Author Archive | majestic

Google Is Not What It Seems

OR Book Going RougeWikiLeaks has a lengthy excerpt from the new book by Julian Assange, When Google Met WikiLeaks (OR Books), in which he describes the special relationship between Google, Hillary Clinton and the State Department:

Eric Schmidt is an influential figure, even among the parade of powerful characters with whom I have had to cross paths since I founded WikiLeaks. In mid-May 2011 I was under house arrest in rural Norfolk, about three hours’ drive northeast of London. The crackdown against our work was in full swing and every wasted moment seemed like an eternity. It was hard to get my attention. But when my colleague Joseph Farrell told me the executive chairman of Google wanted to make an appointment with me, I was listening.

In some ways the higher echelons of Google seemed more distant and obscure to me than the halls of Washington. We had been locking horns with senior US officials for years by that point.

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In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis

Most disinfonauts will be aware of Operation Paperclip and the United States Government’s recruitment of prominent Nazi German scientists, but now it appears that the CIA was recruiting way more Nazis than previously suspected, revealed in the New York Times:

In the decades after World War II, the C.I.A. and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants and, as recently as the 1990s, concealed the government’s ties to some still living in America, newly disclosed records and interviews show.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the F.B.I. and Allen Dulles at the C.I.A. aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,” declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich.

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The Wheels are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS

IRS SignMichael Gregory was a US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee for 28 years. Now retired, he’s unleashed a scathing, no-holds-barred critique of the IRS, via his blog Managing Resolutions:

The IRS is falling apart. If the IRS falls apart the funding arm of the U.S. Government falls apart. If the U.S. Government falls apart what is next for the U.S.? As a former IRS insider Mike Gregory shares insights from more than 30 years working with IRS employees as well as with taxpayers and practitioners. This book describes how honest law-abiding taxpayers are now being seriously harmed while cyber-thieves steal from taxpayers and criminals promote illegal schemes that are not being prosecuted. Mike argues that unless this situation is reversed immediately, the trust of the American people could be permanently broken. This book is a candid tell-all and a call to action for the Congress to fully fund the IRS. It is based on IRS statistics, testimony and insight provided by current and recently retired IRS front line employees, front line managers, territory managers and executives.

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From Gary Webb to James Risen: The struggle for the soul of journalism

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Gary Webb

Andrew O’Hehir  has a nuanced view of ethics in journalism, reflected here in this essay for Salon:

In thinking about the cases of Gary Webb and James Risen, two famous investigative reporters aggressively persecuted for their explosive revelations (in very different situations, and with different results), we are drawn into the thorny question of journalism and its so-called professional ethics. How well do the supposed codes of journalism work, and whom do they serve and protect? Is the primary role of journalism as a social institution to discover the truth as best it can and raise the level of public discourse, or to preserve its own power and prestige and privilege? I don’t claim to know the answers with any certainty. If anything, the stories of Webb and Risen suggest that those questions yield different answers in different contexts.

I’ve been a working journalist for more than 25 years, across the demise of print and the rise of the Internet, and I’ve always viewed the idea of journalism as a profession as, at best, a double-edged sword.

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Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: More U.S. Cities Are Banning Feeding the Homeless

US Navy 060526-N-5142K-011 New York Fleet Week 2006, Community Service EffortI’m regularly asked for something to eat by people on the subway or on the streets of New York City. Complying with such a request may well be illegal before long if a trend in other American cities expands. Story from Yahoo News:

Reading through the latest report from the National Coalition for the Homeless might spark one of those moments when you wonder, what would Marie Antoinette say? French peasants who had no bread to eat were so enraged by rumors that their queen uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake” that she ended up decapitated. Well, the coalition’s modern-day researchers found that since January 2013, 21 cities have restricted or flat-out banned feeding the homeless at all—and 10 municipalities have similar ordinances in the works.

At the heart of the bans and restrictions, write the authors, is the misguided belief that feeding people who are sleeping on the streets or in shelters encourages homelessness.

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Isaac Asimov Asks, ‘How Do People Get New Ideas?’

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Isaac Asimov

MIT Technology Review has unearthed an old, previously unpublished essay on creativity by Isaac Asimov. Here’s the beginning:

ON CREATIVITY

How do people get new ideas?

Presumably, the process of creativity, whatever it is, is essentially the same in all its branches and varieties, so that the evolution of a new art form, a new gadget, a new scientific principle, all involve common factors. We are most interested in the “creation” of a new scientific principle or a new application of an old one, but we can be general here.

One way of investigating the problem is to consider the great ideas of the past and see just how they were generated. Unfortunately, the method of generation is never clear even to the “generators” themselves.

But what if the same earth-shaking idea occurred to two men, simultaneously and independently? Perhaps, the common factors involved would be illuminating. Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

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Americans Ban Books on Poverty and Class

Not only are some Americans trying to remove books on sex and religion (not to mention evolution) from schools and public libraries, now they’re going after books dealing with poverty and class, reports the Guardian:

Late last month, for the 32nd year in a row, Banned Books Week was marked across the US. Spearheaded by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, the annual salute to the freedom to read has become a fixture. It aims to counterbalance perennial challenges to the content of books and efforts to get them banned, usually from schools and libraries.

The ALA collects information on which books are objected to and reports on prominent recurring themes that tend to generate moral or ideological indignation. Subjects such as religion, race, gender, sexuality and allegations of sexually explicit content or offensive language frequently top the list.

Berkeley Heights NJ public library books and shelves

More worrying, however, is the recent rise in efforts to get books banned that cover poverty and social class.

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A Real Hoverboard

The New York Times discovers a couple of California garage tinkerers who have made a real hoverboard, as in Marty McFly’s ride in Back to the Future:

LOS GATOS, Calif. — A lot of things can hover. There are helicopters. There are hovercraft. But for the last three decades, a generation of engineers and movie fans have been waiting for something else: a hovering skateboard like the one in “Back to the Future Part II.”

The hoverboard is fiction, the vision of screenwriters who created the film about Marty McFly, a teenager who travels from 1985 to Oct. 21, 2015, and uses a floating skateboard to flee a gang of bullies.

The movie had other futuristic items, like flying cars and self-tying shoes, but none touched the imagination as much as the hoverboard. For the last 25 years, garage tinkerers, physics professors and top engineers at Google have been trying to make one.

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The Real Cyborgs

This article by Arthur House in The Telegraph reads like a William Gibson cyberpunk novel, but it’s reality, here and now. He says “Forget wearable tech. The pioneers of our “post-human” future are implanting technology in to their bodies and brains. Should we stop them or join them?”:

Ian Burkhart concentrated hard. A thick cable protruded from the crown of his shaven head. A sleeve sprouting wires enveloped his right arm. The 23 – year-old had been paralysed from the neck down since a diving accident four years ago. But, in June this year, in a crowded room in the Wexner Medical Centre at Ohio State University, Burkhart’s hand spasmed into life.

At first it opened slowly and shakily, as though uncertain who its owner was. But when Burkhart engaged his wrist muscles, its upward movement was sudden and decisive. You could hear the joints – unused for years – cracking.

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