Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Most Interesting Stories of 2015

January 1st, 2016

Happy new year! I’m reviving my little list of favorite stories from the past year. I didn’t do one last year, but you can see previous versions from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. Thanks for reading and I look forward to what 2016 brings!

5) The New York Times: The Agency

Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history, and its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space. In the midst of such a war, the Runet (as the Russian Internet is often called) can be an unpleasant place for anyone caught in the crossfire. Soon after I met Leonid Volkov, he wrote a post on his Facebook wall about our interview, saying that he had spoken with someone from The New York Times. A former pro-Kremlin blogger later warned me about this. Kremlin allies, he explained, monitored Volkov’s page, and now they would be on guard. “That was not smart,” he said.

4) The New York Times: A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes

Industrial-scale violators of fishing bans and protected areas are a main reason more than half of the world’s major fishing grounds have been depleted and by some estimates over 90 percent of the ocean’s large fish like marlin, tuna and swordfish have vanished. Interpol had issued a Purple Notice on the Thunder (the equivalent of adding it to a Most Wanted List, a status reserved for only four other ships in the world), but no government had been willing to dedicate the personnel and millions of dollars needed to go after it.

So Sea Shepherd did instead, stalking the fugitive 202-foot steel-sided ship from a desolate patch of ocean at the bottom of the Earth, deep in Antarctic waters, to any ports it neared, where its crews could alert the authorities. “The poachers thrive by staying in the shadows,” Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Barker, said while trying to level his ship through battering waves. “Our plan was to put a spotlight on them that they couldn’t escape.”

3) Harper’s Magazine: A Goose in a Dress

How does the food taste? To ask that is to miss the point of Through Itself. This food is not designed to be eaten, an incidental process. It is designed to make your business rival claw his eyes out. It could be a yacht, a house, or a valuable, rare, and miniature dog. But I can tell you that the cornet of salmon — world famous in canapé circles — is crisp and light and I enjoyed it; that there are six kinds of table salt and two exquisite lumps of butter, one shaped like a miniature beehive and another shaped like a quenelle; that a salad of fruits and nuts has such a discordant splice of flavors it is almost revolting; that the lamb is good; and that, generally, the food is so overtended and overdressed I am amazed it has not developed the ability to scream in your face, walk off by itself, and sulk in its room.

2) Wait But Why: How Tesla Will Change The World

So when it was time to start what I had labeled in my head as “the Tesla post,” I knew this was going to be one of those posts. To understand if and why Tesla Motors matters, you have to understand both the story of cars and the story of energy—two worlds I somehow am simultaneously confused by and tremendously sick of. Just hearing someone say “climate change” or “energy crisis” or “tailpipe emissions” makes me kind of gag at this point—just too much politics, too many annoying people, too much misinformation on all sides, and it’s just hard to know how much I actually care and if there can be a solution to all of it anyway. […]

After weeks of reading and asking questions and writing, I’ve emerged […] with something that toes the line between a long blog post and a short book. I could have broken this into multiple posts, but it’s all one story and I wanted to keep it all together. It’ll be a bit of a time investment, but I think you’ll come out of it with a sturdier tree trunk about all of this than you have now. And as it turns out, when it comes to this topic, we may be witnessing a very awesome moment in history without quite realizing it yet.

1) The New Yorker: Power to the People

Arguably, the era’s most disruptive technology is the solar panel. Its price has dropped ninety-nine per cent in the past four decades, and roughly seventy-five per cent in the past six years; it now produces power nearly as cheaply as coal or gas, a condition that energy experts refer to as “grid parity.” And because it’s a technology, rather than a fuel, the price should continue to fall, as it has for cell phones. Solar power is being adopted most rapidly in places where there is no grid—it’s cheaper and quicker to stick panels on the roofs of huts in villages than to build a centralized power station and run poles and wires. In Bangladesh, crews install sixty thousand solar arrays a month. Even in the U.S., where almost everyone has been connected to the grid for decades, solar prices have fallen to the point where, with the help of a federal tax credit, an enterprising company can make money installing solar panels.

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The Most Interesting Stories of 2013

January 1st, 2014

A happy belated New Year to all the loyal readers out there! Here’s my recap of some favorite stories I read in the last year. For those craving aging items to read, check out my recaps of 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. Thanks for reading and I look forward to what 2014 brings.

