FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- All tests for coronavirus vaccines need horseshoe crabs.
- Any protester who brings a phone to a public demonstration is tracked and that phone’s presence at the event is duly recorded in commercial datasets.
- NASA researchers recently discovered a method for triggering room-temperature fusion.
- China has temporarily suspended debt repayment for 77 developing nations and regions.
by John L. Petersen
This Is Just The Beginning
Many times over the past years we’ve talked here in this space about the great change coming to the planet, humanity and our country during this time of transition. We’re now clearly seeing that upheaval. It’s bizarre to be an American of a certain age, having lived your whole life in an environment that had a predictable level of civility, accommodation, presumptions and respect, to suddenly watch all of that social development disappear in a matter of weeks, driven by crowds and (in some cases), mobs, demanding seemingly irrational things like eliminating police.
It’s almost as if those advocating this highly disruptive change have not given a minute to thinking about what the implications of their demands might be. For example, in less than a week after the city council of Minneapolis voted to disband the police department, almost 30% of the residential homes in the city have been put on the market. There are many other similar effects,
It’s not over – not by a long shot. For lots of reasons, coming from many credible sources, it would be safe to bet on increasing disruption over the next seven years.
In the short term, every effort is being made to drive the president out of office before the election, by generating such an increasing level of chaos that he will be forced to declare martial law or do something rash enough that broad based street level reaction would result. Another objective is to inoculate all Americans with a vaccine that is designed to change all of our DNA (i.e. make us all a different kind of human being). Increasingly, the notion of a civil war is also being advanced from many fronts.
We’ll comment more on these possibilities and alternative ways to prepare for the change during the coming weeks, but for the moment, let me offer you three succinct pieces that provide significant data points that illuminate the possibilities ahead. All suggest that the coming months (and years), will be increasingly malleable.
Dr. Judy Mikovits is commonly described as one of the most authoritative scientists in the world in the area of viruses. Dr. Sherri Tenpenny has invested more than 20 years and 40,000 hours researching the effects of vaccines. They both talk about the potential, significant downsides of the broad proliferation of an (effectively), untested vaccine of the type that is planned for launch in the fall.
Dr. Judy Mikovits and Dr. Sherri Tenpenny: A New COVID Vaccine Could Kill 50 Million People in the U.S.
Pundit Tucker Carlson outlines the rapid unraveling of the organizing principles that have sustained this country in the past.
Martin Armstrong is a legendary hedge fund manager, economist and forecaster who has developed the most sophisticated predictive software in the world. Here he talks about the evolution of revolutions.
Gregg Braden Coming with Whole New Presentation!
NYT best-selling author Gregg Braden will be coming to Berkeley Springs again to kick-off the new season of TransitionTalks on the 18th of July for a full day presentation. He’ll premiere provocative new findings about the reality in which we all live that he has recently uncovered.
Gregg gives a taste of this new research in the short interview below. Be sure to check it out.
In addition to the in-person event, we’re also going to livestream this presentation so that those who can’t make it to Berkeley Springs can participate with us. We’ll have more information on that directly.
Complete information on the Braden event and all of the others on our lineup can be found at TransitionTalks.org.
Hope to see you here!!
Tests for Coronavirus Vaccine Need This Ingredient: Horseshoe Crabs – (New York Times – June 3, 2020)
For decades, drug companies have depended on a component in the blood of the horseshoe crab to test injectable medicines, including vaccines, for dangerous bacterial contaminants called endotoxins. Endotoxins are molecules in the cell walls of many common bacteria. E. coli is one, salmonella another. The toxins can cause fever and death in humans even if the bacteria that produced them have been killed. Toxic shock syndrome is caused by endotoxins. Pharmaceutical companies must make sure the toxins are not present in any injectable drugs they make. Ingredients, like water, must be tested at each step of the manufacturing process, as well as in the final product. The billions of doses of candidate vaccines, and many of the ingredients at many steps in the production process will all have to undergo endotoxin testing. But companies that produce a critical ingredient from horseshoe crab blood say that the supply is adequate. Conservationists and some businesses have pushed for wide acceptance of an alternative test, to protect the horseshoe crabs and birds that feed on their eggs. Earlier this year, these people seemed to be on the brink of success as the nongovernmental group that issues quality standards for such tests moved toward putting the alternative test on the same footing. But that organization, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, announced that the alternative test known as rFC (recombinant factor C) requires significantly more study. Pharmacopeia representatives said they have 30 years of data on the current test and only two years on the new test so they needed more information. Internationally, the European Pharmacopeia has approved widespread use of the alternative test.
Rushing a Vaccine to Market for a Vanishing Virus – (Dissident Voice – June 5, 2020)
More than 100 companies are competing to be first in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine to market. It’s a race against time, not because the death rate is climbing but because it is falling – to the point where there could soon be too few subjects to prove the effectiveness of the drug. So says Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company that is a frontrunner in the race. Soriot said on May 24th: The vaccine has to work and that’s one question, and the other question is, even if it works, we have to be able to demonstrate it. We have to run as fast as possible before the disease disappears so we can demonstrate that the vaccine is effective.” If the disease is disappearing of its own accord, why throw billions of dollars at developing a vaccine? The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already agreed to provide up to $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca and another $483 million to US frontrunner Moderna to develop their experimental candidates. “As American taxpayers, we are justified in asking why. Vaccine manufacturers are protected from liability for vaccine injuries by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the 2005 PREP Act, which impose damages instead on the US government and US taxpayers. Long-term systemic effects including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disease, and infertility can take decades to develop. But the stage is already being set for mandatory vaccinations that will be “deployed” by the US military as soon as the end of the year. The HHS in conjunction with the Department of Defense has awarded a $138 million contract for 600 million syringes prefilled with coronavirus vaccine, individually marked with trackable RFID chips. That’s enough for two doses for nearly the entire US population.
