FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- DARPA to Genetically Engineer Humans by Adding a 47th Chromosome.
- Back from the Dead: Resuscitation Expert Says Death Will Soon Be Reversible.
- Tepco Might Have to Pour Water on Fukushima Wreckage Forever.
- Google scans emails sent from non-Google accounts in order to target ads to Gmail users.
by John L. Petersen
Frank DeMarco and Bethi Black 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 our 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 provide 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) which 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 of where each of us evolves, both individually and with humanity as a species. Every 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 1:30 at the Star Theatre here in Berkeley Springs. You can find the complete information here. We hope that you can make it. You’ll find the information absolutely fascinating!
Then Bethi Black will be here on the 7th of September. Bethi is one of the world’s experts at human design. The Human Design System provides an amazing personal map to help understand the individual conscious and unconscious self, how our energy works and weaves with the energy of others and our environment, as well as how to make decisions as our true self free from the conditioning of others or our own mind.
I first came upon Human Design a number of years ago and was really impressed with the extraordinary sophistication of this analytic and diagnostic tool. I have never seen anything that provided a comprehensive, multi-dimensional, quantitative and graphic summary of an individual like this. It is the most powerful assessment tool of this kind that I know of.
The Human Design BodyGraph is built around nine centers of your physical and emotional body: Crown/Inspiration, Ajna/Mental Awareness, Throat/Speech and Manifesting, Self/Purpose and Love, Heart/Willpower, Solar Plexus/Feeling, Sacral/Sex and Life Force, Spleen/Physical Wellbeing, and Root/Impulse.
This framework provides the scaffolding for producing a personalized Body Chart that shows the connections, flows and relationships of your essential self. It is a very powerful device for both understanding yourself and divining the path forward.
Human Design is a synthesis of ancient and modern systems (Astrology, The I’Ching, The Kaballah, The Chakra system, Quantum Physics, Bio-Genetics and more), The Human Design System is a unique tool for awakening to our authentic, compassionate and loving selves.
We are all a mixture of conscious and unconscious activations that are mapped out in our BodyGraph (our chart), which details our innate self and our spirit self, and gives us unparalleled insight into what we can trust in ourselves in order to live out our unique life path. There are places in our designs that are open to the influence of others, and these can distract us from making decisions correctly from our true personal authority. Human Design provides us with a practical strategy for making decisions and living life as ourselves.
We each have a unique life and life purpose that lives out through us when we are aligned to and in harmony with the mechanics of this body, this amazing form that we come into each lifetime. Through this correct alignment we live out our true potential for satisfaction, success, surprise and peace. And we are able to have our true impact, do our true work, have our true recognitions and offer true guidance, as well as understand our place in the totality
Lee Carroll and Barbra Dillinger call it the New Astrology and a system that will carry us into the future. Human Design provides us with a genetic blueprint for how our energy is uniquely designed to function and weave with the energy of others, and what our true purpose in life is that only we can provide to humanity and the planet.
We’re particularly pleased that Bethi will be both giving a presentation on the 7th of September and then staying to do a workshop on Sunday the 8th. She’ll also be in town Monday and Tuesday for individual consultations.
Workshop: An Introduction to Type, Strategy and Authority through The Human Design System
Sunday September 8, 2013 10:00 to 4:00 pm (1 hour lunch-break); Price $100
Beth will also be available for personal chart readings. A one-hour reading is $150*, a 90-minute reading is $200*.
*Attendees of the Sunday workshop will receive a $30 discount on a personal reading.
Human Design is the first tool that reveals your conscious and unconscious self, accurately and powerfully, in a practical and logical way. Working with two calculations and 69,120 potential genetic activations for each of the 26 planetary or nodal characteristics in an individual chart, the specificity of the Human Design system is itself truly unique.
Bethi Black is the Assistant Director of the International Human Design School, editor of the Definitive Book of Human Design: The Science of Differentiation, and a Human Design Analyst and Teacher who works with individuals worldwide to help them understand their individual designs, and empower their unique life path and purpose.
So, here’s our lineup for the rest of the year:
September 7, 2pm Ice House, Independence & Mercer
Bethi Black, Human Design expert, ihdschool.com
September 8, 10am-4pm Ice House, Independence & Mercer
Human Design Workshop, Bethi Black
November 16, 2pm Ice House, Independence & Mercer
Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Leading expert on the paranormal, visionaryliving.com
If we can’t find anyone better, I may give a talk in October. I’ve been thinking about what it takes to produce a sustainable world an am also looking at the big picture of climate change and could have something ready by then.
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.
Driving Forces and Big Pictures
As we’ve said in this space before, in the cacophonous din of the extraordinary things going on around us these days, it is hard to connect the dots and produce a coherent tapestry of all of the seemingly disparate events. If one is able to see the linkages between the most important events, it is relatively easy to derive underlying trends, but few individuals or processes can effectively show the continuity and flow of all of the many events that underlie the behavior change that emerges.
So thank God for people like Michael Ventura, who have done the hard work of stitching some of this together into a relatively coherent picture. I passed along the first three parts of his Arbitrary Nation series earlier, but thought the whole series is so illuminating and provocative that I should include those columns with the complete series.
This is approachable but serious reading of a not very happy story of the fundamental erosion of what the US has been. It is important because, absent this kind of broad brush approach, we could end up like the frog in the warming water, not aware of what is happening to us until we are cooked. There are plenty of historical examples of that having happened that were not about frogs, but humans.
So even though I increasingly believe that the implosion of our present system will presage the emergence of a dramatically new, far better world, it is important to be fully aware of the implosion around us. As players in an epic transformation of this magnitude, it would not be acceptable to go with the downstream flow and then, within view of the falls, suddenly say, “I didn’t realize this is where we were headed.”
Please read these articles in sequence and understand the fundamental nature of the path we’re on.
