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We have a pair of tix to see panoramic sunny pop experimentalists Cloud Cult – think Arcade Fire, but less disco and Grammy-winning and more Eno Another Green World/Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy and Midwestern Burning Man pagan-folk-baroque — at the Prince Music Theater on Friday April 18th. To qualify, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us a much, with the magic words YES, I WOULD LIKE TO JOIN YOUR CULT BECAUSE THAT ALWAYS SEEMS TO END WELL FOR EVERYONE in the subject line. If you are already on our mailing list, just send us an email saying as much. Either way, please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. The 14th Phawker reader to email us with the magic words wins! PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND MOBILE NUMBER FOR CONFIRMATION. Good luck and godspeed!
WIRED: Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor a bill that bans the construction of bus rapid transit (BRT) in two counties, one of which includes the city of Nashville. The impetus for the vote was a proposal to build a $174 million BRT system in Nashville called The Amp, which would’ve ran on a 7.1 mile route and served rapidly growing neighborhoods across the city. There’s a more detailed summary of the project over at The Tennessean. Although BRT has been shown to revitalize economies and reduce congestion, opponents of The Amp voiced concerns about the safety of unloading bus passengers along roadways and whether private land would be used to build dedicated bus lanes. After the vote, Amp opponents revealed that the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, founded with the support of brothers Charles and David Koch, had lobbied in favor of the bus ban. MORE
NASHVILLE SCENE: The roots of The Amp conflict go back years. But it didn’t start heating up until fall 2012, when the project was still known as the East-West Connector. Videos from early community meetings showed middle-aged, well-off residents from the West End and Richland neighborhoods complaining that the new transit system would deposit “riff-raff from East Nashville” at their doorsteps. They got about as much sympathy as Swan Ballers shaking their jeweled fists at the great unwashed. MORE
RELATED: A study completed in December 2011 concluded that a BRT system, with dedicated lanes and fixed stations along the route, would provide the same benefits as streetcars at half the cost. Thus The Amp would move forward as BRT. In addition, based on information that came out of a five-year strategic plan released in 2009, its route would consist of two dedicated lanes going each way from West End to East Nashville. The pro-Amp explanation was heavy on references to West End as Nashville’s “Main Street,” citing the corridor’s 170,000 employees, 25,000 residents and 11 million annual visitors. MORE
RELATED: Rick Williams [PICTURED, ABOVE] opens the passenger door and steps out eagerly. An enthusiastic 55-year-old with a car salesman’s full head of wavy hair, Williams is dressed for a mission. His loafers are black, his pants are khaki, and his T-shirt — a battle flag of sorts — is red. It shows a bus underneath a boldface message: “Stop Amp.” This crisp morning, there is excitement in his nasal voice. The resistance has crossed the river. “We’re putting up our first 2-by-4 in East Nashville,” Williams says. “This is big for us.” Inside the truck, there’s a stack of red signs bearing the same logo and message as Williams’ T-shirt. Over the past six months, they have started to appear in yards across the city, particularly throughout the neighborhoods west of I-440 on West End. They declare opposition to The Amp, the $175 million bus rapid transit line proposed by Mayor Karl Dean. Rick Williams put them there. Typically, Williams spends a few hours every day driving around town and staking them up himself. MORE
RELATED: The Koch Brothers ARE Job Creators
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has revealed some of the group’s most carefully guarded secrets. The reporting on the documents he leaked won the Washington Post and The Guardian Pulitzer prizes, announced on Monday. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about Snowden himself — and his motivation. In a new article in Vanity Fair, Bryan Burrough, Suzanna Andrews and Sarah Ellison take a closer look at Snowden in an effort to explain how a high school drop-out, a “seemingly aimless geeky kid from the Maryland suburbs,” came to possess and expose secret NSA documents. The trio spent six months researching their Vanity Fair article, THE SNOWDEN SAGA, Bryan Borrough reflects on the article with Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. MORE
BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Can anyone give me an update on how the native Americans are making out in their negotiations with the federal government on getting their original land holdings returned? Yeah, that’s what I figured — about as well as today’s Palestinians are progressing with getting THEIRS back. But I guess that’s how it goes when the land in question was originally doled out to the ancestors of its present occupiers by no less a grantor than Jehovah himself. One could almost be forgiven for thinking all of this is simply a bad dream were it not, in fact, such a completely despicable and deadly reality. Why the hell do we even pretend to believe in “justice for ALL” anymore? Oh, sure, we pay a little lip service to it now and then — an oration here, an oration there; just enough to appease our collective conscience. And then, ho hum, faster than you can say, “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail,” we’re back in front of our TVs, game boxes, computers and smart phones. It’s a subject much too guilt-ridden to dwell on.
