The Agency: A History of the CIA [TTC Video]
01 May 2019, 22:28
Course No 8000 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x28 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 10.68GB
Since the eve of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency has been tasked by the U.S. government with keeping watch on an increasingly dangerous and unstable world. Few organizations are as fascinating, as mysterious—and as controversial.
Also known as “the Agency” or “the Company,” the CIA has a dual mission: to gather critical intelligence and analysis and to conduct covert operations aimed at safeguarding U.S. security interests. To do this, its officers work primarily in the shadows, dealing in spies and secrecy, which has led to questions about the organization’s geopolitical role, and the tradeoffs between intelligence work and democratic transparency:
- Is the CIA operating as it was intended to, or is it in desperate need of repair?
- What lessons has the CIA learned from its greatest successes and its worst failures?
- How does intelligence gathering actually work, both for and against U.S. interests?
- Has the CIA fulfilled its difficult mission for the world’s largest democracy thus far?
According to CIA expert Hugh Wilford, there’s a fundamental tension buried within the heart of the CIA’s mission to protect the American government and people: a tension between democratic accountability and the inherent need for secret government power. Throughout its epic (and surprisingly recent) history, the CIA has swung back and forth between these principles.
What many don’t realize is that it’s U.S. citizens who check the CIA’s power, and who bear the responsibility of staying informed about what the CIA has done and continues to do at home and abroad in their name. In The Agency: A History of the CIA, Professor Wilford of California State University transforms decades of academic research into an engrossing 24-lecture course that helps you better understand the roles the CIA has played in recent American history, from the eve of the Cold War against communism to the 21st-century War on Terror. With his outsider’s objective perspective, Professor Wilford offers an unbiased exploration of the CIA’s inner workings, its successful—and disastrous—operations, its innovations in technology and espionage, and its complex relationship with U.S. presidents and popular culture. In this course, you will find all the information you need to be able to make your own conclusions about what the CIA might have done right, what it might have done wrong, and what it should do in the future.
Investigate the CIA’s Great Successes…
Prior to the birth of the CIA in 1947, Americans entertained strong suspicions of international involvement and excessive government power. That changed, however, with the onset of World War II and the subsequent Cold War against communism—both of which paved the way for advocates of intelligence and international intervention to overcome the nation’s “anti-spy” tradition.
So, what can we make of the CIA’s record in espionage and intelligence? Does it all add up to a failure or to a success?
To answer this complicated question, The Agency guides you through decades of espionage and covert operations. After a look at the CIA’s origins—including the agency’s most obvious predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS—and the organization’s evolution from a strict intelligence agency to the United States’s premier covert-action unit, you’ll delve into some of the most remarkable and fascinating successes, including:
- The sound intelligence the CIA’s U-2 spy plane program provided to President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which highlights the agency’s prowess in using technological innovations to fulfill its mission;
- The admirable performance of the CIA throughout much of the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s, during which it provided solid battlefield intel and sensible strategic assessments about the negative long-term prospects of U.S. involvement; and
- The recent successful disruptions of terrorist plots in the ongoing War on Terror, including the foiling of a June 2018 plot (involving the deadly toxin ricin) by a suspected Islamist extremist in Cologne, Germany.
…and Its Stunning Failures
A balanced exploration of the CIA should also take into account the CIA’s many controversial intelligence errors, and Professor Wilford devotes equal time to these historic failures.
You’ll learn how these—sometimes catastrophic—moments came about as the result of everything from bureaucratic knots to the Agency’s surprising lack of human intelligence about volatile regions around the world, including the former communist bloc in Eastern Europe and the Muslim world.
Throughout The Agency, you’ll consider how the CIA often failed or fell short concerning:
- The Soviet Union’s acquisition of the atomic bomb,
- The fall of China to the forces of communism,
- North Korea’s invasion of South Korea,
- The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and
- How long it took to notice the rise of radical Islamism (including the September 11 attacks).
Meet the Men Who Shaped the CIA
Professor Wilford also takes you inside the shadowy world of the CIA, revealing not just how it operated on the domestic and international stage, but also how it operated as its own organization that evolved in step with changing times in American history.
