|FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
- Called the Open Data Partnership, a group of online tracking rivals is building a service that lets consumers see what information those companies know about them.
- Over all, there has not been a general increase in the incidence of brain cancer since cellphones arrived. But the average masks an increase in brain cancer in the 20-to-29 age group and a drop for the older population.
- Frogs across Australia and the US may be recovering from a fungal disease that has devastated populations around the world.
- Apparently the Stuxnet computer virus has now succeeded in its intended mission and a well-informed guess can be made as to the nations that collectively contributed to its design.
- Due to a news black-out, not one major paper in the entire United States carried a story of more than 100 veterans among others who chained and tied themselves to the White House fence in protest of the wars on December 18, 2010. Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years.
by John L. Petersen
Well, there’s too much going on to not publish another issue of FUTUREdition before year end. We were planning on slacking off for the holidays, but then the sun exploded. Really. And WikiLeaks got hotter. There were a number of things that showed up that convinced us we needed to publish another issue before the holidays. So here’s a very large issue for you.
As I suggested in the last issue, WikiLeaks has the potential to produce profound implications. Here are some thoughts on that subject.
WIKILEAKS: The Beginning of the End
WikiLeaks is doubly a big deal. We’ve hardly begun to see the potential fallout from the light that it is shining on what our governments have been keeping from us. Every day a new revelation shakes some more of the confidence that Americans (and citizens from many other countries) have in the systems and institutions that they have depended upon and trusted all of their lives. Some of the material that is rumored to soon be released has the potential to threaten the continued operation of major financial institutions, to say nothing about exposing the manipulations of governments.
But WikiLeaks is also the harbinger of a new era where information technology has the potential to fundamentally threaten democracy (as we practice it), and traditional ideas of free speech fly in the face of government’s innate objective for stability and control.
On one hand, we’re witnessing a titanic struggle between an encrusted, structurally unsustainable old order which is teetering on the edge of instability, and a rapidly coalescing new world. Powerful institutions are pulling out all stops to keep from losing the historical control that they have enjoyed. At the same time a new generation (that sees reality in quite different ways) is powering the emergent assault, enabled by exponentially exploding information technology that, in significant applications is so complex that no one really understands how it works.
Let me use the present WikiLeaks situation to give you a feeling of how this is playing out. Here are some high points that will hopefully give you the picture.
First of all, if you want to have a good understanding of an issue like this, nobody that I know does a better job of painting the big picture than Tony Judge. Tony holds forth regularly on big and complex ideas alike. His summary of the WikiLeaks situation, taken from the perspective of spying at the UN (are they really spying on each other at the UN?), is really quite masterful and insightful. I would encourage you to take some time and pursue this very nice piece of work.
One of the obvious points to be taken from this analysis is that truth is seldom the currency of governments. That’s nothing new, of course, but releases like those of WikiLeaks expose the breadth of the misrepresentation. It’s one thing to generally know that few things are exactly what a government agency spokesperson says it is. It’s quite another to have the sordid details laid out in front of you.
The only way this is all sustained, by the way, is through the institutionalization of secrecy – which of course is why governments are lying even more than they usually do to try to stop Julian Assange. One of the links in Judge’s analysis is this one from filmmaker Michael Moore. Regardless of what you think of Moore, I think his logic about why Sweden is chasing Assange for allegations of sexual misconduct (for which he hasn’t been charged) is pretty compelling. The U.S. is very much afraid of what might be leaked by Assange and is using its leverage, whether legal or not, to try to stop it. It’s interesting to see what even progressive governments like Sweden will do when they’re put in a corner.
A bigger issue is the aforementioned erosion and failure of large institutions. In a democracy, the press is supposed to play a pivotal and fundamental role in the society – shining a light on the doings of the government and other institutions. It is the fundamental and necessary counterbalance to an authoritarian and secretive government. When the press doesn’t do its job, the government takes advantage of it, and that is what’s going on right now.
Arrianna Huffington, in her piece The Media Gets It Wrong on WikiLeaks: It’s About Broken Trust, Not Broken Condoms makes this point eloquently. She ends by saying:
“It is about our future. For our democracy to survive, citizens have to be able to know what our government is really doing. We can’t change course if we don’t have accurate information about where we really are. Whether this comes from a website or a newspaper or both doesn’t matter.
“But if our government is successful in its efforts to shut down this new avenue of accountability, it will have done our country far more damage than what it claims is being done by WikiLeaks.”
Happy holidays to you and all of those you love.
Some Data-miners Ready to Reveal What They Know – (Wall St. Journal – December 3, 2010)
Seeking to head off escalating scrutiny over Internet privacy, a group of online tracking rivals is building a service that lets consumers see what information those companies know about them. The project is the first of its kind in the fast-growing business of tracking Internet users and selling personal details about their lives. Called the Open Data Partnership, it will allow consumers to edit the interests, demographics and other profile information collected about them. It also will allow people to choose to not be tracked at all.
In 500 Billion Words, a New Window on Culture – (New York Times – December 16, 2010)
With little fanfare, Google has made a mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities. The digital storehouse, which comprises words and short phrases as well as a year-by-year count of how often they appear, represents the first time a data set of this magnitude and searching tools are at the disposal of Ph.D.’s, middle school students and anyone else who likes to spend time in front of a small screen. It consists of the 500 billion words contained in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.
