Volume 13, Number 17 – 9/15/10

Volume 13, Number 17 – 9/15/10


  • The fine-structure constant, which characterizes the strength of the force between electrically charged particles, may not actually be constant after all. Rather, it seems to vary from place to place within the universe.
  • Cells from India’s red rain of 2001 multiply under extreme heat – and they don’t contain DNA.
  • Scientists are reporting new evidence that the fat tissue – far from being a dormant storage depot for surplus calories – is an active organ that sends chemical signals to other parts of the body, perhaps increasing the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and other diseases.
  • Sedna, a recently detected dwarf planet, has a 12,000-year orbit around the Sun. It’s a mystery why Sedna has such an elongated orbit. Sedna’s discoverer, Mike Brown of Caltech, noted that Sedna’s location doesn’t make sense.

by John L. Petersen

I had the first dream of its kind in my life the other morning. I dreamed I was having a dream. It was fascinating just at face value, but quite obvious where it came from. The previous evening I had seen the movie Inception in IMAX and – for the second time – I was impressed.

Some of you readers are responsible for this little novelty. When Inception first was released, knowing of my interest in premonitory dreaming, many of you sent me notes encouraging me to see this film>. Yielding to all of this good advice, we drove 35 miles down to a theatre that was showing the film and . . . I was blown away!

It was very intelligent, a mystery, had action, and drama, all tied up in a fascinating (and believable) sci-fi package. The plot moves quickly and had enough twists and subtle segues that I wanted to see it again. Good idea. Much richer the second time. I recommend it.

The next morning my wife, Diane, sent me this link to a Huffington Post piece reviewing a new book: Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11. Bonnie McEneaney, the book’s author, opened the piece saying:

“On September 10, 2001, I was a happily married wife and mother of four children. My husband, Eamon McEneaney, was a U.S. Hall of Fame lacrosse player and Cantor Fitzgerald employee working on the 105th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. That summer, however, I did have a concern. My husband kept repeating that he was soon going to die; he also told me and others about a terrorist attack he anticipated at work. Only a week before, he had assured me, “Bonnie, I just want you to know that I can handle my death now.””

After the events of 9/11 she heard similar stories from many friends and acquaintances and “started taking notes”. It looks like a very interesting book.

NB: a couple of years after 9/11 I had run into psychologists, therapists, and organizations (like the International Association for Jungian Studies) which had gathered almost 300 case studies of individuals who had had dreams of the events of 9/11 that were clearly precognizant.

I have a number of friends who have almost died – or seemingly died – who talk very graphically about experiencing quite another reality and getting to make a decision about whether to come back to this life or continue on in that space. These near-death experiences (NDEs) are common enough that for me, at least, it’s clear that it all doesn’t end when we depart this context.

Now, Dr. Pim van Lommel has written a book on the science of NDEs: Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience. It is derived from the study Dr. van Lommel and his fellow researchers published in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. The article caused an international sensation as it was the first scientifically rigorous study of this phenomenon. The book has already sold over 125,000 copies in Europe. A good friend recommends it highly. I’m just into the book and it looks quite provocative.

The most moving book that I’ve read lately is The Three Sisters of the Tao: Essential Conversations with Chinese Medicine, I Ching, and Feng Shui, by Terah Kathryn Collins. Nothwithstanding its title, this fascinating book is not really about Chinese medicine, the I Ching and feng shui, but is rather an extraction of the common and compatible essentials from each of those disciplines that have direct applications for living a more meaningful life. I found it short, succinct, powerful, and very helpful. Terah Collins is a very well-known feng shui authority who kind of woke up one morning and saw the common threads throughout all of these Eastern disciplines. It’s really great. (I’m going to meet with her this weekend and I’m looking forward to that!).

Speaking of “hidden” meaning, there’s another book that I’m almost finished with that exposes huge hidden meanings: The Hidden Records by Wayne Herschel. This beautiful, full-color high-quality tome will walk you step-by-step (visually) through the logic that suggests that ALL of the pyramids of Egypt are a duplication of major stars in the heavens. Starting with Orion and the Pleiades and then working systematically through more constellations, Herschel very convincingly builds the case for the positioning as well as the size of the pyramids mimicking the landscape of the heavens.