How Your Phone Betrays Democracy – (New York Times – December 21, 2020)
In the United States, and across the world, any protester who brings a phone to a public demonstration is tracked and that person’s presence at the event is duly recorded in commercial datasets. At the same time, political parties are beginning to collect and purchase phone location for voter persuasion. A trove of location data with more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans obtained by Times Opinion helps to illustrate the risks that such comprehensive monitoring poses to the right of Americans to assemble and participate in a healthy democracy. Within minutes, with no special training and a little bit of Google searching, Times Opinion was able to single out and identify individuals at public demonstrations large and small from coast to coast. By tracking specific devices, we followed demonstrators from the 2017 Women’s March back to their homes. We were able to identify individuals at the 2017 Inauguration Day Black Bloc protests. It was easy to follow them to their workplaces. In some instances — for example, a February clash between antifascists and far-right supporters of Milo Yiannopolous in Berkeley, Calif. — it took little effort to identify the homes of protesters and then their family members. In the smartphone era — masked or not — no one can get lost in a sea of faces anymore. Even those we identified in the data who were public about their activism were unnerved by their movements’ getting catalogued in databases that can be bought, sold, merged or hacked. “Personally, I’m happy to protest Trump and have people knowing about it,” said Eric Hensal, who lives in Takoma Park, Md., and appeared in the dataset at a 2016 picket line protest at the Trump Hotel in Washington. “But there’s so much somebody, say, a state actor could determine just by a travel pattern. It’s honestly frightening.” (Editor’s note: Since this article was written before Covid-19 came to public attention, some of it is out of date, but as protests rock the nation, much of it is worthy of attention.)
Deepfakes Are Going to Wreak Havoc on Society. We Are Not Prepared. – (Forbes – May 25, 2020)
Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do. A combination of the phrases “deep learning” and “fake”, deepfakes first emerged on the Internet in late 2017, powered by an innovative new deep learning method known as generative adversarial networks (GANs). Several deepfake videos have gone viral recently, giving millions around the world their first taste of this new technology: President Obama using an expletive to describe President Trump, Mark Zuckerberg admitting that Facebook’s true goal is to manipulate and exploit its users, Bill Hader morphing into Al Pacino on a late-night talk show. The amount of deepfake content online is growing at a rapid rate. At the beginning of 2019 there were 7,964 deepfake videos online, according to a report from startup Deeptrace; just nine months later, that figure had jumped to 14,678. It has no doubt continued to balloon since then. And the technology is improving at a breathtaking pace. Experts predict that deepfakes will be indistinguishable from real images before long. Because of the technology’s widespread accessibility, such footage could be created by anyone: state-sponsored actors, political groups, lone individuals. In a recent report, The Brookings Institution grimly summed up the range of political and social dangers that deepfakes pose: “distorting democratic discourse; manipulating elections; eroding trust in institutions; weakening journalism; exacerbating social divisions; undermining public safety; and inflicting hard-to-repair damage on the reputation of prominent individuals, including elected officials and candidates for office.” In the words of Hani Farid, one of the world’s leading experts on deepfakes: “If we can’t believe the videos, the audios, the image, the information that is gleaned from around the world, that is a serious national security risk.” This risk is no longer just hypothetical: there are early examples of deepfakes influencing politics in the real world. Even more insidiously, the mere possibility that a video could be a deepfake can stir confusion and facilitate political deception regardless of whether deepfake technology has actually been used. The most dramatic example of this comes from Gabon, a small country in central Africa.
Exotic Fifth State of Matter Made on the International Space Station – (New Scientist – June 11, 2020)
An exotic fifth type of matter has been created in one of the coldest places in the universe – a device on board the International Space Station (ISS). The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) was launched to the ISS in 2018 to investigate a strange kind of matter, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This suitcase-sized device chills atoms of rubidium and potassium in a vacuum chamber, using laser light to slow their movement. Magnetic fields then contain the resulting cloud of atoms, which is cooled to nearly absolute zero at -273°C, producing a BEC. This chilly substance was initially theorized by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose in the early 1920s as the fifth state of matter, following solids, liquids, gases and plasma. It is a supercooled gas that no longer behaves as individual atoms and particles, but rather an entity in a single quantum state. BECs have been produced in a variety of experiments on Earth since 1995, but these are hindered by gravity, which collapses the clouds in a split second. The microgravity environment of the ISS keeps them stable for multiple seconds, allowing them to be studied in more detail. The initial results show that BECs behave differently in orbit. The team found that about half of the atoms form into a halo-like cloud around the main body of the BEC. On the ground, these atoms would simply fall due to gravity, but in microgravity on the ISS, the cloud remains suspended.
How Line-Dried Laundry Gets That Fresh Smell – (New York Times – May 29, 2020) People have written poems about it. It has been imitated by candles and air fresheners. At least one person has even fought in court for the right to produce it naturally. It’s the smell of line-dried laundry. In between their more official thesis work, Silvia Pugliese, at the University of Copenhagen and two labmates, with their adviser Matthew Stanley Johnson, commandeered two little-used areas of the university’s chemistry building — a dark, empty office and a small, fifth-floor balcony — and obtained materials, including ultrapurified water and a set of cotton towels from Ikea. Each towel got washed three times in the water, and then hung out: inside the office, on the balcony under a plastic shade or on the balcony in the sun. By comparing the experimental towels’ chemical profiles to those controls and to each other, the researchers were able to tease out which compounds popped up only when they hung wet towels in the sun, Ms. Pugliese said. Line-drying uniquely produced a number of aldehydes and ketones: organic molecules our noses might recognize from plants and perfumes. For example, after sunbathing, the towels emitted pentanal, found in cardamom, octanal, which produces citrusy aromas, and nonanal, which smells roselike. Why is that? It may have to do with exposure to ozone, an atmospheric chemical that can transform some common chemicals into those aldehydes and ketones. A more fundamental contribution may come from the sun itself. When exposed to ultraviolet light, certain molecules “get excited” and form highly reactive compounds called radicals, Ms. Pugliese said. Those radicals then recombine with other nearby molecules, processes that often lead to the creation of aldehydes as well as ketones.
