| FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS|
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
- Swedbank saw over a third of its ATMs in Latvia wiped out recently due to intentionally false rumors spread on Twitter that the bank was in trouble.
- A pair of diamond crystals big enough for the eye to see have been placed in a connected quantum state.
- Genetically altered mosquitoes could greatly reduce humanity’s biggest killer
- Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own.
by John L. Petersen
Thank You For Your Support
We’re approaching the end of our 14th year of publishing this free newsletter. During that time we’ve tried to provide you with information and a perspective that you can’t find anywhere else. The many kind responses that I receive from FE readers suggest that they have been regularly moved, provoked and informed by this little bi-monthly, horizon-scanning endeavor that we started so many years ago.
Even though it costs us about $20,000 per year to publish FE (not counting my time!), we’ve been able to provide FUTUREdition to you at no cost because a number of generous friends and readers have contributed to covering some of those costs. We’ve had sponsors, philanthropic folks, and just plain readers who have valued what we are doing and pitched in to keep things going. I can assure you that we’ve never made any profit on FE and frankly, have always operated at a loss.
Perhaps this holiday season you’d like to help keep FE coming throughout 2012. I’m told that over 25,000 people read FE each issue. If just one thousand folks like you who benefit from our efforts decided that it was worth $15 to keep FE showing up in your inbox 23 times a year, we’d be a good way toward covering our costs. If you wanted to give more than that, it would help even more.
So, if you’d like to chip in during this time of gift-giving, I can certainly assure you that we need and will efficiently use any contributions that you might send our way. Here’s a link to an easy place to make a contribution.
Thanks so very much for considering becoming a part of our effort in this way.
All we say to America is to be true to what you said on paper….
Somewhere I read [pause] of the freedom of assembly.
Somewhere I read [pause] of the freedom of speech.
Somewhere I read [pause] of the freedom of press.
Somewhere I read [pause] that the greatness of America
is the right to protest for right.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last issue I made mention of the rather extraordinary provision that the U.S. Senate had passed in its version of the defense authorization bill that made the U.S. a battleground for the “war on terror” and allowed the military to indefinitely hold anyone suspected of supporting terrorism without trial. Well, even though president Obama threatened to veto the bill, he didn’t.
Robert Scheer, writing in TruthDig has summarized the essence of this new direction for the U.S. in his article, There Goes the Republic:
Once again the gods of war have united our Congress like nothing else. Unable to agree on the minimal spending necessary to save our economy, schools, medical system or infrastructure, the cowards who mislead us have retreated to the irrationalities of what George Washington in his farewell address condemned as “pretended patriotism.”
The defense authorization bill that Congress passed and President Obama had threatened to veto will soon become law, a fact that should be met with public outrage. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth, responding to Obama’s craven collapse on the bill’s most controversial provision, said, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.” On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed “the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.” (read more . . . )
Perhaps, if you’re reading this somewhere outside of the United States, you may not understand the concern that Scheer and some of the rest of us have about this latest milestone in a clear progression away from the principles that we Americans were raised to believe our country was founded on. My wife, Diane, and I were discussing these things over dinner with old friends in Chicago last night and the comment was made that these new laws are so at odds with our upbringing that they are really un-American. That really is the case. Fear and power have so permeated and corrupted the governmental process that we have moved into a new era that clearly won’t look to historians like the America that preceded it.
The Militarization of America
There was another good summary of the trend that this event represents that came my way recently. It’s a great Vanity Fair piece by Todd Purdum — One Nation, Under Arms. Purdum writes: The private papers of the late George F. Kennan, Cold War architect and diplomat extraordinaire, reveal his anguish over the way his famous 1947 warning about Soviet expansionism helped transform the America he loved into one he no longer recognized: a national-security state. A half-century after a similarly historic warning-President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech about the dangers of a powerful “military-industrial complex”-Todd S. Purdum shows how completely Kennan’s and Eisenhower’s worst fears have been realized, warping almost every aspect of society, deflecting attention from urgent problems, and splitting the country into two classes. (read more . . . )
MF Global and the great Wall St re-hypothecation scandal
It also turns out that the financial folks (banksters?) on Wall Street are being even more blatant in taking investor’s money and “reprogramming” it to their own uses. A legal loophole in international brokerage regulations means that few, if any, clients of now bankrupt MF Global are likely to get their money back. Although details of the drama are still unfolding, it appears that MF Global and some of its Wall Street counterparts have been actively and aggressively circumventing U.S. securities rules at the expense (quite literally) of their clients. (read more . . . )
Addicted to Debt
Just to pile on one more item that showed up in the last couple of weeks, take a look at this short video about the growing size of the debt of the U.S. That should get your attention!