You will meet the individuals who shaped the CIA over the course of decades—some of whom had different ideas of what role the CIA should play at home and abroad—including figures such as:
- William “Wild Bill” Donovan: If any individual could be called the father of the CIA, it’s Donovan, appointed by President Roosevelt in 1941 to coordinate intelligence information with historically unprecedented powers over civilian and military agencies (a department renamed the Office of Strategic Services after the Pearl Harbor attack).
- George F. Kennan: This State Department Russia expert, responsible for the conversion of the CIA into a covert-ops shop, urged the U.S. government to adopt a series of aggressive measures against the Soviet Union—including the policy of rolling back the borders of the communist empire.
- Edward Lansdale: As a CIA operative in Vietnam, Lansdale waged political warfare against the northern Vietnamese government of Ho Chi Minh (including the use of psy-ops targeting Catholics in the north); his story helps you form a more complete understanding of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
- James Angleton: One of the CIA’s most compelling personalities, Angleton was responsible for leading a dramatic hunt for Soviet moles inside the CIA—a search which had an enormous impact on the agency’s mission at a crucial moment in its existence and which personified national fears that the CIA would abuse its covert power.
Explore Fascinating CIA Operations
How, exactly, did the CIA plan and conduct its intelligence gathering and covert action? The Agency leads you through various operations throughout the CIA’s history; ops that are equal parts controversial and thrilling.
- PB-SUCCESS, the CIA’s codename for its 1954 Guatemala operation that proved (for the CIA, at least) that covert action could be a Cold War magic bullet;
- The Berlin Tunnel, the CIA’s first major venture into SIGINT (signals interception) that involved the construction of a secret tunnel from the U.S. sector to the Soviet side; and
- MK-ULTRA, a program run by biochemist Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA’s Technical Services Staff that studied the possible effects of hallucinogens in interrogations.
You’ll also get fresh perspectives on historical moments with which you may already have some passing familiarity, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Iran-Contra Affair, and the Iraq War. In many cases, the lectures lead you to consider important questions about both the nature of the CIA and its role in shaping modern history. What makes particular regions of the world ripe for the CIA’s attention? How successful are techniques like drone strikes, rendition, and interrogation? Is the CIA more productive or counterproductive when it comes to foreign affairs?
Along the way, you will also explore how the reality of the CIA compares with the wealth of popular culture that depicts the agency, as well as how the CIA itself has directly and intentionally used literature, film, and other media as tools in its own operations.
An Objective Look at the CIA
For his entire life, Professor Wilford has been fascinated by spies and spying—a fascination that’s undeniably contagious. He’s researched and published extensively on the history of the CIA and international U.S. relations, and has interviewed former spies.
“I’m not going to come down strongly on one side of the debate about the CIA,” Professor Wilford says. “As someone who grew up in England, I still have a bit of an outsider perspective that I think helps make my approach to the CIA fairly objective.”
The result is a thorough, well-balanced exploration of one of America’s most intriguing organizations. So, join the debate with The Agency and start forming your own opinions about an organization that will continue to play a pivotal, game-changing role in history for years to come.
Masters of Mindfulness: Transforming Your Mind and Body [TTC Video]
29 April 2019, 15:19
Course No 9048 | MP4, AVC, 1372 kbps, 960x540 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 22x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.35GB
Modern biology and neuroscience have quantified the powerfully positive effects of mindfulness. Join 11 top researchers and proponents of mindfulness as they breakdown what modern science and contemporary research have revealed about this ancient practice and the many ways in which it can benefit your life. This course represents a unique and extraordinary opportunity, bringing a diverse group of renowned specialists together in one place for the first time to share their own personal experiences and their latest research, and to guide you through several mindfulness exercises.
According to Dr. Shauna Shapiro, mindfulness means paying attention in the present moment with an attitude of kindness and generosity. It involves being aware and doing things with conscious intent. But research shows our mind lives in the past or the future almost half of our waking moments.
Focusing on this moment in time, this place, your body as it feels in this moment, your breath as it moves in and out right now… That focus on present-moment awareness has the capability to transform your life. And it has existed for thousands of years, interwoven throughout many religious and intellectual traditions.
