footprint slightly larger than 8 feet by 16 feet. But with three stories, it has enough room to make it a comfortable place to live or work."

Travel, TSA

"New TSA security measures announced in July are being rolled out in airports around the country, most recently at large hubs including Baltimore–Washington International Airport and Orlando International Airport.

Passengers now need to take out all large electronics and put them through security in a separate bin from their carry-on bags, a process that has long been in place for laptops.

The TSA said it was responding to a threat that terrorists could be targeting airports by attempting to disguise bombs inside large electronics."

Social Media, Fake Accounts, Russia

How Russian Propaganda Spreads On Social Media

"Earlier this year, a Facebook group page called Blacktivist caught the eye of M'tep Blount.

As a supporter of Black Lives Matter, Blount figured Blacktivist would be a similar group. The Facebook page came with a message: "You have a friend who is a part of this group," and it had a huge following — over 400,000 as of late August.

Blount found that Blacktivist's page shared information about police brutality. Videos often showed police beating African-Americans in small towns. "It was like, 'Wow! This is happening in this community too. I really hope they do something about it but they probably aren't going to,' " she says.

As it turns out, the Blacktivist page was not like Black Lives Matter, at all. It appears to have been linked to Russia, and Facebook has since taken it down. The group was carefully crafted to attract people like Blount whose behavior on Facebook showed they mistrusted police and were concerned about civil rights.

It was just one of the many calculated ways in which social media platforms have been used lately to covertly sow divisions within society. Later this week, Facebook, Google and Twitter will face members of Congress to answer questions in three public hearings about their role in enabling Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The hearings are also expected to shed light on how Russian propaganda has spread in the U.S. through these major social media platforms."

U.S. Census

Listen or read:

The 2020 Census is at risk. Here are the major consequences.

"Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau every 10 years is used to draw voting districts and determine how much funding to give to states, counties and cities, but underfunded and without a director, the agency is now on the verge of collapsing. Hari Sreenivasan is joined by former Census director Kenneth Prewitt to discuss what a crippled census in 2020 could mean for our democracy.

Kenneth Prewitt:

They’re trying to do the 2020 census at roughly half of the price of the 2010 census, whereas the 2010 was double the price of the 2000. That was the one I was engaged in.

So, yes, enormous advances have been made in using technology to reduce the cost. But if you are not even funded at that level with these new technologies, well, you’re simply ill-prepared to do the census in 2020.

The bad news is, it’s not being funded, and we currently don’t have a leader. We don’t have a director in the Census Bureau, so we’re not ready in that more important sense.

And then another issue, we’re trying new technologies this year for the first time ever in a census. And you have to test them, or you should test them. There’s no money to test them. Just it’s like you had a fighter fly a plane that puts a new technology in it that’s never been before, rolls off the assembly line, and they say, oh, go directly into action."

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