Volume 13, Number 21 – 11/15/10

Volume 13, Number 21 – 11/15/10


  • Scientists have discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy and extending 25,000 light years up and down from each side of it.
  • A never-before detected strain of virus that killed more than one-third of a monkey colony at a U.S. lab appears to have ‘jumped’ from the animals to sicken a human scientist.
  • With 5% of the worlds population, the United States imprisons 25% of all humans behind bars.
  • In Saginaw, Michigan, the largest private employer will soon be the city government of Beijing.

by John L. Petersen

I’ll be giving a talk that is open to the public on Sunday night in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which is not far from Washington, DC. Jay Hurley has a wonderful general store which also doubles as a community gathering place at least once a month. Jay, also a pilot and airplane builder, was kind enough to invite me to come by this coming Sunday night to muse a bit with his regular group of explorers about what a new world might look like and how we might get from here to there. All are welcome.

Nov 21st, 6:30 PM in The Great Hall at O’Hurley’s General Store, 205 E. Washington St., Shepherdstown, WV

Government Groping

Let me cite a number of events of the past few days that suggest to me that a fundamental shift is happening in our country.

Item 1: A comment from John Whitbeck to the Salon group that I monitor:

“One might have thought that yesterday’s New York court conviction of Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani for the crime of conspiracy to damage a government building, in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, would have given rise to almost universal satisfaction in the United States. After all:

“(I) Under America’s habitually draconian sentencing guidelines, the crime for which Mr. Ghailani, whom the U.S. government clearly considers a “bad guy”, has been convicted guarantees him a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison — and potentially a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole; and

“(ii) The acquittal of Mr. Ghailani on 285 of the 286 charges against him can be interpreted (and presented to the world) as evidence that the United States is not yet a totally totalitarian state where the courts always rubber-stamp whatever convictions the government seeks in a trial with “political” or “national security” connotations — not yet the sort of state where, to quote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “failure is not an option” when the government really needs a conviction or where, to cite former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate, everyone knows that people whom the government really dislikes (or does not dare permit to speak their minds for public consumption) would never be released even if they were found not guilty of all charges asserted against them in court proceedings.

“However, to judge from the New York Times news report and other media coverage which I have seen or read, satisfaction is far from universal. The totalitarian mindset has become so prevalent in the United States over the past decade that prominent people are comfortable arguing publicly against applying the rule of law to persons suspected of involvement in “terrorism” (and, very theoretically, presumed innocent until proven guilty) precisely BECAUSE applying the rule of law cannot guarantee 100% certainty of conviction — a risk presumably not present in the kangaroo “commissions” performed at the law-free zone of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.

“The legal systems of China and Russia used to provide the degree of certainty of a “right result” aspired to by people like Representative Peter King, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. While the U.S. government has the extraordinary chutzpah to continue to lecture China and Russia (and many others) on “human rights”, these countries are, even if slowly and haltingly, taking steps away from totalitarianism while the United States itself is taking giant strides in the opposite direction.

“Democracy and the rule of law used to be widely viewed, at least by Americans, as hallmarks of the United States of America and as its most deeply held values. However, true democracy must risk producing the “wrong result”, as, in most American eyes, in the case of the most democratic elections ever held in the Arab world, the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006. A true rule of law also must risk producing the “wrong result”, as, in many American eyes (even in the absence of any knowledge of the case or the evidence), in the case of the 285 acquittals accorded to Mr. Ghailani — or even if, astonishingly, the jury had dared to acquit him on all charges. If people only support democracy or the rule of law when the results are to their liking, then they do not really believe in democracy or the rule of law.

“What then are the deeply held values of most Americans today?”

That is the big question: what are our most deeply held values?

Item 2: The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That seems pretty straight-forward. You cannot be searched in this country without probable cause and without a warrant issued. Having just come through security in an airport this morning, I’m wondering how it is that this Constitutional amendment is finessed by the government in the case of flying in commercial aircraft.

The fact is, they are not finessing it. Former TSA Director of Security Operations, Mo McGowan said on Fox News“Nobody likes to have their 4th Amendment violated going through a security line, but truth of the matter is, we’re gonna have to do it.”

Item 3: In every one of the states of this country, sexual molestation is a crime. Different states craft their laws variously, but in all cases the descriptions are quite specific and graphic. Here is how Utah’s law is written:

A person is guilty of sexual battery if the person under circumstances not amounting to rape, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, forcible sodomy, sodomy upon a child, forcible sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual assault, or an attempt to commit any of these offenses intentionally touches, whether or not through clothing, the anus, buttocks, or any part of the genitals of another person, or the breast of a female, and the actor’s conduct is under circumstances the actor knows or should know will likely cause affront or alarm to the person touched.

One could quickly go to prison, branded as a sexual criminal if they did any of these things to a stranger.