How Interbreeding with Denisovans Affected Human Health – (Haaretz – June 11, 2020)
Interbreeding with Denisovans tens of thousands of years ago affected the health of humans today, mainly Melanesians but also Native Americans, according to a breakthrough study by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Britain. Melanesians have the strongest Denisovan signal found so far: about 2.8% of their genes originate in that mysterious hominin, which thronged Eurasia tens of thousands of years ago. Denisovan heritage has a “medically important” influence on the response to viral infection among a majority of Papua New Guineans. Lead author Mohamed Almarri explains, “The modern human population that gave rise to modern-day Papuans subsequently interbred with a Denisovan population, resulting in the large proportion of their genome that is of Denisovan ancestry which is not found in Eurasia.” In eastern Asia, about 0.2% of our DNA is of Denisovan origin; in Europeans it’s even less; and in the Papuans and aboriginal Australians, it’s about 2.8 to 3%. Almarri points out that the Papuans and aboriginal Australians were one population that separated about 37,000 years ago, well before the sea level rose and cut off Australia (which was about 10,000 years ago).
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
Human Embryo-like Model Created from Human Stem Cells – (PhysOrg – June 11, 2020)
Scientists from the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the Hubrecht Institute in The Netherlands, have developed a new model to study an early stage of human development, using human embryonic stem cells. The model resembles some key elements of an embryo at around 18-21 days old and allows the researchers to observe the processes underlying the formation of the human body plan never directly observed before. Understanding these processes holds potential to reveal the causes of human birth defects and diseases, and to develop tests for these in pregnant women. The body plan, or blueprint of an organism, arises through a process called ‘gastrulation’. Gastrulation is often referred to as the ‘black box’ period of human development, because legal restrictions prevent the culture of human embryos in the lab beyond day 14, when the process starts. Many birth defects originate during this ‘black box’ period, with causes including alcohol, medications, chemicals and infections. A better understanding of human gastrulation could shed light on many medical issues including infertility, miscarriage, and genetic disorders. .
More Than 1,000 Tons of Plastic Rain into Western US Protected Lands Annually – (PhysOrg – June 11, 2020)
Utah State University Assistant Professor Janice Brahney and her team used high-resolution atmospheric deposition data and identified samples of microplastics and other particulates collected over 14 months in 11 national parks and wilderness areas. The researchers identified plastic and polymers’ composition to identify sources of plastic emitted into the atmosphere and track its movement and fallout. High resilience and longevity make plastics particularly useful in everyday life, but these same properties lead to progressive fragmentation instead of degradation in the environment. These “microplastics” are known to accumulate in wastewaters, rivers, and ultimately the worlds’ oceans—and as Brahney’s team shows, they also accumulate in the atmosphere. “Several studies have attempted to quantify the global plastic cycle but were unaware of the atmospheric limb,” Brahney said. “Our data show the plastic cycle is reminiscent of the global water cycle, having atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial lifetimes.”
‘More Masks Than Jellyfish’: Coronavirus Waste Ends Up in Ocean – (Guardian – June 8, 2020)
Conservationists have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution – adding to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life – after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds. The French non-profit Opération Mer Propre, whose activities include regularly picking up litter along the Côte d’Azur, began sounding the alarm late last month. Divers had found what Joffrey Peltier of the organization described as “Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitizer beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminum cans. The quantities of masks and gloves found were far from enormous, said Peltier. But he worried that the discovery hinted at a new kind of pollution, one set to become ubiquitous after millions around the world turned to single-use plastics to combat the coronavirus. In France alone, authorities have ordered two billion disposable masks, said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre.
Artificial Brains Need Sleep Too – Desperate AI Researchers Discover Way to Stabilize Neuromorphic Processors – (SciTech Daily – June 9, 2020)
No one can say whether androids will dream of electric sheep, but they will almost certainly need periods of rest that offer benefits similar to those that sleep provides to living brains, according to new research from Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We study spiking neural networks, which are systems that learn much as living brains do,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory computer scientist Yijing Watkins. “We were fascinated by the prospect of training a neuromorphic processor in a manner analogous to how humans and other biological systems learn from their environment during childhood development.” Watkins and her research team found that the network simulations became unstable after continuous periods of unsupervised learning. When they exposed the networks to states that are analogous to the waves that living brains experience during sleep, stability was restored. “It was as though we were giving the neural networks the equivalent of a good night’s rest,” said Watkins. The researchers characterize the decision to expose the networks to an artificial analog of sleep as nearly a last-ditch effort to stabilize them. They experimented with various types of noise, roughly comparable to the static you might encounter between stations while tuning a radio. The best results came when they used waves of so-called Gaussian noise, which includes a wide range of frequencies and amplitudes. They hypothesize that the noise mimics the input received by biological neurons during slow-wave sleep. The results suggest that slow-wave sleep may act, in part, to ensure that cortical neurons maintain their stability and do not hallucinate.
