ANAHEIM, CA, Feb 24, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) –
Three Facebook applications designed to help people prepare for
emergencies and get support from friends and family in an emergency
– from personal medical emergencies or car accidents to natural or
man-made disasters — are winners of a Facebook application challenge
sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office
of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
ASPR’s Facebook Lifeline Application Challenge called on software
application developers to design new Facebook applications that could
enhance individual and community resilience by establishing social
connections in advance of an emergency.
Two recent Brown University graduates, Evan Donahue and Erik Stayton,
partnered as Team ALP to win first place with their application,
named Lifeline. The Las Vegas team JAMAJIC 360 with David Vinson,
Erick Rodriguez, Gregg Orr, and Garth Winckler came in second with an
app also named JAMAJIC 360. Third place was awarded to AreYouOk?
developed by TrueTeamEffort, a team of 11 University of Illinois
students led by Alex Kirlik.
Although these top three applications differ in how users interface
with the app, all three allow users to designate three lifelines –
Facebook friends the person can count on and who agree to check on
them in an emergency, supply them with shelter, food, and other
necessities, and provide the person’s social network with an update
about their wellbeing. Facebook users could use the lifeline app to
create disaster readiness plans and share the plans with their
emergency contacts, and provide users with news.
In addition, the first place app allows Facebook friends to
collaborate on tracking the user’s status in a disaster-affected area
so these friends can easily find the user’s lifelines and contact
them to report that the user is safe or if the user appears to be
missing. This networked approach increases the efficiency of finding
missing users. The app allows users to print cards with a snapshot of
their preparedness plan to carry in their wallets.
Team ALP’s app also features a news feed and links to credible
information sources which make the app useful for large-scale
disasters and individual emergencies, such as car accidents and
personal medical emergencies.
The lifeline app is anticipated to be launched in the coming months,
prior to the start of hurricane season. The team also receives
$10,000 and complimentary passes from Health 2.0 to attend the spring
Health 2.0 conference in Boston. JAMAJIC 360 receives $5,000 for
second place, and TrueTeamEffort receives $1,000 for third place.
“We’re really excited about the potential of the lifeline app to help
people not only to reach out to friends and family for the kinds of
assistance they may need in an emergency, but also to help improve
their personal health and preparedness,” said Nicole Lurie, M.D., HHS
assistant secretary for preparedness and response and a rear admiral
in the U.S. Public Health Service. “Having people you can depend on
for help is especially important during a disaster, so we want to
encourage everyone to identify those people in advance. Since so many
people use Facebook to connect with one another, it seemed like a
natural way to help people to identify their lifelines.”
Dr. Lurie also noted another possible benefit to the Facebook
lifeline apps. “People who have friends or relatives they can rely on
for help are healthier and live longer than those who don’t, which
means establishing these social connections can enhance individual
and community resilience,” she said.
To learn more about application challenges sponsored by federal
agencies, including challenges that support emergency preparedness,
HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all
Americans and providing essential human services, especially for
those who are least able to help themselves. To learn more about HHS,
ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from
adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’
ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response
systems, and enhancing national health security. To learn more about
ASPR and preparedness, response and recovery from the health impacts
of disasters, visit the HHS public health and medical emergency
About Health 2.0
Health 2.0: The conference. The media network. The
innovation community. The Health 2.0 Conference is the leading
showcase of cutting-edge innovation transforming the health care
system and is the premiere platform connecting IT innovators to
established health care providers. Health 2.0 covers the broadest
spectrum of the technology revolution that is shaking up every sector
of health care. Learn more at
CONTACT: Jodi Amendola Amendola Communications for Health 2.0 480-664-8412 ext. 11 email@example.com
SOURCE: Health 2.0
Copyright 2012 Marketwire, Inc., All rights reserved.
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A Pew study suggests that finally, finally human beings–and especially women–have begun to prune their alleged friends on Facebook. Could there be rational, even venal, reasons for this?
It’s Friday and therefore time to muse about friendship.
Here’s one thought: If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then my friend may, in fact, be more troubling and irrelevant than Ann Taylor separates.
Here’s another: People appear to suddenly be realizing that their Facebook friends are not–and will never be–real friends. Oddly, though, they are finally doing something about it.
I am grateful to my nonfriends at ReadWriteWeb, who have unearthed a new Pew study that says defriending is trending on Facebook.
People are finally wandering around their Facebook garden and, perhaps stimulated by FarmVille, are taking shears to their peers.
The study suggests that people are sauntering through, untagging themselves from the more tangled poses in photographs, snipping at comments that might seem a touch snippy and, yes, unfriending those who are either unseemly–or, perhaps, merely unknown.
Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)
Women seem to be doing this even more enthusiastically than men. There appears to be a nine-point difference between the sexes, with 67 percent of women admitting that they had cast Facebook friends to the hills.
The same percentage of women also declared that they had limited their profiles to their friends, rather than letting the whole world eye-drop into their world.
An interesting concomitant is that only 8 percent of women said they’d ever posted something they’d regretted. 15 percent of men admitted to similar emotions. The only surprise there, surely, is that a mere 15 percent admitted to what at least 65 percent have done.
One is left to speculate whether all of this increased culling and pruning might somehow be associated with employers’ increasing enthusiasm to scour Facebook for clues to the true nature of employees–current and potential.
Just the other day, I was forced to open a bottle of absinthe after reading that one’s Facebook profile could accurately predict one’s job performance.
I cannot think of any reason other than money that would cause human beings to act so conservatively and reduce their apparent friend levels.
At heart, we are all Sally Fields. We want love from the world. The greater the volume of that love, the greater our sense that we are decent, lovable people.
Sometimes, however, needs must. And we need money more than we need friends. Yes, even fake friends.
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It does not have quite the same ring as a papal bull, but Catholics looking to stay in touch with the Holy Father are about to get acquainted with the papal tweet.
Fourteen centuries after popes started using papal bull missives to communicate with the flock, Benedict XVI is due to open a Twitter account, a Vatican official has announced.
“The tweet can be reformulated, redistributed, relaunched and disseminated,” said Father Claudio Maria Celli, the head of the Vatican’s pontifical council for social communications, as he announced the initiative.
“In this sense it is like the gospel, a small mustard seed that once scattered grows into bushes where birds can rest.”
No date for the first tweet has been set and an account name has not been confirmed, although Italy‘s Corriere della Sera was betting on @BenedictusPPXVI.
It appears unlikely Benedict, 85, will be tweeting photos of himself snapped on an iPhone or telling the world what he is having for dinner. Celli said tweets would probably include links to his speeches.
An internet enthusiast, the pope has overseen the launch of the Vatican’s YouTube channel and the Pope2you website, which is aimed at young people and has a link to a Facebook page and an iPhone application.
During Lent, the site’s Twitter feed will tweet 40 phrases from the pope’s message for Lent – one a day.
The pope sent his first ever tweet last year from Vatican Radio’s twitter feed to announce the launch of the Vatican news site, described by the Vatican as a one-stop shop for content from the Holy See’s radio station, press room and newspaper.
Tweets from Benedict’s new personal account may not always be written by the pope himself, but will always be approved by him, said a Vatican source.
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A federal judge has ruled that people who make threats against a presidential candidate can’t hide behind the anonymity of a Twitter handle.
Prosecutors have “a compelling interest” in pursuing a criminal investigation of a Twitter user who threatened former GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of Washington’s federal trial court ruled in a decision made public Thursday.
Lamberth did not out the Twitter user — referring to him as Mr. X — but he ruled the user’s identity must be divulged to a grand jury.
Lamberth denied Mr. X’s request to quash a subpoena issued to Twitter by a grand jury in August to acquire “any and all records pertaining to the identity” of the user, the Legal Times first reported. Lamberth made the ruling in December, but the decision was only released Thursday.
“Unfortunately, an overview of Mr. X’s Twitter page is warranted,” Lamberth wrote. “Mr. X’s body of tweets is extremely crude and in almost incomprehensibly poor taste. Occasionally political but constantly vacuous, his oeuvre represents an infantile attempt at humor that brings to mind the most obscene aspects of Andrew Dice Clay.”
Mr. X, from his Twitter account, wrote: “I want to f—- Michelle Bachman … with a Vietnam era machete,” according to the decision.
While Lamberth himself didn’t think Mr. X would actually do anything harmful, he said the government needs to be able to determine if a threat is serious “until it is satisfied that there is no likelihood that the threat was legitimate.”
Mentioning both President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), the judge said the investigation does not trample on free speech rights. He noted that no one has been charged.
“The safety and security of those who seriously aspire to the federal government’s highest office is of paramount concern to each and every citizen because threats to presidential candidates undermine the very legitimacy of our electoral process,” Lamberth wrote.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 9:22 a.m. on February 24, 2012.
Article source: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/73249.html
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When Maryland’s Senate passed a same-sex marriage bill Thursday, supporters streamed out of the Annapolis chamber and celebrated in the streets while others took to Twitter to announce their pride. Some looked ahead toward a possible referendum, and opponents voiced disappointment. The hashtag they used was #MDSSM (for Maryland same-sex marriage).
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley says he will sign the bill into law. However, voters who oppose the legislation could revoke it if it comes up for a referendum, as is likely.