This is significant, because what is described above is exactly what the US government, through the Transportation Security Administration, is doing to randomly selected individuals in our country’s airports. In the interest of “security” they are groping and feeling the genitals of travelers if the individual chooses not to go through the backscatter x-ray system that explicitly shows the details of their anatomy to the screener. Many people are choosing not to go through the x-ray system because of published warnings by healthcare professionals questioning the safety of the machines.

How is it that it is acceptable for government officials to sexually grope common travelers in a way that is illegal in every state in the country? What are the conditions that make it acceptable for our government to justify this kind of otherwise unacceptable activity?

Criminals and prisoners and suspects are searched in this intrusive way, but we’re not talking here about criminals or terrorists. We’re talking about ordinary citizens who are just trying to get on an airplane.

Let’s leave aside for a moment whether these kinds of probes are effective and serve the presumed purpose that the government claims. Security experts from Israel and within our country suggest that the present process leaves clear options available for smuggling explosives on an airplane that could easily down it in flight. What I want to talk about here are the underlying principles and motivations that are in play in this situation.

Here’s data point four. I was in New York’s Penn Station yesterday and heard an announcement that I had never heard before in a train station. The public message was that roaming security teams could randomly select individuals for searching of their body and their belongings. The operative term here is random. There need be no probable cause; all you needed to be doing is walking through Penn Station.

About a year ago TSA had made an announcement that they were going to start these roving patrols with dogs in train stations and start their random searches. Congressional representatives and personal rights advocates asked about whether there were any identified threats in train stations. The response was that there weren’t yet, but the initiative would keep the terrorists off balance. At that time, they were convinced that absent a specific threat they weren’t to hassle train passengers. Apparently a threat is not required anymore.

If all of the above examples were truly thoughtful responses to pressing threats, it might be another issue, but they’re not. As I’ve recounted in this space in the past, the literal threat of terrorism is so much less than the danger of electrocuting yourself in your bathroom that it is impossible to justify the extraordinary costs and measures that have been put in place to seemingly defend against it. In a very real sense the terrorists have won — we have become so terrorized by a single event that we have expended billions and billions of dollars in processes and measures supposedly designed to eliminate all possibilities of threat. And many of those measures – particularly those used in our airports — are discounted by the Israeli security people, who are the best in that business in the world.

Keep in mind that this piece of our government spent years searching travelers for manicure scissors, considering them as potential weapons that could be used to hijack an aircraft. I remember one poor soul thoughtfully considering whether he would allow me to take fingernail clippers on a airplane . . . “because they have sharp edges”.

There are a number of things that could be said about this situation. One could reasonably suggest that in this case the government generally sees its citizens as threats. Think about it: why, out of everyone else in an airport, would only the TSA folks all wear latex inspection gloves – even when checking identification? The cues are all wrong — they clearly believe that interfacing with travelers presents a threat to their well-being. It’s as though they needed to protect themselves from us.

Others have also argued that this agency (that now has 65,000 employees) has too much funding and is a prime example of “Parkinson’s second law” — expenditures rise to meet income. If they had less funding, it certainly would cramp their style, I suppose.

But, what’s more interesting to me is to contemplate the environment that allows all of this aberrant behavior to transpire in the first place. What changed that allowed the leaders of our country to think that all of the above and, for example, torturing prisoners of war – even though is against common decency and international law – is acceptable? What’s going on here?

It’s fear. Simply fear. When people are fearful, things become acceptable that otherwise are not. They do things that are inhuman and demeaning. They revert to responses that are common to lesser developed societies. They move down the development ladder or spiral and operate from far more basic perspectives. They become less civilized. Like love, fear is contagious. If you drive apprehension into a social system it will breed upon itself. If you keep telling people that the situation is dangerous, the presumed threats will become “real”, and you’ll become acutely aware of all of the things that “could” go badly or turn against you. In a sense, all of the possibilities are out there and certainly can be activated – all we need to do is think about them and give feelings and energy to them.

If you believe, as I do, that your consciousness plays a causal role in shaping and manifesting the reality that shows up around you, then I can guarantee that if you get a lot of people seriously worrying about bad things that might happen . . . they will. There is good reason to also believe that the larger systems of this planet – weather, earthquakes, etc. — mimic the energetics of the general human population. The worse we feel and act, the worse everything else becomes. Conversely, the better we feel about ourselves and the general situation, the better things will be.

So, it seems counterproductive, don’t you think, to advocate fear? Nevertheless, that seems to be the only approach that government is able to contemplate. Get very fearful and defensive. Keep the threat level at orange . . . where it’s been for years. Tell people to worry.

This general approach needs to change as things tend to get better or worse – not stay the same. We fuel the system, no matter how we feel. Since fear just generates bad things, maybe we need a law that forbids the government (or other institutions) from promoting fear. Now, that would be interesting!

