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  • From the people who brought you the 2010 diplomatic cable releases comes Beat the Blockade -- the debut album by WikiLeaks, the global clearinghouse for classified data and sensitive documents. Yahoo News reports that Beat the Blockade will consist of 12 tracks, including "The Ballad of Julian Assange", "B Manning" and "Where There Are No Secrets". (MORE: Wikileaks' War on Secrecy) It is not yet known whether founder Julian Assange, currently seeking political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, will appear on any of the tracks. The album will be released Aug. 5 and costs $5. Proceeds will go towards keeping the website running or to the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange Defense Fund. Since December 2010, following the diplomatic cables release, a financial blockade on WikiLeaks was imposed by the Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. WikiLeaks alleges that this has destroyed 95% of its revenue. (VIDEO: Julian Assange talks to TIME) Beat the Blockade might be WikiLeaks' first foray into the music industry, but the whistle-blowing group has already made significant strides into the world of entertainment. It has established its own online TV show, The World Tomorrow, hosted by Assange, and a social network, Friends of WikiLeaks. MORE: Wikileaks' Julian Assange to Appear as Himself on The Simpsons
  • Whistleblower web site WikiLeaks has released the first of its "Syria Files," a collection of more than 2.4 million e-mails that it says will "shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy" while revealing "how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another." The web site, which obtains documents through anonymous leaking, says the files include intimate correspondence between senior Syrian Baath party figures and records of financial transfers between ministries in Syria and foreign institutions. It also includes information sourced from 680 entities and domains related to Syria, including the country's Ministries of Culture, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Presidential Affairs and Transport. (MORE: WikiLeaks to Release Debut Album) "The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria's opponents," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement. "It helps us not merely to criticize one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it." The release of the files comes just one day after Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denied that Moscow has engaged in talks with Washington about offering exile to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. WikiLeaks' trove of documents includes around 68,000 e-mails in  Russian. Combing through millions of E-mails takes time, and Wikileaks says it's not yet verified every single message. However, all initial stories it will publish have been verified by WikiLeaks and the site's co-publishers. According to the web site: "We are statistically confident that the vast majority of the date are what they purport to be." (VIDEO: Julian Assange talks to TIME)
  • When the New York Times appeared to publish a column in which Keller seemed to be "defending" WikiLeaks, it took web readers by surprise. It was so shocking, in fact, that it turned out to be a hoax.
  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than 5 months, is believed to be suffering from "a chronic lung condition." Ecuador's ambassador to Britain, Ana Alban, told an Ecuadorian TV network on a recent trip to Quito that Assange's condition "could lead to complications." She explained that the cold, dark London winter and the fact Assange has not been outside in five months has been detrimental to his health, reports the Guardian. (MORE: Why is Ecuador Julian Assange's Choice for Asylum?) Assange took refuge in the embassy in June in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden under the terms of a European Arrest warrant, notes Reuters. The founder of Wikileaks, an Internet clearinghouse for classified and sensitive information, he became famous for leaking thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables through the site. He is charged in Sweden with two counts of sexual molestation, one count of unlawful coercion and one count of rape. Assange has denied the allegations, calling Sweden "the Saudi Arabia of feminism," as quoted by the New York Times. He fears if he is sent to Sweden he will be subject to subsequent extradition to the United States, where he could face imprisonment for his role in disseminating classified documents. Since June, Assange has been staying in a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy, living off take-away meals and relying on a treadmill for exercise. He uses a sunlamp to help compensate for nearly half a year without fresh air. Located in the posh London district of Knightsbridge, Ecuador's diplomatic base is modest in comparison to other embassies and has no garden. "Imagine how well someone is in a space of 50 square meters [about 540 square feet], without much sun and poor air circulation," Alban said. "It's absolutely logical to think that a human being in these circumstances is not going to be living well." Assange has had a number of visitors in recent months, including a dinner visit from popstar Lady Gaga. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood also visited the Australian