Zoom Promises to Do Better after Banning Tiananmen Square Protests—Then Builds Tech to Help China’s Censorship – (Forbes – June 12, 2020)
Already under fire for security lapses and facing scrutiny over its links to China, Zoom made the startling decision earlier this month to ban three users organizing memorials to mark the Tiananmen Square massacre at the request of Beijing. It’s now reversed the decision, according to a company post. But it’s still going to help China block accounts of users in the country. Though the tech giant neglected to use the words “Tiananmen Square” in its post, it acknowledged that the Chinese government had been in touch earlier this year to warn about four Zoom-hosted commemorations of the famous pro-democracy protests in 1989. China wanted the groups and the administrators banned. Astonishingly, Zoom chose to monitor the metadata for the calls from the U.S. so it could tell if anyone from mainland China was participating. And when it discovered that people from mainland China were joining three of the meetings, it shut down the calls and suspended or terminated the host accounts. Those hosts—Lee Cheuk-yan, Wang Dan and Zhou Fengsuo—have now had their accounts reinstated. Fengsuo, a U.S.-based activist and president of Humanitarian China, sounded the alarm on Sunday when he discovered his paid-for Zoom account had been shut down. By Wednesday, he had his account back. Zoom admitted it made errors in banning the users, saying it would “not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.” That indicates, of course, that it will still assist the Chinese government on cracking down on dissent within the country.
Google Search is the Greatest Mind Control Brainwashing Tool in the History of Mankind – (Health Impact News – June 13, 2020)
Google was presented to the public as an ethical, altruistic company in their early days. We trusted them as the “great equalizer” to quickly find information to combat the corporate propaganda we knew was being filtered through the “mainstream” corporate propaganda media. But what if the controller of data was no longer simply offering up search results based on matching information, but was controlling that information to display search results that they wanted you to see, while suppressing other information they did not want you to see? And that is exactly what is happening today, as Google’s values are clearly on display by the information they censor, and by displaying what they want you to see, and they have been complicit in spreading the misinformation about the Plandemic, as it is obvious to see that their goals and values align with Big Pharma and the New World Order. If you think this is an exaggeration, please watch this excellent video (embedded in article) published by Sayer Ji of GreenMedInfo.com as he demonstrates how Google manipulates their search results to achieve their own manipulative purposes. See also: Google is Now a Pharmaceutical Company.
2020 COTE® Top Ten Awards – (American Institute of Architects – no date)
The COTE® Top Ten Awards is the industry’s best-known award program for sustainable design excellence. Each year, ten innovative projects are recognized for their integration of design excellence with environmental performance. The program highlights projects that meet the AIA Committee on the Environment’s criteria for social, economic, and ecological value. Article includes links to each of the ten winning designs with further details.
NASA Discovers Potential New Power Generation Method – (Nexus – May 19, 2020)
A team of NASA researchers seeking a new energy source for deep-space exploration missions, recently discovered a method for triggering room-temperature fusion, a process that produces energy when two atoms join to form one larger atom. Called lattice confinement fusion, the method NASA discovered accomplishes fusion reactions with the fuel (deuterium, d) starting at room temperature, while previous fusion research relied on heating the fuel (deuterium/tritium) in a plasma to temperatures 10 times those at the center of the Sun. In the new process, a metal such as erbium is “deuterated” or loaded with deuterons, which packs the fuel approximately a billion times denser than in conventional fusion reactors. Upon irradiation with a 2.9+MeV gamma (energetic X-ray) beam, a deuteron dissociates, and the neutron and proton are ejected. The neutron collides with a deuteron, accelerating it into a neighbor inducing screened d-d fusion, or causing even more energetic screened Oppenheimer-Phillips (O-P) nuclear reactions. A novel feature of the new process is the metal lattice electrons whose negative charges help “screen” the positively charged deuterons and allow them to approach one another more closely overcoming the electrostatic barrier and more easily fusing with one another, according to the theory developed by Dr. Vlad Pines, the project’s theoretical physicist. “This discovery opens a new path for initiating fusion reactions for further study within the scientific community. However, the reaction rates still need to be increased substantially to achieve appreciable power levels, which may be possible utilizing various reaction multiplication methods under consideration,” said Glenn’s Dr. Bruce Steinetz, the NASA project principal investigator.
A New Air Taxi Model Takes Design Cues from a Far-Flying Bird – (Wired – June 12, 2020)
Air-taxi startup Beta Technologies has debuted its new aircraft. Code-named Alia, the electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) airplane is the successor to Ava, a smaller prototype the company used to experiment with propulsion strategies and learn about the tricky aerodynamics of small, electrified, vertical-lift flight. According to company founder Kyle Clark, Alia’s striking configuration and elegant shape owes a debt to the longest-migrating bird in the world, the Arctic tern. This includes a twin-tail assembly supported by angled trusses, dramatically arched wings, and arcing, tapered wingtips. The tern’s tail configuration and wing stance “proved a great baseline to start from,” Clark says. For the tern, those features enable ultraefficient, long range flights. Beta hopes for similar performance. Its primary client, United Therapeutics, is developing man-made organs for human transplant and intends to use Beta’s aircraft as an efficient, environmentally friendly distribution system. Alia has a 50-foot wingspan, and will have a takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds. The craft uses four horizontally mounted rotors for vertical lift and a single rear-facing propeller to boost speed in forward flight. The wide wings will generate lift for more efficient forward flight, instead of relying on the motors to do all of the work. It will use existing battery technology and be deployed as part of an ecosystem that includes charging stations in urban centers, at hospitals, or in remote locations to extend the aircraft’s range. Check out the article’s image of this craft: it’s not symmetrical about its longitudinal axis.
