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The devastating earthquake that demolished the island nation of Haiti killing thousands under crushing rubble was instantly communicated to the world via the juggernaut social networking site Twitter.

The microblogger Twitter proved itself again to be more than a social network, functioning as a key communications tool during a disaster. With communications in Haiti practically non-existent, tech-savvy residents Twittered first-hand reports and photos, as others mobilized appeals for aid. Facebook and YouTube also played a huge role in communicating the devastation.

“With traditional telephone communications disrupted by the quake but some web connections still available, some of the first photos, video and eye-witness reports from Haiti came from users of Twitter,” Agence France-Presse reported. You may recall the role Twitter played in communicating in realtime the ditching of a US Airways jet into New York’s Hudson River one year ago last week.

“If brevity is the soul of wit … then Twitter is today’s Shakespeare,” commented radio hosts John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee of “The Takeaway” national morning news program. “Once again, Twitter proves invaluable in times of trouble. In the midst of the worst earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years, aide workers, journalists and others caught in the chaos offered the first glimpses into the event with “tweets” that said more than news anchors could say in an hour of recaps.”

Twitter also proved to be a boost for Red Cross relief efforts. USA Today reported that Nielsen ratings showed nearly 3 percent of all blog posts had something to do with the Haitian quake or relief efforts, with Twitter posts being the leading source. The Twitter account for the Red Cross gained more than 10,000 “followers” after the quake, compared to 50 to 100 per day in days prior. Last Friday, the Red Cross tweeted that more than $8 million was raised by people texting HAITI to 90999 and in so doing, charged $10 to their cell phone bills towards a donation.

Twitter CEO Evan Williams last Tuesday tweeted: “Across all metrics that matter, yesterday was Twitter’s highest-usage day ever. And today will be bigger.”

Top-trending topics have included the earthquake in Haiti, Conan O’Brien’s refusal to go along with NBC’s plans to push “The Tonight Show” past midnight and Google’s relations with China.

Other top tales from Twitterverse

Meanwhile, Twitterers were busily engaged on the political scene in Boston, where Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown has topped opponent Martha Coakley in online popularity in their race for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. According to published reports, Brown had 73,712 fans supporters on Facebook, gaining 10,000 in a three-day period, while Coakley had 14,023 fans. Brown had 9,963 Twitter followers; Coakley had 3,466.

Could having more social network followers predict with any certainty which candidate will win an election? Or does it simply demonstrate the candidate with the most momentum? You can be sure data will be collected and analyzed to determine if there’s a correlation. If so, expect social networking sites to be closely monitored in predicting the winner in future political races.

Twitter’s ecosystem is thriving for developers and users. Oneforty.com is an online destination for more than 100 useful and fun applications that can change the look of your Twitter homepage, measure stats and much more. Oneforty maintains a directory of 117 apps to date and has rolled out an e-commerce marketplace that, for end users like you and me, is like hitting an e-flea market – something for everyone!

I tried Oneforty’s Themeleon, and changed the look of my Twitter homepage several times, finally settling on this one. You like it?

You can also follow WorldNetDaily’s latest breaking stories at its Twitter site.

Facebook booms, too

According to the online research firm Hitwise, Facebook was the most visited site on Christmas Day, marking the first time the Google main page had been knocked out of the top spot all year. Facebook repeated the feat on New Year’s Day.

Ka-ching! Banks about to be robbed by the Internet

Now there’s another industry undergoing an Internet evolution because of online accessibility – finance – with names like Wonga, kaChing, Square, Blippy and Bling Nation. Think about this: How many industries have become obsolete with the advent of the Internet? If you guessed the traditional media, you’d be right. Think about online retail buying; music file sharing and iTunes; Internet movie providers like NetFlix – now you’re getting the idea. Newsprint, brick-and-mortar stores, CDs, DVDs, banking as we’ve known it, on the other hand … rapidly becoming things of the past.

“Ungrounding” an electronic teenage rebellion

OK, if this was my daughter, she’d be more than grounded. She’d be computer-less. And here’s why this too-clever-by-half teen earns that distinction.

Chinese take out?

