While We’re Away

Posted July 7th, 2011 at 6:06 pm (UTC-4)
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Digital Frontiers editor Doug Bernard is off this week, but while he’s away, we’d like to highlight several stories elsewhere on voanews.com.

Photo: AP

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama went where no U.S. president has gone before, by holding his first-ever “Town Hall” meeting using the social media network Twitter.  The cyberspace event focused on the U.S. economy and jobs.   A chief executive not known for brevity, Mr. Obama fielded questions from across the United States in a more than an hour-long session from the East Room of the White House.  Mr. Obama’s responses were summarized in Twitter posts by the White House, abiding by the standard 140-keyboard-character format, but he was not constrained in his spoken responses.

The event was streamed live on the White House web site and on Twitter, carried by major cable news networks and on the web sites of numerous media organizations.  VOA’s Dan Robinson covers the event here.

Meanwhile, there is news of a former Chinese president’s health.  Or is there?

Chinese censors are apparently blocking online discussion of former president Jiang Zemin, whose absence from a key Communist Party event in Beijing has sparked speculation that he is seriously ill.The 84-year-old Jiang was conspicuously missing from July 1 state celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party.   Mr. Jiang is thought to be undergoing treatment at Beijing’s 301 Military Hospital.  China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on Wednesday blocked terms such as “Jiang Zemin,” “myocardial infarction” and “general secretary,” sparking a wave of online speculation about the former president’s well-being.

Some big American technology companies, such as Cisco, have drawn fire for agreeing to work with the Chinese authorities on projects that can lead to censorship and spying on the Chinese people.  VOA’s Ira Mellman spoke about the issue with Jillian York at the San Francisco based Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Find both stories on this page of voanews.com.

Planning a trip to Japan?

Photo: safecast.org


If you’re venturing anywhere near the Fukushima power plant, you can check radiation there from where you sit if you visit the website Safecast.

The home page has a constantly-updating map of Japan with little pins charting the latest radiation data.  Safecast aggregates data from official public sources and allows volunteers to upload their own Geiger counter readings.  Safecast’s instant uploads mean its data is always timely. It’s also established standards for consistency for its volunteers. For instance, they’re asked to note where they took their measurements. Since fallout settles on the ground, a reading from a roof can be different from a reading at ground level.  Deena Prichep reports with text and audio from Portland, Oregon.

Some of the stories from the digital world we’re following this week on voanews.com.   DF editor Doug Bernard returns on Monday.

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What’s Digital Frontiers?

What’s Digital Frontiers?

The Internet, mobile phones, tablet computers and other digital devices are transforming our lives in fundamental and often unpredictable ways. “Digital Frontiers” investigates how real world concepts like privacy, identity, security and freedom are evolving in the virtual world.

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July 2011
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