Might makes right. Well, not really. But as evidenced by the one-sided unjust and immoral abomination taking place some 5,740 miles east of here, one could certainly be forgiven for believing so. You might say it all began one day when, as Susan Abulhawa so understatedly asks in her novel, Mornings in Jenin, ”How was it that a man could not walk onto his own property, visit the grave of his wife, eat the fruits of forty generations of his ancestors’ toil, without mortal consequence?” To understand why it continues to this day you have only to imagine Benjamin Netanyahu whispering in Mahmoud Abbas’s ear, “You haven’t knuckled under enough, but when you do, rest assured it won’t be nearly enough.” And so it sadly goes, and goes, and goes, in the Jewish God’s own little green acre in the middle of the Middle East. You know, I’m beginning to wonder if “settlement expansion” hasn’t all along been Israel’s covert plan to literally “drown” all protestation out of the Palestinians. The way I see it, the Israelis have secretly resolved to keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing the Palestinians back, back, back, and just a little bit farther back still, until they eventually disappear into the Mediterranean and Red Seas leaving only anecdotal evidence of their ever having existed at all.
Sixty-five years of unimaginable human misery and injustice, more than six million refugees without hope of returning, little or no support from even their fellow Arabs, and still no resolution. Why, you ask? Well, primarily because of the implied (but in all likelihood “paper tigered”) threat of American intervention should Israel end up in an armed conflict with multiple Arab nations. I use the term “paper tigered” because the American public’s reaction to the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our exhibited reluctance to take any kind of consequential action in places like Egypt, Syria, Libya, Crimea, North Korea, etc., leave little doubt as to our waning valiancy when it comes to military involvement in anyone’s problems regardless of who, where, or under what circumstances. Yes, I recognize that we no longer hold the kind of sway in Israeli affairs we once did, but the threat of divorcing ourselves from their situation completely will always be a hammer too heavy to ignore. For all their bluster, Israel cannot survive without our support. Period.
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This story does NOT reflect well on the FBI, the State Department, the media or the Federal prosecutor’s office of Virginia and the judge that initiated and perpetuated this travesty of justice. None of whom ever offered a word of apology. Shame on them all.
VICE: This past January, I asked Eric if he wanted to tell his story. It had been a year since he fired the RPG and about four months since he’d been released from jail, where he’d been in solitary confinement for six months. He’d signed a sealed plea bargain that gave him his freedom … sort of. He was now a felon, living with his parents in Phoenix, unable to do what he wanted to do most — return to Syria and continue fighting. He had been labeled the “American Jihadist” in the media, portrayed as a Muslim fundamentalist who hated America. He didn’t hate America, but the past year had made him feel used and betrayed by the US government, which he had served officially as a soldier and unofficially as — so he thought — an informant to the FBI and CIA. Eric had been found in Doc’s bedroom at about 3 PM. The paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. “They wouldn’t let me in the room,” he told me. “When they brought him out on the gurney, I said, ‘Let me see my boy’s face.’ They said they couldn’t. That it was against the law.” The initial report was that it was an overdose; needles were reportedly found near Eric. But according to Doc, there was blood everywhere — under his desk, under his bed, seeping out some sliding glass doors. “How can there be that much blood if its drugs?” he wondered. An autopsy will determine the cause of death. MORE
EDITOR’S NOTE: The article excerpted below, Everybody Should Have An Albert by Paul Slansky Paul Slansky, was first published in The Village Voice in March 1979
DAILY BEAST: When [his comedian father], died in 1958, 11-year-old Albert [Brooks], who had grown up around Hollywood comedians, already had a reputation among them as a budding comic genius. A few years later, when Johnny Carson asked Carl Reiner to name the funniest men he knew, Mel Brooks and a high school kid named Albert [Brooks] were the two that he mentioned. He did his first Tonight Show in mid-1972, and quickly became a Carson favorite. Instead of adopting bizarre, negative personae that would exploit the audience’s hostilities, Albert performed as himself, using his feelings rather than disguising them and talking as if the audience were sitting in his living room. So sure was he of his instincts that he didn’t even audition his new material for friends. “I tried out all my stuff on national television,” he says. “After doing two years of TV, I felt confident enough to put together a live bit.”
