FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- After undergoing stem cell transplants as treatment for cancer, two patients with HIV now have no trace of the virus in their systems.
- Diverging from other computer models, a new study done at MIT suggests that efforts to clean the air in Asia may boost the number of tropical cyclones worldwide.
- A growing worldwide effort aims to turn the centuries-old seaweed industry into a major source of environmentally friendly biofuels.
- Israel attracts more venture capital investment per person than any other in the world. The result is that high-tech exports have ballooned to $25 billion per year, about a quarter of Israel’s exports.
by John L. Petersen
Frank DeMarco coming to Berkeley Springs
I have read two, if not three, of Frank DeMarco’s extraordinary books and they have completely changed my understanding of how this reality works. As I’ve mentioned here before, Frank is in contact with an angelic group that he simply refers to as the “The Gentlemen Upstairs” which provides him with amazingly detailed information about how this human experience interfaces with other dimensions and the entities (who are really all a part of us and we of them) actively engage with us in our everyday lives.
Where, for instance, do ideas come from? Do you really think that they just show up in the meat between your ears? DeMarco’s TGU source says rather clearly that it is their job to pitch certain ideas and suggestions into your mind at opportune times in order to provide you with the options necessary for your development. They say that you can cultivate an interactive relationship with these “guides” that will make your decision making process far more effective and successful.
They also say that their job is to actively manipulate the context in which we operate in order to shape the general direction in which we evolve, both individually and as a species. Ever wonder why something just happens …. or a surprisingly appropriate person just shows up in your life? Jung called that serendipity. TGU says that they do it. It is their job.
In a real sense, they exist and function as parents do with small children – constantly moving them along in their development by showing and explaining things to them and putting them in situations where they will learn.
All of this is really quite fascinating and practical. Among other things, it begins to provide potential answers to some of the questions that show up all of the time, like “Why did that happen?”
So, I’m excited that Frank is coming to be our next speaker in our Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series. He’ll be here on Saturday, the 24th of August at 2 PM. We’re still trying to resolve the exact time and location, but save the date and we’ll have more information for you soon. If you’d like to be on the mailing list for our Transition Talks, drop me a note and I’ll make sure that you get the announcements directly.
Emerging New Reality
I was asked to write the forward to a book that will be out in a couple of months (I’ll let you know about it when it is available) and thought that you might find it of interest.
Throughout my life I have carried a bit of a burden. A natural curiosity coupled with an engineer’s education and mindset have always driven me to want to know how things work.
The problem was (and is) endemic – I’m interested in knowing how everything works. The issue surfaced early: my philosophy professor tried to convince this engineering student to switch majors midstream because, “you are a natural philosopher”, and it continued into the advertising business where I spent a good deal of time trying to understand how people made decisions – and responded to words, colors, shapes, icons and sounds.
This curiosity led me into politics and certainly was the underlying reason I was involved in one of the two wars that dominated periods of my life. I wanted to understand how and why our government engaged in these extraordinary complex, violent and expensive (in every way you can think) events.
More recently, as a futurist, this predilection toward sense making has manifested in seeing things in terms of extended networks of various functioning nodes, interconnected with a variety of both active and passive links that all operate with extraordinary complexity and nonlinearity. It’s called systems thinking, trying to make sense out of the big picture.
Systems thinking is important because everything operates within a gigantic number of nested systems, each connected in some way with all of the others. This is where it starts to get weird. The more you honestly and openly look at this system of systems that we call reality, the more unconventional it becomes.
I like to parse things in two general categories: conventional and unconventional. The conventional is, by definition, generally understood: scientific structures and frameworks loaded with theories, postulates and laws which, on any given day, describe what we see around us enough that we can make sense of most of it. Think physics, chemistry, sociology, economics, politics and all of the other “ologies”. The conventional understanding explains things enough to keep most people from going crazy – literally.
But the conventional is the box – the comfortable place defined by the keepers of the status quo who believe that, “we’ve pretty much got things figured out. We’re really just working on the details now”. The anomalies are errors in the system, or the measuring, or whatever. And, by the way, personal reports of individual humans about things that are not consistent with the perceived wisdom don’t count. They’re subjective and anecdotal and can’t be measured. And, they have to be wrong.
Maybe, like me, you’re curious. You’ve read about these new ideas in physics and spirituality. But, it’s very much unmapped territory with some reports from various scouts and explorers who describe a land where things do not always work the way universities teach. Everything is connected to everything else . . . and time is an illusion, etc. It’s interesting – but very unconventional.
It is one thing to read about all of this and not have significantly experienced what is being described (after all, who can effectively relate to the notion that there is no time)? It’s quite another, like me, to have experienced that other world. After an out-of-body experience a couple of decades ago, it was clear to me that there were things going on here that were quite unconventional and, well, weird.
Moreover, we’re dealing here with something more than the evolutionary progression of the growth of knowledge. There are many reasons to believe that this time in the life of humanity and our planet is absolutely extraordinary. Many sources tell the same story: we are living through a punctuation in the evolution of humanity and the planet. There will be very big change in a short amount of time, and that exponential disruption will be very broad based – touching all aspects of our lives.
