Volume 14, Number 15 – 8/15/11

Volume 14, Number 15 – 8/15/11Twitter   Facebook



  • Studies by Geraldine Wright and her colleagues at Newcastle University in the UK have shown that honeybees may experience something akin to moods.
  • Aging makes people particularly vulnerable to forgetfulness where we fail to maintain a thought in the face of distractions. New research from Yale University uncovers cellular changes that seem to underlie this type of memory loss in monkeys, and shows that it can be reversed with drugs.
  • At a cost of about $6,000, two security researchers converted a surplus U.S. Army target drone into their personal remote-controlled spy plane. According to one of the researchers: “You don’t need a PhD from MIT to do this.”
  • Arctic ice melt could pause for several years and then resume.

by John L. Petersen

The economy is about to come unglued again (more on that later), but it is only one of the indicators of very large change.

Artificial DNA

With all of the social and earth changes happening across the planet, it is easy to miss some of the most significant indicators in other sectors that confirm the nature of the global shift that is going on (especially if you’re not a FUTUREdition reader!). But if broad-based, exponential change is truly underway, then almost no discipline should be without some indicators of either the collapse of existing perspectives or revolutionary breakthroughs into new spaces. I believe that the only way that this wave of change can be sustained (if only for just another decade, to say nothing about a longer period), is for there to be fundamental reorganizations transpiring across the board. A couple indicators popped up this last week that are emblematic of this general direction.

Researchers say they have created the first ever animal with artificial information in its genetic code. The technique, they say, could give biologists “atom-by-atom control” over the molecules in living organisms. One expert the BBC spoke to agrees, saying the technique would be seized upon by “the entire biology community.”

Now think about that for a minute. Tell me where that could take this species when our scientists can artificially determine the genetic code (and therefore characteristics) of any form of life on earth? I’d call this an inflection point – the place where the big change sends things toward a very different future.

I’m going to start looking for wise and ethical biologists who have a great ability to look into the future.

The Vegetarian Myth

Then there are these assumptions that we carry around with us that fundamentally define what we do. These big ideas that embolden behavior are often called memes. We believe them so strongly that we act upon them. One that I’ve embraced for many years now is the relative value of not eating meat. I have been “almost” a vegetarian for over a decade, only sneaking a Five Guys hamburger a couple of times a year. I’ve got all these reasons (that certainly make sense to me) that support this behavior.

Then last week a friend sent me this interview with Lierre Keith, a very bright, articulate woman who has written a new book about the vegetarian myth, as she calls it. First of all, for most of her life, Ms. Keith has been a vegan, so she had more reasons than I had about why one should only be eating vegetables.

But I am also a farmer (sort of). Diane and I run a farm here in West Virginia. She certainly does far more growing stuff these days than I do, but I still have a pretty good sense of the dynamics associated with organized agriculture as it is now practiced . . . and particularly how the system doesn’t work for small farmers, like us.

So, when I listened to this interview, it struck me as having truth on a number of fronts.

The cover blurb from her books says: We’ve been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. Lierre Keith believed in that plant-based diet and spent twenty years as a vegan. But in The Vegetarian Myth, she argues that we’ve been led astray–not by our longings for a just and sustainable world, but by our ignorance.

The truth is that agriculture is a relentless assault against the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. In service to annual grains, humans have devastated prairies and forests, driven countless species extinct, altered the climate, and destroyed the topsoil–the basis of life itself. Keith argues that if we are to save this planet, our food must be an act of profound and abiding repair: it must come from inside living communities, not be imposed across them.

There’s a beauty to her argument that is quite compelling in that it is really a systems analysis – which, of course, is always better than focusing on a single issue or domain. See what you think. If she changes your mind, this could well be a personal inflection point.

Here’s the interview. Here’s a link to information on the book from her site.

The Beginning of the End of Capitalism

There’s been a clear shift in the sense of the health of the world’s financial and economic systems in the last two weeks. It’s almost as though the air is suddenly being let out of the balloon. Certainly the volatile activity of the stock markets has generated new uncertainty, but something else has happened: mainstream economists are losing confidence in the future of the system.

For many months I have been inundated with articles and analysis predicting the inevitable end of the financial world. The fundamentals are not sustainable. We are out of options. The Fed is up against the wall. It is only a matter of time.