Here’s a roundup of some of the tweets from supporters and opponents:
— Dylan Goldberg (@DylanGoldberg) February 24, 2012
By expanding the freedom to celebrate love, MD’s legislature just expanded my love for the Free State. So proud to be a Marylander. #MDSSM
— Steve Ruckman (@MoreRuckus) February 24, 2012
Way to go Maryland, way to push human rights forward. Now approve Gay Divorce and its all good.
— Dan Blake (@designbyblake) February 24, 2012
I’m very proud to be a Marylander today, when the state legislature righted a wrong and approved gay marriage. news.yahoo.com/maryland-gay-m…
— Christopher P. Ryan (@CrispyRyan) February 24, 2012
Gay Marriage is alive in Maryland!? Glad I’m prayed up. The rapture is coming. @BishopWSThomas I need a good word this week from you.
— Merck Vincent (@Dr_Merck) February 24, 2012
For every Marylander savoring the sweet taste of equality, pledge your best efforts to help us defend this win if goes to referendum #mdssm
— Heather R. Mizeur (@heathermizeur) February 23, 2012
— BeyondDC (@beyonddc) February 17, 2012
#mdssm Time to start collecting signatures. Lets veto this in Nov.
— Stephen Santoro (@ssantoro08) February 24, 2012
I remember when a state legalizing same sex marriage warranted a breaking news text. Now it’s just another day of the week #MDssm
— Adam Beck (@theAdamBeck) February 24, 2012
— Foal Papers (@foalpapers) February 24, 2012
— Meghan Elward-Duffy (@MegElwardDuffy) February 24, 2012
if it goes to referendum, it will be awesome to see maryland be the first state to support marriage equality by popular vote. #mdssm
— Anthony Garrett (@anthonycgarrett) February 24, 2012
The bells of circle church are ringing and the statehouse is brighter then ever. It’s a beautiful night for history to be made. #mdssm
— Dylan Goldberg (@DylanGoldberg) February 24, 2012
It’s funny because I’m sure 95% of our town is cursing everyone who voted in favor of #mdssm and I’m just sitting here cheering and crying.
— Kaylyn Fox (@f0xins0x) February 24, 2012
#mdssm I get to tell my grandchildren that I was a part of all this. Didn’t spectate.
— Lisa Orenstein (@lisaoren) February 23, 2012
I now live (DC) and work (MD) in places that legally recognize and validate same sex marriage. #MDSSM as a CA native this feels so good
— Anya Galli (@anyagalli) February 23, 2012
stepped away to have dinner with my wife and daughter. it reminded me why i support the full recognition of so many other families. #mdssm
— Anthony Garrett (@anthonycgarrett) February 23, 2012
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MIAMI In the quiet of his Miami home late one night, Gibre George yielded to something that had been bothering him for almost as long as he has lived in South Florida./pp So he sat before his laptop and typed the words that he felt: Don’t Call Me African American./pp The Facebook page with the provocative sentiment summed up a moment of racial and ethnic clarity for George and, perhaps, a shifting consciousness for others. For more than a year, the page sat idle – among countless other Internet identity declarations – liked, disliked and commented on mostly by a circle of friends. Then, almost as quickly as you can point and click, the page burst onto the larger social media radar, offering an open, instant public forum to discuss how people of color define themselves in an America more diverse than ever before./pp “I was just trying to express my personal feelings. I prefer to be called American, but if you must further define me, then use the term black or person of color. The term African American just doesn’t settle right in my stomach because it’s not accurate,” said George, 38, a party promoter who holds regular events in Hollywood, Fla., and Miami Beach. “I am not in any way disavowing my African heritage, but if you are going to call me African American, then call white people Euro-Americans. That would make the playing field even.”/pp In creating the page, admittedly on a whim, George – who also has Caribbean roots – stepped squarely into the national discourse of how and what Americans of African descent should be labeled, a debate that has raged from the earliest days of race classifications when America lived in black and white. George and his page appeared in an Associated Press article earlier this month distributed nationally, fueling the discussion on websites, blogs and radio. Before long, the BBC was calling for an interview about the usage of the African American versus black. Along the way, the page generated almost 2,200 likes, and an online conversation that took on a life of its own./pp “We are at this pivotal moment where some people believe we are losing the complexity and the diversity of the African diaspora by calling ourselves African American, that it is not a broad enough term to include the range of blacks living in America,” said James Peterson, director of Africana Studies and associate professor of English at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “This conversation is.gathering steam now and is a by-product of diversity.”/pp /pp In South Florida, a mosaic of ethnicities, the Black Affairs Advisory Board had been discussing whether to change its name a few years ago. The group is planning to sponsor a workshop this year to explore cultural differences within the African diaspora./pp “We were trying to find a way to be more inclusive because we have so many blacks here who are from different countries,” director Retha Boone-Frye said. “The term we developed was Black World Community, which does a better job of covering people from here or Jamaica or Bahamas or Haiti or Nigeria.”