German Physicists Create a Super-photon – (Phys Org – November 24, 2010)
Physicists from the University of Bonn have developed a completely new source of light, a so-called Bose-Einstein condensate consisting of photons. Until recently, expert had thought this impossible. This method may potentially be suitable for designing novel light sources resembling lasers that work in the X-ray range. Among other applications, they might allow building more powerful computer chips.
NASA Discovers Life Built with Toxic Chemical – (NASA – December 2, 2010)
NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components. “The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”
Invisibility Rug Hides ‘Large’ Objects – (Nature News – December 15, 2010)
Objects large enough to be seen with the naked eye have been swept under an ‘invisibility carpet’ for the first time. Invisibility cloaks were proposed in 2006, and prototypes that can shield objects for certain wavelengths of light have since been built. However, until now, physicists have been unable to fabricate a cloak that could hide macroscopic items at visible wavelengths. Two independent groups have now achieved this feat, by building transparent ‘carpet cloaks’, made from calcite crystals, that lie over the object to be hidden.
Strange Emissions by Sun are Suddenly Mutating Matter – (Project World Awareness – October 5, 2010)
Evidence has surfaced that something is happening deep within the hidden core of our life-giving star: never-before-seen particles-or some mysterious force-is being shot out from the sun and it’s hitting the Earth. Laboratories around the globe have confirmed that the rate of radioactive decay-once thought to be a constant and a bedrock of science-is no longer a constant. Something being emitted from the sun is interacting with matter in strange and unknown ways with the startling potential to dramatically change the nature of the very Earth itself. Worst of all, if the decay rates of matter are being mutated then all matter on Earth is being affected including the matter that makes up life. The mutation may go so far as to change the underlying reality of the quantum universe-and by extrapolation-the nature of life, the principles of physics, perhaps even the uniform flow of time.
Science’s Breakthrough of the Year: The First Quantum Machine – (Kurzweil AI – December 17, 2010)
Physicists Andrew Cleland and John Martinis from UC Santa Barbara and colleagues designed the machine-a tiny metal paddle of semiconductor, visible to the naked eye-and coaxed it into dancing with a quantum groove. First, they cooled the paddle until it reached its “ground state,” or the lowest energy state permitted by the laws of quantum mechanics (a goal long-sought by physicists). Then they raised the widget’s energy by a single quantum to produce a purely quantum-mechanical state of motion. They even managed to put the gadget in both states at once, so that it literally vibrated a little and a lot at the same time-a bizarre phenomenon allowed by the weird rules of quantum mechanics.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Dartmouth Study Uses the Patient’s Tumor to Form Vaccine – (DHMC – November 22, 2010)
A new process for creating a personalized vaccine may become a crucial tool in helping patients with colorectal cancer develop an immune response against their own tumors. Dendritic cells are critical to the human body’s immune system, helping identify targets, or antigens, and then stimulating the immune system to react against those antigens. The new research grew dendritic cells from a sample of a patient’s blood, mixed them with proteins from the patient’s tumor, and then injected the mixture into the patient as a vaccine. The vaccine then stimulated an anti-tumor response from T-cells, a kind of white blood cell that protects the body from disease. This dendritic cell (DC) vaccine was used after surgical resection of metastatic tumors to try to prevent the growth of additional metastases.
Scientists Trick Cells into Switching Identities – (Phys Org – November 29, 2010)
Scientists are reporting early success at transforming one kind of specialized cell directly into another kind, a feat of biological alchemy that doctors may one day perform inside a patient’s body. “I think everyone believes this is really the future of so-called stem-cell biology,” says John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania, one of many researchers pursuing this approach. in 2007, researchers got skin cells to revert to a state resembling embryonic stem cells. That opened the door to a two-part strategy: turn skin cells from a patient back into stem cells, and then run the clock forward again to get whatever specialized cell you want.
The Beautiful Mind – (New York Times – November 29, 2010)
It is only fitting that the story of the brain should be a visual one, for the visuals had the ancients fooled for millenniums. The brain was so ugly that they assumed the mind must lie elsewhere. Now those same skeletal silhouettes glow plump and brightly colored, courtesy of a variety of inserted genes encoding fluorescent molecules. A glossy new art book, “Portraits of the Mind,” hopes to draw the general reader into neuroscience with the sheer beauty of its images. See slide show.
H1N1 Vaccine Linked to Significant Increase in Miscarriages – (Natural News – December 8, 2010)
According to the CDC, nearly 50% of all pregnant women were vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine during the 2009 / 2010 influenza season. Those whose physicians instructed them to get a seasonal flu shot were three times more likely to get it, while those instructed specifically to get the H1N1 shot were ten times more likely to get it. And the numbers clearly show that along with the rise in vaccinations due to the H1N1 scare came the sharp increase in miscarriages, including a slew of actual reported adverse events. (Editor’s note: The original source for this material appears here. It is clear that the people behind this website are trying to build a case; it is not entirely clear how strong the case is (or may become). Also, there is a large apparent discrepancy in the miscarriage statistics right on the home page of the link. The difference is because the sample was small and the statistical sampling error was huge – leading to an extremely wide estimate of the total number of miscarriages. Both numbers are statistically possible – but the true reality is unknown and the whole thing may or may not be serious. We include this article simply to highlight the questions that are effectively being posed here.)
