This week Felix and I are heading over to one of our favorite places in the whole world — Austin, Texas — to meet up with some of our favorite musicians, watch some great live shows and, if Tio Felix has his way, eat a lot of Tex-Mex. Later today we'll be DJing a little get-together, and one of the highlights of this trip will certainly be our show with Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux. She's one of the best and brightest in Latin music today, and she has a stellar new record coming out, which you can listen to exclusively here.
We hope you can make it to SXSW and hang out with us, but if you can't, we've got your back with this list of songs — a sample of what we'll be spinning at tonight's event.
And you can listen to Alt.Latino Radio via the link above.
The Senate's intelligence oversight panel had its computers searched by CIA workers, who also improperly removed some documents that had been provided to the panel, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a lengthy and scathing speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. She said some of the actions could be illegal or unconstitutional.
The computers in question had been provided by the CIA to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein chairs, so it could review thousands of the agency's secret documents on a closed network.
Feinstein, D-Calif., says the CIA never asked the panel how it acquired a sensitive internal agency review that was among the records.
"In place of asking any questions, the CIA's unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation — which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press — that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means," she said.
In a separate appearance in Washington today, CIA Director John Brennan said the agency had not hacked into the committee's computers.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Brennan said at a Council on Foreign Relations event. "We wouldn't do that. I mean, that's just beyond the scope of reason."
Brennan added that there are "appropriate authorities" reviewing the incident, concerning both the CIA and other agencies.
"I defer to them to determine whether or not there was any violation of law or principle."
In the Senate, Feinstein told her colleagues that the situation is "a defining moment for our intelligence committee." She added that she's hoping to complete the panel's long-in-coming report on the CIA's interrogation program, parts of which she wants declassified.
From Foreign Policy:
"For years, the Senate panel has been researching and fine-tuning a 6,300 page report that's said to be highly critical of the agency's interrogation practices. In order to research the program, committee staffers had to use computers provided by the agency in a CIA facility."
In recent years, Feinstein says, the CIA executed "a true document dump" that inundated the Senate panel with millions of pages' worth of documents, without an index or other means of collating them. She said the staff asked the CIA to create a search tool, which was provided.
Roll Call has some of the recent background:
"During her speech, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she learned in January that the Central Intelligence Agency improperly searched committee computer files, confirming several media reports. She said the incident has been referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. But Feinstein was also riled by a separate referral by the CIA to the Department of Justice suggesting that the committee staff had improperly received classified information."
The CIA's move was "a potential effort to intimidate this staff," Feinstein said, after realizing the committee had obtained a version of the agency's internal review of its interrogation program, known as the Panetta review. The CIA seems to have come to that realization after Feinstein requested the full and complete version of the document, rather than the incomplete one the panel already had.
Feinstein also says the CIA removed hundreds of pages of documents from a special database that had been created under strict rules. They were removed, she said, "in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities."
Asked about the senator's allegations today, Brennan said, "We are not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report's progression [or] release." He later added, "We want this behind us."
He added that he had referred the matter to the agency's inspector general for review.
"When the facts come out on this," Brennan said, "I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring, and hacking, will be proved wrong."
Before launching into her Senate speech that lasted for nearly 40 minutes, Feinstein described how she had resisted recent media requests for interviews about the Senate panel's clash with the CIA.
"However, the increasing amount of inaccurate information circulating now cannot be allowed to stand unanswered," she said.
She then revisited a decade's worth of tension between the committee and the CIA, noting that there had been a gap between 2002 to 2006 before any members of the panel other than its two leaders were informed of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
"In fact, we were briefed by then-CIA Director Hayden only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public," Feinstein said. She also recalled that the agency had destroyed video records of interrogations that had used "enhanced techniques."
That and other incidents were mentioned as forming a pattern of attempts to CIA to obfuscate details of its interrogation and detention program.
Here's an extended passage from Feinstein's speech today:
"In early January 2014, the CIA informed the committee it would not provide the internal Panetta review to the committee, citing the deliberative nature of the document.
"Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and vice chairman [Rep. Saxby] Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a search — that was John Brennan's word — of the committee computers at the offsite facility.
"This search involved not only a search of documents provided... by the CIA but also a search of the stand-alone and walled-off committee network drive, containing the committee's own internal work product and communications.
"According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the internal Panetta review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review, or how we obtained it.
"Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee's computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA's unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation — which we now have seen repeated anonymously in the press — that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA's computer network."
"This is not true," Feinstein said. "The document was made available to the staff at the off-site facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool," she said.
Deborah Hersman, known to many Americans because she's the face of the National Transportation Safety Board at the scene of plane crashes and other transportation-related disasters, is stepping down as head of the NTSB.
Chairman of the NTSB since 2009 and a member of its board since 2004, she is departing in late April to be president and CEO of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group chartered by Congress and based in Itasca, Ill. The council describes its mission as "partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas that can make the most impact - distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities." It was formed in 1913.
NPR's Brian Naylor notes that as head of the NTSB, "Hersman was a familiar face at agency briefings on everything from the crash landing of an Asiana Airlines jet last summer to conferences on distracted driving."
"If you are lucky in life, you get a chance to have a dream job. If you are really lucky, you get to have more than one dream job. I look forward to continuing to improve the safety landscape with the Board of Directors and employees of the National Safety Council, another organization dedicated to saving lives and preventing injuries. And yes, I know how lucky I am."
