| FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS|
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- New research from Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.
- Plastic garbage is turning into a new kind of rock in Hawaii.
- Americans’ current confidence in Congress is not only the lowest on record, but also the lowest Gallup has recorded for any institution in the 41-year trend.
- The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but the U.S. underperforms relative to other developed countries on most dimensions of performance.
by John L. Petersen
CHARLES EISENSTEIN COMING TO BERKELEY SPRINGS NEXT SATURDAY
One of the most articulate thinkers about where humanity and the world is going will be with us on Saturday, the 12th of July for our Berkeley Springs Transition Talks series. Following a wonderful afternoon in May with Gregg Braden (and over 200 of his fans) and very provocative presentations and channels from Lee Carroll and KRYON in June, Charles Eisenstein will be with us again in July.
Two years ago Charles provoked us all to think of ourselves and this unprecedented shift that is surrounding us in very original ways. This time he will focus on an effective personal transition process that can point you toward the positive new world that we all desire.
Something unites the diversity of what we call alternative, holistic, or unconventional Charles says. What unites them is their participation in a new (and ancient) story that some call “interbeing,” which offers unfamiliar (yet deeply familiar) answers to life’s fundamental questions.
Something unites the diversity of what we call alternative, holistic, or unconventional, Charles says. What unites them is their participation in a new (and ancient) story that some call “interbeing,” which offers unfamiliar (yet deeply familiar) answers to life’s fundamental questions.
Who are you? What is a self? What is the purpose of technology? How does change happen in the universe? Where did we come from? Where are we going? This talk will explore the personal and collective process of transitioning from an old mythology to a new, and ground it in a powerful experiential process in which we will speak from the field of the most beautiful future available to us.
Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution. www.charleseisenstein.net
His books (The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics) as well as his other essays and blog posts on web magazines have generated a vast online following; he speaks frequently at conferences and other events, and gives numerous interviews on radio and podcasts. Writing in Ode magazine’s “25 Intelligent Optimists” issue, David Korten (author of When Corporations Rule the World) called Eisenstein “one of the up-and-coming great minds of our time.”
Eisenstein graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, and spent the next ten years as a Chinese-English translator.
Come be with us on the 12th of July. Complete information is at www.transitiontalks.org.
Deep, Systemic Change
When I talk about the shift that humanity is experiencing it is important to understand that this big change is happening in almost every fundamental area of our lives and the change is going to come, in part, because of the structural inability of the present system to effectively adapt to the rate of change. Although most people are largely focused on their area(s) of interest or expertise and may not see the full sweep of what is happening, nevertheless, this giant reorganization is taking place almost everywhere.
Here are a couple of articles that provide examples of the deep, systemic nature of the mismatch between the present and the likely future.
The Next Global Meltdown Is Baked In: Connecting the Dots Between Oil, Debt, Interest Rates and Risk
The bottom line is the Fed can only keep the machine duct-taped together by suppressing the market’s pricing of risk.
One of the Grand Narratives of our era is the substitution of debt for income: as earned income and disposable income have stagnated for 40 years, the gap between the rising cost of living and stagnant household income has been filled by borrowed money.
Money has been borrowed to replace income everywhere: consumers have borrowed money to buy things they otherwise couldn’t afford, students have borrowed over $1 trillion to attend college, governments have borrowed money to fund wars and social spending, corporations have borrowed money to buy back their own shares, pushing stock prices higher.
There’s one little problem with debt: interest must be paid on debt. Let’s focus for a second on the difference between cash income and borrowing money. Cash doesn’t cost money to maintain; debt does. In a functioning economy (as opposed to the dysfunctional mess we have now), cash would earn income from interest paid by borrowers.
If cash income is saved, the cash can buy stuff without debt or interest payments. That is a powerful advantage over debt.
How powerful is the advantage of cash over debt? It’s literally life-changing. Take a look at your credit card statements, which now include an estimate of interest you will pay and how long it will take to pay off the balance at a given monthly payment.
Those making minimal payments will end up paying 100% or more of the balance due in interest.
The phenomenally high accrued costs of interest is true of mortgages, student loans, auto loans, corporate debt and government debt: eventually, current spending is crimped as more and more net income is devoted to paying interest.