Newly Emerging Options
There are a lot of reasons to find these events and trends of intellectual interest. First of all, it’s intriguing that thoughtful, relatively well-informed Americans are doing almost nothing about these changes. Sure, we talk about them and we call them un-American and marvel at the extraordinary state change that we’ve observed in Barak Obama, but, for the most part, many of us tut-tut about the situation and go on about our business. The Occupy Movement is, of course, the significant exception to this observation, but what I’m trying to say here is that the middle class of this country is largely standing still while the government and financial community surrounds them.
I doubt, though, that the significance of all of this will ultimately be lost on this large segment of the population. I’d guess that this chipping away at the constitutional rights we’ve been led to believe we have may cross a threshold sometime soon and translate into more active reaction by much larger numbers of people. It may well be that some big natural or human-engendered event or series of events will serve as the catalyst, but I don’t think this whole thing is at all over.
In fact, I believe it is really just the beginning of the very large-scale global shift that I have been talking about for many years. These responses by the government are just the predictable attempts of the existing institutions to maintain control of the situation – which control is clearly slipping away.
This movement into a new phase of the human experiment and experience is what provides hope in all of this for me. If you can mentally step back from all that is happening in the Eurozone, and the climate, energy, financial and security spaces, you can see it all imploding . . . and making way for the emergence of the next world that will necessarily arise.
More specifically, we are the ones who can – and must – manifest this new world. Here is the opportunity for us to step forward and become the new humans which will populate the new world.
A New Dawn Awaits
As I mentioned here last issue, if we change our feelings and perspectives – operating from the heart – we now enter the place where we can literally change the reality – and the future – that shows up.
Let me again recommend a wonderful book that I just read two weeks ago that really does illuminate what is happening to us and how we can practically change the way we live and exist so as to help to bring a new world into existence. It’s called A new Dawn Awaits: The Times Ahead and How to Shift Your Consciousness. Author E. Dee Conrad and I had lunch in Washington earlier this week and discussed her rather clear and compelling ideas.
The major sections are titled: Universal Consciousness and the Origins of the Universe; The Way Forward – Choosing Our Future; One Person Can Make a Difference; and There Are No Secrets.
The liner notes say: Humanity is at a crossroads – the future is ours to choose. The coming years will be full of unprecedented challenges on many levels – spiritual, physical, emotional, and financial. Those who will best survive this transition will be those who are willing to shift to the next level of consciousness and a new way of being. In this channeled work, E.Dee Conrad brings together the wisdom of the ages and shows us how to access the knowledge that has been part of our consciousness, but has been dormant for eons. The time has come to reach inwards into our divine essence and outwards to the energy that connects us as ONE humanity. This book is a powerful reminder that the end is not near but the future is – humanity is poised to reclaim its magnificence.
I asked E.Dee to bring me some books and we’re offering them with free shipping here. (To those of you who live out of the U.S., I’m sorry but I must add a little postage for getting the book to you). I’m excited enough about this book that I’ll happily buy it back if you decide that it isn’t exactly your cup of tea. That’s pretty much a no risk deal!
Warm Wishes I want to thank you for reading, forwarding and supporting FUTUREdition over this past year. It is always a happy bit of joy that shows up on those days that I receive communications from our readers telling me how much they have appreciated what they’ve read here.
All of us who are involved in producing FUTUREdition send along our warmest holiday wishes. Let me send you on your way with a wonderful poem from friend Gary Sycalik that can help you manifest the new world of the new year.
Artwork: “The awakening” by Tara Baden
Sing Your Song
Gary J. Sycalik ©11-29-11
sing your unique song from your heart of hearts
into our Earth-world of form and movement
hear inner sounds of peace and tranquility
although outer sounds may be of discord
feel compassion for others struggling
with Earth-life’s trials and tribulations
paint beauty into your world of perception
blessing all who share paths you travel upon
unto the end of your time in this time
generate kindness from the depths of your well
and you’ll walk within a field of goodness
as a spirit-force upon our land
Did Twitter Just Spark a Bank Run in Latvia? – (Media Bistro – December 13, 2011)
Twitter has been a part of revolutions and riots – and now you can add a run on a bank to that list. Stockholm-based bank Swedbank saw over a third of its ATMs in Latvia wiped out over a recent weekend, because of rumors spread on Twitter that the bank was in trouble. According to the Wall Street Journal, rumors began on Twitter that claimed that Swedbank had shut down its ATMs in Latvia, that it’s branches in Estonia had all been closed, and that its chief executive had been arrested. None of which were true, but all of which sparked a panic. The Prime Minister’s office is taking the Twitter rumors very seriously, as they were created “in an effort to destabilize the situation Latvia,” which constitutes a crime there. A spokesperson said that they are working with police to find the source of the rumors. This scenario highlights the negative side of real-time, instant, social communication that Twitter facilitates. Twitter can be used to coordinate peaceful protests and share information about government abuses in order to shame it into stopping, but Twitter can also be used to spread false information, fast, and create instability across an entire nation.
