FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- For the first time, scientists have created human embryos that are genetic copies of living people and used them to make stem cells.
- The best available evidence suggests the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has not been as high as it is now for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.
- Samsung Electronics has developed super-fast fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology that will eventually allow users to download an entire movie in one second.
- Block-by-block maps of America’s disparate economy reveal that many U.S. cities have income disparity on par with some of the poorest nations in the world. New York has a level of inequality comparable to Swaziland.
by John L. Petersen
Victoria Pendragon Coming to Berkeley Springs
Intuitive healer and artist, Victoria Pendragon will be making the next presentation in the Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series on Saturday afternoon, June 15th at 1PM at the Star Theatre. Victoria is going to describe how she healed herself from a type of scleroderma that is universally considered to be fatal. Her technique can use by anyone to heal themselves starting at the cellular intelligence level of the body.
Victoria’s study of metaphysics began in childhood as an attempt to validate the lessons she’d been learning from the earth and the trees whenever she left her body. She has worked professionally in the field of spirituality and personal counseling since 1995. Her two year dance with death and the amazing guidance and assistance she received during that time has resulted in a book – Sleep Magic: Surrendering to Success – and a do-it-yourself technique for healing that can change your life.
Victoria will describe her healing technique and how she was led to it in this fascinating talk. Come and learn about a process that really works. Get more information here.
The End of the Constitution, As We Have Known It
It is rather amazing how fundamental, structural change is accelerating across the planet. These past couple of weeks have been rather impressive in that regard. A number of converging perspectives has left me feeling that we’ve passed a tipping point of some kind.
First of all, let me point you to Bruce Fein’s piece The Civilization Genome Project. Fein, former Senior Policy Advisor to the Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign and author of “American Empire Before the Fall”, is obviously no bleeding heart liberal, but his analysis of the function of civilization and role of government is quite clear and unencumbered by political rhetoric.
Civilization is the elevation of the human species above an animal-like existence which craves and pursues power, money, sex, domination for the sake of domination, and creature comforts. A civilized society honors virtue, wisdom, self-restraint, and a search for truth without ulterior motives. It is not preoccupied or awed by technological wizardry, scientific discoveries, limitless wealth, athletic marvels, or weapons of mass destruction. It believes it is better to suffer injustice than to practice it; better to suffer the 9/11 abominations than to equal or better the villainy.
From time immemorial, civilization has been more the exception than the rule. The majority of the species are disinterested in the question, “Between ashes to ashes and dust to dust, is there a higher purpose beyond survival for the sake of survival, carnal pleasures, or the mindless pursuit of power or other ambition that excites the passions?” But leaders of impeccable character and long-headed intelligence can inspire them to rise above their natural appetites. Read rest of article.
I thought this was a rather compelling summary of what most of us understood this national experiment was about: an extraordinary attempt to live together in a balanced way with government that allowed the individual – and therefore all of society – to flourish.
That is no longer the case.
FE readers are familiar with our having highlighted specific events in the past that pointed toward a sea change in the role and attitude of government toward the privacy and rights of its citizens. The coverage here – and in many other publications – has been necessarily fragmented, dealing with the particular issue of the day. Now, columnist Michael Ventura, writing in his “Letters at 3AM” column for The Austin Chronicle has begun to stitch all of these changes together into a tapestry that shows how the U.S. Constitution has been systematically emasculated.
Here’s how he sets it up:
AN ARBITRARY NATION
The Constitution of the United States – read it lately?
We’ll start with the amendments, but first: my purpose. This series of columns is called “An Arbitrary Nation” because it will demonstrate that our Constitution is no longer a functioning document of law. Instead, we are governed today by an arbitrary legal hodgepodge that is arbitrarily applied with scant regard for constitutionality or any coherent code of principles. This state of affairs bears no resemblance to what we mean by the rule of law in a nation of laws.
Taken alone, any particular item of what follows might be thought an anomaly; take them together, and what you see is disintegration – a political entity strained and breaking at almost every point, too crippled to fix itself.
Read all of his first piece, We are governed today by an arbitrary legal hodgepodge, here.
Part II of this series, Laws arbitrarily enforced (or not enforced) according to the whims of the authorities are no longer laws continues the thread about unpredictability.
Part III, exposes how The Fifth Amendment no longer exists as a functioning law of the land.
What Ventura is describing here is nothing less than an extraordinary, fundamental disintegration of the organizing framework of this country — and ultimately, society. Until twelve years ago, our national history was based largely upon a set of assumptions and principles, memorialized in the Constitution, that gave Americans some sense of confidence about what freedoms they had as individuals and how the government was constrained from impinging on those rights. Those assumptions and principles have now rapidly eroded away. Governments are increasingly supporting corporations in determining what these arbitrary rules and regulations will be going forward.
A Tipping Point
It seems as though the aggregate reality of this change in relationship and loss of rights has started to come to a head in the last couple of weeks in ways that have not been apparent before – at least to me.
Here’s one data point.
On May 25th, in 428 cities in 58 countries, upwards of two million people came out to demonstrate against the giant corporation, Monsanto.