/pp /pp Peterson said the term African Americans, popularized a quarter-century ago, pertains to blacks in the United States whose lineage is tied to American slavery, considered the historical starting point of the group. But to some like George, that description does not adequately cover immigrants or Caribbean blacks living in the U.S. whose narrative, culture and path is different, even though many also descended from slaves. The term was created as an upper-case nod to both the new and former homelands, similar to Irish-American or Italian-American./pp It was also an alternative to the term black, which had grown out of the pride of the Civil Rights Movement and, later, the Black Power movement but then took on a host of negative connotations within popular culture./pp “Black was an early classification centuries ago – and seen as derogatory – that whites used to describe people of color. People later fought to have the term colored used and when that got bad, they didn’t use it anymore. The black power movement in many ways reclaimed the term black and it became powerful, and then it also became negative,” said Anne H. Charity Hudley, associate professor of education, English and linguistics and Africana studies at The College of William Mary. “Then came African American, a term that was supposed to encompass the diaspora. The social message was we are all together and that is where our strength comes from. But some want to be identified closer to their origin, which is where you see the tension.”/pp The issue of self-identification came into focus again when the nation elected its first black president, the son of parents from Kenya and Kansas, and a steady stream of black immigrants continues to drive the issue./pp “The larger issue is that over the years, people of the African diaspora lost the right to name themselves,” said Charity Hudley, author of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics. “It’s not really about what is right or wrong but how people see and think of themselves, which is a personal choice.”/pp /pp That may resonate particularly in South Florida, where immigrants from Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and other nations make up one of the nation’s largest concentration of Caribbean immigrants./pp To George, the term African American, however noble in its creation, dismisses his father and the half of his family tree that comes from St. Lucia. He grew up in New York in a home dominated by the West Indian culture. Because of his brown complexion, he was often referred to as African American. It wasn’t until he moved to South Florida in the early 1990s, where people often define themselves by nationality, that he began to think about how he identified himself./pp “Every one of us has to deal with how we define ourselves. When I was thinking about that, I thought American first. And while I understand the terms that are used to refer to us, I think they are outdated,” he said. “Black or person of color is a modern reflection of who we are.”
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OTTAWA — Opposition parties are stepping up pressure on Stephen Harper today over misleading phone calls made during the last election campaign directing voters to the wrong polling locations.
Dismissing Conservative suggestions that a ‘rogue operator’ could be behind the ‘robocalls,’ interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the real blame for any election trickery rests with the political culture the Prime Minister has created in the Tories.
Mr. Rae’s remarks came in response to a Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen report that found a continuing Elections Canada investigation has traced the calls to a call centre with Conservative connections.
Mr. Harper was yesterday forced to deny he had any knowledge of the calls and said anyone found responsible would face the full force of the law: “In this case, our party has no knowledge of these calls,” he told reporters in Iqaluit. “It’s not part of our campaign,” he said.
Stephen Harper walks with Dinos Tikivik during a demonstration by the Canadian Rangers on Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut Thursday. Harper denied the Tories were behind the ‘robocalls’ scandal.
Earlier Thursday, Jenni Byrne, the party’s campaign manager, issued a statement denying any connection. “The Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and would never tolerate such activity,” she said.
“The party was not involved with these calls and if anyone on a local campaign was involved they will not play a role in a future campaign.”
The Conservatives appear to be preparing to blame the calls on a young campaign worker.
As Postmedia reported, they have launched their own internal investigation, led by Arthur Hamilton, a Toronto lawyer.
A Conservative-friendly media organization cited two anonymous Conservative party sources and reported that a staff member who had worked on the campaign of Guelph, Ont., Conservative candidate Marty Burke was a person of interest to the investigation.
The Sun News website ran a photograph of a Burke campaign worker, Michael Sona, standing next to Harper at what appears to be a campaign event, claiming he was being investigated by the party in relation to the calls. The photo is credited to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Sona, 23, served as Burke’s communications director during the campaign and is now an executive assistant to rookie Conservative MP Eve Adams on Parliament Hill.
Postmedia News contacted Sona earlier this week and asked him a series of questions about the robocalls, but he did not respond.
Sona was not in Adams’ office on Thursday afternoon. Asked if he would be returning, another staffer said, “Maybe.”
Mr. Rae dismissed the naming of Sona as a tactic, noting that he was identified only after the story surfaced.
Transcript of a bogus call sent to a voter in Guelph on federal election day, May 2, 2011.