Democratizing DNA Sequencing – (Technology Review – December 8, 2010)
A device that reads the sequence of DNA using semiconductor technology could bring the power of sequencing to a much broader swath of the science world. The desktop machine, developed by a startup called Ion Torrent, is slated to go on sale this month and will cost $50,000, about one-tenth of the cost of other sequencing machines on the market. At that price, virtually anyone with good grant funding can buy one. The biggest advantage of the new technology is its speed; it can sequence a sample of DNA in a couple of hours, rather than the week or more required by most of the machines now on the market. That could make the technology particularly useful for genetic diagnostics, which require a quick turnaround.
“Fountain of Youth” Pill Could Restore Aging Immune System – (Kurzweil AI – December 14, 2010)
UCSF researchers have found that extremely low doses of the drug lenalidomide restores key elements of the immune system that, when out of balance, lead to a steady decline in immunity and health as people age. Lenalidomide can stimulate the body’s immune-cell protein factories, which decrease production during aging, and can rebalance the levels of several key cytokines – immune proteins that either attack viruses and bacteria or cause inflammation that leads to an overall decline in health. The initial study, which was designed to define the dose range of such a therapy in a group of 13 patients, could lead to a daily pill to boost immunity in the elderly, the researchers said.
Presidential Commission Urges Caution on ‘Synthetic Biology’ – (Washington Post – December 16, 2010)
Venter, a prominent and pioneering geneticist, focused attention on the field of synthetic biology in May when scientists working at his institute announced that they had created a cell controlled entirely by genetic instructions synthesized in the laboratory. That led to the founding of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues which has now issued its first report. The report provides evidence that Obama’s bioethical advisers plan to take a different approach than their predecessors.. In the report, which was prepared based on three public hearings in Washington, Philadelphia and Atlanta, the commission concludes that although Venter’s work represented a significant advance, it “does not amount to creating life as either a scientific or a moral matter” and that the field remains “in the early stages,” with any dangers far in the future.
Smart Chip Implant Will Combat Chronic Pain – (Daily Mail – December 16, 2010)
Scientists have developed a revolutionary new smart chip that when implanted in the spinal cord blocks pain signals preventing them from reaching the brain. The tiny device (size of a match head) works by monitoring the nerves carrying pain signals and firing electrical pulses of up to 10 volts that block the undesirable signals from reaching the brain. The Implantable Neuro Sensing and Stimulation will begin human trials early next year. Existing pain-relief implants are the size of a matchbox. Researchers said their miniature version would be far more effective and reliable because it can be implanted much closer to the spine.
Renting a Really Green Christmas Tree – (Los Angeles Times – December 11, 2010)
A Redondo Beach company rents out potted conifers to the environmentally conscious – some even adopt their trees, choosing to receive the same one each year. It hopes the trend will take root. The Living Christmas Co., founded by landscape architect Scott “Scotty Claus” Martin in 2008, rents outs live potted holiday trees to households in the Los Angeles area. Customers can choose from a range of trees, including 2-foot baby sequoias, hardy blue cedars and fragrant 7-foot Monterey pines. The company’s mission is not just to be sustainable but “regenerative,” he said. Beyond saving trees, that means using all recyclable materials, running delivery trucks on biodiesel and employing adults with disabilities to maintain the trees around the year.
Hutchison-Lazaryan Frequency Generator Clears Polluted Gulf Waters – (Pure Energy Systems – October 27, 2010)
Concerned about the BP oil gusher disaster, John Hutchison and research partner, Nancy Lazaryan have come up with a combination of audio and radio frequencies that now have been shown scientifically to reduce the oil and grease in polluted waters in the Gulf of Mexico from 7 ppm to less than 1 ppm, restoring the water’s vitality as manifest by the return of fish, dolphins and even barnacles to a region of Perdido Bay in Lillian, Alabama, USA, where they conducted their first test in situ. The test was documented by chemist Bob Naman, President of Analytical Chemical Testing Laboratory, Inc. of Mobile, Alabama. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemists, (Reg. 15488). Article includes link to download a copy of his report.
New Study Shows Historical Human Challenges by Natural Cycles – (Natural Solutions Radio – December 10, 2010)
A new study supported by the National Academy of Sciences, describes rhythmic cycles of the past, the challenges and devastation it caused, and the triumph of the human spirit. It tells of how whole regions of communities (in today’s terms whole cities and states), were forced to “shifted strategy” and adapt to “abrupt changes.” All indications from the old world and the new, suggest we are in a time of “rapid changes” and we as a nation, and perhaps a world, need to “shift our thinking”. In this study climate change includes earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and all forms of extreme weather. The more fitting term would be “earth changes.” And yes, it does correlate with the Sun’s cycle.
Fungus Out! The Frog Resistance is Here – (New Scientist – December 10, 2010)
Frogs across Australia and the US may be recovering from a fungal disease that has devastated populations around the world. “It’s happening across a number of species,” says Michael Mahony at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, who completed a 20-year study of frogs along the Great Dividing Range in Australia. Between 1990 and 1998 the populations of several frog species crashed due to chytridiomycosis infection (chytrid) caused by the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, but Mahony’s surveys suggest that the frogs are re-establishing. Using electronic tagging to track frogs, two researchers have separately found that recovering frogs are living with low-level infections of the fungus. It is possible, they say, that the fungus has weakened in recovering areas. And there is evidence that some of the frogs are evolving.
