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Monday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Monday September 15, 2014 8:23 pm


Tsuumi Sound System in concert

Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System performed Saturday at the Arneson River Theater at La Villita, San Antonio, Texas.

Tonight’s music video is “Altitude” from Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System, from their album Floating Letters.

Tsuumi Sound System is one of Finland’s internationally most notable modern folk music bands. Rooted in Nordic folk traditions, classical idioms and innovative modern ideas, this eight-piece band draws their strength from a huge mixture of influences. Besides the recording work and the award-winning compositions, their energetic show has enthused a public of all ages from Scandinavia to Sicily.

I went to the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas last Saturday, where I saw an amazing, global selection of talented musicians at a completely free outdoor event. This festival was a gift to everyone that attended and the musicians as well. It’s publicly funded and has suffered from budget cuts in recent years, so if you’re listening San Antonio city council: keep this music going. And if you’re anywhere near San Antonio next September I hope I’ll see you there.

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and MIT have used light to teach mice to suppress a fearful memory in favor of a more pleasurable one, according to Psypost.

‘There is some evidence from pyschotherapy that positive memory can suppress memories of negative experience,’ [Lead inveatigator Susumu] Tonegawa says, referring to treatments that reduce clinical depression by helping patients recall positive memories. ‘We have shown how the emotional valence of memories can be switched on the cellular level.’ [...] Tonegawa explains that the contextual information about these events – where and when they happened – is recorded in the brain’s hippocampus, whereas the emotional component of the memory is stored separately, in a brain region called the amygdala. “The amygdala can store information with either a positive or negative valence, and associate it with a memory,” Tonegawa explains.

Last year, Tonegawa and his colleagues reported that by artificially activating the small set of cells that stored a specific memory in a mouse, they could create a new, false memory. In that study, the team made the cells that stored a memory of a safe environment sensitive to light, so that they could be manipulated by the researchers. Switching on those cells while subjecting the animal to a mild shock in a new environment caused the mouse to fear the original environment, even though it had had no unpleasant experiences there.

In those experiments, the scientists had caused the mice to associate a neutral setting with fear. Now Tonegawa and his colleagues wanted to see if he could alter a memory that was already associated with emotion. Once an animal had developed fear of a place, could the memory of that place be made pleasurable instead?

To find out, the scientists began by placing male mice in a chamber that delivered a mild shock. As the mouse formed of memory of this dangerous place, Tonegawa’s team used a method it had previously developed to introduce a light-sensitive protein into the cells that stored the information. By linking the production of the light-sensitive protein to the activation of a gene that is switched on as memories are encoded, they targeted light-sensitivity to the cells that stored the newly formed memory.

The mice were removed from the chamber and a few days later, the scientists artificially reactivated the memory by shining a light into the cells holding the memory of the original place. The animals responded by stopping their explorations and freezing in place, indicating they were afraid.

Now the scientists wanted to see if they could overwrite the fear and give the mice positive associations to the chamber, despite their negative experience there. So they placed the mice in a new environment, where instead of a shock they had the opportunity to interact with female mice. As they did so, the researchers activated their fear memory-storing neurons with light. The scientists activated only one subset of memory-storing neurons at a time – either those in the context-storing hippocampus or those in the emotion-storing amygdala. They then tested the emotional association of the memory of the original chamber by giving mice the opportunity to move away from an environment in which the memory was artificially triggered.

[...] ‘So the animal acquired a pleasure memory,’ Tonegawa says. ‘But what happened to the original fear memory? Is it still there or is it gone?’ When they put the animals back in the original chamber, where they had experienced the unpleasant shock, the animals showed less fear and more exploratory and reward-seeking behaviors. ‘The original fear memory is significantly changed,’ Tonegawa concludes.

