FYIs: Gabrielle Giffords’s Plea to Lawmakers, Facebook’s SuperBowl Data and Immigration Reform


Notes from Gabby’s speech

Before we all enter into SuperBowl mode this weekend, take a look at these interesting tidbits we’ve compiled for this week’s FYI list:

If you haven’t seen former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords speech on gun violence, take a look now or glance at her notes from Tuesday.

Giffords was severely wounded and is still recovering, but with courage and grace she approached the  Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to think more seriously about stricter gun control policies:

Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important…Violence is a big problem, too many people are dying, too many children are dying, too many children.

While we’re on the Second Amendment, The Atlantic published a great piece this week about “Why the ‘citizen militia’ theory is the worst pro-gun argument ever:

If America experienced a widespread political uprising today, it would bear little resemblance to Lexington and Concord in 1775, with well-disciplined minutemen assembling on the town square to defend liberty against the redcoats. It would more likely be a larger scale reenactment of the “Bleeding Kansas” revolt of 1854 to 1861, when small bands of armed zealots unleashed an orgy of inter-communal violence, unbounded by any laws of war or human decency…However, in recent years, the belief in widespread gun ownership as a defense against tyrannical government has become an alluring idea, gaining traction with members of Congress as well as fringe conspiracy theorists.

From the Second Amendment to another usually partisan issue — immigration. This week a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a  blueprint for meaningful immigration reform (listen to our podcast to find out more). But, that doesn’t mean everyone is in agreement.. On Monday, Rush Limbaugh said that it was now up to him and the Fox News network to stop this effort to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living inside our borders.

On the other hand, Republican Senator Marco Rubio (Fl.), once an opponent of immigration reform like this, appeared to perform an about face. Senator Rubio, now a member of the “Gang of Eight”pitching this blueprint to the media, is casting the proposal as preferable to both the status quo (“what we have now is de facto amnesty,” Rubio said) and the more lenient path to citizenship supported by Barack Obama:

I know the president’s gonna take us in a direction that I would not be comfortable with and I don’t think it’s good for America…I’m just trying to do the best I can with what’s already a tough situation.

Time describes Rubio’s move as an “Agile Courtship of Conservative Media.”

More big policy news this week is yet another proposed compromise from the White House on contraception coverage, allowing religious institutions to opt-out. The New York Times explains:

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said the proposal would guarantee free coverage of birth control “while respecting religious concerns.” Churches and religious organizations that object to providing birth control coverage on religious grounds would not have to pay for it. Under the proposal, female employees could get free birth control coverage through a separate plan that would be provided by a health insurer. The institution objecting to the coverage would not pay for the contraceptives. The costs would instead be paid by the insurance company, with the possibility of recouping the costs through lower health care expenses resulting in part from fewer births.

Before we get too excited about immigration, gun ownership and health care reform, let’s not forget about the really big news this week: The 47th Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers. According to Facebook data, almost everyone is rooting for the  49ers. As Slate explains:

In all, some 35 million U.S.-based Facebook users—more than one in 10 Americans—have declared their support for at least one team…And it seems the bandwagon everyone’s hopping on right now is the one that belongs to the San Francisco 49ers.

In other non-politics news, The Atlantic brings us “The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013”. And it’s only February! Apparently, unlocking your own smartphone to make it available on other carriers is now a criminal offense…

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. This sounds like a great idea, but in practice it has terrible, and widely acknowledged, negative consequences that affect consumers and new innovation…Until recently it was illegal to jailbreak your own iPhone, and after Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, thereby allowing it to switch carriers. This is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. It was not a mistake, but rather an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress, that this was no longer fair use and acceptable.

Another tech feature this week comes from Gavin Newsom (the current Lieutenant Governor of California and former mayor of San Francisco) who wrote an interesting op-ed in Wired titled “Hacking is Good for Democracy.”

Following Aaron Swartz’s tragic death, the subject of “hacking” has been receiving a lot of media attention, especially since many critics argue that Swartz was painted as a criminal and a hacker when in reality he was simply liberating already-public information. To define what, or whom, a hacker is, Newsom quotes Steward Brand explaining that: “despite the negative connotation of the word hacker..they are people who are benevolent fixers of things that are broken or not as good as they could be. And society is in the process of making itself more hackable — in a good way.”

In cities throughout the country, hackathons are redefining the meaning of civic engagement. Programmers, designers, developers, and data crunchers gather together for a finite period — say, forty-eight hours or a week — to try to solve some of the city’s problems.

And that’s it for this week. Enjoy the Super Bowl (whichever brother you’re rooting for!) and as always, tell us what you think of these stories and what we should be reading.

Posted in: FYI, Internet, Policy, Politics, Society