Antarctic Melting as Deep Ocean Heat Rises – (Discovery – December 14, 2010)
Global warming is sneaky. For more than a century it has been hiding large amounts of excess heat in the world’s deep seas. Now that heat is coming to the surface again in one of the worst possible places: Antarctica. New analyses of the heat content of the waters off Western Antarctic Peninsula are now showing a clear and exponential increase in warming waters undermining the sea ice, raising air temperatures, melting glaciers and wiping out entire penguin colonies.
How Secure is Julian Assange’s Thermonuclear Insurance File? – (Pop Sci – December 09, 2010)
A few months back, WikiLeaks released a giant file that’s been referred to as the “thermonuclear” option, should the organization’s existence be threatened: A huge compendium of some of the most damaging secrets WikiLeaks has collected, protected with an intense brand of secure encryption – for use as insurance. With Assange now in police custody on, to say the least, somewhat controversial sex crimes charges in Sweden, the “poison pill” is on everyone’s mind. The pill in question is a 1.4GB file, circulated by BitTorrent. It’s been downloaded tens of thousands of times, no mean feat for what, at the moment, is a giant file with absolutely no use whatsoever. It’s waiting on the hard drives of curious Torrenters, WikiLeaks supporters, and (you can bet) government agents worldwide, awaiting the password that’ll open the file to all.
Should You be Snuggling with Your Cellphone? – (New York Times – November 13, 2010)
Warning: Holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body. Brain cancer is a concern. Over all, there has not been a general increase in its incidence since cellphones arrived. But the average masks an increase in brain cancer in the 20-to-29 age group and a drop for the older population. Analyzing a database of 400 scientific papers on possible biological effects of radiation from wireless communication found that 28% of studies with cellphone industry funding showed some sort of effect, while 67% of studies without such funding did so.
Gorilla Glass, the Smartphone’s Unsung Hero – (New York Times – December 9, 2010)
The screens (and, on the iPhone 4, the back as well) are glass. People carry their phones around in pockets with keys and change. People drop these things, toss them, scrape them. Why on earth don’t they get totally scratched up? The answer is Gorilla Glass. Corning invented this stuff in the ’60s, but didn’t know what to do with it. Then a few years ago, someone showed a piece of it to Steve Jobs. The guy dropped a piece of the glass into a bag full of keys and shook it hard; it came out without a scratch on it! Jobs immediately seized on the idea of using it for his iPhone. Today, Apple buys practically all the Gorilla Glass that Corning can make.
Taiwan Scientists Claim Microchip Breakthrough – (Phys Org – December 14, 2010)
Taiwanese scientists have unveiled an advanced microchip technology which they claimed marks a breakthrough in piling ever more memory into ever smaller spaces. The scientists said they had succeeded in producing a circuit measuring just nine nanometers across. “Researchers used to believe that 20 nanometers was the limit for microchip technologies,” said Ho Chia-hua, who heads the team behind the project at the state-run National Nano Device Laboratories. A chip using the new memory technology has about 20 times the storage capacity of memory units now available on the market and consumes just one 200th of the electricity, the scientists said.
Facebook Wrestles with Free Speech and Civility – (New York Times – December 12, 2010)
Recently Facebook took down a page used by WikiLeaks supporters to organize hacking attacks on the sites of such companies, including PayPal and MasterCard saying the page violated the terms of service, which prohibit material that is hateful, threatening, pornographic or incites violence or illegal acts. But it did not remove WikiLeaks’s own Facebook pages. Facebook’s decision illustrates the complexities that the company grapples with, on issues as diverse as that controversy, verbal bullying among teenagers, gay-baiting and religious intolerance. With Facebook’s prominence on the Web, the site’s role as an arbiter of free speech is likely to become even more pronounced. “Facebook has more power in determining who can speak and who can be heard around the globe than any Supreme Court justice, any king or any president,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University.
Google Earth for the Body – (Kurzweil AI – December 17, 2010)
Google has just launched its latest browser experiment, Google Body Browser. Body Browser shows an interactive detailed 3D model of the human anatomy that includes multiple layers, such as the circulatory and nervous systems and the skeleton and muscles. It works like Google Maps, with special tools for viewing different types of body systems (nervous system, circulatory system, etc.), adding text, etc. You can send a link to any images you create by simply emailing the URL that currently shows in the browser address bar.
Physicists Store Information on World’s Tiniest Computer Memory – (Kurzweil AI – December 17, 2010)
University of Utah physicists stored information for 112 seconds in what may become the world’s tiniest computer memory: magnetic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of atoms. Then the physicists retrieved and read the data electronically – a big step toward using the new kind of memory for both faster conventional and superfast “quantum” computers. However, some big technical hurdles remain: the nuclear spin storage-and-read-out apparatus works only at 3.2 degrees Kelvin, or slightly above absolute zero – the temperature at which atoms almost freeze to a standstill, and only can jiggle a little bit. And the apparatus must be surrounded by powerful magnetic fields roughly 200,000 times stronger than Earth’s.
