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American missing for six years in Iran was really a CIA agent

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An American who went missing in Iran six years ago worked for the CIA and was not in the country on a business trip as US officials had claimed, US media reported Thursday.

In a case that had long been shrouded in secrecy and vague official accounts, the Associated Press and The Washington Post published lengthy reports revealing how retired FBI agent Robert Levinson had been paid by the CIA to gather intelligence around the world.

Levinson flew to an Iranian resort, Kish Island, in March 2007 to investigate corruption in the country, with hopes of also gleaning information about Tehran’s suspect nuclear program, the reports said.

But he vanished, and US officials have publicly said that he was a private citizen travelling on private business.

In violation of CIA rules, a team of analysts had hired Levinson — a seasoned FBI agent with expert knowledge about Russian criminal circles — to gather intelligence, the AP and the Post wrote.

When Congress finally learned what had taken place, the agency sacked three analysts and seven others faced disciplinary action.

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To preempt a potentially embarrassing lawsuit, the Central Intelligence Agency also paid Levinson’s family $2.5 million.

As a result of Levinson’s case, the spy agency introduced new restrictions on how analysts can work with outsiders.

But the scandal and the agency’s response had remained secret until Thursday’s reports.

The Associated Press first learned of Levinson’s CIA ties in 2010 and continued reporting to uncover more details.

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The news agency agreed three times to postpone publishing the story because the US government said it was pursuing promising leads to secure his return.

The AP, however, said it had chosen to report the story now because efforts to find and free him have failed.

There has been no video or photo proving he is still alive since early 2011.

Senior US officials also say the Iranians almost certainly know about Levinson’s CIA association.

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Photos and video in 2010 and 2011 led to a brief diplomatic exchange between Washington and Tehran to secure his release but there have been no promising leads since, according to the reports.

Some officials suspect Levinson is dead but the FBI says it is committed to bringing him home.

If Levinson is still alive, at age 65, he has been held in captivity longer than any American citizen, longer than AP reporter Terry Anderson — who was held for more than six years in Beirut.

Iran has denied any knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts.

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The AP story was reported by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, who recently began work at the Post. Goldman’s byline also appears on the Post’s article.

The CIA was not immediately available to comment on the report.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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How Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement

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When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.

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Quantum physics experiment shows Heisenberg was right about uncertainty — in a certain sense

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The word uncertainty is used a lot in quantum mechanics. One school of thought is that this means there’s something out there in the world that we are uncertain about. But most physicists believe nature itself is uncertain.

Intrinsic uncertainty was central to the way German physicist Werner Heisenberg, one of the originators of modern quantum mechanics, presented the theory.

He put forward the Uncertainty Principle that showed we can never know all the properties of a particle at the same time.

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Why do conservatives hate Oberlin College so much?

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When I was an undergraduate at Oberlin in the mid-Aughts, there was a student in my class year who was obsessed with 19th-century British Royal Naval culture. Every Friday evening, he would host a sing-along in a dorm lounge, for which he would bring xeroxes of historical sea shanty lyrics and pass them around so that we could sing along, waving our glasses of “grog.” This was a semi-established event — he had distributed flyers around campus advertising the weekly British Royal Naval sea-shanty singalong and grog-drinking event, which would extend late into the night. Though he was not a resident of the dorm where it took place, he was welcomed into the lounge by its members, and became a fixture of sorts.Like many well-endowed liberal arts schools in rural areas, Oberlin College functions as a sort of de facto social welfare state, and is designed to encourage and cultivate one’s passions, even if they are not strictly academic. Thus, after writing up a proposal for the student-run activities board, the same student, the British Royal Navy culture guy, was able to plan, organize and execute a ticketed Royal Naval Ball, held in the atrium of the science center. The event featured 20 dishes of authentic British era-appropriate cuisine, cooked by student chefs, several courses of wine and port, and a violinist present to play period-specific music. The whole affair culminated with a traditional, British partner line dance — its sole inauthenticity the fact that we didn’t pay attention to our dance partners’ genders the way the Brits would have.
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