Albert spent three years on the road, headlining in small clubs and opening for rock stars like Neil Diamond in larger halls. The anxiety and boredom created by doing the same material night after night finally got to him during a tour to promote his first album, Comedy Minus One, and a gig at Paul’s Mall in Boston was literally the end of the road. “I was just real tired,” he says, “and the record wasn’t even in the stores. I remember doing an interview with a disc jockey who said to me, ‘Jonathan Winters went crazy, you think that’s ever gonna happen to you?’ I said, ‘I think it’s happening right now.’” In the middle of the one-week engagement, he flew back to L.A.
Around this time, he began going out with Linda Ronstadt, a relationship that lasted two years. “I was going with Linda just before big things started happening for her,” he says. “We lived together for almost a year. We liked each other because at that time we had the exact same fear of performing—whatever that fear was, we shared it.” By the end of 1975, his films were appearing regularly on Saturday Night Live, ostensibly the ideal vehicle to catapult him to stardom. Unfortunately, the relationship was not a smooth one. “Albert, to put it in its mildest form, is sometimes intolerant of other people’s problems,” says producer Lorne Michaels. “We couldn’t edit, we couldn’t have audience laughter on the soundtrack. He had complete creative control. I had asked him for three-to-five-minute films, he got me up to five-to-seven minutes, and eventually they came in at 10. And you couldn’t say they were too long, because he would say, ‘They’re brilliant.’” [...] When the six-film contract expired, neither party was inclined to renew. “Viewer mail rated my films the least popular part of the show,” says Albert. “The Muppets were the audience favorites.” MORE
ALBERT BROOKS: The New National Anthem
From The Flip Wilson Show, December 5, 1972.
New Banksy, Cheltenham, U.K., near GCHQ, earlier today via the BBC
BBC: The artwork, which appeared in Cheltenham on Sunday, depicts three men wearing sunglasses and using listening devices to “snoop” on a telephone box. The piece has already attracted hundreds of visitors. Banksy has not yet claimed the work but it bears his hallmarks, say experts. Cheltenham street artist Dice67 claimed he had been told the artwork, which appeared on the corner of Fairview Road and Hewlett Road on Sunday morning, is indeed by Bristol artist Banksy. “It’s been all over the art forums. He’s tipped off a couple of people to come and see it – one guy flew in from France yesterday to take some photos of it.” MORE
BY DUSTIN SLAUGHTER A recent Pew poll indicates that more than 70% of Americans oppose the National Security Administation’s bulk collection of cellphone metadata. For Pennsylvanians, the threat to security and privacy of your cellphone communications just hit a little closer to home. Phawker has learned that Pennsylvania State Police has recently purchased a controversial type of cell phone surveillance technology, known as HailStorm. Hailstorm has the ability to “trick” cell phones into connecting to the device by posing as a cell tower, enabling it to scoop up phone serial data within a targeted radius and track the user’s location. The bad news is that it doesn’t just scoop up the cell phone data trail of the bad guys, it scoops up everyone’s cell phone data within its monitoring radius — without a warrant. The technology is very portable and could be mounted in the police cruiser that just passed your house.
USA Today recently did lengthy takeout on the alarming proliferation of this phone-tracking technology on a state and local level, reporting that more than 25 state and municipal police departments have currently deployed this technology while others have tech-sharing agreements with the FBI and other federal agencies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the device “the biggest technological threat to cell phone privacy that you don’t know about, while the ACLU has roundly criticized the technology’s use as a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s “General Warrant” clause.
