Iddris Sandu – the 21 yo genius that left Big Tech & Uber to share knowledge with The People

Iddris Sandu
Iddris teaching design via Apple

21 year old Iddris Sandu was born to parents from Ghana. At age 10 he taught himself a bunch of programming languages and at age 18 was consulting for Snapchat. He’s sold algorithms to Instagram and Uber and Google was so impressed with Sandu, they created an internship position just for him was he was 13.

But Iddris found himself, “wanting to help impact kids that looked like me, and being able to provide information to the masses.” So, he said goodbye to Big Tech and now teaches tech and design, makes music and inspires us all. read more

You’re not ready to know all that Google and Facebook know about us

What Google & FB have on you ss
Source: Dylan Curran’s article on The Guardian

It’s awe-inspiring and terrifying to know how much Google and Facebook know about us: where we go, what time we go to the gym, what you’ve searched, what searches you’ve deleted, what apps you use, what you and your friends talk about, and more. Dylan Curran, writing in The Guardian, says,

They can access your webcam and microphone
The data they collect includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to. read more

The North: a new collection of interactive multimedia stories of Newark that “must be told”

The NorthAuthor of Unfinished Agenda: Urban Politics in the Era of Black Power Dr. Junius Williams introduces The North multimedia storytelling project with these words:

THESE STORIES MUST BE TOLD
Sometime ago, those of us who entered political movements for change walked on our first picket line or marched in our first demonstration. At some point we got hooked on concepts like “Freedom”, “Direct Action” and “Resistance” to get rid of Jim Crow racism. Eventually we came to learn how to spend time in jail, survive police and vigilante violence; to organize poor and working class black people; to extract perks and building blocks from federal programs and build coalitions among unpredictable community groups; to fight city hall; to negotiate agreements that produced opportunities and skill development for community development; and to manage campaigns to elect black politicians.

But then one day we looked around and realized that many of our friends (and enemies) who made that journey, or similar journeys, were no longer with us….to laugh with, relive old conquests, or just tell lies. Too many have moved to places unknown, gotten sick, or passed on to the next life.

So many of our collective stories go untold.

These stories must be told, and hence the evolution of this project entitled, The North: Civil Rights and Beyond in Urban America. read more

Gerrymandering helped the GOP win big – so they seek to expand their advantage by sabotaging 2020 Census

The Census in the Constitution

Bill Moyers points out, “the Census is key to the work (of) researchers and journalists,” so hobbling the Census’ data collection process will hobble the ability of independent analysts to examine the realities of American life and to tell accurate and authoritative stories about it. Furthermore, funding to serve Americans is allocated according to the composition of neighborhoods and households – and these characteristics are established through the Census.

And by the way, did you know that the U.S. Census is required in our Constitution?


Marquette University archivist William Fliss tells how census data shows the transformation of the United States from a new republic to the nation it is today.

Slate shares a short synopsis of the Census’ importance in terms of services for Americans:

The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it’s used as the basis for congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage…

The best description of the Census’ importance comes, naturally, from the Census Bureau website (at least until Trump removes it):

The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The data collected by the decennial census determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities.

The 2010 Census represented the most massive participation movement ever witnessed in our country. Approximately 74 percent of the households returned their census forms by mail; the remaining households were counted by census workers walking neighborhoods throughout the United States. National and state population totals from the 2010 Census were released on December 21, 2010. Redistricting data, which include additional state, county and local counts, will be released starting in February 2011.

“The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of 10 years, in such manner as they shall by Law direct.”

~ Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States

Gerrymandering is what has allowed elections to be skewed toward Republican control

That bit about Census data driving the way election districts are drawn and how many Congressional Representative each state gets: is actually the reason why Republicans have recently acquired increasing control over Congress even during Democratic presidencies.

Bill Moyers’ David Daley opened up discussion about the power of gerrymandering in August 2016.

For all of the misleading nonsense about “rigged elections” coming from the Trump camp this summer, we haven’t talked enough about the way our electoral map really was rigged by Republicans after the 2010 census. These tilted (gerrymandered) maps make it possible for the Republicans to govern with a supermajority in Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin – despite getting less votes overall.

The WaPo elaborates:

How do conservative Republicans maintain so much power in the House, even though Americans reelected a liberal president and polls show that the GOP suffers from high disapproval ratings?

