Syria's lethal Facebook checkpoints

An anonymous tip from a highly reliable source: "There are checkpoints in Syria where your Facebook is checked for affiliation with the rebellious groups or individuals aligned with the rebellion. People are then disappeared or killed if they are found to be connected. Drivers are literally forced to load their Facebook/Twitter accounts and then they are riffled through. It's happening daily, and has been for a year at least." Anyone have any corroboration for this? Cory 13

Donald Rumsfeld, unconvicted war criminal, is upset with the IRS

Noted horrible shitbag Donald Rumsfeld has one thing in common with you and I, dear reader: he is not happy with the IRS, and wishes he hadn't spent so much money preparing and filing his taxes. Here is his annual open letter to the Internal Revenue Service, no doubt to promote his stupid narcissistic book. Here are my thoughts on the matter. Read Rummy's letter below.

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Putin launches Russian invasion of Ukraine; UN security council meets


One week after Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovuych fled Kiev and the government snipers who'd murdered dozens of protesters ran for the hills, Vladimir Putin has received approval from the Russian Parliament to invade the country. In Crimea, an area where armed gangs loyal to Yanukovuych have taken control, protesters have been beaten and been made to kneel. The Ukrainian navy has taken to sea. The Russian ambassador to the USA is said to be withdrawing. Russian tanks are in Crimea. The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss intervention.

Twitter's #russiainvadesukraine is a good place to stay abreast of affairs.

On the Guardian, Conal Urquhart is maintaining a running feed of new developments.

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.

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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. Cory 13

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." Cory 34

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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