Would You Buy Meat from a Vending Machine? A Butcher in NY Is Betting on It – (USA Today – June 1, 2020)
When McCann’s Local Meats reopens on June 1, the most obvious change will greet customers when they open the front door of the shop in the South Wedge neighborhood in Rochester, New York. Standing in the shop’s reconfigured vestibule will be a large refrigerated vending machine. Its nine levels of revolving shelves will be stocked with things like freshly cut uncooked steaks, burgers, sausages, pork chops, chicken and bacon. There might also be some of the shop’s prepared foods, such as potato salad, macaroni and cheese, baked beans and soup. The machine will accept credit cards and Apple Pay, but no cash. McCann sees the vending machine as a way to serve customers who want minimal contact during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to sell products when the shop is closed. McCann got the idea from Joshua Applestone, who owns Applestone Meat Co., which has two shops in the Hudson Valley (New York) that offer fresh-cut meat from vending machines and are open 24/7. Other changes at McCann’s Local Meats will include: limiting the number of people in the building to five, requiring face masks in the building, observing guidance on the floor for six-feet spacing, a sanitizing system for pens used to sign credit card receipts, and an online ordering system for ready-to-eat food. The shop’s prices are usually competitive with the higher-priced natural, organic meats sold at grocery stores. He plans to increase prices slightly – by as much as a dollar a pound for some cuts – to cover expenses like increased packaging costs, face masks and extra work brought on by the coronavirus.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
A Dangerous New Factor in an Uneasy Moment: Unidentified Law Enforcement Officers – (Washington Post – June 4, 2020)
It wasn’t only components of the Defense Department that had been brought to the nation’s capital to help with the “domination” that President Trump sought to display in the wake of the turmoil. Washington residents have also been confronted with a number of other heavily armed law enforcement officers who share an unexpected characteristic: Neither their affiliation nor their personal identities are discernible. As it turns out, each of these encounters was apparently with elements of the Bureau of Prisons, called to the region by Attorney General William P. Barr. This vagueness of identity and the officers’ disinterest in identifying themselves introduce specific challenges and risks, as former Army officer and FBI special agent Clint Watts explained in a phone interview. “If I go out and I pull out a gun and I say, ‘Freeze,’ and they say why, I would have to say, ‘I’m an FBI agent’ or law enforcement officer or whatever,” he said, “because, otherwise, they would be totally in the right to defend themselves potentially.” This is particularly critical given another component of the moment. It’s not uncommon for civilians to dress in paramilitary gear and show up at the protests, often doing so as self-appointed assistants to police and other law enforcement officials. Granting unidentifiable law enforcement officials the ability to engage with and confront protesters functionally allows any unidentifiable individual to more easily pretend to be law enforcement. It introduces an opportunity for those looking to take advantage of the situation to target protesters or to cause disruptions. And there’s an overarching question here: Why? Why are these officers unwilling to identify themselves or their organization? There’s clearly some power dynamic at play, and it inhibits accountability.
Black Lives Matter Could Change Facial Recognition Forever — If Big Tech Doesn’t Stand in the Way – (Washington Post – June 12, 2020)
Facial recognition is one of the most powerful surveillance tools ever invented, but even a federal government study found it to be less accurate at identifying minorities and women. Ramping up its use could, in theory, help keep criminals from escaping arrest — but it also opens a slippery slope to a world of supercharged policing that’s likely to disproportionately impact people of color through misidentification or just more surveillance of minority communities. Police in dozens of U.S. cities have access to the tech and in several have explicitly asked citizens to share images of protesters. What changed this week is that facial recognition got linked to police racism, the issue that’s gotten Americans angry enough to protest during a pandemic and made the tech politically toxic. Like dominoes in a lineup of corporate public relations stunts, first IBM, then Amazon and finally Microsoft (at a Washington Post Live event) said they won’t sell or would at least pause police use of their facial recognition technology until there are federal laws on the matter. Never mind that none of these companies were major players in the police facial recognition market. (Microsoft admitted it has never sold the tech to U.S. police.) But civil rights leaders and privacy advocates say that what they need is for big tech to stop arresting their legislative efforts to make the technology off-limits. So far, Silicon Valley’s record has mostly put it at odds with groups like Color of Change, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. In fact, a Microsoft employee in Washington state wrote a new law on facial recognition software opposed by many civil rights groups for not being tough enough.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
How Police Became Paramilitaries – (NY Books – June 3, 2020)
Military might has always paraded in America’s streets. But it wasn’t until this century that it became an often daily presence. In the 2000s, local law enforcement agencies began to adopt the type of military equipment more frequently used in a war zone: everything from armored personnel carriers and tanks, with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets, to grenade launchers, drones, assault weapons, and more. Today, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment—most used, some new—has been transferred to civilian police departments. As the ACLU has documented, this has led to the militarization of American policing. It is now commonplace to see a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, or MRAP, respond to the protests in Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. MRAPs resemble Humvees but are even larger, more heavily armored—and more intimidating. Many police forces acquired them free-of-charge from the Pentagon as part of a program established by the National Defense Authorization Act under President Clinton that transfers surplus equipment—or “excess property,” as it’s called—from combat deployments to police departments across the US. This Defense Department initiative, known as the 1033 program, requires that law enforcement agencies make use of such equipment within a year of acquisition, effectively mandating that police to put it into practice in the public space. The Department of Homeland Security also has a terrorism grant program that has given tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to local police forces to purchase military equipment directly. That beat cops so often look like troops is not just a problem of “optics.” There is, in fact, a “positive and statistically significant relationship between 1033 transfers and fatalities from officer-involved shootings,” according to recent research. In other words, the more militarized we allow law enforcement agents to become, the more likely officers are to use lethal violence against citizens: civilian deaths have been found to increase by about 130% when police forces acquire significantly more military equipment. The corollary of more police-involved killings, of course, is more protests in response. That sets up, for some, a convenient “law and order” pretext to occupy American streets—or “dominate” them as President Trump remarked in a recent news conference. That call was echoed by his defense secretary, Mark Esper, who called on governors to “dominate the battlespace” in response to the George Floyd protests across the states.