So, whether we’re talking about ourselves as individuals, our families, workplaces or society, the key to a new future that we can all look forward to is to learn to live without fear. The only way to do that, by the way, is to live in the present.

As Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.


Fermilab is Building a ‘Holometer’ to Determine Once and for All Whether Reality Is Just an Illusion – (Pop Sci – October 21, 2010)
Researchers at Fermilab are trying to either prove or disprove the somewhat mind-bending notion that the third dimension doesn’t exist at all, and that the 3-D universe we think we live in is nothing more than a hologram. To do so, they are building the most precise clock ever created. The universe-as-hologram theory is predicated on the idea that spacetime is not perfectly smooth, but becomes discrete and pixelated as you zoom in further and further, like a low-res digital image. This idea isn’t novel; recent experiments in black-hole physics have offered evidence that this may be the case, and prominent physicists have proposed similar ideas. Under this theory, the universe actually exists in two dimensions and the third is an illusion produced by the intertwining of time and depth.

On the Threshold of the Avatar Era – (Wall St. Journal – October 23, 2010)
It has been possible for some years for visitors to theme parks to try out virtual-reality “rides,” but these don’t capture the experience. Becoming an avatar in virtual reality, as a full-bodied human (or even nonhuman), has the potential to be vastly more interesting and important than one would expect from a technological amusement. What is really going on is the opening up of a new frontier of human potential, which can be called “somatic cognition”. When we can successfully inhabit a nonhuman avatar, we are exploring not only the brain’s deep history, but also the potential far future of all the creatures for which it is preadapted-what might happen in hundreds of millions of years. Becoming an avatar is a form of extreme time travel for the brain.

Bubbles of Energy are Found in Galaxy – (New York Times – November 10, 2010)
A group of scientists working with data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope have discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles extend 25,000 light years up and down from each side of the galaxy and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions. The source of the bubbles is a mystery. One possibility is that they are fueled by a wave of star births and deaths at the center of the galaxy. Another option is a gigantic belch from the black hole known to reside at the center of the Milky Way. What it is apparently not is dark matter.


New Virus Jumps from Monkey to Scientist – (USA Today – October 25, 2010)
A never-before detected strain of virus that killed more than one-third of a monkey colony at a U.S. lab appears to have ‘jumped’ from the animals to sicken a human scientist. There is no evidence the virus has spread beyond the single scientist – who recovered from her illness – nor is there even proof that the virus would be transmissible between humans. Still, “there is very strong evidence to suggest a cross-species transmission event happened,” said lead investigator Dr. Charles Chiu, at the University of California San Francisco. Researchers later determined the cause of the illness was a new strain of adenovirus, a broad class of viruses that can cause everything from relatively harmless respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, to pneumonia, as well as gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis and inflammation of the liver in people.

Cell Find May Aid Cancer Vaccines – (BBC News – November 4, 2010)
Tumors are not just made up of cancer cells – often these are interspersed with normal cells carrying on with their normal functions. Stromal cells are part of the body’s connective tissue, helping provide fibres and structures to support other tissues and cells. A Cambridge University study suggests that, in some tumors at least, their activity is holding back the immune system from launching attacks which could shrink or destroy tumors. This is particularly relevant for vaccines used as treatments once a patient is diagnosed with cancer, which aim to boost this immune response.

Brain Molecule May Offer Key to Erasing Fearful Memories – (NPR – October 29, 2010)
Scientists have discovered a molecule in the brain that may help erase the fearful memories that afflict people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Roger Clem and Richard Huganir of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine wanted to understand how that fearful memory is created. So they studied the brains of mice that had just gone through fear conditioning. And they noticed that an unusual protein appeared in the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in emotions. That molecule remained for only a few days and appeared to strengthen the brain circuit responsible for maintaining the fearful memory. But when the researchers eliminated the protein during this period, mice lost their fearful memory. Forever.

Why Breasts Are the Key to the Future of Regenerative Medicine – (Wired – October 20, 2010)
Chris Calhoun, CEO of Cytori, and his team of scientists have devised a tissue engineering process that could well be one of the most momentous medical advances of the 21st century: the use of stem cells-specifically stem-cell-enriched adipose (fat) tissue-to enhance, heal, and rebuild injured or damaged organs. Based on almost a decade of trials that Cytori and its academic partners have performed on cell cultures, lab rodents, and now humans, they believe their engineered flab cells can treat a broad range of organs including the heart and kidneys.

To Help with Diagnosis, Software that Spots Patterns – (New York Times – November 16, 2010)
Autonomy, Britain’s largest software maker, is releasing a new product called Autonomy Auminence. It culls data from patient records, physician notes, lab reports and medical literature. It then gives the physician a “dashboard” with a checklist of diagnoses to consider, ranked by probability, according to the inferences made by the software. The checklist can be delivered to personal computer, iPad or other device. “The whole of health care now runs on structured information, in various databases or in the template categories in electronic health records,” said Mr. Lynch, Autonomy’s chief executive. “Our technology lets you go beyond structured data to capture more of the background, contextual information to make better decisions.”


