FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Scientists have observed the first concrete example of a plant using a sophisticated arithmetic calculation – to regulate the overnight consumption of starch reserves.
- Farmed fish production overtakes beef.
- To help locate old landmines, a Croatian professor and his team are training honeybees to sniff out explosives.
- The Voyager 1 spacecraft, speeding at a rate of about a million miles a day, has entered a bizarre and mysterious region more than 11 billion miles from Earth that scientists are struggling to make sense of.
by John L. Petersen
Out-of-body Presentation in Berkeley Springs
I once had an out-of-body experience, where I found myself on the ceiling looking down at my body as “I” made a pitch to a potential client. This happened many years ago when I owned an advertising agency – and it changed my life. Never again could you convince me that the physical world that we mostly experience is all that there is.
I’m therefore excited that William Buhlman, probably the
planet’s most knowledgeable authority on this fascinating subject, is coming to make a presentation in our Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series next month. William has studied more than 16,000 OBE experiencers and written a number of books about his findings – what happens, what people experience, what it means – and how, in very practical terms, you can self-initiate one of these extraordinary and mind-blowing experiences.
Come join us on Saturday, the 13th of July at 1PM at the Star Theatre here in Berkeley Springs. You can get complete details here.
I have discovered an extraordinary source for a brief, daily view of what’s going on in this part of the solar system and the earth in terms of earth change events. It’s a four minute summary that rapidly moves around activities on and around the sun and then this planet. You can watch it here. Try it. You’ll like it.
The Great Sucking Sound
I was going to deal with another subject this issue, but there is still so much interesting information coming out about the great NSA collecting exposé that we really need to visit it again. The full scope of all of this is rather mind-boggling.
Let’s start with what the NSA is collecting. The NSA keeps saying (if you’re prepared to believe them) that all they collect is metadata. Well, what’s metadata?
In What’s the Matter with Metadata? they tell us.
The answer, according to the mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau, whom I interviewed while reporting on the plight of the former N.S.A. whistleblower Thomas Drake and who is also the author of “Surveillance or Security?,” is that it’s worse than many might think.
“The public doesn’t understand,” she told me, speaking about so-called metadata. “It’s much more intrusive than content.” She explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening—you don’t need the content.”
For example, she said, in the world of business, a pattern of phone calls from key executives can reveal impending corporate takeovers. Personal phone calls can also reveal sensitive medical information: “You can see a call to a gynecologist, and then a call to an oncologist, and then a call to close family members.” And information from cell-phone towers can reveal the caller’s location. Metadata, she pointed out, can be so revelatory about whom reporters talk to in order to get sensitive stories that it can make more traditional tools in leak investigations, like search warrants and subpoenas, look quaint. “You can see the sources,” she said. When the F.B.I. obtains such records from news agencies, the Attorney General is required to sign off on each invasion of privacy. When the N.S.A. sweeps up millions of records a minute, it’s unclear if any such brakes are applied.
Metadata, Landau noted, can also reveal sensitive political information, showing, for instance, if opposition leaders are meeting, who is involved, where they gather, and for how long. Such data can reveal, too, who is romantically involved with whom, by tracking the locations of cell phones at night.
But with each technological breakthrough comes a break-in to realms previously thought private. “It’s really valuable for law enforcement, but we have to update the wiretap laws,” Landau said.
It was exactly these concerns that motivated the mathematician William Binney, a former N.S.A. official who spoke to me for the Drake story, to retire rather than keep working for an agency he suspected had begun to violate Americans’ fundamental privacy rights. After 9/11, Binney told me, as I reported in the piece, General Michael Hayden, who was then director of the N.S.A., “reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”
Binney, who considered himself a conservative, feared that the N.S.A.’s data-mining program was so extensive that it could help “create an Orwellian state.”
As he told me at the time, wiretap surveillance requires trained human operators, but data mining is an automated process, which means that the entire country can be watched. Conceivably, the government could “monitor the Tea Party, or reporters, whatever group or organization you want to target,” he said. “It’s exactly what the Founding Fathers never wanted.” (Read the complete article)
OK. Now here’s some specifics of what the NSA collects on you/us. WashingtonsBlog.com had this useful summary in You’ve Heard that the Government and Big Corporations Are Spying. But Do You Have ANY IDEA How Widespread the Spying Really Is?
You know that the government has been caught spying on the Verizon phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. The spying effort specifically targeted Americans living on U.S. soil.
And as NBC News reports:
NBC News has learned that under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S.
This includes metadata … which can tell the government a lot about you. And it also includes content.
In addition, a government expert told the Washington Post that the government “quite can literally watch your ideas form as you type.” A top NSA executive has confirmed to Washington’s Blog that the NSA is intercepting and storing virtually all digital communications on the Internet.
Private contractors can also view all of your data . . . and the government isn’t keeping track of which contractors see your data and which don’t. And because background checks regarding some contractors are falsified, it is hard to know the types of people that might have your information.
And top NSA and FBI experts say that the government can retroactively search all of the collected information on someone since 9/11 if they suspect someone of wrongdoing . . . or want to frame him.
The American government is in fact collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA spies on Americans’ credit card transactions as well.
In fact, all U.S. intelligence agencies – including the CIA and NSA – are going to spy on Americans’ finances. The IRS will be spying on Americans’ shopping records, travel, social interactions, health records and files from other government investigators.
The government is flying drones over the American homeland to spy on us. Indeed, the head of the FBI told Congress today that drones are used for domestic surveillance … and that there are no rules in place governing spying on Americans with drones.
WIRED magazine has been at the forefront of exposing what our government has been doing to us. In James Bamford’s piece, The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say), the author provides more detail.
The scope of surveillance expands from there, Binney says. Once a name is entered into the Narus database, all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders. “Anybody you want, route to a recorder,” Binney says. “If your number’s in there? Routed and gets recorded.” He adds, “The Narus device allows you to take it all.” And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis.
