New genetic theory might pave way to understanding human intelligence – Tim Radford  Monday 21 December 2015 11.27 EST

The researchers found that genes that influenced the intelligence and ability of healthy people were the same ones that impaired cognitive ability and caused epilepsy when mutated. Photograph: Science Picture Co./Corbis

New genetic theory might pave way to understanding human intelligenceScientists from Imperial College believe that intelligence may be influenced by two networks of genes, possibly controlled by a master regulatory system

British scientists believe they have made a huge step forward in the understanding of the mechanisms of human intelligence. That genetic inheritance must play some part has never been disputed. Despite occasional claims later dismissed, no-one has yet produced a single gene that controls intelligence.

But Michael Johnson of Imperial College London, a consultant neurologist and colleagues report in Nature Neuroscience that they may have discovered a very different answer: two networks of genes, perhaps controlled by some master regulatory system, lie behind the human gift for lateral thinking, mental arithmetic, pub quizzes, strategic planning, cryptic crosswords and the ability to laugh at limericks.

Source: New genetic theory might pave way to understanding human intelligence | Science | The Guardian

Before Osama bin Laden Raid, Obama Administration’s Secret Legal Deliberations

WASHINGTON — Weeks before President Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, four administration lawyers hammered out rationales intended to overcome any legal obstacles — and made it all but inevitable that Navy SEALs would kill the fugitive Qaeda leader, not capture him.

Stretching sparse precedents, the lawyers worked in intense secrecy. Fearing leaks, the White House would not let them consult aides or even the administration’s top lawyer, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. They did their own research, wrote memos on highly secure laptops and traded drafts hand-delivered by trusted couriers.

From left, Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel; Mary DeRosa, the National Security Council’s legal adviser; then-Rear Admiral James W. Crawford III, the Joint Chiefs of Staff legal adviser, and Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel worked secretly on clearing legal hurdles for the 2011 raid against Osama bin Laden. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; U.S. Government; Doug Mills/The New York Times 

Just days before the raid, the lawyers drafted five secret memos so that if pressed later, they could prove they were not inventing after-the-fact reasons for having blessed it. “We should memorialize our rationales because we may be called upon to explain our legal conclusions, particularly if the operation goes terribly badly,” said Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel, according to officials familiar with the internal deliberations.

While the Bin Laden operation has been much scrutinized, the story of how a tiny team of government lawyers helped shape and justify Mr. Obama’s high-stakes decision has not been previously told. The group worked as military and intelligence officials conducted a parallel effort to explore options and prepare members of SEAL Team 6 for the possible mission.

The legal analysis offered the administration wide flexibility to send ground forces onto Pakistani soil without the country’s consent, to explicitly authorize a lethal mission, to delay telling Congress until afterward, and to bury a wartime enemy at sea. By the end, one official said, the lawyers concluded that there was “clear and ample authority for the use of lethal force under U.S. and international law.”

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An Ex-CIA Officer Speaks Out: The Italian Job (Trailer) – Vice News Published on Oct 27, 2015

Sabrina De Sousa is one of nearly two-dozen CIA officers who was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced by Italian courts in absentia in 2009 for the role she allegedly played in the rendition of a radical cleric named Abu Omar. It was the first and only criminal prosecution that has ever taken place related to the CIA’s rendition program, which involved more than 100 suspected terrorists and the assistance of dozens of European countries.

But De Sousa, a dual US and Portuguese citizen, said she had nothing to do with the cleric’s abduction and has been wrongly accused. For the past decade, she has been on a global quest to clear her name. VICE News met up with De Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal–and other key figures connected to the case–for an exclusive interview about the steps she’s now taking in an effort to hold the CIA accountable for one of the most notorious counterterrorism operations in the history of the agency.

Watch: The Architect –

How Some Investors Get Special Access to Companies – By SERENA NG and ANTON TROIANOVSKI Sept. 27, 2015 10:24 p.m. ET

A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble Co.'s chairman and chief executive, speaks on just one of the company's earnings calls a year but meets regularly with investors in private.

A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble Co.’s chairman and chief executive, speaks on just one of the company’s earnings calls a year but meets regularly with investors in private. PHOTO: TIMMY HUYNH/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Executive A.G. Lafley speaks on just one earnings conference call a year, down from his previous practice of every quarter. The company says that helps him stay focused on pulling P&G out of a growth slump.

But Mr. Lafley still meets regularly with investors in private. In March, Mr. Lafley’s comments during a string of conversations with investors in New York gave a Wall Street analyst who was present the strong impression that he would step aside as CEO sooner than expected. That hunch was confirmed in July.