BP Dispersants Causing Sickness – (Common Dreams – October 27, 2010)
The British Petroleum Company has admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic dispersants, which according to chemist Bob Naman, create an even more toxic substance when mixed with crude oil. According to Naman, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from this toxic mix are making people sick. PAHs contain compounds that have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic. Hugh Kaufman, an EPA whistleblower and analyst, has reported this of the effects of the toxic dispersants: “We have dolphins that are hemorrhaging. People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that’s what dispersants are supposed to do…”

Scientists Fear Oil Is Settling on Bottom of Gulf – (Wall St. Journal – November 8, 2010)
The federal government is concerned that oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill may be settling on the ocean floor, causing environmental damage where it’s hardest to see. Scientists who finished a government-sponsored research expedition reported finding a small area of dead and dying corals covered with an unknown brown material on the bottom of the Gulf, about seven miles from where a BP well gushed millions of barrels of oil into the water this year. The environmental damage likely resulted from the BP spill, said Charles Fisher, a biologist at Penn State University and the chief scientist on the trip. “The circumstantial evidence is extremely strong and compelling, because we have never seen anything like this,” said Mr. Fisher, who, with other scientists, worked on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship.

Tuna Black Market Worth Billions of Dollars – (Yahoo News – November 7, 2010)
A seven-month probe by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that fishermen have willfully violated official quotas in order to supply the lucrative tuna market, which is dominated by Japan. The investigation covered 10 nations but found particular violations in France, where it said the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has joined forces with the tuna industry to doctor catch numbers. Global fears over tuna stocks emerged in 2007 when France declared it had caught nearly 10,000 tons, almost double its quota allowed under the International Commission for the Conservation of the Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a regulatory body. Spawning stock of Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna has tumbled by nearly 75% in the past four decades, with more than half of the loss between 1997 and 2007.

EU, Japan Sketch Battle Lines in Bluefin Tuna Meet – (Yahoo News – November 17, 2010)
At stake is the viability of a billion-dollar fishery for the open-water predator and perhaps even the species’ long-term survival, say conservationists. Industrial-scale fishing using huge trap-nets during spawning season has drastically reduced stocks in the Mediterranean over the last three decades. Scientists calculate that annual quotas of 13,500 tons through 2013 would put the species on track for a 60% probability of reaching so-called “maximum sustainable yield” by 2022. At the same time, they caution that estimates about fish populations and the true tonnage of catches are rife with uncertainty. A single Atlantic bluefin tuna can fetch more than 100,000 dollars in wholesale markets in Japan, where the fish is prized by sushi connoisseurs as the “black diamond” because of its scarcity. Bluefin make up less than one percent of the global tuna catch, which includes five species.

Racing to Save Bats From Catastrophic Extinction, Biologists Turn to New Tools – (Pop Sci – October 18, 2010)
Two years ago, a new, potent fungus was found rampaging through New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania, wiping out entire colonies. As cold weather approaches, researchers are bracing for countless more animals to succumb to white-nose syndrome. Meanwhile, biologists are using laser cave-gates, infrared cameras, temperature-sensitive radio transmitters, genetic testing-even artificial caves to follow the bats and the fungus. They’re hoping technology can lead them to clues about how the fungus evolved, why it is harder on certain bat species than on others, and maybe, how to stop it. In 2008, researchers studied the economic impact of 1.2 million bats in an 8-county region of Texas. They found that if the bats died out, farmers would have to spend $750,000 to $1.2 million on pesticides every summer to protect their cotton crops.


Cambridge Engineers Make Old Phones into Smart Phones – (BBC News – October 1, 2010)
Acoustic processing specialists Input Dynamics has developed software which can tell exactly where you tap on a screen simply by listening to the sound it makes. “We’re trying to replace touch screen capability on a mobile phone with something that’s a much cheaper option,” says Simon Godshill, technology head for Input Dynamics and a signal processing expert in the engineering department at Cambridge University. They have developed a purely software-based option that just measures the sound signals through the normal microphone of the telephone, and characterizes where you might have been tapping on the screen to replicate the performance of a normal touch screen phone.

China Wrests Supercomputing Title from the U.S. – (New York Times – October 28, 2010)
A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower. The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top U. S. computer. Supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organization with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine. The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce – and the technological achievement – is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates.

