Author Archive: mrdsk

How a War-Weary Vet Created ‘The Twilight Zone’

Rich Goldstein writes for The Daily Beast:

‘A strange mix of dramatic styles, one part satiric morality play, one part science-fiction ghost story, The Twilight Zone challenged the sensibilities of both hardened skeptics and true believers. It was never a huge hit, but its stories resonated with an American public tenuously relearning moral ambiguity.

Creator Rod Serling was compelled by the need “not to just entertain but to enlighten.” He wrote 93 of the series’ 156 episodes over the course of its five-season run, which began on CBS in 1959. Most modern shows take an average of 7 seasons to produce as many episodes.

Serling, a veteran of World War II, used the show, and his writing, to deal with the untreated psychological trauma he suffered during his enlistment in the U.S. military. Rather than the glamorized affair the war was to become in subsequent retellings, Serling was intimately acquainted with the horrors of America’s attempt to reclaim its Pacific colonies.’

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Ag-tech: High-tech farming poised to change the way the world eats

Heather Somerville reports for the Contra Costa Times:

‘Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world’s newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming — the world’s oldest industry — with an audacious and ambitious agenda: to make sure there is enough food for the 10 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2100, do it without destroying the planet and make a pretty penny along the way.

Silicon Valley is pushing its way into every stage of the food-growing process, from tech tycoons buying up farmland to startups selling robots that work the fields to hackathons dedicated to building the next farming app.

“The food sector is wasteful and inefficient,” said Ali Partovi, a Bay Area investor with large stakes in sustainable agriculture startups. “Silicon Valley has a hubris that says, ‘That’s stupid. Let’s change it.”‘

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Music publishers finally pull the trigger, sue an ISP over piracy

Joe Mullin reports for Arstechnica:

‘BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music have sued Cox Communications for copyright infringement, arguing that the Internet service provider doesn’t do enough to punish those who download music illegally.

Both BMG and Round Hill are clients of Rightscorp, a copyright enforcement agent whose business is based on threatening ISPs with a high-stakes lawsuit if they don’t forward settlement notices to users that Rightscorp believes are “repeat infringers” of copyright.

There’s little precedent for a lawsuit trying to hold an ISP responsible for users engaged in piracy. If a judge finds Cox liable for the actions of users on its network, it will have major implications for the company and the whole cable industry. It’s one thing to terminate an account on YouTube, but cable subscribers can pay well over $100 per month—and BMG and Round Hill claim that they’ve notified Cox about 200,000 repeat infringers on its network.

In their complaint (PDF), the music publishers describe the Cox network as an out-of-control den of piracy. “Today, BitTorrent systems are like the old P2P systems on steroids,” BMG lawyers write.’

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Black Friday’s Rabid Zombie Shopping Stampede

Abby Martin writes for Media Roots:

ShoppingCartsRNialBradshaw‘One of the most despicable examples of mindless materialism is the shopping tradition of Black Friday, a day where consumer zombies stampede through stores, killing strangers to buy discounted merchandise.

What’s particularly ironic about a date dedicated to encouraging society to buy shit we don’t need is that it comes on the heels of Thanksgiving, a day that’s supposed to represent gratitude for what we already have. Now, Black Friday has become a global capitalist holiday, infecting countries that don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving.

Despite the holiday buying bonanza, never forget that the true spirit of the season should be one of appreciation for your life and family. If only we took more time to reflect on everything we have instead of succumbing to material obsession over what we lack, the world would be much better off.’

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How The Music Industry Uses Big Data To Create The Next Big Hit

Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai: The oil-rich billionaires who want to run the world of sport

Ben Smith writes for BBC Sport:

Map‘Where once, sport looked west for investment and inspiration, now it looks east.

The oil-rich billionaires of the Gulf have planted a flag at the heart of the sporting landscape in recent years. They have invested their inconceivable wealth across an array of sports into all corners of the world and now they are using their influence to bring sport to the region, as a global statement of their ambition.

Three Gulf states are at the heart of this extraordinary revolution: Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai alone, you will find one billionaire in every 200,000 people.

In Abu Dhabi, a rival state in the United Arab Emirates, the figures are just as extraordinary. It is in the process of building the jaw-dropping Louvre Abu Dhabi,  having paid the world-famous Paris museum more than £400m just to use the name. While in Qatar, more than 14% of households have at least £1m of private wealth in the bank.

And it is that wealth, that influence, which has lured sport to the Gulf.’

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TSA Agent Confession: Dear America, I Saw You Naked

Jason Edward Harrington writes for Politico:

‘On Jan. 4, 2010, when my boss saw my letter to the editor in the New York Times, we had a little chat.

