The public hates drones. We worry that they will invade our privacy. But what about all the other machines that are invading our privacy already?
The congressional hearing on domestic drone use scheduled to happen today is the second in three months. Four states have already passed laws curtailing the use of drones by law enforcement, and 32 other states are actively considering it. The speed and intensity—and remarkable bipartisanship—of the response to domestic drones are the latest signs that the technology occupies a uniquely sensitive spot in the public imagination.
An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator flies over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, May 14, 2013. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. (Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy,via Getty)
Just look at the public outrage over rumors that the Los Angeles Police Department was using a drone to search for Christopher Dorner. No one cared that they were using helicopters with heat-sensing technology, dogs, and surveillance cameras to give them a leg up, but the idea of a drone was appalling. Or look at the people who demanded that Amazon stop selling a toy drone, when the rest of the toy aisle looks like a plastic arsenal. Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when telling people to get used to the idea of drone surveillance, acknowledges that they’re “scary.”
Will Smith’s son is joking about legally emancipating himself from his parents. Eliza Shapiro on the child stars who actually did it—and why it’s a terrible idea for everyone else.
Will Smith’s son may be able to joke about legally emancipating himself from his famous parents, but for the majority of kids, there’s nothing funny about it.
Jaden Smith, who co-stars with his father in the upcoming film After Earth, made headlines this week for suggesting that he wanted to divorce his mom and dad so he could have his own home. He was quick to clarify later that he wasn’t actually considering making it official. “I’m not going anywhere,” he told Ellen DeGeneres.
Will Smith and Jaden Smith. (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)
From the AP subpoena to the Pentagon Papers, Caitlin Dickson highlights five key cases of press intrusion.
Two days into what’s shaping up to be the most scandal-filled week of Barack Obama’s presidency, news broke that “the most transparent administration in history” was responsible for secretly obtaining two months’ worth of Associated Press telephone records, presumably in search of the source for a story on a foiled 2012 terror plot in Yemen. The news of the backdoor subpoenas has reignited a push for a media shield law that would keep journalists from having to give up their sources—federal legislation that was introduced to the Senate in 2009 but never came to a vote. The debate over whether government has the right to interfere in the press’s news-gathering process is as old as both institutions themselves, and this most recent instance brings to mind some of the most prominent cases of government meddling in the media.
John Nugent, Held Hostage in the Capitol
Five years after his sentencing for robbery, an almost unrecognizable Simpson took the stand Wednesday in a bid for a retrial. Christine Pelisek reports on his long-shot strategy—blaming the lawyer.
How the mighty have fallen.
O.J. Simpson, who was once a pro football star and Heisman Trophy winner turned actor, famously beat murder charges in 1995 when he was acquitted of killing ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. On Wednesday, he appeared in court wearing a blue prison jumpsuit and looking significantly heavier, almost unrecognizably so, playing the part of a poor sap hoodwinked by his lawyer.
A year after Richardson’s suicide, family and friends bitterly feud: was she plagued by mental illness or tormented by her husband, Robert Kennedy? Nancy Collins reports on new details.
“Was I surprised that Mary killed herself? No, because she threatened so often,” a friend recalls about Mary Richardson, the wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., who slipped her head through a hangman’s noose a year ago today at the age of 52. “A few days before she died, a friend who had dinner with Mary and the kids said, ‘She seems to be doing great. And I just looked at her. ‘You don’t get it. Mary is ill, not getting the right care, it’s ending. I pray that I’m wrong but this is going to play out one of two ways: She’ll kill Bobby or herself, and the greater fear, will she be alone or drive off a cliff with the kids in the car?’ ”
“There’s no blame to be laid here,” adds someone familiar with the Kennedy divorce case. “This is not about what Bobby Kennedy nor Mary Richardson did or did not do. She was a beautiful, charming, enthusiastic, devoted, loving mother, but Mary had serious demons that she could not get under control.”
When travel writer Paul Theroux returned to his hometown after the marathon bombing, he found the mood of the city transformed, unified by a trauma, which he has seen elsewhere in the world.