The change will come in both the conventional and unconventional. Extraordinary, unpredicted shifts are happening in science and technology, social values, politics and international relations, government and international relations. Even religion.
But that’s not all. The very paradigm – the framework from which we make sense of reality – is shifting rapidly. All of this unconventional, rather fragmented knowledge is converging to a new coherence and in so doing, illuminating a whole new multidimensional landscape. At the same time, this new perspective is merging with the conventional in a way that is pulling the supports out from under a couple hundred years of science . . . and driving humanity to the edge of the cliff that overlooks a radical, new reality.
This transition is already moving very fast . . . and it is accelerating.
Teen Jailed As Terrorist Threat After Making Sarcastic Comments on Facebook – (AlterNet – June 30, 2013)
The family of a U.S. teen is fighting for his freedom after he was jailed for terrorist threats over what his parents describe as sarcastic comments. 18-year-old Justin Carter engaged in an argument on Facebook over the online game “League of Legends” in February when another user started calling him crazy and saying he was “messed up in the head.” Carter fired back replying, “Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head, I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.” The next lines the teen typed were “LOL” (laugh out loud) and “JK” (joking). But an anonymous user from Canada who saw the posts didn’t find it funny. According to reports, the user used Google to look up Carter’s name and found an address in Texas linked to the teen – that was located near an elementary school – and filed a complaint with local authorities. Carter was later taken into custody and charged with making a terrorist threat. Four months later, Carter remains in jail – his parents unable to afford his half a million dollar bond – all for making what his mother described as a “very, very stupid comment on Facebook.” During a phone interview, Justin’s mother Jennifer Carter described her son as a typical 18-year-old boy who had never been in trouble before. “When I first saw the threat I honestly didn’t take it seriously for a second – he babysits, he hangs out with our friends’ little kids, he likes to teach them how to play video games – he loves kids,” Jennifer Carter. “We thought they [the police] would see that he was a teenager being sarcastic on Facebook – but he sat in jail for about a month before he was questioned.” Though Justin was arrested on February 14 he was not questioned by the police until March 13. “This has been an eye opener for him – he’s not been treated very well – jail is not a place where you can expect safety.” Carter said her son has been transferred more than once due to other inmates harassing him and picking on him. “They wanted him to sign for eight years in prison, but he’s refusing to sign because he doesn’t feel that he’s done anything worthy of prison time,” said Carter.
An Unknown Force of the Universe is Acting on Dark Matter – (Daily Glaxay – July 4, 2013)
A European team of astronomers led by Hongsheng Zhao of the SUPA Centre of Gravity at the University of St Andrews are suggesting a radical new theory that the Milky Way and Anromeda galaxies collided some 10 billion years ago and that our understanding of gravity is fundamentally wrong. Remarkably, this would neatly explain the observed structure of the two galaxies and their satellites. The team believes that the interactions between dark and ordinary matter could be more important and more complex than previously thought, and even speculate that dark matter might not exist and that the anomalous motions of stars in galaxies are due to a modification of gravity on extragalactic scales.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Cortex – Exoskeleton Protecting the Internal Skeleton – (Jake Evill Design Website – 2013)
After many centuries of splints and cumbersome plaster casts that have been the itchy and smelly bane of millions of children, adults and the aged alike, fracture support comes into the 21st century. The Cortex exoskeletal cast provides a highly technical and trauma zone localized support system that is fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish. The cortex cast utilizes the x-ray and 3d scan of a patient with a fracture and generates a 3d printed model in relation to the point of fracture. (Editor’s note: we are not certain that this casting procedure/product is currently in use or even in experimental testing anywhere. This may just be a concept piece, but it is definitely pointing toward the future of casting.)
First Dementia Dogs Start Work with Owners – (BBC News – July 14, 2013)
A group of students from Glasgow School of Art suggested that dogs could be trained to help people with dementia in the same way that guide dogs help people who are blind. With the support of Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland, two dogs underwent 18 months of training. They have been taught to respond to alarms and bring medicine pouches, to nudge their owners to read a reminder and to encourage them to get out of bed in the morning. Golden retriever Oscar and Labrador Kaspa have been working with their new owners for four months and they have proved such a success that two more are already undergoing training and the charities involved say dementia dogs could be a significant new way of helping people with early-stage dementia.
A Manufacturing Tool Builds 3-D Heart Tissue – (Technology Review – July 15, 2013)
By adapting a programmable device used to manufacture integrated circuits, researchers have devised a semi-automated process to build polymer scaffolds for guiding the development of three-dimensional heart tissue. The method, which entails layer-by-layer fabrication, will enable more precise investigation of the three-dimensional cues that drive cells to organize and form tissue—and could serve as a platform for the development of implantable organ tissue.
