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Nerval's Lobster writes "Wolfram Alpha has upgraded its Personal Analytics for Facebook module, giving users the ability to dissect their own social-networking data in new ways. Wolfram Alpha's creators first launched its Facebook data-mining module in August 2012. Users could leverage the platform's computational abilities to analyze and visualize their weekly distribution of Facebook posts, types of posts (photos, links, status updates), weekly app activity, frequency of particular words in posts, and more. This latest update isn't radical, but it does offer some interesting new features, including added color coding for 'interesting' friend properties, including relationship status, age, sex, and so on; users can also slice their network data by metrics such as location and age." Wolfram users could also use some of that new site-specific searching power to come up with some unsavory results.

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Rebecca Flaig of Goochland, Va., left, and Ryan Jung of Richmond hold their umbrellas aloft as part of the World AIDS Day event on Brown’s Island in Richmond, Va. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. A sea of red umbrellas, in the form of a giant red ribbon, were displayed. A man holds a poster featuring [...]

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On Oct. 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland. Oct. 28, 2011 marks the 125th anniversary of the dedication. Take a look back at the history of the statue and all “the lady” has seen in her 125 years.

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People observe a moment of silence during ceremonies at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb.

A P-51 Mustang airplane crashes into the edge of the grandstands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nevada. The World War II-era fighter plane flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward plunged Friday into the edge of the grandstands during the popular air race creating a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris.

 September 19, 2011

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People observe a moment of silence during ceremonies at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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The Tribute in Light rises over the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in New York. A day earlier the city held a memorial at Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the United States. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) #

 September 19, 2011

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In this Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 image taken from video, a group of people tilt a burning BMW up to free Brandon Wright, on his back on the ground, who was pinned underneath after he collided with the car while riding his motorcycle on U.S. 89 in Logan, Utah. Authorities said Wright was riding his motorcycle near the Utah State University campus in Logan when the 21-year-old collided with the BMW that was pulling out of a parking lot. Tire and skid marks on the highway indicate that Wright laid the bike down and slid along the road before colliding with the car, Assistant Police Chief Jeff Curtis said. (AP Photo/Chris Garff) #

 September 19, 2011

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A visitor poses in front of a beluga swimming inside an aquarium at the Laohutan Ocean Park in Dalian, in northeast China's Liaoning province, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) #

 September 19, 2011

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A woman at the National September 11 Memorial, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, mourns the loss of her son who died during during attacks at the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Carolyn Cole, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza in the attacks at the World Trade Center, pauses at his son's name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial before the 10th anniversary ceremony at the site, Sunday Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Justin Lane, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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A man walks among nearly 3,000 flags set up as part of a remembrance on 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) #

 September 19, 2011

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A rose is placed on an inscribed name along the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site, September 11, 2011 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and one crash landed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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The Tribute in Light shines above Lower Manhattan, marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center site, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) #

 September 19, 2011

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In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 photo, a P-51 Mustang airplane approaches the ground right before crashing during an air show in Reno, Nev. The vintage World War II-era fighter plane piloted by Jimmy Leeward plunged into the grandstands during the popular annual air show. (AP Photo/Garret Woodman) #

 September 19, 2011

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A P-51 Mustang airplane crashes into the edge of the grandstands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nevada. The World War II-era fighter plane flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward plunged Friday into the edge of the grandstands during the popular air race creating a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris. (AP Photo/Ward Howes) #

 September 19, 2011

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A single engine T-28 from the six-plane Trojan Horsemen Demonstration Flight Team crashes and explodes during a performance at the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va. (AP Photo/Journal Newspaper, Ron Agnir) #

 September 19, 2011

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A firefighter places an American flag on a memorial display while preparing for 9/11 ceremonies at FDNY Ladder 20 Engine 13 on September 9, 2011 in New York City. Ladder 20 lost seven firefighters on September 11, 2001. New York City and the nation are preparing for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan, which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people at the World Trade Center(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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Las Vegas firefighter Capt. Eric Littmann walks in a parade commemorating the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in Las Vegas. ( AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

 September 19, 2011

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A general view shows a crowded beer tent during the opening day of the Oktoberfest 2011 beer festival at Theresienwiese on September 17, 2011 in Munich, Germany. The world's biggest beer festival starts September 17 and runs until October 3, 2011. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, watches as referee Joe Cortez gives Victor Ortiz Floyd a ten count after he was knocked down by Mayweather during their WBC welterweight title fight Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

 September 19, 2011

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The street circuit of the Formula One night race is illuminated during a light testing seen from Swissotel The Stamford at dusk on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 in Singapore which will be the host city for the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix from Sept. 23-25. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) #

 September 19, 2011

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Palestinian children gather near the beach in Deir Al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) #

 September 19, 2011

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2nd Lt. Andrew Ferrara, 23, of Torrance, Calif., with the U.S. Army's Bravo Company of the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment, based in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, turns from the rotor wash of a landing Blackhawk helicopter during a mission for a key leader engagement at the Shigal district center Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/David Goldman) #

 September 19, 2011

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Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard, arrives at Raleigh Durham International Airport in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, where President Obama will speak about the American Jobs Act. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #

 September 19, 2011

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Firefighters try to put out a wildfire at a national reserve in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 9, 2011. Drought, high temperatures and low humidity have caused wildfires at several places around Brasilia, according to officials. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) #