An Arbitrary Nation, Part 1 – Michael Ventura, Apr. 18, 2013
We are governed today by an arbitrary legal hodgepodge
An Arbitrary Nation, Part 2 – Michael Ventura, May. 2, 2013
Laws arbitrarily enforced (or not enforced) according to the whims of the authorities are no longer laws
An Arbitrary Nation, Part 3 – Michael Ventura, May. 16, 2013
The Fifth Amendment no longer exists as a functioning law of the land
An Arbitrary Nation, Part 4 – Michael Ventura, Jun. 13, 2013
With the consent of the governed, the United States government has gone rogue and violated international law
An Arbitrary Nation, Part 5 – Michael Ventura, Jul. 11, 2013
Our Bill of Rights guarantees are breaking down in state justice systems across the country
An Arbitrary Nation, Part 6 – Michael Ventura, Jul. 25, 2013
The Ninth and Tenth are the invisible Bill of Rights amendments – universally ignored
An Arbitrary Nation: Part 7 – Michael Ventura, Aug. 8, 2013
Journalists and political commentators largely ignore the facts they know
Of course, the dysfunction is much broader than what can be linked to the Constitution. There’s a loss of commonsense values coupled with extreme shortsightedness. Here’s one angle on that dimension.
Chris Hedges of TruthDig sees this path in historical literary terms. In We Are All Aboard the Pequod he finishes this article with:
And so we plunge forward in our doomed quest to master the forces that will finally smite us. Those who see where we are going lack the fortitude to rebel. Mutiny was the only salvation for the Pequod’s crew. It is our only salvation. But moral cowardice turns us into hostages.
And finally, Henry Giroux speaks to the politics of cruelty in his piece America’s Descent Into Madness. He begins by quoting John le Carre:
America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.
Many Retailers Outsource Customer Return Data to Anti-fraud Companies That Analyze Patterns – (Washington Post – August 11, 2013)
Many retailers are tracking your merchandise returns. The companies say it’s all in the name of security and fighting fraud. They want to be able to identify chronic returners or gangs of thieves trying to make off with high-end products that are returned later for store credit. Consumer advocates are raising transparency issues about the practice of having companies collect information on consumers and create “return profiles” of customers at big-name stores. Each year, consumers return about $264 billion worth of merchandise, or almost 9% of total sales, according to industry estimates. Many buyers aren’t aware that some returns, with and without receipts, are being monitored at stores that outsource that information to a third-party company, which creates a “return profile” that catalogs and analyzes the customer’s returns at the store. One company that offers return tracking services, The Retail Equation (TRE) in Irvine, Calif., says more than 27,000 stores use its services. Best Buy, Home Depot, J.C. Penney, Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and Nike are among its clients. TRE would not say how long the profiles on consumers are kept in its database; it varies from retailer to retailer. But a recent “return activity report” obtained by one consumer turned up returns to The Sports Authority dating to 2004.
UK Bars Trash Cans from Tracking People with Wi-Fi – (Associated Press – August 12, 2013)
London officials have demanded that an advertising firm stop using a network of high-tech trash cans to track people walking through London’s financial district. The Renew ad firm has been using technology embedded in the hulking receptacles to measure the Wi-Fi signals emitted by smartphones, and suggested that it would apply the concept of “cookies” — tracking files that follow Internet users across the Web — to the physical world. “We will cookie the street,” Renew Chief Executive Kaveh Memari said in June. But the City of London Corporation insisted that Renew pull the plug on the program, which captures smartphones’ serial numbers and analyzes signal strength to follow people up and down the street. Renew didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on whether it would comply with the authorities’ demand. The trash cans join a host of everyday objects from televisions to toilets that are being manufactured with the ability to send and receive data, opening up new potential for interaction — and surveillance. It’s unclear how Renew had planned to use the data, which were gathered by its reinforced, shoulder-height pods stationed near St. Paul’s Cathedral and Liverpool Street.
British Cat DNA Database Helps Convict Killer – (Associated Press – August 14, 2013)
Although drawing DNA from human hair, saliva, or blood samples has long been a part of crime scene investigations, animal material has also provided invaluable clues. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has used animal DNA to catch criminals for more than a decade — including one case in London in which blood left at the scene of a nightclub stabbing was matched to a murder suspect’s bull terrier. In the latest case in Britain, investigators tapped the same lab to identify the cat hair discovered around the dismembered torso of David Guy, 30, which was found in a trash bag on a British beach in July, 2012. Detectives matched the hair to a cat belonging to the man’s friend, David Hilder, but because the genetic material was mitochondrial DNA — which can be shared among large number of animals — the strength of the match couldn’t be known. That’s where the cat DNA database came in. Jon Wetton from the University of Leicester — who had previously helped to set up a similar database for dogs — worked with doctoral student Barbara Ottolini to create a repository of cat DNA for the Hilder case. They gathered samples of mitochondrial DNA from 152 felines across England over a six-week period. “Only three of the samples obtained matched the hairs from the crime scene,” Wetton said, suggesting that while the match wasn’t perfect, it was still a pretty good indication the hairs on the torso came from Hilder’s cat. “No one’s going to be convicted on this alone, but if it’s helping to reinforce other sorts of evidence then you can paint a picture in the jury’s mind,” Wetton said. In this case there was a host of additional evidence — including traces of Guy’s blood discovered at Hilder’s residence in Southsea, in southern England — and it was enough to secure the 47-year-old’s conviction. “This is the first time cat DNA has been used in a criminal trial in the U.K.,” said Wetton. “This could be a real boon for forensic science, as the 10 million cats in the U.K. are unwittingly tagging the clothes and furnishings in more than a quarter of households.”