There are two words for what happens when real income declines and interest payments rise: impoverishment and insolvency. This dynamic is scale-invariant, meaning it works the same for individuals, households, enterprises and governments.
(Continue reading . . . )
The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats
There are a few people who, because of what they have accomplished and how they look at the world, intuitively grasp the magnitude of what is upon us. Let me introduce you to one of them – Nick Hanauer. As you will quickly see from what follows, Hanauer has greatly benefited from the present system, yet, that same ability to anticipate the changes that would be brought by the Internet, now has him seeing really big economic and political disruption on the horizon.
This PoliticoMagazine piece is interesting, readable and provocative . . . and in a way encouraging, in that it is great to see someone of Hanauer’s status who sees the inbound change. Be sure to read all four pages.
Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires
You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.
Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht. Read more
Friend Gary Sycalik, who keeps a number of us inundated with always provocative articles, sent along the following three graphics the other day relating to change. They demonstrate, I think, the simple but essential strategic plan that all of us should embrace in order to have a chance of effectively making it to the new world that is heading our way – change!
It really is as simple as that – at least the first step: commit to changing yourself. The new world will be much different from the present one and you can’t get from here to there without becoming someone new. After you’ve taken that first step, the rest can be somewhat easier.
Clever Piece of Code Exposes Hidden Changes to Supreme Court Opinions – (GigaOm – June 12, 2014)
Supreme Court opinions are the law of the land, and so it’s a problem when the Justices change the words of the decisions without telling anyone. This happens on a regular basis, but fortunately a lawyer in Washington appears to have just found a solution. The issue, as Adam Liptak explained in the New York Times, is that original statements by the Justices about everything from EPA policy to American Jewish communities, are disappearing from decisions — and being replaced by new language that says something entirely different. This is a problem for lawyers, scholars, journalists and everyone else who relies on Supreme Court opinions. Until now, the only way to detect when a decision has been altered is a pains-taking comparison of earlier and later copies — provided, of course, that someone knew a decision had been changed in the first place. Thanks to a simple Twitter tool, the process has become much easier. David Zvenyach is general counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia and, in his spare time, likes to experiment with computer code. Upon learning of Liptak’s column, which was based on a study by Harvard law professor Richard Lazurus, he decided to do something about it: recently he launched @Scotus_servo, a Twitter account that alerts followers whenever a change is made to a Supreme Court opinion. If the application, which performs a crawl every five minutes, detects a change, it notifies the automated Twitter account, which tweets out an alert. Article includes example of an actual change.
San Francisco to App: Curb Parking Space Auctions – (Santa Fe New Mexican – June 2014)
San Francisco’s new crackdown on a mobile app that allows people to auction off their public parking spots marks yet another clash between innovative technologies and regulators trying to maintain law and order, public safety and a sense of social decorum. The app, called MonkeyParking, allows drivers who score a notoriously hard-to-get San Francisco parking spot to sell it for $5, $10, even $20 and then hang out there until the buyer arrives to take their place. “It’s illegal, it puts drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and it creates a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement Monday, ordering the tech startup to stop the practice. Herrera said people are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces but the city “will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.” Two other startups face similar letters, he said, including ParkModo, which planned to pay drivers $13 an hour to sit in their cars blocking a spot until someone buys it. Increasingly, State and federal lawmakers are grappling with new technologies that people can use to privately replace taxis, hotels and even restaurants.
Emergence of the Human “Super-Brain” – (Daily Galaxy – June 20, 2014)
“Humans obviously evolved a much wider range of communication tools to express their thoughts, the most important being language,” said John Hoffecker, a fellow at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “Individual human brains within social groups became integrated into a neurologic Internet of sorts, giving birth to the mind.” He attributes the evolving power of the mind to the formation of what he calls the “super-brain,” or collective mind, an event that took place in Africa no later than 75,000 years ago. An internationally known archaeologist who has worked at sites in Europe and the Arctic, Hoffecker said the formation of the super-brain was a consequence of a rare ability to share complex thoughts among individual brains. Among other creatures on Earth, the honeybee may be the best example of an organism that has mastered the trick of communicating complex information — including maps of food locations and information on potential nest sites from one brain to another — using their intricate “waggle dance.” The first inklings of a developing super-brain likely began about 1.6 million years ago when early humans began crafting stone hand axes, thought by Hoffecker and others to be one of the first external representations of internal thought. Ancient hand axes achieved “exalted status” as mental representations since they bear little resemblance to the natural objects they were made from — generally cobbles or rock fragments. “They reflect a design or mental template stored in the nerve cells of the brain and imposed on the rock, and they seemed to have emerged from a strong feedback relationship among the hands, eyes, brains and the tools themselves,” he said.