Neutrinos and Multiverses: a New Cosmology Beckons – (New Scientist – November 28, 2011)
The existing edifice of physics, built upon the twin foundations of general relativity and quantum mechanics, is clearly in need of renovation. We have been waiting for years for cracks to appear that might tell us how to go about it. But up to now, nature has remained stubbornly unmoved. Recently, however, promising cracks have opened up. In September came stunning news of neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. We still await independent verification – doubts have already been cast – but if it holds up the implications are enormous, opening the door to a new and very different picture of the cosmos. No less tantalizing is a report that particles called mesons decay differently from their antimatter counterparts, anti-mesons. If this result stands up, it would go a long way towards explaining why we have more matter than antimatter. More importantly, it would prise open the standard model of particle physics – which cannot explain the result – and point the way to yet more new physics. The widest crack of all concerns a theory once considered outlandish but now reluctantly accepted as the orthodoxy. Almost everything in modern physics, from standard cosmology and quantum mechanics to string theory, points to the existence of multiple universes – maybe 10500 of them, maybe an infinite number.
Entangled Diamonds Vibrate Together – (Nature – December 1, 2011)
A pair of diamond crystals has been linked by quantum entanglement. This means that a vibration in the crystals could not be meaningfully assigned to one or other of them: both crystals were simultaneously vibrating and not vibrating. Quantum entanglement – interdependence of quantum states between particles not in physical contact – has been well established between quantum particles such as atoms at ultra-cold temperatures. But like most quantum effects, it doesn’t tend to survive either at room temperature or in objects large enough to see with the naked eye. A team led by Ian Walmsley at the University of Oxford, UK, found a way to overcome both those limitations, demonstrating that the weird consequences of quantum theory apply at large scales as well as at very small ones. Weird as it is, quantum entanglement is real – and could be useful. In a technique called quantum cryptography, entangled photons of light have been used to transmit information in such a way that any interception is detectable.
Scientists About to Find The Force – (Giz Modo – December 8, 2011)
If confirmed, this will be the biggest news in the history of physics since the birth of the Theory of Relativity: CERN scientists may have already found evidence of the existence of the elusive Higgs boson. According to most physicists, there’s a Higgs field that is everywhere. The elusive Higgs particle would be the carrier of that field, interacting with all the other particles, “sort of the way a Jedi knight in Star Wars is the carrier of the “force”, as National Geographic eloquently put it when the Large Hadron Collider was being built. Or like Obi Wan said, “the Force surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” The Higgs boson is a pivotal part of the standard model of particle physics but nobody has ever found evidence of its existence. It’s one of the main reasons of why the Large Hadron Collider was built – other than time travel and opening portals to alternate dimensions, that is.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Next-generation Camera Pill Could Transmit HD Video from Inside the Body – (Giz Mag – November 28, 2011)
Japanese company RF System Lab reported success using its Norika 3 RF Endoscopic Robot Capsule to transmit live video from inside test subjects back in 2004, while just last year Olympus announced the creation of a similar device. Now, Norwegian researchers are stating that they are in the process of developing the “next generation” of camera pill. The endoscopic capsule itself, which is still in development, will incorporate a tiny HD video camera, light source, radio transmitter, battery, and presumably a microprocessor. It will be able to record high-definition video within a patient’s digestive tract, transmitting it in real time through their body tissue via ultra-wideband radio waves.
Dutch Researcher Created a Super-Influenza Virus with the Potential to Kill Millions – (Doctor Tipster – November 28, 2011)
The virus is a strain of avian influenza H5N1 genetically modified to be extremely contagious. It was created by researcher Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands. The work was first presented at a conference dedicated to influenza, that took place in September in Malta. A genetic study showed that new virus strain presented five mutations, and all could be also observed in nature – but only separately, not all five combined. Now, researchers and experts in bioterrorism debate whether it is a good idea to publish the virus creation “recipe”. “It’s just a bad idea for scientists to turn a lethal virus into a lethal and highly contagious virus. And it’s a second bad idea for them to publish how they did it so others can copy it,” believes Dr. Thomas Inglesby, a bioterrorism expert. On the other hand, if the study becomes available for the scientific community, it could allow researchers to “be prepared” for a potential H5N1 pandemic since Fouchier’s study suggests that the risk for this to occur is greater than previously thought.
Over 40% of Cancers Due to Lifestyle – (BBC News – December 7, 2011)
Nearly half of cancers diagnosed in the UK each year – over 130,000 in total – are caused by avoidable life choices including smoking, drinking and eating the wrong things, a review reveals. Tobacco is the biggest culprit, causing 23% of cases in men and 15.6% in women, says the Cancer Research UK report. Next comes a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in men’s diets, while for women it is being overweight. Some risk factors are well established, but others are less recognized. For example, for stomach cancer, a fifth of the risk comes from having too much salt in the diet, data suggests.
