Boing Boing 

Venezuela: 15 Years of Solitude

"The democratic Venezuela that so often received exiles from neighboring countries and gave asylum to political refugees fleeing military governments is once again alone." Maruja Tarre, a Venezuelan journalist, reflects on the violent situation in her home country. Previously: "Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state," an essay on Boing Boing by her daughter Isabel Lara, about the experience of being spied upon in Venezuela. Read the rest

Will US condemn UK for using terrorism laws to suppress journalism?


Journalist Glenn Greenwald after being reunited with his partner, David Miranda, in Rio de Janeiro's International Airport after British authorities used anti-terrorism powers to detain Miranda. RICARDO MORAES/REUTERS

In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knew Miranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I’d like to expand on one particular point:

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Mercury Waltz, a sequel to Kathe Koja's Under the Poppy

It's been nearly four years since Kathe Koja's amazing novel "Under the Poppy" was published, plunging readers into a dark world of eros, war, and puppetry (seriously). Koja is a chameleon of a writer, whose career began with grotesque, lascivious, splatterpunk horror novels like The Cipher, then transitioned into spare, quietly brilliant YA novels like Buddha Boy, and then emerged in the entirely indescribable territory of Under the Poppy, to which she has now returned with a new novel called The Mercury Waltz.

Koja stopped in at John Scalzi's blog Whatever for an online interview about the book:

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Somali Al Qaeda affiliate orders Internet shutdown

Al-Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated faction in Somalia, has ordered the nation's ISPs to shut off the Internet, or else. The Somali government has ordered the ISPs not to shut down.

DMZ: the deluxe edition volume 1


When Brian Wood's brilliant America-at-war comic DMZ completed its six-year run in 2012, I wished for Vertigo to bring out a single edition collecting the whole series. They haven't quite gotten there, but with tomorrow's release of DMZ: The Deluxe Edition Book One, they're getting close. The large, beautifully produced, gorgeous hardcover collects the first 12 issues of the comic -- the equivalent of the first two trade paperback collections. A followup collection, due in June, picks up issues 13-28. At this rate, the whole thing will end up in four-to-six books, suitable to being drunk down in one long, engrossing, chilling, thrilling draft.

Here's my synopsis of the setup from my review of the final volume (which was nothing less than brilliant -- Wood really nailed the ending):

If you're just tuning in, DMZ is the story of an America caught in the midst of so many "elective" overseas military adventures that the nation itself crumbles and is gripped in a civil war between a guerrilla force of the "Free United States" and the military-industrial complex, mostly in the form of vicious, private military contractors. NYC is the place where the two forces clash, the "DMZ" where there are many civilians, but no innocents. Matty Roth, the story's hero, is a helper with a news crew for Liberty News, the hyper-patriotic, semi-state-owned propaganda news service. As he arrives in New York, his helicopter is shot down, and he finds himself catapulted into a new role as a boy reporter. From those beginnings, the story unrolls, as Roth discovers the truth of war, becomes the story he is reporting on, and finally falls too deep.

If you're looking for a perfect way to tune into one of the best comics of the 21st century, this volume is it.

DMZ: The Deluxe Edition Book One

Spooks and American Exceptionalism

Ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi takes a stab at explaining how his fellow retired spooks -- Democrat and Republican -- can be so comfortable with a president who has given himself the power to order assassinations and a regime where the constitution has been effectively suspended. It's all down to American Exceptionalism: "It's OK when we do it, because we're the good guys."

Interview with Sol Yurick, author of The Warriors


Geoff from BLDGBLOG sez, "A few years ago, I interviewed novelist Sol Yurick, author of The Warriors, for BLDGBLOG -- but a variety of circumstances meant it just sat in my hard drive for the past four years. But after rediscovering the interview in my old files, and after Yurick himself passed away back in January, it seemed like there was no time like the present to publish this, finally."

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DIY Drone Shadow Handbook: how to create accurate drone-shadow street art


James Bridle has released a CC-licensed DIY Drone Shadows handbook (PDF), which explains, in detail, how to make accurate drone-shadow street art in your town/neighborhood. It's part of a larger project around Dirty Wars, a documentary on drone warfare currently touring the UK.

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Excerpt from forthcoming Joe Haldeman novel "Work Done For Hire"

Tor.com has an excerpt from Work Done For Hire, a new thriller from Joe Haldeman, forthcoming in January. Haldeman is the author of numerous science fiction classics, including The Forever War, and is a titan in the field. Any year with a new Haldeman in it is a good year.

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The secret twin of Stuxnet


Natanz, Iran's primary uranium enrichment facility.

"The real program to sabotage Iran's nuclear facilities was far more sophisticated than anyone realized," writes Ralph Langner in Foreign Policy Magazine.
Three years after it was discovered, Stuxnet, the first publicly disclosed cyberweapon, continues to baffle military strategists, computer security experts, political decision-makers, and the general public. A comfortable narrative has formed around the weapon: how it attacked the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, how it was designed to be undiscoverable, how it escaped from Natanz against its creators' wishes. Major elements of that story are either incorrect or incomplete. That's because Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet's smaller and simpler attack routine -- the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and "forgotten" routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy.