Hologram Messaging Coming of Age – (BBC News – November 4, 2010)
The idea of sending a moving 3D representation of someone to any location has long been a staple of science fiction films. Now, this fantasy is very close to reality. A University of Arizona team says it has devised a system that can make a holographic display appear in another place and update it in near real-time. The system recently demonstrated is far from the finished product, but it gives a strong hint of what might be achievable with further refinements. At its heart is a new plastic screen material that will record 3D holographic images time and time again, every two seconds. At the remote site, a laser was used to “print” the visual information on to the new photosensitive polymer. The 3D image composed of the 16 perspectives decays naturally, but the laser can write the next “frame” before it completely disappears.

Quantum Computing Reaches for True Power – (New York Times – November 8, 2010)
In 1981 the physicist Richard Feynman speculated about the possibility of “tiny computers obeying quantum mechanical laws.” He suggested that such a quantum computer might be the best way to simulate real-world quantum systems, a challenge that today is largely beyond the calculating power of even the fastest supercomputers. Recent progress, however, has renewed enthusiasm for finding avenues to build significantly more powerful quantum computers. At the most basic level, quantum computers are composed of quantum bits, or qubits, rather than the traditional bits that are the basic unit of digital computers. Classic computers are built with transistors that can be in either an “on” or an “off” state, representing either a 1 or a 0. A qubit, which can be constructed in different ways, can represent 1 and 0 states simultaneously. This quality is called superposition.


Electromagnetic Pulse Impact Far and Wide – (USA Today – October 25, 2010)
Modern society relies on technologies vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse effects that, if strong enough, can induce currents that burn out wires and circuits. The following are two worst-case scenarios: solar superstorm and nuclear strike. At risk are the more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that cross North America, supplying 1,800 utilities the power. In Congress, a “Grid Act” bill aimed at the threat awaits Senate action, having passed in the House of Representatives. This article makes the effects of an EMP event readily understandable.

Machine That Converts Plastic to Oil – (United Nations University – no date)
Japanese researcher Akinori Ito has developed a machine which converts plastic waste back into oil. The machine produced in various sizes for both industrial and home uses, can transform a kilogram of plastic waste into a liter of oil, using about 1 kilowatt of electricity but without emitting CO2 in the process. The machine uses a temperature controlling electric heater instead of flames, processing anything from polyethylene or polystyrene to polypropylene (numbers 2-4). Comment: 1 kg of plastic produces one liter of oil, which costs $1.50. This process uses only about 1 kilowatt of electricity, which costs less than 20 cents! (Editor’s note: perhaps equipment of this general type could be used to clean up the enormous amount of floating plastic debris in the oceans. Almost certainly it will eventually be cost-effective to “mine” the surface of the oceans turning the debris into immediate fuel for ships. Click here for additional information.


“Naked” Scanners at US Airports May Be Dangerous – (Phys Org – November 13, 2010)
Some US scientists warn that the full-body, graphic-image X-ray scanners now being used to screen passengers and airline crews at airports around the country may be unsafe. The possible health dangers posed by the scanners add to passengers’ and airline crews’ concerns about the devices, which have been dubbed “naked” scanners because of the graphic image they give of a person’s body, genitalia and all. Captain David Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents pilots at American Airlines, urged members to avoid the full-body scanner. “No pilot at American Airlines should subject themselves to the needless privacy invasion and potential health risks caused by the body scanner,” he said in a letter this month. “Politely decline exposure and request alternative screening,” even if “the enhanced pat-down is a demeaning experience,” he said.

Airport ‘Pat-downs’ Cause Growing Passenger Backlash – (Washington Post – November 13, 2010)
Airport travelers call it groping, prodding or just plain inappropriate – a pat-down that probes places where the sun doesn’t shine. The Transportation Security Administration calls it the new reality of airport security. If a full-body scanning machine shows something strange or a passenger declines to go through the machine – which is now in use in the Washington region’s three major airports – an officer will perform a more personal search. “I wouldn’t let anyone touch my daughter like that,” said Marc Moniz of Poway, Calif., who is planning to accompany his daughter’s eighth-grade class from San Diego to Washington in April. “We’re not common criminals.”


Air Force Wants Neuroweapons to Overwhelm Enemy Minds – (Wired – November 2, 2010)
It sounds like something a wild-eyed basement-dweller would come up with, after he complained about the fit of his tinfoil hat. But military bureaucrats really are asking scientists to help them “degrade enemy performance” by attacking the brain’s “chemical pathway[s].” Late last month, the Air Force Research Laboratory revamped a call for research proposals examining “Advances in Bioscience for Airmen Performance.” It’s a six-year, $49 million effort to deploy extreme neuroscience and biotechnology in the service of warfare.

Clues Suggest Stuxnet Virus Was Built for Subtle Nuclear Sabotage – (Wired – November 15, 2010)
New and important evidence found in the sophisticated “Stuxnet” malware targeting industrial control systems provides strong hints that the code was designed to sabotage nuclear plants, and that it employs a subtle sabotage strategy that involves briefly speeding up and slowing down physical machinery at a plant over a span of weeks. “It indicates that [Stuxnet’s creators] wanted to get on the system and not be discovered and stay there for a long time and change the process subtly, but not break it,” says Liam O Murchu, researcher with Symantec Security Response, which published the new information.