  • Officials in Steubenville, Ohio, have launched a website entitled "Steubenville Facts" in response to the national attention the town is getting following the alleged rape of a 16 year-old girl by two high school football players last August. The site launched on Saturday, the same day as a protest rally organized by the internet hacktivist group Anonymous that drew nearly 2,000 people to the Jefferson County Courthouse. (Viewpoint: Don't Rush To Judge on Steubenville) The controversy stems from incidents that took place at a series of parties in and around Steubenville, a town of 180,000, on the night of August 11-12. Through twitter posts, videos and photographs from the night, it emerged that a 16-year-old-girl, who is alleged to have been unconscious, was apparently dragged around these parties by a group of Steubenville High football team members and allegedly sexually assaulted as others watched. It is this collection of photos, video and twitter posts which the girl's parents took to the police station 3 days later. According to the girl's statement to the police, she was unaware of what had happened to her during that night. The police claim that in the space of those few days, too much time had elapsed to conduct a toxicology test to determine if she had been drugged. Two 16-year-old sophomores, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond—said to be star players on Steubenville High's celebrated football team—are both awaiting trial on rape charges in connection to the incident, though charges of kidnapping have been dropped. Both deny the allegations. (MORE: Amherst Rape Scandal: What We Get Wrong About Sexual Assault on Campus) While local media published a report on the incident after the boys were arrested, it began gathering steam after a former Steubenville resident and crime blogger named Alexandria Goddard picked up the story, including claims that the police and local officials had dragged their feet on the investigation, and that the school had not adequately disciplined the players involved. An Anonymous-related group called Knight Sec and a Wikileaks-style offshoot, Local Leaks, have both agitated for greater transparency in
  • A company in North Korea, a country known for faked U.S. currency, unicorn sightings and TIME's Person of the Year award, appears to have moved into the lucrative business of plagiarizing Big Bird. The Kyonghung Trading Corporation is advertising its own, unauthorized versions of Sesame Street stuffed toys, featuring characters like Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo, in the North Korean quarterly Foreign Trade magazine. The company was established in 2005 and "employs a large number of toy experts and skilled workers with elaborate craftsmanship,"Kyonghung's ad, spotted by NK News, reads. "Its annual output is hundreds of thousands of pieces." The Pyongyang-based company is been producing the counterfeit toys for export abroad, prompting condemnation by Sesame Street copyright holdersSesame Workshop. (MORE: The Tony Soprano of North Korea) Sesame Workshop said it believed the toys were "unauthorized" in an emailed statement to Voice of America, adding that the North Korean knockoffs look "confusingly similar" to the licensed stuffed Big Birds manufactured by the New Jersey-based toymaker GUND. U.S. sanctions against North Korea do not allow outsourcing to the repressive North Korean regime. In 2011, a BBC investigation revealed that some cashmere sweaters labelled "Made in Scotland" were in fact manufactured by North Korean workers at a Mongolian factory under questionable working conditions. North Korean workers in Mongolia "are monitored closely by ‘minders' from their government, and many are believed to be subject to DPRK government pressure because of family members left behind in North Korea," a U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks revealed. "The workers reportedly do not routinely receive direct and full salary payments." Since the U.S. and North Korea don't have diplomatic relations, little can be done to prevent further counterfeiting. The case is reminiscent of another incident in July last year, when the U.S. media giant Walt Disney complained when the country's 30 year-old dictator Kim Jong Un made a stage appearance in Pyongyang along with unlicensed versions of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. MORE: In North Korea, Google Exec Sees an Internet Open for the Very Few PHOTOS: Kim Jong Il Looking at Things