What would precipitate such a reaction? Well, there are a lot of things, but one event from two weeks earlier, was an extraordinary EU law making only plants from five major multi-national corporations, including Monsanto, legal. The essence of this new regulation is summarized in this hyperventilating post from a Barbara Dingwall. (Forgive all of the exclamation points and capital letters!)
“HELL JUST FELL ON EUROPE, since May 8, 2013!!
The European Union Government just passed The Monsanto Propagation Law (like Federal Law it over-rules individual countries’ laws!! Now only Monsanto & DuPont & AstraZeneca & Pfizer & Bayer are Authorized growers of our plants, seeds, foods, animal fodder, trees – ALL PLANT MATERIAL!!
It’s a Terrifying Law, stating “All plants in the European Union are now illegal, until Registered on the Tested/Approved EU Plants List, and to be exclusively propagated by the mega-companies, who are to be sole marketers of all plants too!!! Plants must come from the mega-companies into our garden centers and plant shops!!!
Small commercial growing and Sales became Illegal!!! To get their plants Approved is made IMPOSSIBLY COSTLY & BUREAUCRATIC!! Home gardeners and folks-sharing got a short exemption period 2 days before passing the law – due to public fury & petitions – but are to be removed “sometime soon” WITHOUT REVIEW OR APPEAL!! God help us all.”
One doesn’t have to resort to this kind of writing to understand that something pretty big has happened here.
Then, in Congressional hearings, a Department of Defense official said that he thought the U.S. could wage endless war anywhere it wanted. “Astoundingly Disturbing”: Obama Administration Claims Power to Wage Endless War Across the Globe.
Then it was exposed that the U.S. government had been looking at the email and phone calls of reporters who were involved in a whistleblowing case and suggested that their everyday activities could be considered criminal. The White House defended this snooping into the private communications of reporters who were doing their job and shining a light on government shortcomings by citing national security concerns.
The press went wild.
President Obama was mobilized to give a speech a few days later to try to tamp down the cascading concerns. “We’re not doing endless wars” and “we’re not going to be prosecuting reporters” he said. But in a sense, the damage was done. The overreach had exposed the true motivations of the government and seemed to give rise to a new sense of opposition to the larger trends.
This article, perhaps, best exemplified this change in tone for me: “Rise Up or Die”. Writer Chris Hedges says:
What has taken place in these sacrifice zones—in postindustrial cities such as Camden, N.J., and Detroit, in coalfields of southern West Virginia where mining companies blast off mountaintops, in Indian reservations where the demented project of limitless economic expansion and exploitation worked some of its earliest evil, and in produce fields where laborers often endure conditions that replicate slavery—is now happening to much of the rest of the country. These sacrifice zones succumbed first. You and I are next.
Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.
The Department of Justice seizure of two months of records of phone calls to and from editors and reporters at The Associated Press is the latest in a series of dramatic assaults against our civil liberties. The DOJ move is part of an effort to hunt down the government official or officials who leaked information to the AP about the foiling of a plot to blow up a passenger jet. Information concerning phones of Associated Press bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn., as well as the home and mobile phones of editors and reporters, was secretly confiscated. This, along with measures such as the use of the Espionage Act against whistle-blowers, will put a deep freeze on all independent investigations into abuses of government and corporate power.
Hedges works his way toward the end of his piece with:
Rebel. Even if you fail, even if we all fail, we will have asserted against the corporate forces of exploitation and death our ultimate dignity as human beings. We will have defended what is sacred. Rebellion means steadfast defiance. It means resisting just as have Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, just as has Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist whom Cornel West, James Cone and I visited in prison last week in Frackville, Pa. It means refusing to succumb to fear. It means refusing to surrender, even if you find yourself, like Manning and Abu-Jamal, caged like an animal. It means saying no. To remain safe, to remain “innocent” in the eyes of the law in this moment in history is to be complicit in a monstrous evil. In his poem of resistance, “If We Must Die,” Claude McKay knew that the odds were stacked against African-Americans who resisted white supremacy. But he also knew that resistance to tyranny saves our souls. McKay wrote:
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
(Read all of article)
What’s interesting to me is that I have not heard this kind of an articulate call to action before. All of us have a limited spectrum of things that we read and are exposed to, so I don’t doubt that this kind of motivating speech has been given somewhere else, but I’m just saying that it has moved into my field of view for the first time, and I think that that is significant in light of the other converging trends that dominate the news.
Now, lest you leave on a down note, let me remind you that our lens of the press is biased toward negative news and we necessarily are not seeing a lot of significant positive things that are transpiring around the globe. Here’s a set of examples that will clearly make the case that there is a lot going the right way.