If you’re using Google’s gmail, you’ll soon notice (if you haven’t already) that “https” will replace “http” in the url address. That’s because Google is converting its gmail feature to a secure encrypted version. The decision to make this the default setting is the result of China’s attempted hacking into some gmail accounts. Google said that human rights activists’ e-mail accounts were targeted.

Gmail wasn’t the only target attacked by hackers. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer also was one of the “vectors.” Google software engineers traced the hacking to a computer in Taiwan, which revealed evidence that hacking had also been done to some 33 other companies, including Northrop Grumman, Adobe Systems, Symantec and Juniper Networks. American intelligence and law enforcement officials were alerted and worked to gather evidence that led authorities to suspect the cyber-attack masterminds were members of the Chinese government.

Google’s decision to end its business operations in China shined a spotlight on reports of Chinese high-technology espionage that stretches back ten years or more. The Obama administration is grappling with how to respond to the Sino-cyber-attacks.

Warning! FCC, Obama focused on Internet access

And while the Obama administration looks east, here’s the question being addressed in a U.S. federal court: Is the Federal Communications Commission overstepping Constitutional boundaries when it comes to “safeguarding” the Internet?

Three federal judges seem to think so. Last week a federal appeals court questioned FCC’s authority in a 2008 case involving Comcast. Analysts say the FCC will lose the case, possibly throwing Obama’s efforts to oversee Internet access into question and undermining the legality of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s push for “net neutrality.”

Freedom of Internet accessibility for China and the United States, thank you.

The Land of Links-a-Lot

Haitian disaster – steering clear of online charity scams.

Google steps up in Haitian efforts.

Bing continues to grab market share.

Booking on the future: E-books technology improving. Here’s the story.

World hopeful as Doomsday clock reset. Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc.

Ride the rails online. Amtrak offering Wi-Fi to routes in the Northeast.

Reflections in the rear view mirror

Orwellian

George Orwell, author of the critically acclaimed book “1984,” died 60 years ago this week. His last novel, “1984,” was published in his last year, written between periods spent in a hospital. The book was viewed as an attack on communism. Orwell’s frustration with the Ministry of Information, which censored the news during World War II, became the central theme of “1984″. The book was also made into a film released in 1984. Some of the words from the book have become common parlance, for example: “Big Brother” to describe an oppressive system.

1965: Sir Winston Churchill – the end of an era

Forty-five years ago, Sir Winston Churchill died at the age of 90. Churchill had twice served as Britain’s prime minister and guided England through War War II. It was his indomitable energy and unflinching determination to beat the enemy, along with an ability to inspire the nation with great speeches, that helped to win the war.

1981 and 444 days

Twenty-nine years ago, with Ronald Reagan in charge at the White House, 52 American hostages held at the US embassy in Tehran were released after being held for more than 14 months. The U.S. agreed to unfreeze Iranian assets in return for the prisoners’ release, which was delayed until the day of Reagan’s inauguration in a final snub to President Jimmy Carter. The former diplomats and embassy staff stepped from a plane onto the tarmac at Wiesbaden airport looking tired but elated after their 4,000-mile flight from Iran.

Now Playing at The Princess Theater in Urbana, Ill.

Coming attraction! Greed is good, again? Gordon Gekko is back. He’s 20 years older, but is he wiser? He’s spent the last two decades in prison and now he returns to … settle old scores? Take on the bad guys? In “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps,” Michael Douglas reprises the character he so convincingly portrayed in the 1987 movie “Wall Street.” Director Oliver Stone returns to direct this new film, scheduled for release later this year.

Gekko had something to say about greed. And so did Milton Friedman.

Congratulations to WorldNetDaily readers Russell B. Dobbyn of Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Sutegi Mempiria, who both correctly identified last week’s movie, “Conspiracy Theory,” and Agent Lowery played by actor Cylk Cozart who said, “If the intelligence community is a family, think of us as the uncle no one talks about.”

In this week’s movie trivia, identify the movie, the character and the actor who said the following: “You tried to kill me. You’ve misplaced your loyalty, Senator; you’ve sold out America. Patriotism does not have a four-year shelf life, but unfortunately politicians do. … Thomas Jefferson once shot a man on the White House lawn for treason.”

Send your answer to me at the email address listed below.

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