John Bedini Unveils 14ft. High Monopole Motor at Conference – (You Tube – November 22, 2010)
John Bedini debuts his new 14ft. high modified Bedini Cole Monopole motor at the 2010 Renaissance Charge Conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho November 14th in tribute to Tom Bearden and his upcoming 80th birthday. Tom Bearden comments: For all those who so supremely “know” that one cannot produce more output energy than one inputs, let them go read the work by Klimov. Klimov and his colleagues have built a tiny solar cell which outputs 2 to 7 times as much energy as one has to input. This work has been replicated and validated by two great National Laboratories: (1) Los Alamos National Laboratory and (2) National Renewable Energy Laboratory. That is rigorous validation by the U.S. Dept. of Energy itself!
Nanosolar Breakthrough – Solar Cheaper than Coal – (Celsias website – no date)
The Nanosolar company has created a nanosolar coating. Their PowerSheet cells contrast the current solar technology systems by reducing the cost of production from $3 a watt to a mere 30 cents per watt. At this rate, solar power is cheaper than burning coal. Although the underlying technology has existed for years, Nanosolar has created a means to mass produce the solar sheets.
Car Fuel Could be Made from Thin Air – (Telegraph – August 6, 2010)
Azotobacter vinelandii, a microbe found around the roots of various food plants, creates an enzyme – vanadium nitrogenase – which in nature produces ammonia from nitrogen gas. But now it has been shown that it can also create propane, the fuel commonly used in camping gas stoves, out of carbon monoxide – a common byproduct of industrial processes. Markus Ribbe, a scientist at the University of California, says that eventually the enzyme could be tweaked, so that instead of only making the simple three-carbon-atom chain molecule of propane, it could create the longer chains that make up petrol. He says: “Obviously this could lead to new ways to create synthetic liquid fuels if we can make longer carbon-carbon chains.”
Lufthansa Plans First Biofuels Test on Regular Flights – (Bloomberg – November 29, 2010)
Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-biggest airline, plans to be the first carrier to test biofuels on regular passenger flights as the industry seeks ways to lower carbon-dioxide emissions and save on fuel purchases. Kerosene derived from plant oils will make up 50% of the fuel mix for one engine on an Airbus SAS A321 airliner flying on the Hamburg-Frankfurt route. The test will begin in April and last for six months if approved by regulators. Biofuel made by Finland’s only petroleum refiner Neste Oil Oyj will power the flights. British Airways Plc and Continental Airlines Inc. are among the carriers trying to curb emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Seabreacher – (Inner Space – April 18, 2010)
There’s something fishy about this boat. If you have ever imagined being able to move through water with the sleek grace of a shark, check out the Seabreacher X, Innespace Production’s latest submersible watercraft.
Leaked Cable: Hike Food Prices to Boost GM Crop Approval – (Food Freedom – December 14, 2010)
In a January 2008 meeting, US and Spain trade officials strategized how to increase acceptance of genetically modified foods in Europe, including inflating food prices on the commodities market, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. It seems Wall Street traders got the word: by June 2008, food prices had spiked so severely that The Economist announced that the real price of food had reached its highest level since 1845. The unprecedented increase caused an additional 250 million people to go hungry, pushing the global number to over a billion. 2008 is also the first year “since such statistics have been kept, that the proportion of the world’s population without enough to eat ratcheted upward,” said Fred Kaufman in The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It.
Mozart’s Growing Influence on Food – (Japan Times – November 25, 2010)
Although the claim that listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s complicated scores can boost your IQ has been debunked, its effect on bananas has yet to be disputed. So in July, the Hyogo Prefecture-based fruit company Toyoka Chuo Seika shipped out its first batch of “Mozart Bananas” to supermarkets in the area. Arriving as ordinary unripe bananas from the Philippines, “Mozart Bananas” meet an odd fate. “String Quartet 17” and “Piano Concerto 5 in D major,” among other works, play continuously for one week in their ripening chamber, which has speakers installed specifically for this purpose. Another company that uses this form of enhancement is the Ohara Shuzo, a sake brewery in Fukushima Prefecture. It’s enough to make the skeptic wonder.
Investigators Baffled as Wheat Fields Wither – (Capital Press – December 2, 2010)
The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University are investigating the yellowing of upward of 40,000 acres of wheat in Umatilla and Morrow counties. So far, the cause is a mystery, and researchers do not know if the problems in the two counties are related. OSU Morrow County Extension associate professor Larry Lutcher said 30,000 to 40,000 acres of wheat in his county have plants with yellow or purple tips. The discoloration spreads inward and downward on the leaf. In some cases, plants are completely desiccated and will not recover. “Most of the symptoms in Morrow County are unlike anything I have ever seen,” Lutcher said.
Just Who Are These WikiLeaks Guys?
To understand the central figures involved in WikiLeaks better and get a sense of them as individuals, we highly recommend the following two in-depth interviews. The first interview is with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, published in Forbes dated November 29, 2010, located here. The second is with Jacob Appelbaum, the only known American involved with WikiLeaks, from Rolling Stone magazine, dated December 1, 2010, located here. We also recommend a documentary on the history of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange done for Swedish public television (available in English), however we caution that viewers may find some of the leaked video footage with full sound taken from US helicopters in Iraq not only eye-opening but deeply disturbing.
