Friday, August 1, 2014

Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan The Times They Are A Changin' 1964

Blowing In The Wind (Live On TV, March 1963)

Russia: Snowden Waiting for Extension of Asylum

Russia: Snowden Waiting for Extension of Asylum

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The temporary asylum status of Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking secret documents, expired in Russia at midnight Thursday, but Mr. Snowden is expected to remain in Russia at least until Russian authorities decide on his application for an extension, his lawyer said. Mr. Snowden was stranded in Moscow last year on his way from Hong Kong to Cuba, shortly after he revealed secrets about the N.S.A.’s surveillance program. He received temporary asylum in Russia, a status that must be renewed annually. Mr. Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, was quoted by the state news agency RIA Novosti on Thursday as saying that he expected a decision soon on the application.

The C.I.A.’s Reckless Breach of Trust

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In March, John Brennan, the C.I.A. director, was indignant when Senator Dianne Feinstein charged that the agency had broken into computers used by staff investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she leads. “As far as the allegations of C.I.A. hacking into Senate computers,” he said, “nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason.”
But reason seems to have little to do with the C.I.A.’s operations, as Mr. Brennan apparently discovered far too late. On Thursday, the Central Intelligence Agency admitted that it did, indeed, use a fake online identity to break into the Senate’s computers, where documents connected to a secret report on the agency’s detention and torture program were being stored. Mr. Brennan apologized privately to Ms. Feinstein and to Senator Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, and promised to set up an accountability board to determine who did the hacking and whether and how they should be punished.
The accountability and the apologies, however, will have to go much further. It’s not just two senators that the C.I.A. has offended by this shocking action. It is all of Congress and, by extension, the American public, which is paying for an intelligence agency that does not seem to understand the most fundamental concept of separation of powers. That concept means that Congress is supposed to oversee the intelligence community and rein in its excesses. It cannot possibly do so effectively if it is being spied on by the spy agency, which is supposed to be directing its efforts against foreign terrorists and other threats to national security.
The committee has been working since 2009 on a comprehensive history of the agency’s antiterror program during the George W. Bush administration, which involved illegal rendition to other countries, detention, and torture of suspects, all producing little useful intelligence. It has been frustrated at many points by stonewalling from the agency, which provided misleading information, hid important facts inside a blizzard of excess documents, and forced endless delays in the declassification process. The 6,300-page report still has not been made public, though parts of it may be released later this month, and it is expected to undercut the Bush administration’s claims that its actions were both legal and effective.
Late last year, the agency suspected that Senate investigators had obtained an internal C.I.A. review of the torture program. Senate officials said the review was in a database they were allowed to see, but realized that the C.I.A. had broken into a private Senate computer server and found the review. A summary of an agency inspector general’s report, released Thursday, said C.I.A. hackers even read the emails of Senate staffers. Then they exhibited a “lack of candor” to agency investigators.
In an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor in March, Ms. Feinstein accused the agency of having “undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.” The institutional affront even drew Republican criticism. If the charge was true, said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, “heads should roll, and people should go to jail.”
One of those heads may need to be Mr. Brennan’s. If he knew about the break-in, then he blatantly lied. If he did not, then apparently he was unaware of the lawless culture that has festered within the C.I.A. since the moment it was encouraged by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to torture suspects and then lie about it. That recklessness extended to the point where agency officials thought nothing of burglarizing their own overseer. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado said the action was illegal and required the resignation of Mr. Brennan.
The C.I.A. needs far more than a few quiet personnel changes, however. Its very core, and basic culture, needs a thorough overhaul.
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Three Myths About the Brain