Thankfulness Linked to Positive Changes in Brain and Body – (ABC News – November 23, 2011)
For those who tend to be more Grinch-ish than grateful, there’s some hard evidence that might make you want to turn that frown upside down. A positive outlook and feelings of thankfulness can have a direct and beneficial effect on the brain and body. “If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system,” said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center. Studies have shown measurable effects on multiple body and brain systems, including mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine), reproductive hormones (testosterone), social bonding hormones (oxytocin), cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine), inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines), stress hormones (cortisol), cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Genetically Altered Mosquito Could Wipe Out Humanity’s Biggest Killer – (Giz Mag – November 30, 2011)
The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – the world’s number one disease vector for deadly dengue fever – infects between 50 and 100 million people a year around the world. Only A. aegypti females bite and they more or less only feed on humans. Each bite exposes the victim to any blood-borne pathogens that the mosquito might have picked up along its way. Dengue and yellow fevers are among the most common – the mosquito contracts the virus by biting an infected victim, and then injects it along with its saliva when it stabs the next unlucky target. Anthony James, from UC Irvine, has made mosquito genetics the focus of his career. His latest invention is a genetically modified mosquito designed to bring populations of Aedes aegypti down from within. In short, the modified genes affect only the female mosquitoes, rendering them flightless. The larvae hatch on the water, and the females are unable to leave, rendering them harmless to humans and leaving them to die. The males are unaffected, so they mature normally, then mate with other females to pass the genetic modification on.
Arctic Settles into New Phase – Warmer, Greener, and Less Ice – (NOAA – December 1, 2011)
An international team of scientists say that the Arctic is entering a new state – one with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and a changed ocean chemistry. This shift is also causing changes in the region’s life, including less habitat for polar bears and walruses, but increased access to feeding areas for whales. Among the highlights: In 2011, the average annual near-surface air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean were approximately 2.5° F greater than the 1981-2010 baseline period; minimum Arctic sea ice area in September 2011 was the second lowest recorded by satellite since 1979; Arctic tundra vegetation continues to increase and is associated with higher air temperatures over most of the Arctic land mass.
Drillers Using Counterinsurgency Experts – (Post Gazette – November 13, 2011)
Marcellus Shale gas drilling spokesmen at an industry conference in Houston said their companies are employing former military counterinsurgency officers and recommended using military-style psychological operations strategies, or psyops, to deal with media inquiries and citizen opposition to drilling in Pennsylvania communities. Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman speaking to other oil and gas industry spokespeople at the conference last week, said the company hires former military psyops specialists who use those skills in Pennsylvania. Matt Carmichael, manager of external affairs for Anadarko Petroleum, which has nearly 300,000 acres of Marcellus Shale gas holdings under lease in Central Pennsylvania, gave a speech urging industry media spokesmen to read a military counterinsurgency manual for tips in dealing with opponents to shale gas development. “Download the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency,” Mr. Carmichael said in a session titled “Understanding How Unconventional Oil & Gas Operators are Developing a Comprehensive Media Relations Strategy to Engage Stakeholders and Educate the Public.” (Editor’s Note: A recently released EPA study may undo much of the psyops spin. See this.)
Polar Bear Cannibalism Pictured – (BBC News – December 11, 2011)
Polar bears normally hunt seals but if these are not available, the big predators will seek out other sources of food – even their own kind. “This type of intraspecific predation has always occurred to some extent,” photojournalist Jenny Ross in Olgastretet told BBC News. “However, there are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change.” Without their customary platform of sea ice on which to hunt seals, bears have gone looking for alternative sources of food. On land, they’re looking for human garbage and human foods; they’re starting to prey on seabirds and their eggs. None of those alternative foods can support them, but they are seeking them out.
Chinese 2,485 Year Tree Ring Study Shows Natural Cycles Control Climate, Temps May Cool Until 2068 – (JoNova – December 8, 2011)
A Chinese study of Tibetan tree rings by Liu et al., 2011, shows, with detail, that the modern era is exhibiting a standard normal climate when compared to the last 2,500 years. The temperature, the rate of change have all ocurred before. Nothing about the current period is “abnormal”, indeed the current warming period in Tibet can be produced through calculation of cycles. Liu et al do a Fourier analysis on the underlying cycles and do brave predictions as well. The prediction indicated that the temperature will decrease in the future until to 2068 AD and then increase again. The research team found natural cycles of many different lengths are at work: 2-3 years, 100 years, 199 years, 800 years, and 1,324 years. The cold periods are associated with sunspot cycles. (Editor’s Note: This article is a popularization – with a definite agenda – of substantive scientific research. A “clean” abstract of the research itself can be found here. We also recommend browsing through some of the abstracts of the 61 articles noted there as references. Many of those are longitudinal studies which are also interesting.)