Well, now it is happening.

It’s one thing when the fringy folks are trying to sell you gold; it is quite another one when the more (or less) unencumbered centrist thinkers whose prognostications influence many millions of people start to raise red flags. For my money, we’re about to watch the bottom fall out again. Very soon.

Here, from AlterNet, is a piece about Nouriel Robini.

Mainstream Economist: Marx Was Right. Capitalism May Be Destroying Itself

Nouriel Roubini is a mainstream economist who teaches at New York University and may be best known as one of the early predictors of the ’08 crash.

He is no Marxist.

But today, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Roubini admitted that Marx was right about Capitalism and raised the possibility that Capitalism is destroying itself in the way Marx outlined more than a century and a half ago.

I’ve produced a rough transcript (Roubini’s accent gives me some trouble) of the critical portion of this very interesting interview. I urge you to read each word carefully at least once, if not twice.

Widely-read Analyst John Mauldin, in his weekly Thoughts From the Frontline column, crystallized his thoughts in the headline: “The Beginning of the Endgame” and ended his commentary with: In short, there are no easy solutions. We have just about used up all our “rabbits in the hat” as far as fiscal and monetary policy are concerned. Within his piece he says: As I will show below, the US (indeed much of the world) is on the edge of yet another recession. It will not take much to push us into one, just a small shock, like say a banking crisis in Europe . . .

You can access his lengthy article here.

There are a lot of converging reasons to believe that the next few months heading into the end of October are going to be something pretty impressive in terms of big change. It’s hard to believe, with the fragility of the financial system and the big, country-sized, potential defaults that are in play, that something highly disruptive is working its way toward us all.

Eliminating the Ability to Communicate/Coordinate

This year Egypt, Iran and China have shut down cell phone and internet service at different times to control the activities of their citizens. Eliminating the ability of individuals to communicate with each other may seem like the obvious tool of authoritarian governments that don’t believe in the right of free speech, but now Britain, in the face of the riots that have consumed that country, has considered the option and the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco has admitted shutting down the cell system in the subway to disrupt planned protests.

Last week, a protest was planned in the Bay Area Rapid Transit to protest the latest police shooting of an unarmed man. But protesters found themselves without cell service, and now a BART official admits that cell service was shut off to quell the action — violating citizens’ First Amendment rights. CS Monitor.

This is interesting, if not ominous. In the face of behavior that they don’t like or can’t control, governments and public agencies are now cutting off communications capabilities. It’s interesting because this is an obvious example of (communications) technology getting far out in front of the underlying social control systems. Having no other way to deal with rapidly increasing abilities of individuals to communicate and coordinate with each other (the evolution of the organism?), authorities can think of nothing other than to shut down the communication medium.

But it’s not as though they have thought about the longer term implications of their short-term solution. In the BART case, the hacker group ANONOMOUS, for example, has now decided that they will attack BART in response to their shut-down order.

This trend is ominous because if we are entering a period of increasing disruption and uncertainty, which certainly seems to be the case, it might be fair to guess that there will be more situations that will threaten the status quo – whether local or national — and that governments will look for new ways to control this undesired behavior.

There is a rather mature group of technologies that are available to law enforcement and the military that are called “non-lethal” or “less than lethal” of which most people have little awareness. These approaches use a wide variety of technologies to incapacitate, but not kill, individuals (or groups of individuals). As yet unfamiliar devices that use sound and radio waves and other interventions are available to disrupt biological systems and render individuals and groups unable to operate coherently.

I bring this up because I’d guess that we might begin to see the increased use of these devices in the future . . . then things could start to look and feel like a science fiction movie.

Incoming Comet

Now, just to cover ourselves here (wouldn’t want to receive a bunch of emails from FE readers saying something really big happened and we hadn’t seen it coming!), let me make you aware of the comet that is headed our way. Could be no big deal . . . or, on the other hand. It’s hard to tell at this point (and the conspiracy folks are out in force on this one), but I’m encouraged to pass this along because there are enough other unusual and weird things happening in this part of the galaxy these days that Comet Elenin could turn out to be more than it appears – or not.

The Next Three Years

In light of all of this change, perhaps you would benefit from a (relatively) informed perspective of what this shift is all about and what might happen in the next three years. As it happens, I’ve produced a DVD of a presentation that I gave recently that addresses just those topics. Many FE readers have ordered these discs and have sent along very nice comments about how they’ve been helped by watching them.