Exclusive: Joe Sacco's The Great War, documentary on the creation of an extraordinary graphic history

Joe Sacco is a spectacular political comics creator, and has earned a well-deserved reputation for his work on war and conflict with books on Sarajevo and Bosnia, Gaza and Palestine and other modern militarized zones.

But now he's created The Great War, a wordless, gate-folded work on World War One. It's gorgeous and haunting, and beautifully presented in a slipcased hardcover. His publisher, WW Norton, prepared a short documentary on the book and we've got it exclusively (for now). I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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Afghan Taliban critiques journalism ethics of The Daily Beast


The website banner for shahamat-english.com, an English-language website of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.

The Taliban's critique, below, in full:

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Drone strike survivors from Pakistan speak to Congress; only five lawmakers bother to show up (video)

In the video above, Rafiq ur Rahman, a drone strike survivor from Pakistan, speaks at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC convened by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09). The primary school teacher spoke with his daughter Nabila (9) and son Zubair (13). One year ago, they were injured in the same drone strike that killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Rafiq's mother, as she was tending crops in her garden.

Kevin Gosztola of Firedog lake attended the briefing, and writes: "It is heart-wrenching to hear a 13-year-old boy say, 'Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,' because this is one of the few times he is not afraid he will be targeted by a drone."

From Kevin's report:

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Smoking is good for you, under very limited circumstances


Behold, the Craven A tin that saved the life of Royal Flying Corpsman Arthur Mann, who was shot down by the Red Baron himself. In a later battle, this tin stopped a bullet and saved his life.

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See World War II play out in 7 minutes

The front lines shift, not evenly or chaotically, but in punctuated surges: first one way, then the other. [via Kottke]

Soviet plane-spotting head-gear


Drakegoodman scanned this 1917-ish photo of Soviet planespotters in exotic headgear; according to a commenter, the binox are focused at infinity "so that when you found the source of the sound by turning your head, you could see the aircraft creating that sound."

WTF (via Bruce Sterling)

Podcast: Ian Tregillis explains the Milkweed novels

Rick Kleffel interviewed Ian Tregillis, author of the amazing alternate history Milkweed books, about Nazi X-Men fighting a secret war against British warlocks. Tregillis describes the process by which he came up with the premise, and especially -- and most interestingly -- how he came up with his brilliant treatment for Gretl, a precognitive villain who is pretty much evil personified (MP3).

The history of sarin

UN investigators confirmed this week that sarin was used in attacks on civilians in Syria, and, at The Guardian, Ian Sample has an interesting story about the history of this poison, starting with its origins in Nazi Germany. Interestingly, it wasn't originally developed specifically to be used on people. Sarin was an accidental discovery that came out of IG Farben research into new insecticides. Nevertheless, the formula was quickly handed off to the German military. One of the inventors of sarin eventually ended up convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg. He served four years — before being recruited into the US chemical weapons program.

Squirrels hell-bent on destruction of American electric infrastructure

If you enjoy the irony in the fact that the great East Coast blackout of 2003 was largely caused by a few untrimmed trees, then you're going to love Jon Mooallem's account of how America's squirrels are wreaking havoc on America's electricity system.

Using a Google news alert, he's cataloged 50 squirrel-caused power outages in 24 states — and that's just since Memorial Day. These aren't small outages either. Several of them have cut power to thousands of people at a time. Back in 1994, a squirrel took out the Nasdaq. These are kamikaze raids and they've led to an interesting phenomenon — technology developed specifically to protect our infrastructure from furry, tree-hopping rodents.

Pictured: The face of pure evil, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from binaryape's photostream

Manning’s gender hell: Shades of gray in a black-and-white world

We asked writer, film director, Boing Boing contributor, and transgender educator and activist Andrea James what she thought about the media confusion following Private Manning's gender transition revelation. Below, Andrea's thoughts.Read the rest

Timeline of chemical warfare

NewImageOn the heels of the horrible suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria in which more than 1,300 people were killed, National Geographic created a timeline about the history of chemical and biological weapons, dating back to AD 256 in, coincidentally, Syria:

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Spider Tank RC robot kits on Kickstarter

Jaimie Mantzel, creator of the Attacknid hexapod robot toys, is kickstarting a kit version that you build and decorate yourself. It looks like a really fun project, and there's an optional toolkit with soldering iron, screwdrivers, etc. The final robot is an RC attack-bot with all kinds of shooting stuff (darts, balls, etc) as well as a custom crane that isn't available for Attacknids. He needs a minimum order of 5,000 robot kits at $77 (and up, depending on options) to get into production.

Mantzel has also built a full-size, working spider tank out of scrap metal.

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Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press


UPDATE: Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court.”


Journalists and bloggers covering closing arguments in the military trial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning are reporting a far more intense security climate at Ft. Meade today, as compared to the past 18 months of pre-trial hearings and court proceedings.

@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being "screamed at" for having "windows" open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.

