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Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess: Want to expose the money behind online political ads? Think local

Mayor Burgess at the annual Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce meeting. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

With each day, it seems we learn more about the shadowy world of political advertising on digital platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. As multiple investigations into the 2016 presidential election already indicate, it’s a world urgently in need of transparency.

In the US Senate, some lawmakers are rightly pushing for new legislation that would require social media companies to publicly disclose who’s buying online political ads, the cost of those ads, and who those ads are targeting. It’s a shame we don’t have such a federal law already, but federal regulation isn’t the only available answer to this problem.

In Seattle, under a municipal law that dates to 1977, we already regulate political advertising on digital platforms. That’s not because the writers of this law predicted the advent of the Internet. It’s because they defined political advertising as any advertising that uses a “means of mass communication” in order to appeal “directly or indirectly” for votes, financial support, or “other support” during any local election campaign.

Whether it came about from farsighted word choice or just plain luck, our legal language clearly applies to local political ads that are purchased on digital platforms with the aim of influencing Seattle voters. And while Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, was still seven years away from being born when this bit of municipal code was laid down, our law’s language now offers some straightforward answers to the novel challenges his amazing mass communication machine has created for our democracy.

For example, Seattle’s municipal code requires commercial advertising businesses like Mr. Zuckerberg’s to maintain, in a manner that’s “open for public inspection,” the names and addresses of people purchasing political ads that target Seattle elections. It also requires the company to disclose “the exact nature and extent of advertising services rendered” (which, in the world of social media, would include ad targeting information). In addition, the law says the public must be allowed to inspect “books of account” showing the amount and manner of payment for these ad services.

Seattle’s law also contains an outright ban on “concealment” of the identity of any political ad purchaser and it says that a failure to properly disclose the money trail behind political ads can be met with up to a $5,000 fine for each violation.

In other words, if a journalist, an election watchdog, or anyone else in Seattle wants to follow the trail of digital media ad money as it relates to our local elections, they can walk right into the Seattle offices of Facebook, Google, or Twitter (“during normal business hours,” as the law says) and ask for an extensive accounting — just as interested parties already do when tracking political ads purchased on our local television stations.

The existence of this law also makes clear that Americans don’t have to wait for Congress to act on this issue, nor do we need to rely on the hope that digital platforms will police themselves. Nothing is stopping other cities and states from following our lead — either by searching their own election codes for laws that apply to digital publishers, or by creating new laws.

Imagine a spreading constellation of local demonstration projects taking on the under-regulated world of online political advertising. It would be great to see. To be sure, this isn’t the only type of transparency we need to prevent the growing list of online actions that attempted to exert influence on our 2016 presidential election. Sensible, urgent action from lawmakers in Washington, DC remains essential. But if Seattle’s municipal government can force Facebook, Google, and Twitter to open their political ad books — and if other cities, counties, and states can do the same — then the message will be clear: the federal government should, too.

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Why Did Russian Jews Support the Bolshevik Revolution?

When the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd on Oct. 25, 1917, the vast majority of Russia’s Jews opposed that takeover. Five years later, when the USSR was created at the end of a treacherously bloody civil war, the situation was reversed—not, as the Hebrew cliché has it, out of the love of Mordecai, but out of hatred of Haman.

It is difficult to paint a precise picture of the political views of Russian Jews at the time of the Revolution for the simple reason that we have relatively little precise information on the subject: from 1905 to 1917 the Jews voted in elections for the four parliaments (called Dumas) that were created in response to the 1905 Revolution. None of these elections were based on universal suffrage, first and foremost because women could not vote, and so we have no firm data whatsoever on the views of half of the Jewish population. Moreover, the franchise was more and more restricted as the years went by, and so the number of Jews voting for and being elected to the Duma went down, rather than up, during the twelve years of the parliaments’ existence. Twice in 1917 the Jews voted again, this time with female suffrage, but we still lack data on a very significant chunk of the Jewish population.

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Today on Jewcy: The ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ director is both Maori and an M.O.T.

Taika Waititi is Hollywood’s new darling; the indie filmmaker has gone from making dark comedies in New Zealand to directing Thor: Ragnarok, the latest Marvel mega-flick. And he’s also been in the news as a minority in the film industry; a profile in the New York Times Magazine this past week, for example, talked about his Maori background, an aspect of his identity he publicly emphasizes, and often incorporates into his work.

Click here to read the full post on Jewcy.

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Does a New Documentary on the Ex-Orthodox Help or Harm Its Subjects?

The stories we, as Ex-Hasidim, tell after leaving the Hasidic community are often of extreme importance to us. They provide a narrative through which we can articulate the contradictions making up our self-identity—New Yorkers, yet very much like immigrants; curious, yet with deep gaps in our knowledge; free spirited, yet often very young parents with children to care of and take responsibility for. But more importantly, our stories help us make sense of the difficult paths we’ve chosen to tread. To tell stories is to carefully organize and select from thousands of personal experiences, so that a concise overarching theme emerges that makes it all feel significant. Like all humans, the tales we tell provides meaning to the life we live.

One of Us, the movie recently released to Netflix, bills itself as another opportunity for our experiences to be heard. It tells of three ex-Hasidic individuals as they struggle to leave, against demonic forces, both internal and external. Against rabbis and the courts, against addiction and family members—some even wielding hammers outsider a woman’s door. The results of the documentary are uneven: Sometimes it felt like the genuine story of the teller, more often it felt like the sensationalist pop-culture version of the genre.