Salon editor David Daley’s punchy, though overstated, new book lays the blame for Republican power in the House on partisan gerrymandering, the byzantine process through which state legislatures draw district lines to favor incumbents from one party. Challenging the claim that increased partisan polarization is a result of voters naturally sorting themselves into red and blue states, Daley argues that a group of operatives in the Republican Party did the sorting for them. The GOP poured money into an unprecedented effort to control governorships and state legislative bodies in 2010 and to then redraw congressional districts so that the party could turn the House into a firewall against the Democrats.

While the term “gerrymander” has been around since the early years of the republic, computer technology and big money have allowed governors and legislatures to perfect the process in ways that have never before been imagined, according to Daley. The same technology that allows Amazon to figure out who buys what in any home on a given block now allows party officials to do the same with elections.

Although his argument might not be as sexy as talking about how money corrupts politics or how the 24-hour news media leaves us all screaming, the success of Republican legislatures and governors at redrawing congressional districts is the reason, he says, House Republican incumbents have increased their power and don’t have to worry about any “wave” election that would shift control to the other party.

So now: Why did the Census Bureau’s director quit?

Sabotage is probably the reason Census Bureau Director John Thompson resigned today on 11 May 2017. He probably looked at the writing on the wall and understood that the Trump administration has little intention of allowing a fair, impartial and complete Census of the American people to be held this cycle. Slate share some of the ways the sabotage is being carried out:

  • To make matters worse, the administration has reportedly toyed with the idea of adding a question to the once-a-decade survey about immigration status, which some experts believe could scare many households out of responding.
  • Congress (just) handed the census an appropriation “that critics say is woefully inadequate.”
  • Thompson also testified to Congress last week that a snazzy new electronic data collection system that was meant to save expenses would cost 50 percent more than expected.
  • read more

    Spend 2 minutes to learn why net neutrality is more important than you think

    Website throttling
    Your favorite website will be in the “Everyone Else” lane if Net Neutrality is lost Source: Iowa State Daily

    Washington Post gives a neat synopsis of what The People stand to lose if Trump appointed Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gets his wish and finds a way to reverse the Obama era protections establishing net neutrality, which WaPo defines as, “the regulations that forbid Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic.”

    The rules, approved by the FCC during the Obama administration, classified Internet providers as “common carriers” — a move that allowed the agency to regulate those companies more strictly than before. In addition to banning the blocking or slowing of Internet traffic, the regulations also gave the FCC the ability to investigate business practices among Internet providers that it deemed potentially anticompetitive.

    Supporters of the regulations argue that they are a vital consumer protection that prevents Internet providers from abusing their strategic position between Internet users and the rest of the Web. Without strong regulations, they say, Internet providers will be free to raise costs for consumers — such as charging customers extra to keep their personal data private, or to be able to view certain websites or use certain apps. Meanwhile, advocates say, ISPs could be allowed to charge website owners extra fees to reach consumers’ screens, and determine what apps and services may flourish online. read more

    Online privacy advice via The New York Times, Wired and Forbes

    NJ Sen. Loretta Weinberg hailed as champion of a free press and gov’t transparency

    Press freedom via freepress.net
    Press Freedom source: freepress.net

    Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg received the National Newspaper Association Open Government Award for her legislative advocacy to promote government transparency and accountability. The award was presented to the senator Thursday by NNA President Matt Paxton during the 2017 Community Newspaper Leadership Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

    “Whether at the state or national level, an attack on the media is an attack on our democracy. Particularly during these uncertain times, we have to stand in support of a free and independent press. I am committed to continuing the fight for government transparency and accountability and am honored to receive this award from the National Newspaper Association,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “I am also dedicated to continuing the work that I’ve done over the last several years to reform the state’s open government laws to make government more accessible to the public. A strong press and transparent government are the best safeguards for truth in our state and our country.”

    Senator Weinberg led the fight against legislation that would have eliminated the requirement that public notices are published in newspapers, and was successful in blocking the bill from advancing late last year. The senator has also championed reforms to New Jersey’s open government laws, the Open Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act, that would update and modernize the state’s decades-old laws.

    Established in 1885, the National Newspaper Association (NNA) is a not-for-profit trade association representing the owners, publishers and editors of America’s community newspapers. NNA’s mission is to protect, promote and enhance America’s community newspapers. Today, NNA’s 2,200 members make it the largest national newspaper association.

    In addition to Senator Weinberg, those speaking at the event included Martin “Marty” Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, who previously served as editor of The Boston Globe which, under his leadership, won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into clergy sex abuse and was the basis for the movie Spotlight.