Prenatal DNA Sequencing – (Technology Review – April 23, 2013)
Verinata is a startup in Redwood City, California with hardly any revenues. What it does have is technology that can do something as ethically fraught as it is inevitable: sequence the DNA of a human fetus before birth. Their existing tests, all launched in the last 18 months, can detect Down syndrome from traces of fetal DNA found in a syringeful of the mother’s blood. “I think that eventually we are going to sequence the genome of every fetus in the first trimester, at least in part,” says Arthur Beaudet, a pediatrician and head of human genetics at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. That won’t happen right away. For one thing, sorting out a fetus’s exact DNA code via its mother’s blood requires a huge amount of repeated sequencing, making it too expensive for routine use. (A competitor currently charges $9,500 to sequence the genome of an adult, and so far attempts to sequence fetal DNA have cost much more.) And there are still technical problems: the fetal genome results are still not accurate enough for making diagnoses. Ethically, too, the technology is a minefield. If we learn the genetic destiny of our children while they are still in the womb, what kinds of choices will we make?
How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools – (Nation of Change – April 30, 2013)
Recently students across New York finished a set of tests taken over a two week period designed to measure their proficiency at reading and math against new federal college readiness standards known as Common Core. Starting next year, those scores, along with students’ personal information – race, economic background, report cards, discipline records and personal addresses – will be stored in a database designed by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The database will be managed by inBloom, Inc., a non-profit outfit that, like Wireless Generation, is under the domain of billionaire Bill Gates – who, together with the Carnegie Corporation and other philanthropic organizations, set up the company via his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But the consolidation of individual student information has been raising eyebrows — and sparking a backlash. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is suing the U.S. Department of Education for amending privacy regulations in 2011 that allow student data to be accessed for non-educational objectives without informing parents — a violation, EPIC contends, of the Family Educational Rights Privacy and Privacy Act.
Moon Once Harbored a Long-Lived Dynamo—Magnetic Field Existed 3.6 Billion Years – (Daily Galaxy – May 7, 2013)
MIT’s research on an ancient lunar rock suggests that the moon once harbored a long-lived dynamo — a molten, convecting core of liquid metal that generated a strong magnetic field 3.56 billion years ago — about 160 million years longer than scientists had thought and suggest that an alternative energy source may have powered the dynamo. The new finding is the latest piece in a puzzle that planetary scientists have been working out for decades. In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission brought the first lunar rocks back to Earth. Since then, scientists have probed the rocky remnants for clues to the moon’s history. They soon discovered that many rocks were magnetized, which suggested that the moon was more than a cold, undifferentiated pile of space rubble. Exactly what powered the dynamo remains a mystery. One possibility is that it was self-sustaining, like Earth’s: As the planet has cooled, its liquid core has sustained the dynamo and the magnetic field it produces.
Untouched Water As Old as 2.6 Billion Years Is Found: Don’t Drink It – (LA Times – May 16, 2013)
Nearly 1.5 miles beneath Earth’s surface, scientists have discovered pockets of water that have remained in isolation for more than a billion years. What you see in the photograph is probably some of the oldest water on the planet, and scientists say it could be teeming with microscopic life. The ancient water bubbling up from the floor of a zinc and copper mine near Timmins in Canada’s Ontario province looks crystal clear, but it would not make a cool refreshing drink. Scientists say it is warm to the touch and much saltier than seawater. The water is also rich in dissolved hydrogen and methane gas as well as noble gases and their isotopes.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Wireless Bio-absorbable Circuits Could Kill Bacteria – (BBC News – May 24, 2013)
Bacteria often evolve clever ways of evading chemical assaults, but they will always struggle to resist the old-fashioned way of killing them: heating them up. It takes only a relatively mild warming to kill bugs without discomfort or harm to tissues. So imagine if little electric heaters could be implanted into wounds and powered wirelessly to fry bacteria during healing before dissolving harmlessly into body fluids once their job is done. This is just one potential application of the bio-absorbable electronic circuits made by John Rogers of the University of Illinois and his co-workers. The idea itself is not new: Rogers and others have previously reported biodegradable flexible circuits and electronic devices that can be safely laid directly onto skin. But their success in making their circuits wireless could prove crucial to many potential applications, especially in medicine. As well as deterring bacteria, Rogers says that implantable, bio-absorbable RF (radio frequency) electronics could be used to stimulate nerves for pain relief, and to stimulate bone re-growth, a process long proven to work when electrodes are placed on the skin or directly on the bone. Conceivably they could also be used to precisely control drug release from implanted reservoirs.
Preventing Migraines with a New Kind of Antibody – (Technology Review – May 8, 2013)
For many who suffer from chronic migraines, nothing can reliably prevent or dull the debilitating headaches that may strike as often as every other day. A biopharmaceutical company in Bothell, Washington, may have a solution. It hopes that a monthly injection of an antibody that blocks a well-known migraine-triggering protein will prevent these headaches. The company, called Alder Biopharmaceuticals, is testing the efficacy of the drug in a clinical study of 160 patients, each of whom has between four and 14 migraines per month; Alder expects the results of the study to be in this fall. The company’s new antibody is also produced in a novel way. It is made in yeast, a relative outsider in the world of therapeutic protein manufacturing, which is dominated by bacteria and mammalian cell culture. By producing the antibody this way, the company hopes to prove the new manufacturing approach, which Alder says will be faster and potentially cheaper. The target of Alder’s antibody is a protein called CGRP that is thought to be at the root of migraines. The protein is released during the processes that trigger pain, says Porter, “and if you can block the release of it, then it seems it would be pretty effective to stop headaches.” One company had a late-stage clinical trial with a drug that blocked CGRP but, while the treatment seemed to reduce headaches, the trial uncovered problems with liver toxicity, she says. For Alder, that trial, conducted by Merck, firmly established that managing migraine through CGRP control was going to work. An antibody—which typically is more specific and has fewer off-target effects than small-molecule drugs—could offer a safer mode of attack.