I ‘m convinced! Too much here for coincidence. Now think about that. What was going on back then that encouraged the Egyptians to build a large-scale model of the sky on the ground? Very interesting possibilities, there.

While we’re talking about books, friend James Howard Kunstler continues his always provocative take on what might be on our horizon. The Witch of Hebron is the second of Jim’s novels spinning out the way life in upper New York might emerge if, after 2012 (or some such upcoming year) there would be a global financial failure exacerbated by energy and other big time social problems. His World Made by Hand was a great story about life with no oil (lots of horses) and the kind of issues that would attend such a transformation. The Witch of Hebron is a sequel, of sorts, running out a great scenario of how we all might have to adapt to a new reality.

Jim’s books are provocative but not depressing – raising interesting ideas in an always fascinating plot.

2012? There are all kinds of 2012 books out there these days – even one that I wrote! There’s another 2012 book that I contributed to, Transforming Through 2012, which is an anthology that features some rather well-known people who have made names for themselves thinking and writing about what might be coming up. In addition to my chapter (of course), there are some very thoughtful contributions that explain why there are good reasons to believe that we are about to experience a significant transition to a new era in the coming handful of years. This is a good collection of perspectives that will almost certainly surface new ideas of what we’re up against and what you might do to prepare for the shift. Sorry, but for those of you who think the world will end in two years, this book will not give you much encouragement.


A Search Service that Can Peer into the Future – (Technology Review – August 25, 2010)
Showing news stories on a timeline has been tried before. But Time Explorer, a prototype news search engine created in Yahoo’s Barcelona research lab, generates timelines that stretch into the future as well as the past. Time Explorer’s results page is dominated by an interactive timeline illustrating how the volume of articles for a particular search term has changed over time. The most relevant articles appear on the timeline, showing when they were published. If the user moves the timeline into the future, articles appear positioned at any point in time the text might have referred to. This provides a new way to discover articles, and also a way to check up on past predictions.

David McCandless: The Beauty of Data Visualization – (TED – August, 2010)
David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut – and it may just change the way we see the world.


Ye Cannae Change the Laws of Physics – Or Can You? – (Economist – August 31, 2010)
The fine structure constant which goes by the symbol alpha has been called a “magic number” and its value “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics”. If it were a mere 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars would not be able to sustain the nuclear reactions that synthesise carbon and oxygen and carbon-based life would not exist. Why alpha takes on the precise value it has is a deep scientific mystery. A new piece of astrophysical research may, however, have uncovered a crucial piece of the puzzle: the fine-structure constant may not actually be constant after all. Rather, it seems to vary from place to place within the universe.

Is an Unseen Binary Companion of the Sun Sending Comets Towards Earth? – (Daily Galaxy – September 2, 2010)
Some scientists believe that something could be hidden beyond the edge of our solar system a distance of about 50,000 to 100,000 AU (about 1-2 light years), somewhat beyond the Oort cloud. Named “Nemesis” or “The Death Star,” this undetected object could be a red or brown dwarf star, or an even darker presence several times the mass of Jupiter. If our Sun were part of a binary system in which two gravitationally-bound stars orbit a common center of mass, their interaction could disturb the Oort Cloud on a periodic basis, sending comets whizzing towards us. Sedna, a recently detected dwarf planet, has a 12,000-year orbit around the Sun and may provide some clues to the hidden object. It’s a mystery why Sedna has such an elongated orbit. Sedna’s discoverer, Mike Brown of Caltech, noted that Sedna’s location doesn’t make sense.

Scientists Create ‘Dry Water’ – (Telegraph – August 26, 2010)
“Dry water” resembles powdered sugar and could revolutionise the way chemicals are used. Each particle of dry water contains a water droplet surrounded by a sandy silica coating. In fact, 95% of dry water is ”wet” water. Scientists believe dry water could be used to combat global warming by soaking up and trapping the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Tests show that it is more than three times better at absorbing carbon dioxide than ordinary water. Dry water may also prove useful for storing methane and expanding the energy source potential of the natural gas.