WikiLeaks Backlash: The First Global Cyber War Has Begun, Claim Hackers (Guardian – December 11, 2010)
As Julian Assange is held in solitary confinement at Wandsworth prison, the anonymous community of hacktivists takes to the cyber battlefields. Like most international conflicts, last week’s internet war began over a relatively modest squabble, escalating in days into a global fight. Before WikiLeaks, Operation Payback’s initial target was America’s recording industry, chosen for its prosecutions of music file downloaders. From those humble origins, Payback’s anti-censorship, anti-copyright, freedom of speech manifesto would go viral, last week pitting an amorphous army of online hackers against the US government and some of the biggest corporations in the world. Charles Dodd, a consultant to US government agencies on internet security, said: “[The hackers] attack from the shadows and they have no fear of retaliation. There are no rules of engagement in this kind of emerging warfare.”
Anonymous Cyberwarriors Stun Experts – (Financial Times – December 10, 2010)
A group of “Anons” – as Anonymous members call themselves – said people of any political stripe were welcome in the group. “Good ideas are good ideas no matter who puts them up,” said one Anon, an American in his late 20s who admits to having limited technical know-how. When issues such as whom to attack are put on the floor of their 24-hour-a-day internet chat rooms, whoever is logged in at the time votes. Some administrators can kick people out of the discussion but chaos reigns. What some would see as infighting, Anons see as a decentralised approach that keeps them fleet of foot. “Having no command structure in Anonymous, we are not vulnerable to having that command structure taken down,” one said. “If someone starts trying to be a ringleader, everyone tells them to shut up. If you jump behind a leader and that leader is taken down, the entire movement is vulnerable.”
WikiLeaks and the Internet’s Long War – (Washington Post – December 12, 2010)
The battle between “Anonymous” and the establishment isn’t the first in the Long War between media-dubbed “hackers” and institutions, and considering the conflict’s progression is key to understanding where it will lead. This article traces the history of hacktivism beginning in the early 1980s when Richard Stallman, then an employee at MIT’s artificial-intelligence lab, was denied permission to access and edit computer code for the lab’s laser printer. Frustrated, he kicked off what he calls GNU, a massively collaborative project to create a free and sharable operating system. His efforts sparked a widespread movement challenging the restriction of access to software through patents. Supporters asserted that they had a right to control the code in their own computers.
US Air Force Blocks Staff from Websites Carrying WikiLeaks – (Guardian – December 15, 2010)
At least 25 sites that have posted WikiLeaks files (including the New York Times) had been barred, said Major Toni Tones of the US air force’s space command in Colorado. Tones said the action was taken in accordance with a policy that “routinely blocks air force network access to websites hosting inappropriate materials”. According to the Wall Street Journal, staff who attempt to access the blocked sites instead see an on-screen message saying: “Access denied. Internet usage is logged and monitored.” While the US defense department has issued orders against visiting WikiLeaks or downloading classified documents from the site, it has not ordered a blanket ban on visiting news organizations reporting on the contents of the classified cables. The army, navy and marines have not sought to block access to any websites.
Why Michael Moore Posted Bail for Julian Assange – (AlterNet – December 14, 2010)
Michael Moore personally put up $20,000 for Mr. Assange’s bail. Furthermore, he is publicly offering the assistance of his website, servers, domain names and anything else heI can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars. As Moore observed, “We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy.”
Attacks Test Firms’ Internet Defenses – (Wall St. Journal – December 11, 2010)
The computer attacks against Visa Inc., PayPal and other companies that cut off ties with WikiLeaks are testing businesses’ digital preparedness for what has become a high-stakes cyber war. Moments after a manifesto saying “PayPal is the enemy” surfaced Sunday on blogs, PayPal’s chief information security officer, Michael Barrett, moved his team “into red alert status,” including at the company’s operations nerve center in San Jose, Calif. What ensued was a week-long chess game between hackers and PayPal engineers in some nine locations around the world.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Dark Lord, Dark Victory | America’s Dark Passage – (Kosmos Journal – November 30, 2010)
Our sacrosanct national narrative of ‘redeemer nation’ has been rewritten into a perverse story of a chosen people beleaguered and a civilization beset by barbarism. Those wretched of the earth we once so proudly pledged our sacred honor to succor and lift up are now our forever-foe-to be monitored, held down and, if necessary, hounded to the darkest ends of the earth. But the darkness has instead come into us. While official banners still trumpet American altruism, our own spoken words, daily spun into the network ether of contemporary human consciousness, betray our true intent. Our actions even speak so much louder. Daily our implacable national energies destroy yet more little bits of human society, no longer in the name of their salvation, but rather for our sake to defend the homeland. We are the Dark Lord now-the mythic essence of children’s nightmares. This is the story of our descent.
Monitoring America – (Washington Post – 2010)
This article examines how Top Secret America plays out at the local level. It describes a web of 4,058 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. At least 935 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks or became involved in counterterrorism for the first time after 9/11. (Search a database for your state to find a detailed profile of counterterrorism efforts in your community.) The Post findings paint a picture of a country at a crossroads, where long-standing privacy principles are under challenge by these new efforts to keep the nation safe. The public face of this pivotal effort is Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, which years ago built one of the strongest state intelligence organizations outside of New York to try to stop illegal immigration and drug importation. She recently enlisted the help of Wal-Mart, Amtrak, major sports leagues, hotel chains and metro riders. In her speeches, she compares the undertaking to the Cold War fight against communists.
iPhone Snitch Network Launched – (Info Wars – December 13, 2010)
A new iPhone App with the misleading name ‘PatriotApp’ attempts to draw on the power of the patriot movement, turning smartphone users into a gigantic snitch network. Citizen Concepts, a company formed by insiders from Department of Homeland Security, notes on their homepage that the app “empowers citizens to assist government agencies in creating safer, cleaner, and more efficient communities via social networking and mobile technology. This app was founded on the belief that citizens can provide the most sophisticated and broad network of eyes and ears necessary to prevent terrorism, crime, environmental negligence, or other malicious behavior.”