Daniel Ellsberg Still Scares the Hell out of Me – (Op Ed News – October 26, 2010)
Actually, not Daniel Ellsberg himself, but what his words suggest may soon be a reality. Recently Ellsberg appeared at the recent Wikileaks press conference shown on CSPAN where he said, in part, “The threat that is being made by the Pentagon, as we read over the last few days, of warning news men to stand away from this material, to refuse to receive it, if they do receive it to return it, seems absurd on its face. We’re not dealing with the 7,000 pieces of paper, top secret pieces of paper that comprised the Pentagon Papers…[but] with cyber material that’s all over the world right now and in several papers right now. The demand seems absurd. [However] I understand the reason for those words because they echo the words first used against me: the legal words of 18 UCS 793 paragraphs D and E. Which for the first time used the so-called Espionage Act as if it were the kind of Official Secrets Act that you have in Britain which simply criminalizes the release of classified material to any unauthorized person.”

Benjamin Franklin and a Modern American Portrait of Justice – (Huffington Post – November 03, 2010)
The World of Justice Project report, the “Rule of Law Index 2010” is project that involved 900 researchers from 35 countries, who have polled 35,000 individuals, in addition to searching each nation’s records, presents itself in a way that Benjamin Franklin would have understood and endorsed. When the World Justice Project talks about the rule of law they spell out very precisely what they mean and are measuring. Overall, the U.S. ranked at the very bottom of the seven countries in its group: Austria, Canada, France, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the U.S. The results show the reality that lies beneath the smug rhetoric we use to hector others about justice and the rule of law.

The Prison Boom Comes Home to Roost – (Boston Globe – November 8, 2010)
In 1975, there were fewer than 400,000 people locked up in the United States. By 2000, that had grown to 2 million, and by this year to nearly 2.5 million. As the social scientist Glenn C. Loury points out, with 5% of the world’s population, the United States imprisons 25% of all humans behind bars. This effectively created a vibrant shadow economy: American spending on the criminal justice system went from $33 billion in 1980 to $216 billion in 2010 – an increase of 660%. Criminal justice is the third largest employer in the country. In the 1990s, as federal corrections budgets increased by $19 billion, money for housing was cut by $17 billion, “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the poor.”

The Lost Generation – (New Republic – November 3, 2010)
“Since Teddy Roosevelt,” Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said, “the average midterm is, you lose 28 House seats and lose four Senate seats if you’re the party in the White House.” Does losing over 60 House seats and as many as eight Senate seats simply make this a below average outcome, or did something much more serious and significant happen in this recent election?


Justice Stevens on ‘Invidious Prejudice’ – (New York Times – November 7, 2010)
A great deal of what public figures have said about the proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan has been aimed at playing off fear and intolerance for political gain. Former Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court, on the other hand, delivered one of the sanest and most instructive arguments for tolerance that we have heard in a long time. Many Muslims who pray in New York City mosques, he added, “may well have come to America to escape the intolerance of radicals like those who dominate the Taliban.” Descendants of pilgrims “who came to America in the 17th century to escape religious persecutions” and helped establish our democracy should get that, he said.

After China’s Rare Earth Embargo, a New Calculus – (New York Times – October 28, 2010)
China currently controls almost all of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that help make a wide range of high-tech products, including smartphones and smart bombs, for which demand is soaring. China has only 37% of the world’s proven reserves but it produced 95% of the worlds rare earths. China feels entitled to call the shots because of a brutally simple environmental reckoning: it has been willing to do dirty, toxic and often radioactive work that the rest of the world has long shunned. Across China, rare earth mines have scarred valleys by stripping topsoil and pumping thousands of gallons of acid into streambeds. The environmental costs are palpable in Baotou, a smoggy mining and steel city in China’s Inner Mongolia, where the air this week had an acrid, faintly metallic taste.

Israel’s Shabbos Goy – (Slate – November 15, 2010)
A few months ago, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef favored his devout audience with a classic rant in which he called down curses on the Palestinian Arabs and their leaders, wishing that a plague would come and sweep them all away. Last month, he announced that the sole reason for the existence of gentiles was to perform menial services for Jews: After that, he opined, their usefulness was at an end. Why should anybody care about the ravings of this rabbi, who peppers his talk of non-Jews in Palestine with comparisons to snakes, monkeys, and other lesser creations, rather as Hamas and Hezbollah refer to the Jews? One reason is that he is the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, an important member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. Indeed, two key portfolios, those of the Interior and of Construction and Housing, are held by Shas members.