5) New York Times: Uproar Over Netanyahu’s Ice Cream Is Welcome in One Parlor

His foreign minister had to resign after being accused of fraud. He was sharply criticized for his government’s handling of Prisoner X, who committed suicide in prison. And now this, which made front-page news in Israel over the weekend: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands accused of dipping into state coffers for an ice cream budget of $2,700 a year.

Pistachio, it was revealed by the proprietors of a gourmet ice cream parlor a couple of blocks from the premier’s official residence, is his favorite (presumably not made with an Iranian variety of the nut). Mrs. Netanyahu, they said, appears to prefer French vanilla.

4) Lapham’s Quarterly: Bombs, Burning Sheets, and Cocaine

“Bomb the shit out of them!” was reportedly a drunken President Richard Nixon’s conclusion as to what should be done about Cambodia. Henry Kissinger recalled in an interview in 1999 that “two glasses of wine were quite enough to make him boisterous, just one more to grow bellicose or sentimental with slurred speech.”

3) The New Yorker: Taken – The Use And Abuse Of Civil Forfeiture

“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.

Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country. “Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband.

2) The New Republic: A 31-Year-Old Is Tearing Apart the Heritage Foundation

Instead of fleshing out conservative positions, says one Republican Senate staffer, “now they’re running around trying to get Republicans voted out of office. It’s a purely ideological crusade that’s utterly divorced from the research side.” (“If Nancy Pelosi could write an anonymous check to Heritage Action,” adds the House aide bitterly, “she would.”)

As a result, the Heritage Foundation has gone from august conservative think tank revered by Washington’s Republicans to the party’s loathed ideological commissar. “It’s sad, actually,” says one Republican strategist. “Everybody forgets that Heritage was always considered the gold standard of conservative, forward-looking thought. The emergence of Heritage Action has really transformed the brand into a more political organization.”

1) New York Times: The Myth of Nuclear Necessity

The first is the myth that nuclear weapons altered the course of World War II. Leaving aside the morality of America’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, new research by the historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and other scholars shows that Japan surrendered not because of the atom bomb but because the Soviets renounced neutrality and joined the war. Sixty-six Japanese cities had already been destroyed by conventional weapons — two more did not make the difference. Attributing surrender to the bomb was also convenient for Japan’s leaders, allowing them to blame defeat on a “miracle” weapon.

Second is the myth of “decisive destruction.” Mass destruction doesn’t win wars; killing soldiers does. No war has ever been won simply by killing civilians. The 1941-44 siege of Leningrad didn’t deter Soviet leaders from pressing the fight against Hitler. Nor did the 1945 firebombing of Dresden force Germany to submit. As long as an army has a fighting chance at victory, wars continue. Building ever more destructive weapons simply increases the horror of war, not the certainty of ending it.

And for no particular reason, here was the best old photo found in 2013 and my favorite New Yorker cartoon.

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The Most Interesting Stories of 2012

January 1st, 2013

Happy New Year to all my friends, family members and loyal readers! I’m continuing the tradition of sharing a small collection of my favorite news items from the previous year. If you’re a bit lost, be sure to check out my 20082009, 2010 and 2011 recap posts if you missed them the first time. This year, I went with a larger mix of entertaining stories instead of all long-form pieces (I am quite sad there were no big Somali pirate stories this year). Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a lovely 2013!

5) CNN: Romney aide loses cool, curses at press in Poland

CNN: “Governor Romney just a few questions sir, you haven’t taken but three questions on this trip from the press!

Gorka: “Show some respect”

NYT: “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question…”

Gorka: “Kiss my ass. This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

Moments later, Gorka told Jonathan Martin, a reporter for Politico, to “shove it.” About a half-hour later, the aide called reporters to apologize.

4) The New York Times: Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It

Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government.

He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.

Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.

3) The Atlantic: How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File

Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a “Grand Jihad” against America. Seriously?

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they were plausible presidents rather than national jokes who’d lose worse than George McGovern.

How many months were wasted on them?

