See past issues in the Archives
– John L. Petersen
Dr. Dennis Bushnell on September 11, 2007
– September 8 & 9, 2007
– entries accepted September 4 through October 30, 2007
– From Think Links
– The Future in the News…Today
– John L. Petersen, editor
It’s interesting to think about how this world might change in the face of the multi-faceted, global disruption that appears on the horizon. That’s specifically what we’re trying to do here at TAI in our project to build a “strategy for the future of humanity”, for which I’m now running around chasing funding. If the paradigm changes, the thinking is obviously going to change – but what do you do about the left over “stuff” – like tanks and armored personnel carriers. Do you just trash it all, or is there a better, more benign use for such things?
It might be hard to dream up the plowshares equivalent to a big artillery piece, but there are some major icons of the old (present) world that just might be adaptable. Tony Judge just checked in from Europe with a fascinating, provocative, irreverent, and rather humorous proposal: From ESCHELON in NOLEHCE: Enabling a Strategic Conversion to a Faith-based Global Brain. http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/musings/nolehce.php I commend it to you.
Air Force Association Building, 4th Floor
1501 Lee Highway
Arlington, VA 22209
Dr. Dennis Bushnell is the Chief Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center. With over 43 years experience as Research Scientist, Section Head, Branch Head, Associate Division Chief and Chief Scientist, his specialties include Flow Modeling and Control across the Speed Range, Advanced Configuration Aeronautics, Aeronautical Facilities and Hypersonic Airbreathing Propulsion. In fact, he is a Renaissance thinker who speaks from a unique – and uniquely informed – perspective. Join us on September 11, 2007 at 5:00pm to hear Dr. Bushnell describe the future he sees us rapidly approaching. Free and open to the public. Seating is limited; please RSVP.
– Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity
The Singularity Summit 2007 will be held on September 8th-9th at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco. Tickets for the two-day event can be purchased online for the extremely low price of $50, which even includes two lunches, a Saturday night reception, and extensive audience participation. The theme is “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity.” Some of the fascinating questions to be explored include: “What are the major challenges to achieving advanced AI? What are the benefits and dangers? How far are we from self-improving AI? How should we prepare for this potentially powerful innovation?”
“Advanced AI has the potential to impact every aspect of human life. We are in a crucial window of opportunity where we have temporary but powerful leverage to influence the outcome,” said Tyler Emerson, chair of the summit and executive director of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “Only a small group of scientists are aware of the central issues. It is essential to expand discussion of this critical 21st century issue, which is why I have created the summit.”
Peter Thiel, PayPal Cofounder, Clarium Capital President, and Facebook’s initial investor, will MC the summit and also present his new ideas on financial markets and the Singularity. “It’s clear that the term ‘AI’ means a lot of different things,” said Thiel. “It’s one of these terms that has been bandied about a great deal, and has been misused a lot. It has been predicted for a long time that AI is right around the corner, and it’s taking longer than many people thought it would, with many disappointments along the way. However, it’s clear that there’s a massive set of issues happening, and people who don’t think that there’s something important going on are living in a delusional fantasy, and need to wake up.”
For further information, please see: http://www.singinst.org/summit2007/
Note from John Petersen: This promises to be a rather extraordinary event that parallels the interests of many FUTUREdition readers. The program line-up is superb, the subject is important, San Francisco is nice . . . and it’s certainly affordable. I, for one, will definitely be attending.
Each year a distinguished jury will award a single $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a solution that has the potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems in the shortest possible time while enhancing the Earth’s ecological integrity. The Buckminsterfuller Challenge sponsored by the Institute bearing his name seeks submissions of design science solutions within a broad range of human endeavor that will exemplify the “trimtab principle”. Trimtabs demonstrate how small amounts of energy and resources precisely applied at the right time and place can produce maximum advantageous change. Entries accepted from September 4 – October 30, 2007. For further details, please contact the Buckminsterfuller Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 718-290-9283.
- RFID hacking – five tales of how easy it is.
- A three-foot increase in sea level could turn at least 60 million people into refugees.
- A bionic hand has been created with thumb and fingers that can move and grip just like a human hand and are controlled by the patient’s mind and muscles.
- Scientists have discovered a way to levitate ultra-small objects.
