FBI thought Pete Seeger was a commie

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Legendary folk singer, activist and countercultural icon Pete Seeger died in 2014 at the age of 94, but we're only now learning that the FBI thought he was a communist as a young man because of the artist's "subversive" connections.

In a security investigation triggered by a wartime letter he wrote denouncing a proposal to deport all Japanese-Americans, the Army intercepted Seeger's mail to his fiancee, scoured his school records, talked to his father, interviewed an ex-landlord and questioned his pal Woody Guthrie, according to FBI files obtained by The Associated Press.

Investigators concluded that Seeger's association with known communists and his Japanese-American fiancee pointed to a risk of divided loyalty.

Seeger's "Communistic sympathies, his unsatisfactory relations with landlords and his numerous Communist and otherwise undesirable friends, make him unfit for a position of trust or responsibility," according to a military intelligence report.

Famously, Seeger was later blacklisted during the Red Scare as a member of The Weavers, his band…

Seeger and Lee Hays were identified as Communist Party members by FBI informant Harvey Matusow (who later recanted) and ended up being called up to testify to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955. Hays took the Fifth Amendment. Seeger refused to answer, however, claiming First Amendment grounds, the first to do so after the conviction of the Hollywood Ten in 1950. Seeger was found guilty of contempt and placed under restrictions by the court pending appeal, but in 1961 his conviction was overturned on technical grounds. Because Seeger was among those listed in the entertainment industry blacklist publication, Red Channels, all of the Weavers were placed under FBI surveillance and not allowed to perform on television or radio during the McCarthy era.

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Marvin Minsky's "Society of Mind," a free course on AI from MIT

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Artificial Intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky died yesterday. He was one of computer science's great pioneers, a brilliant researcher who could translate his insights into material accessible even to laypeople. Read the rest

Kathryn Cramer remembers her late husband, David Hartwell, a giant of science fiction

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Kathryn Cramer was married to David Hartwell for decades, and though they'd been in the midst of "a collaborative divorce" for four years, they were still close friends and still married. Read the rest

Very sad news about science fiction titan David G Hartwell

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David Hartwell, a senior editor at Tor Books, cofounder of the New York Review of Science Fiction, legendary collector, raconteur, critic, anthologist, and fixture in so many fo science fiction's scenes and fandom, is in the hospital with a "massive brain bleed" and is not expected to live. Read the rest

Brewster Kahle remembers Aaron Swartz: "an open source life"

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Today is the third anniversary of Aaron Swartz's death. Lisa Rein writes, "In memory of Aaron, I transcribed Brewster Kahle's amazing talk from the San Francisco Memorial in 2013. He explains the simple qualities and goals of Aaron's 'Open Source Life,' how those goals were so greatly misunderstood by the powers that be, and how we can all work together to make positive changes in these areas in the future, for the benefit of the greater good." Read the rest

Ian "Debian" Murdock dies after threatening suicide

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Ian Murdock is half of the founding team of Debian, a popular and foundational flavor of GNU/Linux from which Ubuntu and Mint are descended. Earlier this week, he posted a series of bizarre, racialized tweets in which he threatened to commit suicide to call attention to the police brutality he was experiencing. He is now dead, though the cause of his death has not been disclosed. Read the rest

Rhianna Pratchett remembers her father, Terry

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The long-dreaded death of Terry Pratchett finally arrived in 2015, years after his inital prognosis predicted it would come. Pratchett spent his last years on Earth working his guts out, leaving behind a literary legacy of enormous breadth and depth. Read the rest

RIP, EL Doctorow

The author of spectacular novels (my favorite is Book of Daniel, which crosses a fictionalized life of Abbie Hoffman with a fictionalized account of the Rosenbergs) and outstanding critical essays (I still can't get The Creators out of my mind) was 84 (no relation). Read the rest

RIP, Caspar Bowden, tireless, brilliant, effective UK privacy warrior

I met Caspar in 2001 while working for EFF; he was working for the Foundation for Internet Policy Research, which tirelessly lobbied the Lords and Parliament on the new surveillance powers that the Blair government wanted to bring in. Read the rest

Best obituary

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Bye Doug. Read the rest

Christopher Lee, 1922-2015

Lord Summerisle, Dracula, Saruman—all immortal. Alas, the legendary actor behind them, who created villains of imposing intelligence and dignity for generation after generation, is dead at 93.

The Guardian.

The veteran actor, best known for a variety of films from Dracula to The Wicker Man through to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, passed away on Sunday morning at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, according to sources.

The decision to release the news days after was based on his wife’s desire to inform family members first. The couple had been married for over 50 years.

As well as his career in film, Lee also released a series of heavy metal albums, including Charlemagne: The Omens of Death. He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded the Bafta fellowship in 2011.

I believe Hobbit part 3 was his final screen performance; if so, his last cinematic words were quite splendid: Read the rest

Sending Terry Pratchett home with HTTP headers

In Terry Pratchett's novel Going Postal, an allegory about the creation of an Internet-like telegraph system called "the clacks," workers who die in the line of duty have their names "sent home," by being transmitted up and down the line in the system's signalling layer ("A man is not dead while his name is still spoken"). Read the rest

RIP, Terry Pratchett

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Terry Pratchett, a treasure of a writer, a gem of a human being, and a credit to our species, has died, far too soon, at the age of 66. Read the rest

RIP, Eugie Foster

The Nebula Award-winning writer/editor had been raising money for cancer treatment; she died today. Read the rest

RIP, Daniel Keyes, author of "Flowers for Algernon"

Daniel Keyes, the MD who wrote the classic science fiction novel Flowers for Algernon, has died at 86, of complications from pneumonia. I met Keyes when he received the Science Fiction Writers of America's Author Emertius honor in 2000, and he struck me as a sensitive and thoughtful person. He told the story of how he'd conceived of Algernon while riding the subway to his medical residence, and how pleased he'd been with its reception (it's also one of the small handful of science fiction novels whose film adaptation is in the same league as the book -- the 1968 film "Charly" won its lead an Academy Award).

Algernon is a truly fantastic contribution to literature -- a book that has stayed with me for decades and influenced the way I think about intelligence, science, medicine, and self-determination. Though Keyes never wrote another science fiction work that attained its success, that book alone earned him a richly deserved place in history. (via /.) Read the rest

Jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver, 1928-2014

The great jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver died today "of natural causes" at his home in New Rochelle, New York. Read the rest

RIP, Jay Lake

The first time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was after the 2006 Los Angeles World Science Fiction convention; I was invited to a dinner with a bunch of other Campbell Award winners from years gone by. It was the year John Scalzi won the award, and I want to say it was me, him, Jay and Elizabeth Bear, though these dinners do blend together and I may be missing a name.

The last time I had a proper conversation with Jay Lake, it was last July, at the San Diego Comic Con, where Jay was in a wheelchair, and when I asked him how he was, he said he was dying, and that he wasn't going to last more than about six months. He was frank about this, and seemed to have made some peace with it. His daughter, the other people around him, we all knew he was dying. He didn't let us get maudlin. But every conversation I had with him meant something, because I had gotten to know Jay by then, and to know what a fantastic person and what a fantastic writer he was. I made a conscious effort to fix every interaction in my mind. I hugged him goodbye when I left. He was still a bear of a man, but unmistakably frail.

Jay died today.

He'd had cancer for years, and had been brave about it, and had fought. He even beat it for a while. Not long ago, though, it became clear that he was going to lose. Read the rest

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