Minneapolis Police Union President: “I’ve Been Involved in Three Shootings Myself, and Not a One of Them Has Bothered Me” – (Intercept – June 2, 2020)
In an interview in April, Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’s police union, said that he and a majority of the Minneapolis Police Officers’ Federation’s board have been involved in police shootings. Kroll said that he and the officers on the union’s board were not bothered by the shootings, comparing themselves favorably to other officers. “There’s been a big influx of PTSD,” Kroll said. “But I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not one of them has bothered me. Maybe I’m different.” His comments underscore the rampant nature of police violence in the United States. The number of times police officers fire their weapons swamps the level of violence in most other countries, where authorities rely on nonlethal methods of coercion, persuasion, or control. Many police officers live with post-traumatic stress disorder induced by the violence associated with policing. But not Kroll’s crew, he said. “Out of the 10 board members, over half of them have been involved in armed encounters, and several of us multiple. We don’t seem to have problems,” he said. “Certainly getting shot at and shooting people takes a different toll, but if you’re in this job and you’ve seen too much blood and gore and dead people then you’ve signed up for the wrong job.” Another quotation from Kroll: “Being trained not to use force is what’s causing officers stress. Certainly cops, it’s not in their nature. So you’re training them to back away. And it’s just not a natural — that’s where a lot of the stress does come from with the cops is not [having] the ability to grab somebody and say, no, step back or you’re going to jail and if need be, by force.”
China Suspends Debt Repayment for 77 Developing Nations, Regions – (Global Times – June 7, 2020)
China has announced the suspension of debt repayment for 77 developing countries and regions as the nation is working with other G20 members to carry out the G20 debt relief initiative for low-income countries, Chinese officials said at a press briefing at the State Council Information Office. The move shows that China is actively assuming its global responsibility as the economies of many developing countries have been battered by the fallout of the pandemic. As some Western nations have been smearing China to deflect their missteps in handling the coronavirus, the debt relief will also help other countries to understand China’s position in a more fair and objective manner. China announced in May that it would provide $2 billion over two years to help other countries respond to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Ma Zhaoxu, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the fund will not only include medical supplies, but also support other countries to restart their economies. Ma made the comment at the press briefing to release the Chinese government’s White Paper of “Fighting COVID-19 China in Action.” The fund includes both bilateral aid and multilateral donations, according to Ma. China is negotiating bilateral aid with recipient countries in need in an equal manner to identify assisting projects to help developing nations improve public health standards, improve their livelihoods and resume their economies, Ma said. China has made multilateral donations to the World Health Organization (WHO) of $50 million, and has provided assistance to global organizations including the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. (Editor’s note: Clearly, there is an element of public relations here intended to support what is almost certainly a multi-pronged agenda. The amounts of funding are not actually that large and “suspension of debt repayment” is not the same as “debt forgiveness”. All that said, China is stepping up to the plate in a way that the US does not seem to be doing.)
Spain Is in Partnership with Bill Gates – (Armstrong Economics – June 10, 2020)
Until there is a vaccine, masks (and “social distancing”) will be required in Spain – essentially forever. On top of this, all transport companies offering transport between cities and provinces (i.e. buses, trains, planes, ships, etc) will have to get the name and contact of the passengers and give the records to the government when requested. So, it will be impossible to even travel between various parts of the country without the govt knowing exactly where you went, how long, etc. We were infinitely more free in communism in Central Europe than this! Oh, the government also updated the criminal laws to include some new “hate crimes” to the long list of “hate crimes” already inserted in the Spanish and pretty much all European criminal codes. Now they’ve added, among others, “social exclusion” and “aversion to poor people” to the list. Yeah, so if you exclude someone from your social activities because you don’t like them, it’s a hate crime, I suppose. And if you have aversion to poor people, it’s a hate crime too. (“Hate crimes”, this most vile and unjust of all the PC/marxist inventions that have completely destroyed justice in Europe, are punished with much harsher sentences – and much longer jail terms – than other – i.e. real – crimes.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Pandemic Hasn’t Stopped Celebrations. But It Has Curtailed the Big Spending. – (Washington Post – June 9, 2020)
The pandemic and the resulting shutdowns have helped people get creative about their celebrations. In the process, they are saving money — and, more importantly, realizing that it’s not the size of the event that matters. Because of the novel coronavirus, couples who would normally rent out catering halls for their wedding receptions, many taking on debt to mark the occasion of their union, are opting instead for intimate ceremonies in the park, in their backyard or in the middle of the street, with just a few family members and friends. Social distancing should have us questioning the logistics of momentous celebrations. Do you really need 100 to 200 people in attendance to witness your marriage? When it comes to weddings, the thing people are missing about in-person celebrations isn’t marveling at the bride’s dress, the floral arrangements, the table centerpieces, or the five-tier cake — all items the bride and groom might obsess over and go into debt to have. They really don’t care whether they have steak or chicken. What people are missing is the personal interaction: being able to hug one another. And, frankly, if we are being honest, it’s a relief not to have to fret over what wedding, birthday or graduation gifts to purchase when people already have so much stuff.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Saturn’s Best Moon Is Drifting Away Quicker Than We Thought – (GizModo – June 9, 2020)
Titan is migrating away from its host planet at a rate 100 times faster than the previous estimate. The discovery is shaking our understanding of Saturn and the origin of its natural satellites. Titan, the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere, is pulling away from Saturn at a rate of 4 inches per year, according to new research. The previous estimate was 0.04 inches per year, which is 100 times slower than the new estimate. For Titan, this means a wholesale rethinking of its astrophysical history and likely of the entire Saturnian system itself. What’s more, the updated estimate is validating a recently proposed theory having to do with this exact phenomenon: the outward migration of planetary moons. Moons with sufficient mass exert a small gravitational tug on their host planets, causing a temporary bulge. These incessant ebbs and flows distort the planet’s gravitational field, causing the moon to be pushed forward along its orbit and away from its host. Such is the case right here, as our Moon slowly drifts away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year. But don’t panic; we’re not at risk of losing our Moon to the depths of space, as the Moon’s rate of escape is so slow that our Sun will destroy both Earth and the Moon before that could happen.
