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This is a beat without press releases, government audits or easily available facts. The budget is a secret. Congressional oversight committees meet behind closed doors in a windowless room in the Capitol. People who talk to reporters risk their livelihoods (security clearances) or jail. Virtually no one ever goes on the record. There are press officers who answer the phones at CIA and elsewhere, but they are generally unwilling to play “20 questions” on complicated topics. Your interviews are few and chances for miscommunication abound. (Michael Gordon of The New York Times and I once argued for about an hour over whether someone had said “Uh huh” or “huh?” during a joint interview.) –“When an Intelligence Story Isn’t,” Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica
Ebert is waiting for a Scottish company called CereProc to give him some of his former voice back. He found it on the Internet, where he spends a lot of his time. CereProc tailors text-to-speech software for voiceless customers so that they don’t all have to sound like Stephen Hawking. They have catalog voices — Heather, Katherine, Sarah, and Sue— with regional Scottish accents, but they will also custom-build software for clients who had the foresight to record their voices at length before they lost them. Ebert spent all those years on TV, and he also recorded four or five DVD commentaries in crystal-clear digital audio. The average English-speaking person will use about two thousand different words over the course of a given day. CereProc is mining Ebert’s TV tapes and DVD commentaries for those words, and the words it cannot find, it will piece together syllable by syllable. When CereProc finishes its work, Roger Ebert won’t sound exactly like Roger Ebert again, but he will sound more like him than Alex does. There might be moments, when he calls for Chaz from another room or tells her that he loves her and says goodnight — he’s a night owl; she prefers mornings — when they both might be able to close their eyes and pretend that everything is as it was. –“Roger Ebert: The essential man,” Chris Jones, Esquire
why Charlie Brooker likes ebooks (they’re shameproof);
the scientific reasons you should date an older woman (blowjobs)
Though Gil Scott-Heron insists he did not disappear, that he kept playing club gigs in America and did the occasional tour, that he was writing, if not recording, the news that kept on filtering back from his long winter in America was always bleak. It seemed at times as if the most astute musical social commentator of the 70s and 80s had metamorphosed into a character from one of his own sad songs of suffering and struggle. On the sombre and still-startling “Home Is Where The Hatred Is,” recorded in 1971, he described a junkie trapped in a blighted inner-city ghetto who lived inside “white powder dreams.” Thirty-odd years later, he seemed to be living those lyrics. –“Gil Scott-Heron: The godfather of rap comes back,” Sean O’Hagan, the Guardian
Trudy Lieberman reports on the failed promise of the Affordable Care Act, Sarah A. Topol explores Ukraine’s struggle for a national identity, Dave Madden spends a week in Hollywood’s toughest comedy club, and more
Number of insect fragments allowed by the FDA in a standard jar of peanut butter:
It emerged that, in trying to count her rings, marine geologists had accidentally killed a 507-year-old clam named Ming.
A resident of Chalk Level Township in Missouri discovered the bodies of three dogs packed inside dog-food bags.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”