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Contribution Explorer simplifies, visualizes political contributions

(Tech News) Contribution Explorer aggregates data from OpenSecret giving you an easily accessible overview of contribution information regarding your candidates.

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OpenSecret visualized, easier to understand

When election time rolls around, many people take to the Internet to find information about the candidates. Once a candidate is elected it can become increasingly difficult to find out who is contributing to their campaigns and influencing their decisions. One solution has recently emerged called OpenSecret.

OpenSecret uncovers where a candidate’s funds are coming from and how much they have received. While this is much faster than searching through public information for each contributor, OpenSecret displays quite a bit of information. To get a more concise overview of the same information, Contribution Explorer is the answer.

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Contribution Explorer aggregates the information from OpenSecret and organizes it into digestible data. Total contributions are shown on a circle graph and when you hover on each section, you can easily see who has contributed the biggest slices of the graph, including which industry made the contribution. You can also see the grand total of contributions made, as well as, which months the greatest number of contributions were received. Having this information readily available makes keeping track of where your representatives interests lie a breeze.

Why you definitely need to know about this tool

This can be particularly useful for anyone belonging to an association that supports politicians, because you can see exactly where your company’s money is going and how much. You can also compare the number of contributions made from private citizens versus PACs (Political Action Committee)

The Contribution Explorer was set up to be the  initial step in a larger project called Congressional Forecast, which will be a suite of tools to investigate the influence of corporate money in Washington. It is inspired by the organizations OpenSecrets, Maplight, and the Sunlight Foundation, all of which will aim to debunk the nuts and bolts of our political system. As the project progresses, they hope to investigate hearings and other activities, track donation dates so you can view them across a timeline, and get an overview of which industries are contributing the most to political campaigns.

Congressional Forecast would also like to aggregate social data and voting histories somewhere along the line, so they can track relationships to money. All of these tools will service to give the general a public of how and where their representatives are receiving and spending their funds. It should also enable votes to make more informed choices, given you can view their entire contribution history.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Tech News

Russia vetoed cryptocurrency and came back with CryptoRuble

(TECH NEWS) Russia put a hard pass on other cryptocurrencies in their country so that they could hop in the crypto-game with their own CryptoRuble.

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Just days after The American Genius reported that the Russian Central Bank would attempt to block access to cryptocurrency trading cites, the Coin Telegraph has reported that the Russian government will issue its very own cryptocurrency, the CryptoRuble.

The report cited local Russian papers, who quoted the minister of communications, Nikolay Nikiforov.

Earlier this week, head of the Central Bank, Sergei Shvetsov, said that he would work with the Prosecutor General’s Office to ban Russian citizens from accessing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, calling such currencies a “negative phenomena for our markets” and a “pyramid scheme.”

Now it appears that the Kremlin will create its own cryptocurrency – one it can keep an eye on — which, some might argue, defeats the entire purpose of cryptocurrency.

However, like other cryptocurrencies the CryptoRuble will be based on blockchain and will presumably help prevent online fraud.

CryptoRubles will be exchangeable with regular Rubles, although the systems of exchange have not yet been set up. Experts think that Russia is hoping to stimulate e-commerce without the need for foreign money markets, which will allow them to have more independence from the United States.

According to Nikiforov, the Russian government is setting up its own cryptocurrency under the assumption that if they don’t, other European governments will.

Said NIkiforov, “I confidently declare that we run CryptoRuble for one simple reason: if we do not, then after two months our neighbors in the EurAsEC will.”

Traders using CryptoRubles will be asked to provide documentation of retail transactions and services rendered – or pay a 13 percent tax for undocumented transactions, leaving a wide loophole for money laundering.

Critics say that Russia is trying to facilitate, while also profiting from money laundering; that the Kremlin is stealing the market from other cryptocurrencies; and that the CryptoRuble fundamentally defies the spirit of decentralization that inspired other cryptocurrencies.

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Tech News

Microsoft’s overseas email storage piqued the Supreme Court’s interest

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft has been in a pretty large dispute about storing user emails abroad and the Supreme Court has taken an interest in it.

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case that will decide whether or not U.S. law enforcement officials can force tech companies to turn over emails and data stored in overseas servers.