India’s Red Rain Contained Life Not Seen on Earth – (Herald Sun – September 3, 2010)
Cells from India’s red rain of 2001 multiply under extreme heat – and they don’t contain DNA. The first theories to emerge were that it was simply sand or dust picked up from a desert, but a local physicist, Godfrey Louis, found that under a microscope, the water contained cells that looked like bugs. Five years later, he published a theory suggesting the bugs that turned the rain red in India may have come from a comet that exploded above the Earth and seeded clouds. The cells – inert at room temperature – begin to reproduce at 121C. While many spores on Earth can survive that kind of extreme heat, none have yet been discovered that can reproduce in those conditions, much less require it to begin reproducing. The only other lifeforms that occur or Earth without DNA are “prions”, best known as the cause of Mad Cow Disease.


First Biosynthetic Corneas Implanted – (Web MD – August 25, 2010)
Corneas made in the lab using genetically engineered human collagen could restore sight to millions of visually impaired people waiting for transplants from human donors, researchers say. In a newly released study, investigators from Canada and Sweden reported results from the first 10 people in the world treated with the biosynthetic corneas. Two years after having the corneas implanted, six of the 10 patients had improved vision. Nine of the 10 experienced cell and nerve regeneration, meaning that corneal cells and nerves grew into the implant.

Yoga Shows Potential to Ward Off Certain Diseases – (Live Science – August 25, 2010)
In a new study, women who had practiced yoga regularly for at least two years were found to have lower levels of inflammation in their bodies than did women who only recently took up the activity. Inflammation is an immune response and can be beneficial when your body is fighting off infection, but chronically high levels of inflammation are known to play a role in certain conditions, including asthma, cardiovascular disease and depression. Inflammation is known to be boosted by stressful situations. But when seasoned yoga practitioners were exposed to stress (such as dipping their feet in ice water), they experienced less of an increase in their inflammatory response than yoga novices did.

New Evidence that Fat Cells are Not Just Dormant Storage Depots- (Kurzweil AI – September 2, 2010)
Scientists are reporting new evidence that the fat tissue – far from being a dormant storage depot for surplus calories – is an active organ that sends chemical signals to other parts of the body, perhaps increasing the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and other diseases. They are reporting discovery of 20 new hormones and other substances not previously known to be secreted into the blood by human fat cells and verification that fat secretes dozens of hormones and other chemical messengers.

Five-minute Scan to Check Child’s Brain Development – (BBC News – September 9, 2010)
“From a five-minute scan we get 13,000 measurements of functional brain connections,” says Dr Nico Dosenbach, who led the study. “Then we can take the whole pattern for a given individual and boil it down essentially to a single measure which tells us something about an individual and in our case we were interested in how functionally mature an individual’s brain is.” The tool can be used to place children on a “maturation curve” just like we do with height and weight. The scientists suggest the technique might one day be used to spot early signs of disorders such as schizophrenia or autism.


Scientists Decode Words from Brain Signals – (News Wise – September 6, 2010)
In an early step toward letting severely paralyzed people speak with their thoughts, University of Utah researchers translated brain signals into words using two grids of 16 microelectrodes implanted beneath the skull but atop the brain. Using the experimental microelectrodes, the scientists recorded brain signals as the patient repeatedly read each of 10 words that might be useful to a paralyzed person: yes, no, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, hello, goodbye, more and less. Then they tried to identify which brain signals represented each of the 10 words.

Column of Molten Rock Found Under Yellowstone – (Fox News – September 9, 2010)
A plume of molten rock rising from deep beneath Yellowstone National Park is probably what is fueling the region’s volcanic activity, as well as tectonic plate oddities across the Pacific Northwest, new research suggests. Building on a growing body of evidence, Mathias Obrebski of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues created the most convincing picture to date of a Yellowstone mantle plume — one that extends from about 621 miles below the surface of the Earth. Obrebski’s team used data from a new, dense deployment of seismometers, called the Earthscope USArray, to get a high-resolution image of the once-elusive mantle. Chemical and physical volcanology evidence suggested a plume, but this is the first seismic proof.