P&G says it is careful not to reveal market-sensitive information to investors and analysts who get special access to the company. For the past 15 years, selective disclosure by companies has been illegal under U.S. securities rules. Yet the same rules explicitly allow private meetings like those by P&G.

The result is a booming back channel through which facts and body language flow from public companies to handpicked recipients. Participants say they’ve detected hints about sales results and takeover leanings. More common are subtle shifts in emphasis or tone by a company.

“You can pick up clues if you are looking people in the eye,” says Jeff Matthews, who runs Ram Partners LP, a hedge fund in Naples, Fla. He says he never invests in a company without meeting its management.

A Bebe Stores window in New York City. In April, the retailer said it had made an ‘inadvertent disclosure’ while meeting with a ‘select group of investors.’
A Bebe Stores window in New York City. In April, the retailer said it had made an ‘inadvertent disclosure’ while meeting with a ‘select group of investors.’ Photo: Craig Warga/Bloomberg News

Access usually is controlled by brokers and analysts at Wall Street securities firms, who lean on their relationships with companies to secure meetings with top executives. Invitations are doled out to money managers, hedge funds and other investors who steer trading business to the securities firms, which in turn provide the investors with a service called “corporate access.”

Investors pay $1.4 billion a year for face time with executives, consulting firm Greenwich Associates estimates based on its surveys of money managers. The figure represents commissions allocated by investors for corporate access when they steer trades to securities firms.

Publicly traded U.S. companies held an average of 99 one-on-one meetings with investors apiece last year, according to a survey by market-information company Ipreo.

General Electric Co. said in its annual report that it “ensured strong disclosure by holding approximately 70 analyst and investor meetings with GE leadership present” in 2014. The total was roughly 400 when including meetings with other executives, such as those in GE’s investor-relations department, a spokesman says.


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CIA relents in secrecy fight on presidential intelligence briefings – By JOSH GERSTEIN 09/15/15, 09:58 PM EDT

The briefings detail reaction to some of the biggest crises of the 1960s.

CIA Director John Brennan

After decades of stiff resistance, the CIA is preparing to pull back the curtain—to an extent—on one of the most vaunted rituals in the intelligence world: the daily briefing delivered to American presidents on world events and global threats.

At a conference in Austin, Texas Wednesday, the spy agency is set to release about 2,500 President’s Daily Briefs and similar reports delivered to President John F. Kennedy and then to President Lyndon Johnson during a nearly-eight-year span in the 1960s. The briefings detail the evolution of the war in Vietnam and responses to events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Six-Day War in the Middle East.

The move to release documents that are over 40 years old may seem far from radical, but it represents a reversal of longstanding CIA claims that disclosing PDBs—even years after the fact—would endanger national security by exposing the manner in which presidents receive and digest intelligence.

If victory has 1000 fathers, so, too, does transparency, it seems. CIA Director John Brennan is flying out to the Johnson Presidential Library for the unveiling, which will also be attended by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Brennan’s prominence as the event’s keynote speaker and the CIA’s promotion of it as “the biggest release of President’s Daily Briefs ever” has many CIA watchers puzzling about how the spy agency went from insisting that the PDB be sacrosanct to trumpeting their publication.

At a rare news conference at CIA headquarters last year prompted by release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on brutal interrogations of prisoners in the war on terror, Brennan did not sound like a man eager to bring more sunshine to the CIA’s work.

“I think there’s more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple days. I think it’s over the top,” Brennan quipped then.

For its part, the White House says the first-ever release of a trove of presidential intelligence briefings stems from pro-transparency policies put in place by President Barack Obama.


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A visual history of human knowledge – Manuel Lima TED2015 · 12:49 · Filmed Mar 2015

How does knowledge grow? Sometimes it begins with one insight and grows into many branches. Infographics expert Manuel Lima explores the thousand-year history of mapping data — from languages to dynasties — using trees of information. It’s a fascinating history of visualizations, and a look into humanity’s urge to map what we know.

This Apple employee is so secretive he signs his emails with a question mark – LISA EADICICCO Aug. 15, 2015, 8:17 AM

Customers stand beneath an Apple logo at the Apple store in Grand Central station in New York City, July 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

Thomson Reuters — Customers with an Apple logo at the Apple store in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

Apple is known for being extremely secretive not only to the public, but internally as well.

