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In the “Why are we not surprised?” department, Surfin’ Safari has learned that the government watchdog group Judicial Watch can prove the Obama administration used our taxpayer dollars to orchestrate a campaign to manipulate search engines to promote Obamacare.

Under a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit, Judicial Watch learned through Department of Health and Human Services documents that the Obama White House “helped coordinate a multimillion dollar taxpayer-funded campaign to use Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo to drive web traffic to a government website promoting the Affordable Health Care Act (also known as Obamacare).”

According to Judicial Watch, the campaign, which included PR firm The Ogilvy Group, was designed “to increase public support for the president’s health-care overhaul among key Obama campaign demographics, specifically Hispanics, blacks and women.”

“The 2,328 pages of records, obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a March 23, 2011, FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 11-608)), include internal correspondence between officials at the HHS office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, as well as communications with representatives from The Ogilvy Group, the public relations firm hired by the Obama administration to manage the Obamacare campaign,” Judicial Watch reports.

Follow this link to read how Obama and company did it.

Washington, D.C. – gambling capital?

The District of Columbia, home to our nation’s capital, wants to be an Internet gambling hub so D.C. residents can play online poker, blackjack and other casino games. It’s a growing trend by states and municipalities looking for an easy way out of financial woes without cutting the fat from bloated budgets.

Desperate for cash, D.C.’s elected officials are looking to online gaming to shore up their coffers. They’re gambling on a sure bet they can scoop up $9 million in earnings now being spent by residents betting in brick and mortar casinos in adjacent states.

The New York Times reports that Buddy Roogow, executive director of the D.C. Lottery said, “It’s an idea gaining currency around the country: virtual gambling as part of the antidote to local budget woes. The District of Columbia is the first to legalize it, while Iowa is studying it, and bills are pending in places like California and Massachusetts’.”

Are your local elected representatives looking to gambling to make up budget deficits? Then be sure to read this study in StandUp California about the deleterious effects of Internet gambling on your community before telling them what you think of the idea.

Four for two for Facebook

Two men have been jailed for inciting riots on Facebook. The pair used the social network to call for unrest in last week’s British riots that killed five people in a four-day civil frenzy of looting and arson that left many others injured.

A British law enforcement official said, “The sentences passed down today recognize how technology can be abused to incite criminal activity and send a strong message to potential troublemakers.”

A prosecutor said, “The pages created ‘significant panic and revulsion’ amongst local people. Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe independently and from the safety of their homes may have thought that it would be acceptable to set up a Facebook page to incite others to take part in disorders in Cheshire. They were wrong.”

Death by Facebook?

A Philadelphia man targeted for murder on Facebook by his former girlfriend and a hired killer was shot to death hours after a judge set bail for the pair. But the duo reportedly were still in custody when the shooting occurred.

The girlfriend allegedly offered a “stack,” street slang for $1,000 to have him killed. Publicly. On the “wall” on Facebook. On the Internet. Brilliant.

“Please accept my apology” – Facebook censors Ariz. guv’nah

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer says Facebook censored her comment criticizing Obama’s controversial policy decision to handle deportation of illegals on a case-by-case basis.

Brewer said she received an e-mail from Facebook telling her the post was removed because of an included illustration that apparently violated community standards, but didn’t specify how.

“I’d like to know why it happens,” she said.

In response to a query by the Associated Press, a Facebook spokesman e-mailed that the post was removed in error. So sorry.

Meanwhile, an anti-spam computer algorithm caused consternation among other Facebook users when the automated system blocked them from posting for 15 days on other activist Facebook pages.

The Associated Press reported that the same Facebook spokesman, staying busy making apologies, said, “Facebook is not – and has never been – in the business of disabling accounts or removing content simply because people are discussing controversial topics. On the contrary, we want Facebook to be a place where people can openly express their views and opinions, even if others don’t agree with them.”

Facebook is changing the automated blocking system.

Bonus! Read how the co-founder of Facebook helped launch Obama’s presidential campaign.

Conservative or liberal? Smart phone tells the story

Android users tend to be more conservative and are most likely male, age 18-34, math-inclined, never traveled outside of the country, first used the Internet after 2000 and use Yahoo mail.