The World is Facing a Mass Extinction Event – (Perth Now – September 3, 2010)
Findings, recently published in the international journal Science, showed a major extinction event was currently underway that had the potential to be more severe than any others in history. The last mass extinction was an estimated 65 million years ago when an asteroid smashed into Mexico and wiped out the dinosaurs. Macquarie University palaeobiologist Dr. John Alroy said a new mass extinction wouldn’t be the result of a single horrific event such as an asteroid. Instead, it would be the result of a factors from introduced foreign species, run-offs from fertilisers and pesticides, pollution and deforestation, he said. Climate change and an accelerated growth in the worldwide population were also playing a part. But Alroy said the current situation was not yet as bad as the worst mass extinction 250 million years ago, known as Permian-Triassic extinction or The Great Dying.

Inbred Bumblebees Face Extinction Threat – BBC News – September 6, 2010)
Some of the UK’s rarest bumblebees are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of inbreeding, research suggests. The lack of genetic diversity is making the bees more vulnerable to a number of threats, including parasitic infection, say scientists in Scotland. The inbreeding is being caused because some populations of bees are becoming increasingly isolated as a result of habitat loss.


Computers that Read Minds are Being Developed by Intel – (Telegraph – August 22, 2010)
New technology could allow people to dictate letters and search the internet simply by thinking, according to researchers at Intel who are behind the project. Unlike current brain-controlled computers, which require users to imagine making physical movements to control a cursor on a screen, the new technology will be capable of directly interpreting words as they are thought. Intel’s scientists are creating detailed maps of the activity in the brain for individual words which can then be matched against the brain activity of someone using the computer, allowing the machine to determine the word they are thinking.

Memristors Take Big Step Towards Faster, Low-Power Memory – (Wired – August 31, 2010)
In 1971, Leon Chua, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, first postulated that the memristor could be the fourth basic element in electronics – the other three being the capacitor, resistor and inductor. But it wasn’t until 2008 that HP researchers said they had created the first working memristor, or ‘memory resistor,’ which could usher in extremely efficient data storage that could eventually make instant-on, low-power PCs a reality. HP is now just three years away from bringing it to market as a new product called ReRAM, for Resistive Random Access Memory. ReRAM can read and write memory bits much faster than flash, even as it consumes a tenth of the energy as flash memory.


MIT Inventors Create Robot Swarm for Mopping Up Oil Spills – (Fast Codesign – August 25, 2010)
MIT calls it Seaswarm. A patented hydrophobic nanofabric devours as much as 20 times its own weight in oil without collecting water. To capture the oil, the nanofabric’s draped over a conveyor belt that’s then dispatched on the surface of the ocean like “a rolling carpet”. The robot’s entirely autonomous; it swims along, powered by a pair of solar panels. Skeptics might wonder how they’re different from the skimmers deployed on the Gulf this summer to trifling effect. (Some 800 vessels collected just 3% of the surface oil.) Researchers estimate that 5,000 Seaswarms working around the clock for a month would be able to scrub an area the size of the Gulf oil spill.

The Boss is Robotic – and Rolling Up behind You – (New York Times – September 4, 2010)
For years, the military and law enforcement agencies have used specialized robots to disarm bombs and carry out other dangerous missions. Now, with rapidly falling costs, the next frontiers are the office, the hospital and the home. Mobile robots are being used in hundreds of hospitals nationwide as the eyes, ears and voices of doctors who cannot be there in person. They are being rolled out in workplaces, allowing employees in disparate locales to communicate more easily and letting managers supervise employees from afar. And they are being tested as caregivers in assisted-living centers. Skeptics say these machines do not represent a great improvement over video teleconferencing. But advocates say the experience is substantially better, shifting control of space and time to the remote user.