For several decades, starting in the early 1970s, I traveled regularly from London, where I lived as a resident alien, to Boston, where I grew up, and each time it was like a tumble through the Looking Glass. Boston was so mild, so confident, still the joyous and even innocent city of my youth. The noteworthy Boston tragedies, vividly recalled by my father—the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 (21 killed), the Cocoanut Grove nightclub inferno of 1942 (492 killed)—were over, and such infernalities seemed unrepeatable.
A message written on a banner seen during a vigil on the Boston Common on April 16. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Arriving in Boston was like landing upon the bosom of serenity from the derangement of a war zone. Britain at that time was in the grip of a bombing campaign by well-funded and feuding nationalists in Ulster, who were driven by spite, folklorism, and religious bigotry and were tribalistic in their antique grudges, absurd in their speechifying.
It was an innocent story about the art market, that happened to include a nude image of everyone’s favorite Golden Girl. Facebook disagreed. Brian Ries on an unjust ban.
In the end, I was done in by Bea Arthur’s boobs.
As the social media editor for The Daily Beast, I have posted countless potentially offensive stories on our Facebook page, from the sexual proclivities of porn stars to purported cannibalism in Syria. But not until we linked to a piece about the Golden Girl’s breasts did Facebook shut us down.
For a crime that wasn’t a crime. For a so-called offensive image that was an actual piece of art valued at roughly $2 million.
The attorney general’s Capitol Hill testimony was so contentious that cries of ‘Order!’ persisted throughout. Eleanor Clift on what Holder said about Benghazi, the AP, and the IRS.
It was a little like listening to right-wing radio, as one Republican member after another assailed Attorney General Eric Holder for the intrusion of big government into American life, a motivating principle among conservatives that the Obama administration has, with its handling of several issues, unwittingly given new life. A trio of scandals, a contentious nomination, and the generalized hostility that exists between the Republican-led Congress and the attorney general produced several contentious exchanges during Holder’s four hours of testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary committee.
Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill, May 15, 2013, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Pressed repeatedly for more information about the Justice Department’s seizing of journalists’ phone records and also about the newly launched Justice probe of the IRS, Holder declined to answer most questions with any specificity because both matters are the subject of ongoing criminal investigations. By the time Ohio Republican Jim Jordan got his five minutes to question Holder, some two hours into the marathon hearing, the congressman said he was keeping a tally on how many times the AG said he couldn’t answer. He wanted Holder’s assurance that the Justice Department investigation into the IRS wouldn’t interfere with Congress’s hearing next week into the IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking a federal tax exemption.
Tried to dribble a soccer ball from Seattle to Brazil.
A Seattle man who was trying to dribble a soccer ball from Seattle to Brazil in anticipation of the World Cup died Tuesday after being hit by a car in Oregon. Richard Swanson, 42, was hit by a car at around 10 a.m. while walking south along Highway 101. Swanson, who was between jobs, had undertaken the walk to raise funds for One World Futbol Project, a Berkeley, California, charity that donates durable blue soccer balls to people in the developing world. Swanson’s website said he left on his journey May 1 and expected the trip to take more than a year. He planned to stay with people he met on the road.
Holdover from 1920 gift.
Nice to know Columbia was doing its part for affirmative action—oh, never mind. Columbia University still has a “whites only” scholarship on its books—and it may even be illegal, according to papers filed in a Manhattan court. Benefactor Lydia C. Roberts, the heir to her husband’s medical-patents company, had left the bulk of her $509,000 estate to Columbia in 1920, but she stipulated the student who receives the scholarship must be white, from Iowa, not be studying law (we might understand that one), and must return to Iowa for two years after graduating. Oh, and none of the stipulations can be changed without a court order. The scholarship, now estimated to be worth about $800,000, has not been given since 1997, and it’s unclear if Columbia followed all the rules in the years it awarded it.
If we do say so ourselves. Sex scandal be damned, the disgraced former congressman is now officially running for mayor of New York City. But what is Anthony Weiner really saying in his new campaign video?