News Black-Out in DC: Pay No Attention to Those Veterans Chained to the White House Fence – (Truth Out – December 18, 2010)
There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough. Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times. No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. However, it was carried by the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, complete with photographs.
India’s Ambassador Gets Pat-down in Airport – Washington Post – December 8, 2010)
India’s sari-clad ambassador was pulled from an airport security line and patted down by a TSA agent in Mississippi after attending a conference, an act one state agency official called “unfortunate.” The hands-on search last week also embarrassed the university officials who invited Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the United States, to give a speech for an international studies program. She said, ‘I will never come back here,'” said Janos Radvanyi, chair of Mississippi State University’s international studies department. “We are sending her a letter of apology.” But a TSA spokesman said diplomats are not exempt from the searches and that Shankar “was screened in accordance with TSA’s security policies and procedures.”
Texas Airport Security Wrongfully Demands to Search UN Envoy’s Turban – (AlterNet – December 13, 2010)
Even turbaned individuals with no affiliation with Islam or the Middle East, such as Sikh men, have become “a superficial and accessible proxy for the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks” and a “target of discriminatory conduct,” including employment discrimination, harassment, and violence. Last month in Houston, airport security officials detained Indian’s UN envoy Hardeep Puri Singh in a holding room for 30 minutes because he was wearing a turban. Singh correctly insisted that the security official had no right to check his turban, citing TSA regulations for searches of foreign diplomats.
Help You Make It to Your Flight – (You Tube – November 21, 2010)
Buck Howdy pokes back at the TSA.
Fourth Amendment Underclothes – (Cargo Collective – no date)
Here is a way to protest intrusive TSA X-ray scanners without saying a word: undergarments bearing the text of the 4th Amendment printed with metallic ink that, in theory, shows up clearly on the screens of full-body scanners. The manufacturer states: The clothes are designed as a silent protest against the new reality of being searched to the point where we’re basically naked. We don’t intend for this to be anything more than a thought-provoking way to fuel the debate about safety vs. civil liberties. If we sell a few items, great. But the main intention is to open more dialogue. It’s more of a conceptual piece than anything else.
Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Ambitions – (Fox News – November 26, 2010)
Intelligence agencies, computer security companies and the nuclear industry have been trying to analyze the Stuxnet worm since it was discovered in June by a Belarus-based company that was doing business in Iran. And what they’ve all found, says Sean McGurk, the Homeland Security Department’s acting director of national cyber security and communications integration, is a “game changer.” Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus. Apparently it has now succeeded in its intended mission and a well-informed guess can be made as to the consortium of nations that contributed to its design.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Use of Mobile Phones Banned in Indian Village – (Tech Trends – November 29, 2010)
Use of mobile phones has been banned by a local council in northern India. The reason given is to ban unmarried women from carrying mobile phones and also to halt romances between youngsters from different castes. In Uttar Pradesh state, the Baliyan council has decided to ban mobile phone after a series of elopements. Over the last year, at least 23 couples eloped against their parents wishes. Jatin Raghuvanshi, a village elder, commented that the panchayat (assembly) was convinced that the reason of the recent surge in series of elopement was cell phones as the young loves planned their elopement over using them.
Is It Just Us, Or Are Kids Getting Really Stupid? – (Philadelphia Magazine – November 26, 2010)
In the past decade, the number of college grads who can interpret a food label has fallen from 40% to 30%. An American child is six times more likely to know who won American Idol than the name of the Speaker of the House. Reading and writing scores both fell on the 2008 SATs. Not long ago, a high-school teacher in California handed out an assignment that required students to use a ruler – and discovered not a single one of them knew how. The problem is much worse than you think, because the way your kids live now is rewiring their brains. However it may not be as much a problem — as a solution to a new world.
Dark Clouds over Good Works of Gates Foundation – (Axis of Logic – July 11, 2010)
In Ebocha, Nigeria, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invests in the oil plant which doctors say harms babies whose immunizations were funded by the foundation. The makeshift clinic at a church and the flares spewing over Ebocha represent a head-on conflict for the Gates Foundation. In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings, a Times investigation has found, the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Company is First to Return Spacecraft from Orbit – (Yahoo News – December 9, 2010)
NASA took a giant leap away from the spaceflight business Wednesday as a private company launched a spacecraft into orbit and for the first time guided it safely back to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by large national governments. The capsule built by Space Exploration Technologies Inc. splashed down into the Pacific Ocean, right on target, following a three-hour mission that should pave the way for an actual flight to the International Space Station next summer.