After he left the NSA, Binney suggested a system for monitoring people’s communications according to how closely they are connected to an initial target. The further away from the target—say you’re just an acquaintance of a friend of the target—the less the surveillance. But the agency rejected the idea, and, given the massive new storage facility in Utah, Binney suspects that it now simply collects everything. “The whole idea was, how do you manage 20 terabytes of intercept a minute?” he says. “The way we proposed was to distinguish between things you want and things you don’t want.” Instead, he adds, “they’re storing everything they gather.” And the agency is gathering as much as it can.
Once the communications are intercepted and stored, the data-mining begins. “You can watch everybody all the time with data- mining,” Binney says. Everything a person does becomes charted on a graph, “financial transactions or travel or anything,” he says. Thus, as data like bookstore receipts, bank statements, and commuter toll records flow in, the NSA is able to paint a more and more detailed picture of someone’s life.
The NSA also has the ability to eavesdrop on phone calls directly and in real time. According to Adrienne J. Kinne, who worked both before and after 9/11 as a voice interceptor at the NSA facility in Georgia, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks “basically all rules were thrown out the window, and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans.” Even journalists calling home from overseas were included. “A lot of time you could tell they were calling their families,” she says, “incredibly intimate, personal conversations.” Kinne found the act of eavesdropping on innocent fellow citizens personally distressing. “It’s almost like going through and finding somebody’s diary,” she says.
Now perhaps you question whether they can really figure out who you are and what you are doing without out having anything with your name on it. You should think again. A recent paper in the scientific journal Nature Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility makes it really clear that just from knowing the history of where you’ve gone in the past (in a database) and now having four spatio-temporal points (time and place) locations of a particular phone, with 95% accuracy they can tell that it is you.
But we’re protected by the need for them to get a warrant to collect our stuff, you might think. Wrong again. They say they do, but in Revealed: NSA Does Not Need That Warrant After All its clear that “New NSA docs released, showing prevalent warrantless surveillance.”
Following recent claims by President Obama and NSA chief Keith Alexander that the National Security Agency does not monitor the communications of US citizens without a warrant, the Guardian published a new set of top secret documents on Thursday exposing the illegitimacy of those claims.
Screen shot from Obama interview with Charlie Rose: “What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a US person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls . . . by law and by rule, and unless they . . . go to a court, and obtain a warrant…”
There seems to be a trend here: they’re all lying to us.
If you want to really understand the constraints and restrictions, read this, from the Washington Post again by James Bamford. Five Myths About The National Security Agency. Winslow Wheeler, who sent this along had this to say about the piece:
“A stunning and informative piece from James Bamford.
“Note the key difference from past such breaches of the Constitution: today, because they are captured by the agencies they are supposed to oversee, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees do not just enable the invasion of your privacy, they seek to prosecute those who expose it. In other words, they want to imprison those who do what should be Congress’ job.
“Who will they be after next? It is a very unpredictable situation.”
Here’s some of the article:
When the National Security Agency was created through a top-secret memorandum signed by President Harry Truman in 1952, the agency was so secret that only a few members of Congress knew about it. While the NSA gradually became known over the decades, its inner workings remain extremely hidden, even with the recent leaks about its gathering of Americans’ phone records and tapping into data from the nine largest Internet companies. Let’s pull back the shroud a bit to demystify this agency.
1. The NSA is allowed to spy on everyone, everywhere.
After his release of documents to the Guardian and The Washington Post, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said, “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal e-mail.”
But Snowden probably couldn’t eavesdrop on just about anyone, including the president, without breaking the law. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act forbids the NSA from targeting U.S. citizens or legal residents without an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This applies whether the person is in the United States or overseas. According to documents from Snowden published by The Post and the Guardian on Thursday, if agency employees pick up the communications of Americans incidentally while monitoring foreign targets, they are supposed to destroy the information unless it contains “significant foreign intelligence” or evidence of a crime. What’s technically feasible is a different matter. Since 2003, the NSA has been able to monitor much of the Internet and telephone communication entering, leaving and traveling through the United States with secret eavesdropping hardware and software installed at major AT&T switches, and probably those of other companies, around the country.
2. The courts make sure that what the NSA does is legal.
This is part of the NSA’s mantra. Because both the surveillance court and the activities it monitors are secret, it’s hard to contradict. Yet we know about at least one transgression since Congress created the court in 1978 in response to the NSA’s previous abuses.
Under the court’s original charter, the NSA was required to provide it with the names of all U.S. citizens and residents it wished to monitor. Yet the George W. Bush administration issued a presidential order in 2002 authorizing the NSA to eavesdrop without court-approved warrants.
After the New York Times exposed the warrantless wiretapping program in 2005, Congress amended the law to weaken the court’s oversight and incorporate many of the formerly illegal eavesdropping activities conducted during the Bush years. Rather than individual warrants, the court can now approve vast, dragnet-style warrants, or orders, as they’re called. For example, the first document released by the Guardian was a top-secret order from the court requiring Verizon to hand over the daily telephone records of all its customers, including local calls.
3. Congress has a lot of oversight over the NSA.
This is the second part of the mantra from NSA Director Keith Alexander and other senior agency officials. Indeed, when the congressional intelligence committees were formed in 1976 and 1977, their emphasis was on protecting the public from the intelligence agencies, which were rife with abuses.
Today, however, the intelligence committees are more dedicated to protecting the agencies from budget cuts than safeguarding the public from their transgressions. Hence their failure to discover the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping activity and their failure to take action against the NSA’s gathering of telephone and Internet records.
(Read the whole article)
So, what can they do with all of this information? After all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you don’t have anything to fear . . . do you? Well, if you believe that the government mostly operates with integrity and seldom is uses its power for reasons that are, oh, let’s say political or vindictive, then you would be right. But what if they started to act like some of the people you know who don’t operate with the most loving intent. Then, it might look like this: NSA Whistleblower: NSA Spying On – and Blackmailing – Top Government Officials and Military Officers.