[...] In an accompanying News & Views article in Nature, Tomonori Takeuchi and Richard G.M. Morris of the University of Edinburgh, state, ‘What is so intriguing about this study is that the memory representations associated with a place are dissected into their network components and, rather than re-exposing the animals to the training situation to achieve a change, light is used to selectively reactivate the representation of the “where” component of a memory and then change its “what” association.’

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Once There Was a Way to Get Back Home

By: Isaiah 88 Monday September 15, 2014 10:47 am

Harlan Ellison . . .

I have no mouth, and I must scream.

Nature . Solitude (Eclipse ... )

William Rivers Pitt . . .

It has been thirteen years since the attacks of September 11, and this nation has spent every one of the 4,745 days between that morning and today in the grips of a media and politics and money-driven high panic. Millions upon millions have been killed, maimed, displaced or bankrupted in the process. ISIS are bad guys, and no mistake, but there are a pile of nations on this planet besides us with standing armies, many of them with a far more vested personal interest in eradicating these lunatics than us. Their militaries are not exhausted like ours is.

‘Our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden,’ said President Obama on Wednesday night, ‘but as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead.’ I can only imagine the comforts that come with living in the White House, but for an enormous swath of the country you lead, the ‘blessings’ you speak of turned to ashes in our mouths a long time ago.

This nation is lost. It got lost 50 years ago and it’s still lost. We’ve taken so many wrong turns so many times there isn’t even a map for where we are now.

Once there was a way to get back homeward.

Once there was a way to get back home.

We won’t find our way back, we won’t be going home, not if the masters of America’s permanent war economy have anything to say about it. And they always have plenty to say about it. So do their bought-and-paid-for-politicians, they never stop talking, their two-party tongues are always wagging. We’ve had to listen to their lectures about foreign threats and national security every damn day for more than half a century.

The identity of the apocalyptic threat is the only thing that ever changes. It was the Kremlin, it was the Red Chinese, it was Castro, it was Al Qaeda, it was Saddam, it was Iran, now it’s ISIS! ISIS! ISIS! The frantic hype and hysteria of the politicians and the corporate media have once again had the intended effect. Tens of millions of Americans are now supporting a new military intervention in the Middle East.
They never listen, but I’m going to tell them anyway . . .

Boy, you’re going to carry that weight.

Carry that weight a long time.

Michael Stipe . . .

Blind, unquestioning, warlike. Is that who we are now? Are we that violent, that childish, that silly, that shallow? Are we that afraid of others? Of ourselves? Of the possibility of genuine change? Are we that easily swayed, that capable of defending “American interests”, whatever “American interests” means? Are we that racist, that terrified, that protective of an idea that we don’t even question what the idea has come to represent?”

I think everyone here knows the answer.

Digby . . .

There Is No Future in War: Youth Rise Up, a Manifesto

By: codepink

By Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez, Sara Al Harbi, Sophia Arman

A smiling young woman places flowers in the riot shields of police

“We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war.”

Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq and Syria.

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts–declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people–are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war.

We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.

War does not work. Period.

War does not work from an economic perspective.

In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies—lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion.

Imagine what we could have done with this money:

With $3 trillion dollars, we could have guaranteed free higher education for all interested Americans. Instead, we are wallowing in over $1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt.

With $3 trillion, we could have created a system of universal health care. Instead, affordable health care is still out of reach for many Americans and we have no idea if there will even be a Medicare system when we are old enough to retire.

With $3 trillion we could have renovated our decrepit public schools and crumbling public infrastructure, giving us the kind of foundation we need for a thriving nation in the decades to come.

With $3 trillion we could have created a national energy grid based not upon environmentally destructive fossil fuels, but upon renewable energy sources–something that our generation cares passionately about.