Global Eruption Rocks the Sun – (NASA – December 13, 2010)
On August 1, 2010, an entire hemisphere of the sun erupted. Filaments of magnetism snapped and exploded, shock waves raced across the stellar surface, billion-ton clouds of hot gas billowed into space. Astronomers knew they had witnessed something big. It was so big, it may have shattered old ideas about solar activity. Explosions on the sun are not localized or isolated events, they announced. Instead, solar activity is interconnected by magnetism over breathtaking distances. Solar flares, tsunamis, coronal mass ejections–they can go off all at once, hundreds of thousands of miles apart, in a dizzyingly-complex concert of mayhem.
More Vermont Families Seeking Food Assistance – (Atlanta Business News – November 28, 2010)
A new federal report on hunger issued Nov. 15 found that Vermont and Alabama have had the highest increase in “food insecurity” during the last 10 years. Between 2008 and 2009, the share of households in Vermont that at times don’t have enough nutritious food rose from 12.1% to 13.6%. In Alabama, the rate rose from 13.8% to 15% in the same period. In the last three years, the Vermont FoodBank – a statewide anti-hunger organization – has seen a 40% increase in the number of people seeking help from its network of food shelves, meal sites, homeless shelters and senior centers around the state.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Scottish Voice Recognition Technology – (You Tube – March 4, 2010)
A voice recognition elevator sounds like a good idea but you may wish to think twice before getting on one…
Inside Treasury’s Nerve Center – (Washington Post – November 27, 2010)
This is where the U.S. Treasury’s data stream starts: tucked away in a former carpentry shop inside the bowels of the Treasury building, the markets room’s small staff plays a key role in monitoring the world’s financial markets, spotting emerging trends and providing detailed analysis day after day to Geithner and other senior policymakers. The modest markets room resembles a miniature version of a cubicle-free Wall Street trading floor. It features a large, central desk with a dozen workstations. Employees stare intently into their computer screens, analyzing trends in the mortgage markets, monitoring developments in global interest rates and foreign exchange markets, or eyeing stock exchanges in the United States, Europe and Asia, with a particular focus on the banking sector. A handful of flat-screen televisions flicker overhead, tuned to CNBC and other business networks.
Day Trading Alive, Outsourced to China – (New York Times – December 10, 2010)
By some industry estimates, as many as 10,000 people in China are doing speculative day trading of American stocks – mostly aggressive young men working the wee hours here, from 9:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., often trading tens of thousands of shares a day. Many day trading shops have sprung up in and around China’s major cities in recent years. Trading firms based in the United States and Canada are recruiting inexpensive workers in China and teaching them to day trade. China prohibits its citizens from using Chinese currency to buy or sell shares of companies listed on foreign stock exchanges, though there appears to be no prohibition against trading stocks for an account owned by a foreign entity. That legal gray area has enticed several American and Canadian trading firms to set up shop in China, at least partly to cater to wealthy clients seeking more diverse investment options.
Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives – (New York Times – December 11, 2010)
On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan. The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable – and controversial – fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential. In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.
The Scale of the Universe – (Cary Huang – 2010)
This website provides an elegant visualization of the relative size of everything, from the smallest known particle to the whole of the known universe. Use the slider at the bottom of the webpage to navigate.
Life May Have Survived ‘Snowball Earth’ in Ocean Pockets – (BBC News – December 14, 2010)
Life may have survived a cataclysmic global freeze some 700 million years ago in pockets of open ocean. Researchers claim to have found evidence in Australia that turbulent seas still raged during the period, where micro-organisms may have clung on for life. Conditions on what is dubbed Snowball Earth were so harsh that most life is thought to have perished. Researchers say the sediments date to the Sturtian glaciation some 700 million years ago, one of two great ice ages of the Cryogenian period associated with the Snowball Earth hypothesis. These sediments, they say, prove pockets of open ocean waters must have existed during the period, perhaps supporting microscopic life.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
German Zoo Forces Gay Vultures to Mate with Females – (AOL News – November 26, 2010)
German zookeepers are forcing two male vultures who prefer nesting together to mate with females, sparking outrage from gay rights activists who accuse the zoo of discriminating against birds of a different feather.
JUST FOR FUN
A Display from Hockney’s Pixilated Period – (NRP – December 7, 2010)
When artist David Hockney first got an iPhone about two years ago, he immediately realized it was a new medium for creativity. “Incredible little thing, really, because it was like a sketchbook and a paintbox all in one,” he said. Better, even: “No cleaning up. No mess.” That’s because he’s painting with an app called Brushes – a small virtual paintbox on the phone’s screen, into which Hockney dips a finger – or 10 – and makes pictures. Then he moved on to the iPad. At a gallery in Paris, a riot of non-paint paintings on luminous digital screens. One wall at the gallery is hung with 20 iPhones; a second wall carries 20 iPads. (The Berge-St. Laurent Foundation paid for all the devices – it’s not an Apple-backed effort, it says.)
What You Can Buy with Five Dollars – (Fiverr website – no date)
Perhaps it is a sign of the times: at this website you can find countless individuals offering all manner of services (well, almost all manner) for a five spot. What product or service might you be interested in for a mere five dollars?
A FINAL QUOTE…
I believe that I am a pilgrim of the future. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
A special thanks to: Kenton Anderson, Thomas Burgin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Chas Freeman, Ray Goodman, Jean Haines, Robert Hoge, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Ray Petersen, Abby Porter, T. Roberts, Stu Rose, Cory Shreckengost, Steve Ujvarosy, Jack Witkin 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