Whistleblower Says Spy Agency Targeting Top American Leaders
NSA whistleblower Russel Tice – a key source in the 2005 New York Times report that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping – told Peter B. Collins on Boiling Frogs Post (the website of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds):
Tice: Okay. They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial. But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people. They went after antiwar groups. They went after U.S. international–U.S. companies that that do international business, you know, business around the world. They went after U.S. banking firms and financial firms that do international business. They went after NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work. They went after a few antiwar civil rights groups. So, you know, don’t tell me that there’s no abuse, because I’ve had this stuff in my hand and looked at it. And in some cases, I literally was involved in the technology that was going after this stuff. And you know, when I said to [former MSNBC show host Keith] Olbermann, I said, my particular thing is high tech and you know, what’s going on is the other thing, which is the dragnet. The dragnet is what Mark Klein is talking about, the terrestrial dragnet. Well my specialty is outer space. I deal with satellites, and everything that goes in and out of space. I did my spying via space. So that’s how I found out about this.
|“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguishable from the truth.” — Daniel Kahneman
Wow! Are they really doing all that? Starts to sound like Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover and what those guys were trying to do – but this time with far better, much more powerful technology. This could be a movie. The puppeteers are pulling the strings on all of these people that we assume are operating with some level of integrity and independence. If this is really the truth, then there are quite a few people on — the ends of those puppet strings – who have a pretty good idea of what is really going on.
Now the walls are starting to move and things are changing color.
But, there’s more!
Now, hold the thought in your head that the U.S. government is fixed and consider this at the same time: we’re actively targeting many countries for cyberattacks. Read this: Has the U.S. Started an Internet War?
More than passively eavesdropping, we’re penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We’re creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pre-targeted and ready to be “fired” against some piece of another country’s electronic infrastructure on a moment’s notice.
Cyberattacks have the potential to be both immediate and devastating. They can disrupt communications systems, disable national infrastructure, or, as in the case of Stuxnet, destroy nuclear reactors; but only if they’ve been created and targeted beforehand. Before launching cyberattacks against another country, we have to go through several steps.
Now I want you to stop and think about what you just read – “We’re creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pre-targeted and ready to be “fired” against some piece of another country’s electronic infrastructure on a moment’s notice” – and tell me that that’s not the same strategy that they have for dealing with Americans and organizations who are not compatible with their views or seem threatening. With all of the information that they have on individuals, in a moment’s notice they could shut off everything a person or organization needs to “stay alive” – credit cards, electrical power, telephones, automobiles, personal identification – everything. Seems I remember them doing things like this to WikiLeaks and the Occupy folks.
You should read this: Experts on the Left and the Right Agree: America Is Running the World’s Largest Terrorist Operation. Look at what General Odom, the former director of the NSA has to say about what we are doing . . . and then think about all of the moving parts that have been mentioned here and what direction they are going.
Johnathan Schell calls it a revolution. In America’s Surveillance Net he says: “There is a revolution afoot—one that is being carried out by the government against the fundamental law of the land.”
What should Americans do when all official channels are unresponsive or dysfunctional? Are we, as people used to say, in a revolutionary situation? Shall we man the barricades? The situation is a little more peculiar than that. There is a revolution afoot, but it is not one in the streets; it is one that is being carried out by the government against the fundamental law of the land. That this insurrection against the constitutional order by officials sworn to uphold it includes legal opinions and legislation only makes it the more radical and dangerous. In other words, the government is in stealthy insurrection against the letter and the spirit of the law.
What’s needed is counterrevolution—an American restoration, returning to and reaffirming the principles on which the Republic was founded. Edward Snowden, for one, knew what to do. He saw that when government as a whole goes rogue, the only force with a chance of bringing it back into line is the public. He has helped make this possible by letting the public know the abuses that are being carried out in its name. Civil disobedients are of two kinds: those inspired by universal principles, and those inspired by national traditions. Each has its strengths. Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is the first kind; Snowden, the second. Asked why he had done what he did, Snowden replied, “I am neither traitor nor hero. I am an American.” He based his actions on the finest traditions of this country, which its current leaders have abandoned but which, he hopes, the current generation of Americans still share. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll find out whether he was right.
Let me head out the door here by coming back to the young man who bravely precipitated all of this. The Government Accountability Project, which helps whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, recently released a statement about Snowden. It is a useful summary.
GAP Statement on Edward Snowden & NSA Domestic Surveillance
Recently, the American public learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) has conducted, and continues to conduct, wholesale surveillance of U.S. citizens through a secretive data-mining program. The program collects the phone records, email exchanges, and internet histories of tens of millions of Americans who would otherwise have no knowledge of the secret program were it not for the disclosures of recent whistleblowers. The latest of these whistleblowers to come forward is former Booz Allen Hamilton federal contractor employee, Edward Snowden.
As the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) would like to be clear about its position on each of the following points that relate to these significant revelations:
I. SNOWDEN IS A WHISTLEBLOWER.
Snowden disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal. Consequently, he meets the legal definition of a whistleblower, despite statements to the contrary made by numerous government officials and security pundits. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Ca), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) have also expressed concern about the potential illegality of the secret program. Moreover, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi) who is one of the original authors of the Patriot Act – the oft-cited justification for this pervasive surveillance – has expressed similar misgiving.
II. SNOWDEN IS THE SUBJECT OF CLASSIC WHISTLEBLOWER RETALIATION.
Derogatory characterizations of Snowden‘s personal character by government officials do not negate his whistleblower status. On the contrary, such attacks are classic acts of predatory reprisal used against whistleblowers in the wake of their revelations. Snowden’s personal life, his motives and his whereabouts have all been called into question by government officials and pundits engaged in the reflexive response of institutional apologists. The guilty habitually seek to discredit the whistleblower by shifting the spotlight from the dissent to the dissenter. Historically, this pattern of abuse is clear from behavior towards whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt, Frank Serpico, Jeffrey Wigand, Jesselyn Radack, and recent NSA whistleblower Tom Drake.