China Plans Big Bus to Drive over Cars – (National Public Radio – August 27, 2010)
A Beijing suburb will soon begin testing a new futuristic bus that would be built on tall legs – allowing bus passengers to drive above the cars on the highway. The vehicle travels on rails and straddles two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to drive 15 feet below where its passengers sit. It will hold 1,200 people and travel up to 50 miles per hour. Its $7.5 million price tag is roughly one-tenth of what it costs to build a subway of the same length.

Personalized Energy Systems for Heating, Cooling, and Powering Cars – (Kurweil AI – September 2, 2010)
MIT researchers have developed a new concept of personalized energy systems, in which individual homes and small businesses produce their own energy for heating, cooling and powering cars. Such a system would consist of rooftop solar energy panels to produce electricity for heating, cooking, lighting, and to charge the batteries on the homeowners’ electric cars. Surplus electricity would go to an “electrolyzer,” a device that breaks down ordinary water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. Both would be stored in tanks. At night, when the solar panels cease production, the system would shift gears, feeding the stored hydrogen and oxygen into a fuel cell that produces electricity (and clean drinking water as a byproduct). Such a system would produce clean electricity 24/7. That’s the concept; now they’re working on the underlying technology to make it a reality.

Guinea Pig Poop Powers Peruvian Villages – (Wired – September 6, 2010)
The residents of Pachacamac, a Peruvian village outside Lima, have almost one thousand fluffy, tailless guinea pigs in an enclosure. They’re not pets though: instead, the animals are a source of renewable energy that powers the entire town. Before you get images of hamster-wheel factories of exhausted rodents, all the animals have to do is munch on their diet of specially enriched plant waste, and then poop it out. The small, dry pellets are then fed into a bio-digester that’s based on a Chinese model, but adapted by local scientists. Water is added, and the result is both methane gas and a brown liquid plant nutrient.


They Crawl, They Bite, They Baffle Scientists – (New York Times – August 30, 2010)
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the common bedbug as merely a pestiferous six-legged blood-sucker. Think of it, rather, as Cimex lectularius, international arthropod of mystery. In comparison to other insects that bite man, or even only walk across man’s food, nibble man’s crops or bite man’s farm animals, very little is known about the insect with a Latin name that means “bug of the bed” and that does not transmit disease. Ask any expert why the bugs disappeared for 40 years, why they came roaring back in the late 1990s, even why they do not spread disease, and you repeatedly hear one answer: “Good question.”

N.Y. 3rd in Coal Health Damage – (ROC Now – September 1, 2010)
According to a Clean Air Task Force report, the total cost of health problems related to coal plants is more than $100 billion a year in the United States. New York ranks third for total number of deaths, hospital admissions and heart attacks projected, but it doesn’t make it into the top 15 states for per capita mortality risk. But the top metropolitan area in the country affected by the pollution includes New York City and parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with an expected 799 deaths, 698 hospital admissions and 1,541 heart attacks this year. The “Toll from Coal” report found that new pollution-control technology has helped cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the plants. However, there are hundreds of coal-fired power plants that don’t have the “scrubber” technology.


Self-Assembling Solar Cells Recycle Themselves Repeatedly, Just Like Plant Cells – (Pop Sci – September 5, 2010)
Plants are extremely efficient converters of light into energy, more or less setting the bar for researchers creating photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. So researchers are constantly trying to mimic the tricks that millions of years of evolution and development have taught to plant biology. Now, a team of MIT scientists believe they’ve done it, creating a synthetic, self-assembling chloroplast that can be broken down and reassembled repeatedly, restoring solar cells that are damaged by the sun. To recreate this unique regenerative ability, the MIT team devised a novel set of self-assembling molecules that use photons to shake electrons loose in the form of electricity. The system contains seven different compounds, including carbon nanotubes that provide structure and a means to conduct the electricity away from the cells, synthetic phospholipids that form discs that also provide structural support, and other molecules that self-assemble into “reaction centers” that actually interact with the incoming photons to release electrons.