The Millennium Project publishes the annual “State of the Future” report, an extraordinary overview of global prospects for civilization which includes futures intelligence on technology, environment, governance, ethics, human and international development – what the educated person should know in the global era. The print edition is an executive summary of the 6,000 page CD covering 15 major global issues. It may be ordered at http://www.acunu.org/millennium/sof2007.html
With the help of simple tools introduced by Internet companies recently, millions of people are trying their hand at cartography, drawing on digital maps and annotating them with text, images, sound and videos. In the process, they are reshaping the world of mapmaking and collectively creating a new kind of atlas that is likely to be both richer and messier than any other. They are also turning the Web into a medium where maps will play a more central role in how information is organized and found.
Even this far into the digital age, one vital part of business remains stubbornly analog: the legal contract. Internet-based, do-it-yourself contracts tend to be relegated to the level of eBay sales – and even they are notoriously difficult to enforce if something goes awry. Now a Spanish startup called Negonation hopes to raise the profile of the online contract – and disrupt the entire legal landscape in the process.
The mysterious cosmic presence called dark energy, which is accelerating the expansion of the universe, might be lurking in hidden dimensions of space. The idea would explain how these dimensions remain stable – a big problem for the unified scheme of physics called string theory.
Oscar is a two-year old cat who lives on the third floor of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The third floor is the nursing home’s advanced dementia unit. Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten, Oscar has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families. Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone
Stressed mice get fat, according to a study done at Georgetown University Medical Center. Stress activates a neurotransmitter called Neuropeptide Y (NPY) to bind to its receptor, called Neuropeptide Y Receptor (Y2R), in fat tissue, causing the fat cells to swell in both size and number and leading to apple-shaped obesity and metabolic syndrome. By injecting mice with NPY, the researchers were able to generate fat in mice wherever they wanted it. And by injecting Y2R blocker into the mice’s abdominal fat, they were able to shrink the fat accumulation by 50% in two weeks and eliminate the metabolic syndrome. Eventually using an NPY injection might build fat in wrinkled lips and using a Y2R injection might melt away human fat without surgery.
New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there’s a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support” — all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it. More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses.
Researchers have created a molecular switch that can reversibly turn any mammalian gene on or off and control its level of expression. Scientists have traditionally used three technologies to suppress gene expression, but all have limitations. But by combining the main elements of these three techniques into a single gene regulation system, they bring down expression to undetectable levels.
Researchers are developing devices that can interpret signals in the brain and stimulate neurons to perform correctly, advances that might someday make it possible for a tiny computer to fix diseases or even allow a paralyzed person to control a prosthetic device with his thoughts. The initial goal of the “neuroprosthetic” chip designed to be implanted in the brain is to correct conditions such as paralysis or epilepsy.
A study done on mice shows that stem cells play a limited, but significant role in repairing damaged hearts. However, it remains unclear whether it is heart cells that are doing the repair, or cells from elsewhere in the body. The most important question now is: can you identify the new pool of heart cells? Are they pre-existing immature cardiac muscle cells? Or are they [stem cells] from the heart or elsewhere in the body?
A star on the brink of exploding as a spectacular supernova has been glimpsed by international astronomers. The star flared up suddenly last February, briefly becoming 1,000 times brighter than normal. RS Ophiuchi is close to destroying itself in a nuclear explosion called a type 1a supernova. These are among the brightest phenomena in the Universe, radiating five billion times as much light as the Sun
The blueprint for a tiny, ultra-robust mechanical computer has been outlined by US researchers. The energy-efficient nano computer is inspired by ideas about computing first put forward nearly 200 years ago.
Powerset, Inc., based in San Francisco, is on the verge of offering an innovative natural-language search engine, based on linguistic research at the Palo Alto Research Center. Attempts have been made at natural-language search for decades, but Powerset says it has solved some of the fundamental technological problems that have existed with this kind of search.
For years, opponents of cell towers and wireless technology have voiced concerns about potential health effects of electromagnetic fields. Once ridiculed as crackpots and Luddites, they’re starting to get backup from the scientific community. A growing number of scientists, along with a diverse collection of technology critics, are pointing out that our bodies constantly generate electrical pulses as part of their normal functioning. They maintain that incoming radiation from modern technology may be fouling those signals.
Next-gen US passports and credit cards will contain RFIDs, and the medical industry is exploring the use of implantable chips to manage patients. According to the RFID market analysis, the push for digital inventory tracking and personal ID systems will expand the current annual market for RFIDs from $2.7 billion to as much as $26 billion by 2016. The downside is that using cheap technology, hackers can steal your smartcard, lift your passport, jack your car, even clone the chip in your arm. And you won’t feel a thing. 5 tales from the RFID-hacking underground.