Mindfulness as a practice is very simple and its effects are well-documented. What many people don’t realize is the breadth of the science behind it and how much of our health—physical, mental, emotional—is bound up in the way we look at and experience the world. Now, modern biology and neuroscience can actually quantify many of the effects of mindfulness and you may be surprised by how powerful the impact can be.
In Masters of Mindfulness: Transforming Your Mind and Body, 11 top researchers and proponents of mindfulness discuss what modern science and contemporary research have revealed about this ancient practice and the many ways in which it can benefit your life. These 22 lectures present a unique and extraordinary opportunity, bringing a diverse group of renowned specialists together in one place for the first time to share their own personal experiences and their latest research, and to guide you through several mindfulness exercises. Acting as your primary guide through the many concepts and presenters, psychologist and mindfulness expert Dr. Shauna Shapiro brings together some of the greatest minds in the field to give you an immersive, 360-degree experience of mindfulness, its practice, and its benefits.
This course was shot on location at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, a place that is considered a unique sanctuary for anyone interested in the study of human consciousness and the human potential movement. Since 1962, this profoundly beautiful locale has been a thriving hub for investigating and experiencing the journey of mindfulness in its many forms, including cutting-edge scientific research and applications. Not everyone can hop on a plane to California, so Masters of Mindfulness brings this one-of-a-kind experience to you.
Mindfulness in All Aspects of Our Lives
If you don’t yet have a mindfulness practice, you might be wondering how you’re going to fit it into your schedule. But mindfulness doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You don’t have to buy any equipment or take any lessons, or wear anything special. All you need is a chair, or even the floor, and the desire to change your life and habits for the better. With an investment of 12 minutes a day, you can start reaping the rewards of a mindfulness practice.
- Internationally recognized mindfulness expert Dr. Shauna Shapiro begins the course by explaining the benefits of a mindfulness practice; after all, as she says: “what you practice grows stronger.” She also introduces each subsequent presenter and explains how he or she fits into the overall course.
- Dr. Rick Hanson explains why we evolved with a brain whose wiring is always on the lookout for the negative, and how neuroplasticity gives us the ability to change that orientation, leading to a more resilient and positive inner life for modern times. Author Kristine Carlson then shares her very personal journey of grief and the ways in which mindfulness can aid in your own healing and transition to a better life. With Juna Mustad, you will go on a journey toward anger—an emotion that frightens most of us—and use mindfulness tools to discover the positive role anger can play in your life.
- Author Mike Robbins invites you to “bring your whole self to work” with authenticity and honesty and Jessica Graham helps you explore the ways in which a mindfulness practice can open up your sex life, offering both greater pleasure and a deeper connection to your partner.
- Drs. Amishi Jha and Elissa Epel discuss the thrilling scientific discoveries regarding the effects of mindfulness at the cellular level. Dr. Jha explains the benefits of mindfulness on the structure and functioning of the brain, while Dr. Epel discusses the benefits of a mindfulness practice on specific cellular structures related to aging. A mindfulness practice can’t subtract years from your age in a literal sense, but it has the potential to significantly affect your biological age—your health and mental acuity.
- Dr. Dacher Keltner shares his passion for the study of awe in the human experience—that uniquely human emotion that has had a profound effect on our evolution as an ultra-social species. Dr. Wallace "J" Nichols helps us connect that feeling of awe to the lakes, rivers, and oceans of our water planet—or even just the water that we drink—discussing the benefits of a mindful connection to our physical world. Then, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel brings together a full concept of the mind and the practice of “The Wheel of Awareness” with its potential for personal transformation.
The Neuroscience of Mindfulness
While scientists have long been able to identify brain inputs and outputs, only in the past few decades have we developed the technology to know what happened on the inside. Today, technological revolutions in science allow us to look into the workings of the brain and the body in unprecedented ways. Most importantly, we have learned that the way we use our brain is constantly influencing its own structure and function.
