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Notes from Marine embed in Afghanistan: Noah Shachtman of Wired "Danger Room" blog.

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Defense technology reporter Noah Shachtman says, "I've just finished a fascinating embed with the marines of 2/8 Echo company in Helmand province. They've been fighting the Taliban nearly non-stop for eight weeks, in one of the war's most active battlegrounds. Here is one of the stories I wrote last week while I was with Echo. It's an inside account of a sniper team's hit on a group of militants -- and the marines' multiple brushes with death, during the mission."

Links to Noah's stories for Wired while on embed in Afghanistan:

* Echo Company in the Eye of the Storm
* The Taliban Push Back
* And related posts by Noah on Afghanistan and Pakistan here.

Related BB post: US military cancels contract with firm that graded journalists' "positiveness"

Cool scene from dance show: Shadowland


Amazing dance scene from Pilobolus's SHADOWLAND: the "Transformation" excerpt.

Pilobolus is a "nonprofit modern dance theater obsessed with experimental digital media."

The show opens in Madrid on September 15. Can't wait until it comes to Los Angeles!

Why the Space Shuttle should always lift off at night

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...so we earthlings can gaze at photographs like this. "Billows of smoke and steam rise above Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida alongside space shuttle Discovery as it races toward space on the STS-128 mission."

Tweet (#3670368446)

RT @ericwareheim: new video from The Bird and the Bee "Diamond Dave" Link

Read the rest

The Los Angeles fires

Video: Time Lapse Test: Station Fire, a haunting little piece put together by Eric Speigelman.

The "Station Fire" has now spread to nearly 100,000 acres. Fires are a predictable, seasonal, and natural aspect of ecology and life in Southern California. The Onion nailed it here.

I know we say this every year, but the ones blazing out there as I type are particularly large and powerful. All weekend, it really did look (and smell) like a giant atomic bomb had gone off. The air throughout LA county was unsafe to breathe. Two firefighters died yesterday, while battling the blazes. I live and work in LA, nowhere near the flames and not at risk. All best wishes go out to BB friends who are in the danger zone. Be safe.

Below: Anthony Citrano's photo coverage of the Station Fire. There are several fires active right now, but this is the big one threatening Pasadena/Altadena/etc., including the NASA JPL facility. JPL's statement about the fire emergency is here, looks like they're pretty safe now. Citrano's Flickr set is here, with a number of truly stunning and scary shots (CC).

After the jump: WHOAH, BB reader Danimation shot another *incredible* time-lapse of the giant smoke clouds, you really have to see this one. Click ahead to view. Feel free to post other resources of interest in the comments.

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Police Women of Broward County takes reality cop TV to new depths

Radley Balko's crime column for Reason Online this week "criticizes the thinly-veiled S&M fantasy/cop reality show, The Police Women of Broward County."
200908311019The most obvious criticism of these shows is their exploitation and general tackiness. Police work is reduced to clownish pranks, adrenalin-inducing raids, and telegenic lady cops edited to invoke S&M fantasies for the shlubs watching at home. No one expects much dignity from cable networks, but you'd think, for example, that the Broward County Sheriff's Department might object to the sexualization of its female officers, or to a national ad campaign insinuating that they're sporting itchy Taser fingers.

As for the SWAT programs, America has unfortunately grown comfortable with, or at least accustomed to, the idea of using SWAT teams to kick down doors and conduct volatile, confrontational raids for consensual, nonviolent crimes. We've seen a massive increase in these raids, from about 3,000 per year in the early 1980s to some 50,000 per year by the early 2000s. The popularity of SWAT shows didn't cause the problem, but their popularity is sympomatic of it, and they can only further ingrain the troubling notion that there's nothing wrong with sending a unit of cops dressed like soldiers into private homes to arrest nonviolent drug offenders. And of course, we're never going to see the wrong-door raids, or police mistakes that result in fatalities.

Don't Tase Me, Sis: Police Women of Broward County takes reality cop TV to new depths.

Wikileaks re-publishes 60 Minutes piece on est/Landmark cult leader Werner Erhard

Update: On September 24, 2009, Boing Boing received a letter from an attorney representing Werner Erhard, which is now appended to this blog post.

