House Intel Panel: Edward Snowden 'Was No Whistleblower'

Edward Snowden, who is in Moscow, is seen on a giant screen during a live video conference for an interview as part of Amnesty International event in Paris, France, Dec. 10, 2014. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence published a summary report accusing Snowden of causing “tremendous damage to U.S. national security.” Charles Platiau/AP hide caption

toggle caption Charles Platiau/AP

Summarizing its investigation of Edward Snowden, the House Intelligence Committee says the former National Security Agency contractor did tremendous damage to the U.S.

The Committee published the summary findings of a two-year investigation today as a new film about Snowden opens across the country.

Snowden stole 1.5 million classified government documents that he had access to as an NSA contractor. He then fled to Russia via Hong Kong.

As NPR’s David Welna reports,

Most major congressional reports are rolled out with news conferences, floor speeches and press releases. Not this one. There is only a three-page unclassified summary of the House Intelligence Committee’s actual 36-page report, which remains classified. Devin Nunes is the California Republican who chairs that panel.

Nunes:

The report is based on facts, so it’s just all the facts that we gathered over a two-year process, and the report … I think, speaks for itself.

The summary is available here. It contains five major points:

  • Snowden caused “tremendous damage to national security” and the documents he stole had nothing to do with programs effecting individual privacy interests. Rather, the documents pertained “to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries.” The report says the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate the damage Snowden caused.
  • Snowden is not a whistle blower, but a disgruntled employee whose actions infringed on the privacy of thousands of government employees and contractors. A real whistleblower, the report suggests, would have remained in the U.S. and not fled to China and Russia.
  • Two weeks before he began the massive download of 1.5 million documents, Snowden had a “workplace spat” with NSA managers.
  • Snowden is “a serial exaggerator and fabricator” who told a series of untrue stories about his health, education, and performance reviews.
  • The Committee says it is concerned that NSA and intelligence community in general have not done enough to prevent “another massive unauthorized disclosure of documents.”

The Committee unanimously voted to endorse the report and all members signed a letter to President Obama urging him not to pardon Snowden.

The Committee’s report may or may not have anything to do with the release of the new bio-pic, Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt in the title role.

NPR’s David Welna also reports that committee member Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.) was especially bothered by the trailer he’s seen for the movie.

Welna:

The Edward Snowden portrayed in that trailer by actor Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Rooney says, is not the serial exaggerator and fabricator the committee’s report says he is.

Rooney:

He was like this little guy fighting this behemoth of oppressive government, when that’s exact, not at all what it was. But, you know, I guess it makes for good, uh,cinema.

[Welna] — Do you plan to see the movie?

—Absolutely. I absolutely will see the movie.

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Grime Artist Skepta Overtakes David Bowie In Stunning Mercury Prize Upset

Grime artist Skepta accepts his award after being announced the winner of the Mercury Prize on September 15, 2016 in London, England. Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images hide caption

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Just this afternoon, it looked like David Bowie was a shoo-in for this year’s Mercury Prize. Even though the prestigious U.K. award had never before been given to an artist posthumously, Blackstar was the final and widely adored album from a British rock god. Even bookies were betting on Bowie as a 4/7 favorite.

Things didn’t work out that way, though. Instead, the Mercury went to the stunned 33-year-old independent grime artist Skepta, a.k.a. Joseph Junior Adenuga, for his fourth album, Konnichiwa. Skepta releases his music on his own Boy Better Know imprint — “no record label, nothing,” as he reportedly said when accepting the award. (The award telecast was not watchable outside the U.K.)

The 2016 Mercury shortlist comprised both longtime fan and critical favorites and some relative newcomers. The nominees included Anohni, Bat for Lashes, Bowie, Jamie Woon, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Laura Mvula, Radiohead, Savages, Skepta, The 1975 and The Comet Is Coming. (This was Radiohead’s fifth nomination.)

Though the Mercury can ostensibly be awarded to artists in any genre, the list of nominees this year tipped toward rock (Bowie, The 1975 and Radiohead), soul (Kiwanuka and Mvula) and grime (Skepta and Kano). But there were also a couple of more outlying picks, like The Comet Is Coming, a trio that BBC Six dubbed “purveyors of freak-out space funk,” and the post-punk explorations of Savages.

The ceremony was televised live in Great Britain on BBC Four. Half of the shortlist contenders were eliminated during the telecast to create six “finalists” for the prize: Mvula, Skepta, The 1975, Bowie, Radiohead and Kiwanuka.