This 2.5 hour, two-DVD presentation weaves the predictions and explanations about what is happening in the galaxy, solar system and planet from five different “unconventional” sources and then shows where NASA and other more conventional sources confirm that we have entered a period of change unlike anything previously seen before by our species. The talk addresses the following questions:

  • What is happening on our planet now?
  • Why is all of this change taking place?
  • What kind of human and world could result from this shift?
  • What are the implications for you?
  • What can you do about preparing yourself for this change?

    Since putting this together, I have had repeated indications from a number of new sources that suggest that the essential dynamics of what this presentation proposes is correct. I think that you’d find the integrated perspective to be provocative and useful.

    We’ve had really great response to our making this presentation available and I’d be happy to send one to you. You can order the DVDs here or by clicking on the banner above.


    Censoring Mobiles and the Net: How the West is Clamping Down – (Sidney Morning Herald – August 15, 2011)
    Seemingly Orwellian moves by Western governments to crack down on the use of technology by citizens are being compared to repressive policies of regimes such as China. After British Prime Minister David Cameron floated the idea of restricting the use of services such as Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger to prevent riots, transit authorities in San Francisco late last week shut down mobile phone reception in several underground stations to block would-be demonstrators. Politicians in Norway have discussed methods to limit online anonymity and combat web extremism in the wake of the recent massacre. In Australia, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is still intent on implementing his heavily criticised mandatory ISP filtering net censorship scheme despite public and political opposition.


    Do Bees Have Feelings? – (Scientific American – August 2, 2011)
    “Do bees have feelings?” is an open scientific question. It’s also an important one with implications for how we should treat not just bees, but the great majority of animals. Recently, studies by Geraldine Wright and her colleagues at Newcastle University in the UK have rekindled debate over these issues by showing that honeybees may experience something akin to moods. Using simple behavioral tests, Wright’s research team showed that like other lab-tested brooders — which so far include us, monkeys, dogs, and starlings — stressed bees tend to see the glass as half empty. While this doesn’t (and can’t) prove that bees experience human-like emotions, it does give pause and suggests that we should take seriously the possibility that even an insect may have a rudimentary emotional life.

    Antimatter Belt around Earth Discovered – (BBC News – August 7, 2011)
    A thin band of antimatter particles called antiprotons enveloping the Earth has been spotted for the first time. The find, described in Astrophysical Journal Letters, confirms theoretical work that predicted the Earth’s magnetic field could trap antimatter. The team says a small number of antiprotons lie between the Van Allen belts of trapped “normal” matter. The researchers say there may be enough to implement a scheme using antimatter to fuel future spacecraft. The antiprotons were spotted by the Pamela satellite (an acronym for Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) – launched in 2006 to study the nature of high-energy particles from the Sun and from beyond our Solar System – so-called cosmic rays.


    Age-related Memory Loss Reversed in Monkeys – (Technology Review – July 27, 2011)
    You walk into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee but get distracted by the mail, and then forget what you were doing in the first place. Aging makes people particularly vulnerable to this kind of forgetfulness, where we fail to maintain a thought in the face of distractions. New research from Yale University uncovers cellular changes that seem to underlie this type of memory loss in monkeys, and shows that it can be reversed with drugs. By delivering a certain chemical to the brain, researchers could make neurons in old monkeys behave like those in young monkeys. Clinical trials of a generic drug called guanfacine, originally used to treat hypertension, that mimics this effect are already underway.

    Korean Scientists Produce Glow-in-the-Dark Dog – (Fox News – July 27, 2011)
    South Korean scientists have created a glowing dog using a cloning technique that could help find cures for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases because the genes injected that make the dog glow could be substituted with other genes. Humans and dogs have 268 illnesses in common which could be better studied using this technology.