How many hours of Glenn Beck conspiracy theories did Fox News broadcast to its viewers? How many hours of transparently mindless Sean Hannity content is still broadcast daily? Why don’t Americans trust Republicans on foreign policy as they once did? In part because conservatism hasn’t grappled with the foreign-policy failures of George W. Bush. A conspiracy of silence surrounds the subject. Romney could neither run on the man’s record nor repudiate it. The most damaging Romney gaffe of the campaign, where he talked about how the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes are a lost cause for Republicans? Either he was unaware that many of those people are Republican voters, or was pandering to GOP donors who are misinformed. Either way, bad information within the conservative movement was to blame.

2) The New York Times: Son’s Parties and Privilege Aggravate Fall of Elite Chinese Family

Last month, a few days before he lost his job as party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai was forced to respond to questions about how his modest government salary could support his son’s tuition and expensive tastes. He called the accusations “sheer rubbish,” and insisted that Mr. Bo had won full scholarships, although he did not address the allegations in detail. “A few people have been pouring filth on Chongqing and me and my family,” he told reporters. “They even say my son studies abroad and drives a red Ferrari.”

But Mr. Bo does study abroad, and American officials say he arrived in a red Ferrari last year to pick up the American ambassador to China’s daughter for a date. Classmates at Harvard say they have seen him driving around in a Porsche.

1) Gawker: Our Father’s Not in Heaven: The New Black Atheism

Blacks are now the most religious ethnic group in America, with 86 percent saying they’re “very” to “moderately” religious compared to just 65 percent of whites. Even blacks who purport to have no involvement with any church, mosque, or synagogue whatsoever are generally unwilling to reject the concept of God entirely, making African-Americans also the least likely to call themselves atheist or agnostic. For us people of color with no devotion to religion whatsoever, a tiny minority within a minority, the internal culture clash can sometimes prove awkward. It’s this culture clash that I find so irritating and ugly.

And the job of airing the “black perspective” on cable news is very often given to people like Reverend Jackson or Reverend Sharpton or Roland Martin, who has a master’s degree in “Christian Communications” from Louisiana Baptist University, an unaccredited religious institution. I don’t care that so many African-American leaders are steeped in deep religious tradition; I care that those are the people called upon to speak for all of black America, and they always have been. Most white Americans are religious, too, and yet MSNBC or CNN would never call on the pastor Joel Osteen to dissect the problems facing all white Americans. The networks would understand, rightly, that Osteen’s deep religious conviction makes him an inapt spokesperson for a group of people with diverse beliefs. That those networks don’t afford blacks the same respect is telling, and it’s a tacit acceptance of the myth that blacks and religion, particularly Christianity, are one and the same.

Bonus! – The Worst Story of 2012 is…
The Wall Street Journal: After Sandy, Wired New Yorkers Get Reconnected With Pay Phones

The last time Leslie Koch picked up a pay-phone receiver was during the 2003 blackout. Since then, she says, “I didn’t even know they were working.”

But on Tuesday, old was new again, as her BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad and two laptops were idled. After calling her mother on Long Island from a pay phone, she commemorated the occasion by tweeting a photo of herself from Instagram.

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Sketch Inspired by Eye Photograph

January 10th, 2012

A black and white close-up photograph of an eye next to the drawing that it inspired.I recently got a trackback alert notifying me of a talented young artist who used a close-up photo I took of my eye as reference for a drawing. Seeing them side by side really shows the attention to detail. I couldn’t find a good contact for the artist, but I left a comment on their post – I’ll definitely be following their work from now on.

For other instances of my photography serving as inspiration, read about the adventures of my old squirrel photo. For the intellectual property rights nerds out there, I believe these are wonderful transformative uses which are fully protected fair use claims under my copyrighted images and should be encouraged.

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The Most Interesting Stories of 2011

January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year to all my friends, family and loyal readers! I’m continuing the tradition of sharing a small collection of my favorite news items from the previous year. Be sure to check out my 20082009 and 2010 recap posts for those who are bit lost. Thanks for reading!

1) The New YorkerGetting Bin Laden – What happened that night in Abbottabad

One month before the 2008 Presidential election, Obama, then a senator from Illinois, squared off in a debate against John McCain in an arena at Belmont University, in Nashville. A woman in the audience asked Obama if he would be willing to pursue Al Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan, even if that meant invading an ally nation. He replied, “If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable, or unwilling, to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national-security priority.” McCain, who often criticized Obama for his naïveté on foreign-policy matters, characterized the promise as foolish, saying, “I’m not going to telegraph my punches.”