Scientists Create Human Embryos to Make Stem Cells – (LA Times – May 15, 2013)
For the first time, scientists have created human embryos that are genetic copies of living people and used them to make stem cells — a feat that paves the way for treating a range of diseases with personalized body tissues but also ignites fears of human cloning. If replicated in other labs, the methods detailed Wednesday in the journal Cell would allow researchers to fashion human embryonic stem cells that are custom-made for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other health problems. Theoretically capable of reproducing themselves indefinitely, these stem cells could be used to grow replacements for a wide variety of diseased cells — those of the blood, skin, heart, brain, muscles, nerves and more — that would not risk rejection by the patient’s immune system. The report also raises the specter that, with a high-quality donor egg, a bit of skin, some careful tending in a lab and the womb of a willing surrogate, humans have cracked the biological secret to reproducing themselves.
Neuron Growth in Children Leaves No Room for Memories – (BBC News – May 24, 2013)
The reason we struggle to recall memories from our early childhood is down to high levels of neuron production during the first years of life, say Canadian researchers. The formation of new brain cells increases the capacity for learning but also clears the mind of old memories. Neurogenesis, or the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus – a region of the brain known to be important for learning and remembering, reaches its peak before and after birth. It then declines steadily during childhood and adulthood. In adult mice, they found that increasing neurogenesis after memory formation was enough to bring about forgetting. In infant mice, researchers discovered that decreasing neurogenesis after memory formation meant that the normal forgetting observed at this age did not occur. Their research suggests a direct link between a reduction in neuron growth and increased memory recall. They found the opposite to be true also – a decreased ability to remember when neurogenesis is increased (as happens during infancy). The researchers said this provided an explanation for the absence of long-term memory events from early childhood, known as infantile amnesia. Dr. Bettina Forster, from the cognitive neuroscience research unit at City University in London, said, “The results questions the long assumed link between verbal development and infantile amnesia and calls into question some psychological and psychotherapeutic theories on this topic.”
GM Crops and Water – A Recipe for Disaster – (Institute of Science in Society – May 6, 2013)
Evidence is now accumulating of the contamination of streams, rivers, rain, as well as groundwater with GM-associated chemicals including Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide, while genetic elements such as antibiotic resistant genes are emerging in water-borne microbes. Further, GM crops have been shown to be less water efficient, corroborating farmer’s reports of failing GM crops during droughts. Industrial farming in general has been shown to be ill-adapted to extreme weather events such as hurricanes as well as droughts; and GM crops are not expected to do any better.
Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears – (New York Times – May 10, 2013)
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering. The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher. Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa, where they have been closely tracked for half a century. But just recently the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time. Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle, and the level will dip below 400 this summer as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400. See also: New Project Tracks Megacities’ Carbon Footprint
U.K. Cell Phone Study Points to Acoustic Neuroma, Not Brain Cancer – (Brain Wave News – May 10, 2013)
A new study from the U.K. is adding support to the still controversial proposition that long-term use of a cell phone increases the risk of developing acoustic neuroma, a tumor of the auditory nerve. No higher risk of glioma or meningioma, two types of brain cancer, was observed. “[W]e did find a trend of increasing risk of acoustic neuroma with increasing duration of mobile phone use,” according to the team led by Victoria Benson, Jane Green and Valerie Beral of the University of Oxford. IARC’s Joachim Schüz, an avowed tumor risk skeptic, is a coauthor. The trend of more tumors with more phone use is also statistically significant. The paper was published by the International Journal of Epidemiology; a copy is posted on its Web site. The design of the study has a number of shortcomings; however, two studies in Sweden have previously linked long-term cell phone use with acoustic neuroma, as did a Japanese team in 2010. Last fall, the Italian Supreme Court ruled in favor of such an association. Two years ago, an expert panel convened by IARC classified RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen. In April, IARC published the rationale for the decision.
Samsung Announces 5G Data Breakthrough – (Space Mart – May 13, 2013)
Samsung Electronics said it has successfully tested super-fast fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology that would eventually allow users to download an entire movie in one second. Samsung said it had found a way to harness millimeter-wave bands which have proved to be a sticking point for the mobile industry to date. The test demonstrated data transmission of more than one gigabyte per second over a distance of two kilometers. The new technology, ready for the commercial market in 2020 at the earliest, will offer transmitting speeds “up to several hundred times faster” than existing 4G networks and permit users to “transmit massive data files including high quality digital movies practically without limitation”, it said.