    Sperm Grown in Laboratory Raise Hopes of Male Infertility Treatments – (Guardian – March 23, 2011)
    Scientists have grown sperm in the laboratory in a landmark study that could help preserve the fertility of cancer patients and shed fresh light on male reproductive problems. Japanese researchers cultivated small pieces of tissue from the testes of baby mice on a gel bathed in nutrients. After several weeks they collected viable sperm from the tissue. The sperm appeared to be completely healthy and were used in IVF treatments to produce 12 live mouse pups that went on to have young of their own. Importantly, the scientists retrieved healthy sperm from tissue that was cultivated after being frozen for up to 25 days, suggesting that cold storage did not harm the cells. They warn, however, that the fertility of mouse pups born from the lab-grown sperm was a “crude indicator” of their health, and that subtle genetic changes in the sperm “could be pivotal for the wellbeing of subsequent generations”.

    New Leukemia Treatment Exceeds ‘Wildest Expectations’ – (MSNBC – August 10, 2011)
    Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say the treatment, a single injection, made the most common type of leukemia completely disappear in two of the patients and reduced it by 70% in the third. In each of the patients as much as five pounds of cancerous tissue completely melted away in a few weeks, and a year later it is still gone. In the Penn experiment, the researchers removed certain types of white blood cells that the body uses to fight disease from the patients. Using a modified, harmless version of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, they inserted a series of genes into the white blood cells. These were designed to make the cells target and kill the cancer cells. The doctors injected them back into the patients. In similar past experimental treatments for several types of cancer the re-injected white cells killed a few cancer cells and then died out. But the Penn researchers inserted a gene that made the white blood cells multiply by a thousand fold inside the body.

    Stick-On Electronic Tattoos – (Technology Review – August 11, 2011)
    Researchers have made stretchable, ultrathin electronics that cling to skin like a temporary tattoo and can measure electrical activity from the body. These electronic tattoos could allow doctors to diagnose and monitor conditions like heart arrhythmia or sleep disorders noninvasively. John A. Rogers, a professor of materials science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has developed a prototype that can replicate the monitoring abilities of bulky electrocardiograms and other medical devices that are normally restricted to a clinical or laboratory setting.

    Researchers Create First Animal with Artificial Genetic Code – (Extinction Protocol – August 11, 2011)
    Researchers say they have created the first ever animal with artificial information in its genetic code. The technique, they say, could give biologists “atom-by-atom control” over the molecules in living organisms. The work by a Cambridge University team used nematode worms. What makes the newly created animals different is that their genetic code has been extended to create biological molecules not known in the natural world. Just 20 amino acids are used in natural living organisms, assembled in different combinations to make the tens of thousands of different proteins needed to sustain life. But Sebastian Greiss and Jason Chin have re-engineered the nematode worm’s gene-reading machinery to include a 21st amino acid, not found in nature.


    Arctic Ice Melt Could Pause for Several Years, Then Resume – (Science Daily – August 12, 2011)
    A computer modeling study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research reinforces previous findings by other research teams that the level of Arctic sea ice loss observed in recent decades cannot be explained by natural causes alone, and that the ice will eventually disappear during summer if climate change continues. But in an unexpected new result, the NCAR research team found that Arctic ice under current climate conditions is as likely to expand as it is to contract for periods of up to about a decade.


    Progress Hits Snag: Tiny Chips Use Outsize Power – (New York Times – July 31, 2011)
    For decades, the power of computers has grown at a staggering rate as designers have managed to squeeze ever more and ever tinier transistors onto a silicon chip – doubling the number every two years, on average, and leading the way to increasingly powerful and inexpensive personal computers, laptops and smartphones. Now, however, this extraordinary acceleration may be about to meet its limits. The problem is that all those transistors could require too much power to run economically. A paper presented at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture summed up the problem: even today, the most advanced microprocessor chips have so many transistors that it is impractical to supply power to all of them at the same time. So some of the transistors are left unpowered – or dark, in industry parlance – while the others are working. The phenomenon is known as dark silicon.

    When Patents Attack – (NPR – July 26, 2011)
    Nathan Myhrvold is a genius and a polymath who has made hundreds of millions of dollars as Microsoft’s chief technology officer. Myhrvold has more than 100 patents to his name, and he’s cast himself as a man determined to give his fellow inventors their due. In 2000, he founded a company called Intellectual Ventures, which he calls “a company that invests in invention.” But Myhrvold’s company has a different image among many Silicon Valley insiders. The influential blog Techdirt regularly refers to Intellectual Ventures as a patent troll. IPWatchdog, an intellectual property site, called IV “patent troll public enemy #1.” These blogs write about how Intellectual Ventures has amassed one of the largest patent portfolios in existence and is going around to technology companies demanding money to license these patents. Patents are a big deal in the software industry right now. Lawsuits are proliferating. Big technology companies are spending billions of dollars to buy up huge patent portfolios in order to defend themselves. Computer programmers say patents are hindering innovation.