Plastic Chemical BPA Leads to Obesity in Young Girls, New Study Finds – (Natural Society News – June 15, 2013)
A known endocrine-disruptor, Bispehnol-A (BPA) has some nasty effects on the human body. It’s damage to the hormonal system has been linked to thyroid problems, asthma, kidney and heart disease, and even increased risk of some types of cancer. But, BPA is still found in plastic food containers and can-linings in the U.S. A study published in PLoS One adds even more fuel to the fire, indicating (again) that BPA could be causing obesity in young girls, particularly those on the verge of puberty. Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland followed girl students between grades 4 and 12 at a school in Shanghai. In all, more than 1,300 children took part in the study.The girls between age 9 and 12 with higher-than average BPA were found to be twice as likely to be overweight or obese. Those who had “extremely high” BPA exposure levels were five times more likely to be in the top weight percentiles. Interestingly, the same links weren’t found in girls over the age of 12 or in boys of any age. “Our study suggests that BPA could be a potential new environmental obesogen, a chemical compound that can disrupt the normal development and balance of lipid metabolism, which can lead to obesity. But this isn’t the first study linking the plastics-chemical with obesity; one from NYU School of Medicine had similar findings. They discovered that obese children made up 22% of those with the highest BPA levels where only 10% of those with the lowest BPA levels were obese.
Closer to an HIV Cure? No Trace of Virus after 2 Men Underwent Stem Cell Transplants – (Huffington Post – July 3, 2013)
After undergoing stem cell transplants as treatment for cancer, two patients with HIV now have no trace of the virus in their systems and haven’t required their HIV medication for several weeks, their doctors have reported. However, doctors cautioned that it’s still too soon to say that the patients have been definitively cured, as they have only been off their treatments for 15 weeks and seven weeks, respectively. The research was led by Dr. Timothy Henrich of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They are doing very well,” Henrich said. “While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured. Only time will tell.” The two patients had been HIV positive and had been taking antiretroviral medication for their condition. However, they each developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma (one patient reportedly had other blood cancers as well) and so underwent chemotherapy as well as stem cell transplants while still receiving their antiretroviral medications. The Los Angeles Times reported that the men received their transplants at different times; one four-and-a-half years ago, and the other nearly three years ago. After undergoing the stem cell transplants, the virus is now undetectable.
New Satellite Maps Reveal the Staggering Extent of Europe’s Flooding – (Atlantic Cities – June 12, 2013)
How bad is the historic flooding in Europe? Take a look at these images captured by NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite. This monumental dousing has drawn comparisons to the terrible European flood of 2002, supposedly a “once in a century” event. But meteorologist Jeff Masters has noted that in some places in Germany this year’s flooding is worse – the Danube River rose to its highest recorded level since 1501, and the Saale also broke a record that was set 400 years ago.
Cities Brace for Rising Seas – (Santa Fe News – June 16, 2013)
From Bangkok to Miami, cities and coastal areas across the globe are already building or planning defenses to protect millions of people and key infrastructure from more powerful storm surges and other effects of global warming. Some are planning cities that will simply adapt to more water. But climate-proofing a city or coastline is expensive, as shown by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to build floodwalls, levees and other defenses against rising seas. Article covers a sampling of cities and countries around the world and what they are doing to prepare for the climatic forces that scientists say are being unleashed by global warming including Rotterdam, Venice, the Maldives and Cuba. See photo of elegant, contemporary amphibious homes floating on the harbor in the IJburg neighborhood in Amsterdam.
New Model Predicts Uptick in Hurricane Intensity and Frequency – (Scientific American – July 9, 2013)
Diverging from other computer models, a new study suggests that efforts to clean the air in Asia may boost the number of tropical cyclones worldwide. For the past 40 years, as far back as the satellite record extends, the number of tropical cyclones that form around the world has held relatively steady, at about 90 per year. As climate change feeds heat energy into the atmosphere and oceans, these storms have become fiercer, but not more frequent. That could change in coming decades, according to a new model developed by an MIT meteorologist. Professor Kerry Emanuel said “In our earlier studies, our results had been largely in line with what other groups were saying: that cyclones would get stronger, but you wouldn’t necessarily see more of them,” he said. “But when we ran it with new data, we saw the global frequency go up. It’s a bit of a mystery, honestly.” While the models themselves can’t identify the cause of this increase, Emanuel said he and other climate scientists were exploring the possibility that a wide-scale reduction in aerosols, rather than an increase in global greenhouse gases, might be the culprit. “Once China and India start to clean up their acts, I think that’s going to have a big impact on the oceans,” he said. “We know, for example, that cyclones are affected much more by solar radiation” — which sulfates reflect — “than by infrared,” which they allow to pass through. There is significant evidence that the United States’ own efforts to reduce industrial pollution in the 1970s and 1980s led to an increase in cyclone activity in the Pacific, he said.