Four requests for the Pennsylvania State Police to confirm or deny our report have gone unanswered. However, we know for a fact that the State Police have purchased this technology because we have obtained a copy of the purchasing order through a PA Right-To-Know request filed in February. The documents indicate that State Police purchased two of the devices in December of last year from the controversial Harris Corporation at a total cost of $232,772. HailStorm is an “upgrade” to original StingRay technology which, if combined with a software named Pen-Link, enables authorities to communicate directly with cell service carriers over an Internet connection to strengthen real-time location tracking. It is not clear at this time whether State Police have this capability, although a records request is pending seeking Pen-Link contracts.
In addition to PSP’s Hailstorm upgrade, the agency also bought Harpoon ‘amplifier’ antennae, which allows State Police to vastly expand reach of its cellphone data collection. Once a StingRay gathers a phone’s “International Mobile Subscriber Number” (IMSI) and serial data, the phone can be singled out for closer scrutiny, including real-time location tracking. This has drawn increasing scrutiny – and criticism – from legal advocacy groups such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The technology, originally introduced to state and local police departments through Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the US, has ‘mission-creeped’ from so-called terror investigations into ordinary criminal investigations. “They certainly are being pitched as a counter-terrorism tool and DHS funds have been used to help police departments buy these devices, but we know they are being used in garden variety criminal cases of all sorts,” says EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “For example, the city of Oakland reported in 2009 a number of routine criminal cases involving StingRays.”
And it’s not just used for legitimate criminal investigations: In 2003, Miami-Dade police purchased similar devices to surreptitiously monitor activists protesting at a world trade conference, according to agency procurement records.Equally troubling is how law enforcement often uses it without obtaining legal permission from judges. And on the infrequent occasions when StingRay technology is even mentioned by investigators, its full capabilities are rarely disclosed to the judges from whom they are seeking warrants. “By withholding information about this technology from courts in applications for electronic surveillance orders, the federal government is essentially seeking to write its own search warrants,” says Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. Not all judges have rubberstamped the use of this cellphone tracking technology. Some have begun to ask pointed questions.
A federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of Texas became one of the few judges who denied a warrant on grounds that law enforcement wasn’t specific enough about their intended use of the device. Judge Brian L. Owsley cited the fact that the government provided no explanation regarding how they would handle captured cell data swept up from “seemingly innocent cell phone users” as grounds for denying the search warrant request. “Transparency is [crucial to] the use of these devices,” says the EFF’s Fakhoury. “Criminal defense attorneys need to start inquiring into whether these devices were used in cases they’re defending. State legislators can take steps to safeguard privacy by passing laws requiring police get a warrant to use these devices.” Some states, like Utah and Indiana, have already passed legislation that does precisely that. Pennsylvania is not among them.
Is it wrong to want to watch this more than the real Mad Men? It is? Too effing bad.
PREVIOUSLY: Barack Obama IS Don Draper
If you missed last week’s Q&A with Alex Chilton biographer Holly George-Warren, author of A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION: The Life And Music Of Alex Chilton From Box Top To Big Star To Backdoor Man, check it out HERE.
Sigure Ros’ contribution to the Season Four Game Of Thrones soundtrack. They also make make a cameo this season. Somehow that makes perfect sense. Either way, this is one of Jonsi’s most beautiful vocals, which is really saying something if you’ve been paying attention.
PREVIOUSLY: Live From Hopelandia
Check out Ticket Liquidator's Live Toast blog, it's one of the coolest company blogs out there. Not just your usual candy-coated array of dead-end zzzzzzzzz inducing rubbish, Live Toast brings you all the funniest and wackiest original content that you won't see anywhere else on the web. Plus, Ticket Liquidator's team will bring you lots of other articles on concerts, sports and music, including news on ticket prices, plus articles about cool music from firsthand perspectives. All in all Ticket Liquidator is evolving, into a new kind of ticket company. And leaving the rest behind...