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has filed paperwork to run for a seat in the Australian senate as a member of the newly formed WikiLeaks party, reported the Australian daily The Age. The Queensland-born Assange first announced his intention to run in the Sept. 14 federal election last December.  According to The Age, he seems to have a pretty good chance of winning: Research by the Australian Labor Party's internal polling company, UMR Research, indicates that Assange could be quite a competitive candidate in either New South Wales or Victoria. (More: Why is Ecuador Julian Assange's Choice for Asylum?) The former computer hacker has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges. According to Agence France-Presse, he is afraid that he will be sent from Sweden to the United States where officials will question him for the release of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables. (More: The Allegations Against Assange: Views From Sweden) According to The Age, Australian law permits citizens living overseas to run for office at home. However, it is unclear how Assange intends to run a campaign from the other end of the world or how he will assume office if he wins the election. It seems that whether Assange wins or not, he already has one staunch supporter: his mother. Christine Assange believed that her son would be "awesome" in the role. "In the House of Representatives we get to choose between US lackey party number one and US lackey party number two – between the major parties," the 41-year-old told The Age. "So it will be great to ‘Assange' the Senate for some Aussie oversight." In 2006, Assange established whistleblower website WikiLeaks, where he in 2010 published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents and diplomatic cables that proved to be huge embarrassments for governments worldwide. (More: Support for Assange from His Mother and (Most of) His Motherland)
  • But we're working off a detailed road map and we know where we're going. Believe it or not, that bit of wisdom came straight out of a New York Times ArtsBeat Q&A with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. In honor of National Poetry month, the Times' senior software architect Jacob Harris created an algorithm that browses articles on the homepage for sentences that would make good haikus, reports the Neiman Journalism Lab. In case you don't remember from high school English class, a haiku is a poem of Japanese origin made up of three lines — five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. (MORE: Startup Giant Thinkwell Reinvents Itself with Haiku Deck) In a seemingly simple process, the software combs through the texts for "haiku-friendly" words then checks them against a pronunciation dictionary, explained Neiman Lab. The dictionary also helps with the syllable count. All of the algorithm's creations are posted on a Tumblr called Times Haiku, along with links to the original articles. The site was inspired by Haikuleaks, a similar generator that writes haiku from Wikileaks' diplomatic cables. Harris was also the brains behind the bot @nytimes_ebooks, a parody of @Horse_ebooks, an Internet bot that constructs nonsensical tweets from words found online. Times Haiku is one way the newspaper hopes to broaden the reach of its articles, Marc Lavallee, assistant editor for interactive news, told Neiman Lab: "If someone sees the site, or the image of an individual haiku and shares it on Tumblr, and it gets them to think about who we are and what we do, or gives them a moment of pause, I think we've succeeded in a way." MORE: HaikuLeaks — The New Way to Read Your WikiLeaks
  • In what appears to be a pretty remarkable coincidence, a 1970s--era cable in which a U.S. diplomat shares his early impressions of Margaret Thatcher was released by the website WikiLeaks, just hours before the death of the former British Prime was announced. The message about Thatcher — at the time the newly minted head of Britain's Conservative Party — was one of more than 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic and intelligence reports from the 1970s that WikiLeaks posted early Monday. (We should point out here that these aren't leaked documents; they're available to the public at the U.S. National Archives.) (PHOTOS: Margaret Thatcher — Portrait of the Iron Lady) The cable, from February 1975 (which is available in full here), is titled "Margaret Thatcher: Some First Impressions." And its writer is fairly blunt: Her conventional and somewhat forced charm, and above all her plummy voice stamp her as the quintessential suburban matron, and frightfully English to boot. None of this goes down well with the working class of England (one-third of which used to vote Conservative), to say nothing of all classes in the Celtic Fringes of this island. There