Our true foes–– those endlessly gunning for war–– have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools – which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow – and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

And war doesn’t even work to create jobs. Politicians say they can’t cut the Pentagon budget because the weapons manufacturers create much-needed jobs. Yes, our generation need jobs. But if members of Congress really wants to use federal spending to help us find employment, the military is the worst investment. A $1 billion investment in military spending nets 11,600 jobs. The same investment in education reaps 29,100 jobs. Whether it’s education, healthcare or clean energy, investments in those sectors create many more job opportunities than the military. The military-industrial complex does a great job lining the pockets of politicians; it does a lousy job creating an economy that works for all.

War does not work from a national security and defense perspective.

The war apologists claim war makes our future “safer” and “freer.” But since the tragic 9/11 attack, the US military response has made the world a more dangerous place. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, the use of predator drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and countless other examples of military operations have only increased violence and hatred. Iraqis and Afghans are certainly no safer and freer; we are certainly no safer and freer.

We refuse to let our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad, die for access to cheap Persian Gulf oil. The Iraqis, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Somalis, and the people of any other country our military circles like vultures, are not our enemies. We must oppose US intervention not because we don’t care about them, but because we do.

War does not work from an environmental perspective.

War is not environmentally friendly. It never has been, and it never will be. Bombing destroys the environment. It damages forests and agricultural land. It ravages ecosystems, endangering species, even forcing some into extinction.

New Iraq Prime Minister and John “the War Criminal” Kerry Agree: Keep Killing More Iraqi People

By: Big Al Monday September 15, 2014 10:03 am

Estimates of the number of deaths caused by the illegal and inhumane United States of America war in Iraq (2003) range from 500,000 to over 1.2 million. Either way, that’s alot of murders. Most people on the planet want those murderers, led by Bush and Blair, put in prison.

It’s estimated that the number of deaths caused by United States of America imperialism in Iraq since 1990 is well over 3 million, including 750,000 children. Some are calling it genocide.

Remember the democratic President Clinton’s Secretary of State Albright’s infamous statement, “We think it was worth it”, when asked about the deaths of half a million children in Iraq due to the cruel and sadistic sanctions placed on Iraq? They don’t deny it, those that rule over us. They think it’s worth it. They think killing people is worth it in the big picture, they REALLY do.

Now along comes ISIS, a creation of and for U.S. imperialism. It was created partially to provide an excuse to get rid of Maliki, which has been done, and insert a more pliable PM that will appreciate all the United States of the Land of the Free has done for the good people of Iraq. It was also created to provide an excuse for the United States of Bombing and Killing to do it’s thing again in Iraq and Syria. But in the case of Iraq, only if they ask nicely.

That part of the plan appears to be paying off.

“Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Wednesday for the international community to help Iraq fight Islamic State, urging them “to act immediately to stop the spread of this cancer”

“Of course our role is to defend our country, but the international community is responsible for protecting Iraq and protecting Iraqis and the whole region,” Abadi said at the close of his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on a surprise visit to Baghdad.”

John “the current Liar of State” Kerry, chimed in with his special brand of perverted logic, representing the United States of We Won’t Do It Again We Promise:

“The government of Iraq has invited the United States of America and asked for help. It has asked for help from the United States; it has asked for help from its neighbors, from other countries in the region. And under international law, when a country is invaded and a country invites somebody to come in and help them, we have every right in the world to respond to that request.”

Damn right Kerry! THEY ASKED US!!!  Who are we to turn down a friend in need.   ”We” have every right in the world don’t we John? Ya baby, we’re the United States of We Have Every Damn Right in the Damn World man. Nothing can stop us.

What about Syria John? You don’t need an invite from them?

That’s like a group of family survivors of a notorious serial killer asking that serial killer to protect them from another serial killer. Except worse of course.

It doesn’t matter that “we’ve” killed over 3 million of their people or nearly one million of their children. It doesn’t matter that “we” illegally attacked their country and now want to illegally attack it again. It doesn’t matter that “we” want to break the country up forever so it isn’t Iraq anymore. Iraq NO MORE. That doesn’t matter because the new Prime Minister and John “the Plastic Man” Kerry kissed and made up, and they asked “us”.