    Superman’s Memory Crystals May Become Reality in Computers – (Telegraph – August 15, 2011)
    Computers may soon be saving their data onto hard drives made of glass following research by British scientists who have developed a way of storing information similar to the “memory crystals” seen in the Superman films. Researchers at Southampton University used lasers to rearrange the atoms in pieces of glass, turning it into new type of computer memory. They claim the glass memory is far more stable and resilient than current types of hard-drive memory, which have a limited lifespan of a couple of decades and are vulnerable to damage from high temperatures and moisture. The glass memory can withstand temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees F, is unaffected by water and can last for thousands of years without losing information.


    Off-grid Power, Energy Breakthrough – (Off Grid – May 3, 2011)
    Researchers at Purdue University have developed an aluminum alloy that could be used in a new type of mobile technology to convert polluted water into drinkable, while extracting hydrogen to generate electricity. The potable water could be produced for about $1 per gallon, and electricity could be generated for about 35 cents per kilowatt hour of energy, which is low compared to the cost of solar at 10 times that amount. The alloy contains aluminum, gallium, indium and tin. Immersing it in freshwater or saltwater causes a spontaneous reaction, splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The hydrogen could then be fed to a fuel cell to generate electricity, producing steam as a byproduct. The steam would kill any bacteria, and then it would condense to purified water.

    Catalyst That Makes Hydrogen Gas Breaks Speed Record – (Science Daily – August 14, 2011)
    Looking to nature for their muse, researchers have used a common protein to guide the design of a material that can make energy-storing hydrogen gas. The synthetic material works 10 times faster than the original protein found in water-dwelling microbes, the researchers report, clocking in at 100,000 molecules of hydrogen gas every second. “This nickel-based catalyst is really very fast,” said coauthor Morris Bullock of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “It’s about a hundred times faster than the previous catalyst record holder. And from nature, we knew it could be done with abundant and inexpensive nickel or iron.”


    This Pod Drives Itself – (Good – August 11, 2011)
    The UK-based company ULTra recently opened the first commercial personal rapid transit system in the world at Heathrow airport in London, where 22 electric autopilot pods now shuttle 800 passengers a day back and forth from parking lots to the British Airways terminal. Four to six passengers plus cargo can fit in the pods, which can travel 25 miles per hour and use laser sensors to find their way along a 1.2 mile paved “guideway.” The pods arrive at the station at the behest of passengers, like an elevator, rather than a normal airport shuttle bus that keeps running when no one’s waiting for it. Passengers press a button to start the vehicle and indicate their destination. The system is cheaper to install than light rail, and at 5 feet wide, the guideway is narrow enough to be accommodated by many city streets.

    An Airplane that Flies Like a Bird – (Flixxy – August, 2011)
    This TED video clip shows Markus Fischer, head of Festo’s bionic learning network, demonstrating the robotic SmartBird, a lightweight model airplane, that flies by flapping its wings. For more details, see also: YouTube Video.

    Effortless Sailing With Fluid Flow Cloak – (Science Daily – August 11, 2011)
    Duke engineers have already shown that they can “cloak” light and sound, making objects invisible — now, they have demonstrated the theoretical ability to significantly increase the efficiency of ships by tricking the surrounding water into staying still. “Ships expend a great deal of energy pushing the water around them out of the way as they move forward,” said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. “What our cloak accomplishes is that it reduces the mass of fluid that has to be displaced to a bare minimum. We accomplish this by tricking the water into being perfectly still everywhere outside the cloak.”

    Black Gold Holds a Charge for Green Cars – (New Scientist – August 8, 2011)
    Today’s electric cars are handicapped by batteries that are heavy, expensive and a waste of space. Two-thirds of the volume of the battery in Nissan’s Leaf electric car, for example, consists of materials that provide structural support but generate no power. And those materials cost more than the electrically active components. One way to vastly improve rechargeable batteries is to put more of that deadweight to work. That’s the purpose of the secret sauce in the bottle, nicknamed “Cambridge crude” by Yet-Ming Chiang and his colleagues at MIT, who developed it. In this battery, the electrodes take the form of tiny particles of a lithium compound mixed with liquid electrolyte to make a slurry. The battery uses two streams of slurry, one positively charged and the other negatively charged. Both are pumped across aluminum and copper current collectors with a permeable membrane in between. As they flow the streams exchange lithium ions across the membrane, causing a current to flow externally. To recharge the battery, you apply a voltage to push the ions back across the membrane.