(Read complete article)
Syndicated writer Robert Koehler in The Naked Empire synthesizes what’s happening here as well as anyone that I’ve read:
America, America …
Certainly Edward Snowden’s crime is one of public relations. In this day and age, power ain’t just jackboots, tanks and missiles. What he did by outing the NSA and its gargantuan surveillance operation was mess hugely with the American image — the American brand — with its irresistible combination of might and right.
That’s the nature of his “treason.” The secret he gave away was pretty much the same one the little boy blurted out in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale: “The emperor has no clothes!” That is, the government’s security industry isn’t devoted, with benevolent righteousness, to protecting the American public. Instead, it’s obsessively irrational, bent on accumulating data on every phone call we make. It’s a berserk spy machine, seemingly to no sane end. How awkward. (Read complete article)
I’ll close with this very touching two-minute video that relates to Edward Snowden’s heroism. You should watch this.
Landsat 8 High Resolution Satellite Imagery Available Free of Charge – (The Watchers – June 1, 2013)
Landsat 8 is the latest in a series of remote-sensing satellites, which help scientists observe changes to the land that may have natural or human causes, and detect critical trends in the conditions of natural resources. Landsat data have been used to monitor water quality, glacier recession, sea ice movement, invasive species encroachment, coral reef health, land use change, deforestation rates, etc. Landsat images reveal subtle, gradual changes as well as massive landscape changes that occur in rapidly growing urban areas. Landsat imagery contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. A single Landsat scene can record the condition of hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland, agricultural crops, or forests. Landsat satellites give us a view as broad as 12,000 square miles per scene from a distance of more than 400 miles above the earth surface. Unrestricted access and free distribution of Landsat data encourages researchers everywhere to develop practical applications of the data. Since 2008, USGS has provided more than 11 million current and historical Landsat images free of charge to users over the Internet. Landsat 8 data will be available from USGS via Internet, at no cost.
Google+ Isn’t A Social Network — It’s The Matrix – (Guardian – June 4, 2013)
If you create a Gmail account, you’ll automatically get a Google+ account. Even if you don’t ever do anything with it, the Google+ account will track you wherever you’re signed in to your Google account. Effectively, it is an invisible overlay between you and the web, which watches what you’re doing and logs it and stores that away for future reference. Next time you’re searching for something, or looking on a map, or searching on YouTube, you’ll see what Google has decided are the “most relevant” results (and of course the “most relevant” adverts). For example, if you frequent climate change denial sites, a search on “climate change” will turn those up ahead of the sites run by rational scientists. Whatever your leaning, politically, sexually, philosophically, if you let Google+ see it then that will be fed back to you. It’s the classic “filter bubble”. Just as Microsoft cross-leveraged Windows and Office, and then Internet Explorer, Google is cross-leveraging search, Gmail, Maps, Android and everything else, tying them together with Plus. The objective is to index not just the web but the users.
Plants Do Math to Control Overnight Food Supplies – (BBC News – June 23, 2013)
Overnight, when a plant cannot use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch, it must regulate its starch reserves to ensure they last until dawn. Experiments by scientists at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, show that to adjust its starch consumption so precisely, the plant must be performing a mathematical calculation. Mathematical models show that the amount of starch is calculated by division in a process involving leaf chemicals. UK scientists say they were “amazed” to find an example of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation in biology. Birds may use similar methods to preserve fat levels during migration. See also: Plants Seen Doing Quantum Physics
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Type 1 Diabetes Vaccine Hailed as Significant Step – (BBC News – June 26, 2013)
It may be possible to reverse type 1 diabetes by training a patient’s own immune system to stop attacking their body, an early trial suggests. Normally a vaccine teaches the immune system to attack bacteria or viruses that cause disease, such as the polio virus. Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center used a vaccine with the opposite effect – to make the immune system cease its assault. In patients with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys beta cells in the pancreas. This means the body is unable to produce enough insulin and regular injections of the hormone are needed throughout life. It is a different disease to Type 2 diabetes, which can be caused by an unhealthy diet. The vaccine was targeted to the specific white blood cells which attack beta cells. After patients were given weekly injections for three months, the levels of those white blood cells fell. Blood tests also suggested that beta cell function was better in patients given the vaccine than in those treated only with insulin. However, other parts of the immune system seemed to be left intact.
Brain’s ‘Garbage Truck’ May Hold Key to Treating Alzheimer’s and Other Disorders – (Science Daily – June 27, 2013)
Researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) point to a recently discovered system by which the brain removes waste as a potentially powerful new tool to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, scientists believe that some of these conditions may arise when the system is not doing its job properly. While the blood-brain barrier was first described in the late 1800s, scientists are only now beginning to understand the dynamics of how these mechanisms function. The complex network of waste removal has been dubbed the glymphatic system. One of the reasons why the glymphatic system had long eluded comprehension is that it cannot be detected in samples of brain tissue. The key to discovering and understanding the system was the advent of a new imaging technology called two-photon microscopy which enables scientists to peer deep within the living brain. Using this technology on mice, whose brains are remarkably similar to humans, Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine and her colleagues were able to observe and document what amounts to an extensive, and heretofore unknown, plumbing system responsible for flushing waste from throughout the brain.
Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes – (Discover Magazine – May 13, 2013)
If diet and chemicals can cause epigenetic changes, could certain experiences — child neglect, drug abuse or other severe stresses — also set off epigenetic changes to the DNA inside the neurons of a person’s brain? That question turned out to be the basis of a new field, behavioral epigenetics, now so vibrant it has spawned dozens of studies and suggested profound new treatments to heal the brain. According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories. Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited.
The 10 Dumbest Things Ever Said About Global Warming – (Rolling Stone – June 19, 2013)
A list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming is, sadly, almost impossible to curate in any comprehensive fashion. Politicians, talk show hosts, economists, pundits – people are saying dumb things about climate change all the time. But after much exhaustive research, Rolling Stone magazine has narrowed it down to 10 prize-winningly idiotic statements on this subject. One of the more revealing quotations is from Senator James Inhofe, (R-Okla.). Speaking to Rachel Maddow in 2012, he admitted that his rejection of climate science began with realizing how expensive mitigation would be.