“This is an automated message from Elections Canada. Due to a projected increase in voter turnout, your poll location has been changed. Your new voting location is at the Old Quebec Street Mall, at 55 Wyndham Street North. Once again, your new poll location is at the Old Quebec Street Mall, at 55 Wyndham Street North. If you have any questions, please call our hotline at 1-800-443-4456. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. (French version recorded in another woman’s voice follows.)”
“Why would they only find the guy today, after the story has come out? They’ve known about this allegation a long time.”
Rae said the real blame for any election trickery rests with the political culture Harper has created in the party.
“The prime minister has created a Nixonian culture,” Rae said. “This stuff doesn’t happen unless the boss lets it happen.”
“He has allowed to seep into his party and into his organization a culture of attack and, frankly, a culture of deception and dirty tricks, where almost anything goes.”
Sona made headlines in April when he was accused of trying to grab a ballot box used at a special poll station set up for students at the University of Guelph. The Conservative had claimed the polling station was illegal.
Reached in Guelph, Sona’s father said he was unaware his son was being named in connection to the calls.
“He’s not lying or anything,” said Frank Sona, a Guelph minister.
“He’s not a liar. I know he’s very strong principled and stands up for what he believes. I’m sure that’s what he was doing during the campaign.”
Chris Pennings, a volunteer on the Burke campaign, said he knew Sona but had no indication he was involved in any robocalling. “He struck me as a pretty good guy,” Pennings said.
Elections Canada tracked phone records to an Edmonton automated dialing company called Racknine Inc. after an elaborate digital chase that began with a single telephone number that showed up on call displays. Investigators traced it to a disposable “burner” cellphone registered in area code 450, in the city of Joliette, northeast of Montreal.
Using telephone billing records and Racknine server logs, Elections Canada investigators identified the Racknine account holder who sent out the calls.
Matt Meier, owner of Racknine, said he was unaware one of his customers was involved in the calls until contacted by Elections Canada in November.
“We couldn’t possibly have known that it was Racknine that was the initiator of the fake calls,” he said. “I had no idea what the content of the calls were.”
The company does not monitor outgoing calls made by customers through the automated service, Meier said. He estimates 10 million or more phone calls from about 200 accounts went out during the campaign.
Meier and his company are co-operating fully with the probe, he said.
He said he knows whose account was used for the calls, but could not reveal the owner because of client confidentiality and concerns about interfering with the investigation. He said it was someone “down East” — meaning Ontario or Quebec.
The RCMP’s role in the investigation is unclear, but it appears the force is assisting Elections Canada. RCMP officers have approached the Conservative Party, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The robocalls received in Guelph were recorded in female voices in both French and English. They told voters their polling stations had moved to a shopping mall in the city’s downtown, where parking was scarce.
To make the calls, the caller would have had an account with Racknine.
Andrew Prescott, a Burke volunteer and also a Facebook friend of Sona’s, had an account with Racknine through his company, Prescoan.
But Prescott appeared to have been trying to correct the mischief calls. Meier said Prescott’s account was used on election day to send out a message warning supporters to disregard the fake Elections Canada calls.
Prescott could not be reached Thursday, but has denied any connection to the original bogus calls. “I was not involved in the illegal phone calls,” he said in an emailed statement. “I am a legitimate user of Rack9’s services, and have been for several years.”
During the election campaign, a Conservative Party spokesman denied any Tory campaigns were involved, saying “these calls are not from local or federal Conservative candidates or the party” — a claim that now appears to be false.
Read more on tracking telephone tricks
‘The hunt for the source of bogus robocalls sent out on election day began with the number on the call display that appear on voters’ calls in Guelph, Ontario. Elections Canada traced the number on the call display to a disposable cellphone in the 450 area code of Joliette, Quebec, about 50 kilometres from Montreal’
Liberal supporters in a dozen ridings, mostly in Ontario, reported mysterious harassing calls, often late in the evening or early in the morning, where rude callers from a phone bank pretended to be working for the Liberals. The calls seem to have been an attempt to alienate Liberal voters in ridings where the Liberals and Conservatives seemed to be in close contests.
The continuing Elections Canada probe is led by former RCMP fraud investigator Al Mathews, who previously worked on investigations of former Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski and former prime minister Brian Mulroney in the Airbus affair.
The Conservatives’ internal investigation is being conducted by Arthur Hamilton, who has been the party’s lead lawyer for years, making representations to the Gomery Commission and investigating MP Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer for the party in the “busty hookers” saga.
Hamilton did not respond to a request for comment, but sources say he is interviewing people who worked on the Conservative campaign.
In addition to Racknine’s work for Alberta Conservative candidates in the federal election, Meier also has been involved with the provincial Wildrose Party in Alberta. Racknine’s voice-broadcasting service, marketed as 2call.ca, hosted a hospitality suite at the most recent Conservative convention in Ottawa in June.