    Shifting Atlantic Mackerel Distribution Linked to Environmental Factors, Changing Climate – (Science Daily – August 12, 2011)
    NOAA scientists have found that environmental factors have changed the distribution patterns of Atlantic mackerel, a marine species found in waters from Cape Hatteras to Newfoundland, shifting the stock northeastward and into shallower waters. Atlantic mackerel migrate great distances on a seasonal basis to feed and spawn, and are sensitive to changes in water temperature. These findings could have significant implications for U.S. commercial and recreational mackerel fisheries that mostly occur during late winter and early spring. Between 1968 and 2008, the overwintering distribution of the Northwest Atlantic stock has shifted roughly 155 miles to the north and about 30 miles to the east.

    Poultry Farms That Go Organic Have Significantly Fewer Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria – (Science Daily – August 11, 2011)
    Antibiotic use in conventional animal food production has been shown to contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can potentially spread to humans. A new study, led by Dr. Amy R. Sapkota of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, provides data demonstrating that poultry farms that have transitioned from conventional to organic practices and ceased using antibiotics have significantly lower levels of drug-resistant enterococci bacteria. The study is the first to demonstrate lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria on newly organic farms in the United States and suggests that removing antibiotic use from large-scale U.S. poultry farms can result in immediate and significant reductions in antibiotic resistance for some bacteria.


    The Army’s Bold Plan to Turn Soldiers Into Telepaths – (Discover – April 15, 2011)
    The U.S. Army wants to allow soldiers to communicate just by thinking. The new science of synthetic telepathy could soon make that happen. Gerwin Schalk, a 39-year-old biomedical scientist and a leading expert on brain-computer interfaces at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center at Albany Medical College. The Austrian-born Schalk, along with a handful of other researchers, is part of a $6.3 million U.S. Army project to establish the basic science required to build a thought helmet-a device that can detect and transmit the unspoken speech of soldiers, allowing them to communicate with one another silently. As improbable as it sounds, synthetic telepathy, as the technology is called, is getting closer to battlefield reality.

    State Actor Behind Slew of Cyber Attacks – (Reuters – August 3, 2011)
    Security experts have discovered an unprecedented series of cyber attacks on the networks of 72 organizations globally, including the United Nations, governments and corporations, over a five-year period. Security company McAfee, which uncovered the intrusions, said it believed there was one “state actor” behind the attacks but declined to name it, though several other security experts said the evidence points to China. The victims in the extended campaign include the governments of the United States, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada; the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the International Olympic Committee (IOC); the World Anti-Doping Agency; and an array of companies, from defense contractors to high-tech enterprises. In the case of the United Nations, the hackers broke into the computer system of its secretariat in Geneva in 2008, hid there for nearly two years, and quietly combed through reams of secret data, according to McAfee.

    DIY Spy Drone Sniffs Wi-Fi, Intercepts Phone Calls – (Wired – August 4, 2011)
    At a cost of about $6,000, security researchers Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins converted a surplus FMQ-117B U.S. Army target drone into their personal remote-controlled spy plane, complete with Wi-Fi and hacking tools, such as an IMSI catcher and antenna to spoof a GSM cell tower and intercept calls. It also had a network-sniffing tool and a dictionary of 340 million words for brute-forcing network passwords. The two security researchers created the spy plane as a proof of concept to show what criminals, terrorists and others might also soon be using for their nefarious activities. Tassey, a security consultant to Wall Street and the U.S. intelligence community, said that if the two of them could think up and build a personal spy drone, others were likely already thinking about it, too. “You don’t need a PhD from MIT to do this,” Perkins said.