Bloomberg News adds that "as chairman, Hersman broadened the board's mission to transportation risks such as drunk and drugged driving and fatigue across modes, rather than just responding to accidents."
From its earliest days as America's homegrown whiskey elixir, Kentucky Bourbon has been traveling on boats.
In fact, boats were a key reason why Kentucky became the king of bourbon. In the late 1700s, trade depended on rivers, and distillers in the state had a big advantage: the Ohio River. They'd load their barrels onto flatboats on the Ohio, which flowed into the Mississippi, taking their golden liquor as far down as New Orleans.
Back then, placing barrels on boats was a necessity. These days, it's become a novelty: Eighth-generation Kentucky bourbon distiller Trey Zoeller is using the motion of the ocean to produce bottles worth $200 each.
"We're going back to how bourbon was initially aged," Zoeller tells The Salt. "The color and flavor came from the rocking on the water. Bourbon was loaded on to ships in Kentucky, and by the time it travelled to the people buying it, the flavor improved."
Bourbon is a family legacy for Zoeller. His great-great-great grandmother was among the first female distillers and his father, Chet, is a bourbon scholar. Zoeller has been in the artisanal whiskey business since the 1990s with his Jefferson's Bourbon. Five years ago, Zoeller was celebrating his birthday on a friend's boat off the coast of Costa Rica. As two Kentucky boys are wont to do, they were raising glasses full of bourbon. That's when Zoeller got the idea to send barrels of bourbon out to sea.
"I was watching the bourbon in the bottle shift from side to side," he recalls, "and I thought, if it'll do that in the bottle, it'll do that in a barrel on a ship."
Chemist Tom Collins, a researcher at the University of Davis who has analyzed the flavor profiles of American whiskeys, says higher temperatures like those found in tropical locales, and the swill of the ocean, can both accelerate the whiskey aging process.
"The daily swing in temperature matters," Collins explains. "As the liquid warms up, it expands into the wood. And then as it cools down, it contracts, which can improve extraction" of compounds from the wood - compounds that give aged whiskey its characteristic flavor. "These reactions are generally favored with higher temperatures."
And greater extraction, Collins says, results in more caramel-related compounds, altering the flavor and color of bourbon.
After his initial revelation, Zoeller sent five barrels of recently distilled bourbon out to sea with his friend Chris Fischer. A high school friend of Zoeller's, Fischer heads OCEARCH, an organization that tracks sharks and other endangered marine life. He kept the barrels on board his ship for three and a half years. Fischer covered more than 10,000 nautical miles, travelling south of the equator and in and out of the Panama Canal six times.
So what happened when Zoeller tapped those first barrels?
"The experiment totally exceeded our expectations," he says. "The bourbon went in clear as water and came out black. Bourbon always picks up color in the barrel, but this 4-year-old bourbon was darker than 30-year-old bourbon."
And the salt air gave the bourbon a briny taste — more similar to an Irish single malt — and coloring like dark rum, Zoeller says.
The unique combination fuelled a buying frenzy among bourbon enthusiasts. Some paid much as a thousand dollars at auction for a bottle — $800 more than the original selling price.
Since those first barrels were shipped out, Zoeller has aged two more generations of his Jefferson's Ocean bourbon on the high seas for roughly three to four years at a time, varying their routes to more than 40 ports — as far north as Scandinavia and south to Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Each batch returns with a different flavor and color.
Zoeller now has nearly 200 barrels traversing the globe, with official tasters monitoring the aging process and flavor at various ports along the journey. But how does he ensure that crew members don't sneak their own samples?
"We've now got it locked up with cameras monitoring the barrels," he says, "but that doesn't mean they can't outsmart me!"
For the millions of people with allergies, spring can mean months of antihistamines, nasal steroids and avoiding nature.
So we were intrigued when we came across the concept of nasal filters - tiny devices that claim to block pollen and other allergens from ever entering nasal passages.
The devices are sort of like contact lenses you can put up your nose. Some are adhesive, while others clip on to your septum. And though a quick trip to a drug store close to NPR didn't turn up any, several varieties are available online.
These little contraptions even had their 15 minutes of fame when the inventor of an adhesive version was offered $4 million on the reality show "Shark Tank".
But do they work? Researchers in Denmark say their version has shown success in a small clinical trial. Their study found that the filters reduce throat irritation and runny noses in allergy sufferers, compared to a filter-less placebo device.
Most people in the study said they stopped noticing the device after wearing it for an hour. And the patients didn't tend to switch to breathing through their mouths while they were wearing the device.
"It needed to have excellent breathability. And it needed to be comfortable to wear," says Peter Sinkjaer Kenney, a medical student at Aarhus University in Denmark and the developer of Rhinix. The results were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
But this clinical trial only included 24 patients, and the researcher also plans to sell the devices, so he's hardly a disinterested party.
Still, allergists say the nose filter is an intriguing idea. "I think over all it's a good concept," says Dr. Andy Nish, an allergist from Georgia. Even though the nose filter idea has been floating around since the 1990s, there hasn't been any consensus on their value as a medical treatment. Nish told Shots: "My impression is maybe [these filters] not quite ready for prime time yet."
Nish says he's never recommended nasal filters to any of his patients. That was true with two other allergists we spoke to as well.
"We don't really use it in our practice," says Dr. Flavia Hoyte, an assistant professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo. And allergists aren't taught about nasal filters in their training. Hoyte says she'd want to know more before recommending the devices. "But we don't discourage it if patients choose to use it."