The Mercury Prize, which carries a £25,000 award, is given by the British Phonographic Industry and British Association of Record Dealers for what the judging panel considers the best album from a British or Irish artist or group in the past year; the prize is something of a counterweight to the more popularly-minded Brit Awards. Absent from this year’s shortlist were the two best-selling albums in the U.K. during the current eligibility period: Adele‘s 25 and Coldplay‘s A Head Full Of Dreams. Tonight’s ceremony marked the 25th edition of the award.

Skepta’s song “Numbers,” featuring Pharrell — an indictment of the traditional record industry — was included on NPR Music’s list of our Favorite Songs of 2016 (So Far); his track “Shutdown” also made our list of our Favorite Songs of 2015.

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$1 Million Of Frugal Librarian's Bequest To N.H. School Goes To Football Scoreboard

Robert Morin left $4 million to his longtime employer, the University of New Hampshire. University of New Hampshire hide caption

toggle caption University of New Hampshire

News that late librarian Robert Morin left the University of New Hampshire $4 million has been hailed as a symbol of Morin’s dedication and generosity. But the school’s decision to spend $1 million of that money on a new video scoreboard for the football stadium is being criticized.

“A life lived in frugality, spent frivolously” on a million-dollar scoreboard, one commenter wrote on a local newspaper site, calling the decision “an assault” on Morin’s life. Other say it’s simply a shame that more of the money didn’t go to the university’s Dimond Library, where Morin spent much of his life.

On the library’s web site, a message next to a button reading “Make a Gift” explains that the library “depends on gifts to improve our collections, facilities, services, and programs for students, faculty, staff, and New Hampshire residents.”

Here’s how the university says it’s spending Morin’s millions:

  • $2.5 million toward an expanded career center for students and alumni;
  • $1 million toward a video scoreboard for the new football stadium;
  • $100,000 to Dimond Library, to provide “scholarships for work-study students, support staff members who continue their studies in library science and fund the renovation of one of the library’s multimedia rooms.”

In response to that allocation, New Hampshire graduate Claire Cortese wrote a critical blog post that was highlighted by Inside Higher Ed. In it, Cortese writes, “I doubt any student will look back in ten years and say ‘man, that video scoreboard – that really impacted my experience at UNH in a meaningful and beneficial way.’ “

Cortese also notes that the school’s football stadium recently reopened after a $25 million renovation.

School officials say the money for the library was the only “dedicated gift” in Morin’s bequest, meaning that the rest of the estate was unrestricted; Deborah Dutton, vice president for advancement and president of the UNH Foundation, says, “Unrestricted gifts give the university the ability to use the funds for our highest priorities and emerging opportunities.”

When we asked a university representative if the bequest will result in anything being named for Morin, Erika Mantz, the school’s director of media relations, noted that “a bench in the courtyard outside the library was inscribed with his name.”

Mantz added, “At this time a decision has not been made as to how we will further recognize Mr. Morin’s incredible generosity.”

Morin was 77 when he died in the spring of 2015. For nearly 50 years, he had worked as a cataloguer at the university’s main library. It seems that both Morin’s wealth and his gift to the school took people by pleasant surprise.

“I’m so impressed with his commitment to UNH, both in his years of service as well as this donation,” one person wrote on the school’s Facebook announcement about the bequest. “Speaking as a university librarian myself, it isn’t easy to accumulate that much money!”

In another sign that the scoreboard issue seems to have struck a sour note with some members of the university community, consider that in a caption contest on the school’s Facebook page today — in which readers are invited to subtitle a photo of two students on campus — the leading entry Thursday afternoon reads:

“Did you hear about the scoreboard?”
“Yeah. I’ll be paying my student loans off until I’m fifty, and they spent a million bucks on a ****ing SCOREBOARD?”

A New Hampshire native, Morin was known for his affection for movies and books; according to his obituary, his job entailed writing short descriptions of DVDs, entering CDs into the library system, and cataloging “book after book of sheet music.”

The only association between the librarian and the football program that was mentioned by the university was the observation that Morin had spent the last 15 months of his life in an assisted living center — and that there, “he started watching football games on television, mastering the rules and names of the players and teams.”

As for the money he left to UNH, Morin’s financial adviser, Edward Mullen, tells the Union Leader that the librarian had a knack for not spending what he made. From the newspaper:

“Mullen said Morin had an older vehicle and, despite being a millionaire, he ate frozen dinners.

” ‘He never went out,’ Mullen said.

“Mullen said Morin decided to give all of his money to his alma mater because he did not have any relatives he wanted to leave it to. Morin trusted UNH to spend the money wisely for students.”