A three-foot increase in sea level could turn at least 60 million people into refugees, the World Bank estimates which is why ice sheet modelers are working furiously to try to unravel the mystery of how these sheets accumulate and lose mass. But while computer models now yield an increasingly sophisticated understanding of how a warming atmosphere would behave, such models have yet to fully encapsulate the complex processes that regulate ice sheet behavior.
Direct satellite measurements of solar activity show it has been declining since the mid-1980s and cannot account for recent rises in global temperatures, according to new research. The findings debunk an explanation for climate change that is often cited by people who are not convinced that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing the Earth’s climate to warm.
The BBC report (in the link directly above) argues that while the sun had a significant effect on climate during most of the 20th century, its influence is currently dwarfed by human effects. It says that all known solar influences since about 1990 are downward and because global temperature has increased since then, the sun is not responsible. No. The research could prove the contrary. Using the global temperature data endorsed by the Inter-national Panel on Climate Change, one can reach a completely different conclusion. (FUTUREdition suggests you read both articles and draw your own conclusions.)
Pregnant polar bears build snow dens to protect new cubs from the Arctic winter. The researchers found that between 1985 and 1994, 62% of polar bear dens were built on sea ice – but that number dropped to 37% between 1998 and 2004. Pregnant females foraging offshore in summer must wait up to a month longer than they did just 10 years ago for new sea ice to form so they can travel to denning areas on land. Alternatively, they must swim ever greater expanses of open water to reach suitable land, or they must den on ice that may not be stable enough to survive the winter.
Ferocious, pack-feeding jumbo squid have invaded waters off California’s central coast and are devouring local fish populations. Researchers say global warming and overfishing are likely to blame. Humboldt or jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas) first appeared off Monterey, California during an El Niño event which warmed waters in 1997. Since 2002 they have taken up permanent residence. The findings offer a striking look at how multiple human-induced environmental changes are affecting ocean ecosystems.
Something seems amiss with mighty Superior, the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, which together hold nearly 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. Over the past year, its level has ebbed to the lowest point in eight decades and will set a record this fall if, as expected, it dips three more inches. Its average temperature has surged 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1979, significantly above the 2.7-degree rise in the region’s air temperature during the same period. That’s no small deal for a freshwater sea that was created from glacial melt as the Ice Age ended and remains chilly in all seasons.
At nearly 4,000 meters above sea level, in the shadow of a sharp Himalayan peak, a wall of black ice oozes in the sunshine. A tumbling stone breaks the silence of the mountains. Water gurgles under the ground, a sign that the Chorabari Glacier is melting from inside. Where it empties out – scientists call it the snout – a noisy, frothy stream rushes down to meet the River Ganges. Three years ago, the snout was roughly 27 meters, or 90 feet, from where it is now. On a map drawn in 1962, it was plotted 262 meters further away
To make a robot to move more gracefully, “make it as lazy as possible”. Humans naturally minimize the energy used by our muscles. By applying the same energy-minimizing criteria to direct the way a computer model of a robot moves, researchers are able to produce motions with the robot that look very natural.
A highly functional bionic hand created by a Scottish inventor has gone on the market. The thumb and fingers can move and grip just like a human hand and are controlled by the patient’s mind and muscles. Among others, Juan Arredondo, from Texas, who lost his hand in Iraq in 2004, has been fitted with one of the hands. “Every day I have the hand, it surprises me,” he said. “Now I can pick up a Styrofoam cup without crushing it.
An ultra-thin solar cell that could provide a cheaper, lighter alternative to existing devices has been made by replacing the relatively thick semiconductor substrate normally used in solar cells with a thin “wafer-bonded” substrate. Replacing the regular, thick indium phosphide substrate in solar cells with a very thin layer of the same material on top of a cheap, oxidized wafer of silicon – the wafer-bonded substrate – could reduce manufacturing costs by up to half.
The state of Georgia just granted Range Fuels a permit to create the first cellulosic ethanol plant in America. Cellulosic ethanol is ethanol that comes from cellulose instead of sugar. This is good because most plants don’t have a lot of sugar, but all plants have lots of cellulose. So, instead of using food crops, (like corn and sugar cane which have lots of sugar) to create fuel, we can use any crops, like mown grass clippings, fallen tree limbs or corn stalks (instead of corn ears) to create ethanol.