It was rare for the federal security director at Chicago O’Hare to sit down with her floor-level Transportation Security Administration officers—it usually presaged a termination—and so I was nervous as I settled in across the desk from her. She was a woman in her forties with sharp blue eyes that seemed to size you up for placement in a spreadsheet. She held up a copy of the newspaper, open to the letters page. My contribution, under the headline “To Stop a Terrorist: No Lack of Ideas,” was circled in blue pen.

One week earlier, on Christmas Day 2009, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had tried to detonate 80 grams of a highly explosive powder while on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He had smuggled the bomb aboard the plane in a pouch sewn into his underwear. It was a masterpiece of post-9/11 tragicomedy: Passengers tackled and restrained Abdulmutallab for the remainder of the flight, and he succeeded in burning nothing besides his own genitals.

The TSA saw the near-miss as proof that aviation security could not be ensured without the installation of full-body scanners in every U.S. airport. But the agency’s many critics called its decision just another knee-jerk response to an attempted terrorist attack. I agreed, and wrote to the Times saying as much. My boss wasn’t happy about it.’

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The President Who Ate Turkey

Steve A. Cook writes for Politico:

‘Without fail every year, starting around November 10, my #Turkey Twitter feed is jammed with not just the latest news from Ankara and Istanbul, but also Auntie Jean’s turkey recipe and suggestions about how to deep fry the bird without blowing up your house. And every year, on behalf of Turks and Turkey scholars the world over, I plaintively ask the tweeting masses to change #Turkey to #Turkiye, the actual Turkish name for the country that borders Greece, Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq and Syria—alas, with no success.

This year, however, basting and brining be damned, I am not going to make my annual plea. In an odd sort of way, #Turkey and #Turkiye have come together for me. That’s because after a mere 90 days as president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become the man who has eaten Turkey—the country. He is president and de facto prime minister, making him Turkey’s first “Primesident”—sort of like the political version of Turducken. Yet Erdogan’s powers run even further and deeper. He is also, effectively, the country’s foreign minister and chief judge, a prosecutor and big city mayor, university rector and father figure. There is nothing that better represents how Erdogan has gorged on Turkey than the president’s own newly unveiled Ak Saray, or White Palace, with its $350-$650 million price tag, 1,000 rooms and more than 2 million square feet.’

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Thought FIFA Was Corrupt? Meet Equatorial Guinea

Siobhan O’Grady writes for Foreign Policy:

‘[…] Equatorial Guinea has more pressing issues it should focus on [than hosting the African Nations Cup after Morocco pulled out due to fears over Ebola]. Like that the United Nations says less than half the population has access to clean drinking water and at least ten percent of children die before the age of five. Not to mention that corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks it in the top ten percent of most corrupt countries in the world, at 163 out of 177. President Teodoro Obiang has held power for 35 years since replacing his uncle, who was also notoriously corrupt, after a coup.

But the family history of dishonesty doesn’t stop there.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the world’s most oil-rich countries, but Obiang refuses to tell anyone how much revenue the industry generates. That’s probably because Obiang would very much like to hide just how much of that money he is personally pocketing. His youngest son, Gabriel, runs the Oil Ministry and the first lady’s brother is the head of the state oil company.’

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Have I Got News For You on FIFA’s corruption

It isn’t Facebook that feeds terror, it’s war and tyranny

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

‘It takes some mastery of spin to turn the litany of intelligence failures over last year’s butchery of the off-duty soldier Lee Rigby into a campaign against Facebook. But that’s exactly how David Cameron’s government and a pliant media have disposed of the report by Westminster’s committee of intelligence trusties.

You might have expected Whitehall’s security machine to be in the frame for its spectacular incompetence in spying on the two killers: from filling out surveillance applications wrongly and losing one suspect’s house number, to closing down the surveillance of another – just as the pair were preparing the Woolwich attack.

Centre stage might have been the admission that British intelligence could have been “complicit” in Michael Adebolajo’s torture in Kenya, and tried to cover that up. There is evidence that MI5’s attempts to recruit the Muslim convert on his return to Britain played a part in triggering the killing – though the trusties thought better than to inquire too closely into the matter.

Instead it was the US internet giant, Britain’s prime minister insisted, that was really to blame. Facebook had “blood on their hands”, the Sun declared, as the Daily Mail denounced the Mark Zuckerberg corporation’s “twisted libertarian ideology”.’