Human Evolutionary Change 100 Times Higher in Past 5,000 Years – (Daily Galaxy – August 13, 2013)
“We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals,” according to John Hawks -University of Wisconsin anthropologist. “Five thousand years is such a small sliver of time – it’s 100 to 200 generations ago. That’s how long it’s been since some of these genes originated, and today they are in 30 or 40 percent of people because they’ve had such an advantage. It’s like ‘invasion of the body snatchers.’What’s really amazing about humans,” Hawks continued, “that is not true with most other species, is that for a long time we were just a little ape species in one corner of Africa, and weren’t genetically sampling anything like the potential we have now.” In a finding that countered a common theory that human evolution has slowed to a crawl or even stopped in modern humans, a study examining data from an international genomics project describes the past 40,000 years as a time of supercharged evolutionary change, driven by exponential population growth and cultural shifts. The findings may lead to a very broad rethinking of human evolution, especially in the view that modern culture has essentially relaxed the need for physical genetic changes in humans to improve survival. The biggest new pathway for selection relates to disease resistance, Hawks says. As people starting living in much larger groups and settling in one place roughly 10,000 years ago, epidemic diseases such as malaria, smallpox and cholera began to dramatically shift mortality patterns in people. Malaria is one of the clearest examples, Hawks says, given that there are now more than two dozen identified genetic adaptations that relate to malaria resistance, including an entirely new blood type known as the Duffy blood type.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Back from the Dead: Resuscitation Expert Says Death Will Soon Be Reversible – (Der Spiegel – July 29, 2013)
Raising the dead may soon become medical reality. According to critical care physician Sam Parnia, modern resuscitation science will soon allow doctors to reanimate people up to 24 hours after their death. Dr. Parnia notes, “In the past decade we have seen tremendous progress. With today’s medicine, we can bring people back to life up to one, maybe two hours, sometimes even longer, after their heart stopped beating and they have thus died by circulatory failure. In the future, we will likely get better at reversing death. We may have injectable drugs that slow the process of cell death in the brain and other organs. It is possible that in 20 years, we may be able to restore people to life 12 hours or maybe even 24 hours after they have died. You could call that resurrection, if you will. But I still call it resuscitation science.” The article continues with descriptions of the most recently developed techniques used by physicians trained in resuscitation as a specialty.
DARPA to Genetically Engineer Humans by Adding a 47th Chromosome – (Activist Post – July 29, 2013)
DARPA, the Department of Defense’s research arm, has just put out a new solicitation for a project called, “Advanced Tools for Mammalian Genome Engineering” on the government’s Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) site. This project isn’t just for engineering any mammal’s genome, however; it’s specifically for the bioengineering of humans. The proposal explains the project’s details: The ability to deliver exogenous DNA to mammalian cell lines is a fundamental tool in the development of advanced therapeutics, vaccines, and cellular diagnostics, as well as for basic biological and biomedical research. The successful development of technologies for rapid introduction of large DNA vectors into human cell lines will enable the ability to engineer much more complex functionalities into human cell lines than are currently possible. The project’s stated objective is to “improve the utility of Human Artificial Chromosomes (HACs).” A Wikipedia entry explains what a HAC is and what it does: A human artificial chromosome (HAC) is a microchromosome that can act as a new chromosome in a population of human cells. That is, instead of 46 chromosomes, the cell could have 47 with the 47th being very small, roughly 6-10 megabases in size, and able to carry new genes introduced by human researchers. So DARPA and its team of associated scientists want to introduce an entirely new 47th chromosome into human genetics as a vector platform for inserting bio-alterations and wholesale genetic “improvements” into human DNA. The agency hopes that development of a new chromosome will allow a solution to the limitations of current “state-of-the-art” gene transfer technologies. The proposal explains that existing approaches must be improved due to known drawbacks in the scientists’ failure to control their results.
What’s in Chocolate, Cocoa That Might Benefit Brain Health? – (Forbes – August 8, 2013)
Some studies have strongly suggested that compounds in cocoa may reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline, or, possibly, even reverse it once it occurs. The problem is that no one can quite pin down why it might be good for the brain, though certain mechanisms are good candidates. Now, a new study goes a little further in teasing apart the mechanisms that may be involved in the chocolate-brain relationship. A team from Harvard randomly assigned 60 elderly people to drink two cups of flavanol-rich or flavanol-poor cocoa every day for a month. Flavanols are a type of polyphenol – antioxidants found in foods like cocoa, tea, berries, and wine. Foods rich in these compounds have been shown to benefit heart and brain health in the past. The problem with many earlier studies is that they asked people to recall their intake of the various foods over the years, which can be unreliable, rather than randomly assigning them to eat specific foods in the present. They found that people who had compromised blood flow to the brain and white matter damage at the beginning of the study did show a difference after drinking the cocoa for a month: Blood flow in their brains improved by about 8%, and the time it took them to complete a working memory test dropped from 167 seconds to 116 seconds. The problem is that not only do we not know exactly how cocoa does this, but we don’t really even know what compound in it is responsible. The big caveat in the study is that only people with compromised blood flow showed improvement, so it’s too early to recommend chocolate as a therapeutic tool to prevent or reverse cognitive decline, or to stock up on it before a big presentation or exam. The “bad” things in chocolate may effectively counteract the good ones.
Reading Brainwaves through the Ear – (Technology Review – August 15, 2013)
Neuroscientists often use electroencephalography (EEG) as an inexpensive way to record electrical signals in the brain. Though it would be useful to run these recordings for long periods of time, that usually isn’t practical: EEG recording traditionally involves attaching many electrodes and cables to a patient’s scalp. Now engineers at Imperial College in London have developed an EEG device that can be worn inside the ear, like a hearing aid. They say the device will allow scientists to record EEGs for several days at a time; this would allow doctors to monitor patients who have regularly recurring problems like seizures or microsleep. By nestling the EEG inside the ear, the engineers avoid a lot of signal noise usually introduced by body movement. They can also ensure that the electrodes are always placed in exactly the same spot, which, they say, will make repeated readings more reliable. However, since the device attaches to just one area, it can record only from the temporal region which limits its potential applications to events that involve local activity.