The FBI May Soon Rely on iPhones to Identify Suspects by Fingerprint – (Yahoo News – December 8, 2011)
MobileOne will allow law enforcement to scan the fingerprints of suspects and instantly compare them against a national database of wanted criminals. The MobileOne works with any retail iPhone and simply plugs into the port on the bottom of the phone. The add-on is equipped with a biometric scanner that can read a person’s fingerprints in just a matter of seconds. Rather than taking a suspect into custody and running their prints in the traditional fashion, the device could allow quick scanning and potentially clear an individual within minutes, saving both time and money in the search for a criminal. The FBI is scheduled to begin testing the MobileOne in 2012, and once it passes its field trials it could potentially be made available to law enforcement agencies nationwide. The product will only work with the government’s various criminal databases. The article posits that “the hefty $600 price tag should also discourage anyone from trying to obtain one for less legitimate purposes”. (Editor’s Note: We doubt that $600 is enough to discourage anyone seriously intent on “less legitimate purposes”.)
Jailed Journalists Reflect Greater Struggle for Internet Freedom – (Nation of Change – December 10, 2011)
The number of journalists in prison worldwide has spiked to its highest level in 15 years. Of them, nearly half worked online, raising larger questions about Internet freedom for more than just reporters, but average citizens as well. Eighty-six out of 179 journalists who were in prison worldwide as of Dec. 1, 2011 were reporters or bloggers whose work appeared online, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Though the Internet is touted as a democratizing force, a tremendous challenge is inherent within the openness of the it’s architecture: technologies for surveillance can easily be used to monitor journalists and private citizens alike, or restrict their access.
8 Companies Hit with Lawsuit over Carrier IQ Software – (Computer World – December 5, 2011)
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware accuses Carrier IQ, three wireless carriers, and four handset makers of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The 8 companies have insisted that the software is being used only for network diagnostics purposes while the handset makers have claimed that they integrated Carrier IQ in their devices only because the carriers specifically asked them to. Carrier IQ software can be used to collect data for analyzing service quality, device quality and what Carrier IQ calls mobile customer experience. The company has been in the middle of a raging controversy after a security researcher last month said the software could be used to conduct surreptitious and highly intrusive tracking of Android, BlackBerry and other smartphone users. The researcher, Trevor Eckhart, described the software as a keystroke logging rootkit that is hard-to-detect, hard-to-remove and programmed to run by default on millions of handsets without the users’ knowledge. See also FBI Rejects FOIA Request for Carrier IQ Info in which the FBI has denied a request for the release of information regarding its use of Carrier IQ’s software, saying that releasing the information could interfere with ongoing law enforcement operations. The response does not make it clear whether the agency is using Carrier IQ for investigative purposes or whether the documents it has are related to an investigation of the controversial software.
New Software Dramatically Simplifies Addition of Objects to Photos – (Giz Mag – December 12, 2011)
For more than twenty years, Photoshop has been the industry standard for seamlessly manipulating images, especially the removal of unwanted items like blemishes, wires and telephone poles. When it comes to adding something to a photo, however, the process is still rather involved. Now, a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign led by Kevin Karsch, is presenting a new algorithm that promises to radically simplify the procedure of believably incorporating new or “synthetic” objects in still shots and the results are quite impressive. Novice users have been able to add virtual subjects in just minutes with results good enough to fool experts. That’s great news for graphic artists, but maybe not so thrilling for folks like crime scene investigators who’ll soon have to doubt the veracity of every object in frame! Currently, the software only handles still images, but plans are in the works to tackle film and video sequences before long.
Is Rossi’s E-Cat Yesterday’s News? Australian Company Claims to have a Working Fusion Reactor – (Oil Price – November 30, 2011)
While the E-Cat is already looking at manufacturing facilities, the newest drama comes from Australia. One interviewee in a face-to-face conversation told of a small company he’s involved with that he claims has built a working 1MW fusion reactor the size of a rice cooker. The report on this company’s fusion reaction says it’s fuelled by deuterium and tritium at not nearly as high temperature as other efforts. “For a 40-watt power input, the reactor is said to be able to generate a megawatt.” So where does the credibility hang in all this? As the article observes, it’s pretty thin. But the interesting thing is the fuels, deuterium and tritium, reacting together forming helium – without high pressure and/or temperatures. From the progress on and the gaining respectability of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (cold fusion) the idea that someone has worked up a device isn’t so wild as just a few years ago. The conclusion: It seems plausible, maybe even possible with a dose of optimism. However, probable as a description will have to wait.