[…] A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden’s chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,” the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”

Hearing this at the White House, Obama pursed his lips, and said solemnly, to no one in particular, “We got him.”

2) Popular Mechanics: What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447

At 1h51m, the cockpit becomes illuminated by a strange electrical phenomenon. The co-pilot in the right-hand seat, an inexperienced 32-year-old named Pierre-Cédric Bonin, asks, “What’s that?” The captain, Marc Dubois, a veteran with more than 11,000 hours of flight time, tells him it is St. Elmo’s fire, a phenomenon often found with thunderstorms at these latitudes.

At approximately 2 am, the other co-pilot, David Robert, returns to the cockpit after a rest break. At 37, Robert is both older and more experienced than Bonin, with more than double his colleague’s total flight hours. The head pilot gets up and gives him the left-hand seat. Despite the gap in seniority and experience, the captain leaves Bonin in charge of the controls.

At 2:02 am, the captain leaves the flight deck to take a nap. Within 15 minutes, everyone aboard the plane will be dead.]

3) The New Yorker: A Murder Foretold: Unravelling the Ultimate Political Conspiracy

In Guatemala, impunity has created a bewildering swirl of competing stories and rumors, allowing powerful interests not only to cloak history but also to fabricate it. As Francisco Goldman describes in his incisive 2007 book, “The Art of Political Murder,” about the assassination of Bishop Gerardi, the military and its intelligence operators concocted evidence and witnesses to generate endless hypotheses—it was a robbery, it was a crime of passion—in order to conceal the simple truth that they had murdered him. “So much would be made to seem to connect,” Goldman writes.

Guatemalans often cite the proverb “In a country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Fighting his way through the political fog, Rosenberg searched for a motive, stubbornly insisting that, if two people were assassinated, then somebody had a reason to kill them. In notes he kept about the case, he reported that authorities had initially suggested the shootings stemmed from a dispute over a fired factory worker. But, by all accounts, Musa had treated his workers well. Were the police and authorities trying to cover something up, spinning another web of disinformation?

4) The Washington Post: Year-long D.C. undercover sting netted arrests, guns, drugs

D.C. Police Sgt. Dale Sutherland’s high-tech headquarters in a stylish Northeast rowhouse welcomed some of the city’s most notorious gun-runners and drug dealers.

Sutherland made deals for revolvers, shotguns, ammunition, crack cocaine and heroin from black leather couches. His suppliers kept coming back, authorities say. Then, in June, one offered Sutherland hand grenades and a rocket launcher, and he had to act quickly.

In June, police said, one target accidentally dialed the phone of an officer who was posing as “Tony Blanco.” When the officer picked up, he overheard men discussing a plan to storm the studio, guns blazing.

5) The Wire Cutter: Steve Jobs Was Always Kind to Me (Or, Regrets of an Asshole)

“Hi, this is Steve. I really want my phone back.”

He wasn’t demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny. I was half-naked, just getting back from surfing, but I managed to keep my shit together.

“I appreciate you had your fun with our phone and I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the sales guy who lost it. But we need the phone back because we can’t let it fall into the wrong hands.”

I thought, maybe its already in the wrong hands?

He continued, “There are two ways we can do this. I can send someone to pick up the phone–”

Me: “I don’t have it”

“–But you know someone who does…or we can send someone with legal papers, and I don’t want to do that.”

He was giving us an easy way out.

I told him I had to talk to my dudes. Before he hung up, he asked me, “What do you think of it?”

I said, “It’s beautiful.”

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Philadelphia Inquirer Food Photography

November 1st, 2011

While it may appear that I’ve neglected my photography blogging, it just hid in a higher profile location: the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I am honored to photograph for their new cooking blog called “My Daughter’s Kitchen.” Some photos are even making it into the print edition of the paper and I’m always thrilled to make that leap. I’m taking as many pictures as my schedule can manage and, starting today, I’ll be cross posting the higher quality versions here. Below are scans of my photo on the front page of the Food section and three more on the jump from the announcement article on October 20th.

Click for larger versions:

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Welcome to Gizmodo Readers

September 18th, 2011

Stick around this week for the rest of the full sized images from the GAMBIT and HEXAGON unveiling.

Update: And welcome to Wired readers!

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