George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair can rest easy now. It’s all good. Iraq just wants our help and “we’re” glad to give it.

Why do Westerners Join ISIS?

By: Deena Stryker Sunday September 14, 2014 9:48 am
Official portrait of Senator Bob Casey

Fifty-five year old Senator Bob Casey declared that he expects the campaign against Islamic terrorism to last beyond his lifetime.

Worried comments on Westerners joining ISIS tend to overlook the fact that this is an all-volunteer army. Surely that has some significance when trying to explain its success. Fifty-five year old Senator Bob Casey has declared that he expects the campaign against Islamic terrorism to last beyond his lifetime, implying that we are dealing with a clash of civilizations. However, it’s a different clash from the one Samuel Huntington wrote about in the nineties.

Huntington and contemporary commentators inspired by him see it as a clash between ‘freedom’ and a religious dictatorship. But if that were the case, why are hundreds – and perhaps thousands of young people from the ‘free’ West flocking to join ISIS ranks? Why did they come – the technicians who help them pump and sell their oil on the black market, the financial geniuses who enable them to make sophisticated money deals around the world, the doctors who presumably treat their wounded, not to mention the writers, photographers, video streamers and other technicians who run their recruiting websites, etc. etc.?

There must be a very compelling reasons why Westerners would overlook medieval beheadings to join the campaign for an Islamic Caliphate. (One commentator argued yesterday that beheadings are not necessarily more shocking than death by drone, but that explanation doesn’t suffice.) They do so for the same reasons that others join their national armies to fight organizations like ISIS: a belief in the values those armies defend. For Westerners, it’s about the freedom for individuals to develop to their full potential without too much government interference. But that freedom has increasingly been manipulated by a Madison Ave that gets the 99% to acquire all sorts of ‘things’ in order to fill the coffers of the 1%. That relentless campaign uses men, women and children as props, trivializing and often degrading them, as well as the lifestyles as those who are taken in by it. If you doubt this argument, consider that German cities are seeing ‘Sharia Patrols’ in their streets, while Iran’s president Rouhani seeks to soften restrictions on women’s dress.

ISIS’s black-flagged campaign against the West is not so much about God as it is about life-style. Its Western recruits likely range from puritanic men who want all women to wear the hijab, to men and women who reject the emptiness of the consumer society and have come to the conclusion that speaking and writing about it will have no effect on a system that can crush all enemies. Considering that the priority is to overthrow the Behemoth, in the absence of Western revolutionary movements, they join ISIS, seeing it as the enemy of that enemy.

I do not believe there will ever be another Caliphate because the world has changed too much for that to happen: but part of what underlies the North/South divide is a radical difference in visions of the good society. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, like most leaders of the developing world, condemn the barbarism of radical Islam, while disagreeing with the Western model of society. Together with a growing number of Western thinkers such as no-growth advocates like Serge Latouche, or essayists like Pankai Mishra, they see the lifestyles the consumer society promotes as empty and degrading. Their vision is of a capitalism that would not replace ‘backwardness’ with emptiness.

But that story doesn’t make good headlines.

Washington’s ISIS War Drums: Do Stupid Stuff, Do It Now!

By: williamboardman
Hillary Clinton caricature

Hillary Clinton wants to “Do More Right Than Wrong.” But can we back up that claim?

“Hopefully we get it more right than wrong” – organizing principle?

As Hillary Clinton was widely quoted as saying recently, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Maybe others have pointed out that this is a pretty stupid statement, but that’s far from the conventional wisdom. Think about the levels of stupidity here. Only “Great nations?” What, small nations don’t need to get their acts together? And who says the United States is a “great” nation and in what sense is it great and isn’t spouting a version of the American exceptionalism cliché just another way of doing stupid stuff? As organizing principles go, “Don’t do stupid stuff” is a great place to start. Then all you need to do is figure out what’s stupid and don’t do it: like not voting for war in Iraq in 2002.