Do ‘Environmentally Friendly’ LED Lights Cause Blindness? – (Daily Mail – May 14, 2013)
A study has discovered that exposure to LED lights (widely used in mobile phones, televisions, computer screens) can cause irreparable harm to the retina of the human eye. Dr. Celia Sánchez-Ramos, of Complutense University in Madrid and who led the study, explained that light from LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, comes from the short-wave, high-energy blue and violet end of the visible light spectrum. The study found that LED radiation caused significant damage to human retinal pigment epithelial cells in vitro. Sánchez-Ramos added that modern humans have their eyes open for roughly 6,000 hours a year, and are exposed to artificial light for the majority of that time. LED lights have also been blamed for the changing hues of masterpieces in art galleries.A study carried out by the University of Antwerp earlier this year found that LED lights were bleaching the paint on works by Van Gogh and Cézanne. This is not the first time energy-saving lights have come under scrutiny for safety reasons. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, have been criticized for the high levels of mercury they contain as well as the UV radiation they can emit.
Mumbai’s Tallest Skyscraper Designed to Confuse the Wind – (GizMag – May 3, 2013)
The Imperial Tower will become Mumbai’s tallest building and surely one of the world’s most slender skyscrapers, if it is built. The 116-story, 1,300-ft tall (400 meter) residential skyscraper has a distinctive curved shape, which the architects say has been designed to “confuse the wind.” The plans call for 132 apartments, varying from 195 to 1,115 square meters in size. At the upper end of the scale, the apartments will occupy two floors in their entirety. The loftiest units would command views of the Arabian Sea. The spindle tower’s ability to stand up to the wind is enhanced by sky gardens which have been designed to dampen wind eddying about the tower. Environmentally friendly touches include rainwater harvesting, gray water recycling and exterior cladding to limit solar heat gain. The apartments’ kitchens and bathrooms could be prefabricated by a local factory. See also: Six-hundred meter tall aerodynamic eco-tower being built in China.
Taylor Wilson: My Radical Plan for Small Nuclear Fission Reactors – (TED – April 2013)
Taylor Wilson was 14 when he built a nuclear fusion reactor in his parents’ garage. Now 19, he returns to the TED stage to present a new take on an old topic: fission. Wilson, who has won backing to create a company to realize his vision, explains why he’s so excited about his innovative design for small modular fission reactors — and why it could be the next big step in solving the global energy crisis.
Invelox Wind Turbine Claims 600% Advantage in Energy Output – (Giz Mag – May 10, 2013)
SheerWind, a wind power company in Minnesota, says that during tests its turbine could generate six times more energy than the amount produced by traditional turbines mounted on towers. Besides, the costs of producing wind energy with Invelox are lower, delivering electricity with prices that can compete with natural gas and hydropower. Invelox takes a novel approach to wind power generation which doesn’t rely on high wind speeds. Instead, it captures wind at any speed, even a breeze, from a portal located above ground. The wind captured is then funneled through a duct where it will pick up speed. The resulting kinetic energy drives the generator on the ground level. By bringing the airflow from the top of the tower, it’s possible to generate more power with smaller turbine blades, SheerWind says. However, the sixfold output claim is a relatively rare maximum. The company’s tests showed that improvements in energy production ranged from 81% to 660%, with an average of about 314%.
One-Third of U.S. Honeybee Colonies Died Last Winter, Threatening Food Supply – (Wired – May 8, 2013)
Beekeepers lost 31% of their colonies in late 2012 and early 2013, roughly double what’s considered acceptable attrition through natural causes, an unsustainable decline that threatens the nation’s food supply. The losses are in keeping with rates documented since 2006, when beekeeper concerns prompted the first nationwide survey of honeybee health. Hopes raised by drop in rates of loss to 22% in 2011-2012 were wiped out by the new numbers. Multiple factors — pesticides, fungicides, parasites, viruses and malnutrition — are believed to cause the losses. Scientists have raced to explain the losses, which fall into different categories. Some result from what’s called colony collapse disorder, a malady first reported in 2006 in which honeybees abandon their hives and vanish. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) subsequently became a public shorthand for describing bee calamities. Most losses reported in the latest survey, however, don’t actually fit the CCD profile. And though CCD is largely undocumented in western Europe, honeybee losses there have also been dramatic. In fact, CCD seems to be declining, even as total losses mount. The honeybees are simply dying. See also: Bee Survival: Ban More Pesticides?
‘March against Monsanto’ Protesters Rally – (Huffington Post – May 25, 2013)
Organizers said “March Against Monsanto” protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Los Angeles where demonstrators waved signs that read “Real Food 4 Real People” and “Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.” The `March Against Monsanto’ movement began just a few months ago, when founder and organizer Tami Canal created a Facebook page on Feb. 28 calling for a rally against the company’s practices. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. “We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don’t act, who’s going to?” Protesters in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s genetically modified soy and grains now command nearly 100% of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying “Monsanto-Get out of Latin America”.
800 Scientists Demand Global GMO “Experiment” End – (Natural Society – May 24, 2013)
Over a decade ago, 800 esteemed scientists demanded the production of genetically modified crops and products be stopped. They called on world powers to re-evaluate the future of agriculture and seek sustainability rather than corporate profits. After its first draft in 1999, the letter had just over 300 signatures. Currently, the document has 828 signatures representing 84 different countries. The Open Letter calls for “the immediate suspension of all environmental releases of GM crops and products, both commercially and in open field trials, for at least 5 years.” They also want patents on organisms, cell lines, and living things revoked and banned.