Green Gold – Documentary by John D. Liu – (You Tube – July 19, 2012)
“It’s possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems.” Environmental film maker John D. Liu documents large-scale ecosystem restoration projects in China, Africa, South America and the Middle East, highlighting the enormous benefits for people and planet of undertaking these efforts globally. As one would expect, the first step is to stop overgrazing – in fact, stop all grazing for about three years – and then plant. The results that follow, in as little as 20-30 years, are stunning. That’s an entire generation, but it is also a relatively short time for land to be rehabilitated from nearly barren desert to a lush, productive, diverse ecosystem. (Editor’s Note: The “before” and “after” footage of large restored areas alone make this video clip worth seeing.) See also: Hope in a Changing Climate—John Liu at Geography of Hope
Trash Litters Deep Sea Floor, Mostly Recyclables – (Wunderground – June 10, 2013)
The mention of ocean pollution usually triggers searing images of birds and turtles choked by bags, fasteners and other debris floating at the ocean surface. But thousands of feet below, garbage also clutters the seafloor, with as yet unknown consequences for marine life, a new study finds. “It’s completely changing the natural environment, in a way that we don’t know what it’s going to do,” said Susan von Thun, a study co-author and senior research technician at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Monterey, Calif. For the past 22 years, MBARI researchers have explored the deep ocean seafloor from California to Canada and offshore of Hawaii and tagged every piece of trash seen during the deep-sea dives, cataloguing more than 1,500 items in all. Recently, scientists at MBARI decided to analyze their database of ocean debris. More than half of the plastic items were bags. A deep-sea coral living nearly 7,000 feet off the Oregon Coast had a black plastic bag wrapped around its base, which will eventually kill the organism, von Thun said. The second biggest source of ocean trash was metal — soda and food cans.
Introducing Project Loon – Balloon Powered Internet Access – (Google Blog – June 14, 2013)
Google unveils Project Loon, an initiative aiming to provide Web access for the entire world using (believe it or not) hot-air balloons. The balloons, meant to connect “rural, remote, and underserved areas,” would be “carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes,” and deliver 3G or faster speeds. Google admits the idea “presents challenges”, but says its use of wind/solar power to control where the balloons go, and algorithms to determine where to send them, could make it work. A pilot program is underway in New Zealand.
China’s Tianhe-2 Retakes Fastest Supercomputer Crown – (BBC News – June 17, 2013)
Tianhe-2 (“Milky Way-2”) developed by the government-run National University of Defense Technology, topped the latest list of the fastest 500 supercomputers, by a team of international researchers. They said the news was a “surprise” since the system had not been expected to be ready until 2015. China last held the top rank between November 2010 and June 2011. According to the list, the US has the world’s second and third fastest supercomputers, Titan and Sequoia, while Japan’s K computer drops to fourth spot. The machine uses a total of 3.12 million processor cores, using Intel’s Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi chips to carry out its calculations. However, according to University of Tennessee’s Jack Dongarra, many of its features were developed in China and are unique (see article for details).
Anger Mounts after Facebook’s ‘Shadow Profiles’ Leak in Bug – (Zero Day Net – June 23, 2013)
Recently Facebook announced the fix of a bug it said had inadvertently exposed the private information of over six million users when Facebook’s previously unknown shadow profiles were accidentally merged with user accounts in data history record requests. Apparently the data leak spanned a year beginning in 2012. The personal information leaked by the bug is information that had not been given to Facebook by the users – it is data Facebook has been compiling on its users behind closed doors, without their consent and a growing number of Facebook users are furious. Facebook was accidentally combining user’s shadow profiles with their Facebook profiles and spitting the merged information out in one big clump to people they ‘had some connection to’ who downloaded an archive of their account with Facebook’s Download Your Information (DYI) tool. According to the admissions in its blog, Facebook appears to be obtaining users’ offsite email address and phone numbers and attempting to match them to other accounts. It appears that the invisible collected information is then being stored in each user’s ‘shadow profile’ that is somehow attached to accounts. Users were clearly unaware that offsite data about them was being collected, matched to them, and stored by Facebook.
D-Wave Two Quantum Computer Selected for New Quantum Artificial Intelligence Initiative – (D-Wave Systems – May 16, 2013)
D-Wave Systems Inc., the world’s first commercial quantum computing company, has been selected to install its new 512-qubit quantum computer, the D-Wave Two, at the new Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, a collaboration among NASA, Google and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). The purpose of this effort is to use quantum computing to advance machine learning in order to solve some of the most challenging computer science problems. Researchers at Google, NASA and USRA expect to use the D-Wave system to develop applications for a broad range of complex problems such as machine learning, web search, speech recognition, planning and scheduling, search for exoplanets, and support operations in mission control centers. Via USRA, the system will also be available to the broader U.S. academic community.
Phone Charging Stations In NYC Powered By Solar Panels – (Reuters – June 18, 2013)
New York City has unveiled the first of 25 free solar charging stations for mobile phones, installed in response to Superstorm Sandy, which wiped out power and forced residents to walk miles to charge their phones. Located throughout the city’s five boroughs, the charging stations are part of a public-private partnership with AT&T. Powered by solar panels, they will work day or night, in sun or shade. Six ports in each station will allow the public to charge phones, tablets and other devices even if the city’s power is out. AT&T is paying for the 25 stations, with the city bearing no cost.
Silkworms and Robot Work Together to Weave Silk Pavilion – (DaZeen – June 3, 2013)
Researchers at MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group have created a dome from silk fibres woven by a robotic arm, which was then finished by live silkworms. The project is intended to explore how digital and biological fabrication techniques can be combined to produce architectural structures. The team programmed the robotic arm to imitate the way a silkworm deposits silk to build its cocoon. The arm then deposited a kilometer-long silk fiber across flat polygonal metal frames to create 26 panels. These panels were arranged to form a dome, which was suspended from the ceiling. 6,500 live silkworms were then placed on the structure. As the caterpillars crawled over the dome, they deposited silk fibers and completed the structure. Article includes photos and video clip.
