Los Angeles (AFP) - When veteran Hollywood actor Gregg Daniel was offered an audition for a new movie in Los Angeles, he nearly didn't show up -- the pandemic was well under way, and "no one was shooting.""I almost hesitated even going to the audition," said Daniel. "I'm African-American, I'm over 50 and disproportionately black people were dying of COVID-19... but the script was so good, and I'm an actor at heart."Fast-forward to today, and Daniel has completed boxing drama "7th & Union," filmed in the streets of the eerily quiet California entertainment capital.Thanks to relentless testing, ...
For decades, neuroscientists have been debating the question: How much free will do people actually have? Why are some people inclined to make better, wiser decisions than others? And why do some people, even those considered highly intelligent, act on their worst impulses while others don't?
Those are the sort of questions that neuroscientists have been grappling with over the years.
New York City-based science writer Bahar Gholipour discussed the "death of free will" in a much-read article published by The Atlantic on September 10, 2019. And he explained why a 1964 study continued to have an impact on how some neuroscientists view that subject.
"The death of free will began with thousands of finger taps," Gholipour wrote. "In 1964, two German scientists monitored the electrical activity of a dozen people's brains. Each day for several months, volunteers came into the scientists' lab at the University of Freiburg to get wires fixed to their scalp from a showerhead-like contraption overhead. The participants sat in a chair, tucked neatly in a metal tollbooth, with only one task: to flex a finger on their right hand at whatever irregular intervals pleased them, over and over, up to 500 times a visit."
Gholipour continued, "The purpose of this experiment was to search for signals in the participants' brains that preceded each finger tap. At the time, researchers knew how to measure brain activity that occurred in response to events out in the world — when a person hears a song, for instance, or looks at a photograph —but no one had figured out how to isolate the signs of someone's brain actually initiating an action."
That German experiment from 57 years ago, according to Gholipour, was groundbreaking because it showed "the brain readying itself to create a voluntary movement."
Gholipour explained, "This momentous discovery was the beginning of a lot of trouble in neuroscience. Twenty years later, the American physiologist Benjamin Libet used the Bereitschaftspotential (readiness potential) to make the case not only that the brain shows signs of a decision before a person acts, but that, incredibly, the brain's wheels start turning before the person even consciously intends to do something. Suddenly, people's choices — even a basic finger tap — appeared to be determined by something outside of their own perceived volition."
Libet, according to Gholipour, "introduced a genuine neurological argument against free will."
"Over time, the implications have been spun into cultural lore," Gholipour wrote in 2019. "Today, the notion that our brains make choices before we are even aware of them will now pop up in cocktail-party conversation or in a review of Black Mirror. It's covered by mainstream journalism outlets, including This American Life, Radiolab, and this magazine. Libet's work is frequently brought up by popular intellectuals such as Sam Harris and Yuval Noah Harari to argue that science has proved humans are not the authors of their actions."
Boebert’s apology complicates efforts to punish her bigotry — even if few Democrats believe she’s sorry
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) is facing blowback for her anti-Muslim remarks about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), but her apology may complicate efforts to formally punish her.
A Democratic faction wants to strip the Colorado Republican of her committee assignments for suggesting that Omar could be a terrorist, but Boebert issued an apology over the weekend and has reached out to the Minnesota Democrat's office, unlike previous GOP lawmakers who faced consequences for their bigoted remarks, reported Politico Playbook.
"Some Democrats — particularly allies of Omar — don’t see Boebert’s apology as authentic," the website reported. "Omar’s office would not say whether she will take Boebert up on her offer to meet. But other Democrats privately worry that if they punish a lawmaker who admits a mistake and tries to make amends, they’ll be setting themselves up for similar treatment — or worse — under a future GOP majority."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was removed from her committee assignments a month after she was sworn in for her past bigoted and incendiary statements, and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) was formally censured this month for tweeting a video showing himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and attacking President Joe Biden, but Boebert's apology raises the stakes a bit.
"The situation highlights the slippery slope Democrats created when they removed MTG from her committees over comments she made before entering Congress," Playbook reported. "Where do Democrats draw the line? If Democrats don’t lower the boom on Boebert, what message would it send to the Muslim community? But if they do, what message does that send to those who apologize for saying something wrong?"
On Monday, in an article for New York Magazine on a "safe space" café for Republicans on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Shawn McCreesh reported that longtime Donald Trump ally Roger Stone says he doesn't usually feel safe walking on the street in this part of New York City — because he fears being attacked by liberals.
"A Nixon Republican and Roy Cohn disciple — Nixon lived on Fifth Avenue, and Cohn on East 68th — Stone says he loves New York, but that he hasn't returned to the city since the FBI raided him in 2019," wrote McCreesh. "When he is here, he claims the Upper West Side is no longer safe for him. 'People who don't share my political point of view might verbally and sometimes physically attack me,' he says."
Stone did not provide an example of an instance where he was physically attacked. He also referred to former Trump ally Corey Lewandowski, who was ousted from his role leading a top Trump super PAC after sexual misconduct complaints from a GOP donor, as a "congenital liar and a scumbag."
Previously, Stone was convicted on obstruction and witness tampering for his role in the Trump-Russia affair. Trump ultimately commuted his sentence and later gave him a full pardon on his way out the door.
But the pardon hasn't been the end of Stone's legal problems. He is currently facing a civil suit from the Justice Department alleging fraud and tax evasion, and the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack have subpoenaed him for information in light of pictures showing him marching with the Oath Keepers on the morning ahead of the incident.