Morin’s only living relatives when he died were his two brothers, Ronald and Lucien, according to his obituary. He requested that there not be a public service for his funeral; he was buried in the family plot in St. Louis Cemetery in Nashua.

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Police Charge Man With Arson At Mosque Attended By Orlando Gunman

Days after the Florida mosque that had been attended by the Orlando Pulse nightclub gunman was set on fire, the sheriff’s department of St. Lucie County says it has arrested Joseph Michael Schreiber, 32. Officers cited tips from the public and Schreiber owning a motorcycle like one seen on surveillance video.

“An examination of Schreiber’s social media account also shows multiple anti-Islamic posts and comments,” Major David Thompson of the sheriff’s office says.

As Camila reported for the Two-Way earlier this week, the fire hit the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce one night after the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and during Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday.

“Under Florida law, Schreiber will be charged with arson and Florida’s hate crime enhancement will also be applied to the charge,” Jill Roberts of member station WQCS in Fort Pierce reports for our Newscast unit. “That brings the crime to a first degree felony. The investigation continues. The FBI and ATF are also considering federal charges.”

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Into The Woods, But Out Of Ideas: A Tedious, Ugly, Pointless 'Blair Witch'

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner: Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia LIons(Valorie Curry) in Blair Witch. Chris Helcermanas–Benge/Lionsgate hide caption

toggle caption Chris Helcermanas–Benge/Lionsgate

Seventeen years and at least as many parodies have passed since the release of The Blair Witch Project, the nanobudget horror hoaxumentary that did blockbuster numbers and landed the three unknown actors who comprised its main cast on the cover of Newsweek. (Writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez had to settle for the cover of Time.) It wasn’t the first found-footage spook-flick, but it was by far the most successful, thanks to its pioneering use of viral marketing. The Blair Witch Project website — one of the first built to shill for a movie — presented phony police reports and news clippings to burnish the Blair Witch legend. The actors, who had supposedly vanished in the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting their “documentary” in 1994, were briefly the subject of a bogus missing persons campaign.

Even after Myrick and Sánchez admitted the whole thing was made up, much of the public remained credulous, or at least confused. You can’t entirely blame them. The Blair Witch Project‘s marketing was ingenious, the web stuff propped up by the Sci-Fi channel’s “uncensored investigation” special Curse of the Blair Witch, which aired a few weeks before the feature’s theatrical release.

Recognizing that this particular iron couldn’t stay hot for long, distributor Artisan Entertainment rushed a quickie follow-up into theaters 15 months later. Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows wasn’t very good, but it was more ambitious than the frightfully lame new remake-quel Blair Witch, from director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett. This pair, which has made several thrifty horror pictures together including the well-received You’re Next, clearly have great affection for the original, and they express this fealty by replicating the Napster-era sensation almost beat for beat. But why? Unlike, say, Orson Welles’ groundbreaking hoaxumentary F for Fake, which remains provocative and beguiling long after its initial gimmick has been revealed, or many of Christopher Guest’s fauxumentaries, which get funnier with repetition, that original Blair Witch film offers little incentive for you to return once you’ve heard the punchline.

Remember how Star Wars: The Force Awakens was gently chided in some quarters for reprising Star Wars: A New Hope a little too closely? Imagine if The Force Awakens had not conjured up any members of the original Star Wars cast, featured only bland new personalities instead of Daisey Ridley and John Boyega, and also looked no more lavish or impressive than A New Hope, a picture made 40 years earlier.

That’s Blair Witch. Tedious in its early going and all but unwatchable in its final half-hour, the movie feels interminable at a barely-feature-length 89 minutes. Maybe it’ll play better on Netflix, but it’s deeply unpleasant to experience on the big screen, where shaky handheld digital video is a lot more nauseating than when you’re watching it online. I’ll cop to having squinted and squirmed through much of the second half, but that’s just an autonomic response to shaky-cam-coupled with-loud-noises, not a tribute to Wingard’s ability to create tension. Spraying the audience with water while playing distorted audio recordings of people screaming would achieve the same effect.

The premise is that paramedic James (James Allen McCune), who was a tyke when his big sister Heather went missing in 1994, has spent years trawling YouTube for evidence she might still be alive. (We’re told authorities combed the Burkittsville woods for the haunted house seen in the finale of The Blair Witch Project but never found it.) When he finds a video that he believes to contain her image, he grabs his friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who needs to a make a documentary for a college course, and pals Corbin Reid and Brandon Scott (who come along though they hate camping), and tramps off into the forest with the two Burkittsville locals who uploaded the YouTube clip, played by Wes Robinson and Valerie Curry.