Eco-management: the Horned Locust Herd – (Sunstar Farm website – no date)
Sunstar is a family owned and operated farm working toward sustainability by gardening and raising animals in the Santa Fe, MN area. The “horned locust herd” – 200+ goats – are herded from horseback and by trained dogs. The goats are now employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to browse the Galisteo dam keeping the growth down on the dam itself and in the basin where the Tamarix has been mechanically removed. Their services can also be contracted by individuals for local brush removal.

‘Mohammed’ No. 1 Baby Name In Britain- (Louisville News – October 28, 2010)
There’s a new leader on the list of the most popular names for baby boys in Britain — a reflection of shifting demographics and pride in the Muslim prophet. Data recently released by the Office of National Statistics shows that Mohammed and variations of that name rank highest among names for British baby boys in 2009. Oliver came in a close second, followed by Jack in third. “Ten percent of the British population now are from migrant backgrounds,” said Tim Finch, the head of migration for think tank IPPR. “It’s about 6 million people out of a population of around 60 million. That’s significantly more than it was. Britain is changing.”

New Ways Bankers Are Spying on You – (Wall St. Journal – November 8, 2010)
Big Banker is watching you-more closely than ever. With lenders still skittish about making new loans, credit bureaus and others are hawking services that help banks probe deeply into your financial closet. The new offerings include ways to look at your rent and utility payments, figure out your income, gauge your home’s value and even rate your banking habits based on details like whether your direct deposits have stopped. All of this could influence your financial freedom-not to mention the number of junk-mail solicitations you receive.


Top NASA Astronaut Discloses Shuttle Encounter with Disc UFO – (Op Ed News – October 29, 2010)
A former astronaut of NASA’s space shuttle fleet announced that he–and NASA–know that ETs are real. Clark C. McClelland, a senior member of MUFON from 1958 to 1992, has revealed in the Canadian press that secret details of an amazing incident occurred during the STS-80 mission aboard the space shuttle Columbia. In past years, other NASA personnel have struggled to get the word out. Such space faring luminaries as Gordon Cooper, Donald Slayton, Gene Cernan, Frank Borman (former chairman of Eastern airlines as well), Neil Armstrong and Scott Carpenter insist UFOs are real and alien intelligences exist. See also this link for direct quotations from other NASA astronauts who have encountered otherwise unexplainable phenomenon.

One Giant Leap for Tin Mankind – (BBC News – November 5, 2010)
It’s not just the Discovery shuttle’s six human astronauts who face an extra three-week wait to get into orbit. Packed in a box in the back of the orbiter is R2, the first human-like robot to be sent into space. The robonaut is the product of 15 years’ research in Nasa and General Motors. In his current guise, he is just a head, arms, and a torso mounted on a pedestal. But the plan eventually is to give R2 some legs to let him move around the station. And in a couple of years, he’ll also get a body upgrade that should significantly advance his capabilities. The expectation is that before the decade is out, this robot will be clambering about on the outside of the space station, assisting astronauts on a spacewalk.


Bankruptcies Surge 12% – (24/7 Wall St. – November 9, 2010)
A report from The American Bankruptcy Institute said “Consumer filings totaled 1,179,573 for the first nine months of 2010 representing nearly a 12% increase over 1,054,525 filed during the same period in 2009.” The number is staggering because there are only 200 million adults and 120 million households in America. The ABI predicts that total consumer bankruptcies will hit 1.6 million this year.


Drones Get Ready to Fly, Unseen, into Everyday Life – (Wall St. Journal – November 3, 2010)
Personal drones aren’t yet plying U.S. flyways. But an arms race is building among people looking to track celebrities, unfaithful lovers or even wildlife. Some organizations would like them for emergency operations in areas hit by natural disasters. Several efforts to develop personal drones are scheduled for completion in the next year. The essential technology is increasingly available beyond military circles, and spreading fast. An unmanned aircraft that can fly a predetermined route costs a few hundred bucks to build and can be operated by iPhone.

Invisibility Cloak Closer with Flexible Metamaterial – (BBC News – November 3, 2010)
Metamaterials work by interrupting and channeling the flow of light at a fundamental level; in a sense they can be seen as bouncing light waves around in a prescribed fashion to achieve a particular result. Ortwin Hess, a physicist at Imperial College London, called the work “a huge step forward in very many ways. It clearly isn’t an invisibility cloak yet – but it’s the right step toward that.”


Growing Water Scarcity in US is ‘Hidden’ Financial Risk for Investors Owning Utility Bonds – (Ceres – October 21, 2010)
Growing water scarcity in many parts of the United States is a hidden financial risk for investors who buy the water and electric utility bonds that finance much of the country’s vast water and power infrastructure, according to a first-ever report on the issue. The report, The Ripple Effect: Water Risk in the Municipal Bond Market, evaluates and ranks water scarcity risks for public water and power utilities in some of the country’s most water-stressed regions, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta. The electric power sector is enormously water-intensive and accounts for 41% of the nation’s freshwater withdrawals.