Stats show iPhone users tend to be female, older than 35, liberal, slightly more optimistic, have strong verbal aptitude, have visited more than five countries, prefer a sleek device that does a few things, are Mac users, have been on the Internet since 1992 and have own their own e-mail domain.

Click here to learn what else was revealed by this unscientific study at Hunch.com.

Curious about how politically “progressive” or “conservative” you are? Take this quick test to find out.

Face recognition software

Did you know that Facebook’s massive database of profile photos can identify you when you’re walking down the street?

At the Black Hat computer security conference held recently at Carnegie Mellon University, Alessandro Acquisti said in a few years, “Facial visual searches may become as common as today’s text-based searches.”

Cnet reports that Carnegie Mellon researchers developed an iPhone app that can “take a photograph of someone, pipe it through facial recognition software, and then display on-screen that person’s name and vital statistics.

“Facial recognition technology, which has been developing in labs for decades, is finally going mainstream. Face.com opened its doors to developers last year; the technology is built into Apple’s Aperture software and Flickr. Google bought face-recognition technology in the last few weeks, and Facebook’s automated photo-tagging has drawn privacy scrutiny.

In the hands of law enforcement, however, face recognition can raise novel civil liberties concerns. If university researchers can assemble such an extensive database with just Facebook, police agencies or their contractors could do far more with DMV or passport photographs – something that the FBI has been doing for years.

Facebook rolls out Ticker

Tech Crunch has reported on several Facebook design changes, including updates to Facebook Chat and a revamped sidebar. The latest is Facebook’s new “mini” News Feed, a real-time feed on the right side of the page. In some cases, this feed is labeled “Ticker.” Ticker shows likes, comments, status updates, new photos and updates from pages you’re a fan of.

Facebook’s Statement: “We are currently testing a feature within News Feed that gives people the ability to see what their friends are commenting on and ‘liking,’ as these actions are being taken on Facebook. This test includes a small percentage of Facebook users, just a fraction of a percent. In the coming weeks, as we learn more from this test, we’ll keep making improvements and may expand it to more people.”

Texting 911

Imagine you are too ill or injured to talk but you need help. Soon you’ll be able to text 911. The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with plans to allow 911 texts, photos, video and other IP communication for emergency situations.

FCC Chairman Julius Genchowski said, “The unfortunate truth is that the capability of our emergency response communications has not kept pace with commercial innovation – has not kept pace with what ordinary people now do every day with communications devices. The shift to [Next Generation 911 (NG911)] can’t be about if, but about when and how.”

Photovine: Theme-based picture taking

OK, you take a picture of your favorite shoe store. You upload it via your iOS (iPhone or iPad) to Google’s new app Photovine. Someone else does the same, and pretty soon, there’s a string, or “vine,” of photos following the same theme: shoe stores. Photovine is a photo-sharing application for iOS that puts an emphasis on “photo-centric moments or ideas that connect you with other users.” It’s described as story telling with photos.

Here’s a video to help you see how to plant a photo and watch it grow!

The Time Capsule

1944 – Germans surrender, Paris liberated

1954 – Eisenhower signs Communist Control Act

1963 – King delivers “I have a dream” speech

1968 – Warsaw Pact clamps down on Czechoslovakia

1978 – Kenya’s founding father dead at 89

1979 – Lord Mountbatten killed by IRA bomb

Now playing at the Princess Theater in Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Dean Delaney of Lima, Oiho, and Wallace Newton of Lincoln, R.I., who correctly guessed actor Robert De Niro in his portrayal of Conrad “Connie” Brean in the 1997 film “Wag the Dog,” the story of a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer who created a fake war just prior to a presidential election in order to cover up an Oval Office sex scandal.

The screenplay was credited to Hilary Henkin and David Mamet and is based on the novel “American Hero” by Larry Beinhart.

However, the film differs greatly from the book. In the book, the president is specifically George H. W. Bush, while in the movie the president is unnamed; the fake war operation is explicitly Desert Storm, and the war actually occurs, instead of being entirely falsified.

Nominated twice for an Oscar, the film was directed by Barry Levinson and also starred Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Denis Leary and Willie Nelson.

The quote was: “We’re not gonna have a war, we’re gonna have the appearance of a war.”

This week’s quote: “His brain has not only been washed, as they say … It has been dry cleaned.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Please be sure to add your town and state. Good luck!

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