Just a few of the dimensions of mindfulness you will explore in Masters of Mindfulness include:
- Incorporating a mind-body practice into your life for even a few months can reduce inflammation and can stabilize the length of telomeres—those regions at the end of the chromosome that protect the chromosome from deterioration—thereby, slowing the rate of aging.
- Adding even a short mindfulness practice to your day can improve brain health as measured by the brain’s gyrification and density of the wiring that promotes efficient neural processing.
- While consistently working puzzles and various cognitive challenges will improve your performance on those exact challenges, practice doesn’t translate into overall brain processing improvement or ability to focus. On the other hand, a mindfulness practice does strengthen all the brain’s attention systems.
- The practice of mindfulness strengthens the immune system, decreases stress, improves sleep function, increases compassion, and improves cognitive function.
- Through natural selection, our brain evolved to scan for and retain bad news, while simultaneously overlooking or downplaying good news. But a mindfulness practice can help us increase compassion and positivity, creating a brain that better serves us in our current world and circumstances.
Theory and Practice
In addition to learning about mindfulness, many of the experts in Masters of Mindfulness guide you through mindfulness practices during this course. While you will notice some similarities through all the practices, each is geared toward a unique objective. You will be able to choose which of these practices best resonate with you personally. Among those presented are:
- Wheel of Awareness: This practice helps integrate the five senses, internal bodily sensations, mental activity and emotions, and relationship to the outside world. Created by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, more than 10,000 individuals have experienced this healing practice.
- Face Your Anger: Anger is not an emotion we typically associate with a meditative practice. But with guidance from Juna Mustad, you will dig deeper into troubling emotions, to discover what they are trying to tell you and why you should be listening to them.
- If You Really Knew Me: This exercise, led by Mike Robbins, is a wonderful present-moment way to cultivate authenticity and appreciation in group settings.
- Body Awareness: We are rarely fully aware of the sensations in our bodies. Jessica Graham leads this mindfulness practice to create a stronger mind-body connection for the purpose of enhancing pleasure and improving communication with your partner.
Whether you’re a beginner or a longtime practitioner of mindfulness, this guided tour through the many facets of the practice will deepen your understanding and help you to integrate mindfulness at home and at work, in your relationships, and in your self-identity over time. With your expert guides, you will see how mindfulness is both a skill and an art, modern science and ancient wisdom.
What Darwin Didn't Know: The Modern Science of Evolution [TTC Video]
28 April 2019, 03:41
Course No 1530 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x31 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 11.85 GB
Writing the final pages of his masterpiece The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin looked ahead to the work yet to be done on his groundbreaking theory of evolution by natural selection. “In the distant future,” he predicted, “I see open fields for far more important researches.”
How right he was. In the more than a century and a half since Origin was published in 1859, evolution has emerged as the fundamental concept in all of biology, explaining Earth’s endlessly diverse organisms while spawning new disciplines such as genetics, molecular biology, and evolutionary medicine. The tremendous progress in the fields that emerged from his original theories would have astounded even Darwin, who did not live to see developments such as:
- The discovery of the rules of heredity;
- The identification of DNA as the carrier of genetic information;
- Fossil discoveries that fill major evolutionary gaps and offer new insights;
- The recognition of multiple mass extinctions in Earth’s history;
- The ability to read the genetic code of any organism; and
- The power to manipulate genetic material.
And this is just a sample of the deep insights and remarkable conclusions that Darwin’s ideas inspired. What Darwin Didn’t Know: The Modern Science of Evolution charts this scientific revolution in 24 stimulating half-hour lectures suitable for curious learners at all levels, no matter what your background in science.
Darwin is renowned for his globe-circling voyage on the HMS Beagle when he was a young man, collecting observations that eventually led to the theory of natural selection. The outstanding teacher of What Darwin Didn’t Know is no less a world traveler. Professor Scott Solomon of Rice University has explored much of Earth’s amazing biodiversity as a field biologist, and he brings hands-on experience to these fascinating lectures, which cover 160 years of non-stop scientific advances.