Meier says the firm is non-partisan and is trying to help Elections Canada.
“What I provided to Elections Canada was comprehensive,” he said in an interview this week. “They know everything. They have every single message recorded by the individuals who did this. That’s something I hope will assist them greatly in determining who made these calls.”
He realized his firm was linked to the deceptive calls only when Mathews showed up unannounced at his company’s office on 50th Street in Edmonton last November, armed with an order to produce records.
‘At first, I thought. “Oh, that’s strange,” Upon reflection, I thought, “This can’t be right. Why on Earth would it change on the day election?”’
— Sue Campbell, who had just returned home after voting on the morning of election day when a call came in saying her polling station had been moved
Elections Canada spokesman John Enright said the commissioner does not comment on ongoing investigations, but confirmed an investigation into “some complaints regarding unsolicited telephone calls in which a violation of the [Elections] Act may have occurred.”
Mathews has travelled to Guelph to interview people who received the calls on election day, including United Church minister Sue Campbell, who is the wife of Green Party candidate John Lawson.
Campbell had just returned home after voting on the morning of election day when a call came in saying her polling station had been moved to the Quebec Street Mall in downtown Guelph.
“At first, I thought. ‘Oh, that’s strange,’” Campbell recalls. “Upon reflection, I thought, ‘This can’t be right. Why on Earth would it change on the day election?’”
She wrote down the digits on the caller ID — the number in Quebec — and called Elections Canada to complain.
Internal Elections Canada emails obtained under Access to Information legislation show officials were rattled by the calls.
At 11:06 a.m., election officer Anita Hawdur sent an email to to legal counsel Karen McNeil with the header: “URGENT Conservative campaign office communications with electors.” Hawdur reported that returning officers were calling to ask about the calls. McNeil responded by asking Hawdur to alert Rennie Molnar, the deputy chief electoral officer. He later emailed Michel Roussel, a senior director: “This one is far more serious. They have actually disrupted the voting process.”
Around the same time, Guelph Liberal MP Frank Valeriote got a call at his home, telling him that his campaign staff was hearing from Liberal supporters in the riding about the same kind of bogus Elections Canada calls.
Matt Meier, president and CEO of Racknine Inc.
What they first thought were a few nuisance calls, the Valeriote campaign recognized was an orchestrated campaign to discourage his supporters from voting.
Voters who ended up in the wrong place and were turned away were unlikely to persist and go to another polling station. A campaign worker was quickly dispatched to the mall, armed with a binder of polling maps, so he could redirect supporters back to the right place. Within an hour, more than 100 voters had turned up at the mall.
The phoney calls also were causing headaches for campaign staff working for Conservative candidate Marty Burke’s campaign. Radio stations were passing on a warning from Elections Canada about the erroneous messages.
Long-distance phone bills obtained by the Citizen and Postmedia show that the Guelph campaign called Matt Meier’s cellphone once at 11:08 a.m. and then the Racknine main number at 7:11 p.m.
Andrew Prescott, a volunteer with the Burke campaign, used Racknine to send out calls warning supporters about fake Elections Canada messages.
Though he used Racknine to make these calls, there is no indication Prescott was involved in the original mischief.
“I was not involved in the illegal phone calls. I am a legitimate user of Racknine’s services, and have been for several years,” he said in an email. “I am a devoted believer in free and fair elections. I would never partake in ANY illegal activities, and openly advocate for everyone to play by the rules.”
Meier confirmed Prescott’s story and said he is satisfied Prescott was not involved in the fake Elections Canada calls.
Opposition MPs pounced on the Postmedia News-Ottawa Citizen report about the robocalls and said that, despite the denials, it was clear the Tories stood to benefit from what appeared to be a co-ordinated effort to discourage Liberal or NDP supporters from getting to the ballot box.
Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel issued a letter the party sent to Commissioner of Canada Elections William Corbett, asking him to investigate fully.
But an Elections Canada investigation, aided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has been under way since immediately after the May 2 vote.
The Conservatives refused to say how much business they did with Racknine during the spring campaign. An invoice filed with Elections Canada shows the company billed the party’s national campaign for voice-broadcasting work done through its service. The party passed on part of the costs for a set of robocalls to Harper’s local campaign in Calgary Southwest.
New Democrat MP Pat Martin said the calls were a “disgusting” interference with the electoral process and said there could be “no more heinous crime against democracy.”
Martin said it was not credible to suggest the campaign of phoney calls on election day was co-ordinated by “a couple of hillbillies in Edmonton” acting alone.
