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Spy games

The French are incensed by the revelation they’ve been being watched.


US spying scoops have become so commonplace that revelations of NSA eavesdropping on the presidential Elysée Palace attracted relatively little international coverage. The French media, however, are fuming. “Where is Washington’s mea culpa?” demands a Le Monde editorial. The White House’s insistence it is not currently spying on the presidency is a tacit admission it had been until recently. “Simply pathetic,” says the paper. “The US must now acknowledge the size of the problem, admit it is a threat to democracy and freedoms and repair the huge damage caused to relationships with allies.”

At Libération, which published the documents obtained by WikiLeaks, an editorial nominates a single word “to define the attitude of the US … Contempt”. It urges Paris to offer political asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a “courageous man who has been … stalked and threatened with life imprisonment for having told the truth”. Such a gesture, says Le Monde, would “send a powerful message to a condescending ally”.

bit.ly/NZLmonde; bit.ly/NZLlibereng

Speed-reading is one thing, but a society on fast-forward now appears to be embracing speed-listening. Author Ashlee Vance came upon the phenomenon after receiving an email from a CEO who had powered through the audio version of Vance’s biography of tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. “It had never occurred to me that people might listen to the book at 2X speed in order to ingest the information at a quicker rate,” writes Vance in a blog post. “This struck me as such a Silicon Valley thing to do. Hook your brain to the machine and download at the best transfer rate available.”

In fact, “chipmunked playback” has been on the rise for a while, writes Megan Garber at the Atlantic. Last year, a podcast app was launched with a feature called Smart Speed. As well as sped-up playback, it “tries to remove, algorithmically, the extraneous things that can bulk up the play time of audio content: dead air, pauses between sentences, intros and outros”. Speed-listening is a triumph for efficiency, notes Garber. “But it also removes the silence that can, in context, be meaningful in and of itself.”

bit.ly/NZLvance; bit.ly/NZLspeed

Patrick Macnee is best known for playing John Steed in 1960s TV series The Avengers, but that’s not the half of it. A Daily Telegraph obituary for the actor, who died last month at 93, set social media alight – and no wonder. His mother was “a niece of the 13th Earl of Huntingdon and a rather giddy socialite”; his father a racehorse trainer known as “Shrimp”, who “enlivened his dinner parties by levelling a shotgun at those guests he suspected of pacifist tendencies”. Macnee was “expelled from Eton for running a pornography and bookmaking empire”. He “caught bronchitis shortly before D-Day; while in hospital his boat and crew were destroyed in action”. Anything else? Macnee “became an active member of a nudist colony in the mid-1970s”. And: “Once, he rescued some chimpanzees from a fire at an animal trainer’s ranch; while driving them to safety, one monkey clamped its hands over his eyes, almost causing his car to plunge into a ravine.”


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