    Trump shut down NPS for climate change tweets but can’t block new unofficial Twitter account

    @AltNatParkSer
    Over at the Palmer Report, Bill Palmer tells us the way National Park employees found to stand up to Trump, who is blocking federal employees from commenting on climate change to the extent that he has issued a gag order to prevent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from mentioning it and has deleted tweets made by the National Park Service (NPS) and even suspended the Twitter account of one park account that tweeted about climate change. An anonymous group of individuals has created an unofficial Twitter account for park and climate change news that Trump can’t touch.

    The anonymous Park Service account is @AltNatParkSer, which bills itself as The Unofficial “Resistance” team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidised!

    Here are the details of what happened:

    In his first days in office, Donald Trump has made a point of censoring and restricting what the National Park Service can and cannot say on its various official Twitter accounts. After the NPS tweeted photos of Trump’s small inauguration crowd, he temporarily suspended its Twitter privileges. And when the Badlands tweeted about climate change today, those tweets were then deleted. But now some unnamed individuals within the National Park Service have created an unofficial Twitter account that Trump can’t touch.

    Trump doesn’t have the ability to shut down a Twitter account, or to suspend it from being usable; only Twitter the company would be able to do that. Instead he’s been sabotaging the National Park Service Twitter accounts by presumably threatening to fire people if they dare to tweet things he doesn’t like, or if they tweet during times when he’s put them in the penalty box. But he can only do that if he knows who’s tweeting. read more

    Obama’s entire White House website, including data and Español/Spanish now live at the Obama Library site

    White House website
    Source: Wikipedia

    All factual information from the Obama presidency is not lost! The President Obama White House website, including its Spanish language pages and its data catalog all remain publicly accessible at the ObamaWhiteHouse.gov website. Even the Obama White House social media feeds have been archived there.

    Creation of this resource is another huge reason to thank President Obama: as of 23 January 2017, the incoming administration has already removed both climate change data and all Spanish language information. Pres. Obama’s team tells why he created the archive and what you’ll find there:

    In January 2017, the White House website was archived as a way to preserve the online presence of the administration of President Barack Obama. Additionally, the websites for Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, the We The People Petitions, and the White House Data Catalog (open.whitehouse.gov) were also preserved. These websites are historical material, “frozen in time.” They are no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages will not work.

    These archived websites are an excellent resource for photographs, speeches, press releases, digital data, and other public domain records of the Obama Presidency from 2009–2017.

    The official files making up the websites are archived in NARA’s Electronic Records Archives (ERA), however the website interface and functionality is preserved for easy use by the public through this portal. read more

    With the addition of Google Play Store access, Chromebooks are finally real laptops – well, sort of.

    chrome-os-53 on chromebook
    Source: https://9to5google.com

    For $2-300 you can set yourself up with a Chromebook, which gives you access to Google’s suite of Cloud apps. And now, when you upgrade to Chrome Version 53, you get access to the Google Play Store too – which means access to all the Android apps you can install on a computer that offers less storage than the average smartphone.

    This isn’t to say that Play Store access stinks completely. What seems to be true, is that you still have to be somewhat of a hacker to get anything approximating full laptop functionality out of a Chromebook, even with Android apps availability.

    Reviewer Jay Donovan considers the move a step in the right direction.

    Uber won’t wait – rolls out driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh this month

    Uber self-driving car
    Source: Uber

    For whatever its reasons: to be seen as a innovation leader … due to bad press when a driver ran a little girl down and her family paid the funeral expenses because neither the driver nor Uber agreed to assume liability … Because the math shows that drivers make a lot less money than they thought they would after car expenses, wear and tear and time are calculated … or because Google and Tesla are hard on the heels of driverless technology revolution …

    Whatever the reasons are, Uber is not waiting five years – or even one – to roll out driverless vehicles. Instead, the rollout launches this month in Pittsburgh, PA, with stand-by technicians at the wheels of cars and others taking notes but none} of them are supposed to interact with customers nor drive. Bloomberg provides details:

    They’re trained engineers who sit with their hands on the wheel, prepared to take over if something unexpected happens. A copilot will assist from the passenger seat, taking notes, and everything is recorded by cameras inside and outside the vehicle. There’s also a tablet in the backseat telling passengers what’s going on, and urging them to pretend the other humans aren’t there.

    “The goal is to wean us off of having drivers in the car, so we don’t want the public talking to our safety drivers,” Raffi Krikorian, the company’s engineering director, told Bloomberg.