‘The prime minister has created a Nixonian culture. This stuff doesn’t happen unless the boss lets it happen. He has allowed to seep into his party and into his organization a culture of attack and, frankly, a culture of deception and dirty tricks, where almost anything goes’
“It was not some rogue punk out in the boondocks. It’s just not plausible.”
Martin denounced the dirty tricks calls as a tactic borrowed from U.S. Republicans.
Liberal MP John McCallum said his party doesn’t have a “smoking gun pointing at Stephen Harper” but he encouraged the Conservatives to co-operate with the investigation.
He said the election calls and other harassing calls in Ontario ridings likely cost at least one Liberal MP a seat. In Guelph, however, Liberal incumbent Frank Valeriote increased his margin of victory over 2008, despite the calls he says were aimed at his supporters.
Opposition MPs admitted there is little chance a parliamentary committee would look at the use of the fraudulent robocalls as the Conservative majority gives them control over committee agendas.
Opposition parties have criticized the Conservatives in the past for allowing young staffers to take the fall for wrongdoing, saying they are too ready to “throw them under the bus” to protect senior politicians.
In 2010, Sebastien Togneri, a staffer for then-public works minister Christian Paradis, resigned over allegations that he inappropriately meddled with an access-to-information request.
Tracking telephone tricks
The hunt for the source of bogus robocalls sent out on election day began with the number on the call display that appear on voters’ calls in Guelph, Ontario.
Elections Canada traced the number on the call display to a disposable cellphone in the 450 area code of Joliette, Quebec, about 50 kilometres from Montreal.
An Elections Canada investigator issued a subpoena to the cellphone provider that produced a list of outgoing calls from the same number. One of the calls was to the toll-free number used by customers of Edmonton voice-broadcaster Racknine to phone in and record their outgoing messages.
“The customer tried to make themselves difficult to trace,” said a source familiar with the investigation. “They went to an effort to misdirect and to conceal their identity from Racknine.
“They weren’t particularly smart about it,” said the source. “They made the recordings from a cellphone that they bought in cash. This is a common approach by criminals — you pay cash for a prepaid cellphone. So they did this, and that gave them the illusion of security.”
The investigator also issued a series of subpoenas to phone companies for billing records that tracked the calls received by Guelph voters back to their originating phone carriers. The trail of IP addresses also led to Racknine’s servers in Edmonton.
“You got a list,” said the source. “These numbers came from this wholesaler. The next step is you subpoena them. One step at a time, one carrier at a time, you see who received the carrier from who. You follow it back to the wholesaler long-distance operator that the fraudster bought their long distance service from. Eventually the trail stops at the voice broadcasting vendor.”
In November, Elections Canada visited Racknine’s office in Edmonton, armed with a production order for records related to the account.
Typically, an approved Racknine voice-broadcast customer would provide payment in advance by credit card, upload an electronic list of phone numbers to call, then either upload the outgoing audio recording or call the toll-free number to record the message. The company was able to quickly find the account holder associated with the bogus calls.
The source said the case should make it clear that if you want to make fraudulent phone calls to discourage people from voting, you might get caught.
“It’s important to put in the record that if you make evil phone calls, there’s a straightforward way of identifying the placement,” he said.
“Any long distance call, there’s a record of it. So you can’t call 100,000 people and tell them not to vote.”
With files from Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher
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Facebook already built its own data center and its own servers. And now the social-networking giant is building its own storage hardware — hardware for housing all the digital stuff uploaded by its more than 845 million users.
“We store a few photos here and there,” says Frank Frankovsky, the ex-Dell man who oversees hardware design at Facebook. That would be an understatement. According to some estimates, the company stores over 140 billion digital photographs — and counting.
Like the web’s other leading players — including Google and Amazon — Facebook runs an online operation that’s well beyond the scope of the average business, and that translates to unprecedented hardware costs — and hardware complications. If you’re housing 140 billion digital photos, you need a new breed of hardware.
In building its own data center on the Oregon high desert, Facebook did away with electric chillers, uninterruptible power supplies, and other terribly inefficient gear. And in working with various hardware manufacturers to build its own servers, the company not only reduced power consumption, it stripped thee systems down to the bare essentials, making them easier to repair and less expensive. Frankovsky and his team call this “vanity free” engineering, and now, they’ve extended the philosophy to storage hardware.
“We’re taking the same approach we took with servers: Eliminate anything that’s not directly adding value. The really valuable part of storage is the disk drive itself and the software that controls how the data gets distributed to and recovered from those drives. We want to eliminate any ancillary components around the drive — and make it more serviceable,” Frankovsky says during a chat at the new Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, which also happens to be the former home of onetime hardware giant Sun Microsystems.
“Break fixes are an ongoing activity in the data center. Unfortunately, disk drives are still mechanical items, and they do fail. In fact, they’re one of the higher failure-rate items. So [we want to] be able to quickly identify which disk has failed and replace it, without going through a lot of mechanical hoops.”
