Tech & society

Your Sunday reads: cable companies v the FCC, Taser under new scrutiny, Bezos and WaPo, McDonalds as public space. And go outdoors!

It’s Sunday … so I’m reading the NYT (among others). Because it’s the web, I’m not just reading today’s stories. And because I taught a motorcycle class today, this is late-ish.

I am not posting about Orlando. There are plenty of people writing and sharing info about this horrific tragedy. But in case you missed it, on the west coast, a comparable massacre in California seems to have been averted.


1. Comcast et al try to twist FCC regs to deprive your privacy rights

Behind-the-scenes but front-and-center as beneficiary, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association — which is Comcast and company — has gathered 60 Congressional signatures to oppose “a Federal Communications Commission proposal to limit how broadband providers can share users’ personal data.” If you could pick any device you wanted to receive cable and online video, we could break the cable monopoly on set-top boxes. Plus, there’s a plan (long overdue) to “to force cable and telecom companies to lease bandwidth to competitors in certain areas.”
NY Times, June 12, 2016 [medium-read]

2. It’s time to put Taser International out of business

A police officer learns just how deadly a taser can be when his own son dies of cardiac arrest after being tased for 23 seconds straight. The 17 year old was also the subject of an illegal arrest and will carry the mental and emotional scars for life.

Patrick J. Tchou, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Cleveland Clinic… was one of the first to demonstrate that a Taser shock can potentially lead to cardiac arrest — and [the research] was financed by Taser International and completed in 2006, eight years prior to Runnels using a Taser on Bryce.

Warning: this is a horrific story.
The Intercept, June 7, 2016 [long-read]

3. Do newspapers need tech millionaire saviors?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly three years since Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. Nieman Lab argues that private ownership is a plus (making the answer to my lead in question a qualified “yes”), speaks to scale, and explores the relationship between technology and news.

In assessing the Bezos effect, three factors stand out as unique to the Post and are thus not replicable elsewhere: the newspaper’s location, in Washington, which made the Bezos-directed transition from a regional to a national newspaper relatively simple; Bezos’s deep pockets, which give him the ability to provide the Post with “runway,” as he has put it, affording the paper time and resources to figure out a path to sustainability; and Bezos’s position as chief executive of Amazon. Bezos has already made the Post’s national digital edition part of Amazon Prime and the Kindle Fire. And as the media analyst Ken Doctor told me, Bezos may see having “a lead dog in the news industry” as a competitive advantage as Amazon goes up against other technology giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google.

Nieman Lab, June 8, 2016 [long-read]

4. The private becomes the quasi-public: McDonald’s as de facto community centers

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.
In one near downtown Kansas City in an African American neighborhood, each Friday morning the sitting area is turned over to a community meeting. When I was there, the topic was the politics surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. The discussion was often loud, with speakers not hiding their frustration. Against the backdrop of raised voices, the registers and drive-through continued with the normal morning rush of coffee and egg sandwiches.
In the Bronx, many of my friends who live on the streets are regulars. Steve, who has been homeless for 20 years, uses the internet to check up on sports, find discarded papers to do the crossword puzzle, and generally escape for a while. He and his wife Takeesha will turn a McDonald’s meal into an evening out.

The Guardian, June 8, 2016 [medium-read]

5. Too many of us are missing the majesty of the night sky

“One third of humanity cannot see the Milky Way.” The culprit? Light pollution. Closer to home: the Milky Way is hidden from 80% of us in North America and 60% of those in Europe.

Scientists have developed an interactive atlas of artificial sky brightness. Click the NYT link to also see the awe-inspiring featured photo of the Milky Way. Oh, and it owes its name to the Romans.
NYTimes, June 10, 2016 [short-read]

Featured image, Wikimedia: Milky Way at Concordia Camp, Karakoram Range, Pakistan

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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