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Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

This App Helps You Read a More Diverse Range of Political News

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

As the political landscape becomes more polarized, our media landscape does, too. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that for the first time in 15 years, the majority of Americans in each political party express “very unfavorable” views of members of the opposing party. In 2014, Pew also found that people with different political affiliations have reading habits distinct from each other: Conservatives overwhelmingly watch Fox News for their political news; liberals tend to listen to NPR or watch MSNBC instead.

In an effort to help voters all across the political spectrum understand each other (and hopefully find common ground), a new iPhone app is making it easier to break out of your media silo and find more diverse perspectives in the news. Read Across the Aisle promises to shake up your media habits just a little by suggesting alternate sources, as Nieman Lab reports.

 

The app tracks what you’re reading from 20 curated news sources across the political spectrum, from the liberal Huffington Post to the conservative Fox News to more centrist publications like the Christian Science Monitor. Based on your regular reading habits, it will evaluate where your reading sources are on the ideological spectrum, on average, and suggest further reading that might help you balance out your media diet.

The app’s judgments on where a particular news source falls on the spectrum come from the aforementioned 2014 Pew study on political polarization and media consumption. Since Pew found Fox News, for instance, to be highly trusted by conservatives but not trusted by liberals, it goes in the conservative column. Read Across the Aisle also surveyed its Kickstarter backers and users to help identify where the different news sources should fall on the spectrum.

To make full use of the app, though, you have to read all your news within it, rather than using, say, The New York Times’s own app. And there are only 20 available sources to choose from, so your choices aren’t as diverse as they could be. You can read Reason magazine or The New Yorker, but you won’t find Breitbart News or Jacobin.

Still, given how much social media algorithms can trick us into thinking the whole world thinks like we do, apps like Read Across the Aisle can be a good way to ensure that you’re hearing arguments and perspectives from all sides.

It’s available for iOS, with a desktop browser extension in the works.

[h/t Nieman Lab]

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Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images
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politics
The Secret Procedure for the Queen's Death
Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images
Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images

The queen's private secretary will start an urgent phone tree. Parliament will call an emergency session. Commercial radio stations will watch special blue lights flash, then switch to pre-prepared playlists of somber music. As a new video from Half As Interesting relates, the British media and government have been preparing for decades for the death of Queen Elizabeth II—a procedure codenamed "London Bridge is Down."

There's plenty at stake when a British monarch dies. And as the Guardian explains, royal deaths haven't always gone smoothly. When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, the blue "obit lights" installed at commercial radio stations didn’t come on because someone failed to depress the button fully. That's why it's worth it to practice: As Half as Interesting notes, experts have already signed contracts agreeing to be interviewed upon the queen's death, and several stations have done run-throughs substituting "Mrs. Robinson" for the queen's name.

You can learn more about "London Bridge is Down" by watching the video below—or read the Guardian piece for even more detail, including the plans for her funeral and burial. ("There may be corgis," they note.)

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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