    House Panel Approves Broadened ISP Snooping Bill – (CNET – July 28, 2011)
    Under the proposed bill, internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year–in case police want to review them in the future–under legislation that a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved today. The 19 to 10 vote represents a victory for conservative Republicans, who made data retention their first major technology initiative after last fall’s elections, and the Justice Department officials who have quietly lobbied for the sweeping new requirements. A last-minute rewrite of the bill expands the information that commercial Internet providers are required to store to include customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses. To make it politically difficult to oppose, proponents dubbed the bill the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, even though the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well.

    China Steps Up Web Monitoring, Driving Many Wi-Fi Users Away – (New York Times – July 25, 2011)
    New regulations that require bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install costly Web monitoring software are prompting many businesses to cut Internet access and sending a chill through the capital’s game-playing, Web-grazing literati who have come to expect free Wi-Fi with their lattes and green tea. The software, which costs businesses about $3,100, provides public security officials the identities of those logging on to the wireless service of a restaurant, cafe or private school and monitors their Web activity. Those who ignore the regulation and provide unfettered access face a $2,300 fine and the possible revocation of their business license. It is unclear whether the new measures will be strictly enforced or applied beyond the area of central Beijing where they are already in effect. But they suggest that public security officials, unnerved by turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa partly enabled by the Internet, are undaunted in their efforts to increase controls.

    Former Counterterrorism Czar Accuses Tenet, Other CIA Officials of Cover-Up – (TruthOut – August 11, 2011)
    With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 just a month away, the intelligence failures leading up to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have started to attract fresh scrutiny from former counterterrorism officials, who have called into question the veracity of the various government probes that concluded who knew what and when. For example, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and an interview with a former high-ranking counterterrorism official have shown how a little-known military intelligence unit, unbeknownst to the various investigative bodies probing the terrorist attacks, was ordered by senior government officials to stop tracking Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s movements prior to 9/11.


    America Next: End of the World As We Knew It – (Atlantic – August 12, 2011)
    There are signs ranging from the tumult in the Middle East to a humiliating war in Afghanistan to a downgrade of US sovereign debt that America is at a key inflection point in its history and that the US network of global control (aka, “empire”) is disintegrating. The world today sees a diminished America: one whose military power seems over-extended and hemorrhaging in Afghanistan; whose economic leadership was in doubt when the US exported toxic financial products to the world through the sub-prime crisis and which now is officially crippled given the first ratings downgrade of American bonds; whose moral leadership remains tied in knots as long as Guantanamo remains open and the self-confidence Americans once had in their own systems of justice and government continues to decline. It’s through this lens that the hopeful-sounding Arab Spring, the riots in London, the tumultuous financial markets, and the rise of China and a new crop of ascending powers like Brazil, India, Turkey, and South Africa need to be considered. The old order is crumbling; a new one is forming – but between them is chaos, uncertainty and social and political friction.


    Bernie Madoff’s pants protect your iPad for $500 – (CNET – August 12, 2011)
    Part of Bernie Madoff’s punishment for perpetrating an epic investment scandal was the auction of many of his personal belongings. That included some tacky shoes, used underwear, and pants. Sixteen pairs of those pants ended up in the hands of Frederick James, a site that sells recycled and eco-friendly iPad covers. Now you can swaddle your iPad in cloth that once swaddled Bernie Madoff’s butt. As you might expect, most of the iPad sleeves are in shades of brown and khaki. But Madoff also had a more colorful side to his wardrobe. There are some cases available in orange, green, and blue. The sleeves cost between $250 and $500 each. Frederick James says earlier versions of these cases were snatched up by bankers for Christmas gifts.


    BBC Reporter Tells Millions of Radio Listeners that He Faced a UFO on His Way to Work – (Daily Mail – August 4, 2011)
    Radio 5 Live is a radio station known for irreverent chat, where current affairs and topical discussion reign supreme. But it took on a more otherworldly tone recently when one of its own sports reporters claimed he had a close brush with a UFO. ‘Freaked out’ sports journalist Mike Sewell said he was left gobsmacked (astounded) when he spotted a huge ‘disc-shaped’ aircraft hovering above the Hertfordshire countryside on his way to work in the early hours of the morning. (Editor’s note: What is interesting is that the recounting of such an experience – whatever it may have been – is making its way into mainstream media.)