3D Printer to Create Microbatteries Smaller Than a Single Grain of Sand – (Daily Mail – June 19, 2013)
Scientists have used a 3D printer to make linthium-ion microbatteries that can fit into tiny devices that had previously stumped engineers looking to power them for longer periods. The batteries were constructed from interlaced stacks of tiny battery electrodes, which conduct electricity, that are each smaller than the width of a single human hair. Senior author of the study, Jennifer Lewis, and her team expanded on the functional ‘inks’ the printer uses, designing some with useful chemical and electrical properties. The inks Lewis’ group developed for the anode part of the battery–or the ‘negative’ side in a Duracell–is made with nanoparticles of one lithium metal oxide compound. Ink for the cathode–the ‘positive’ side–was made from another compound.
All-solid Sulfur-based Battery Outperforms Lithium-ion Technology – (Oak Ridge National Laboratory – June 5, 2013)
Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have designed and tested an all-solid lithium-sulfur battery with approximately four times the energy density of conventional lithium-ion technologies that power today’s electronics. The ORNL battery design, which uses abundant low-cost elemental sulfur, also addresses flammability concerns experienced by other chemistries. “Our approach is a complete change from the current battery concept of two electrodes joined by a liquid electrolyte, which has been used over the last 150 to 200 years,” said Chengdu Liang, lead author of the ORNL study. Scientists have been excited about the potential of lithium-sulfur batteries for decades, but researchers were stuck with a catch-22 created by the battery’s use of liquid electrolytes: On one hand, the liquid helped conduct ions through the battery by allowing lithium polysulfide compounds to dissolve. The downside, however, was that the same dissolution process caused the battery to prematurely break down. The ORNL team overcame these barriers by first synthesizing a never-before-seen class of sulfur-rich materials that conduct ions as well as the lithium metal oxides conventionally used in the battery’s cathode. Liang’s team then combined the new sulfur-rich cathode and a lithium anode with a solid electrolyte material, also developed at ORNL, to create an energy-dense, all-solid battery.
How Bike Friendly Cities Beat the Opposition and Became the New Normal – (Yes Magazine – June 13, 2013)
Former New York mayor Ed Koch envisioned bicycles as vehicles for the future, and in 1980 created experimental bike lanes in Manhattan on 6th and 7th Avenues where riders were protected from speeding traffic by asphalt barriers. It was unlike anything most Americans had ever seen—and some people roared their disapproval. Within weeks, the bike lanes were gone. Twenty-seven years later, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saw the growing ranks of bicyclists on the streets as a key component of 21st century transportation, and have built more than 285 miles of both protected and unprotected bike lanes. They had studied the success of similar projects in Copenhagen and the Netherlands and learned how to make projects more efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Now another of Bloomberg’s and Sadik-Khan’s big ideas to improve New York has hit the streets: the bike sharing system called Citi Bike, which is the largest in North America with 6,000 bikes available at 330 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. There was an inevitable reaction from neighbors when the racks went in on the their blocks, but a lot of the criticism is now coming from people in neighborhoods without Citibikes who want them.
GM Food off the Menu in U.K. Parliament’s Restaurants – (Nation of Change – June 23, 2013)
GM foods are banned from restaurants in the Houses of Parliament despite government claims it is “probably safer” than other meals. Government ministers are demanding that ordinary families should abandon their reluctance to eat genetically modified food, however they are banned from MPs’ plates. This week the food and farming secretary, Owen Paterson, launched an extraordinary propaganda campaign to encourage the nation to accept GM crops and farming. However, his efforts were unraveling today amid evidence that GM food is banned from the dinner tables of MPs. The House of Commons Catering service has confirmed that the ban on GM ingredients which dates back to 1998 remains in place as a matter of “customer choice”. It said: “In line with its procurement policy, the House of Commons Catering Service avoids, wherever identifiable, the procurement of foods that contain genetically modified organisms. To this end, as part of the tendering process, food suppliers are required to work to a strict GM organisms policy and give assurances that goods supplied be free from genetically modified materials.”
Evidence of GMO Harm in Pigs – (Inst. of Health and Environmental Research – June 11, 2013)
GM-fed female pigs had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, a possible indicator of disease that requires further investigation. Also, the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. The research results were striking and statistically significant. Lead researcher Dr Judy Carman, adjunct associate professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, said: “Our findings are noteworthy for several reasons. First, we found these results in real on-farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the added benefit of strict scientific controls that are not normally present on farms. Second, we used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them. Third, pigs have a similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops. Fourth, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen. Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”
Farmed Fish Production Overtakes Beef – (Earth Policy Institute – June 12, 2013)
The world quietly reached a milestone in the evolution of the human diet in 2011. For the first time in modern history, world farmed fish production topped beef production. The gap widened in 2012, with output from fish farming—also called aquaculture—reaching a record 66 million tons, compared with production of beef at 63 million tons. And 2013 may well be the first year that people eat more fish raised on farms than caught in the wild. More than just a crossing of lines, these trends illustrate the latest stage in a historic shift in food production. As grain and soybean prices have risen well above historical levels in recent years, the cost of producing grain-eating livestock has also gone up. Higher prices have nudged consumers away from the least-efficient feeders. This means more farmed fish and less beef. In the United States, where the amount of meat in peoples’ diets has been falling since 2004, average consumption of beef per person has dropped by more than 13% and that of chicken by 5%. U.S. fish consumption has also dropped, but just by 2%.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
The World as Free-Fire Zone – (Technology Review – June 7, 2013)
The earliest drone prototypes weighed 75 pounds, were powered by a modified lawn-mower engine, and could stay aloft for two hours while hoisting a 28-pound payload. This article traces the history of the development of drones beginning in 1971, cruises past 2009 when the Air Force began to train more drone-joystick pilots than airplane pilots, and explains how current-day technology makes it easy for Americans to kill a particular person anywhere on the planet. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for its calmly detailed facts. Technology Review is a journal sponsored by MIT, and the quality of the research underlying this article is excellent.)