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Why Google May Be More ‘Evil’ than the NSA: Interview with Taylor Lincoln of Public Citizen

Abby Martin speaks with Taylor Lincoln, Director of Research at Public Citizen’s Congressional Watch Division about a new report detailing how Google is invading users privacies and becoming the most powerful and influential political force in Washington.’ (Breaking the Set)

The looters the media tells you about and the ones it doesn’t

Theresa May and her worrying enthusiasm for so-called ‘not-spots’

Comedian David Mitchell wrote for The Guardian earlier this month:

Theresa May‘[…] Like Theresa May, many totalitarian governments have noticed how tricky it is to monitor millions. It’s even harder than keeping count of a flock of sheep, because not only do humans move around even more than livestock, some of them actively don’t want to be counted. Only terrorists and criminals, of course – Ms May is clearly convinced of that. So much so that she believes the undoubted convenience to customers of being able to use more than one phone network – this clear and beneficial correction to the market – should be sacrificed because it would play havoc with spies’ admin. It would make it harder to snoop on everyone.

But there are so many other things people do that make surveillance harder. We move house whenever we want, we travel wherever we like – at the drop of a hat, without telling anyone. What honest person needs to do that? Why not register our movements – submit them to a brief and streamlined vetting process – just to help the security services keep us safe? What’s the harm? Why the need for secrecy? Other than the security services’ secrecy of course – which is vital to national security and in all of our best interests. Why would anyone want to whisper unless they’d got something to hide? So let’s speak up loud and clear into our trustworthy guardians’ microphones.’

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Theresa May is gradually building a surveillance state in bite-sized chunks

Mike Harris, Campaign Director of Don’t Spy On Us, writes for The Independent:

‘[…] Keeping track of suspected terrorists will keep us safe. Mass surveillance of the entire British population simply won’t. In a telling passage in the report, the ISC admits to the existence of theTEMPORA programme – the tapping of undersea cables off the coast of Cornwall to harvest the communications data of every UK internet user. As you can see in film Citizenfour, Snowden originally revealed this as the world’s first “full take” of the internet in 2013. As the ISC admits, even capturing the internet didn’t work as Adebolajo wasn’t on a target list at this point. You have to wonder how much the useless TEMPORA project is costing us.

Backing the endless expansion of the surveillance state is Theresa May. May is right to take the threat from radicalised jihadists seriously. She is wrong to think that placing ordinary citizens under surveillance is the answer. Parliament rejected the draft communications data bill saying mass population surveillance is expensive and unnecessary. May isn’t listening.’

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Theresa May to publish new anti-terror powers

BBC News reports:

An armed Metropolitan police officer outside the Houses of Parliament‘New measures to tackle terrorism are to be unveiled by the home secretary, days after she said the UK faces a “greater” terror threat than ever before.

Theresa May is to publish a new counter-terrorism bill, which includes a requirement for schools, universities and councils to counter radicalisation.

But plans to stop some UK fighters returning have been questioned by the independent reviewer of terror laws.

Campaigners have also warned the bill threatens civil liberties.

It comes as a week-long counter-terrorism awareness campaign enters its third day.’

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Mining the Moon

More related videos from Explaining the Future:

Possible alternative to antibiotics developed – but skeptics remain

Sonya Angelica Diehn reports for DW:

Woman examining a pill‘A study published in the journal “Nature Biotechnology” unveils an engineered substance, which its makers hope will present an alternative to antibiotics in the fight against bacterial infection.

Resistance to antibiotics is a serious, growing worldwide problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) in a 2014 report warned that “antibiotic resistance is no longer a prediction for the future; it is happening right now, across the world.”

Although any new substance would have to undergo a lengthy process before it can be used as medicine, the Geneva-based biomedical startup Lascco has already announced clinical trials for next year. Some doctors and scientists stress that the new substance will likely not be able to replace the use of antibiotics.’

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We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?

John W. Whitehead writes:

‘[…] Ferguson matters because it provides us with a foretaste of what is to come. It is the shot across the bow, so to speak, a warning that this is how we will all be treated if we do not tread cautiously in challenging the police state, and it won’t matter whether we’re black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. In the eyes of the corporate state, we are all the enemy.

This is the lesson of Ferguson.

Remember that in the wake of the shooting, Ferguson police officers clad in body armor, their faces covered with masks, equipped with assault rifles and snipers and riding armored vehicles, showed up in force to deal with protesters. Describing that show of force by police in Ferguson, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, stated, “This was a military force, and they were facing down an enemy.”

Yes, we are the enemy. As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, since those first towers fell on 9/11, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.’

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Ferguson: Riot Double-Standard, Smoke and Mirrors Grand Jury & Activists Demand Accountability

Ferguson Erupts After Grand Jury Clears Officer in Michael Brown Killing

‘A grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri has chosen not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager. The decision follows three months of deliberation by the jury of nine whites and three blacks, including four hours of testimony from Wilson himself. The grand jury decision set off outrage in Ferguson and communities across the country who see Brown’s killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police mistreatment of people of color. In a statement, the Brown family said: “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.” We hear from St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and go to the streets of Ferguson where Amy Goodman interviewed protesters last night.’ (Democracy Now!)