The Planet’s Biggest Water Supply Might Be Hidden 400 Miles Below the US – (Gizmodo – June 12, 2014)
Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of New Mexico say they’ve discovered proof of multiple oceans worth of water deep beneath the United States. The researchers say deep pockets of magma located about 400 miles beneath North America are a tell-tale sign of hidden water, although you probably wouldn’t recognize it even if you could see that far underground. But scientists have discovered evidence that all that rock may be hiding huge amounts of water—three times the volume of all our oceans combined. The scientists behind the study think they’ve figured out the answer to a question that has long plagued Earth science: Just how much water is there on Earth in total? “I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet,” said study co-author and Northwestern geophysicist Steve Jacobsen. “Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.” The study is the first direct evidence of an idea that’s been bouncing around for years: That deep inside the Earth’s mantle—the layer below the crust and above the outer molten core—is hidden massive amounts of water in the rock. Specifically, the water is trapped inside a type of rock called ringwoodite, since it’s under tremendous pressure, and it plays a critical role in turning all that rock into magma.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Self-repairing Mechanism Helps to Preserve Brain Function in Neurodegenerative Diseases – (Kurzweil AI – June 20, 2014)
Neurogenesis, the self-repairing mechanism of the adult brain by creating new neurons, can help to preserve brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Prion, and Parkinson’s, new research led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found. The progressive degeneration and death of the brain, occurring in many neurodegenerative diseases, is often seen as an unstoppable and irrevocable process. But now, a research team, led by Diego Gomez-Nicola has detected increased neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (part of the brain system controlling learning and memory, the hippocampus) that partially counteracts neuronal loss. Using a model of prion disease from mice, the research identified the time-course of the generation of these newborn neurons and how they integrate into the brain circuitry. While this self-repairing mechanism is effective in maintaining some neuronal functions at early and mid-stages of the disease, it fails at more advanced phases. This highlights a window of time in which potential therapeutic intervention could preserve the beneficial effects of enhanced neurogenesis. “This study highlights the latent potential of the brain to orchestrate a self-repairing response,” said Gomez-Nicola.
Hit Songs Help Memory Research – (BBC News – June 20, 2014)
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam have created an online game in an attempt to shed light on why some tunes get stuck in your head. Hit songs by Elvis Presley, Abba and The Spice Girls are among those being used in research that hopes to unlock the secrets of how memory works. Players must identify song clips and compare them by their catchiness. The researchers hope the findings will help the understanding of long-term memory and the treatment for dementia. Dr. Ashley Burgoyne of the University of Amsterdam said: “We do know that music has a very powerful effect on memory, more powerful than many other memory triggers. But the reasons for it aren’t completely understood.” Dr. Burgoyne said he hoped 10,000 people would play the game, “Hooked On Music”. The findings from the game would be “one piece of a larger puzzle”, he said. The game was created and launched with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. (Editor’s note: Might the research also begin to uncover a neurologically-based reason that some tunes “get stuck in your head” – and become huge hits? Could that information be used by songwriters? “Dancing Queen” times ten?)
Memories May Be Passed Down Through Generations in DNA – (Mind Unleashed – January 6, 2014)
New research from Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA. During the tests they learned that that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations. Dr. Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: ”From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations. Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.” This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations. The researchers now hope to carry out further work to understand how the information comes to be stored on the DNA in the first place. They also want to explore whether similar effects can be seen in the genes of humans.