The addition of those latter two characters is the film’s sole stab at altering the formula: For it moment, it appears we’re going to have two rival camps of witch-hunters. But this isn’t nearly variety enough to justify a return trip. Even if you didn’t see The Blair Witch Project, nothing that happens after sundown in the forbidding woods of Western Maryland (as played by Western Canada this time) will surprise you. This is a cursed place. Wristwatches and compasses and GPS trackers can find no purchase here. (Nor, apparently, can the image-stabilization software that didn’t exist in 1994, but has been standard in most digital cameras and smartphones for years.) Mysterious sigils appear overnight, hung from tree branches. There is something ancient and angry in these woods… and it’s really, really into arts and crafts.

Found-footage horror pictures are an unbeatable investment; even the most polished (like 2008’s Cloverfield) are still so cheap it’s virtually impossible for them not to turn a profit. And the format insulates the filmmakers from any criticism of their technical or narrative acuity.

The Blair Witch Project certainly benefited from these relaxed standards. Pivoting between tedium and terror, the movie was easier to admire than to like, and more fun to dissect than to watch. Blair Witch 2016 isn’t fun to sit through or to ponder. This ugly, empty retread somehow cost $5 million, a figure that brings to mind Chris Rock’s great joke about its precursor: “Everyone’s like, ‘Oooh, it only cost $60,000.’ Where the hell did all the money go? Somebody’s walking around with $59,000 in their pocket.”

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'Operation Avalanche': A Fake Documentary About A Faked Moon Landing

One Small Step: Owen Williams and Matt Johnson in Operation Avalanche. Lionsgate Premeire hide caption

toggle caption Lionsgate Premeire

Conspiracy theories never go out of style in the Internet age, but the one about the moon landing has proven more resilient than most — especially this year, which sees two releases built around the idea of renegade filmmakers staging a fake landing (both with help from Stanley Kubrick) in the event NASA has to deceive the American people.

The first, the bland comedy Moonwalkers, was a more straightforward effort: a mismatched odd-couple romp through psychedelic London, where everyone was too spaced-out to give much of a thought to space itself. Now Operation Avalanche, a clever found-footage comedy that slowly morphs into a conspiracy thriller, makes considerably more of an effort to impress the more discerning geeks in the crowd.

The merits of this Operation can be chalked up to the livewire creativity of director-writer-star Matt Johnson (The Dirties), who self-consciously blends fact, fiction, and high-wire stunts: think Christopher Guest crossed with the Jackass guys. He plays a CIA agent, also named Matt Johnson, who poses as a documentary filmmaker to infiltrate NASA and suss out a Russian mole. To film this adventure, Johnson—with collaborators Owen Williams and Josh Boles—really did infiltrate NASA, telling the agency he was a student filmmaker shooting a documentary about the space race. No one at the research-rigorous center bothered to Google him, apparently, or they would have found a man with a history of video pranks. (The candid-camera approach may help explain why no one in the film talks like they’re in the 1960s. Johnson and company likely had to keep up appearances in front of present-day NASA staff.)

Later, once Johnson’s in-movie alter ego learns NASA is nowhere near ready to get a man to the moon and back by John F. Kennedy’s 1969 deadline, he decides to film a fake version. At this point Operation Avalanche liberally employs some (only recently legalized) fair-use interpretation to mix together staged scenes with copyrighted archival footage of the actual moon landings. This is spliced with various other imagery that, like the 2013 guerilla Disneyland thriller Escape From Tomorrow, seems legal only because no one in a position of power will bother to challenge it.

Unlike the real moon landing, though, the behind-the-scenes intrigue of Operation Avalanche doesn’t amount to a giant leap so much as a small step. Johnson can certainly make clever use of a 4:3 ratio, but he’s not much of an actor: he frequently mealy-mouths his own lines with a kind of slack-jawed bro glee. Nor does the dialogue, when stripped free from the gimmickry, project much more intelligence than, “Do you realize how insane this is?”

And despite the film’s substantial technical accomplishments, it sags quite a bit in the telling, suggesting a lack of follow-through beyond the core of the idea. A segment involving Kubrick, for instance, is a giddy thrill (it looks like they’re talking!) until you realize its narrative purpose is next to nil.

Still, it’s necessary to appreciate the finesse of the fakery on display. The climactic car chase alone is a marvel, captured from the back seat in one take as Johnson’s pursuers cut him off, shoot his windows out, and force him to flee in reverse. Ingenuity like this is a prized commodity in an age where anything can look like anything onscreen. For a movie about a con, it’s that much more important to feel so real.

