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Megaupload: My Part In Its Downfall (Sorta)

January 20, 2012

File-sharers light candles in memory of Megaupload.com (not really: photograph taken February 25, 2011, in Milan cathedral)

The news that the founders of Megaupload.com, the digital locker/file-sharing service, have been arrested in New Zealand is a story I feel a small kind of connection to. Back in October 2001 I interviewed the future Kim Dotcom - then going by Kimble, or his birth name, Kim Schmitz - about a project he'd launched which supposedly involved computer hackers "following the money" from the September 11th terror attacks and presenting evidence of Al Qaida financiers and facilitators to the FBI.... more »

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posted: 20/01/2012 | comments »

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Ethical Journalism, and Protecting Sources

January 19, 2012

Parliament from the air: July 16, 2008

I recently attended a fascinating lecture on a topic I have been writing about occasionally and would like to cover in more detail. But the lecture was given under the Chatham House Rule, and as someone who strives to respect sources and whose continued access to information depends to a considerable extent on earning and maintaining trust, I'm in a real bind here.... more »

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posted: 19/01/2012 | comments »

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The Web on Strike

January 18, 2012

Wordpress.com's English-language homepage today: the text in each redacted black rectangle reads "CENSORED"

Websites as big and significant as Wikipedia and Wordpress have got behind the campaign to stage a kind of mass walkout on the internet today, to protest at America's proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation (a useful primer can be found here). I find myself in a curious position on this. ... more »

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posted: 18/01/2012 | comments »

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A Conversation with the Everything Man: Jimmy Castor, 1947-2012

January 17, 2012

Jimmy Castor as The Everything Man, from the sleeve of Supersound (Atlantic, 1975) - artist uncredited; scanned from author's collection

I once interviewed Jimmy Castor, the doo-wop, pop, soul, funk and R&B pioneer who died yesterday. As with two other recent losses - Melvin Bliss and Eugene McDaniels - the interview was done on the phone, and I never got to meet him or even see him perform. But all three made music that has had a big impact on my life, and they all were particularly generous and engaged interviewees, whose work has only meant more to me after having the chance to talk to them. All three seem to have been denied what I would consider their rightful place in history, too, so their deaths seem all the more unjust: in Castor's case, heartbreakingly so, given the efforts he'd been making in recent years to re-establish himself in an entertainment business he enriched and enlivened with the range, breadth, ambition and quality of the records he made.

By way of a memorial, then, here's Castor in full flow, largely unedited, down a crackly transatlantic phone line 12 years ago. I didn't transcribe any of my questions, but in truth, I may not even have asked any: he had a lot to get off his chest. At one point, he said: "I'm telling you this because I believe in you. I don't talk to everybody this long. I know that you are taking it in. Because this time around I have to be successful again to teach these people what's happening." And that just makes his passing seem all the more unbearably sad. Rest in peace, E-Man.... more »

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posted: 17/01/2012 | comments »

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Doughnuts on a Rope

January 16, 2012

A "doughnuts-on-a-rope"-type contrail spotted in the sky above north Hertfordshire: January 16, 2012

There are a number of "classic" mysteries in the field of secret aircraft projects, and a number of them coalesce under the guise of a project popularly known as Aurora. This was supposed to be a top-secret American aircraft, reputed to fly at hypersonic speeds, tested at Area 51 in the 1990s, was supposedly responsible for a string of bizarre and inexplicable noises heard across the western US, and left a distinctive series of marks across the sky as the only evidence of its fleeting presence. The problem is, it doesn't seem to have ever existed. ... more »

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posted: 16/01/2012 | comments »

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On Holding a Pointless Grudge

January 15, 2012

The Sierra Nevada mountains from near Bodie, California: November 2006

There's this public figure I can't seem to get away from. They're on TV quite a bit and I keep seeing their face in shops, staring out at me - usually with a particularly self-satisfied grin - from adverts. Being alive in the 21st century should make me used to this sort of thing: but I always get a bit narked when I see this particular individual, because I think they owe me money. ... more »

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posted: 15/01/2012 | comments »

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The Dataman Project

January 14, 2012

Page 14 of the July/August 2011 edition of Defense Technology International

Geospatial intelligence - the linking of information about events, incidents, people and objects to place and time - is an area of increasing interest to me, and increasing importance to military personnel. Ahead of a number of further explorations in this area, I've been looking back over work I've done on the subject, and realised that a piece written for Defense Technology International last year, about a GEOINT programme run by and for the British military in Afghanistan, isn't available online. So here it is. This version is taken from the copy I submitted, so may differ slightly from the post-edit version that was published in the magazine. ... more »

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posted: 14/01/2012 | comments »



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