Persistent Drought in Romania Threatens Danube’s Power – (Guardian – December 13, 2011)
The first reactor in the Romanian nuclear power plant was built in 1996 with a second reactor built in 2007. Three others are planned, since the Romanian government counts on nuclear power for energy self-sufficiency. The two reactors in the Cernavoda plant generate 20% of those needs and were built on the banks of the Danube to use its waters for cooling. The drop in the level of the river’s waters means that nuclear reactor may have to close down. Early this month, the Danube’s flow rate in Turnu-Severin, a town in southwest Romania, home to the country’s largest hydroelectric power plant, was 2,400 cubic metres per second, 63% of the usual average of 3,800 cubic meters per second. Hidroelectrica, the public corporation in charge of delivering the energy produced by the plant, is generating only 1,800MW instead of the usual 2,100 MW. The lack of rain is also worrying for hotel owners in the Danube delta, who have lost some 10,000 tourists this year, with 250 boats and craft stranded, waiting for the rains before they can sail again. Losses are now counted in millions of euros. Second world war battleships have even resurfaced on the Sava river, a tributary that joins the Danube in Belgrade, Serbia. The drought is also threatening the fragile ecosystem.
DHA Used in Infant Formula Products Comes from Genetically Modified Algae – (Natural News – December 9, 2011)
One of the most vulnerable segments of the population — infants — are being affected as chemical giant Martek Biosciences uses cronyism to have its patented GMO products classified as organic. The National Organic Program is trying to correct this, but in the meantime the “organic” infant formula or baby food parents feed their children could contain industrial Frankenfood. By focusing on infant formula products, the article offers a detailed timeline on how the word “organic” has been undermined.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Trade in Surveillance Technology Raises Worries – (Washington Post – December 1, 2011)
Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur Jerry Lucas hosted his first trade show for makers of surveillance gear at the McLean Hilton in May 2002. Thirty-five people attended. Nine years later, Lucas holds five events annually around the world, drawing hundreds of vendors and thousands of potential buyers for an industry that he estimates sells $5 billion of the latest tracking, monitoring and eavesdropping technology each year. Along the way, these events have earned an evocative nickname: the Wiretappers’ Ball. This burgeoning trade has alarmed human rights activists and privacy advocates, who call for greater regulation because the technology has ended up in the hands of repressive governments such as those of Syria, Iran and China. “You need two things for a dictatorship to survive: propaganda and secret police,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), who has proposed bills to restrict the sale of surveillance technology overseas. “Both of those are enabled in a huge way by the high-tech companies involved.” But the overwhelming U.S. government response has been to engage in the event not as a potential regulator but as a customer.
New WikiLeaks ‘Spy Files’ Show Global Surveillance Industry – (AFP – December 1, 2011)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange launched the website’s new project Thursday, the publication of files it claims shows a global industry that gives dictatorships tools to spy on their citizens. In parallel to Assange’s announcement, Wikileaks’ partner Owni.fr released evidence that a French firm helped Moamer Kadhafi’s former Libyan regime spy on opposition figures living in exile in Britain. It had already been revealed that the electronics firm, Amesys, had worked with the Libyan regime — and French rights groups are attempting to take the group to court — but Owni’s files will prove embarrassing. The Wikileaks files reveal the activities of about 160 companies in 25 countries which develop technologies to allow the tracking and monitoring of individuals by their mobile phones, email and Internet browsing histories. Assange said that in the last 10 years the surveillance industry had grown from a covert industry which primarily supplied government intelligence agencies such as the NSA in the United States and Britain’s GCHQ, to a huge transnational business.
The Government’s Listening to Us – (The Hindu – December 1, 2011)
In the summer of 1999, an officer at a Research and Analysis Wing communications station in western India flipped a switch, and helped change the course of the Kargil conflict. RAW’s equipment had picked up Pakistan’s army chief and later military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, speaking to his chief of staff, General Muhammad Aziz, from a hotel room in Beijing. “The entire reason for the success of this operation,” the RAW officer heard General Aziz saying on May 29, 1999, “was this total secrecy.” He probably smiled. India’s strategic community finally awoke to the possibilities of modern communications intelligence, and unleashed a massive effort to upgrade the country’s technical capabilities. The National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), was set up; scientists in the Indian Institutes of Technology were tapped, and quiet efforts to acquire technology worldwide were initiated. Police forces across the country have since scrambled to purchase similar equipment, making India one of the largest markets for global vendors. But this isn’t good news: India has no appropriate legal framework to regulate its vast, and growing, communications intelligence capabilities. There is almost no real institutional oversight by political institutions like Parliament – which means there is a clear and imminent danger that the technology could undermine the very democracy it was purchased to defend.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
After a Story of Weak Enforcement, Iowa Cracks Down on Polluter – (Nation of Change – December 3, 2011)
Iowa’s attorney general is suing a corn processing plant, alleging it has released more air pollution than allowed for at least the past 18 months. Last year, the plant released more lead – a toxic metal that can damage the nervous system – than any facility in Iowa and more acetaldehyde – a probable carcinogen – than almost any plant in the country, according to government data. Filing of the lawsuit came a day after the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News highlighted the state environmental agency’s passivity in curbing emissions at the plant in the Mississippi River town of Muscatine. “Quite frankly, this lawsuit was surprising,” said Janet Sichterman, a spokesperson for the plant’s owner, Grain Processing Corp. “Normally, we would just resolve the issues between the two of us.” The point? Grassroots activism makes a difference. Watchdog agencies – whether it’s the SEC, the EPA, the former Minerals Management Service (now renamed, which had oversight over the oil industry including the Deepwater Horizon oil rig) or the FDA – aren’t doing their jobs well until their shortcomings are dragged into the media and exposed. See also: this article.