The Lobster Bubble: Maine’s Lobster Boom, and Why Experts Predict a Dramatic Bust – (Think Progress – August 4, 2013)
Many years ago, there were magnificent ground fisheries in the Gulf of Maine, teeming with cod, haddock, pollock and hake. These popular species were essentially fished to the point of local extinction and, released from the pressure of predators, lobsters started taking over. Now, lobsters have become something of a monoculture which supports not only the fishermen, but also the boat builders, mechanics, bait sellers and tourists industry. “For decades, the lobster catches in the Gulf of Maine were very steady at about 20 million pounds per year,” said Robin Alden, Executive Director of Penobscot East Resource Center. “Then they jumped to 40 million pounds per year and last year we landed a record 125 million pounds of lobsters.” While experts agree that the summer of 2012 was something of an anomaly with freakishly warm water, two to three degrees above average, it may also be a foretaste of what warming waters in the Gulf of Maine will bring in future years. Record-breaking lobster catches may sound like one of those few happy side effects of a warming planet, but as with most such cases, the story of the lobster is not that simple. “Anything above 20º C is extremely stressful for lobsters,” explained Bob Steneck, Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine. “While warmer waters off the coast of Maine in recent years have probably aided the boom in lobster numbers, putting us right in the temperature sweet spot for this species, we’re getting closer and closer to that point where the temperature is just too stressful for them, their immune system is compromised and it’s all over.”
Pump and Pray: Tepco Might Have to Pour Water on Fukushima Wreckage Forever – (RT – August 7, 2013)
Fukushima is a nightmare disaster area, and no one has the slightest idea what to do. The game is to prevent the crippled nuclear plant from turning into an “open-air super reactor spectacular” which would result in a hazardous, melted catastrophe. The problem is this: the fission process in a reactor creates huge amounts of heat. Of course, that is the whole point of the machine – the heat makes steam which runs turbines. Water is pumped through channels between the fuel rods and this cools them and heats the water. If there is no water, or the channels are blocked, the heat actually melts the fuel into a big blob which falls to the bottom of the steel vessel in which all this occurs – the pressure vessel – and then melts its way through the steel, into the ground. It is quite clear that the reactors are no longer containing the molten fuel – some proportion of which is now in the ground underneath them. Both this material and the remaining material in what was the containment are very hot and are fissioning. Tepco is quite aware – and so is everyone else in the know – that the only hope of preventing what could become an open-air super reactor spectacular is to cool the fuel, the lumps of fuel distributed throughout the system, mainly in the holed pressure vessels, and also in the spent fuel tanks and in the ground under the reactors. That all this is already fissioning away merrily (though at a low level) is clear from the occasional reports of short half life nuclides like the radioXenons. See also: Can a giant ice wall stop Fukushima radiation from leaking into the sea?
Alaskan Village to Disappear under Water in a Decade – (BBC News – July 29, 2013)
The Alaskan village of Kivalina clings to a narrow spit of sand on the edge of the Bering Sea, far too small to feature on maps of Alaska, never mind the United States. But within a decade Kivalina is likely to be under water. Gone, forever. Remembered – if at all – as the birthplace of America’s first climate change refugees. Four hundred indigenous Inuit people currently live in Kivalina. Their livelihoods depend on hunting and fishing. The sea has sustained them for countless generations but in the last two decades the dramatic retreat of the Arctic ice has left them desperately vulnerable to coastal erosion. No longer does thick ice protect their shoreline from the destructive power of autumn and winter storms. Kivalina’s spit of sand has been dramatically narrowed. The US Army Corps of Engineers built a defensive wall along the beach in 2008, but it was never more than a stop-gap measure. A ferocious storm two years ago forced residents into an emergency evacuation. Now the engineers predict Kivalina will be uninhabitable by 2025. Kivalina’s story is not unique. Temperature records show the Arctic region of Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Retreating ice, slowly rising sea levels and increased coastal erosion have left three Inuit settlements facing imminent destruction, and at least eight more at serious risk.
Global Water Shortages Grow Worse but Nations Have Few Answers – (Scientific American – August 1, 2013)
Ever-rising water demand, and climate change, are expected to boost water problems worldwide, especially in countries that are already experiencing shortages. Globally, the world is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by 2015, but it still must make strides to improve global sanitation, says Aaron Salzberg, the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Water Resources. In addition to supply problems, unclean water causes more than four billion cases of diarrhea a year which lead to roughly 2.2 million deaths, and most are in children under the age of five. Pakistan, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, is on the brink of crisis. A recent report from the Asian Development Bank, highlighted by The Atlantic, states that the country’s emergency water reserve only has enough supply for 30 days – more than 30 times below the 1,000-day recommendation for similar countries. Pakistan, the report states, is “not far from being classified as ‘water scarce,’ with less than 1,000 cubic meters per person per year.” Among other factors, climate change is affecting snowmelt and reducing flows into the Indus River, the area’s main water source. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend the entire article from The Atlantic, referenced above: Pakistan’s New Big Threat Isn’t Terrorism—It’s Water.)
What Google Knows about You – (Zero Hedge – August 1, 2013)
Just what is it that Google knows about each and everyone who uses its interface daily, which in this day and age means everyone with a computer? As it turns out, pretty much everything. Imagine there’s a list somewhere that contains every single webpage you have visited in the last five years. It also has everything you have ever searched for, every address you looked up on Google GOOG +1.86% Maps, every email you sent, every chat message, every YouTube video you watched. Each entry is time-stamped, so it’s clear exactly, down to the minute, when all of this was done. Now imagine that list is all searchable. And imagine it’s on a clean, easy-to-use website. With all that imagined, can you think of a way a hacker, with access to this, could use it against you? And once you’ve imagined all that, go over to google.com/dashboard, and see it all become reality.