AR Glasses Let Profs Know If Students Are Understanding Their Lectures – (Giz Mag – June 18, 2013)
University professors tell their students to let them know if they don’t understand what’s being said in a lecture, yet few students are likely to feel comfortable raising their hand in front of the class and saying “I don’t get it.” Scientists at Spain’s la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid are hoping to address that situation, with a set of augmented reality glasses that let profs see who’s “not getting it,” without those students having to say so verbally. A side benefit of the system is that it gives students an excuse to fiddle with their smartphones in the middle of a lecture. Using a custom app, at any time they’re able to select one of several symbols. These symbols can indicate that they’ve understood an explanation, that they haven’t understood it, that they need the professor to slow down, or that they know the answer to a question posed to the class. Using their augmented reality glasses, the prof is able to see the students, but they also see each student’s selected symbol hovering above their head. The system also displays a diagram showing how all of the students combined are following the professor’s lecture. This could be particularly useful in large lecture theaters, where counting and comparing all the individual symbols would be too daunting. Article includes example of what the prof sees with the glasses.
Microsoft’s Surveillance Collaboration: Voluntary Aid, or New Legal Tactic? – (Technology Review – July 12, 2013)
In July of last year, Microsoft began publicly testing an online e-mail and chat service called Outlook.com. Soon afterward, according to the British newspaper the Guardian, the company reengineered it in a way that allowed the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program collect chat data before it was encrypted. Privacy campaigners and surveillance experts are now pondering whether Microsoft’s actions were forced by a previously unknown legal tactic, or whether the company voluntarily made the changes to aid surveillance. The Guardian report marks the first time that a major Internet company has been described to have modified its systems to enable government surveillance, as opposed to simply providing access to data it already held. The report says that in addition to modifying how Outlook.com functioned, Microsoft worked with the FBI to enable access to data in its cloud storage system, SkyDrive, and to increase the government’s access to calls over Skype, which Microsoft owns.
Fact or Fiction: Encryption Prevents Digital Eavesdropping – (Scientific American – July 15, 2013)
Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist and co-developer of the TCP/IP communications protocol that makes the Internet tick, recently said that computer scientists should devise an anti-snooping solution for the Web using encrypted communication. Cerf encouraged developers to reexamine how some of the Internet’s core security features—in particular Internet Protocol Security (IPsec)—were designed to enable end-to-end cryptography. Unfortunately, cryptography’s ability to thwart online surveillance or theft comes with a number of caveats and qualifications. Cerf’s comments highlight a key difficulty in using encryption to protect data as it traverses the Internet and comes to rest on a computer or storage drive. Given the diversity of the digital terrain, data is rarely encrypted from start to finish. Even when data is encrypted in transit from one computer to another in a network, it often must be decrypted at each point and reencrypted when handed off to the next computer. If any of these way stations—whether a PC, a Web server or a piece of networking equipment—is not well protected, unencrypted data is left vulnerable to prying eyes. The article goes on to discuss specific encryption protocols, their advantages and limitations.
Elephant Village, Jaipur India, Reclaims Land Devastated by Sand Quarrying – (Giz Mag – June 11, 2013)
Hathigaon (or elephant village) is an ongoing low-income housing project designed to provide a suitable habitat for 100 working elephants and their keepers. As the Hathigaon project is built upon an 88-acre area of environmentally damaged land, the area had to be re-landscaped before any actual construction took place. Over the last few years, the wasteland has been slowly transformed with a series of water pools and an extensive tree plantation program (article includes “before” and “after” photos). Local stone was sourced to create well-insulated walls, and the roofs were constructed from corrugated metal sheeting, allowing elephant feed to be stacked on top. This both saves space and simultaneously offers insulation. A series of water channels have been created to harvest the precious rainfall that the desert climate experiences in monsoon season.
Seaweed Biofuels: A Green Alternative That Might Just Save the Planet – (Guardian – June 30, 2013)
Work at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams), with parallel projects in Ireland and Norway, is part of a growing worldwide effort aiming to turn the centuries-old seaweed industry into a major source of environmentally friendly biofuels. Money is being invested in seaweed research from Vietnam to Israel to Chile because producing biofuels in the sea removes at a stroke many of the serious problems with conventional biofuels. Though important as greener alternatives to oil, many biofuels are produced from food crops, such as corn and sugar, which drives up global prices in a world where a billion people are already hungry. Biofuel production also consumes increasingly scarce freshwater and the worst examples – those from palm oil – can produce more carbon dioxide than diesel. “Seaweed does not have any of those problems,” says Phil Kerrison, another marine scientist, back at the Sams labs. Seaweed farming has even been shown to clean up the pollution from fish farms and kelp grows far more quickly than land plants, turning sunlight into chemical energy five times more efficiently.
Blackbird Land Yacht Sails Directly Downwind Faster Than the Wind – (Pure Energy – June 28, 2013)
Defying first-blush scientific expectation, last year, the Blackbird set the world’s first certified record for going directly upwind, without tacking, using only power from the wind, going upwind about 2.1 times the speed of the wind. It also set the downwind record, going 2.8 times the speed of the wind. Article includes explanation and photo of the vehicle.
Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment than Gas-Powered Ones? – (Technology Review – July 12, 2013)
Renault recently made public a report that provides a fair assessment by comparing an electric version of its Fluence sedan with gas and diesel-powered versions of the same car. And it makes clear that electric cars are, indeed, better for the environment. The report is a life-cycle assessment, a “cradle to grave” analysis, including not only the emissions involved in using the car, but also the emissions from making it, the resources consumed in manufacturing, and a range of environmental impacts. It looked at not only greenhouse-gas emissions, but impacts on acid rain, ozone pollution, algae blooms, consumption of water and materials such as steel and copper, and total energy demand. The study found that while the environmental impact of making electric vehicles is greater than for making gas and diesel vehicles, this is more than made up for by the greater impact of gas and diesel vehicles while they’re being used. This is true in terms of total energy consumption, use of resources, greenhouse gases, and ozone pollution. The electric vehicles were assumed to be charged from a grid that includes significant amounts of fossil fuels.
Beyond Military Drones – the Future of Unmanned Flight – (Giz Mag – June 29, 2013)
In many ways, UAVs are a bit like computers: first they were rare and then they were everywhere. UAVs with various degrees of autonomy are already being used and the potential for the new technology is evident. One area is in agriculture, with Japan having used UAVs for seeding and crop dusting for over 20 years. UAVs equipped with infrared imagers and other sensors, can be used to monitor livestock and crops, detect diseases, determine plant ripeness and schedule harvesting. They can also spread poisoned bait for vermin, such as fire ants, mice and rats with minimal environmental impact. Other areas where UAVs might show applications is in meteorology with swarms of small robot planes taking up the dangerous task of storm chasing as well as being able to take measurements in situations where using conventionally piloted aircraft isn’t feasible. Another job is prospecting with drone aircraft conducting surveys for oil, gas and minerals. It goes without saying that UAVs are excellent platforms for cartography and geophysical and photometric surveying, allowing an aerial perspective that archaeologists, for one, could only dream of a few years ago. They can also be used for data relays or for inspection and maintenance of bridges and other structures.
Clip-Air Reimagines Travel with Modular Mass Transit Aircraft – (Dvice – June 12, 2013)
Engineers at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne surmised that most mass transit options are really just modules into which people are crammed. Train cars look a lot like the fuselage of an aircraft, for instance. And so the Clip-Air concept was born. In theory, high-capacity Clip-Air train cars, each a self-contained fuselage, can be plucked from the tracks and snapped onto a set of wings. Customers would only have to board and pass through security once — at their local train depot. Once the plane lands, the whole process happens in reverse, dropping off passengers along a train route close to their final destination. What’s more, Clip-Air is designed to fit up to three standard fuselages under a single set of wings, reducing the number of planes in the air. If only two of the three fuselages are booked by passengers, Clip-Air planes can snap on a cargo plane to keep efficiency up. Clip-Air has been under development since 2009 and is described by its designers as “quite a long-term project” – in other words: there are still some major hurdles ahead, but this project is inching forward. Article includes interesting concept “photo”.
Seattle’s Urban Food Forest Is Open for Foraging – (Fast Company – June 11, 2013)
There’s free food everywhere, if you know where to look. Falling Fruit, which maps publicly available produce in several countries, lists 554 edible varieties (mostly plants) in 570,000 locations. It’s mostly stuff that currently goes to waste, like fruit that drops into streets, only to get mashed into concrete. Most of the locations on Falling Fruit’s map are single trees (including some on private property, where asking the owner is advised) or small community spaces. But foraging is gaining scale all the time. Several places are planting dedicated forests for public use. One example is Seattle’s embryonic Beacon Food Forest. Set to become the nation’s largest forageable space, it will cover seven acres within city limits, offering everything from plum, apple, and walnut trees, to berry bushes, herbs and vegetables. The goal is to recreate the ecosystem of a real forest with food-bearing varieties at different heights. The community group behind the project has planted about 35 trees so far, and also completed a lot of landscaping and irrigation work, according to Glenn Herlihy, one of the creators. He expects the space to open later this summer, and to start producing food next year, beginning with herbs, vegetables, and annuals.
Worldwide Honey Bee Collapse: A Lesson in Ecology – (NationofChange – June 12, 2013)
Worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is not as big a mystery as the chemical companies claim. The systemic nature of the problem makes it complex, but not impenetrable. Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors—pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and so forth. The causes of collapse merge and synergize, but we know that humanity is the perpetrator, and that the two most prominent causes appear to be pesticides and habitat loss. Biologists have found over 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen, a deadly “pesticide cocktail” according to University of California apiculturist Eric Mussen. Apis mellifera—the honey bee, native to Europe, Africa and Western Asia—is disappearing around the world. Signs of decline also appear now in the eastern honey bee, Apis cerana. This is no marginal species loss. Honey bees—wild and domestic—perform about 80% of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.