    Trips will be totally free at first, instead of $1.30 per mile, the local rate for Uber in Pittsburgh. Eventually, prices will fall so much that the cost of a driverless ride will be a lot cheaper than one in a private car, Kalanick says. As for why the company picked Pittsburgh — it’s where Uber has been working with robotics experts at Carnegie Mellon University. read more

    Hundreds of Asian Americans create Google Doc letter in 1 day to tell their families about the relevance of #BlackLivesMatter

    An Open Letter
    Source: Letters for Black Lives

    Brian Fung of the Washington Post reports on a completely new phenomenon that came to life this week when Christina Xu started a letter online to explain to Asian elders why the #BlackLivesMatter movement has relevance and importance for the Asian community, called for community input and acquired hundreds of collaborators in the space of just a few hours.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Using social media tools and the Google Docs platform, Americans with origins from many Asian countries worked together all of Thursday to write an open letter explaining this matter to their families and today, collaborators remained busy translating the letter into, “at least 11 Asian languages, from Japanese to Vietnamese.”

    They call it, “An Open Letter To Our Parents About Black Lives,” by Letters for Black Lives. The reason they’re doing this is contained in the text of the letter itself:

    “Black activists fought to open up immigration for Asians in the 1960s … Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return.” read more

    Principal Moody suspended for letting Paterson rapper Fetty Wap film music video at East Side High

    Principal Zatiti Moody
    Source: Urban Renaissance Media

    A Paterson principal known for his educating excellence and strict discipline enforcement has been suspended from office by the New Jersey State appointed superintendent known for his attempts to keep Paterson students from experiencing quality education. The ostensible reason for the suspension: Principal Zatiti Moody allowed music phenomenon Fetty Wap to film a music video at East Side High School which contains twerking and portrays drug use. Behaviour that – like it or not – happens to be part of the school experience for many urban students.

    Never mind that the video is a social statement, that Fetty Wap is an homegrown Patersonian who overcame a physical challenge to achieve national stardom or that school kids are pleased that a music icon like Fetty maintains ties with his roots and honors his hometown youth by bringing performances to their backyard – or in this case, school.

    The community members who turned out at the June 15 Board of Ed meeting to show support for Principal Moody included Fetty himself, who put in a surprise appearance.

    Fetty Wap — real name Willie Maxwell — showed up an hour after the meeting started and apologized for causing any controversy by filming the video at Eastside. He then departed the room, but stopped to patiently sign autographs in the school hallway.

    When asked what prompted him to show up at the meeting, he said “I had to. For Paterson.”

    Students, parents and community members wore T-shirts and buttons demanding that the district “Return Principal Moody back to Eastside High School. read more

    The (famous & myopic) view of the world from the POV of New Yorkers

    NYC center of the universe
    New Yorker cover NYC center of the universe, by Saul Steinberg

    Yesterday somebody mentioned what life looks like to New Yorkers and I realized … so much time has passed since Saul Steinberg drew the famous New York cover showing what the world looks like for New Yorkers – with Jersey a slender line across the Hudson with Japan and China just blips in the far distance … that my 21 year old son may have not ever seen it. So I looked around, found the cover easily on the internet and sure enough, Ari had never seen it before. It’s a doozy, though, isn’t it?

    The official name of the drawing is “View of the World from Ninth Avenue”. It was the 29 March 1976 cover of The New Yorker magazine. It is an image I often mention when trying to explain to people how myopic the view of New Yorkers actually is.

    Enjoy.

    The Wei endorses the Electronic Frontier Alliance Principles

    Join us EFA image
    Source: Electronic Frontier Alliance

    The Wei endorses the Electronic Frontier Alliance Principles. The Electronic Frontier Alliance is a grassroots network of community and campus organizations across the United States working to educate our neighbors about the importance of digital rights. Participation is open to any group that endorses our simple principles.

    Electronic Frontier Alliance Principles

    As a member organization of the EFA, we believe that technology should support the intellectual freedom at the heart of a democratic society. In the digital age, that entails advancing:

    Free Expression:
    People should be able to speak their minds to whoever will listen.

    Security:
    Technology should be trustworthy and answer to its users.

    Privacy:
    Technology should allow private and anonymous speech, and allow users to set their own parameters about what to share with whom.

    Creativity:
    Technology should promote progress by allowing people to build on the ideas, creations, and inventions of others.

    Access to Knowledge:
    Curiosity should be rewarded, not stifled.

    We uphold these principles by fighting for transparency and freedom in culture, code, and law.