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Anne Frank’s Diary to Be Read Out Loud at All Italian Soccer Matches This Week

Lazio and Roma are two Italian soccer teams that share a stadium, Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Earlier this week, to taunt their cross-town rivals, Lazio fans littered the stadium with stickers showing Anne Frank wearing a Roma jersey, an allusion to Roma’s fans being left-wing and Jewish.

It was a sickening gesture, but nothing, sadly, out of the ordinary in European soccer, where teams are frequently identified as “Jewish” by fans and foes alike and where Holocaust and other anti-Semitic references are common. What is exceptional is the Italian league’s reaction: Immediately after the offensive stickers were discovered, Italy’s soccer federation announced that portions of Frank’s diary will be read at all league games this week, combined with a minute of silence for the victims of the Holocaust.

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Introducing Soviet Union Week at Tablet

This week, a spectre is haunting Tablet, the spectre of the Soviet Union. With the Bolshevik revolution launched 100 years ago next month, and with the Berlin Wall tumbling down in November of 1989, signaling the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, it’s as good a moment as any to ponder what the impact of the hammer and the sickle, and the role Jews played in promoting, resisting, and grappling with Communism.

We launched things off with an essay by Ruth Wisse, exploring the reasons behind the infatuation of so many American Jews with the romance of the Bolshevik regime, despite mounting evidence of its monstrous nature. Robert Rockaway, professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, looked at the great migration of Russian Jews to the United States, and wondered how much of it had to do with persecution and how much was due to the community’s own self-interested leadership. And David Mikics examined the sickening cost of Lenin’s revolution, and why, a century later, its amorality is still with us.

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Dressing Up Science: Richard Feynman And The Costume Parties Of Al Hibbs (Synopsis)

“I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.” -Richard Feynman

Scientists have long had a reputation for being uptight, serious, and even killjoy personalities. But 50+ years ago, Richard Feynman was forcing everyone who felt that way to challenge their assumptions. With his brash attitude and fun-seeking personality, Feynman seemingly was most at home when he was at his most outrageous.

Feynman at the Myths and Legends Party dressed as “God.” His wife, Gweneth, is dressed as Medusa, with a rock as her date. Image credit: from Christopher Sykes, No Ordinary Genius.

With Halloween on its way, what better way to celebrate than to take a look back at Feynman’s costumed antics, often taking place at the April Fools costume parties of his friend and former student, Al Hibbs? From irreverently dressing as a Ladakhi monk, Queen Elizabeth II, or even God himself, Feynman was always game for pushing the envelope and having a good time.

Richard Feynman dressed as a Ladakhi monk, painted by Sylvia Posner. Image credit: Sylvia Posner.

Come celebrate Halloween in a unique way: with the costumes of one of the 20th century’s greatest physicists, thanks to the incredible storytelling of Paul Halpern!

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TIKKU, A Pre-Fabricated Micro Apartment Building That Easily Fits Inside a Standard Parking Space

During Helsinki Design Week, the Finnish multi-disciplinary firm Casagrande debuted their unique Tikku, an amazing prefabricated, three story, self-sufficient, environmentally friendly, micro apartment building with a footprint small enough to fit into a standard parking space.

Tikku is a needle of urban acupuncture, conquering the no-man’s land from the cars and tuning the city towards the organic. Many Tikkus can grow side-by-side like mushrooms and they can fuse into larger organisms.Tikku is self-sufficient.It produces its own energy with solar panels and it has dry toilets. Fresh water is carried in. Showers, saunas, laundry machines and food is around. Modern man has to die a bit in order to be reborn.

via Fast Company

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An Altruistic Art Curator Gives In to His Baser Selfish Instincts When His Phone Gets Stolen in ‘The Square’

In the Magnolia Pictures film The Square directed by Ruben Östlund, a rather altruistic art curator named Christian (Claes Bang), who is environmentally aware and a good dad to his two children, is studiously planning for an upcoming show also entitled “The Square” when his smartphone is stolen. The search for this piece of technology brings out Christian’s baser selfish instincts, causing him to doubt himself and his whole life. The film opens in theaters on Oct 27, 2017.

The Square is a poignant satirical drama reflecting our times – about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world. …starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, and Terry Notary.

A post shared by The Square (@squarethefilm) on

A post shared by The Square (@squarethefilm) on

A post shared by The Square (@squarethefilm) on

A post shared by The Square (@squarethefilm) on

via DesignTAXI

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A Mama Bear and Her Cute Little Cubs Enjoy a Refreshing Dip in a Tennessee Backyard Pool

Bears Playing in Pool

In 2016, a big mama bear and her two little cubs enjoyed a refreshing dip in the big, beautiful backyard pool of Gatlinburg, Tennessee resident Cindy Dorrow. Dorrow was surprised to see her ursine visitors so close to home, but she kept her wits about her enough to keep filming as much as she could.


Part One


Part Two

More recently in 2017, another mama bear came down from the San Gabriel Mountains and into a Monrovia, California neighborhood to go for a swim with her two cubs.

A mother bear and two cubs came down from the San Gabriel Mountains into our neighborhood. The bears swam for a few minutes and then left made their way back towards the mountain. My wife Jenny, witnessed the event with me. We are accustomed to having a lot of wildlife in our area.

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