80% of Pre-Packaged Foods in America (Contain Ingredients that) Are Banned in Other Countries – (Yahoo Shine – June 24, 2013)
Whether it’s toxic soda brands like Mountain Dew, or sugary artificial cereals and carcinogenic “potato” chips, around 80% of the processed food variety within the U.S. actually contains ingredients that are banned around the world in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, sometimes they’re banned throughout the entire European Union. The FDA, however, seems quite alright with these disease-linked substances lurking within the food supply. In a new book, Rich Food, Poor Food, authors Mira and Jason Calton provide a list of what they term “Banned Bad Boys” – ingredients commonly used in up to 80% of all American convenience food that have been banned by other countries, with information about which countries banned each substance and why. For example, the food coloring used to make your kid’s delicious Mac & Cheese dinner visually appealing – yellow #5 and yellow #6 – is made from coal tar, which among other things is an active ingredient in lice shampoo and has been linked to allergies, ADHD, and cancer in animals.
GMO and Monsanto: Glyphosate Weed Killer Found in Human Urine across Europe – (Global Research – June 13, 2013)
People in 18 countries across Europe have been found to have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their urine, show the results of tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe. The findings raise concerns about increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, commonly used by farmers, public authorities and gardeners across Europe. The use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified (GM) crops are grown in Europe. Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies. Laboratory tests were performed on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across Europe; on average, 44% of samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland. All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests which were carried out between March and May 2013.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Has U.S. Started an Internet war? – (CNN – June 18, 2013)
Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued last October and released by Edward Snowden, outlines U.S. cyberwar policy. Most of it isn’t very interesting, but there are two paragraphs about “Offensive Cyber Effect Operations,” or OCEO, that are intriguing: “OCEO can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance U.S. national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging. The development and sustainment of OCEO capabilities, however, may require considerable time and effort if access and tools for a specific target do not already exist. “The United States Government shall identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power, establish and maintain OCEO capabilities integrated as appropriate with other U.S. offensive capabilities, and execute those capabilities in a manner consistent with the provisions of this directive.” These two paragraphs, and another paragraph about OCEO, are the only parts of the document classified “top secret.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The Drone Ranger; Obama’s Dirty Wars – (Nation of Change – June 14, 2013)
Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks – (Guardian – June 14, 2013) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/14/climate-change-energy-shocks-nsa-prism Top secret US National Security Agency documents have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data harvested by the NSA’s Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defense planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis – or all three.
Radley Balko: “Once a town gets a SWAT team you want to use it” – (Salon – July 13, 2013)
Radley Balko’s new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, details how America’s police forces have grown to look and behave more like soldiers than neighborly Officer Krupkes walking the beat. This new breed of police, frequently equipped with military weapons and decked out in enough armor to satisfy a storm trooper, are redefining law enforcement. For decades, the war on drugs has empowered police to act aggressively. More recently, 9/11 and school shootings enforced the notion that there’s no such thing as too much security. Since 9/11, the newly formed Department of Homeland Security has distributed billions in grants, enabling even some small town police departments to buy armored personnel carriers and field their own SWAT teams. Once you have a SWAT team the only thing to do is kick some ass. There are more than 100 SWAT team raids every day in this country. They’re not chasing murderers or terrorists. For the most part they go after nonviolent offenders like drug dealers and even small time gamblers. As you’d expect when there is too much adrenaline and too much weaponry, there have been some tragedies. (Balko’s book describes such incidents at length in excerpts published here and here.) This problem defies the usual conservative vs. liberal calculus. As Balko sees it, Democrats love spending money on cops and Republicans want to seem tough on crime. In this fertile ground, the police-industrial complex has grown.
Who Authorized Preparations for War with China? – (Yale Journal of International Affairs – June 12, 2013)
In this detailed analysis paper, the military-policy expert Amitai Etzioni asks, “Who authorized preparations for war with China?” His answer is stark: Mr. Obama has spoken of a “pivot to Asia,” but there has been no political intent or desire to have such an active military confrontation with China – in fact, the politics and diplomacy have been moving in the opposite direction. Nonetheless, the Pentagon has concluded that the time has come to prepare for war with China, and in a manner well beyond crafting the sort of contingency plans that are expected for wide a range of possible confrontations. It is a momentous conclusion that will shape the United States’ defense systems, force posture, and overall strategy for dealing with the economically and militarily resurgent China. Etzioni writes, “The imagined result of ASB (AirSea Battle plan) is the ability to end a conflict with China in much the same way the United States ended WWII: The U.S. military defeats China and dictates the surrender terms.” “AirSea Battle is demonizing China,” James Cartwright, the former vice-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned last year. A Marine Corps assessment warned that the concept is “preposterously expensive to build in peace time” and, if used as intended, would “cause incalculable human and economic destruction,” in good part because it makes escalation to nuclear war far more likely. And the Chinese have responded in kind: “If the U.S. military develops AirSea Battle to deal with the [People’s Liberation Army],” Col. Gauyue Fan warned, “the PLA will be forced to develop anti-AirSea Battle.” And that is now taking place. Soon after assuming power last year, Mr. Xi abandoned his predecessor’s commitment to “peaceful rise,” took direct command of the Central Military Commission and commanded the military to focus on “real combat” and “fighting and winning wars.” (Editor’s note: This article is a long, very detailed analysis worth your attention, but if you just want the “bottom line”, see U.S. and China Smile for Cameras, Prepare for War.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Meet the Atheist ‘Churchgoers’ – (Guardian – February 3, 2013)
Queen and Stevie Wonder instead of hymns; a science lecture instead of a sermon. Can church work without belief in God? More than 300 people in north London say it can. The Sunday Assembly, an atheist service run by two standup comedians, is described by its organizers as “a godless congregation that meets — to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate life”. As one person said, “I came last time and really enjoyed it. It’s got all the good things about church without the terrible dogma. I like the sense of community – and who doesn’t enjoy a singsong?”