Brazil is staking its claim as a great emerging power thanks to the leadership it maintains in biofuel production. The price of this ambition is paid by the environment and by the cane cutters, who are the invisible characters in this story. Behind a great deal of “politically correct” jargon lurks a reality poised to destroy the Amazon, a reality that destroys millions of young bodies while it promises lucrative business to investors. The very name biofuels seems to be destined to foment confusion; its opponents prefer to the term “agrofuels” because the term refers to agriculturally produced energy.
No currently known bacteria that allow termites and cows to digest cellulose, can power a microbial fuel cell and those bacteria that can produce electrical current cannot eat cellulose. But careful pairing of bacteria can create a fuel cell that consumes cellulose and produces electricity, according to a team of Penn State researchers.
It sounds like three Welsh fishing buddies have developed the next best thing to a perpetual motion machine. The concept is thus: Fitted to car instead of an exhaust their Greenbox device traps carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. The box needs to be replaced about every full tank of fuel. “Through a chemical reaction, the captured gases from the box would be fed to algae, which would then be crushed to produce a bio-oil.
Two graduate students at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning want to harvest the energy of human movement in urban settings, like commuters in a train station or fans at a concert. The so-called “Crowd Farm,” would turn the mechanical energy of people walking or jumping into a source of electricity. Their proposal took first place in the Japan-based Holcim Foundation’s Sustainable Construction competition this year.
Manufacturers like Boeing are moving beyond the “tube with wings and a tail” design in the push to improve fuel economy and the environmental impact for the next generation of jets. Inspired by “flying wing” designs from earlier decades like 1988’s B-2 Stealth bomber, the company has been collaborating with NASA to test the viability of a Blended Wing Body (BWB) aircraft, using a flat, wide body that tapers out to thin wing-tips and aims to strike an effective middle ground between the tube and flying wing designs.
Looking like a slightly sleeker version of the mechanical warhorses that ferry millions of Japanese to work and school every day, the train might pass unnoticed by the keenest trainspotter. But inside it is quieter than a conventional train, thanks to a battery-powered motor that powers it at low speeds. Designed and run by the transport giant, Japan Rail, each 180-million-yen train is powered by a super fuel-efficient diesel engine and lithium-ion batteries that recharge every time the brakes are applied, a system that cuts power, noise and emissions by up to 60%.
The biofuel of the future could well be gasoline. That’s the hope of one biotech startup that is coaxing bacteria into producing hydrocarbons that could be processed into fuels like those made from petroleum. To do this, the company is employing tools from the field of synthetic biology to modify the genetic pathways that bacteria, plants, and animals use to make fatty acids, one of the main ways that organisms store energy.
According to Yury Zaitsev, an expert with the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Star Battery will dramatically change the way energy is both harnessed and stored. Yury says that the same material which generates almost 50% efficiency, can also be made into a ultracapacitor with nine hundred times the storage capacity of a car battery. These developments are made possibly, because of a process where gold nano-particles are imbedded into silicon, vastly improving their performance compared to tradition solar cells.
This fascinating video clip reports on inventor John Kanzius who has discovered that saltwater can be burned using radio waves. The heat generated can be converted to mechanical energy and used to run machines.
Last year, 2.2 million people in the developing world had access to the anti-retroviral drugs that help treat the virus, compared with less than 300,000 people three years ago. But the ratio is that for every one person able to access drug therapy, six new people get infected. And in many parts of the developing world, effective prevention strategies such as condoms and sterile syringes are available to less than 15% of the population.
Best known as the ultra-strong material that might one day form the cables of a “space elevator” capable of raising people into Earth orbit, carbon nanotubes also have a springy side. The discovery that nanotubes keep bouncing back after being compressed repeatedly means this exotic form of carbon may be just the thing to give artificial muscles some extra strength.
Due to the unique nature of NT and the weakness of existing statutes, new laws may be appropriate to manage the potential risks of NT. This research paper explores evidence relevant to examining that question. Further, it is an excellent summary of the current state of nanotechnology research and industry.
Scientists have discovered a ground-breaking way of levitating ultra small objects, which may revolutionize the design of micro-machines by manipulating so-called Casimir force, which normally causes objects to stick together by quantum force. Now British scientists say they can reverse the Casimir force to cause an object to repel rather than attract another in a vacuum, enabling micro or nano machines to run smoother and with less or no friction at all. The researchers stressed that the practice is possible only for micro-objects.
The Reaper, a jet fighter powered by a turboprop engine, able to fly at 300 mph and reach 50,000 feet is outfitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, and with a ton and a half of guided bombs and missiles. But there’s no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada. The arrival of these outsized U.S. “hunter-killer” drones, in aviation history’s first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.