    Secrets From The Country’s Thinnest State – (Huffington Post – August 2, 2011)
    The United States is getting heavier and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the data to prove it. In 1985, the nation’s obesity rates were depicted using three colors: dark blue to indicate 10 – 14% obesity, light blue to indicate less than 10% obesity or white to indicate that no data was provided for the state. Over the years the color system could not keep up with our growing waistlines, and new colors had to be added. The 2010 map has five more colors than the 1985 map; the most disturbing color is the dark red which represents states with an obesity rate greater than 30%. Furthermore, obesity among children has tripled since 1980. However one state – Colorado – took much longer to change colors than any other state and today it boasts the lowest obesity rates of its adult population in the nation. So what is its secret?


    Robot Learns Using Breakthrough Artificial Intelligence – (Huffington Post – August 2, 2011)
    Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Hasegawa Lab have developed a robot that is capable of thinking on its own and can learn how to solve problems it has never encountered before. The SOINN (Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network) is an unsupervised online-learning method, which is capable of incremental learning, based on Growing Neural Gas (GNG) and Self-Organizing Map (SOM). For online data that is non-stationary and has a complex distribution, it can approximate the distribution of input data and estimate the appropriate number of classes by forming a network in a self-organizing way.


    Foxconn to Replace Humans With 1 Million Robots – (PC Magazine – August 1, 2011)
    The economics of capitalism may start making Chinese workers redundant. Apple product manufacturer Foxconn is reportedly planning to “hire” one million robots within three years. Foxconn chairman, founder, and CEO Terry Gou announced recently that the robots will replace some of the routine tasks currently performed by humans, such as spraying, welding, and assembling. Gou also said Foxconn already has 10,000 robots and that the number will increase to 300,000 next year and one million in three years. Although the implication was that robots would soon replace workers at the company, in a public statement the company reiterated Gou’s “commitment to moving the more than one million employees at Foxconn higher up the value chain beyond basic manufacturing work.” The company currently employs 1.2M people.

    Quantitative Easing Is Good for the Rich, Bad for the Poor – (Guardian – August 14, 2011)
    Quantitative easing (QE) – the Bank of England’s recession-busting policy of buying up billions of pounds of bonds, also used in the U.S. – may have contributed to social unrest by exacerbating inequality, according to one City economist. Dhaval Joshi, of BCA Research, argues the approach of creating electronic money pushes up share prices and profits without feeding through to wages. “The evidence suggests that QE cash ends up overwhelmingly in profits, thereby exacerbating already extreme income inequality and the consequent social tensions that arise from it,” Joshi says in a new report.


    In Conversation with Julian Assange, Parts I and II – (e-flux – no dates)
    The interview, conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist, is divided into two parts-in the first, Obrist was interested in tracing Asange’s work back to its beginnings. It focuses on his public work as the voice of WikiLeaks, and the experiences and philosophical background that informs such a monumentally polemical project. In the second part, Assange responds to questions posed to him by a variety of artists who pose thoughtful and, at times, unusual questions. This is valuable reading if one wishes to understand not only Julian Assange but the global thrust of “transparency” as a crucial component of democracy.

    Law Experts Speak Out: Academics Who “Guest Author” Medical Journal Articles Guilty of Fraud – (Natural News – August 3, 2011)
    Big Pharma companies have long been paying in-house writers to ghostwrite scientific research articles then paying doctors and high-level academics to pretend they were the authors. Two attorneys, Professors Simon Stern and Trudo Lemmens of the University of Toronto law faculty, conclude that the practice is not just a sham but constitutes legal fraud. The ghostwriting and guest authoring of industry-controlled studies clearly raise what the law experts call “serious ethical and legal concerns, bearing on integrity of medical research and scientific evidence used in legal disputes.”

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

    Nature’s Hidden Prime Number Code – (BBC News – July 27, 2011)
    Prime numbers are found hidden in nature, but humans have made spectacular use of them, writes mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. By translating nature into the code of numbers we have discovered hidden structures and patterns that control our environment. But more than that: by tapping into nature’s code we have been able to change our surroundings, have built extraordinary cities, and developed amazing technology that has resulted in the modern world.


    World’s 10 Craziest Sandwiches – (Short List – no date)
    For all you foodies, check out these ten sandwich possibilities. If this is the future of the culinary arts, we are concerned. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.


    So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events. And in today already walks tomorrow. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    A special thanks to: Kenton Anderson, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Ken Dabkowski, Micha Eizen, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Timothy Good, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Stu Rose 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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