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
For Sharpest Views, Scope the Sky with Quick-Change Mirrors – (NPR – June 24, 2013)
It used to be that if astronomers wanted to get rid of the blurring effects of the atmosphere, they had to put their telescopes in space. But a technology called adaptive optics has changed all that. Adaptive optics systems use computers to analyze the light coming from a star, and then compensate for changes wrought by the atmosphere, using mirrors that can change their shapes up to 1,000 times per second. Article includes photos that show the difference. The result: To anyone on Earth peering through the telescope, the star looks like the single point of light it really is. The reason the atmosphere blurs light is that there are tiny changes in temperature as you go from the Earth’s surface up into space. The degree to which air bends light depends on the air’s temperature. With adaptive optics systems, telescopes on Earth can see nearly as clearly as those in space. What’s more, you can build bigger telescopes on Earth than can be sent into orbit. The bigger the telescope, the smaller and fainter the objects it can see. There’s just one problem: for adaptive optics to work, you need a bright enough star to make the corrections on. So, until recently, if you wanted to explore a patch of sky with no bright star, you were out of luck. But scientists have figured out a workaround — they create artificial stars using a laser.
Americans on Food Stamps – (Washington Post – July 11, 2013)
The number of people using food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by an average of 13% a year from 2008 to 2012. In five states, participation doubled. The average monthly benefit per person was $133; the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a month’s groceries for a man between the ages of 19 and 50, eating a diet containing minimal processed foods high in fat and/or sugar (relatively low cost) would run about $181/month.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Brazilian Researchers Develop Cheap Portable Pesticide Biosensor – (Giz Mag – June 13, 2013)
A multidisciplinary Brazilian research team has developed a biosensor to measure pesticide content on food produce, water and soil. The technology is in its development phase, but if developed into a commercial product it could provide a cheap, affordable and portable method to monitor this type of contamination. The biosensor uses an enzyme inhibitor to detect the presence of a pesticide called methamidophos, an insecticide linked to neurological problems. Although enzyme inhibition is not necessarily a new method, the innovation here is in the use of an ultra-thin film to magnify the signals. The development of the biosensor was inspired by the health issues related to the overuse of methamidophos, in particular in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, Brazil’s largest grain producer. Even though this pesticide is banned in several countries, including the whole of the European Union, its use is widespread in Mato Grosso, threatening groundwater with chemical pollution.
NeverWet Product Demonstration – (Apartment Therapy – no date)
NeverWet is a 2-part, super hydrophobic silicone-based coating made by Rustoleum. It resists all sorts of oil-based or water-based solutions, whether acidic, basic, salt solutions, etc. Spray it on your cell phone and it’s absolutely waterproof; watch toward the end of the 5 minute video clip for specific directions on how to apply to a cell phone.
Meet Atlas, the Robot Designed to Save the Day – (Technology Review – July 12, 2013)
The latest innovation from the U.S. Defense Department’s research agency, DARPA, is a humanoid robot called Atlas that looks as if it could’ve walked straight off the set of the latest Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster. In fact, Atlas is designed to eventually take on some of the most dangerous and high-stakes jobs imaginable, such as tending to a nuclear reactor during a meltdown, shutting off a deep-water oil spill, or helping to put out a raging wildfire. Atlas was unveiled at Boston Dynamics, a company that has already developed an impressive menagerie of robotic beasts, some with funding from the Department of Defense, including a headless robot pack mule called LS3, a gecko-like, wall-climbing bot called RiSE, and a four-legged machine called Cheetah capable of bounding along at 29 miles per hour. Like these other machines, Atlas has incredible capabilities for a legged machine. The six-foot-tall, 330-pound robot has 28 degrees of freedom enabled by powerful hydraulically driven joints that allow it to not only carry heavy objects but adjust with remarkable speed to loss of balance. The robot’s head includes a laser-ranging instrument called a lidar that provides it with a detailed 3-D map of its surroundings. And it has two pairs of slightly different robotic hands. The robot currently requires a tether that feeds it cooling water and high-voltage power, but the goal is to develop an untethered version in 2014.