Fight Against Land Mines Gets an Unlikely New Ally – (GeekoSystem – May 19, 2013)
During the Balkan wars in the 1990′s, an estimated 90,000 land mines were deployed in the region. They were mostly deployed at random without a map of their location, so finding them is a difficult and serious problem. To help find the remaining mines, Croatian professor Nikola Kezic and his team are training honeybees to sniff out explosives. The program is sponsored by the EU, which Croatia will be joining officially this summer. When the EU adopts Croatia, it is also adopting its land mine problem, which includes about 466 square miles of suspected active minefields. As it turns out, bees can easily detect the smell of explosives, and can be trained to seek it out. There is one apparent problem says Kezic, “It is not a problem for a bee to learn the smell of an explosive, which it can then search. You can train a bee, but training their colony of thousands becomes a problem.” It could be some time before bees are used in the field. If the experiment with TNT-hunting bees proves successful and reliable, then bees will be deployed to de-mined fields as a sort of double-check. Kezic said, “It has been scientifically proven that there are never zero mines on a de-mined field, and that’s where bees could come in.” Once the bees are set loose on a de-mined field, they will be tracked with a heat-seeking camera. The belief being that they will congregate around the explosives which they have been trained to associate with a sugar solution.
DARPA Talks about Hacking Cars – (You Tube – June 23, 2013)
Dr. Kathleen Fisher, a DARPA program manager for High Assurance Systems, describes ways in which a hacker can take control of an automobile – either by hacking into the dashboard display (direct contact with car) or hacking through a mechanic’s diagnostic equipment (no direct contact). For more on the specifics of the process, see this New York Times article: Researchers Show How a Car’s Electronics Can Be Taken Over Remotely
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The Drone Ranger; Obama’s Dirty Wars – (Nation of Change – June 14, 2013)
Every Tuesday, President Obama personally checks off the names of people he wants killed. George Bush, a bit more squeamish than Obama, never did that; but Mr. Obama felt those decisions were the president’s responsibility: he want[s] to keep his own finger on the trigger,” according to one report. A tidy, scheduled man, the President only picks his victims once a week, now called “Terror Tuesday”. (JoAnn, please leave in the link here.) The Drone Ranger’s secret war has now spread to 75 nations. It’s all under the command of General William H. McRaven. The US press is in love with McRaven, lauded as the man who planned the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. But there’s not one single US network or paper that would report on Scahill’s discovery that McRaven was also the guy who planned the night raid on the Afghan wedding party that killed the bride, the groom and the groom’s mother. Maybe that was some horrible mistake. But McRaven’s crew, called “The American Taliban” by Afghans, made sure that no one would finger the US: Rowley and Scahill obtained a secretly recorded video of McRaven’s commandoes slicing the bullets out of the bride’s and groom’s bodies to prevent their killers’ identification. McRaven’s semi-private army, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), is warring in our name worldwide in nations he won’t name and Obama will arrest you for naming.
A Timeline of Mass Surveillance in America – (Truth Out – June 8, 2013)
The article is exactly as titled: a detailed timeline. That the National Security Agency has engaged in such surveillance isn’t entirely new. The story starts in 1978. After a post-Watergate Senate investigation documented abuses of government surveillance, Congress passes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to regulate how the government can monitor suspected spies or terrorists in the U.S. The law establishes a secret court that issues warrants for electronic surveillance or physical searches of a “foreign power” or “agents of a foreign power” (broadly defined in the law). The government doesn’t have to demonstrate probable cause of a crime, just that the “purpose of the surveillance is to obtain foreign intelligence information.” The court’s sessions and opinions are classified. The only information we have is a yearly report to the Senate documenting the number of “applications” made by the government. Since 1978, the court has approved thousands of applications – and rejected just 11.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Kosher Food Sales Projected to Grow by More Than 20% from 2008 – (CTV News – May 26, 2013)
Kosher certification increasingly is being used as a mark of quality when modern food technology meets the centuries-old dietary code of observant Jews. Market research firm Mintel projects kosher food sales will grow by more than 20% from 2008 to this year as more existing products such as Oreos and Tootsie Rolls become certified. About one out of eight Americans buy kosher products. Sixty per cent who do so report quality as the main appeal.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Voyager Spacecraft Enters a Strange, Mysterious Region 11 Billion Miles from Earth –Upending Long-Standing Theories – (Daily Galaxy – June 28, 2013)
Launched 36 years ago, the Voyager 1 spacecraft speeds a rate of about a million miles a day and has now entered a bizarre and mysterious region more than 11 billion miles from Earth that scientists are struggling to make sense of. It’s a region where the fierce solar winds have all but vanished and pieces of atoms blasted across the galaxy by ancient supernovae drift into the solar system. The NASA probe is causing scientists to question some long-standing theories on the nature of our solar system and life beyond its cold dark edge dubbed the “magnetic highway” –a newly discovered area of the heliosphere, the vast bubble of magnetism that shields the solar system from deadly cosmic rays. Toward the end of July 2012, Voyager 1’s instruments reported that solar winds had suddenly dropped by half, while the strength of the magnetic field almost doubled, according to the studies. Those values then switched back and forth five times before they became fixed on Aug. 25. Since then, solar winds have all but disappeared, but the direction of the magnetic field has barely budged. This transition happened extremely fast, in a matter of a few days. “The models that have been thought to predict what should happen are all incorrect,” said physicist Stamatios Krimigis of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “We essentially have absolutely no reliable roadmap of what to expect at this point.”