 September 19, 2011

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Joseph Mwangi, 34, sits in a state of shock after discovering the charred remains of two of his children, one aged 6 the other of unknown age, at the scene of a fuel explosion in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. A leaking gasoline pipeline in Kenya's capital exploded on Monday, turning part of a slum into an inferno in which scores of people were killed and more than 100 hurt. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) #

 September 19, 2011

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Survivors use flotsam Saturday, Sept 10, 2011, after an overcrowded ship sank in deep sea between mainland Tanzania and Pemba Island at about 1 a.m. Saturday with about 600 people onboard. The numbers involved are unclear as the ferry, M.V. Spice Islanders, is thought to have been heavily overloaded and some potential passengers refused to board when it was leaving the mainland port of Dar es Salaam, said survivor Abdullah Saied. About 230 people have been rescued and 40 bodies recovered but about 370 people are still reported missing, said Mohamed Aboud, minister for the Vice President's Office. (AP Photo/Capt Neil van Ejik Whirlwind Aviation) #

 September 19, 2011

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A German soldier lifts weights at his combat outpost in Char Darah, outisde Kunduz, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #

 September 19, 2011

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A man sets himself on fire outside a branch of Piraeus bank in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Friday Sept. 16, 2011. It was a third attempted self-immolation by the former small business owner, who says he was ruined after taking a series of bank loans. The 56-year-old was hospitalized with non life-threatening chest burns. (AP Photo/Nontas Stlianidis) #

 September 19, 2011

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A girl runs across a flooded road as water recedes in Puri district, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneshwar, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Aerial food drops were suspended after five days Friday as flood waters began to recede in the Mahanadi delta in Orissa state. At least 26 people died and 12 others went missing during the devastating floods which affected people in 19 districts of the state, official sources said. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout) #

 September 19, 2011

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Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule lands with Expedition 28 Commander Andrei Borisenko, and Flight Engineers Ron Garan, and Alexander Samokutyayev in a remote area outside of the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyaev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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NASA Astronaut Ron Garan, left, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyayev, center, and Andrei Borisenko, right, are seen inside Russian Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule after its landing about 150 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyayev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. (AP Photo/Sergei Remezov, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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Nepalese women remove bricks of the damaged house to make way for pedestrians after an earthquake of magnitude 6.9 shook northeastern India on Sunday night, in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. Rescue workers used shovels and their bare hands to pull bodies from the debris of collapsed buildings Monday, as the death toll from an earthquake that hit northeast India, Nepal and Tibet rises. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) #

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autopen.jpg

As noted here on Boing Boing yesterday, the US has renewed three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that were to have expired last night at midnight, granting four more years of overly broad surveillance of Americans. After the Senate and House rushed the extension with only a few lawmakers drawing attention to civil liberties concerns, the bill went before President Obama, to be signed into law.

What makes this news even more depressing? The president, who is on tour in Europe, didn't even sign it in person. According to a White House spokesperson, Obama used a device called an autopen, which mechanically reproduces a human signature.

This was an act so important that it must be signed into law at once to protect us from what Harry Reid suggested could be immediate terrorist acts, but not so important that the president might be inconvenienced during a foreign trip to return to Washington, D.C.

A Reuters item is here. Gawker has a timeline of Great Moments in Autopen History here, and links to this video (animated gif, Flash-ified?) of an autopen device in action. Over at the New York Times, Michael Shear notes that it's unclear whether president Bush ever used an autopen to sign a bill into law.

ABC News examines the constitutionality of using an autopen here, but that isn't enough to comfort conservative Georgia Republican congressman Tom Graves, who sent an email to reporters today:

I thought it was a joke at first, but the President did, in fact, authorize an autopen to sign the Patriot Act extension into law. Consider the dangerous precedent this sets. Any number of circumstances could arise in the future where the public could question whether or not the president authorized the use of an autopen. For example, if the president is hospitalized and not fully alert, can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing? I am very concerned about what this means for future presidential orders, whether they be signing bills into law, military orders, or executive orders.

I don't know that I agree with Graves' fears (a wink! a squeeze!). But something just seems wrong about automating the process of signing this particular bill into law, given its far-reaching implications for the privacy and liberty of all Americans, and all the secrecy this law entails.

Maybe I'm having a Bill Keller moment: maybe the technology doesn't matter, and the analog ceremony of a human hand and a pen and a piece of paper is just familiar theater. But in this case, could the president have been any more detached?

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Barely a year after a similar eruption in Iceland forced the biggest closure of European airspace since World War II, the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano, under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland on May 21, 2011 has caused hundreds of travel delays. The ash cloud forced U.S. President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland and has raised some fears of a repeat of last year's huge travel disruptions across Europe when emissions from Eyjafjalljokull stranded millions of passengers. Although this disruption is said to be stronger than that of Eyiafjalljokull, it is not expected to have the same impact. Take a look back at two Big Picture posts from the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption: Iceland's disruptive volcano and More from Eyiafjallajokull. -- Paula Nelson (24 photos total)
A plane flies past a smoke plume resulting from the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano, under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, May 21, 2011. Airlines began canceling flights to Britain because of the ash cloud from the volcano reaching its airspace, although experts expected no repeat of travel chaos from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull a year ago. (Olafur Sigurjonsson/Reuters)

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