Wikileaks has published the video and transcript of an investigative report into "est" (Erhard Seminars Training) guru and Landmark Education Forum godfather Werner Erhard by CBS News, originally broadcast on the program 60 Minutes on March 3, 1991. Excerpt from Wikileaks article:

Werner_Erhard_The_Transformation_of_a_Man_The_Founding_of_est.jpg
Both, video and transcript, have been published at various points in time, but are not publically available anymore due to legal threats against publishers from Werner Erhard.

The material contains interviews with friends, business associates and family of Werner Erhard making serious claims against him. Erhard is accused by family members of beating his wife and children, and raping a daughter, while still giving seminars on how to have relationships that work. The story also includes interviews with two former staff members of Werner Erhard: Wendy Drucker (a senior manager) and Dr. Bob Larzelere (head of Erhard's counseling staff).

The current incarnation of the est training is now known as Landmark Education, with its course the Landmark Forum. Landmark Education is run by CEO Harry Rosenberg, who is Werner Erhard's brother, and General Counsel and Chairman of the Board of Directors Art Schreiber, who has acted as Werner Erhard's lawyer. Werner Erhard's sister Joan Rosenberg also sits on the Board of Directors of Landmark Education.

"Suppressed CBS News 60 Minutes on Landmark cult leader Werner Erhard, 3 Mar 1991," (Wikileaks, thanks Enric)

Related: A number of companies are reported to have corporate ties to est/Landmark, for instance: Bay Area vegan restaurant Cafe Gratitude (See: East Bay Express, and SFGate). And Lululemon Athletica, the company that makes all that trendy yoga gear (see Fast Company, this blog, and the CEO's testimony on the Landmark Forum website). Some former employees at both companies have stated publicly that if you want to become a manager or keep your job, you'd pretty much better be prepared to join Landmark.


Update: Following is the text of a letter received from Terry M. Giles, an attorney representing Werner Erhard.

September 24, 2009
Xeni Jardin BoingBoing.net
xeni@xeni.net

Dear Xeni Jardin and BoingBoing.net:

I am a lawyer and have represented Werner Erhard since 1990 so am familiar with the true facts about the matters discussed in your blog post at http://www.boingboing.net/2009/08/31/suppressed-60-minute.html.

Your statement "Both, video and transcript, have been published at various points in time, but are not publically available anymore due to legal threats against publishers from Werner Erhard" is inaccurate. In fact, I first learned that CBS had decertified the episode when I read in Suzanne Snider's article in The Believer in its May 2003 issue: "The 60 Minutes segment was filled with so many factual discrepancies that the transcript was made unavailable with this disclaimer: This segment has been deleted at the request of CBS News for legal or copyright reasons.'"

CBS did not retract the statements made in the 60 Minutes episode by making the video and transcript unavailable as a result of Mr. Erhard's or his lawyers' threats. CBS independently determined that serious allegations made to the interviewer on the 60 Minutes program (which allegations you re-print in your blog post) are not true. The transcript and video were not "suppressed" as stated in your article; the transcript and video were made unavailable by CBS because the contents are not factually accurate and therefore should not be published. It isn't just CBS who determined the allegations are not true. I am enclosing an article from Time Magazine, March 1998, which clearly states that the allegations broadcast on 60 Minutes were in fact retracted and untrue. Numerous other respected publications, including the London Times, also reported that the allegations broadcast on 60 Minutes were recanted, and that one of the people appearing on the program had been offered money via a book deal to lie.

Now that you know the facts, you are in a position to re-think the advisability of continuing to publish a misleading and inaccurate blog post in your publication. I am formally requesting that you immediately cease said publication. Please let me know your intentions within the next ten business days.

Sincerely,

Terry M. Giles

Here is the Time Magazine article referenced by Mr. Giles: "The Best of est?," By Charlotte Faltermayer, Sunday, Jun. 24, 2001."

The title of this blog post has been modified from the original.

If You Think You're Groovy: The amazing soul rock sound of P.P. Arnold


"Arnold appears alongside the Small Faces for an absolutely ass-kicking version of Tin Soldier on Flemish television from 1968"

On Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger posted links to a bunch of video and audio tracks of a fantastic singer I've never heard of before, P.P. Arnold.

P.P. Arnold was one of the Ikettes, the backing singers for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue in the 60s, but after a visit to London, Mick Jagger, impressed by her powerful voice and stunning beauty–who wouldn’t be???–connected her with Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed her to his Immediate Records label, alongside acts like the Small Faces, Chris Farlowe (recognize that one?) and pre-Velvet Underground Nico (who was then recording songs Dylan had written for her with session musicians like Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones).
The Amazing Soul Rock Sound of P.P. Arnold

US military cancels contract with firm that graded journalists' "positiveness"

Stars and Stripes reports that the U.S. military is terminating a $1.5 million contract with The Rendon Group, a private firm that produced background profiles of reporters who requested military embed access in Afghanistan.

The firm graded journalists' past work as "positive," "negative" or "neutral." Military officials were presumed to be granting access to those whose profiles indicated they'd yield a future "positive" spin on reports from the battleground. Snip:

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The Bagram Regional Contracting Center intends to execute a termination of the Media Analyst contract," belonging to The Rendon Group, said Col. Wayne Shanks, chief of public affairs for International Security Assistance Forces-Afghanistan.

The announcement follows a week of revelations by Stars and Stripes in which military public affairs officers who served in Afghanistan said that as recently as 2008 they had used reporter profiles compiled by The Rendon Group, a private public relations firm in Washington, D.C., to decide whether to grant permission to embed with troops on the battlefield.

Military terminates Rendon contract (Stars and Stripes, via Poynter/Romenesko)

Also: Read what the Rendon Group has to say about the matter: TRG Comment on Recent Reporting About Our Work in Afghanistan.

Disney buying Marvel

Woah: Disney's buying Marvel:
Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. At closing, the amount of cash and stock will be adjusted if necessary so that the total value of the Disney stock issued as merger consideration based on its trading value at that time is not less than 40% of the total merger consideration...

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney's global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel's properties.

Disney to Acquire Marvel Entertainment (via /.)

London bus with 16 CCTV cameras inside


It's Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK, so this morning we took the kid to the zoo in Regent's Park on the 205 bus. The bus we got was quite a new one, and right by the driver was a screen showing the feed from the sixteen CCTV cameras on this one bus. How much of that footage to they actually archive? For how long? And how much of it do they lose track of?

SIXTEEN cameras on the new London bus, 205, Islington, London, UK.JPG

Videos from an animal's perspective

The Museum of Animal Perspectives sticks cameras on the heads of animals and uploads the resulting videos to Flickr. I'm fond of the armadillocam, but wolfcam and cowcam are pretty cool too. Ooh! Pigcam! Goatcam! Cow licking own rearcam!

Museum of Animal Perspectives (via JWZ)

Crazy organic bread-slicer sign for crazy organic bread eaters


Environmental scientist Jennifer Jacquet poses they question, "Are You an Eco-Douchebag? The test is simple: read this sign ["Dear customers: Please be advised that our Bread Slicer is used for both Organic and Conventional items"] (recently photographed at my local Vancouver market, which is owned by Whole Foods) then gauge your response..."

Now, I'm inclined to believe that pesticide-free food production has health benefits and is good for the planet, but likewise: it is the major crazy to believe that pesticides leap from the bread-slicer wires into your wholesome organic loaf.

Are You an Eco-Douchebag?

Jenna Bush, NBC White House correspondent -- the American Meritocracy

Glenn Greenwald uses the fact that Jenna Bush has been hired as a White House (Correction: she won't be covering the White House) correspondent for NBC's "Today" show as springboard for a scorching rant on America's ruling elite and the myth of American "meritocracy."
They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from...

Just to underscore a very important, related point: all of the above-listed people are examples of America's Great Meritocracy, having achieved what they have solely on the basis of their talent, skill and hard work -- The American Way. By contrast, Sonia Sotomayor -- who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Bronx housing projects; whose father had a third-grade education, did not speak English and died when she was 9; whose mother worked as a telephone operator and a nurse; and who then became valedictorian of her high school, summa cum laude at Princeton, a graduate of Yale Law School, and ultimately a Supreme Court Justice -- is someone who had a whole litany of unfair advantages handed to her and is the poster child for un-American, merit-less advancement.

It's time to embrace American royalty (via Making Light)

How Science Reporting Works

Today on the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a pithy and startlingly accurate summary of the state of science reporting (be sure to click through for the whole thing).

How Science Reporting Works (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)