Traders Said to Rig Currency Rates to Profit Off Clients – (Bloomberg – June 12, 2013)
Traders at some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated benchmark foreign-exchange rates used to set the value of trillions of dollars of investments, according to five dealers with knowledge of the practice. However, it may be difficult to prosecute traders for market manipulation, as spot foreign exchange, the trading of one currency with another at the current price for delivery within two days, isn’t classified as a financial instrument by regulators. For this reason, the $4.7-trillion-a-day currency market, the biggest in the financial system, is one of the least regulated. Employees have been front-running client orders and rigging WM/Reuters rates by pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmarks are set, said the current and former traders, who requested anonymity because the practice is controversial. Dealers colluded with counterparts to boost chances of moving the rates, said two of the people, who worked in the industry for a total of more than 20 years. The behavior occurred daily in the spot foreign-exchange market and has been going on for at least a decade, affecting the value of funds and derivatives, the two traders said.
Israel’s Military-Entrepreneurial Complex Owns Big Data – (Technology Review – July 11, 2013)
Each year, Israel’s military puts thousands of teenagers through technical courses, melds them into ready-made teams, and then graduates them into a country that attracts more venture capital investment per person than any other in the world. The result, according to the 2009 book Start-Up Nation, is an “economic miracle” that’s seen high-tech exports balloon to $25 billion per year, about a quarter of Israel’s exports. Israel’s military-entrepreneurial complex has lent it a particular edge in analytics and big data. Military service in Israel is generally compulsory, lasting two or more years. Many would-be entrepreneurs apply to the Israel Defense Forces’s computer training academy, known as Mamram. Located at a base outside Tel Aviv, it acts a bit like a school for startups, teaching programming and project management to cadets in olive-green uniforms. Young hackers with proven skills get recruited by specialized intelligence units such as Matzov, the army’s cybersecurity division, or units involved in signals intelligence and eavesdropping.
The Horrible Psychology of Solitary Confinement – (Wired – July 10, 2013)
In the largest prison protest in California’s history, nearly 30,000 inmates have gone on hunger strike. Their main grievance: the state’s use of solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held for years or decades with almost no social contact and the barest of sensory stimuli. The human brain is ill-adapted to such conditions, and activists and some psychologists equate it to torture. In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. The problems are even worse in people predisposed to mental illness, and can wreak long-lasting changes in prisoners’ minds. A series of scathing reports and documentaries — from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International — were released in 2012, and the U.S. Senate held its first-ever hearings on solitary confinement. What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family. The renewed popularity of solitary confinement in the United States, which dates to the prison overcrowding and rehabilitation program cuts of the 1980s, spurred the most recent research. Consistent patterns emerge in people held in solitary confinement, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control. In the absence of stimuli, prisoners may also become hypersensitive to any stimuli at all. Often they obsess uncontrollably; panic attacks are routine, as is depression and loss of memory and cognitive function. Prisoners in isolation account for just 5% of the total prison population, but nearly half of its suicides.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Happy 69 Year Old Lady Has Not Used Money for 15 Years – (Wake Up World – July 18, 2011)
Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year-old German woman, has been living without money for nearly 15 years (at the time of the article) and says she is much happier because of it. Her story began when she, a middle-aged secondary school teacher emerging from a difficult marriage, took her two children and moved to the city of Dortmund where she opened a Tauschring (swap shop) called “Gib und Nimm” (Give and Take). Her small venture was a place where anyone could trade stuff and skills for other things and skills they needed, without a single coin or banknote changing hands. Gib und Nimm eventually became somewhat of a phenomenon in Dortmund and even prompted its creator to ask herself some questions about the life she was living. In 1996, she took the biggest decision of her life: to live without money. Her children had moved out so she sold her apartment and decided to live nomadically, trading things and services for everything she needed. It was supposed to be a 12-month experiment, but she found herself loving it so much that she just couldn’t give it up. 15 years later, she still lives according to the principles of Gib und Nimm, doing various chores for accommodation in the houses of various members of the Tauschring, and loving it. Schwermer has written two books about her experience of living without money and asked her publisher to give the money to charity so it can make many people happy instead of just one. All of her belongings fit into a single-back suitcase and a rucksack, she has emergency savings of €200 and any other money she comes across, she gives away. Heidemarie doesn’t even have health insurance as she didn’t want to be accused of stealing from the state, and says she relies on the power of self-healing whenever she gets a little sick. (Editor’s note: Ms. Schwermer now has a website and a documentary has been produced about her life. The website has a 2 minute trailer in which she truly does seem to be a joy-filled person. The price for the DVD is “pay what you can” – $20 suggested as a fair price to help cover the costs; a book she has written can be downloaded free.)
JUST FOR FUN
Mount Blanc Speed Flying – (Vimeo – June, 2013)
If you have ever dreamed of skiing so perfectly that you became airborne and then again, at times, returned to the snow and continued to ski… back and forth – skiing and wind-sailing… then watch these “speed fliers” descend Mont Blanc.
A FINAL QUOTE–
On Spaceship Earth, there are no passengers: everyone is crew. – R. Buckminster Fuller
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Abby Porter, Bobbie Rohn, 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