are some compliments, albeit often of the backhanded variety. "She has a quick, if not profound, mind, and works hard to master the most complicated brief." Further, she's "crisp and a trifle patronizing" with the media, yet "honest and straight-forward" with her colleagues, "if not excessively considerate of their vanities," the cable continues. And the unnamed U.S. diplomat who wrote it points out that she had "acquired a distinctively upper middle class personal image," which could damage her chances of becoming Prime Minister ("the odds are against her") but said "few are prepared to say she can't do it." Four years later, in 1979, Thatcher became Britain's first female Prime Minister and won a further two terms before stepping down in 1990. She forged a close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, becoming one of his staunchest allies. Thatcher died Monday at 87 after suffering a stroke. MORE: Farewell to the
  • On April 17, Britain will honor Margaret Thatcher with full military honors, in a ceremonial funeral service attended by the Queen and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. But within hours of the news that the former Prime Minister had passed away from a stroke on April 8, parts of the country began celebrations that for many had been years, if not decades, in the making. As one of the most divisive and polarizing leaders in British political history -- from her controversial closure of coal mines to the introduction of a poll tax and the push for privatization -- it is no surprise that even in death she continues to divide the country. (MORE: Farewell to the Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)) Take, for exmample, an infamous single-serving website which asked "Is Thatcher Dead Yet?" On Monday, after nearly three years of telling visitors "Not Yet," the site featured the word "YES" in big, bold capital letters, adding, "The lady's not returning". The sites creators Antonio Lulic and Jared Earle also asked readers: "How are you celebrating?" Mainly it appears, with champagne and cake. Several impromptu street parties popped up around the U.K. as people cheered and handed out 'Maggie death cake'. In Brixton in South London, the site of 1981 race riots that were among the worst of Thatcher's term in office, hundreds gathered shouting: "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, dead, dead, dead!" The Daily Mirror reports that others shouted: "Free milk for all," in reference to her policy of ending milk subsidies for school children. (MORE: Margaret Thatcher's Foreign Policy: Was the Iron Lady on the Wrong Side of History?  ) The level of vitriol against Thatcher is especially strong in northern parts of the U.K., where many working-class people remember her as the politician who destroyed the British manufacturing industry. An estimated 300 people gathered in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, where crowds were reportedly singing "so long, the witch is dead."  A Facebook campaign has even been set up in the wake of her death to make the song 'Ding Dong!
  • It all started out as an innocent joke. Now a Chicago-area high school student is facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly dumping a particularly scorching hot sauce into the school cafeteria's marinara sauce. Three kitchen workers at Highland Park High School were sent to the hospital with symptoms of coughing, wheezing and skin rashes, according to a report by ABC News. Police said the workers did not ingest the sauce; rather they suffered a reaction by simply being near it, which begs the question: What sort of hot sauce could be so potent that just its fumes send people to the hospital? (More: Is your refrigerator running?  Wisconsin legislator attempts to make prank calls illegal.) "I don't think you can find this one in the store," Highland Park police Deputy Chief George Pfutzenreuter told the Chicago Tribune of the Da' Bomb brand hot sauce that was allegedly poured into the tomato sauce. According to the hot sauce maker's website, the sauces range in intensity from a fiery 119,00 Scoville units to a scorching 1.5 million units, a heat level on par with pepper spray. Da' Bomb claims that after one taste of its hot sauce, "Suddenly the world explodes in blinding flashes of heat all around you. You're terrified. You want to hide, but there's nowhere to go," which may sound like a bit of an overstatement, but then this soldier's reaction to the hot sauce, uploaded to YouTube, pretty much matches  the company's description word for word: Investigators are still trying to determine which of Da' Bomb brand's sauces made it into the marinara sauce. In the meantime, ABC News reports that the school will install security cameras in the cafeteria to ward off future pranksters, or at least capture their mischief on tape. (More: WikiLeaks creates elaborate New York Times hoax, fooling readers.)