Google: Don’t Expect Privacy When Sending to Gmail – (Guardian – August 14, 2013)
People sending email to any of Google’s 425 million Gmail users have no “reasonable expectation” that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing. Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a “stunning admission.” It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals. “Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director. “People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy, don’t use Gmail.” Google set out its case last month in an attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of breaking wire tap laws when it scans emails sent from non-Google accounts in order to target ads to Gmail users. That suit, filed in May, claims Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages”. It quotes Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman: “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” The suit claims: “Unbeknown to millions of people, on a daily basis and for years, Google has systematically and intentionally crossed the ‘creepy line’ to read private email messages containing information you don’t want anyone to know, and to acquire, collect, or mine valuable information from that mail.”
Encrypted Email Service Used by Snowden Mysteriously Shuts Down – (RINF – August 8, 2013)
The highly-encrypted email service reportedly used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has gone offline, and its administrator claims the company is legally barred from explaining why. The homepage of Lavabit.com now simply carries a letter from the company’s owner announcing that the site’s operations have ceased following a six-week long ordeal that is prompting the company to take legal action in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now in the midst of an escalating fight from the federal government aimed at cracking down on encrypted communications, one of the last free and secure services has thrown in the towel under mysterious circumstances. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations,” owner and operator Ladar Levison of Dallas, Texas wrote in the statement. “I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.” Although Lavabit’s website is now almost entirely inaccessible, a cached version hosted by Google provides background on why and how the service provided highly secure encryption to its users. By combining three different encryption schemes with Elliptical Curve Cryptography, Lavabit provided a service purposely developed to provide protection against government surveillance. See also: Why E-mail Can’t Be Completely Private, an article in Technology Review discussing the fact that closure of two “ultra-private” e-mail services shows just how weak the system really is.
Mountainous Rooftop in Beijing Draws Notice – (New York Times – August 13, 2013)
In a city brimming with look-at-me architecture, the sprawling addition that Zhang Biqing, a health care magnate, built atop his 26th-floor apartment is a showstopper. Constructed with ersatz boulders, crisscrossed by trellises and walkways and dotted with the occasional shrub, the two-story aerie resembles the idealized mountains depicted in classical Chinese paintings — except the requisite lonely monk has been replaced by a flashy karaoke parlor. The entire 8,000-square-foot addition, as it turns out, is illegal. Recently, The Beijing Morning News featured a front-page photograph of Mr. Zhang’s rooftop expansion, along with accounts of how the well-connected entrepreneur blithely ignored his neighbors’ complaints during the six years he spent creating his craggy villa atop a luxury gated complex in western Beijing. Tenants were so tortured by the din of nonstop construction — and the resulting leaks and cracked walls — that several of them sold their apartments and moved out. One next-door neighbor was reportedly beaten up after he confronted Mr. Zhang about the project, which is said to have cost more than $4 million. The story, zealously covered by much of the Chinese news media, seemed to embody the popular perception that the rich and powerful can simply do as they please, but apparently front-page notoriety indicated that Mr. Zhang’s over-the-top addition no longer had officials looking the other way.
Lithium-ion Battery Able to Last for 27 Years – (PhysOrg – June 10, 2013)
Officials at Germany’s Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg, (ZSW) claim their improvements to lithium-ion batteries allow a single battery to be recharged up to 10,000 times while still retaining 85% of its charging capacity. Such a battery, if used in an electric car, they note, would allow its owner to recharge the battery every day for 27.4 years. The newly redesigned batteries have approximately four times the density of current batteries (1,100 Watts per kilogram) and have been designed for use in storing power created by wind and solar farms and also in automotive vehicles. Besides the initial high cost of car batteries for electric vehicles, one of the main factors preventing further adoption of electric vehicles is the knowledge that the batteries will need to be replaced after just eight to ten years of use (and in some cases as few as just 3). Batteries that could last 25 or 30 years would likely outlive many of the other cars’ parts, or the car itself, and if not too expensive, could finally give car buyers a compelling reason to switch from those that still rely on gasoline.
Scientists Achieve Solar Hydrogen Production Breakthrough – (SciteDaily – July 29, 2013)
Using a simple solar cell and a photo anode made of a metal oxide, scientists have successfully stored nearly five percent of solar energy chemically in the form of hydrogen. This is a major feat as the design of the solar cell is much simpler than that of the high-efficiency triple-junction cells based on amorphous silicon or expensive III-V semiconductors that are traditionally used for this purpose. The photo anode, which is made from the metal oxide bismuth vanadate (BiVO4) to which a small amount of tungsten atoms was added, was sprayed onto a piece of conducting glass and coated with an inexpensive cobalt phosphate catalyst. “Basically, we combined the best of both worlds,” explains Prof. Dr. Roel van de Krol, head of the HZB Institute for Solar Fuels (Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie): “We start with a chemically stable, low cost metal oxide, add a really good but simple silicon-based thin film solar cell, and – voilà – we’ve just created a cost-effective, highly stable, and highly efficient solar fuel device.” This rather simple system for using sunlight splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process, called artificial photosynthesis, allows solar energy to be stored in the form of hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be used as a fuel either directly or in the form of methane, or it can generate electricity in a fuel cell. One rough estimate shows the potential inherent in this technology: At a solar performance in Germany of roughly 600 Watts per square meter, 100 square meters of this type of system is theoretically capable of storing 3 kilowatt hours of energy in the form of hydrogen in just one single hour of sunshine. This energy could then be available at night or on cloudy days. (Editor’s note: Following up on this article describing a technique to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, see this one on a Water Powered Car. The article’s sources are reputable and given at the bottom of the article.)
Test Flights Approved for World’s First Practical Jetpack – (Dazeen – August 15, 2013)
New Zealand firm Martin Aircraft Company has been given permission by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority to conduct manned test flights on what it claims is the world’s first practical jetpack. The company has been developing the Martin Jetpack for several years and this ruling could help it meet its target of providing working ‘first responder’ jetpacks to the military and emergency services by mid-2014. Test flights will be restricted to a height of six meters and must be conducted above uninhabited ground. The company’s latest jetpack design has a lightweight carbon fiber body and is propelled by a gasoline engine driving twin ducted fans, enabling vertical takeoff and landing as well as sustained flight. Martin Aircraft Company hopes to release a commercial jetpack in 2015, with an estimated price of $150,000-250,000.