Protesters Save Restaurant From Looters

Small Businesses Left In Ruins By Ferguson Looters

Ferguson shooting: Protests spread across U.S.

BBC News reports:

Demonstrators march on November 26, 2014 in Los Angeles during demonstrations against a decision by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury to not indict a white police officer in the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown.‘A dozen US cities have seen new protests over the decision not to charge a white policeman who killed a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

Demonstrations from New York to Seattle were largely peaceful but rioting broke out in Oakland, California.

There was some unrest in Ferguson itself, with police making 44 arrests, but the town did not see destruction on the scale of Monday night.

The officer who killed Michael Brown there says he has a “clean conscience”.’

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You Didn’t Really Think Darren Wilson Would Be Indicted, Did You?

Ron Jacobs writes for CounterPunch:

‘Did you really believe Darren Wilson was going to be indicted for murdering Michael Brown? Did you think a cop was going to face a trial for gunning down a young man he thought should be arrested? Do you think the law treats all people equally-civilian and cop, rich and poor, black and white? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have been watching too much television. From the crime drama Law and Order to FoxNews and CNN the viewer is fed a constant storyline that portrays cops as heroes in a system that is ultimately fair, despite the fact that that fairness sometimes lets bad guys go.

If one listened carefully to the prosecutor McCulloch during his presentation to the media announcing the failure to indict Wilson, he seemed to be saying that there was never much likelihood that an indictment would be produced. Police officers, he said, are given much more leeway than civilians when it comes to shooting people. Recent history certainly proves this. It seems that all a cop has to do is “fear for his safety” and he can fire at will. Like James Bond in the 007 series, a police badge is a license to kill. If one adds the elements of race—an element that is part and parcel of the US system of justice and law enforcement—even greater leeway is provided to the police. Like the Supreme Court wrote over a century ago, African-Americans have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”’

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A Complete Guide to the Shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson

Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept put together an excellent guide to the Michael Brown shooting days prior to the grand jury decision:

[…] Michael Brown’s killing, the culmination of an incident that the St. Louis Post Dispatch would later report lasted no more than 90 seconds, devastated a family with high hopes for their college-bound son and sparked some of the most significant civil rights demonstrations in a generation — casting a harsh light on the disproportionate number of black men killed by police, on St. Louis County’s exploitative and racially discriminatory municipal court system, and on the militarization of law enforcement.

In the months since Brown was killed, numerous eyewitnesses have come forward to describe what they saw during the teen’s final moments, while controversial disclosures to the press have served to describe Wilson’s version of the events that day.

This is everything we know about the shooting.’

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Ferguson Goes Under No-Fly Zone, Hampering Aerial News Coverage Of Protests

Think Progress reports:

Ferguson no fly zone‘The Federal Aviation Administration issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri on Monday night, after a Grand Jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown.

The reason listed for a no-fly zone is “TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES.” It extends up to 3,000 feet, effectively banning news helicopters in the area, as well as commercial flights.

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Obama’s new leader at the Pentagon will mean more war – not less

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

obama middle east illusration‘[…] While Hagel’s departure has already been framed around the Obama administration needing a “change” after the midterm elections, or as a scapegoat for the administration’s response to the Islamic State (Isis), but that just raises more questions than answers: Why does the Obama administration think removing the only Republican from its cabinet will satisfy an electorate that just voted in more Republicans? And how is firing Chuck Hagel supposed to be a magic wand for a faltering campaign to destroy Isis?

Taken with the Afghanistan news, as Marcy Wheeler points out, it’s clear that Obama’s White House wants to slot in someone who’s a lot more gung-ho about war. Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who was long skeptical of the Iraq conflict, entered office “to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration,” as the Times’s Helene Cooper described.

But “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” an unnamed official told the Times, apparently unwilling to articulate the obvious: Obama wants the primary focus of his (and perhaps Hillary Clinton’s) next defense secretary to be ramping up troops and once again expanding the Pentagon’s almost limitless budget.’

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Putin says he won’t be Russia’s president for life

Lynn Berry reports for AP:

‘Vladimir Putin has said he won’t remain Russia’s president for life and will step down in line with the constitution no later than 2024, according to an interview with a Russian news agency released Sunday.

Staying in office beyond that would be “detrimental for the country and I don’t need this,” he told the Tass news agency.

Putin, 62, has effectively led Russia since he was first elected in 2000. He stepped aside after two four-year terms to abide by constitutional term limits, but retained power as prime minister and was elected president again in 2012 to a six-year term.

Putin said his decision on whether to run for a fourth term in 2018 will depend on the situation in the country and his “own mood.”‘

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Some pro-Putin rap from African immigrants living in Russia