  • Move over, Ryan Gosling: the Internet heartthrob of the moment is Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old contractor who leaked documents about NSA's secret phone-and-Internet-surveillance programs to the Guardian and the Washington Post. As of Tuesday, he hadn't been charged with anything (yet) and was still believed to be hiding out in a Hong Kong hotel. While his exact whereabouts may be unknown, Snowden's face is everywhere on the Internet and featured in tributes like the Tumblr page Edward Snowden; Kinda Hot. As of Tuesday morning, however, the blog seemed to still be in its beginning stages, only highlighting two quotes and screenshots from his interview with the Guardian. (MORE: Snowden Saga Turns Public Debate Into Personality Critique) Throughout Tumblr, Snowden supporters are rooting for "Team Edward" via memes — even pink and gray T-shirt designs — a play on the fan club surrounding dreamy Twilight character Edward Cullen. Anonymous News Germany's Tumblr thinks Snowden is presidential material, photoshopping the "Obama for America" logo to read "Snowden-Manning: Change We Can Believe In," which alludes to another well-known leaker Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. On Twitter, users have been gushing about Snowden's looks, rating them on a scale of "hot" to "superhot," the Daily Beast reports: (MORE: NSA Leak Supporters Push Obama to Pardon Snowden) A petition on the White House's We the People website urging President Obama to "pardon" Snowden — calling him a "national hero" — has racked up more than 48,000 signatures since it was created on June 9. Even former Texas Republican Representative Ron Paul has joined Snowden's fan club. Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and Snowden "have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret," Paul said in a statement on Monday. In the Internet's typically fickle fashion, now online gawkers have shifted from ogling Snowden to ogling his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, a ballerina whom he reportedly left behind when he fled to Hong Kong in May. MORE: The Fates of the 10 Most Notorious Leakers
  • NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden boarded a flight to Moscow early Sunday morning, which all but secured the former CIA employee's status as a fugitive on the run. He fled his Hong Kong hideout and has now asked Ecuador for asylum. And it seems Snowden has got the notorious whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks on his side — in a statement, the organization said he was taking a "safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks." But of course, Snowden's not the first fugitive who's trotted the globe in a high-profile attempt to flee the feds. First, there's Marc Rich, the international businessman and financier who, in 1983, was indicted for evading more than $48 million in taxes. As TIME reported previously, Rich faced 51 different counts of tax fraud and was also charged with running illegal oil deals during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979. He fled to Switzerland, and although Bill Clinton pardoned him in 2001 — during his last week in office — to this day, Rich has yet to return to the U.S. In Rich's case, the pardon outraged just about everyone, while in Snowden's case, thousands of supporters demanded his pardon before he was even charged with any crimes. (MORE: Hong Kong Authorities Silent as Snowden Charges Filed) And then, of course, there's Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who, after publishing a trove of classified military documents, eventually sought asylum in Ecuador — much like Snowden's reportedly doing now. For the past year, Assange has lived at the Ecuadorian embassy in London; he fears he could face the death penalty if extradited to the U.S. On Saturday, Assange released a statement reflecting on the past year in general — and Snowden in particular. And let's not forget infamous computer programmer John McAfee, who fled his property in Belize in late 2012 after police tried to question him about the murder of his neighbor. After a full three weeks on the lam, McAfee ended up seeking asylum in Guatemala, admitting he'd crossed the border illegally but
  • What's in a name? Plenty when it comes to titles for Edward Snowden. A poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University found that more Americans believe the man who disclosed confidential NSA information is a "whistle-blower" than a "traitor." The survey did not, however, provide a third option for the middle ground, like "leaker" or "sorry, Quinnipiac, neither of those quite fits." Since Snowden started dominating the news, media outlets have grappled with what exactly to call him, because it matters. Yes, there are legal reasons, but for culture at large, the distinction is often about connotations of righteousness and wrongdoing. Calling him a whistle-blower, as supporters of Bradley Manning call the WikiLeaks source, has noble connotations; it conjures a martyr who will shed sunlight on immoral behavior for The People's sake, whatever the cost to himself—though that wasn't always the case. Calling him a traitor is, of course, less celebratory, while leaker lies in more neutral territory between the