Fast Food Hamburgers: What Are We Really Eating? – (Annals of Diagnostic Pathology – July, 2008)
Americans consume about 5 billion hamburgers a year. It is presumed that most hamburgers are composed primarily of meat. Eight different brands of fast food hamburgers were evaluated microscopically for recognizable tissue types and by weight for water content. Fast food hamburgers are comprised of little meat (median, 12.1%). Approximately half of their weight is made up of water. Unexpected tissue types found in some hamburgers included bone, cartilage, and plant material; no brain tissue was present. Sarcocystis parasites were discovered in 2 hamburgers. That research is from 2008; now check out the latest: First Public Tasting of US$330,000 Lab-grown Burger. At a recent press conference in London, a burger made by Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University and his team was served that cost a cool US$330,000. The reason? The beef that went into making it never saw a pasture and the people in the white coats who handed it to the chef weren’t butchers, but bioengineers. The purpose behind this incredibly expensive beefburger is to find new ways to increase meat production while reducing pressure on the environment and increasing animal welfare. According to the United Nations, there will be some nine billion people on Earth by the middle of this century. Globally, people are becoming more wealthy with a correspondingly greater appetite for meat; it’s projected that there will be a 130% increase in demand in East Asia and Pacific regions alone.
NYC Allows Doctors to Prescribe Fruits and Veggies Instead of Pills – (Nation of Change – August 3, 2013)
NYC Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley have announced the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, which allows doctors in the NYC area to give at-risk families better access to local produce. The program allows them to prescribe fruit and vegetables. Obese and overweight patients and their families can be given “Health Bucks”. These can be redeemed at more than 140 NYC farmers markets. The program gives patients $1 in Health Bucks each day for each member of their family over a period of four months. For a family of four, that’s about $120 each month in fruits and veggies. Considering these at risk families are often limited to bodegas in the city and the food stamp system that essentially subsidizes junk food makers, $120 in produce can go a long way.
Did Tyson Ban Doping Cows with Zilmax to Boost Foreign Sales? – (KMUW – August 9, 2013)
Surprising many in the industry, Tyson sent a letter to cattle feeders saying that as of Sept. 6, the company would no longer buy animals that had been treated with Zilmax, a drug that bulks up cattle by as much as 30 pounds just before slaughter. Tyson controls 26% of the U.S. beef supply and is the first company in the industry to make this change. Zilmax, approved by the FDA for use in livestock, is a beta-agonist and acts as a steroid, turning fat into muscle. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 2012, the drug can make meat tough and tasteless. But new reports have surfaced recently suggesting that cattle are growing so large — up to 1,300 pounds — that they can’t walk. China, Russia and many countries in the European Union have banned the use of such drugs in meat production. In May, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, announced it would cut in half its purchase of animals raised with a similar drug, ractopamine. Just a week later, Smithfield announced its sale to a Chinese company. Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch in Washington, D.C., said, “It’s a little bit unfortunate that it takes other countries having good standards to make an improvement in the U.S. marketplace, but at this point we’ll take what we can get, I think, when it comes to how we look at the drugs that are allowed to be given to food animals.” (Editor’s Note: Merck has temporarily suspended sales of Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada. Merck estimates about 70% of the U.S. beef industry’s cattle supply is fed with Zilmax or its competitor Optaf.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
An Educated Guess about How the NSA Is Structured – (The Atlantic – August 14, 2013)
Some intelligence organizations, such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, have declassified most of their organizational charts. The NRO develops, launches and controls spy satellites; the NGA analyzes and distribute imagery. For these agencies, the plumbing matters less than what flows through the pipes, which is highly classified. But the NSA, with its triple mission—break codes, secure data, collect signals intelligence –has not made its structure public. Even by the standards of U.S. intelligence agencies whose existence was declassified much later, the NSA’s organization chart is largely impermeable to outsiders. The NSA prefers not to discuss how it works and what it does. NSA was offered the opportunity to review the organization chart in the article and address any national security concerns. “We won’t fact check a chart that appears to be based largely on speculation,” the agency replied through a spokesperson. The article includes a click-through image to enter a map in which readers can explore the far-reaching branches of NSA’s organizational structure. It has five operational directorates, several administrative directorates and three large operational centers. Each is headed by an associate director, and each associate director has a technical director. They report to the executive director, who reports to the deputy director, who reports to the DIRNSA, which is NSA-speak for Director of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander. He’s also the commander of the Defense Department’s U.S. Cyber Command and the Central Security Service, the military signals and cyber intelligence units that contribute personnel to the NSA. The CSS is essentially the NSA.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
US Army Blocks Access to Guardian Website to Preserve ‘Network Hygiene’ – (Guardian – June 28, 2013)
The US army has admitted to blocking access to parts of the Guardian website for thousands of defense personnel across the country. A spokesman said the military was filtering out reports and content relating to government surveillance programs to preserve “network hygiene” and prevent any classified material appearing on unclassified parts of its computer systems. The confirmation follows reports in the Monterey Herald that staff at the Presidio military base south of San Francisco had complained of not being able to access the Guardian’s UK site at all, and had only partial access to the US site, following publication of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was not seeking to block the whole website, merely taking steps to restrict access to certain content. But a spokesman for the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) in Arizona confirmed that this was a widespread policy, likely to be affecting hundreds of defense facilities. Similar measures were taken by the army after the Guardian and other newspapers published leaked State Department cables obtained via WikiLeaks.