As with its data center and server creations, Facebook intends to “open source” its storage designs, sharing them with anyone who wants them. The effort is part of the company’s Open Compute Project, which seeks to further reduce the cost and power consumption of data center hardware by facilitating collaboration across the industry. As more companies contribute to the project, the thinking goes, the designs will improve, and as more outfits actually use the designs for servers and other gear — which are manufactured by Facebook partners in Taiwan and China — prices will drop even more.
When Facebook first introduced the project last spring, many saw it as a mere PR stunt. But some big-name outfits — including some outside the web game — are already buying Open Compute servers. No less a name than Apple has taken interest in Facebook’s energy-conscious data-center design. And according to Frankovsky, fifty percent of the contributions to the project’s open source designs now come from outside Facebook.
For Peter Krey — who helped build a massive computing grid for one of Wall Street largest financial institutions and now advises the CIOs and CTOs of multiple Wall Street firms as they build “cloud” infrastructure inside their data centers — Facebook’s project is long overdue. While building that computing grid, Krey says, he and his colleagues would often ask certain “tier one” server sellers to strip proprietary hardware and unnecessary components from their machines in order to conserve power and cost. But the answer was always no. “And we weren’t buying just a few servers,” he says. “We were buying thousands of servers.”
Now, Facebook has provided a new option for these big name Wall Street outfits. But Krey also says that even among traditional companies who can probably benefit from this new breed of hardware, the project isn’t always met with open arms. “These guys have done things the same way for a long time,” he tells Wired.
Hardware by Committee
Facebook will release its new storage designs in early May at the next Open Compute Summit, a mini-conference where project members congregate to discuss this experiment in open source hardware. Such names as Intel, Dell, Netflix, Rackspace, Japanese tech giant NTT Data, and motherboard maker Asus are members, and this past fall, at the last summit, Facebook announced the creation of a not-for-profit foundation around the project, vowing to cede control to the community at large.
The project began with Facebook’s data center and server designs. But it has since expanded to various other sub-projects, and the contributors include more than just web companies. Rackspace contributes, but so does financial giant Goldman Sachs.
Rackspace is leading an effort to build a “virtual I/O” protocol, which would allow companies to physically separate various parts of today’s servers. You could have your CPUs in one enclosure, for instance, your memory in another, and your network cards in a third. This would let you, say, upgrade your CPUs without touching other parts of the traditional system. “DRAM doesn’t [change] as fast as CPUs,” Frankovsky says. “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could actually disaggregate the CPUs from the DRAM complex?”
With a sister project, project members are also working to create a new rack design that can accommodate this sort of re-imagined server infrastructure. A traditional server rack houses several individual machines, each with its own chassis. But the Open Rack project seeks to do away with the server chassis entirely and turn the rack into the chassis.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is running an effort to build a common means for managing the hardware spread across your data center. Part of project’s appeal, says Peter Krey, is that the project takes a “holistic approach” to the design of data center hardware. Members aren’t designing the data center separately from the servers, and the servers separately from the storage gear. They’re designing everything to work in tandem. “The traditional data center design…is Balkanized,” Krey says. “[But] the OCP guys have designed and created all the components to efficiently integrate and work together.”
This began with Facebook designing servers specifically for use with the revamped electrical system built for its data center in Prineville, Oregon. And soon, the effort will extend to the storage gear as well. Frankovsky provides few details about the new storage designs. But he says his team has rethought the “hot-plug drive carriers” that let you install and remove hard drives without powering a system down.
“I’ve never understood why hot-plug drive carriers have to come with these plastic handles on them,” he explains. “And if you’ve actually mounted a drive inside one of those drive carriers, there are these little bitty screws that you inevitably lose — and you’ll likely lose one onto a board that’s live and powered. That’s not a good thing.”
He says that the new design will eliminate not only the screws but the carriers themselves. “It’s a completely tool-less design,” Frankovsky says. “Our techs will be able to grab hold of a ‘slam latch,’ pull it up, and the act of pulling it up will pop the drive out.”
Frankovsky calls it “small stuff.” And that’s what it is. But if you’re running an operation that size of Facebook, that small stuff becomes very big indeed. In making one small change after another, Facebook is overhauling its infrastructure. And in sharing its designs with the rest of the world, it hopes to overhaul much more.
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In the past 22 hours, the former “Office” boss has gained over 83,900 followers with just one tweet tweeted: “I am in.”
One of said followers responded to Carell’s first tweet masterfully:
@SteveCarell That’s what he said.
— Denny W (@SikTwistedFreek) February 23, 2012
Well done, Twitter user. Well done.
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