The Theory of Evolution Takes Off
Professor Solomon begins by laying the foundation of Darwin’s theory—how he struggled to find an explanation for the tremendous variety within species, and how he hit on the idea that better-adapted organisms tend to survive and produce more offspring, driving evolution in the direction of beneficial traits. He was already familiar with artificial selection, accomplished through plant and animal breeding. Nature, Darwin surmised, must be following a similar path with natural selection favoring some randomly-appearing variations over others. Professor Solomon tells how another naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, worked out an almost identical theory around the same time as Darwin (Darwin magnanimously ensured that their results were published simultaneously).
Darwin continued to refine his theory throughout his life, but much remained to be done by his successors. For example, the biggest gap in Darwin’s knowledge was the science of genetics, which was single-handedly pioneered by a little-known Austrian monk and part-time botanist named Gregor Mendel. Largely unnoticed until the early 20th century, Mendel’s conclusions about the discrete nature of hereditary traits proved to be the key to explaining how traits can pass intact from one generation to the next. With this, Darwin's theory that adaptive mutations can be transmitted gained a sound basis, and evolution took off as a rigorous and powerfully predictive science, accumulating steady improvements to Darwin’s original ideas, such as:
- Natural selection in real time: Darwin believed that evolution always advances with extreme slowness. But biologists in the field have documented wild species—from Galapagos finches to flies infesting fruit—that acquire useful adaptations with stunning speed, sometimes in only a few generations.
- Plate tectonics: Darwin noticed that obviously related species often exist on opposite sides of the world’s great oceans. This mystery was solved by the theory of plate tectonics, which shows that the continents move, dividing populations, which then evolve separately while retaining many common characteristics.
- Universal genetic code: Darwin introduced the “Tree of Life” and the possibility that all of life evolved from a common ancestor, a view that was largely rejected in his own time. But biologists have demonstrated that every known type of life—from bacteria to human beings—uses the same DNA code inherited from a single ancestor.
The Road to Humans
Darwin did not deal with the evolution of humans in The Origin of Species, saving that controversial topic for The Descent of Man, which he published in 1871. Together with his colleague Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin argued that humans share a common ancestor with the great apes, based on the many similar anatomical features we share with them. In What Darwin Didn’t Know, you learn that the evidence for this connection has grown impressively since Darwin’s day. For example, recent DNA analyses show that our closest living relatives are chimpanzees. Next closest are gorillas and then orangutans. While the last common ancestor of all four lived around 10 million years ago, we shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees until as recently as 5 to 7 million years ago. You also explore the following intriguing findings and conjectures about human evolution:
- The perplexing path to us: Huxley proposed the classic view that humans evolved in a linear progression from primitive apes. But fossil discoveries show that the evolutionary path was much more complicated, with many branches, sub-branches, and dead-ends, along with one particular offshoot leading to Homo sapiens.
- Neanderthals and Denisovans: Two extinct branches of the human family tree are the celebrated Neanderthals and a recently discovered species or sub-species called the Denisovans. Both interbred with humans at some point, and a small percentage of their DNA has spread widely through modern human populations.
- The future of Homo sapiens: Is human evolution over thanks to modern medicine? Some biologists think so, but major evolutionary changes may be in our future as we exploit our ability to edit the human genome. Furthermore, any humans who leave the planet will face strong evolutionary pressures in extraterrestrial environments.
Evolution Is Inevitable
Professor Solomon points out that Darwin didn’t just suggest that species can evolve. One of the most important messages from the modern science of evolution is that evolution is a necessary feature of life. As long as life includes heredity and reproduction, all living things will evolve. Even a species that appears to have stayed the same for millions of years will turn out to have undergone many small changes, just to keep up with a changing environment. In short, evolution isn’t just possible. It’s inevitable.
In the final paragraph of The Origin of Species, Darwin slyly compared his discovery of evolution by natural selection to the revolution wrought by Isaac Newton with his law of universal gravitation. “There is grandeur in this view of life,” Darwin wrote about his theory, “…that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Just as Newton had no idea about Einstein, Hawking, or his many other successors, so Darwin was in the dark about the brilliant scientists who would build on his work, creating the biological golden age that we are living through today—a story told masterfully by Professor Solomon in this thrilling course.