Farm Bill: Senate Rejects GMO Labeling Amendment – (Associated Press – May 23, 2013)
The Senate has overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said his amendment was an attempt to clarify that states have the power to require the labels, as several legislatures have moved toward putting such laws into place. Both the Vermont House and Connecticut Senate voted this month to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages. The Senate rejected the amendment on a 71-27 vote during debate on a wide-ranging, five-year farm bill that includes generous supports for crops like corn and soybeans that often are genetically modified varieties. Senators from farm states that use a lot of genetically modified crops strongly opposed the amendment, saying the issue should be left up to the federal government and that labels could raise costs for consumers.
WikiLeaks Cables Reveal State Department Promoting GMOs Abroad – (Truth Out – May, 22 2013)
US embassies are aggressively and systematically promoting biotechnology and GMO food abroad. This article reports on an interview with Darcy O’Callaghan, the international policy director at Food & Water Watch. The organization works to promote local control of food systems and to prevent the privatization of public water resources. “We spent the last year combing through 926 diplomatic cables between U.S. embassies abroad and the State Department in D.C. looking for any incidents of the use biotechnology or genetically modified organisms. You know, we had anecdotal evidence in the past, but using the WikiLeaks database, the Cablegate database, gave us a unique opportunity to really pore through a massive amount and to really see the trends that were laid out there. The reality is that there’s a conflict of interest there when you’re ostensibly promoting poverty alleviation with one arm [USAID programs] and on the other arm promoting U.S. corporations. And so there’s a real conflict between which of those two interests is going to win out and which is really in the best interest of the people you’re trying to help. There have been numerous tests that show the production capacity of genetically modified seeds is really not much better than conventional seed breeding. And when you look at the massive amounts of money that have been spent on developing these seeds, it’s really clear which one is a better bang for your buck.”
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform – (Wired – May 10, 2013)
The immigration reform measure the Senate recently began debating would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system. Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID. This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep. David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears. “The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Endless War is a Real Scandal – (Nation of Change – May 25, 2013)
On September 14, 2001, by passing the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), Congress authorized the President to wage unfettered, permanent war against pretty much anyone the President, in his sole discretion, deemed related to the 9/11 attacks and any future attacks. The U.S. has been in a permanent state of war ever since. On May 16, 2013, the Obama Administration’s Pentagon officials testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that they expected this permanent state of war to last another 10 to 20 years. This came as an apparent surprise to some senators, including John McCain, the Arizona Republican who voted for the initial authorization: “This authority … has grown way out of proportion and is no longer applicable to the conditions that prevailed, that motivated the United States Congress to pass the authorization for the use of military force that we did in 2001.”
Associated Press Seizures and the Web They’ve Uncovered – (Nation of Change – May 17, 2013)
The Obama Justice Department has seized two months of records of at least 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters. These include phone lines in the AP’s New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn offices as well as the main AP number in the House of Representatives press gallery, the private phones and cell phones belonging to AP reporters and a fax line in one AP office. While the Justice Department’s letter of notice to AP didn’t provide the reason for the seizure, the date of the seizure or the dates of the data seized, the timing hints strongly that this is tied to a major investigation of “whistle-blowing”. With six government “whistle-blowers” in jail or being prosecuted, federal law-enforcers have prosecuted twice as many whistle-blowers as all previous Administrations combined over the course of two and a quarter centuries. In other words, if an AP reporter called your phone or emailed you from a targeted cell phone, the government now knows it and your phone number (and possibly email address) is now part of the investigation. That gathered information now includes your name, address, phone number, calls you received and calls you made. If they got to the email, all of that is theirs. No matter what those phone calls or email messages from your cell phone are about, they are a part of a government investigation into a major security leak. Once you’re in the mix, the government can then declare you an investigation “target” and legally seize and read all your email and seize all the email of anybody your wrote. All of this activity is legally covered and, based on past government practice, can be done without informing you.