What does the aspiring President Clinton offer for her own organizing principle? In her book Hard Choices, she writes: “Making policy is a balancing act. Hopefully we get it more right than wrong.” That means even less than “Don’t do stupid stuff.” That pretty much means: “we’re bound to do stupid stuff but we hope we won’t do too much stupid stuff.”

Of course that makes good political sense coming from the woman who, as Senator Clinton, voted to go to war in Iraq. As if that wasn’t totally knowable, in advance, as doing stupid stuff, really stupid stuff. That vote was a clever trap for intimidated Democrats, afraid to stand up to stupid stuff. Senator Clinton was not alone in that rush to war. She, along with Senators Kerry, McCain, Biden, Hagel, McConnell, Reid, and 70 other Senators, voted to support the administration lying us into that war on transparently dishonest evidence. It’s kind of cute, in a darkly disastrous way, that these same wrong-headed people are again among those braying most loudly for more war now. It makes a sort of amoral sense, since today’s mess is a continuation of the war they voted for because they presumably didn’t think it was stupid stuff that would last more than a decade.

“Hopefully we get it more right than wrong” unsupported by the stats

Senator Obama voted against the Iraq war in 2002, as did 22 other Senators. He campaigned in 2008 against getting into stupid wars. He demonstrated how little he understood his own principle by defending (and later enlarging) the war in Afghanistan as a smart war.  As Hillary says: “Hopefully we get it more right than wrong.” The scoreboard does not offer encouragement.

With all that in mind, here are some vagrant thoughts about what “Don’t do stupid stuff” might mean in some parts of the world these days, where smart options are few and far between:

IRAQ. Backing the unreliable, probably unstable Baghdad government is moderately stupid, but probably necessary in current circumstance. Baghdad is in a bind that will only get worse if we just leave it alone: to fight ISIS, Baghdad might need to rely on Iran, which would not only annoy the U.S., but might make the Sunni part of Iraq determinedly independent-minded. This box is the one Baghdad built for itself (with U.S. help, to be sure), but consequences belong to them. The Baghdad third of Iraq is not vital to American interests, it’s hardly vital to Kuwaiti interests, so don’t do something more stupid than the present tenuous balancing act. Keep an eye on the exit.

NORTHERN IRAQ. Bombing ISIS in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam is not so stupid, but only in the short term. Losing control of the huge dam would endanger everything downstream even more than now. Killing some ISIS fighters at a distance isn’t likely to annoy much of anyone except the ISIS fighters. Also it helps with defending the Kurds and it helped the Yazidis, all plus marks.

KURDISTAN. Supporting Kurdistan is not so stupid now, but could turn out to be stupid in the long run, not that anyone can know from here (can they?). The current Kurdish state gives the impression of actually being a functioning, non-sectarian, tolerant, quasi-democratic state with its more primitive cultural id reasonably under control for the moment, especially compared to its neighbors. And Kurdistan has some oil. And Kurdish independence is annoying to Turkey and Iran.

TURKEY. Annoying Turkey is probably stupid, but also inevitable if we follow any sort of sensible course in the region. Turkey has been annoying others for years now, so it deserves to be annoyed in turn. Just the wide-open Turkish-Syrian border is annoying enough to deserve response, since that open border has been critical to the growing strength of ISIS, which some Turkish fundamentalists (like the prime minister?) see as a good thing when it’s going against Damascus and Baghdad, but pretty much not such a good thing if ISIS comes after Ankara (and why wouldn’t it, if it could, which it can’t?). Turkey, like Baghdad, has been playing an ugly, deadly game, and bailing Turkey out of its own mess would be really, really stupid unless it came with serious changes, in advance. Not gonna happen any time soon.

Turkey: Protesters March Backwards to Symbolize Loss of Democratic Values


Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

A No U-Turn Sign topped by a sign of a frowning face

By referencing a common road sign, Turkish activists declared they won’t turn back.