Employees learn information on a need-to-know basis, which means you’re only given the exact amount of insight you need to do your job.

So if you’re a hardware engineer, you probably won’t have any clue as to what an engineer on the software team is working on.

But one Apple employee on Apple’s Special Projects team is so secretive it seems he doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s up to. Engineer Frank Fearon’s email signature consists of just a question mark, The Guardian wrote in their recent story about Apple’s rumored car project (emphasis is ours):

While one of the engineers corresponding with GoMentum Station admits to belonging to Apple’s Special Projects group, Fearon signs his emails with a cryptic question-mark icon.

It’s not uncommon for Apple employees to remain vague about their work. In fact, Apple puts new employees and interns through “secrecy training” when they’re hired, a former intern told Business Insider in a previous interview.

“You can’t tell anyone anything about your job,” this former intern said. “You can’t tell people outside of your family what you’re working on.”

This can make it hard to work effectively since you can’t communicate what you’re working on to people on other teams, said the former intern, who asked to only be referred to as Brad.

Here’s what Simon Woodside, a former Apple employee, wrote on Quora about the secrecy at Apple:

Having all these secrets was difficult from my perspective. I couldn’t really engage in idle banter with my colleagues for fear of slipping something out.

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The former Florida governor was supposed to be the GOP’s next foreign policy statesman. He just proved he’s not. By Fred Kaplan

Jeb Bush delivers a foreign policy address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Aug. 11, 2015, in Simi Valley, California. Photo by David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

Jeb Bush delivers a foreign policy address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Aug. 11, 2015, in Simi Valley, California.
Photo by David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

Most presidential candidates who deliver a “major foreign policy address” have something original, potent, or insightful to say. On Tuesday night, as with most other aspects of his campaign to date, Jeb Bush defied expectations.

His 40-minute speech, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, was a hodgepodge of revisionist history, shallow analysis, and vague prescriptions.

The history—his effort to hide the scar of his own family history—was where he placed most of his chips, and he lost them all. As a preface, he admitted that “no leader or policymaker” got “everything right” in the Middle East, “Iraq especially” (his single indirect acknowledgment of his brother’s mistakes). But, he added, “one moment stands out in memory as the turning point” of the war in that country—namely, the “surge,” which “turned events toward victory.”

“Why,” he asked, “was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq?” The “fatal error,” he answered, was the “premature withdrawal” ordered by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who “stood by” as our “hard-won victory” was “thrown away” in “a blind haste to get out”—leaving a vacuum that Iran and ISIS filled.

Bush got a crucial fact wrong in this chronicle: His brother’s administration—not Obama’s—signed the status of forces agreement, on Nov. 17, 2008, which stated, in Article 24: “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”

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‘Killer robots’ with AI must be banned, urge Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky and thousands of others in open letter – DOUG BOLTON Monday 27 July 2015

The letter claims that totally autonomous killing machines could become a reality within 'years, not decades'

The letter claims that totally autonomous killing machines could become a reality within ‘years, not decades’

More than 1,000 robotics experts and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers – including physicist Stephen Hawking, technologist Elon Musk, and philosopher Noam Chomsky – have signed an open letter calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”, or as they are better known, ‘killer robots’.

Other signatories include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and hundreds of AI and robotics researcher from top-flight universities and laboratories worldwide.

The letter, put together by the Future of Life Institute, a group that works to mitigate “existential risks facing humanity”, warns of the danger of starting a “military AI arms race”.

These robotic weapons may include armed drones that can search for and kill certain people based on their programming, the next step from the current generation of drones, which are flown by humans who are often thousands of miles away from the warzone.

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An Apology to Every Single American (Excerpt from VICE News’ Interview with Michael Morell) – Published on Jul 8, 2015

When al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Michael Morell was with President George W. Bush at an elementary school in Florida as the CIA’s daily briefer. The events that unfolded on that fateful day are just some of the many national security disasters that Morell, the former acting director of the CIA, has been at the center of since 9/11. The veteran intelligence official has spent much of his 30-year career out of the public eye, but he’s stepping out of the shadows to talk about his new book The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism — From al Qa’ida to ISIS.

VICE News met with Morell at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, and spoke with him about the Iraq war, the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, and what he refers to as “the new era of terrorism.”

In this excerpt, Morell admits that the intelligence the CIA produced about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear intentions, which paved the way to war, was flawed. Morell is one of the first CIA officials to come clean about this fact, and to apologize for getting the intelligence wrong.

Watch the VICE News Interview with Michael Morell –