Pentagon Considers Preemptive Strikes as Part of Cyber-defense Strategy – (Washington Post – August 28, 2010)
The Pentagon is developing a range of weapons capabilities, including tools that would allow “attack and exploitation of adversary information systems” and that can “deceive, deny, disrupt, degrade and destroy” information and information systems, according to Defense Department budget documents. But officials are reluctant to use the tools until questions of international law and technical feasibility are resolved, and that has proved to be a major challenge for policymakers. Blocking bad code at the border of its networks is considered to be within the Pentagon’s authority. On the other hand, destroying it in an adversary’s network in another country may cross a line, and officials are trying to articulate a clear policy for such preemptive cyber activity.

Remote Control of Brain Activity Using Ultrasound – (DoD Live – September 1,2010)
Recent advances in neurotechnology have shown that brain stimulation is capable of treating neurological diseases and brain injury, as well as serving platforms around which brain-computer interfaces can be built for various purposes. Several limitations however still pose significant challenges to implementing traditional brain stimulation methods for treating diseases and controlling information processing in brain circuits. To overcome the above limitations, researchers have engineered a novel technology which implements transcranial pulsed ultrasound to remotely and directly stimulate brain circuits without requiring surgery. A portion of the work has been supported by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) to develop methods for encoding sensory data onto the cortex using pulsed ultrasound. Working and conceptual prototypes have been developed in which ballistic helmets can be fitted with ultrasound transducers and microcontroller devices for applications such as long-term alertness, pain reduction, behavior reinforcement and cognitive enhancement.

Software Predicts Criminal Behavior – (ABC News – August 22, 2010)
New crime prediction software being rolled out in the nation’s capital should reduce not only the murder rate, but the rate of many other crimes as well. Developed by Richard Berk, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the software is already used in Baltimore and Philadelphia to predict which individuals on probation or parole are most likely to murder and to be murdered. Beginning several years ago, the researchers assembled a dataset of more than 60,000 various crimes, including homicides. Using an algorithm they developed, they found a subset of people much more likely to commit homicide when paroled or probated. Instead of finding one murderer in 100, the UPenn researchers could identify eight future murderers out of 100.


Stewardship in Government – ( – no date)
Mississauga, Ontario is the third largest city in Ontario and the sixth largest in Canada. The city is one of the few in Canada that is entirely debt-free and has been since 1978 – thanks to the leadership of a mayor who has now been in office for 31 years. Meet “Hurricane Hazel” McCallion who is, among other things, a former professional ice hockey player. In 1991, Mayor McCallion became the first Mayor of a major municipality to submit the annual operating budget to residents for their input and scrutiny. She is also among the first mayors of major municipalities to be openly committed to a pay-as-you-go philosophy. This is the face of politics done right.


Google’s Earth – (New York Times – August 31, 2010)
“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” said the search giant’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, in a recent and controversial interview. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” Do we really desire Google to tell us what we should be doing next? Perhaps we do, though with some rather complicated qualifiers. In this carefully considered op-ed piece, the writer notes, “We have yet to take Google’s measure. We’ve seen nothing like it before, and we already perceive much of our world through it.”

Google and the Search for the Future – (Wall St. Journal – August 14, 2010)
Here’s another take entirely on that same interview with Eric Schmidt.


Sun’s Fluctuations Caused Partial Collapse of Earth’s Atmosphere – ( – August 26, 2010)
As the sun’s energy rises and falls, so goes the Earth’s atmosphere, a new study suggests. These fluctuations in the sun’s energy explain a recent partial collapse of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, which had previously puzzled scientists. A sharp drop in the sun’s ultraviolet radiation levels triggered the collapse, according to a new study. The researchers also found that the sun’s magnetic cycle, which produces differing numbers of sunspots over an approximately 11-year cycle, may vary more than previously thought. The findings may have implications for orbiting satellites, as well as for the International Space Station.