20 Ways the Obama Administration Has Intruded on Your Rights – (AlterNet – November 30, 2011)
Is there a fundamental difference between the Bush presidency and the Obama presidency in the area of domestic civil liberties? The Obama administration has affirmed, continued and expanded almost all of the draconian domestic civil liberties intrusions pioneered under the Bush administration. Here are twenty examples of serious assaults on the domestic rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience that have occurred since the Obama administration has assumed power.
The End of the Rule of Law – (Rutherford Institute – December 5, 2011)
Contained within this massive defense bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which was passed by the Senate with a vote of 93 – 7, is a provision crafted by Democrat Charles Levin and Republican John McCain which mandates that anyone suspected of terrorism against the United States be held in military custody indefinitely. This provision extends to American citizens on American territory. The bill also renews the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) which was passed in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In addition to renewing the AUMF, it extends its provisions to include military action against those who “substantially support” Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces.” And to cap it off, the bill enhances restrictions against transferring detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay to the continental United States. For additional information on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, see Indefinite Detention of American Citizens: Coming Soon to Battlefield U.S.A. – (Rolling Stone – December 9, 2011) “One of its supporters, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said that the law ‘basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield’ and that people can be jailed without trial, be they ‘American citizen or not.’ New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte reiterated that ‘America is part of the battlefield.'”
The Covert Intelligence War Against Iran – (Stratfor – December 8, 2011)
While the covert intelligence war against Iran (and the Iranian response to this war) has been under way for many years, the tempo of events that can readily be identified as part of it has been increasing over the past few months. It is important to note that many of these events are the result of hidden processes begun months or even years previously, so while visible events may indeed be increasing, the efforts responsible for many of them began to increase much earlier. What the activities of recent months do tell us is that the covert war between Iran and its enemies will not be diminishing anytime soon. If anything, with the current withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Iranian nuclear efforts continuing, we likely will see the results of additional covert operations – and evidence of the clandestine activity required to support those operations. (Editor’s Note: We recommend the Stratfor website in general for its thoughtful, in-depth analysis of emerging political, military and financial situations.)
Saudi Arabia Threatens Israel, Iran with Nuclear Big Stick – (Voice of Russia – December 10, 2011)
Saudi Arabia may obtain nuclear weapons. This comes in a high-profile statement earlier this week by the former chief of the Saudi Intelligence Service, Prince Turki Al-Faisal. This is by no means the first time that a member of the ruling dynasty has hinted on the kingdom’s plans to obtain nuclear technologies. Prince Turki Al-Faisal warned that the following two factors could prompt Saudi Arabia to set up its own deterrent forces, – Israel’s likely nuclear arsenal and the probability that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon. The Saudi Prince said the probability of Tehran’s joining the nuclear club was the main threat.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Let the People of Fukushima Go Home and Get Back to Work – (American Spectator – December 6, 2011)
No one, not one single person, has received a life-altering injury from radiation since the disaster started unfolding last March. The reality is that, while some people in the Fukushima housing area are wearing cumbersome rad-con suits, filtered gas-masks, gloves and booties, and putting the same on their children, other people are living carefree in places like Norway, Brazil, Iran, India where folks have lived normal lives for countless generations with radiation levels as much as a hundred times greater than the forbidden areas of the Fukushima homes. The use of inappropriate radiation standards is not an abstract issue. People around Fukushima are being told they cannot return home for an indeterminate period – perhaps years. People who were evacuated have been reduced to economic poverty, clinical depression, and even suicide.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Earth-like Planet Confirmed – (BBC News – December 5, 2011)
Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own. The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C. It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours – an “Earth 2.0”. However, the team does not yet know if Kepler 22-b is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid. Kepler 22-b was one of 54 exoplanet candidates in habitable zones reported by the Kepler team in February, and is just the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes. More of these “Earth 2.0” candidates are likely to be confirmed in the near future, though a redefinition of the habitable zone’s boundaries has brought that number down to 48. Ten of those are Earth-sized.