A General Motors Unit in China’s Hands – (Wall St. Journal – November 8, 2010)
In Saginaw, Michigan, the largest private employer will soon be the city government of Beijing. In one of the landmark deals of the era, the first time Chinese investors have bought a U.S. industrial operation of such scale and history: Twenty-two factories around the globe, six engineering centers, 14 customer-support centers. All of it will be run from Saginaw. The deal will, of course, test China’s nascent foreign investment and management prowess. But it is shaping up to be more of a test stateside, where attitudes against China continue to coarsen as unemployment stays stubbornly high and politicians complain about China taking U.S. jobs, if not U.S. pride.

An Animated Take on the Federal Reserve – (Huffington Post – November 12, 2010)
Federal monetary policy has its light side. In a new video, two characters discuss the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy, presenting it as a desperate and hopelessly misguided effort to save the world economy (hat tip to Credit Writedowns). The short film featuring two “pawz” characters, lays out the Fed’s $900 billion asset-purchase plan in simple, if imprecise, terms.

Man Makes Ridiculously Complicated Chart to Find Out Who Owns His Mortgage – (Huffington Post – November 16, 2010)
Dan Edstrom, of DTC Systems, who performs securitization audits, and who is giving a seminar in California next month, spent a year putting together a diagram that traces the path of his own house’s mortgage. “Just When You Thought You Knew Something About Mortgage Securitizations,” says Zero Hedge, you are presented with this almost hilariously complicated chart. The Congressional Oversight Panel, a bailout watchdog, released a statement Tuesday that says the scandal over alleged “robo-signers,” foreclosure processors who approve documents without reading them, “may have concealed much deeper problems” in the mortgage industry.

Waiting for the Next Financial Meltdown – (You Tube – September 30, 2010)
“Inside Job” director Charles Ferguson takes an in-depth look at how “banksters” brought the nation to the brink of a collapse and why the government continues to let them do it.


Is Death the End? Experiments Suggest You Create Time – (Huffington Post – November 4, 2010)
At each moment we’re at the edge of a paradox described by the Greek philosopher Zeno. Because an object can’t occupy two places simultaneously, he contended that an arrow is only at one place during any given instant of its flight. To be in one place, however, is to be at rest. The arrow must therefore be at rest at every instant of its flight. Thus, motion is impossible. But is this really a paradox? Or rather, is it proof that time (motion) isn’t a feature of the outer, spatial world, but rather a conception of thought? Life is a journey that transcends our classical way of thinking. Experiment after experiment continues to suggest that we create time, not the other way around. Without consciousness, space and time are nothing.

Cornell University Lab Releases New Evidence that the Human Mind can Perceive the Future – (H+ – November 4, 2010)
In a research paper titled Feeling the Future, recently accepted for publication in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Prof. Daryl Bem at Cornell University presents some rather compelling empirical evidence that in some cases – and with weak but highly statistically significant accuracy – many human beings can directly perceive the future. Not just predict it based on the past. Also, Bem reports that he has already received hundreds of requests for “replication packages” – documentation and software allowing others to repeat the experiments he did. If you want to try to replicate the work yourself, replication packages for some of the experiments are already available here.

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

Aggressive Maneuvers for Autonomous Quadrotor Flight – (You Tube – May 21, 2010)
Video clip showing control of precise aggressive maneuvers with an autonomous quadrotor helicopter. This is a small autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Demonstrations of flips, flight through windows, and quadrotor perching are shown. Work done at the GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania. See also this update from September 15, 2010.

China Opens Airspace for General Aviation – (AV Web – November 18, 2010)
China’s low-altitude airspace will open up for civilian use over the next five years, the State Council and the Central Military Commission announced this week. The new rules will allow aircraft flying below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) to take off and land without the hard-to-get prior approval that is required today. Aircraft flying from 1,000 to 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) will be required to file a flight plan but also do not have to seek prior approval from authorities. Within days of the announcement, a wealthy village had announced plans to buy 20 aircraft for training and tourism. Along with opening the airspace, China plans to build its aviation regulations, services, infrastructure, pilot training facilities and flight safety monitoring facilities, according to the circular released by authorities. China currently has about 1,000 general aviation aircraft, but the State Civil Aviation Administration said that number could grow to 10,000 by 2012.


Unpopular Science – (New York Times – October 25, 2010)
Whether we like it or not, human life is subject to the universal laws of physics. A series of simple line drawings demonstrates how these laws play out in real life.


The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine. – Nikola Tesla

A special thanks to: Thomas Burgin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Jane Naskiewicz, Diane Petersen, Laura Pieratt, Stu Rose, Schwartz Report 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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