Sun Storm to Hit with ‘Force of 100m Bombs’ – (Australian News – August 25, 2010)
NASA has since rebutted dire reports attributed to it, saying the super sun storm could come “100 years away or just 100 days”. But astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke said, “The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years.” No one really knows what effect the 2012-2013 Solar Max will have on today’s digital-reliant society. US government officials earlier this year took part in a “tabletop exercise” in Boulder, Colorado, to map out what might happen if the Earth was hit with a storm as intense as the 1859 and 1921 storms.


Birthrate Sinks to 100-low as Economy Reels – (San Francisco Chronicle – August 28, 2010)
Forget the Dow and the GDP. Here’s the latest economic indicator: The U.S. birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in at least a century as many people apparently decided they couldn’t afford more mouths to feed. The birthrate dropped for the second year in a row since the recession began in 2007. Births fell 2.6% last year even as the population grew, according to numbers released by the National Center for Health Statistics. The situation is a striking turnabout from 2007, when more babies were born in the United States than any other year in the nation’s history. The recession began that fall, dragging down stocks, jobs and births.

Money Can Buy You Happiness, to a Point – (Associated Press – September 7, 2010)
They say money can’t buy happiness. They’re wrong. At least up to a point. People’s emotional well-being – happiness – increases along with their income up to about $75,000, researchers reported in a recent edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For folks making less than that, said Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton University, “Stuff is so in your face it’s hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment.” Happiness got better as income rose but the effect leveled out at $75,000, Deaton said. On the other hand, their overall sense of success or well-being continued to rise as their earnings grew beyond that point.


Reinhart’s Seven More Years of High Unemployment – (Bloomberg – August 27, 2010)
Cuban-born Carmen Reinhart is the No. 1 ranked female economist worldwide and the only woman listed among the top 50 U.S. economists. She recently presented a paper at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on the prospects for post-crisis growth. The nation has more than a 50% chance of experiencing a lost decade like Japan, when a collapse in land and stock-market prices gave way to economic stagnation and deflation starting in the 1990s according to Reinhart. Her paper and others presented can be found at

Doomsday Warnings of US Apocalypse Gain Ground – (Breitbart – September 12, 2010)
Economists peddling dire warnings that the world’s number one economy is on the brink of collapse, amid high rates of unemployment and a spiraling public deficit, are flourishing. According to a poll by the StrategyOne Institute, some 65% of Americans believe there will be a new recession. And the view that America is on a decline seems rather well ingrained in many people’s minds supported by 65% of people questioned in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published last week.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.

How to Play the Tax Wars – (Wall St. Journal – September 11, 2010)
Not since the Great Depression has Congress had so much tax work to do in so little time. From the income tax to the estate tax, from the alternative minimum tax to levies on capital gains and dividends, nearly every area of individual taxes is in limbo. It gets worse: Lawmakers have only four weeks to tackle these massive issues before Columbus Day, when they adjourn until November. During these weeks, each party will be looking for opportunities to make political theater ahead of the coming elections. The drama will likely slow things further, especially in the Senate, where lately it has been tough to muster a filibuster-proof 60 votes for any measure more controversial than a flag raising. Here are some practical tax strategies. The upshot: by Thanksgiving, you should be making an appointment with your tax preparer to do end-of-year tax planning. This is not the year to skip it.

Thinking Outside the Stocks – (Wall St. Journal – September 4, 2010)
There is always a bull market somewhere. With the stock market continuing to whipsaw and bonds getting ever-pricier, investors are looking further afield for decent returns-and some are finding them. How about abandoned railroad beds, cellular towers, student apartments or parking facilities? Such unglamorous niches are performing well in 2010, even as the Dow industrials limp along. In some cases, private-equity firms, pensions and college endowments, which are cutting their exposure to stocks, are looking into these and other offbeat investments.


My Morning Run – (You Tube – August 24, 2010)
If your morning stretch-and-jog routine is getting a little boring, check out what it could become.


“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

A special thanks to: Pat Karlsson Backe, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Kevin Foley, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Schwartz Report, Stu Rose, Carol Schwartz, Schwartz Report, 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

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Volume 13, Number 17 – 9/15/10

Volume 13, Number 18 – 9/30/10