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Gray Matter
IN the early 19th century, a French neurophysiologist named Pierre Flourens conducted a series of innovative experiments. He successively removed larger and larger portions of brain tissue from a range of animals, including pigeons, chickens and frogs, and observed how their behavior was affected.
His findings were clear and reasonably consistent. “One can remove,” he wrote in 1824, “from the front, or the back, or the top or the side, a certain portion of the cerebral lobes, without destroying their function.” For mental faculties to work properly, it seemed, just a “small part of the lobe” sufficed.
Thus the foundation was laid for a popular myth: that we use only a small portion — 10 percent is the figure most often cited — of our brain. An early incarnation of the idea can be found in the work of another 19th-century scientist, Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, who in 1876 wrote of the powers of the human brain that “very few people develop very much, and perhaps nobody quite fully.”
But Flourens was wrong, in part because his methods for assessing mental capacity were crude and his animal subjects were poor models for human brain function. Today the neuroscience community uniformly rejects the notion, as it has for decades, that our brain’s potential is largely untapped.
The myth persists, however. The newly released movie “Lucy,” about a woman who acquires superhuman abilities by tapping the full potential of her brain, is only the latest and most prominent expression of this idea.
Myths about the brain typically arise in this fashion: An intriguing experimental result generates a plausible if speculative interpretation (a small part of the lobe seems sufficient) that is later overextended or distorted (we use only 10 percent of our brain). The caricature ultimately infiltrates pop culture and takes on a life of its own, quite independent from the facts that spawned it.
Another such myth is the idea that the left and right hemispheres of the brain are fundamentally different. The “left brain” is supposedly logical and detail-oriented, whereas the “right brain” is the seat of passion and creativity. This caricature developed initially out of the observation, dating from the 1860s, that damage to the left hemisphere of the brain can have drastically different effects on language and motor control than does damage to the right hemisphere.
But while these and other, more subtle, asymmetries certainly exist, far too much has been made of the idea of distinct left- and right-brain function. The fact is that the two sides of the brain are more similar to each other than they are different, and both sides participate in most tasks, especially complex ones like acts of creativity and feats of logic.
In recent years, a new myth about the brain has started to emerge. This is the myth of mirror neurons, or the idea that a certain class of brain cells discovered in the macaque monkey is the key to understanding the human mind.
Mirror neurons are activated both when a macaque monkey generates its own actions, such as reaching for a piece of fruit, and when it observes others who are performing the same action themselves. Some scientists have argued that these cells are responsible for the ability of monkeys to understand other monkeys’ actions, by simulating the action in their own brains. It has also been claimed that humans have their own mirror system (most likely true), which not only allows us to understand actions but also underlies a wide range of our mental skills — language, imitation, empathy — as well as disorders, such as autism, in which the system is said to be dysfunctional.
The mirror neuron claim has escaped the lab and is starting to find its way into popular culture. You might hear it said, for example, that watching a World Cup match is an intense experience because our mirror neurons allow us to experience the game as if we were on the field itself, simulating every kick and pass.
But as with older myths, this speculation has lost its connection with the data. We now recognize that physical movements themselves don’t uniquely determine our understanding of them. After all, we can understand actions that we can’t ourselves perform (flying, slithering) and a single movement can be understood in many ways (tipping a carafe can be pouring or filling or emptying). Further research shows that dysfunction of the motor system, for example in cerebral palsy, stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease, does not preclude the ability to understand actions (or enjoy World Cup matches). Accordingly, more recently developed theories of mirror neuron function emphasize their role in motor control instead of understanding actions.
So please, take heed. An ounce of myth prevention now may save a pound of neuroscientific nonsense later.
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Obama Expresses Confidence in C.I.A. Director

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WASHINGTON — President Obama said on Friday that he has “full confidence” in John Brennan, the director of the C.I.A., despite Mr. Brennan’s admission this week that his agency improperly searchedthe computers of the congressional committee that is preparing to release a report on the use of torture in the fight against terror.
The president’s comments came in a news conference in which Mr. Obama also hailed recent economic improvements, expressed pessimism about efforts to halt the violence in Israel and complained about Republican inaction in Congress.
Mr. Obama said that his administration has tried to confront the many crises at home and around the world, and should get more credit for the effort, even when positive outcomes are not immediately apparent.
“We try — we go in there and make an effort,” Mr. Obama said of his administration’s work to end violence and conflict around the world. “I tell you what, there isn’t any other country that’s going in there and making those efforts.”
The president took direct aim at Congressional Republicans, who he blamed for standing in the way of measures that could help accelerate growth and respond to the problems of immigration, transportation funding and middle-class incomes. He urged lawmakers to return from their summer vacations in September ready to take some action.
“My hope is, is that instead of simply trying to pass partisan message bills on party lines that don’t actually solve problems, they’re going to be willing to come together to at least focus on some key areas where there’s broad agreement,” Mr. Obama said.
The president mocked the disagreement that has often erupted between factions of Republicans in Congress, saying that much of the gridlock in Washington politics is the result of intraparty feuding among Republicans in the House and Senate.
“The argument isn’t between me and the House Republicans. It’s between the House Republicans and Senate Republicans, and House Republicans and the business community, and House Republicans and the evangelical community,” Mr. Obama said.
Noting the Republican failure to pass a bill to confront the recent border crisis, the president said: “That’s not a disagreement between me and the House Republicans. That’s a disagreement between the House Republicans and the House Republicans.”
The president spoke as fighting intensified between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He demanded that Hamas release a captured Israeli soldier unconditionally, but acknowledged that the seizure of the soldier just after the last cease-fire was to go into effect made it difficult for Israelis to trust in any future truce. He added that Hamas had to discipline its own side if it hoped to advance its interests.
“It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire agreement,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the briefing room.
He dismissed questions about which faction of Hamas may have been responsible. “If they can’t have control of them, and just moments after a cease-fire is signed you have Israeli soldiers being killed and captured, it’s hard for Israelis to feel confident that a cease-fire can be honored.”
Asked about the upcoming release of a report that documents American interrogation techniques, Mr. Obama said the C.I.A. exercised “very poor judgment” in its handling of the report. But he said that Mr. Brennan had apologized for the incident to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Mr. Obama said, noting an inspector general’s conclusions about the C.I.A. spying on the committee. “It’s clear from the I.G. report that some very poor judgment was shown in how that was handled. Keep in mind that John Brennan was the one who called for the I.G. report.”
Mr. Obama said the report on interrogation techniques documents the country’s use of torture after the Sept. 11 attacks. He said the report makes clear that “we tortured some folks” in the aftermath of those attacks.
“We did some things that were contrary to our values,” he said. “I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell.” He said that “a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and were real patriots.”
But, he added, “We crossed a line. That needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.”
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Obama says that after 9/11, 'we tortured some folks' - YouTube

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