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Kelby Carr via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Kelby Carr via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A New Facebook Feature Can Connect You With Your Representatives

Kelby Carr via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Kelby Carr via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Facebook has unveiled a new feature called Town Hall that lets users find and engage with local elected officials.

The feature is just the latest in a series of bids by Facebook to boost civic engagement. Founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined his concerns for the world and his hopes for the future in a lengthy open letter published in February. "We may not have the power to create the world we want immediately," he wrote, "but we can all start working on the long term today. In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us."

Town Hall, which users can access by clicking the More menu on the homepage, seems to be a direct response to Zuckerberg's call for increased engagement with the civic process: "Only through dramatically greater engagement can we ensure these political processes reflect our values," he wrote in his open letter. The feature uses location data to deliver a list of contact information for local representatives and, for some officials, the option to reach out directly through Facebook.

Experts say Facebook’s election-day reminders and virtual "I Voted" stickers have driven hundreds of thousands of voters to the polls. If Town Hall can have a similar effect on civic engagement, representatives will be able to better serve the will of their constituents.

[h/t Tech Crunch]

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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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