new finding on psychpaths, american ideals defeated in congress

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tropical pier wallpaper


Psychopathic criminals have empathy switch

Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research.

Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain.

Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up.

Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming.

The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their “empathy switch”, which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation.

I could not help but to think of Dexter when I read that. It has been the conventional wisdom for years that real psychopaths lack almost any capacity for empathy. Yet Dexter seemed to have genuine feelings for his wife, his sister and loves his son. In that respect the character of Dexter is more like what is described in this research, someone who can turn on the empathy switch in some circumstances. This season brought up an interesting twist to the Dexter narrative. Dexter always went by the code his father taught him, so we’ve been told for the previous seven seasons. Now we find out that his father was deeply repulsed by the way Dexter killed and butchered his victims. While the whole personal vigilante butcher issue is morally questionable to begin with, the major flaw in Dexter’s code has been the lack of mercy. If Dexter, say gave them a lethal injection or kept them under heavy sedation while he delivered the fatal sentence, that would be in the realm of humane execution. Dexter makes sure they are awake for the final look at the victim’s picture and frequently some last words of condemnation from Dexter.

Scaled design drawing shows a system for navigating an airship

Scaled design drawing shows a system for navigating an airship  using propellers. Includes plans of dirigible platform body and complete platform assembly, and identification key. 9 March 1853, Vaussin-Chardanne.

NSA vote splits parties, jars leaders. This was the vote to reign in the expansive surveillance undertaken by this administration with a nod from Congress and the FISA Courts. The bill was defeated 217-205. So many important issues and events happen almost daily that this one is may seem like just another day and another story. This issue is and will continue to hold a special place in our history. Because Congress has said it’s interpreation of the Patriot Act, and this White House agrees, allows for wholesaale metadata collection of American’s phone calls, that kind of makes it legal or quasi-legal. And that it where the extraordinary part occurs. It does not matter whetehr Congress passes a law that says it is Ok, or that the FISA courts say it is OK, or that the executive branch also agrees. They have violated the 4th Amendment. When you have the legislative branch and the executive branch breaking the law, and with a nod agreeing that it is fine to do so, that is a remarkable place to be historically in a democratic republic based on the rule of law, law dictated by the Constitution. When I wrote about the new revelations previously it was not known at the time the NSA was collecting phone data from every phone call. The FISA court is giving telecoms sweeping 90 warrants to hand over all data. That is a wildly misinterpreted intention of the patriot, which is major auther, James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)  also says is a misinterpretation of what he intended ( though this is partly Jimbo’s fault for writing a bad bill in the first place). White House blasts amendment curtailing the NSA’s power

Tuesday night, the White House blasted an amendment by Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI) to limit the NSA’s surveillance power to the letter of existing law. The White House rarely comments on pending amendments to legislation, and this statement came directly from Press Secretary Jay Carney, signaling how concerned the administration is.

However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.  This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.  We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

This “blunt approach” could present the opportunity for an “informed, open, and deliberative process” that the White House could participate in if President Obama actually does want the open debate he said he welcomed after the leaks by Edward Snowden revealed how far beyond existing law the NSA surveillance programs have veered. It’s the closest we have yet come to a deliberative process on the issue since it was debated before it was allowed and will be debated again late Wednesday or Thursday when it’s offered on the floor.

This amendment would restrict the NSA to collecting data that is specifically and expressly allowed under Section 215 of the Patriot Act as written, not as secretly interpreted by the FISA court. It does not restrict the agency’s ability to collect foreign intelligence, but requires a court order for any collection of records of Americans, and requires that the collection be directly related to an existing investigation. As Congress intended when it passed the law.

Should the house revisit this bill, which I hope they do, it will still have to pass the Senate. Senate conservatives are not exactly known for being champions of civil liberties – despite all their hot air about being Constitutional “originalists”. The Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI) bill will also have to get past Senate centrist Democrats, a group not known for sticking its neck out on national security issues in favor of civil liberties. I understand that position up to a point. Should another large terror attack occur while a Democrat is in the White House there would be hell to pay at the polls. Yet sticking one’s neck out is exactly what strong leadership is supposed to do. Many experts believe that we’re just spinning our wheels with such massive data collection, that does not make the country safer. But much of the general public believes it does. Once people start to “believe” something, it is very difficult to stop being guided by unjustified beliefs and guided by facts and in this case, American ideals set down over 200 years ago.