The risks of an accidental nuclear war have increased since the Cold War as Russia’s early warning capability has deteriorated, a former U.S. defense official said. William J. Perry, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project at Stanford University, said in a congressional testimony Wednesday that “the danger of nuclear war occurring by accident” still existed. “Both American and Russian missiles remain in a launch-on-warning mode and the inherent danger of this status is aggravated by the fact that the Russian warning system has deteriorated since the ending of the Cold War.”
Plans to network together thousands of private and public video surveillance cameras in New York City have been in the works for years. By the end of the year, the system may be a reality. When complete, it will incorporate 1,000 public and 2,000 private cameras, electronic license plate readers, and a 24-hour command center to monitor the many tireless electronic eyes. The system will also include remote-controlled movable barriers that could be used to isolate or redirect traffic in the event of an emergency. The new system carries an estimated price tag of $8 million for the first year.
Deadly germs may be more likely to be spread due to a biodefence lab accident than a biological attack by terrorists. There are now 20,000 people at 400 sites around the US working with putative bioweapons germs, 10 times more than before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Plague, anthrax and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are among the bioweapons some experts fear could be used in a germ warfare attack against the US. But the public has had near-misses with those diseases and others over the past five years, ironically because of accidents in labs that were working to defend against bioterrorists. Even worse, they may be only the tip of an iceberg.
The National Reconnaissance Office has deemed an experimental U.S. spy satellite a total loss and will allow it to fall gradually out of orbit over the coming decades, said officials who asked not to be named. At some later date, it will burn up as it enters the earth’s atmosphere, posing no danger to people below, they said. They added that its failure was troubling, given that other countries were rapidly plowing ahead with development and launch of new capabilities, especially in the area of synthetic aperture radars. Synthetic aperture radars offer high-resolution and can pierce darkness and thick clouds to identify targets, even peering below the surface of the ground or peeking into foliage that might obstruct the view of photo-based sensors.
Many people sense that a significant change is “in the air;” one that is occurring worldwide, one that represents a hope for themselves, their children, and the world. The hope is that we might move, individually and collectively, away from actions which engender “lunacy” and towards actions which engender “harmony;” in health-care, energy, education, technology (which is applied science), foreign policy, business, politics; in general, human relations. A short video reflecting this can be seen at the website noted above.
This short film presents an interview with Daniel Pinchbeck, author of the best-selling book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006) and a presenter at TAI last year. This film is the first film segment from Postmodern Times, which intends to create a series of short animated films presenting new ideas about global consciousness and techniques for social and ecological transformation.
NASA Plans ‘Armageddon’ Spacecraft to Blast Asteroid – (Flight Global – August 3, 2007)
NASA has designed a nuclear-warhead-carrying spacecraft, to be launched by the US agency’s Ares V cargo launch vehicle, to deflect an asteroid that could threaten all life on Earth. The 29 ft-long spacecraft would carry six 3,300lb missile-like interceptor vehicles that would carry one 1.2MT B83 nuclear warhead each. The spacecraft’s target near-Earth object (NEO) is the Apophis asteroid, which will pass by the Earth within the orbit of the Moon in April 2029.
This disarmingly simple website will show you about fifty statistics on a global scale in roughly real time – either by year, month, week, day, or “now”. Did you want to know the approximate world population, the number of bicycles produced each week or the hectares of forest lost per month? This site will give you an answer – and it will also tell you the time and the date.
Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a fad or a kind of social contagion, researchers reported in a study that helps explain – and could help fight – one of the nation’s biggest public health problems. The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.
The number of U.S. citizens who moved to Canada last year hit a 30-year high, with a 20 percent increase over the previous year and almost double the number who moved in 2000. In 2006, 10,942 Americans went to Canada, compared with 9,262 in 2005 and 5,828 in 2000, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies. Those numbers are outweighed by the number of Canadians going the other way. Yet, that imbalance is shrinking. Last year, 23,913 Canadians moved to the United States, a significant decrease from 29,930 in 2005
Rising prices for food have led the United Nations program fighting famine in Africa and other regions to warn that it can no longer afford to feed the 90million people it has helped for each of the past five years on its budget. It spent about $600m buying food in 2006. So far, the WFP has not cut its reach because of high commodities prices, but now says it could be forced to do so unless donor countries provide extra funds. This is increasing concerns about the impact of biofuel demand on food prices and how the world will continue to feed its expanding population.
Triple digit oil prices are on the horizon and may be permanent as major oil-producing countries in the developing (non-OECD) world reduce exports to meet soaring demand at home, according to a new report by CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) World Markets. The situation is intensifying the world’s oil supply gap which shows no sign of being filled anytime soon by new supplies or by rising prices that normally choke demand.
The Labor Department’s most recent inflation data showed that U.S. food prices rose by 4.2 percent for the 12 months ending in July, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that the price of milk, eggs and other essentials in the American diet are actually rising by double digits.
Already stung by a two-year rise in gasoline prices, American consumers now face sharply higher prices for foods they can’t do without.
The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned. David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”.
9 August 2007, will go down in history as “debtonation day” – the beginning of the end of the deregulation and privatization of finance that marks the era of globalization. Commercial banks no longer trust the solvency of other banks, and so on 9 August, they effectively went on strike; i.e. stopped lending to each other, forcing central bankers (i.e. the US Federal Reserve Bank and its equivalents in Europe and Japan) to step in to provide lending to those that needed it. The central banks are in a bind: they have lost faith in the “invisible hand”, but have not yet dealt with the solvency issue.
Countrywide Financial announced yesterday that it is using an entire $11.5 billion line of credit to ease its way through a severe global credit crunch, an ominous sign of how difficult it has become for the nation’s largest mortgage lender to borrow money to fund its loans. The credit line, 70% of which Countrywide has four or more years to repay, comes from a syndicate of the world’s 40 largest banks. “What’s spooked the market is the fact that these kinds of credit lines are something nobody expects will be drawn upon,” said Christopher Wolfe, a managing director at the credit-rating agency Fitch Ratings. “They’re kind of like an insurance policy that you never really use.”
Commodity prices have begun to tumble in anticipation of a global economic slowdown. The yen has recorded its biggest jump against the dollar since 1998 as traders unwind a massive “carry trade” that for five years had allowed them to profit by borrowing at 2 percent in Japan and lending at higher rates in places like the United States or Australia. It’s to the point that Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have withdrawn their offer to raise $1 billion for MGM studios to finance production of films including “The Hobbit” and the next “Terminator” and James Bond movies. You know that something is up when Hollywood studios can’t get financing for their next movies.
In theory, President Bush is sworn to faithfully execute the laws of the United States. In reality, he has treated federal law as a menu from which he picks and chooses those laws he likes, while ignoring those that do not suit his taste. That royalist attitude may soon inspire a constitutional confrontation unrivaled in U.S. history.
Hackers hired to evaluate the security of e-voting machines used in California found serious flaws that could allow for vote tampering in all three systems studied. The defects included the ability to overwrite firmware, install malicious applications, forge voter cards and gain access to the inside of voting machines by unfastening screws that were supposed to be inaccessible.
An op-ed piece discussing some of what the current administration has done and sanctioned in its effort to operationalize Vice President Cheney statement NBC’s Tim Russert, five days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ‘We … have to work the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies. That’s the world [terrorists] operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal.”
Vote caging is an illegal tactic to suppress minorities from voting by having their names purged from voter rolls when they fail to respond to registered mail sent to their homes. The Republican National Committee signed a consent decree in 1986 stating they would not engage in the practice after they were caught suppressing votes in 1981 and 1986. However, 43 pages of emails, provided to Truthout by the PBS news program “NOW,” contains blueprints for a massive effort undertaken by RNC operatives in 2004, to challenge the eligibility of voters expected to support Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Pennsylvania.
In 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties, ballots and election records from 2004 have been “accidentally” destroyed, despite a federal order to preserve them – it was crucial evidence which would have revealed whether the election was stolen. The lost records violate Ohio law, which states federal election records must be kept for 22 months after Election Day, and a U.S. District Court order issued last September that the 2004 ballots be preserved while the court hears a civil rights lawsuit alleging voter suppression of African-American voters in Columbus.
The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving. – Gloria Steinem
A special thanks to: Ken Dabkowski, Jack DuVall, Chas Freeman, Neil Freer, Ursula Freer, Philip Gorman, Franceen King, Deanna Korda, Ela Kuresevic, KurzweilAI, Sebastian McCallister, Sher Patterson-Black, Lisa Pease, Diane C. Petersen, Richard Sawdey, the Schwartzreport, Joel Snell, Gary Sycalik, Elizabeth Thompson, and Steve Ujvarosy, our contributors to this issue.
If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
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