This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

Around the web: Drone politics

Pakistan's ex-cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, top left, addresses supporters during a peace march in Mianwali, Pakistan, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. Photo: AP Photo/Jabbar Ahmed

Originally published on

Imran Khan, a former cricket star-turned-politician, led a two-day march last weekend that focused new attention on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. For Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project and regular Need to Know contributor, the march demonstrates how Khan,who is running for prime minister as head of the party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), is exploiting public anger over U.S. drone strikes. Foust questions Khan’s silence on the subject of the Pakistani Taliban, especially in light of Tuesday’s shooting of teen activist Malala Yousufzai. “It’s important to remember that the Taliban were rampaging in Pakistan before there were drones,” he says.
Read All »

A rumble in the stacks

The New York Public Library today. Photo: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

The New York Public Library, a place usually synonymous with quiet and calm, has recently been making a lot of noise. Plans to close down and sell off two branches are underway, as are efforts to expand the landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman building on 42nd Street. According to NYPL, these renovations, called the “Central Library Plan,” are estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $300 million. Seven levels of stacks that hold three million research books in the flagship library will be moved out to New Jersey to make room for a lending library, computers and possibly a café. The hope is that these changes will eventually save the system anywhere from $12 to $15 million per year in operating costs.
Read All »

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Ray Bradbury shown in his Beverly Hills office in February 1986, surrounded by an unlimited supply of toys and treasures. Photo: AP Photo/Doug Pizac

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., into a family that once included a 17th-century Salem woman tried for witchcraft. The Bradbury family drove across the country to Los Angeles in 1934, with young Ray piling out of their jalopy at every stop to plunder the local library in search of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.

In 1936, Bradbury experienced a rite of passage familiar to most science-fiction readers: the realization that he was not alone. At a secondhand bookstore in Hollywood, he discovered a handbill promoting meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. Thrilled, he joined a weekly Thursday-night conclave that would grow to attract such science-fiction legends as Robert A. Heinlein, Leigh Brackett and future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Read All »

The connections

Photo: Stephanie Canciello, unali artists

Craig Newmark was one of the first programmers to demonstrate how connecting people over the Internet could fundamentally change entire industries. When he started Craigslist out of his apartment in 1995, it was intended as a simple listings of local happenings in San Francisco — posting everything from garage sales to gallery openings. In just a few years, Craigslist blossomed into one of the most popular online marketplaces in the country, radically remaking the classified marketplace (and dealing a serious blow to the revenues of countless newspapers). Seventeen years later, Craigslist is one of the most visited destinations on the Internet, with online marketplaces in cities all over the world.

Newmark has now stepped away from day-to-day operations of Craigslist, and instead is devoting much of his time to a new venture called CraigConnects: It’s Newmark’s effort to use the power of technology and social media to drive social change. The effort combines grant-making, research, and a good dose of evangelizing on a wide array of issues: consumer protection, good government, journalism, and veterans affairs.

Yesterday, I talked with Newmark about this new venture, which he describes as “using technology for the common good.”

Here’s a condensed, lightly edited transcript of our conversation:

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I’m struck by the logo — the mission statement — you have at the very top of your webpage which says, “Using technology to give the voiceless a real voice and the powerless real power.” In your mind, what is a “real voice” and what is “real power”?

How do you give small, genuine grassroots the ability to work with other small, four-wheeled, grassroots groups to combine for real power?

CRAIG NEWMARK: Well, if you’re talking about a real voice, the idea is that the net allows anyone to say what they wanna say. It’s not filtered. Someone else isn’t talking for them. And that represents quite a change, because in the past, other people — say, politicians, would pretend to represent a group, but the politician would not be acting in the interests of that group. Real power has to do with the groups who are coming together – spontaneously, online, to exert power in numbers, and power through effective communications.

Now, it’s a two-edged sword. For example, the Occupy people are managing to get together and do seem to be representing a genuine voice. On the other hand, within the Tea Party movements, and that plural is deliberate, there are some Tea Party groups who have stayed genuine and grassroots, but other alleged Tea Party groups are just really lobbyists pretending to represent a bunch of real people.

My focus has been on how do you give small, genuine grassroots the ability to work with other small, four-wheeled, grassroots groups to combine for real power?
Read All »

‘I am Trayvon Martin’

In the wake of the tragic shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and with growing calls to stop what critics contend are racially-motivated police actions, I saw this powerful post on Facebook written by my friend Dawn Porter. Dawn and her husband Dave are black, and the parents of two boys not that much younger than Trayvon Martin. I asked Dawn if we could post her note, and she was happy to share it.
Read All »

‘Debt’ and forgiveness

David Graeber's “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” (Melville House Publishing, 2011)

Forty years ago this month, in 1971, President Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard. Anthropologist and author David Graeber points out in his new book “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” (Melville House Publishing, 2011) that this decision marked an important shift in how we think about money. With U.S. dollars no longer backed by actual gold reserves, money essentially became a government promissory note. According to Graeber, Nixon’s decision ushered in an era of virtual money or credit, which we all know often leads to debt — something on everyone’s mind these days.
Read All »

Summer reading roundups: what’s on your list?

Books on this year’s summer reading lists are anything but predictable. Summer reading often implies lighter fare, but these so-called “beach reads” don’t necessarily have to be trashy, or recycled versions of the same genres. The beach book has “undergone a makeover for 2011,” writes Janet Maslin in the New York Times, offering up this summer’s fresh takes on true crime, celeb memoirs, thrillers and chick lit.

Other seasonal reading roundups from the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and NPR include categories in everything from children’s books and food memoirs to indie press releases and critics’ choices, including Tayari Jones’s “Silver Sparrow,” Preeta Samarasan’s “Evening is the Whole Day,” Mat Johnson’s “Pym” and the Michael Ondaatje memoir “Running in the Family.”
Read All »

News of the World will shut down

Copies of Britain's News of the World from Thursday Aug. 3, 2006. Photo: AP/Martin Cleaver

Update: The Guardian reports that Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor and former director of communications to Prime Minister David Cameron, will be arrested tomorrow as part of an investigation delving into his role in the cellphone hacking scandal.

In the wake of a cellphone-hacking scandal, in which News of the World reporters hacked voice mails of murder and  July 7, 2005, terror victims — and possibly the families of dead soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — the beleaguered tabloid will shut down, The Guardian reported Thursday.

“Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper. This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World,” said James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation and chairman of News International, in a statement (pdf).

The 168-year-old paper’s last issue will run without advertisements this weekend. Murdoch has indicated that advertising space in this Sunday’s edition will be donated to charity — “charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers,” said Murdoch in the statement.
Read All »

The science of truth

Donkeys are stubborn and elephants never forget. So maybe zoology explains the seemingly intractable divide between Democrats and Republicans. But author Chris Mooney would have us instead turn to psychology and neuroscience for answers.

Climate Desk partner Mother Jones has posted a must-read article by Mooney titled “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science,” which examines the rationalization of self-delusion, or “how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions.”

Read All »