Bizarre Nearby Star Offers Clues to Origins of Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts – (Scientific American – June 11, 2020)
For a fraction of a second in late April, a hyper-magnetized star in the Milky Way suddenly blasted out radio energy. Now scientists say that this sudden, strange blip could help to explain one of astronomy’s biggest puzzles: what powers the hundreds of other mysterious fast radio bursts (FRBs) that have been spotted much farther away in the Universe. The star, known as SGR 1935+2154, is a magnetar—a dense, spinning ember left behind after a supernova and wrapped in intense magnetic fields. Many astronomers think that fast radio bursts—brief but powerful cosmic flashes that flare for just milliseconds—come from magnetars, but haven’t been able to show the link. Until now, the closest known fast radio burst happened around 150 million parsecs (490 million light years) from Earth. This magnetar is in our Galaxy just 10,000 parsecs away, making it close enough for astronomers to have a great view as it sizzles with activity. The show began on 27 April, when satellites including NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory spotted γ-rays streaming from SGR 1935+2154. The radio flash is by far the brightest ever seen from a magnetar in the Milky Way, and could offer clues to what causes fast radio bursts seen elsewhere in the Universe. Because magnetars are spinning quickly and have powerful magnetic fields, they have huge reservoirs of energy that can produce outbursts. One idea about the source of these outbursts is that something happening inside the magnetar—such as a ‘starquake’, analogous to an earthquake—could crack its surface and release energy. Another possibility is that the highly magnetized environment around the magnetar somehow produces the burst.
How’s the Economy Doing? Watch the Dentists – (New York Time – June 10, 2020)
Dental offices tend to be stable businesses that stick around for decades, unlike restaurants that open and close frequently. Dentists earn a healthy salary and offer services with no clear substitute. This makes them, in the eyes of some economists, the perfect barometer for gauging the country’s recovery from the shock of the pandemic. The dental industry has weathered an exaggerated version of the pandemic’s economic impact, experiencing both a steeper decline and a faster recovery than other sectors. Half of all dental workers lost their jobs in March and April as states closed businesses to slow the virus’s spread. The industry accounted for a staggering 35% of all health care jobs lost in those months, even though its workers make up just 6% of the industry. By mid-April, 45% of dentists had laid off their entire staffs, according to data collected by the dental association. Only 13% remained fully open, with the remaining offices keeping a skeleton staff. Patient visits fell to 7% of normal rates. However, regular surveys, sent out to 12,000 dental practices every two weeks, showed a relatively fast recovery. By early May, 33% of dental offices had hired their full staffs back. The number rose to 58% by mid-May and hit 77% the first week of June. But even after last month’s job gains, the dental industry still has 289,000 fewer workers than it did before the pandemic. That suggests that the industry — and the rest of the American economy — is far from recovered.
5 Economists Redefining… Everything. Oh Yes, and They’re Women – (Forbes – May 31, 2020)
Five female economists are revolutionizing their field by questioning the meaning of everything from ‘value’ and ‘debt’ to ‘growth’ and ‘GDP.’ Esther Duflo, Stephanie Kelton, Mariana Mazzucato, Carlota Perez and Kate Raworth are united in one thing: their amazement at the way economics has been defined and debated to date. All question concepts long considered sacrosanct. This article explores four messages they share. For example: Get Over It – Challenge the Orthodoxy. Stephanie Kelton takes on our approach to debt and spoofs the simplistic metaphors, like comparing national income and expenditure to ‘family budgets’ in an attempt to prove how dangerous debt is. In her upcoming book, The Deficit Myth (June 2020), she argues they are not at all similar; after all, what household can print additional money, or set interest rates? Debt should be rebranded as a strategic investment in the future. Deficits can be used in ways good or bad but are themselves a neutral and powerful policy tool. Another one: Get Good Government – The Strategic Role of the State. All these economists want the state to play a major role. Women understand viscerally how reliant the underdogs of any system are on the inclusivity of the rules of the game. “It shapes the context to create a positive sum game” for both the public and business, says Perez. You need an active state to “tilt the playing field toward social good.”
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
The Pandemic Is Propelling a New Wave of Automation – (Wired – June 12, 2020)
Last month, the pharma company Takeda began recruiting patients for a clinical trial of a promising Covid-19 treatment involving antibodies drawn from the blood of recovered patients. It normally takes several weeks to collect people’s information, determine who may be suitable for the trial, and get the paperwork in order. With the coronavirus still spreading, Takeda sped things up: using software to record tasks like opening files, selecting input fields, and cutting and pasting text. Those tasks can then be repeated for each prospective patient. The result: The paperwork got done in days instead of weeks. Takeda started testing this approach, known as robotic process automation, or RPA, several months before the pandemic, with software from a company called UiPath. Inspired by the success, Takeda is now stepping up its use of RPA with a plan to train thousands of staff to build and use software bots for themselves. It recently ran a successful pilot with 22 employees. It estimates that the effort could automate 4.6 million hours of office work per year—the equivalent of roughly 2,000 full-time workers. But Takeda doesn’t see the technology displacing anyone. Cousin says the goal is to boost productivity, and hiring has increased as the software bots have been rolled out. For all the hype around artificial intelligence and machine learning, the quickest and easiest way for companies to automate office work is through simple and decidedly unintelligent software automation. Takeda’s approach provides a way for machines to take over routine and repetitive tasks without investing in a big software project or worrying about legacy systems. It’s hardly elegant or robust, but as long as you can point and click, you can automate. The broader impact of office automation is less clear. Some research suggests that large amounts of office work are ripe for automation that will have a broad impact on jobs, but so far RPA tends to replace only the most repetitive and mundane work, often affecting outsourcing more than a company’s own workers. Max Mancini, a executive vice president at Automation Anywhere, another leading RPA company, says one airline customer, which he won’t name, used bots to deal with a huge spike in refund requests by automating data entry that had been done manually.