U.S. Directs Agents to Cover Up Program Used to Investigate Americans – (Reuters – August 5, 2013)
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred. Today, much of the SOD’s work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential. Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to “recreate” an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily. After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.” Today, the SOD offers at least three services to federal, state and local law enforcement agents: coordinating international investigations; distributing tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps; and circulating tips from a massive database known as DICE. See also: The NSA-DEA Police State Tango. which further examines the implications of the SOD.
Members of Congress Denied Access to Basic Information About NSA – (Guardian – August 4, 2013)
Members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the secret FISA court which authorizes its activities, documents provided by two House members demonstrate. From the beginning of the NSA controversy, the agency’s defenders have insisted that Congress is aware of the disclosed programs and exercises robust supervision over them. “These programs are subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate,” President Obama said the day after the first story on NSA bulk collection of phone records was published. “And if there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up.” But members who seek out basic information – including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs – find that they are unable to obtain it. Two House members, GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, have provided the Guardian with numerous letters and emails documenting their persistent, and unsuccessful, efforts to learn about NSA programs and relevant FISA court rulings.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Social Security’s ‘Viagra Benefit’ for Your Kids – (Wall St. Journal – August 10, 2013)
For those who have children later in life, there’s a little-known Social Security advantage, dubbed the “Viagra benefit,” that could shift your thoughts about when to retire. Here’s how the benefits for children work: When you qualify, an unmarried child under age 18 can collect up to half of your full retirement benefit. A full-time high-school student also qualifies until the child graduates or turns 19, whichever comes first. In a typical older husband, younger wife household, each child can get monthly checks. But the limit per family (assuming the mother hasn’t yet reached her retirement age) is 150% to 180% of the husband’s full retirement benefit. “Benefits paid to your child will not decrease your retirement benefit,” according to SocialSecurity.gov. “In fact, the value of the benefits he or she may receive, added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.”
Pets Might Soon Become a Staple in the Workplace – (Nation of Change – August 10, 2013)
It’s becoming more common to see animals roaming the halls of companies, sitting under work desks or nestled in the laps of employees. And it looks as though this trend is here to stay after a new study revealed that employees who bring their dogs to work are less stressed and show greater signs of job satisfaction. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management investigated the stress levels and organizational perceptions of pet dogs in the workplace. The study was designed to measure the scores of 75 participants who were broken into two group—employees who brought their dogs to work and employees who did not—in the areas of physiology and perceived stress, perception of job satisfaction, organizational affective commitment and perceived organizational support.
Signs of Declining Economic Security – (Associated Press – July 28, 2013)
Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76% of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press. The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150% of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity only rises to 79%.
More Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home – (Pew Research – August 1, 2013)
In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. This is the highest share in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase over the 32% of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34% doing so when it officially ended in 2009. A record total of 21.6 million Millennials lived in their parents’ home in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their same aged counterparts in 2007. However, of these, at least a third and perhaps as many as half are college students. (In the census data used for this analysis, college students who live in dormitories during the academic year are counted as living with their parents). The men of the Millennial generation are more likely than the women to be living with their parents—40% versus 32%—continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults who do so. Looking at longer term trends, the analysis finds that the share of young adults living in their parents’ home was relatively constant from 1968 (the earliest comparable data available) to 2007, at about 32%. However, other household arrangements of young adults changed dramatically during this period. For example, the share who were married and living with a spouse fell from 56% in 1968 to 27% in 2007. And the share who were living with a roommate or child or were cohabiting with a partner increased nearly fivefold (from 5.5% to 26%).
Political Parties Seen as Most Corrupt Institutions Globally – (Kosmos – July 9, 2013)
Political parties are seen by the publics in most countries as the most corrupt institutions in their societies, according to the latest survey by the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI). TI’s Global Corruption Barometer, which was based on interviews with more than 114,000 interviews in 107 countries, also found that a majority of respondents (54%) believe their governments are either largely or entirely controlled by a few big entities acting in their own self interest. Slightly more than one in four respondents (27%) reported that they had paid a bribe within the previous 12 months in their dealings with public institutions, such as the police or the courts. The new survey comes on a wave of international public attention – and mobilization – against corruption. Most recently, huge public demonstrations in major Brazilian cities have focused popular anger on the persistence of corruption in that country, while India’s anti-corruption movement in 2011 continues to reverberate there. From China to Nigeria, farming communities and poor urban dwellers have found themselves being dispossessed of their land by wealthy and politically well-connected interests that have used those connections to enable the judiciary and the civil service in land grabs. Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States and the popular protests that have broken out in Greece, Spain, and other southern European countries in response to the Eurocrisis have focused attention on the disproportionate power exerted by private corporate and financial interests on governments.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
New Coating Turns Ordinary Glass into Superglass – (Harvard University – August 2, 2013)
A new transparent, bioinspired coating makes ordinary glass tough, self-cleaning, and incredibly slippery, according to a team. The new coating could be used to create durable, scratch-resistant lenses for eyeglasses, self-cleaning windows, improved solar panels, and new medical diagnostic devices, said principal investigator Joanna Aizenberg, Ph.D. The new coating builds on an award-winning technology that Aizenberg and her team pioneered called Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) — the slipperiest synthetic surface known. The new coating is equally slippery, but more durable and fully transparent. Together these advances solve longstanding challenges in creating commercially useful materials that repel almost everything. SLIPS was inspired by the slick strategy of the carnivorous pitcher plant, which lures insects onto the ultraslippery surface of its leaves, where they slide to their doom. SLIPS’s thin layer of liquid lubricant allows liquids to flow easily over the surface, much as a thin layer of water in an ice rink helps an ice skater glide. Unlike earlier water-repelling materials, SLIPS repels oil and sticky liquids like honey, and it resists ice formation and bacterial biofilms as well. To create this coating, the researchers corral a collection of tiny spherical particles of polystyrene, the main ingredient of Styrofoam, on a flat glass surface, like a collection of Ping-Pong balls. They pour liquid glass on them until the balls are more than half buried in glass. After the glass solidifies, they burn away the beads, leaving a network of craters that resembles a honeycomb. They then coat that honeycomb with the same liquid lubricant used in SLIPS.
New Form of Carbon is Stronger Than Graphene and Diamond – (Technology Review – August 15, 2013)
The sixth element, carbon, has given us an amazing abundance of extraordinary materials. Once there was simply carbon, graphite and diamond. But in recent years chemists have added buckyballs, nanotubes and any number of exotic shapes created out of graphene, the molecular equivalent of chickenwire. So it’s hard to believe that carbon has any more surprises up its sleeve. And yet today, Mingjie Liu and pals at Rice University in Houston calculate the properties of another form of carbon that is stronger, stiffer and more exotic than anything chemists have seen before. The new material is called carbyne. It is a chain of carbon atoms that are linked either by alternate triple and single bonds or by consecutive double bonds. Carbyne is something of a mystery. Astronomers believe they have detected its signature in interstellar space but chemists have been bickering for decades over whether they had ever created this stuff on Earth. A couple of years ago, however, they synthesized carbyne chains up to 44 atoms long in solution. The thinking until now has been that carbyne must be extremely unstable. In fact some chemists have calculates that two strands of carbyne coming into contact would react explosively. Nevertheless, nanotechnologists have been fascinated with potential of this material because it ought to be both strong and stiff and therefore useful. But exactly how strong and how stiff, no one has been quite sure. This is where Liu and co step in. These guys have calculated from first principles the bulk properties of carbyne and the results make for interesting reading. For a start, they say that carbyne is about twice as stiff as the stiffest known materials today. Just as impressive is the new material’s strength.
Costs of Economic Growth Have Outweighed Benefits – (SciDevNet– July 19, 2013)
A study which examined 17 countries from 1950 to 2003, found that, although GDP has on average more than tripled in these countries, overall social wellbeing has decreased since 1978. To reach this conclusion, researchers used the global ‘Genuine Progress Indicator’ (GPI). Among the things it considers are income distribution for each country, along with household and volunteer work (activities that enhance welfare but do not involve monetary transactions), and, for example, the cost of environmental degradation. The countries for which GPI has been estimated comprise more than half the world’s population, over five continents, as well as representing nearly 60% of global GDP. “We got some pretty interesting results showing that global GPI per capita peaked in 1978. This means that, globally, the external costs of economic growth have outweighed the benefits since this year,” noted Robert Costanza, professor of public policy at the Australian National University and co-author of the study.
A Texan Tragedy: Ample Oil, No Water – (Guardian – August 11, 2013)
Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart, TX are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted. Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse. In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart’s case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking. Ranchers dumped most of their herds. Cotton farmers lost up to half their crops. Water levels were dropping because of the vast amounts of water being pumped out of the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer, a 34,000 sq mile water bearing formation. Meanwhile, residents in town complained, they were forced to live under water rationing. Getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day. Even as the drought bore down, even as the water levels declined, the oil industry continued to demand water and those with water on their land were willing to sell it. The road west of town was lined with signs advertising “fresh water”, where tankers can take on a box-car-sized load of water laced with industrial chemicals. Larry Baxter, a contractor from the nearby town of Mertzon, installed two frack tanks on his land earlier this year, hoping to make a business out of his well selling water to oil industry. By his own estimate, his well could produce enough to fill up 20 or 30 water trucks for the oil industry each day. At $60 a truck, that was $36,000 a month, easily. But Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, argues fracking is not the only reason Texas is going dry – and nor is the drought. “We have large urban centers sucking water out of west Texas to put on their lands. We have a huge agricultural community, and now we have fracking which is also using water,” she said. And then there is climate change.
World’s Most Influential Thinkers Revealed – (Technology Review – August 9, 2013)
Want to become a leading thinker? A new network analysis reveals the thinkers who most influence the rest of us and suggests ways to join this elite list. Who are the most influential thinkers on the planet? That’s a question that you might imagine ought to be straightforward to determine, given the recent advances in the study of social networks and how information flows around the globe. And yet, while this network approach has been widely used to rank websites, successful sports stars, business leaders and so on, there has been little work on influential thinkers. “The most important thought leaders and trends shaping our society have not been subjected so far to any truly systematic analysis,” say Karin Frick at the GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Switzerland. The basic idea is that a thinker is important if he or she is influences the most important sources of discussion. The difficulty is in measuring this influence. Frick and colleagues do this by starting with a hand-picked list of 100 thinkers in the fields of philosophy, sociology, economics and the hard sciences. Frick and co cross-check this list by asking 50 thought leaders to name their most important influences, a process that throws up essentially the same people. Article lists their “top 10” and gives link to their full list. The researchers also have a couple of tips for aspiring thought leaders. First, become an economist. Twenty-four of the leading thinkers are economists compared to the next most common discipline, political theory, which had only eight. There are only five biologists, three physicists and two chemists on the list. Second, write a book. They point out that, with two exceptions, every thought leader on their list is the author of a book about their ideas.
JUST FOR FUN
Van Gogh, in His Own Words – (You Tube – October 13, 2010)
This 5 ½ minute clip draws on direct quotations from Van Gogh’s letters to give glimpses into an artist whose paintings are well known but whose heart and soul have not been much discovered. The music is by Frédéric Chopin; the images are pure Van Gogh. “When I have a terrible need of – dare I say the word – religion, then I go out and paint the stars.”
The NSA Slow Jam – (You Tube – June 14, 2013)
Featuring the vocal artist, Remy. Government surveillance has never sounded smoother. If you have trouble catching any of the lyrics, they are printed in full further down on the webpage.
A FINAL QUOTE–
The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility. — Sir Ken Robinson, educator/author
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Ursula Freer, Sergio Lub, Michael Ostrolenk, Diane Petersen, Cory Shreckengost, 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