Special Report: The Deeper Agenda Behind “Abenomics” – (Reuters – May 23, 2013)
When ill health and political gridlock forced Shinzo Abe to quit after one dismal year as Japan’s prime minister, his pride was dented and his self-confidence battered. One thing, however, was intact: his commitment to a controversial conservative agenda centered on rewriting Japan’s constitution. Abe’s unlikely comeback was engineered by a corps of politicians who called themselves the “True Conservatives,” many of whom share his commitment to loosening constitutional constraints on the military and restoring traditional values such as group harmony and pride in Japanese culture and history. Central to the group’s world view is a belief that the constitution, drafted by U.S. Occupation officials in February 1946, not only restricted Japan’s right to defend itself but also eroded traditional mores by emphasizing individualism and citizens’ rights over social harmony and duty to the state. Abe wants to revise Article 9 of the constitution. The pacifist clause, if taken literally, bans Japan from maintaining a military, but has been stretched to allow armed forces now bigger than Britain’s.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
People Ignore Their Own Moral Standards When Acting as Market Participants, Researchers Say – (Science Daily, May 10, 2013)
Many people express objections against child labor, exploitation of the workforce or meat production involving cruelty against animals. At the same time, however, people ignore their own moral standards when acting as market participants, searching for the cheapest electronics, fashion or food. Thus, markets reduce moral concerns. This is the main conclusion of an experiment conducted by economists from the Universities of Bonn and Bamberg. In a number of different experiments, several hundred subjects were confronted with the moral decision between receiving a monetary amount and killing a mouse versus saving the life of a mouse and foregoing the monetary amount. This elicited the moral standards held by individuals and was compared to two market conditions in which either only one buyer and one seller (bilateral market) or a larger number of buyers and sellers (multilateral market) could trade with each other. If a market offer was accepted a trade was completed, resulting in the death of a mouse. Compared to the individual situation, a significantly higher number of subjects were willing to accept the killing of a mouse in both market situations. “In markets, people face several mechanisms that may lower their feelings of guilt and responsibility,” explains Nora Szech. In market situations, people focus on competition and profits rather than on moral concerns. Guilt can be shared with other traders. In addition, people see that others violate moral norms as well. In markets with many buyers and sellers, subjects may justify their behavior by stressing that their impact on outcomes is negligible: “If I don’t buy or sell, someone else will.”
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Space Oddity Poignant Says David Bowie – (The Australian – May 14, 2013)
Here is a remake of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield while on board the International Space Station (link to video clip in article). In a high-flying, perfectly pitched first, the Canadian astronaut is bowing out of orbit with a musical video of his own version of Bowie’s 1969 classic. It is believed to be the first music video made in space, according to NASA.
Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks – (Fast Company – April 26, 2013)
The heyday of “The Rent Is Too Damn High” as both a movement and a meme has come and gone, but the sentiment remains painfully true–especially considering that the average male worker earns less in inflation-adjusted wages than he would have in 1968. As the middle class hollows out, the gap between rich and poor widens, and what were left with is A Tale of Two Cities–in almost every city in the country. For a visualization of America’s disparate economic worlds, look no further than Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks, which maps the median rent and income of every neighborhood in the country. Created by Chris Persaud, Rich Blocks Poor Blocks (RBPB) uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and paints a fascinating, if distressing, portrait of the nation’s economic landscape. The maps reveal that many U.S. cities have income disparity on par with some of the poorest nations in the world. For example, Los Angeles is a city with the same level of income inequality as the Dominican Republic. New York has levels of inequality comparable to Swaziland.
More Poor Live in Suburbs Than in Urban Areas – (LA Times – May 19, 2013)
Bucking longstanding patterns in the United States, more poor people now live in the nation’s suburbs than in urban areas, according to a new analysis. As poverty mounted throughout the nation over the past decade, the number of poor people living in suburbs surged 67% between 2000 and 2011 — a much bigger jump than in cities, according to Brookings Institute researchers. Suburbs still have a smaller percentage of their population living in poverty than cities do, but the sheer number of poor people scattered in the suburbs has jumped beyond that of cities. More poor people moved to the suburbs, pulled by more affordable homes or pushed by urban gentrification, the authors said. Still others, including immigrants, followed jobs as the booming suburbs demanded more workers, many for low-paying, service-sector jobs. Change also came from within. More people in the suburbs slipped into poverty as manufacturing jobs disappeared. On top of that, the booming numbers of poor people in the suburbs were driven, in part, by the exploding growth of the suburbs themselves.
McKinsey on Young College Graduates – (Center for Policy & Economic Research – May 14, 2013)
Almost 45% of recent graduates of public universities reported that employment in their current job requires less than a four-year degree compared with only 34% of those from private universities. (This is different from the performance of those jobs requiring the degree.) Almost half of recent college graduates did not get jobs in their field of choice. The majority of these underemployed work in the retail or restaurant industries.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
12 Examples of Genetic Engineering – (Mother Nature News – July, 2012)
Glow-in-the-dark cats? They’ve been around for years. Cabbages that produce scorpion poison? It’s been done. Oh, and the next time you need a vaccine, the doctor might just give you a banana. Here’s a look at the some of the weirdest genetically engineered plants and animals already in existence. For example: British scientists have created a breed of genetically modified hens that produce cancer-fighting medicines in their eggs. The birds have had human genes added to their DNA so that human proteins are secreted into the whites of their eggs, along with complex medicinal proteins similar to drugs used to treat malignant melanoma, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013 – (Technology Review – April 23, 2013)
Technology Review’s definition of a breakthrough is an advance that gives people powerful new ways to use technology. It could be an intuitive design that provides a useful interface (see “Smart Watches”) or experimental devices that could allow people who have suffered brain damage to once again form memories. Some could be key to sustainable economic growth, while others could change how we communicate or think about the unborn. As a whole, we intend this annual list not only to tell you which technologies you need to know about, but also to celebrate the creativity that produced them. (Editor’s note: we found it somewhat difficult to navigate through this article; from the Smart Watches link above, you can scroll down to a list of the 10 items and go from there.)