Our Economy Was Just Blasted Years into the Future – (Marker – May 26, 2020)
In 2010, two former New York hedge fund investors paid $5.8 million to buy Clear, a biometric identification firm that had gone bust in the fallout of a lost laptop containing the unencrypted personal data of 33,000 people. Caryn Seidman Becker and Ken Cornick were certain they could revive the company’s fortunes and earn tons of money whisking people through aggravating airport security lines based on scans of their irises and fingerprints. Clear says it has turned a profit since 2017. But that was all before Covid-19. Seidman Becker have now launched Clear into a brand new digital space — “touchless technology,” a play built around the fear that the coronavirus may lurk on any surface, anywhere. Against this threat, airports are deploying a new level of security including thermal cameras, all but assuring exceptionally long lines once people resume flying. Seidman Becker is responding with hands-free navigation: Clear will upload its clients’ Covid-19 test results, ID, air tickets, credit card, and health quiz. This, along with iris and face scans, will allow them to pass through the new phalanx faster. The concept is now spreading well beyond the airport. Clear, along with Swiftlane and Envoy, are among the companies that have begun to offer similar services to office buildings. They say the technology is deployable anywhere someone needs to prove identity or take out their wallet to pay, raising the specter of biometric entrance to many or most of the places people frequent. Before the coronavirus, surveillance capitalism was already a big worry — Big Tech companies were vacuuming up data from laptops, front doors, appliances, kitchens, living rooms, and smartphones and selling the resulting market intelligence for hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Now, touchless technology suggests a new front in the age of around-the-clock commercialized surveillance, hackable by Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, or any number of private actors, well- or malignly intended. “It’s a one-time shift in technology. After this, it’s going to stay like this forever,” says Saurabh Bajaj, CEO of Swiftlane, a Silicon Valley touchless startup using facial recognition. The article goes on to discuss several other Covid-19 accelerations – and a couple tech trends that have almost completely stalled out because of it.
How We Fool Ourselves with the Concept of ‘Reality’ – (To the Best of Our Knowledge – May 15, 2020)
How do you know what’s real? Start with your senses — if you can see, touch, hear or taste something, it’s real — right? Not necessarily, according to cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan. Speaking on stage at a live discussion held at the New York Academy of Sciences, Hoffman — both a cognitive scientist and computer scientist at UC-Irvine — and O’Sullivan — a neurologist in London who works with people suffering from psychosomatic illnesses — made the case for why our perception of “reality” is actually an illusion we perceive as an evolutionary adaptation to keep us alive. Originally recorded on February 7, 2019. This is a fascinating hour and 24 minute conversation; if you enjoy having your thinking challenged, check it out.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Musicians Playing through the Lockdown, to One Listener at a Time – (New York Times – June 5, 2020)
To circumvent the restrictions enforced on society by the pandemic, cultural institutions have mostly turned to the internet. Museums have held online panels, theaters have streamed plays on their websites, and orchestras have uploaded their back catalogs. But two state-funded orchestras in Stuttgart — the Stuttgart State Orchestra and the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra — are trying to do something more personal. Something that might stir some raw emotion. The challenge was to achieve this without risking infection. The solution is an ongoing series of one-on-one concerts — in which one orchestra member plays for one audience member, without ever speaking to them. After applying to attend online, concertgoers are then allocated a 10-minute slot in one of 27 sites around the city. They include Stuttgart’s deserted airport, an art gallery, and the garden of a private villa. The audience of one arrives with no knowledge about the music that awaits him or her, or the performer or instrument that will provide it. The person simply is asked to sit down opposite the musician, and to lock eyes with the player for 60 seconds. Then the musician plays for 10 minutes. Finally, the concertgoer stands up and leaves without applauding, usually wordlessly. There is no ticket fee, but attendees can donate instead to a fund for freelance musicians left without an income by the crisis.
JUST FOR FUN
Can You Express Sound with Visuals? – (Vimeo – May 28, 2020)
An artist takes a crack at animating jazz piano. For his short film Liza, the French animator Bastien Dupriez aimed to create ‘a kind of visual transcription’ of the George Gershwin song Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away) (1929), as performed by the French musician Jean-Michel Pilc. As the rollicking jazz piano builds, the frame splashes with abstract shapes and colors, as well as hints of human forms. The resulting effect is of visuals built to accompany and respond to the mood of the music, rather than the much more familiar inverse experience. Beyond serving as a mesmerizing slice of audiovisual eye candy – and it certainly is that – the piece also provokes a bevy of intriguing questions about our multisensory experience of art.
Crown Chakra in Virtual Reality: Experimental Interactive 3D Display – (Laetus in Praesens – no date)
Understood in terms of pattern language, and depicted as composed of 20 rings (of different colors) of 50 “petals”, the “1,000-petalled lotus” offers a challenge. It is potentially indicative of the most complex pattern whose coherence is susceptible to comprehension and communication. The question is whether it can be represented in ways which reconcile these constraints, thereby facilitating the cognitive embodiment with which that pattern has been traditionally associated. This website is an interactive display with links to articles that discuss the metaphor. The initial display will allow you to use your curser to manipulate the display. Give yourself at least 30 seconds to play with this – it’s enticing. And then see this link and scroll down the page a bit to find numerous kinetic displays of the pattern such as counter-rotation, wireframe rendering, rotating into plane, and others.
A FINAL QUOTE
The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be…. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen