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Engage.re – A new way to work together on social and political issues

Organizing local or global initiatives is no small task. Typical social networks such as Facebook or Twitter aren’t well suited for the amount overhead required to launch successful initiatives. Many people are all too familiar with online conversations derailing into personal attacks instead of constructive discussions. The Humanity Online organization based in the UK is hoping to change that with a new social network called Engage.re, which is aimed at mitigating the many issues when organizing social or political change on traditional online networks.

Engage.re is a social network for citizens, government officials, and NGOs to come together and work on issues on a local, national, or global level.  The organization is  currently raising £237,350 on Indiegogo ($390,000 USD) to help them develop, test, and eventually pilot the web application.

The social network is composed of several key features – a browser app that takes users from public articles to issues on the site, issue pages where people discuss problems, and an initiative page that addresses specific problems. Other features include general feeds and basic analytics on initiatives a user has created.  “The problem with existing social media is that there can be lots of pages or groups all focused on the same issue and no simple mechanism for bringing it all together. On Engage there will be just one page per issue per location, guaranteeing that you’ll be able to find the place where everyone else has gathered on the issue and where you’ll be able to find tens, if not hundreds or thousands of projects that are addressing the issue in specific ways”, said Sholi Loewenthal, one of the co-founders of Humanity Online.

He also said that the Engage platform will encourage people to break into smaller groups that are directly tied to actions within particular initiatives. “We hope that conversation on the web will soon therefore focus more on problem solving rather than divisions.”

The campaign description highlights the company’s overall strategy for the sustainability of the organization moving forward. Relevant advertisements on the service, advanced analytics on usage data,  and technical as well as strategic support for companies on the network are some revenue generating opportunities the company is exploring.

The organization is led by Kristina Donauskyte and Sholi Loewenthal, both graduates from the University of Warwick who started the Humanity Online organization half a year ago. The two have prior experience building communities and hope that their platform can help facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships more easily and establish a more participatory approach to social and political change.

When asked about the overall vision of Humanity Online, Kristina said that it’s  “to live in a world where people work together on the basis that everybody relevant is involved in addressing issues and that solutions are always mutually beneficial. To live in a better world, where everyone works together more effectively. Our vision is to facilitate meaningful interactions and collaborations amongst people. Engage.re is just a means to achieve that.”

You can support their Indiegogo campaign to help them develop their social network here. They’ve also launched a landing page at www.engage.re.

exo

Introducing the Exo housing unit: The optimized disaster-relief shelter

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in June 2013 that there were over “45 million refugees and displaced people – the highest level in nearly 20 years”. Michael McDaniel witnessed like many, the devastation hurricane Katrina caused in 2005 and the tens of thousands of people who were forced to take refuge in poorly constructed shelters. A few days following the aftermath of Katrina McDaniel started Exo.

The Exo housing unit is a versatile shelter that’s easy to set-up, transport, and customize. Government provided FEMA trailers typically cost $20,000, but the Exo unit cost around a quarter of the price and can house up to a family a four. The units can be connected to heating, air, and electricity.

The company behind Exo – Reaction Housing, have taken an engineering and design centric approach to building something that solves a real problem. The Exo units are easily stackable, making transportation of the shelters faster. A unit can be assembled in under 2 minutes with 4 people without the need of any tools. Interiors can also be customized, allowing units to be appropriated for multiple uses including bedrooms, kitchens, and offices. These units can be combined to form various configurations.

Reaction Housing has currently raised over $75,000 on Indiegogo, $20,000 more than their initial goal. The money will be used to send 10 shelter units to Syrian refugees.

For more information about the Exo unit, visit the company’s website at www.reactionhousing.com.  Support their Indiegogo campaign to help them deliver Exo’s to more Syrian refugees.

photo by Reaction Inc.

satellite dishes

Researchers suggest RSA adopted second tool from the NSA

Reuters reported that several researchers discovered a tool called “Extended Random” that would allow them to crack RSA’s Dual Elliptic Curve software tens of thousands of times faster than normal.

The Dual Elliptic Curve was a cryptographically random number generator found in most computer programs. In December, Reuters reported that the NSA paid RSA (owned by EMC Corp) $10 million to make Dual Elliptic Curve common across security programs. Additionally, the system had a back-door that allowed the NSA to decrypt the code.

Sam Curry, Chief Technologist at RSA, did not comment to Reuters on if the government paid them to include Extended Random in their BSafe security kit.

The group of academic researches published their findings online at www.dualec.org.

via  Reuters

photo by: Paul Keller
Photo courtesy of jm3 on Flickr | http://www.flickr.com/photos/affiliate/

Turkey blocks YouTube, joins Twitter as blocked sites

Turkish telecom regulator TIB has blocked YouTube after unverified audio of Turkish officials discussing military operations in Syria was uploaded to the popular video site.

Prime Minister Erdogan implicitly confirmed that the leaked audio was true at a campaign rally. ”They even leaked a national security meeting… This is villainous, this is dishonesty… Who are you serving by doing audio surveillance of such an important meeting?” said Erdogan.

Some users in Turkey are still able to access the site, however Google has confirmed that some users have been blocked.  The hashtag #youtubeblockedinturkey has trended throughout the day on Twitter, which was also blocked last week.  A court in Turkey demanded the TIB to lift the ban on Twitter but a decision won’t be decided for several weeks.

via BBC

Photo by jm3 on Flickr

Photo courtesy of John Karakatsanis on Flickr | http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnkarakatsanis/

NSA created back-doors into Chinese telecom giant’s servers

Over the past decade, the US government has viewed Chinese telecom giant Huawei as a potential security threat to the country, fearing that the company has close affiliations with the Chinese government.

NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden show that the NSA created back-doors into Huawei servers and devices in order to discover if there existed ties between Huawei and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The operation fell under the codename “Shotgiant” which started in 2007. Hacking into Huawei had the additional opportunity to gather intel other targets such as Iran,  Afghanistan, and Pakistan – countries to whom Huawei distributed their technology.

The US government has been proactive in preventing Huawei from entering the US market. In 2008, they blocked Huawei from purchasing 3com and in 2012,  the House Intelligence Committee released a report which recommended that “The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) must block acquisitions, takeovers, or mergers involving Huawei and ZTE given the threat to U.S. national security interests. Legislative proposals seeking to expand CFIUS to include purchasing agreements should receive thorough consideration by relevant Congressional committees.” [Page 45]

via The New York Times (paywall)

Photo by John Karakatsanis on Flickr 

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