Recession Hits Low Income Older Ethnic Women Workers Hardest – (Nation of Change – December 1, 2011)
The Great Recession has not hit everyone equally hard. When looking at the impact of the recession that began in 2007, “you can’t tell an accurate story about older Americans in general. You’ve got to look at the various subgroups and the situations they face today,” said Tony Sarmiento, executive director of Senior Service America, Inc. in Silver Spring, Md. The total 7% unemployment rate for workers over 55 represents the highest rate since World War II, but the jobless rate for low-income workers is much higher. In 2000, the unemployment rate for older workers earning less than $20,000 was 6.7%. It more than tripled to 21% by 2010.
China’s Superior Economic Model: The Free-market Fundamentalist Economic Model is Being Thrown onto the Trash Heap of History – (reposted from the Wall St. Journal – December 1, 2011)
Andy Grove, the founder and chairman of Intel, provocatively wrote that, “Our fundamental economic beliefs, which we have elevated from a conviction based on observation to an unquestioned truism, is that the free market is the best of all economic systems-the freer the better…. So we stick with this belief largely oblivious to emerging evidence that while free markets beat planned economies, there may be room for a modification that is even better.” For example, the emerging outline of China’s 12th five-year plan which aims to achieve: a 7% annual economic growth rate; a $640 billion investment in renewable energy; construction of six million homes; and expanding next-generation IT, clean-energy vehicles, biotechnology, high-end manufacturing and environmental protection-all while promoting social equity and rural development. Some Americans are drawing lessons from this. Last month, the China Daily quoted Orville Schell, who directs the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, as saying: “I think we have come to realize the ability to plan is exactly what is missing in America.” The article also noted that Robert Engle, who won a Nobel Prize in 2003 for economics, has said that while China is making five-year plans for the next generation, Americans are planning only for the next election.
6 Shocking Revelations About Wall Street’s “Secret Government” – (AlterNet – November 30, 2011)
Through a freedom of information request by Bloomberg News, the public now has access to over 29,000 pages of Fed documents and 21,000 additional Fed transactions that were deliberately hidden. For example, While Henry Paulson (Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury) was informing Congress and the public that only minor reforms were needed to protect Fannie and Freddie from collapse, he met secretly with leading Wall Street hedge fund managers — among them his former colleagues at Goldman Sachs — to alert them that he was about to nationalize the giant mortgage companies – a move that would eradicate nearly all the stock value of the companies. This information was enormously valuable because it allowed these hedge funds to short Fannie and Freddie and thereby make a fortune. (Editor’s Note: The article reports that “The secret Wall Street bailouts totaled $7.77 trillion….” The figure of $7.77T is not accurate, although the overall “take away” from the article appears to be generally correct. Bloomberg News itself noted, “Bloomberg News reported that Fed lending peaked at $1.2 trillion, a figure that didn’t include any double-counting.”
5 Popular but Harmful Drugs That Can Be Replaced with Marijuana – (Activist Post – December 13, 2011)
Marijuana is the most obvious example of a substance that remains illegal not because of health threats, or because it’s a danger to society, but rather because its benefits threaten entire industries, especially Big Pharma. Recent studies show huge spikes in psychiatric drug use, as well as addiction to prescription pain pills, yet they remain legal and doctors get incentives to push them. Here are 5 popular but dangerous classes of drugs that could, in most cases, be replaced by cannabis: prescription pain killers, anti-depressants, alcohol, tranquilizers and over-the-counter pain remedies. (Editor’s Note: The article has an agenda and overstates its case, but its general argument is worth considering.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Japan, Russia See Chance to Clone Mammoth – (AFP – December 3, 2011)
Scientists from Japan and Russia believe it may be possible to clone a mammoth after finding well-preserved bone marrow in a thigh bone recovered from permafrost soil in Siberia. Teams from the Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum and Japan’s Kinki University will launch fully-fledged joint research next year aiming to recreate the giant mammal. By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth’s marrow cells, embryos with mammoth DNA can be produced, according to the researchers. The scientists will then plant the embryos into elephant wombs for delivery, as the two species are close relatives.
JUST FOR FUN
Jazz for Cows – (You Tube – September 6, 2011)
Here’s to a moo-ving musical experience. Watch the New Hot 5, an American-based jazz band play for an audience in Autrans, France. Please take note that not one member of the audience left during the performance!
The Hallelujah Chorus -Quinhagak, Alaska – (You Tube – December 10, 2010)
This video clip was shot by the 5th graders at Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat School in the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska. In its own understated way, it offers a beautifully drawn picture of life in an Alaskan Eskimo village. This was a project intended for the other Yupiq villages in the area, (about 200 people). Much to the village’s shock, in the last year over a million people have seen this video.
A FINAL QUOTE…
Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it. – Mark Twain
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Ted Rockwell, Gary Sycalik, David Treinis, Steve Ujvarosy, Elise Woods 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