MIT and Harvard’s 3D-Printed Inchworm Robot Can Assemble Itself – (Inhabitat – May 14, 2013)
The first sure sign of a robot uprising will be when robots gain self-awareness and begin acting autonomously – and if this self-assembling robot is any indication, we’re well on our way to the robopocalypse. Researchers at Harvard and MIT teamed up to produce a 3D-printed inchworm robot that is able to assemble itself. Using shape memory polymers that automatically fold into desired shapes, the remarkable bot transforms itself from a completely flat, two-dimensional object into a walking inchworm-shaped robot with almost no help from human hands.
Marketing to the Big Data Inside Us – (Technology Review – May 24, 2013)
In your DNA are clues to your health, your ancestry, and maybe even your purchasing preferences. Companies market to you according to your shopping habits, your age, your salary, and your social-media activities. In the future, they may be able to advertise to you on the basis of your DNA. Do you carry the genetic variants associated with lactose intolerance? Lactaid has a coupon for you. The genes for male-pattern baldness? That’s accelerated by stress, so maybe you should come in for a discounted massage at Jimmy’s Spa & Bath. A Minneapolis-based startup called Miinome plans to build what it calls the first “member-controlled human genetic marketplace.” The company, which has just three full-time employees and is still hunting for financing, is notable mostly for its bold idea: to sell DNA information to marketers. Widespread gene-based marketing isn’t feasible yet, but it could be in the future. One reason is that the cost of decoding just the most important parts of a person’s DNA—only those stretches that code for proteins, known as the “exome”—is only about $700, and that’s expected to decline. Miinome may eventually offer to sequence the genomes of people for free, so long as they participate in its database. That could take human genetics toward an ad-supported model, just like social networks and search engines. James Ostheimer, the data scientist who is Miinome’s cofounder, says consumer Internet companies like Amazon and Twitter have developed the key technology that’s needed—big server farms, software to handle massive amounts of personal data, and algorithms to mine it.
Nanoparticles Might Be The Future, But They Might Also Be Really Bad For You – (Fast Company – May 9, 2013)
A few years ago, Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan, warned about the potential danger of nanomaterials, which are increasingly being used in everything from food products to sunscreen. A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives corroborated his concern by finding that titanium dioxide nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes—two nanomaterials often found in lightweight sports equipment and paints—can cause lung inflammation in mice and rats. It isn’t the first study to show that these substances trigger inflammation, but it is the only study where researchers from multiple institutions across the U.S. were able to replicate the findings. The researchers write: We are only beginning to understand the mechanisms of toxicity for the increasing variety of emerging engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). Growing evidence indicates that nanosizing particles increases toxicity because of a proportional increase in surface area that is then available to generate ROS, a primary factor that drives cellular stress and disease pathogenesis. However, in addition to the obvious role of increased surface area and ROS generation, nanosized particles could be capable of moving across cellular barriers to interact with subcellular structures (e.g, mitochondria, microtubules, organelles, DNA) in potentially unique ways that we have yet to fully comprehend. While many ENMs will present little or no risk, it is inevitable that at least some ENMs will pose a significant risk to human health and the environment.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
6 Amazing Ways Animals Show Compassion – (Mother Jones – April 6, 2013)
Giving 6 specific examples, renowned primatologist Frans de Waal argues that our own sense of morality can be traced back to our primate relatives. In an audio interview (link to full interview in article, excerpt attached to article), De Waal carefully explained his case for how morality springs from evolution and is part of us on a basic, emotional level—literally, part of the human wiring. That hardly means we’re incapable of wrong. But it does mean that sympathy, compassion, and a sense of fairness are deeply embedded in us—and also, in our fellow animals. So where does morality ultimately come from? De Waal believes that empathy is fundamentally rooted in our core emotions, and that it likely evolved to support childrearing and stable group and social behavior.
Columbus’ PowerPoint Presentation to Queen Isabella – (Mother Nature Network – January, 2012)
For more than 20 years, PowerPoint has been the standard format for business presentations. It’s style and language have become a part of the culture and its presence is ubiquitous in meetings across the globe. At one time or another, millions of us have thought the same thing: “What did we do before PowerPoint?” But someone realized it would be interesting to ask a different question: “What if PowerPoint had existed before?” This PowerPoint presentation is tongue-in-cheek and not always quite historically accurate, buy it’s a very good mirror for seeing ourselves. For example, see the “Attitude Study conducted by the Medici Family Trust”.
JUST FOR FUN
Pooktre Tree Shapers – (Pooktre website – no date)
Peter Cook and Becky Northey are living infrastructure consultants and the founders of Pooktre, (the name of their company and their process for shaping trees). Using a gradual shaping method, they shape trees as they grow along predetermined designs. The trees are whimsical and beautiful. Don’t miss the rocking chair tree – and be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of their home page for interesting photographs. If you want to learn how to do it yourself, they sell a book of instructions.
A FINAL QUOTE–
Never confuse motion with action. – Benjamin Franklin
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen