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Volume 12, Number 8 – 11/30/09

Volume 12, Number 8 – 11/30/09

FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT…

It took just months for Europe to be engulfed by an ice age around 12,800 years ago.China’s use of cloud-seeding has led to the earliest snow blizzard in Beijing for two decades.By 2020, your brain waves will control your computer, TV and cell phone.Talk about multi-tasking: multi-function flush toilets have already been invented in Taiwan, Japan and China.
PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Well, it’s beginning to be a lot like Christmas . . . more or less. In the 60’s here in West Virginia, so the only thing that smells like Christmas is in the stores. Lot’s of people there after Thanksgiving, but they didn’t seem to be buying much. We’ll see.

More Financial Disruption Coming – There are a lot of things that people aren’t spending on these days — a great deal of tentativeness all over. They’re not paying their bills in Dubai and an increasing number of financial analysts are of the opinion that there will be a subprime mortgage-size or larger shock around the second quarter of next year. Commercial real estate may lead the way over the cliff. John Mauldin in his Out of the Box newsletter quotes John Hussman who says:

“We face two possible states of the world. One is a world in which our economic problems are largely solved, profits are on the mend, and things will soon be back to normal, except for a lot of unemployed people whose fate is, let’s face it, of no concern to Wall Street. The other is a world that has enjoyed a brief intermission prior to a terrific second act in which an even larger share of credit losses will be taken, and in which the range of policy choices will be more restricted because we’ve already issued more government liabilities than a banana republic, and will steeply debase our currency if we do it again. It is not at all clear that the recent data have removed any uncertainty as to which world we are in.”You can read the whole piece here.

Chris Martenson’s newsletter says:US government borrowing has tilted heavily to short-term, adjustable-rate issues.The very same people who missed the housing crisis have largely ignored or overlooked the current US predicament.The US government lacks any sort of fiscal restraint. And there’s never a good time to cut back.It has been operating like a subprime, cash-poor borrower, electing to borrow more and more.The short-term debt used to finance the Treasury Department must be “rolled over” when it comes due, imposing whatever the new interest rate happens to be at that time.This will trigger a debt spiral, which will cause the US government to go from insolvency (its current predicament) to bankruptcy (its future condition).A bankrupt nation has few options, little hope, and a lot of regrets.To protect against the fallout, buy gold, silver, and productive assets that generate the things people need.This is no way to run a nation.

And by Harvard’s Niall Ferguson, writing in Newsweek talks starkly and compellingly about the U.S. being an empire at risk.

So, I think change is in the air. Big time.

Here’s some more:

Climate Change Change – Some climate scientists are probably running pretty scared into the holidays. Serious, legitimate questions are being raised about the integrity of the underlying data and motivations of the principals behind the notion that the earth is warming because of human activity. The Associated Press just reported that Britain’s University of East Anglia says the director of its prestigious Climatic Research Unit is stepping down pending an investigation into allegations that he overstated the case for man-made climate change.

On balance, the planet isn’t even warming it turns out. Been the same for a decade. What about the glaciers? Well, there’s more sea ice in the arctic this year than in previous years, so it’s not all melting. The warming trend appears to be related to disruptions of the sun – in any case, not people, yet. If you didn’t see it earlier, walk your way through this presentation by Burt Rutan. It looks like Burt has done his homework. Additional information is now coming through that supports his position. Those scientists may find coal in their stockings!

Want to know how to start to get a handle on what is coming our way? Here’s one way.

Architecture of Transition Workshop -We’re moving our Architecture of Transition workshop on 11-12 December to a larger room to accommodate the interest that has been generated by this event. Sadly, Don Beck won’t be with us as originally planned, but we have a very exciting program designed around identifying a spectrum of futures that might show up in the coming years and how we transition from now to then. It promises to be a very provocative and open-minded session. If you’d like to join us here in pretty, little Berkeley Springs, you can find more information here.

Off to talk to some folks in Brazil (or maybe it’s Chile – I guess they really didn’t tell me) via Skype. Talk to you again in a couple of weeks.


INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

‘Augmented Reality’ Fuses the Web and the World around You – (Washington Post – November 22, 2009)
The cameras on some new phones don’t show the world as you’ve known it. Instead, you see circles, rectangles and icons floating on top of the scenery. Tap one to display a snippet of Internet data about whatever lies behind that tag. As you look around, the view on the phone’s display shifts accordingly, presenting new shortcuts to whatever the Web knows about your surroundings. The concept goes by the name augmented reality, and it’s been quietly bringing one of the Internet’s hokiest promises to a mainstream audience. The most extensive, creative use of an augmented-reality interface comes in an Android and iPhone program called Layar (layar.com), which lets you superimpose data from 232 different sources.


NEW REALITIES

Mini Ice Age Took Hold of Europe in Months – (New Scientist – November 25, 2009)
Just months – that’s how long it took for Europe to be engulfed by an ice age around 12,800 years ago. The scenario, which comes straight out of Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, was revealed by the most precise record of the climate from palaeohistory ever generated. William Patterson of the University of Saskatchewan and colleagues studied a mud core from an ancient lake, Lough Monreagh, in western Ireland. Using a scalpel they sliced off layers 0.5 to 1 millimeter thick, each representing up to three months of time. No other measurements from the period have approached this level of detail.


GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY

Three Parent Babies Take a Step Closer to Reality
Breast Regrowth Procedure Trialed for Mastectomy Patients
The Living Biological Internet Brain
The Emerging Field of Biophotonic Communication
On Your Last Nerve


Three Parent Babies Take a Step Closer to Reality – (Telegraph – November 12, 2009)
Scientists are a step closer to producing a controversial “three parent baby” after they successfully fertilised an egg with two biological mothers. Researchers used eggs from young donors to repair damaged eggs of older women in order to increase their chances of fertilisation. They have not yet used the eggs to produce babies, but they have injected them with sperm to produce an early stage embryo in the laboratory. While the move breathes new life into “old eggs” and could also remove genetic illnesses, it is likely to provoke an ethical storm as critics believe it could lead to hybrid or genetically modified children.

Breast Regrowth Procedure Trialed for Mastectomy Patients – (Guardian – November 12, 2009)
Scientists have developed a revolutionary surgical treatment that could allow women with cancer to regrow their breasts after a mastectomy. Human trials for the procedure, which scientists hope could replace breast reconstructions and implants, will start within three to six months. It is likely to be three years before the technique is fully developed, researchers said. The procedure involves inserting a biodegradable chamber into the woman’s chest, contoured to match her natural breast shape and containing stem cells from her own fat tissue. These cells will divide and grow to recreate the permanent fat found in breasts.

The Living Biological Internet Brain – (Personal-Development – August 25, 2009)
The latest scientific research on human DNA is opening up a whole new world and getting us closer in understanding the fabric of reality. Our DNA turns out to be a quantum mechanical bio-computer, plugged in to a biological network of information and communication. Scientific research is now showing that human DNA is not only responsible for building the physical body, but acts also as data storage and as a communication device. Russian linguists have found that the genetic code, especially in the apparently useless 90%, follows the same rules as all our human languages. They found that the alkalines of our DNA follow a regular grammar and do have set rules just like our languages. So human languages did not appear coincidentally but are a reflection of our inherent DNA.

The Emerging Field of Biophotonic Communication – (Technology Review – November 19, 2009)
Last year, researchers showed that human cells in culture could synchronize their internal chemical processes even though they were mechanically, chemically, and electrically isolated from one another. The cells, it seemed, were communicating through the exchange of photons. Various other groups have shown similar effects. Many cells seems to produce optical and UV photons at about 10 photons per square cm/s, a rate that cannot be explained by ordinary thermodynamic emissions. Other evidence indicates that this form of optical communication can increase the rate of mitosis in cells by up to 50%. So how do they do it? Sergei Mayburov at the Lebedev Institute of Physics in Moscow puts forward the idea that optical communication is a natural process in many cells that can be explained by the way we already know many cells to function.

On Your Last Nerve – (Science Daily – November 20, 2009)
The bulk of neuron production in the central nervous system takes place before birth, and comes to a halt by birth. But scientists have identified specific regions in the core of the brain that retain stem cells into adulthood and continue to produce new neurons. The research is a significant advance in understanding the development of the nervous system, which is essential to addressing conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Chinese Snowstorm
Hosed
Vanishing Glaciers Jolt Smokestack China
The Dog Ate Global Warming
Fish Populations Reveal ‘Shocking’ Declines


Chinese Snowstorm – (The Times – November 2, 2009)
China’s meteorologists are desperate to alleviate a prolonged drought gripping swaths of the country. Their use of cloud-seeding has led to the earliest snow blizzard in Beijing for two decades. The 11-hour snowfall could be the heaviest in a decade.

Hosed – (New Yorker – November 16, 2009)
The article offers an interesting review of Levitt and Dubner’s SuperFreakanomics and Al Gore’s forthcoming book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. The two books could hardly be more dissimilar in their views on – and proposals for – dealing with global warming and yet both have something important to contribute to the global dialog on the topic.

Vanishing Glaciers Jolt Smokestack China – (The Times – November 8, 2009)
As an expedition from Chinese state television worked its way across the remote Tibetan plateau earlier this year, the explorers were amazed by what they found. The plateau has been called the world’s third largest ice store after the North and South Poles. Yet according to Chinese scientists, the “third pole” is warming up faster than anywhere else on earth. They brought back a visual lesson in global warming so stark that censors allowed the program makers to broadcast a frank exposé. Their film attracted the attention of the Communist party’s leaders and has put climate change at the centre of a remarkably open debate in China.

The Dog Ate Global Warming – (Nation Review – September 23, 2009)
Interpreting climate data can be hard enough. What if some key data have been fiddled? Steel yourself for the new reality, because the data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared. Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.

Fish Populations Reveal ‘Shocking’ Declines (News Wise – December 1, 2009)
Populations of numerous migratory fish species in the North Atlantic have declined by more than 95%. When viewed as a group, the magnitude of the migratory species’ declines appears even more serious than that of marine predatory fishes, which has received far more attention. The study highlights the importance of a relatively new school of thought in the scientific community: ecosystem services. ‘We want to put this in the context of the new way many ecologists are now thinking, to say that ecosystems have a value by themselves,” Dr. Karin Limburg, a fisheries ecologist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse said. In particular, the study highlights the relationship between marine and freshwater ecosystems linked in the North Atlantic by the 24 species of migratory fish that move between freshwater and saltwater during the course of their lives.


INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

IBM Scientists Create Rapid Disease Diagnostic Chip – (Phys Org – November 19, 2009)
IBM Research scientists in Zurich have created a one-step point-of-care-diagnostic test, based on an innovative silicon chip that requires less sample volume, is significantly faster, portable, easy to use and can test for many diseases, including one of world’s leading cause of death, cardiovascular disease. The chip measures 0.39 x 2 inches.


AUGMENTED/ ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Medibots: the World’s Smallest Surgeons
Intel: Brain Chips Will Control Computers by 2020


Medibots: the World’s Smallest Surgeons – (New Scientist – November 20, 2009)
The surgeons of tomorrow will include tiny robots that enter our bodies and do their work from the inside, with no need to open patients up or knock them out. While nanobots that swim through the blood are still in the realm of fantasy, several groups are developing devices a few millimetres in size. The first generation of “mini-medibots” may infiltrate our bodies through our ears, eyes and lungs, to deliver drugs, take tissue samples or install medical devices. The first prototypes are already being tested in animals and could move into tests on people in the not-too-distant future.

Intel: Brain Chips Will Control Computers by 2020 – (Computer World – November 20, 2009)
By 2020, you won’t need a keyboard and mouse to control your computer, say Intel Corp. researchers. Instead, users will open documents and surf the Web using nothing more than their brain waves. Scientists at Intel’s research lab are working to find ways to read and harness human brain waves so they can be used to operate computers, television sets and cell phones. The brain waves would be harnessed with sensors implanted in people’s brains. The scientists say the plan is not a scene from a sci-fi movie: Big Brother won’t be planting chips in your brain against your will. Researchers expect that consumers will want the freedom they will gain by using the implant.


ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

The Reactor Relapse Takes 3 Hits to the Head
New Solar Storage Solution Could be the Key to Home-Brewed
   Electricity


The Reactor Relapse Takes 3 Hits to the Head – (Free Press – November 12, 2009)
The “Renaissance” of atomic power has taken three devastating hits with potentially fatal consequences. The usually supine Nuclear Regulatory Commission has told Toshiba’s Westinghouse Corporation that its “standardized” AP-1000 design might not withstand hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes. Regulators in France, Finland and the UK have raised safety concerns about AREVA’s flagship EPR reactor. AREVA’s vanguard project in Finland is at least three years behind schedule and at least $3 billion over budget. And the Obama Administration indicates it will end efforts to license the proposed radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. After more than fifty years of trying, the nuclear industry has not a single prospective central dump site.

New Solar Storage Solution Could be the Key to Home-Brewed Electricity – (GizMag – November 4, 2009)
Because society relies on a continuous energy supply and solar energy is diurnal, storage systems are integral to what some see as an inevitable move towards the era of “personalized solar energy”, in which the focus of electricity production shifts from huge central generating stations to individuals in their own homes and communities. MIT professor Daniel Nocera describes the development of a practical, inexpensive storage system for achieving personalized solar energy. At its heart is an innovative catalyst that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen that become fuel for producing electricity in a fuel cell. The new oxygen-evolving catalyst works like photosynthesis, the method plants use to produce clean energy from sunlight and water.


GLOBAL EPIDEMIC

H1N1 “Super Flu” Plague in Ukraine Sparks Concern, Conspiracy
   Theories about Origins
Ukraine Plague: Mutant Black Lung Virus
Has the Ukraine Mutation Spread to the U.S.? Hemorrhaged Lungs
   Found in Autopsies
Pork Safe to Eat Despite Infection Found in Pigs


H1N1 “Super Flu” Plague in Ukraine Sparks Concern, Conspiracy Theories about Origins – (Natural News – November 16, 2009)
Here’s what we know with some degree of certainty about the H1N1 virus in Ukraine right now: nearly 300 people have died from the viral strain, and over 65,000 people have been hospitalized. The virus appears to be either a highly aggressive mutation of the globally-circulating H1N1 strain, or a combination of three different influenza strains now circulating in Ukraine. There are numerous reports circulating widely across the internet that cite aerial spraying across Kiev in the days before the new “super flu” outbreak and speculation that this was an intentional bioweapon attack. So far, there is no credible information supporting this theory, but it remains a possibility to be researched further.

Ukraine Plague: Mutant Black Lung Virus – (Right Soup – November 18, 2009)
There has been nary a peep in the mainstream media about the horror occurring in the Ukraine…people are dying at an alarming rate from something- and it isn’t the swine flu. Some think the flu may have mutated and turned far deadlier; the sick die quickly – and their lungs are black like plague victims. Russia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, countries that border Ukraine, have already launched health checks on Ukrainians entering their territory. Slovakia has closed two of five border crossings. There is much fear that whatever the disease is, it will spread across Europe.

Has the Ukraine Mutation Spread to the U.S.? Hemorrhaged Lungs Found in Autopsies – (Examiner – November 25, 2009)
A county medical examiner in Iowa has come forward to inform the public of the results of autopsies that point to bleeding in the lungs, just as in the fatal cases in the Ukraine and Norway. According to Professor Victor Bachinsky, PHD, head of the Chernivtsi regional forensic bureau, the mutated form of the swine flu present in the Ukraine causes the lungs to bleed, and in essence, the total destruction of the lungs. H1N1 mutations have been identified around the world, including Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Ukraine, and here in the United States. Currently identified mutations include a strain that is resistant to Tamiflu and the strain that causes bleeding in the lungs.

Pork Safe to Eat Despite Infection Found in Pigs – (China Daily – November 23, 2009)
Swine at a slaughterhouse in Heilongjiang province tested positive for the A/H1N1 flu virus last Thursday, the Ministry of Agriculture revealed over the weekend. Four positive samples were discovered at the abattoir in Shuangcheng by a local flu laboratory, China News Service quoted a ministry statement as saying. Officials suggested the cause of infection could have been the animals’ close contact with humans during transportation. Gene sequence analysis showed the virus suffered by the pigs is a 99-percent match with the human H1N1 strain. No mutation was found, the government statement said. It is the first such infection in China, although there have already been reports in 13 other countries and regions, Beijing Times reported yesterday. Experts with the World Health Organization (WHO) insist well-prepared pork is still safe to eat because the virus cannot survive temperatures of 70 C and above.


TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Spies Search for BS-Detecting Software
China Drought Risks Food, Stability


Spies Search for BS-Detecting Software – (Wired – November 25, 2009)
Polygraphs? Cheats beat them all the time. Really, there’s no surefire way to figure out whether someone is trustworthy or not. That’s something America’s spies would like to change. Iarpa, the intelligence community’s mad science division, is holding a researchers’ conference to discuss the agency’s latest program. It’s called TRUST, short for “Tools for Recognizing Useful Signals of Trustworthiness.” The idea is to bring a little confidence to the art of BS-detection by developing “sensors and software” that can “amplify our own useful signals in order to more accurately predict trust and trustworthiness in others.”

China Drought Risks Food, Stability – (Bloomberg – November 25, 2009)
China’s long-term food security and social stability may be threatened unless the world’s largest grain producer invests more to fight the effects of drought, McKinsey & Co. said. Extreme drought caused by a “high climate change scenario” could more than triple crop losses in northeast China to 13.8 million metric tons, or 12% of the total, by 2030, according to McKinsey. This scenario assumes a doubling in severity and frequency of extreme drought. China’s government has made maintaining social stability a key policy aim and Beijing has bought commodities including corn and soybeans from farmers this year to help bolster rural incomes and lift grain output. Nationwide, the number of so-called mass incidents — everything from ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang to strikes and riots — rose to about 90,000 last year from more than 80,000 in 2007, according to a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who studies unrest.


TRENDS OF GOVERNMENT

Too Big Not to Fail
10 States Hurtling Toward California-Level Disaster
Hong Kong is New Target of U.S. Crackdown on Taxes
Swedish Government Makes It Illegal for Schools to Teach Religious
   Doctrine as if It Were True


Too Big Not to Fail – (Wrisley – November, 2009)
The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn’t care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn’t “spin.” However, the current administration is flat-out lying about the employment figures issued in the government’s name and they appear to not understand the epochal energy scarcity problem the whole world faces, or its implications for industrial economies. The extreme right is, if anything, even more childishly delusional.

10 States Hurtling Toward California-Level Disaster – (The Atlantic – November 11, 2009)
California was only the beginning. Nine more states are “barreling toward an economic disaster” according to a new Pew poll that sees deep service cuts and temporary tax hikes to avoid fiscal calamity. This only underscores the fact that even though 70% of stimulus spending has gone to fill in Medicaid and state budget holes, our states are still in dire straits because state tax revenue is collapsing across the country. See more data or acceess the entire report on the Pew website.

Hong Kong is New Target of U.S. Crackdown on Taxes – (Bloomberg – November 13, 2009)
Hong Kong is a new target of U.S. prosecutors pursuing a global campaign against evaders of federal taxes, spurred by data acquired in their crackdown on Swiss banks. The IRS is analyzing a trove of information from more than 7,500 taxpayers who voluntarily disclosed their offshore accounts this year to avoid prosecution. To qualify, clients had to disclose everyone who handled their money overseas and everywhere it went. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said the IRS is hiring 800 people in the next year and increasing staff in eight overseas offices, including Hong Kong. It also will open offices in Beijing, Sydney and Panama City.

Swedish Government Makes It Illegal for Schools to Teach Religious Doctrine as if It Were True – (Irreligion.org – August 4, 2009)
The Swedish government has announced plans to clamp down on religious education. It will soon become illegal even for private faith schools to teach religious doctrines as if they were true. In an interesting twist on the American experience, prayer will remain legal in schools – after all, it has no truth value. But everything that takes place on the curriculum’s time will have to be secular. The law is being presented in Sweden as if it mostly concerned fundamentalist Christian sects in the backwoods; but the Christian Democratic party, which represents such people if anyone does, is perfectly happy with the new regulation. There is little doubt that combating Islamic fundamentalism is the underlying aim, especially in conjunction with another new requirement that all independent schools declare all their funding sources


CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Vatican Looks to Heavens for Signs of Alien Life
Water Found on Moon


Vatican Looks to Heavens for Signs of Alien Life – (Associated Press – November 10, 2009)
Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church. Recently the Vatican hosted a five-day conference that gathered astronomers, physicists, biologists and other experts to discuss the budding field of astrobiology – the study of the origin of life and its existence elsewhere in the cosmos.

Water Found on Moon – (New York Times – November 14, 2009)
There is water on the Moon, scientists stated unequivocally – not just a little bit, but a significant amount. The confirmation of scientists’ suspicions is welcome news to explorers who might set up home on the lunar surface and to scientists who hope that the water, in the form of ice accumulated over billions of years, holds a record of the solar system’s history.


DEMOGRAPHICS

Is There Such a Thing as Agro-Imperialism?
China’s Sprint for the Gold
Lining up at Midnight
Renters Becoming Latest Victims as Foreclosure Crisis Widens


Is There Such a Thing as Agro-Imperialism? – (New York Times – November 16, 2009)
An emerging test of the world’s food resources has begun to take shape over the last year, largely outside the bounds of international scrutiny. A variety of factors – some transitory, like the spike in food prices, and others intractable, like global population growth and water scarcity – have created a market for farmland, as rich but resource-deprived nations in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere seek to outsource their food production to places where fields are cheap and abundant. Because much of the world’s arable land is already in use – almost 90%, according to one estimate, if you take out forests and fragile ecosystems – the search has led to the countries least touched by development: those in Africa. A few transactions have received significant publicity, like Kenya’s deal to lease nearly 100,000 acres to the Qatari government in return for financing a new port, or South Korea’s agreement to develop almost 400 square miles in Tanzania. But many other land deals, of near-unprecedented size, have been sealed with little fanfare.

China’s Sprint for the Gold – (New York Times – November 14, 2009)
Chinese per capita income is still small – about $3,200, which is less than 10% that of the United States and slightly more than that of Iraq – and many farmers earn less than a dollar a day. Yet China is also home to the fastest-growing number of billionaires. Ask the world’s luxury brands where sales are holding up, and where they are expanding, and they will tell you here, in China. Every big city is building five-star hotels and the country’s newest airports make America’s look shabby. In Washington, China is now viewed as both an economic rival and an increasingly important partner in trying to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. But even leading economists confess to difficulty at fully understanding the role of a nation dominated by state-owned companies.

Lining up at Midnight – (My Budget – November 16, 2009)
In financial circles, it appears that the recession is over. On the other hand, you have 35.8 million Americans, roughly 11% of our population, on food stamps. To this group the recession is still very much alive. “There are families not eating at the end of the month,” said Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart Stores, “and literally lining up at midnight at Wal-Mart stores waiting to buy food when paychecks or government checks land in their accounts.” See also, “One in Seven Americans Short of Food”.

Renters Becoming Latest Victims as Foreclosure Crisis Widens – (Washington Post – November 23, 2009)
A new wave of foreclosures stands to hurt people who may have never taken out a mortgage: renters. In cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where many investors are carrying upside-down mortgages on large rental buildings, some tenants are watching their homes fall apart along with the financing. The impact on tenants is uneven. New York City officials say the owners of the vast majority of buildings in foreclosure there are likely to maintain decent standards of living. Yet, of the 200 properties on the city housing agency’s 2008 list of buildings with the worst maintenance problems, at least 77 had been in foreclosure. In buildings where a landlord is struggling to make loan payments, maintenance is often the first thing to go. Garbage can pile up, lists of overdue repairs get longer, and vermin multiply.


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Which Big Country Will Default First?
Lending Declines as Bank Jitters Persist
Commercial Real Estate Crisis Looming for U.S.
Banks Hasten to Adopt New Loan Rules
The Irresistible Rise of the Renminbi


Which Big Country Will Default First? – (Asia Times – November 11, 2009)
Of the world’s six largest economies, three have budget and public debt positions that if allowed to fester will push those nations into bankruptcy (the seventh largest, Italy, also has a budget and debt position that is highly vulnerable, but its problems appear chronic rather than acute). Given the proclivities of modern politicians for delaying pain and avoiding problems, it is likely that festering is just what those positions will do. So which major country, the United States, Japan or Britain, will default first on its foreign debt?

Lending Declines as Bank Jitters Persist – (Wall St. Journal – November 25, 2009)
The FDIC’s quarterly banking profile, which analyzed data from 8,099 federally insured banks, reported that 552 financial institutions, with combined assets of $345.9 billion, were on the government’s problem list at the end of September, up from 416 with $299.8 billion of assets at the end of June. That means roughly 7% of all U.S. banks are on the list. Many of those banks are expected to return to health, but the FDIC is seeing a jump in the number of failures. The FDIC said its deposit-insurance fund, which backstops trillions of dollars in deposit accounts, fell to a negative $8.2 billion at the end of September, an $18.6 billion drop from the end of June. The FDIC said one reason for the decrease was that the agency shifted $21.7 billion from the fund into reserves for bank failures over the next 12 months.

Commercial Real Estate Crisis Looming for U.S. – (Bloomberg – November 11, 2009)
Commercial real estate prices have fallen by 30% to 50% from their peaks, according to Randall Zisler estimated yesterday in a report. The plunge has wiped out the equity in most real-estate deals that relied on debt financing since 2005. Zisler, whose firm focuses on real-estate investment, estimated that building owners will default on $500 billion to $750 billion of mortgage debt. This equals as much as 54% of the $1.4 trillion in loans that will come due in four years, by his count.

Banks Hasten to Adopt New Loan Rules – (Wall St. Journal – November 12, 2009)
Banks are moving quickly to restructure commercial mortgages under new U.S. guidelines that are more forgiving of battered property values and can help banks avoid bigger losses. Lenders around the country are planning to review loans now considered nonperforming to determine if they can be reclassified under the guidelines announced Oct. 30 by bank, thrift and credit-union regulators. Matthew Anderson, partner at research firm Foresight Analytics, estimates that about two-thirds of the $800 billion in commercial real-estate loans held by banks that will mature between now and 2014 are underwater, meaning the loan amount exceeds the value of the property. The flexibility extended by regulators will apply to $110 billion to $130 billion of these loans, he said.

The Irresistible Rise of the Renminbi – (Project Syndicate – November 24, 2009)
No one questions that the renminbi is on the rise. For the same reasons that the global economy has become more multipolar, the international monetary system will become more multipolar, with several currencies sharing reserve-currency status. And no one questions, given China’s size and growth prospects, that one day the renminbi will be an important international currency. The question is when. Can the renminbi become a major international currency in as little as a decade? Only time will tell. But the United States’ own history suggests that the process can be completed more quickly than is sometimes supposed. A ten year schedule, while ambitious, is not impossible.


JUST FOR FUN

Beatles Live Performance Coming to Venue Near You
Taiwan Unveils Flush Toilet that Records User’s Health Data


Beatles Live Performance Coming to Venue Near You – (Pocket Lint – November 3, 2009)
That’s a headline you could read in the not too distant future thanks to a new technology that is hoping to change the way we listen to music forever. The concept, created by Zenph Studios and called “Re-Performance”, works not by re-mastering music in the traditional sense but by capturing an artist’s or instrument’s musical essence or DNA and allowing it to be controlled and re-performed. Studying how artists like Rachmaninoff and jazz pianist Art Tatum performed, the company has created a software algorithm that allows them to re-perform, not just their original performances, but anything they want. (Don’t miss the audio clips demonstrating “before” and “after”.)

Taiwan Unveils Flush Toilet that Records User’s Health Data – (Monsters and Critics – November 23, 2009)
A group of Taiwan university students have invented a flush toilet which not only accept humane waste, but also gives something back. The toilet bowl invented by students from the Kun Shan University and Southern Taiwan University measures the user’s weight, body fat and heart rate. The measurement, taking only 30 seconds, begins as soon as a person sits down, (so it’s a “before” reading). A small printer on top of the water tank behind the bowl prints out the measurements. The measuring is made by small plastic balls embedded into the toilet seat, and are linked to a computer and the printer. The printer on the water tank can also play recorded music. Multi-function flush toilets have already been invented in Japan and China.


A FINAL QUOTE…

Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror.
– Herb Brody, senior editor for Technology Review


A special thanks to: Falk Beindorf, Tom Burgin, Kevin Clark, Kevin Foley, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Stu Rose, Paul Saffo, Schwartz Report, Heidi Waltos 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.
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Edited by John L. Petersen
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www.arlingtoninstitute.org

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Publications

A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen

Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”

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Volume 12, Number 7 – 11/15/09

Volume 12, Number 9 – 12/15/09