On the 34th  anniversary of the September 12th,  1980 military coup, young liberal Turkish activists organized a protest rally against the retrogression in democratic values and democratization of the country. They got together in Taksim’s Galatasaray Square, wore their white T-shirts, on which were printed “No U Turn” signs, read out a press statement against the undemocratic implementation of laws in the country, and started their march. Unlike all protest rallies beforehand, they were walking backwards as a sign of the Turkish democracy going the same way.

Only a few steps behind them were located riot police and water cannon, aka TOMA, and the group had to divert their path in order not to run into them, but this seemed like another significant coincidence. Members of the “Democracy Watch” and “Law, Liberty, Tolerance” foundations and voluntary activists participated in the protest and recalled the initial steps taken against the coup legacy, back in 2010 during the Constitutional Reform referendum.

The Press Statement reads as follows:

We have just observed yet another anniversary of the September 12th military coup which has had a significant role in our political and democratic lives and continues to be a bleeding wound. The system that has replaced the rule of law with law of the powerful, has installed a network of bans and prohibitions on individual and social liberties even after the 34 years. In the recent years, we have also observed quite a few positive steps in terms of our democracy and freedoms. One of them was the constitutional reform referenda on September 12th 2010. Even though we had imagined this referenda to be a beginning, it was forgotten before even the end of the year. The militaristic constitution of 1980 continues to be an obstacle in the face of civilian thinking and liberties. Universities continue to graduate uniform persons with the help of Higher Authority for Education. The legal institutions which are supposed to spread justice, get shaped with power-relations and interest struggles. The media which should be independent and unbiased revolve around interest relations. Our people and cities turn paler just like the democratic promises of the government. In Turkey, which has a ranking of 154 in press freedom, 90 in human development index and 88 in international democratic index, all these are announced as “New Turkey”. We the youth of Turkey who wish to see our liberties and democracy among the level of developed countries, refuse to act as three monkeys against all these going on. We do not approve of the backlash in democracy’s basic principles such as basic rights and freedoms, separation of powers. Yet, in order to protest against the backlash and backwardness we have been experiencing as a society and country, we will march backwards. We hereby set a note in history in terms of our values and principles by taking a step back, and continue to walk towards a much brighter future for Turkey.

VIDEO: Glennzilla Takes-Down PM of the Five Eyes?

By: jbade

Glennzilla and Kim Dot Com looking to take-down New Zealand’s top dog. New Zealand’s PM has vowed to step down if the mass surveillance accusations forwarded by Glennzilla are true. In New Zealand it’s election time. New Zealanders are very focused on this issue.

I long to be a part of something good like the New Zealanders are in the middle of. That anything like that would every happen here is inconceivable. I know am going to get a neo-con republican named Hillary Clinton.

From RT:

“US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, said New Zealand officials are spying on their citizens, a charge that has provoked a harsh response from NZ Prime Minister John Key.”

“Greenwald told the Nation television program: “The government does engage in extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata – meaning who’s talking to who, for how long, where they are when they speak – on a massive indiscriminate scale, not just internationally but of New Zealanders as well.”

“Prime Minister Key, who said last year that he would resign if the GCSB was proven to have carried out domestic mass surveillance, passionately denied there had been large-scale spying on New Zealanders.”

The prime minister said he would respond to Greenwald’s allegations on Monday “in the fullness of time.”

“But mark my words, I’m right and he’s wrong and I’ll prove I’m right.” Key said, then attempting to belittle Greenwald by calling him “Dotcom’s little henchman.” Greenwald responded to the attack, tweeting: “Does the Prime Minister think that bizarre ad hominem attacks against me will make the facts – and the documents – disappear?” 

Taken together, New Zealanders are gearing up for what promises to be an interesting Monday, with Greenwald scheduled as a guest speaker at Dotcom’s highly anticipated event, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participating via video hookup from his years-long residence at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Full Article at