The case will review a lower court decision made in 2013 after federal officials attempted to obtain emails from Microsoft that would provide evidence for drug trafficking cases.

At that time, Microsoft refused to comply with the government, even though they had a warrant, instead taking the case to court, claiming that the U.S. government did not have the right to access data stored in servers in Ireland.

The court of appeals ruled in favor of Microsoft, citing a 1986 digital privacy law that allows law enforcement to obtain warrants for electronic communications, but not if the data is stored outside of the United States.

Judge Susan Carney said of the law, “Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the statue envision the application of its warrant provisions overseas.”

The Trump Administration and the Justice Department say that this ruling has majorly blocked efforts to prosecute criminals.

“Under this opinion, hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes — ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud — are being or will be hampered by the government’s inability to obtain electronic evidence,” said Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall.

Because Microsoft stores data and communications closest to the user’s location, Wall said that the lower court’s decision made it all too easy for terrorists and other criminals to hide their communications by claiming to live in a foreign country when signing up for an account.

Microsoft argues that, instead of handing this decision over to the Supreme Court, legislators should update the 1986 law.

“The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud.” wrote Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith in a blog.

“We believe that rather than arguing over an old law in court, it is time for Congress to act by passing new legislation.”

In Congress, Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) are pushing for just such an update with a piece of legislation called the Stored Communications Act.

Microsoft further argued that allowing U.S. law enforcement to obtain data from other countries was an “incursion” on those nations’ sovereignty, which would make U.S. citizens more vulnerable to foreign governments.

“If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” said Smith.

The Justice Department says that, along with Microsoft, Google, Verizon, and Yahoo have all stopped complying with search warrants since the lower court’s decision.

The Supreme Court will hear the case early in 2018 and hope to have a decision by June.

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Tech News

iPhone X is driving prices up and customers away

(TECH NEWS) Apple’s new iPhone X has a pretty hefty price tag which is causing many long-time Apple fans to question their brand loyalty.

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Admit it – you were shocked when you heard that Apple was putting out a new phone that cost a thousand dollars or more.

So, it should really come as no surprise that customers – even committed Apple lovers – are having such bad sticker shock that they may continue using outdated devices, buy an older model of iPhone, or even try a different brand altogether rather than cough up that kind of cash.

Apple fans were stoked when they heard that the new iPhone X was coming out, especially because changes to the last few models have been sort of underwhelming. They hoped the new iPhone X would really be something special.

But when Apple revealed that the iPhone X with 64 GB of storage would cost $999, many balked. An iPhone X with 256 GB of storage will cost you even more at $1,149. This is the most expensive phone Apple has released to date.

Usually when a new iPhone is released, customers line up to get their hands on them and even form waiting lists as Apple furiously attempts to ship them quickly enough to keep up with the demand. This time, we’re not so sure that’s what’s going to happen.

Sure, price-conscious customers have never fallen under the iPhone spell in the first place. But Apple is banking on their most loyal fans to generate sales for the iPhone X. We won’t know for sure until the phone is released on November 3, and until Apple reports on its first and second quarter earnings.

But if fan forums are any indication, Apple might actually have a hard sell here.

A Reddit thread for hardcore Apple fans reveals that even diehards are hesitant to buy the iPhone X at its current price, and some are even outraged and dismayed that Apple would be so bold as to charge a thousand dollars.

Said one commentator, “I think the iPhone X will be a solid phone and I certainly wouldn’t mind having one, but to me the price is definitely overboard and Apple is starting to disappoint me a little with some of their changes (or overall lack thereof) to iOS.”

Some Apple fans are even switching to Samsung, or buying the recently released iPhone 8, which hasn’t particularly impressed anyone either.

Research by KeyBanc Capital shows that many customers are even “buying iPhone 7 in lieu of the new iPhone 8, given the lack of significant enhancements to the new phone.”

The iPhone 8, at $699, doesn’t seem to have enough new features to justify the price hike over the iPhone 7, which is $549.

The message from customers is loud and clear: Apple needs to put out something truly impressive, with some exciting new updates, if it expects its customers to pay hundreds of dollars more for the latest upgrade.

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