two. The Associated Press, makers of an established stylebook guiding journalists' on proper usage, recently issued guidance on the Snowden question: "A whistle-blower is a person who exposes wrongdoing. It's not a person who simply asserts that what he has uncovered is illegal or immoral. Whether the actions exposed by Snowden ... constitute wrongdoing is hotly contested, so we should not call them whistle-blowers on our own at this point." That means for AP writers, that term is off limits, at least for now. The AP editors go on to say that public opinion is one factor that will eventually determine the right label. According to the Quinnipiac poll, 55% of Americans would currently call Snowden a whistle-blower, while 34% would call him a traitor and 11% can't choose between the two. When media outlets try to avoid making that call, the result can be overwrought—the linguistic equivalent of getting around a wreck in St. Louis by avoiding Missouri altogether. In a New York Times article, for instance, a writer referred to Snowden as one "who has acknowledged leaking numerous
  • The Bottled Water Industry Explained People often pay a lot for bottled water. In some cases, designer brands will cost you a 280,000% markup from what you'd pay for tap water. Even the cheaper stuff is expensive. And you're often paying for a product that comes from … drumroll please … a tap just like the one in your kitchen. "Yes, there's an estimated 25% of bottled water that actually comes from the municipal water supply." Zero Hedge takes a look inside the bottled water industry. Guilty of Espionage, Not Aiding the Enemy An Army judge has acquitted WikiLeaks-leaker Bradley Manning on the most serious charge he faced: aiding the enemy. "Had Manning been convicted of aiding the enemy, he would have faced a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. Civil libertarians feared that a conviction on that charge, which has not been used since the Civil War, would have sent a chilling message to would-be government whistle-blowers." Manning, who already pleaded guilty to several counts and was convicted of others today, still faces a maximum jail term of 130 years. Social Media's Role in Adolescent Crimes "There was no physical evidence of a crime, and the victim had no memory of one occurring. Fifteen years ago, Richmond and Mays would have escaped suspicion: before smartphones and Twitter, rumors floated around high schools and then dissipated, often before adults knew what was real and what was adolescent imagination. As it was, the evidence was limited to tweets, the photograph of Richmond and Mays carrying the girl, and a cell-phone video recorded late on the night of the parties and then uploaded to YouTube." The New Yorker's Ariel Levy has written a very interesting story of crime, adolescence, and online vigilantes in the digital age: Trial By Twitter. Why America's Go-Getters Move South That's right you're not from Texas But Texas wants you anyway -- Lyle Lovett The Daily Beast searched for America's aspirational hotspots. The cities are light on traffic and heavy on job opportunities. And a
  • The World's Most Popular Petri Dish You may not have heard of Henrietta Lacks. But if you are in the medical research industry, you definitely know her name. Lacks died of cervical cancer back in 1951. After she died, doctors realized that her cells could thrive in a lab. That was a first. In the decades since, Henrietta's "cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer." It wasn't until 1973 that anyone in Lack's family had any idea that her cells were being used in this way. And as of this week, the family has finally been given some say in how Lacks' cells are used. The cells in question are more than sixty years old, but their use provides an insight into the privacy and personal issues related to studying genomes. + If you want to learn more about this story, I've heard great things about Rebecca Skloot's book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Company Closes to Avoid Sharing Data "I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what's going on -- the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise." Email service provider Lavabit shut down in order to avoid sharing data with the feds. Edward Snowden was reportedly one of their customers. From The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, The N.S.A. and Its Targets. + This recycling bin is stalking you. From what I can tell, most people don't seem too fazed by intrusions into online privacy (in fact, most people respond by voluntarily sharing even more). But I wonder if being targeted based on the location of you and your cellphone will change people's minds a bit. + Slate: How the FBI used a baby-faced WikiLeaks volunteer to spy on Julian Assange. Weekend Reads "The team