Study: 70% of Americans on Prescription Drugs – (CBS Atlanta – June 19, 2013)
Nearly 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half receive at least two prescriptions. Mayo Clinic researchers report that antibiotics, antidepressants and painkiller opioids are the most common prescriptions given to Americans. Twenty percent of U.S. patients were found to be on five or more prescription medications. According to the CDC, the percent of persons using at least one prescription drug in the past month increased nearly 50% between 2007 and 2010. Expenditures on prescription drugs reached $250 billion in 2009, and accounted for 12% of total personal health care expenditures.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
3-D printing Goes from Sci-fi Fantasy to Commercial Viability – (WF TV – June 2, 2013)
Invisalign, a San Jose company, uses 3-D printing to make each mouthful of customized, transparent braces. Mackenzies Chocolates, a confectioner in Santa Cruz, uses a 3-D printer to pump out chocolate molds. On ground, sea or air, when parts break, new ones can be made on the spot, and even the tools to install them can be made, eliminating the need for staging parts in warehouses around the world, said Jeff DeGrange, vice president of Direct Digital Manufacturing at Stratasys Inc., currently the industry leader in a field of about 50 3-D printer companies. “We’re going to see innovation happening at a much higher rate, introduction of products at a much higher rate. We live in an on-demand world now, and we’ll see production schedules are going to be greatly compressed,” said DeGrange. “We’re on the verge of the next industrial revolution, no doubt about it,” added Dartmouth College business professor Richard D’Aveni. “In 25 years, entire industries are going to disappear. Countries relying on mass manufacturing are going to find themselves with no revenues and no jobs.” See also this TED talk: The Emergence of “4-D” Printing where the fourth dimension is time. This emerging technology will allow us to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Think: a printed cube that folds before your eyes, or a printed pipe able to sense the need to expand or contract. And see: 3D Printer Helps Fix Duckling’s Ugly Deformity with New Webbed Foot.
Chemists Work to Desalinate the Ocean for Drinking Water, One Nanoliter at a Time – (Science Daily – June 27, 2013)
By creating a small electrical field that removes salts from seawater, chemists at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Marburg in Germany have introduced a new method for the desalination of seawater that consumes less energy and is dramatically simpler than conventional techniques. The new method requires so little energy that it can run on a store-bought battery. The technique is called electrochemically mediated seawater desalination and evades the problems confronting current desalination methods by eliminating the need for a membrane and by separating salt from water at a microscale.
Why Is China Hoarding So Much Gold? – (ETF Daily News – June 4, 2013)
Why are the Chinese hoarding so much gold? Does China plan to back the yuan with gold and turn it into a global reserve currency? Most people in the western world assume that China just wants a “seat at the table” and is content to let the United States run the show. But that isn’t the case at all. Rather, China actually plans to replace the United States as the dominant economic power on the planet. In fact, China already accounts for more global trade than the United States does. So what would happen one day if China announced that it was backing the yuan with gold and that it would no longer be using the U.S. dollar in international trade? It would cause a financial shift so cataclysmic that it is hard to even imagine. Up until now, China has had to use the U.S. dollar in international trade because there has not been an attractive alternative. But a gold-backed yuan would change all of that very rapidly.
The Last Mystery of the Financial Crisis – (Rolling Stone – June 19, 2013)
It’s long been suspected that ratings agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s helped trigger the meltdown. A new trove of embarrassing documents shows how they did it. Thanks to a mountain of evidence gathered for a pair of major lawsuits by the San Diego-based law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, documents that for the most part have never been seen by the general public clearly indicate that the nation’s two top ratings companies, Moody’s and S&P, have for many years been shameless tools for the banks, willing to give just about anything a high rating in exchange for cash. In April, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s settled the lawsuits for a reported $225 million. Brought by a diverse group of institutional plaintiffs with King County, Washington, and the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank taking the lead, the suits accused the ratings agencies of conspiring in the mid-to-late 2000s with Morgan Stanley to fraudulently induce heavy investment into a pair of doomed-to-implode subprime-laden deals. Stock prices for both companies soared at the settlement, with markets believing the firms would be spared the hell of reams of embarrassing evidence thrust into public view at trial. But in a quirk, an earlier judge’s ruling had already made most of the documents in the case public. Based on those documents, this article traces and explains exactly how (and at what profit) all those subprime mortgages were bundled into structured investment vehicles assigned AAA ratings.
The Patriot Edward Snowden – (Austin Chronicle – June 28, 2013)
According to a New York Times article, (June 18), “Seventy percent of America’s intelligence budget now flows to private contractors … [making] private intelligence a $56 billion-a-year industry”. There is no evidence that the patriot Edward Snowden threatened United States security. Instead, his revelations expose and threaten a private cyber-security industry that is unregulated, subject to no serious oversight, and violates the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden [D-Ore.], “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper: “No, sir.” Wyden: “It does not?” Clapper: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect – but not wittingly.” It’s widely reported that Clapper received the committee’s questions in advance. The next day, he was given the opportunity to clarify. He let his “No” stand. After Snowden’s revelations, Clapper gave this widely quoted statement: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner, by saying, ‘No.'” Edward Snowden is the American equivalent of the man who stood in front of that tank in Tiananmen Square.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul Speaks Out Against Senators Voting without Reading the Bills – (You Tube – June 29, 2012)
Here is a short exposé on the means by which Congress as a whole can be rendered ineffective: drafts of proposed bills – in this case, one 600 pages long – delivered to Congressional offices within a few hours of voting. And potentially having numerous last-minute items tucked in.
JUST FOR FUN
Cave Dwelling in Northern New Mexico – (Live Clay – November 14, 2012)
This article features an exquisite residence, hand-carved in sandstone by a master sculptor. Included are numerous images of the dwelling and the landscape into which it is beautifully integrated. (Editor’s note: Don’t miss the fact that the space has clearly been wired for electricity. Apparently the channel for the wiring was carved and then “cemented” over with some type of material.)
A FINAL QUOTE–
If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together. – old African proverb
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Kermit Weeks, 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