I visited the trial two weeks ago. While there were many restrictions for attending press that I found surprising (reporters couldn't work from the courtroom, mobile devices weren't allowed in the press room), it wasn't this bad. I was treated respectfully and courteously by Army Public Affairs Officers and military police, and was only grumped at a few times for stretching those (silly) restrictions. I was physically searched only once, when entering the courtroom, and that's standard for civilian or military trials.

But the vibe is very different today in the Smallwood building where reporters are required to work, about a quarter mile away from the actual courtroom. Tweets from some of the attending journalists are below; there are about 40-50 of them present and not all are tweeting. Internet access is spotty today. Oh, wait; as I type this blog post, I'm now seeing updates that they're being told they are not allowed to access Twitter at all. Why has the climate changed so much in the final few days of the trial? What is the Army afraid of?

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Closing arguments in Bradley Manning court-martial paint Wikileaks source as glory-seeking traitor

Inside a small courthouse on the Army base in Fort Meade, Maryland, Army prosecutors are presenting closing arguments in their case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of government documents to Wikileaks.

According to Maj. Ashden Fein today, the 25-year-old former intel analyst betrayed his country’s trust and handed government secrets to Julian Assange in search of fame and glory, knowing that in doing so, the material would be made visible to Al Qaeda and its then-leader Osama bin Laden.

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Saga: visually stunning, sweet and exciting space opera comic from Brian "Y: The Last Man" Vaughan


Brian K Vaughan is best known for creating the wonderful apocalyptic adventure-comic Y: The Last Man. His new project, Saga, is a significant departure from Y in setting and tone, but it is every bit as great -- and a little bit better, if you ask me.

The setup is that two posthuman species -- a moon-dwelling tribe of horned magic-users and a planet-based race of high-tech winged people -- are locked in an endless war that spills out across the galaxy, embroiling all the races of all the planets in a series of vicious, permanent proxy-wars. In the midst of this, Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of the war, fall in love, desert and have a baby, and kick off a sprawling space-opera as they flee from their respective armies and the bounty hunters they hire.

Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples let their imaginations run wild with this story, giving us a galaxy populated by creature-shop aliens that are somewhere between Duchamp and Disney, a Mos Eisley Cantina times a million. Vaughan weaves a splendid romantic adventure around this, with sweet Nick-and-Nora dialog that never feels forced. But the story transcends mere pace-pounding, and manages moments of sweetness, sorrow, and sentiment that will have you daubing your eyes between laughing and gasping over audacious battles. It's like The Incal, but with a more straightforward (and more self-disciplined) storyline, and it's a reminder that as a visual medium, science fiction has tricks that are just stupendous.

I've just read the first two collections in a single sitting, and they are spectacular. Best of all, they're from Image Comics, who just announced a DRM-free comics store, so you can keep up with the book in print or online without surrendering your right to actually own the comics you buy.

I can't say enough about the visual style deployed in Saga -- check out some of my favorite panels and pages after the jump.

Saga Volume 1, Saga Volume 2

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Mercury Waltz: a sequel to Under the Poppy

Here's good news! There's a sequel coming for Kathe Koja's dark, erotic, weird and wonderful novel Under the Poppy. It's called "The Mercury Waltz," and it'll be out later this year -- the book-trailer above is a beautiful tease for what's sure to be a fantastic read.

In final phase of Bradley Manning trial, a defense of Wikileaks

Charlie Savage at the New York Times covers proceedings in the court-martial of PFC Bradley Manning at Ft. Meade, on the day the defense rested its case. The final witness for the defense was Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who authored this widely-cited paper on WikiLeaks. Benkler testified that the organization served a legitimate journalistic role when Manning leaked it some 700,000 or more secret government files.

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Long-exposure night gunfire photos from Vietnam war revealed

Photo by Jim Hensinger: "Time exposure of M60 7.62 cal. machine gun(S), M2 .50 cal. Browning Machine Gun, and twin 40 mm anti-aircraft Bofor (Pom-Pom) guns mounted on a M42 Duster (tank) firing long bursts of tracers at night."

Mr. Hensinger: at left in Vietnam in 1970, and at right, now.

Vietnam War veteran and photographer James Speed Hensinger has shared a never-before-published collection of night photographs he shot in Vietnam in 1970.

They show US troops opening fire on a Viet Cong sniper who was firing on the US soldiers with an AK47 automatic rifle. Hensinger kept these photographs private for four decades; he chose to publish them online to commemorate Memorial Day in the US.

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US drone strikes kill more civilians in Afghanistan than manned fighter aircraft

Spencer Ackerman, formerly of Wired News and now with the Guardian, reports today: "A study conducted by a US military adviser has found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft." The new study was referenced in an official US military journal, and shows that US officials' claims that unmanned planes can target more efficiently than manned counterparts are not true. [guardian.co.uk]

Proto-warblogger Kevin Sites returns to Afghanistan. Here's the reporting gear he's packing.

Xeni Jardin and Kevin Sites worked together to create one of the world's first "warblogs," when Kevin was a CNN correspondent headed into Iraq, and later, Afghanistan. Ten years later, Kevin is returning to Afghanistan to reconnect with the people whose lives he documented. He shares a snapshot of his gear bag, and the details on what's inside, as he prepares for what may be his last trip into a war zone. Read the rest