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LeBron James Helps Young Entrepreneurs In 'Cleveland Hustles'

Small business entrepreneurs typically get money from family or friends. But an approach taken from the pages of Silicon Valley is being used in Cleveland. A new reality television show called Cleveland Hustles is the idea of basketball superstar LeBron James. The show documents this process as four companies try to create jobs and a business model that can be replicated across the country.

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House Intelligence Committee Reviews Classified Report On Edward Snowden

A classified congressional report on Edward Snowden’s stunning 2013 removal of top secret National Security Agency documents was approved Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee. It was just hours before the Oliver Stone biopic, Snowden, is set to hit theaters nationwide. Panel members say their report paints a far less favorable portrait of Snowden and his motives than the new movie does.

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WATCH: Trump Discusses His Weight, Stamina And Medical Record On 'Oz'

TV host Mehmet Oz reviews Trump’s medical records on The Dr. Oz Show on Wednesday, September 14 in New York City. The episode aired on Thursday. Sony Pictures Television hide caption

toggle caption Sony Pictures Television

The campaign trail this week has been dominated not by poll numbers, but by a different set of statistics: cholesterol, triglycerides and the blood pressure levels laid out by the medical records of both major party candidates.

That discussion culminated Thursday with Trump’s appearance on The Dr. Oz Show for an interview with the controversial Mehmet Oz.

On the show, which taped Wednesday, Trump unveiled his records in a fitting fashion for the former reality TV star.

“If your health is as strong as it seems from your review of systems, why not share your medical records?,” Oz asked Trump.

“Well, I have really no problem in doing it. I have it right here,” Trump replied. “I mean, should I do it? I don’t care. Should I do it?”

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Trump then pulled out two letters, waiting at the ready in his coat pocket, and handed them to Oz. He said one was a health report and the other a letter from Lenox Hill Hospital, where he received his physical exam last week.

Oz read aloud and interpreted the health statistics, which had also been released by the Trump campaign Thursday.

Each number, Oz said, was in healthy range. He stopped briefly to comment on the candidate’s testosterone levels.

“Your testosterone is 441, which is actually good,” Oz said, laughing. This was perhaps an acknowledgment that Trump’s “manliness” has come up before, particularly when the candidate defended the size of his hands, among other things, during a primary debate in March.

Oz did circle back later to Trump’s weight, which the candidate’s doctor says is 236 pounds. For his 6’3″ frame, the candidate is considered to be on the high end of the overweight range.

“It’s tough because of the way I live, but the one thing I’d like to do is drop 15, 20 pounds,” Trump said.

Ultimately, the celebrity doctor gave him a clean bill of health.

“If a patient of mine had these records, I’d be really happy,” Oz said “I would have shared this earlier, why didn’t you blast this out?”

“I didn’t think it was necessary,” Trump responded. “It’s all very private stuff. Should you be showing it?”

Trump then seemed to take a stab at Hillary Clinton, who was treated recently for pneumonia and left a 9/11 memorial service Sunday after “overheating.”

“When you’re running for president, I think you have an obligation to be healthy,” Trump said, adding that he’s taken “almost no days” off.

“I just don’t think you can do the work if you’re not healthy,” Trump said.

The Clinton campaign released her health records Wednesday, which showed her numbers to be within healthy ranges as well. Her doctor noted that she is recovering well and “fit to serve as President of the United States.”

When asked about how he stays healthy on the campaign trail, Trump said that campaigning itself is “a lot of work.”

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“When I’m speaking in front of 15 and 20,000 people and I’m up there using a lot of motion,” Trump said. “It’s a pretty healthy act, and I really enjoy doing it. A lot of times, these rooms are very hot, like saunas, and I guess that’s a form of exercise, you know?”

During the interview, Trump acknowledged that he would be the oldest person to be elected president, but added that when he looks in the mirror he sees “a person that’s 35 years old.”

As far as managing the stress associated with running for president, Trump said his only source of it is the dishonest media.

Later in the show, Ivanka Trump joined her father on stage to discuss the maternity leave and child care tax credit plan the Trump campaign released Tuesday. With his daughter by his side, Trump also commented on controversial statements he has made toward women.

“Had I known I was going to be a politician, Howard Stern is a friend of mine, I wouldn’t have done his show,” Trump said. “We have fun. So, we’ll talk about women. We’ll talk about men. We’ll talk about everything and we’re all having a good time.”

Ivanka Trump jumped in: “My father speaks his mind, so whether it’s a man or a woman, if you attack him, he’ll attack you back.”

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