  • New Study Finds Many Think Racial Equality Not A Reality Scheduling Reminder: Due to travel plans, NextDraft will be back on Tuesday. Have a good weekend. When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech, few people listening along the Washington D.C. mall could have predicted that, fewer than five decades later, we'd have a person who looks like Barack Obama working out of the Oval Office. While we've come a long way in terms racial equality, we still have a long way to go. How long? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Take a look at the very interesting numbers and analysis from Pew's latest research on how people of different races view the state of racial equality and race relations. The Snowden Effect: U.S. Declassifies Secret Court Opinion U.S. intelligence officials have declassified a court opinion in which the NSA was found to have been wrongly (and perhaps criminally) collecting thousands of "wholly domestic" emails each year. Here's what the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wrote in his secret 2011 opinion: "For the first time, the government has now advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe." At this point, you're probably not too surprised that the NSA was collecting domestic communications. What's really interesting here is that the federal government has decided to declassify the opinion. The feds are now trying to leak faster than Edward Snowden. This dude's impact is pretty incredible. I Am Woman, Hear Me Leak A day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison (he could be eligible for parole in about 8) for providing government files to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning released a statement explaining that he views himself as a female. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I
  • This month, the viral videos that caused us to click most were the ones that made us look twice. It was all about that pesky bait-and-switch principle -- terrible at your bank or with your cell phone company, but as it turns out, not so bad on the Internet. Let's start with the height of pop culture: British band Mumford & Sons is understandably busy embarking on a largely sold-out world tour and crafting their third album. But what band worth its multiplatinum records would outsource their music video? Fans were shocked when the folk-rocking Londoners didn't appear in their latest video for "Hopeless Wanderer" -- though their replacements were quite possibly even better than the band. That's because a team of Hollywood heavy-hitters took the stage instead: Ed Helms (The Hangover), Jason Bateman (‘Arrested Development'), Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis (both of Saturday Night Live fame) donned their country best and rocked out at a down-home hoedown, banjos in hand (of which Helms actually does play). But if you were expecting a straightforward music video starring four funnymen, think again. Such an unexpected twist is just as effective in live situations,  as proven by journalist Jamie Kirchick, who joined a roundtable discussion about Bradley Manning on Russia's state-funded international TV network. But he wasn't interested in talking about the WikiLeaks trial, instead using his screen time for a two-minute tirade about Russia's new anti-gay propaganda laws. Or the Russian Army choir that almost drove a morning show panel to tears with their stirring, heartfelt, bass-heavy rendition of Adele's "Skyfall" from the newest James Bond film. Or even those typically vacuous college convocation speeches -- Georgia Tech freshmen didn't know what to think when their speaker, Nick Selby, launched into a motivational epic, bolstered by the soundtrack from 2001: A Space Odyssey and including quotes from Sir Isaac Newton. And those are just some of our favorite viral videos of August. Take a look at the rest above.
  • Like any good actor, Benedict Cumberbatch reached out to Julian Assange before filming The Fifth Estate in order to make his portrayal of the WikiLeaks founder more realistic. And like any good government dissident, Julian Assange declined. In a letter published in full in Variety, Assange urged Cumberbatch to abandon the enterprise altogether, adding that he thought the actor was a "good person," but that the film is "deceitful" and "toxic." "You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it," the letter said. Assange said that the film is especially dangerous because it's a big-budget Hollywood fictionalization, with the power to overshadow the narrative of what truly happened with Wikileaks. "Feature films are the most powerful and insidious shapers of public perception," he wrote, "because they fly under the radar of conscious exclusion." "By meeting with you, I would validate this wretched film, and endorse the talented, but debauched, performance that the script will force you to give." So I guess that's a no, then? [Variety]    
  • In January 2011, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared less concerned with State Department diplomatic cables or his source imprisoned in a Marine brig than he was with a tell-all book from his former second-in-command. Assange was so focused on Daniel Domscheit-Berg's manuscript for "WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website,"that he tried to enlist David House, a friend of Chelsea Manning's and co-founder of the Private Manning Support Network, to steal it, House tells Wired. The book  is one of two that that the movie "The Fifth Estate," which opens this weekend and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange, is based upon. [Wired]
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Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.