Dentists Develop Self-repairing Tooth Decay Treatment – (Independent – June 16, 2014)
Trips to the dentist could soon be much less painful as scientists perfect a way to repair tooth decay without the need for dreaded drilling and fillings. The technique, developed at King’s College London, effectively reverses decay by using electrical currents to boost the tooth’s natural repair process. Minerals that are lost during decay and eventually cause painful cavities are replaced, removing the need for drilling and fillings of resin or amalgam. The technique, known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralisation (EAER), could be available within three years. Professor Nigel Pitts, from the Dental Institute at King’s College London, said: “The way we treat teeth today is not ideal – when we repair a tooth by putting in a filling, that tooth enters a cycle of drilling and re-filling as, ultimately, each ‘repair’ fails. Not only is our device kinder to the patient and better for their teeth, but it’s expected to be at least as cost-effective as current dental treatments.”
Mini-hearts Grown to Study Disease – (BBC News – June 26, 2014)
Tiny balls of heart cells beat together in a dish every two seconds, and the tissue matches that of human heart muscle. Researchers at Abertay University in Scotland are using them to test potential drugs for an untreatable condition. The spheres of heart cells were made with stem cells and measure just 0.04in across. Beating heart cells have been made before, but the researchers say this is the first time they have been used to investigate disease. Lead researcher Prof Nikolai Zhelev told the BBC: “They are indeed human cells, which physiologically are the same as human hearts. We induced diseases in these mini-hearts, which nobody has done yet, in particular heart hypertrophy. Not only that we’ve tested different drugs which prevented heart hypertrophy from developing in these mini-hearts.” Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an untreatable condition. The heart muscle becomes thicker and stiffer, making it harder to pump blood around the body. In extreme cases it can even lead to the heart stopping suddenly. Prof. Zhelev said the hearts would allow researchers to rapidly screen a wide range of chemicals and see which were potential cures. “We can work now, in one experiment, with 1,000 human hearts and test large amounts of compounds, which you can’t do in animals,” he said. The researchers think they have already found one drug, currently used to treat cancer, which might help prevent hypertrophy.
The Scandal of Fiddled Global Warming Data – (Telegraph – June 21, 2014)
When future generations try to understand how the world got carried away around the end of the 20th century by the panic over global warming, few things will amaze them more than the part played in stoking up the scare by the fiddling of official temperature data. There was already much evidence of this seven years ago, when I (the author of this article) was writing my history of the scare, The Real Global Warming Disaster. But now another damning example has been uncovered by Steven Goddard’s US blog Real Science, showing how shamelessly manipulated has been one of the world’s most influential climate records, the graph of US surface temperature records published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Goddard shows how, in recent years, NOAA’s US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has been “adjusting” its record by replacing real temperatures with data “fabricated” by computer models. The effect of this has been to downgrade earlier temperatures and to exaggerate those from recent decades, to give the impression that the Earth has been warming up much more than is justified by the actual data. In several posts headed “Data tampering at USHCN/GISS”, Goddard compares the currently published temperature graphs with those based only on temperatures measured at the time. These show that the US has actually been cooling since the Thirties, the hottest decade on record; whereas the latest graph, nearly half of it based on “fabricated” data, shows it to have been warming at a rate equivalent to more than 3 degrees centigrade per century.
Fighting Pollution in Smog-Choked Houston with an Unlikely Weapon: Trees – (Wunderground – June 9, 2014)
Once home to expansive forests of pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees, the Texas Gulf Coast is now a huge megalopolis of densely packed skyscrapers and sprawling suburbs, all connected by a network of smog-choked highways that today rank near the top of the most polluted in America. Those trees were wiped out by Houston’s early settlers in a rush to clear land and build communities. Now Dow Chemical and the Nature Conservancy have forged an unlikely partnership that seeks to recreate some of that forest to curb pollution. The plan is only in its infancy and faces many hurdles, but it envisions a day when expensive machines used to capture industrial pollutants might be partially replaced by restoring some of the groves of native trees. Scientists used a complex model from the U.S. Forest Service that considers everything from wind patterns to the size of tree leaves and the overall canopy to estimate the air-quality improvements that might come from 1,000 acres of forest. A recent progress report determined that the cost of cleaning a ton of nitrogen oxide through reforestation was $2,400 to $4,000 (excluding the cost of the land), compared with $2,500 to $5,000 using traditional equipment. The research is still being reviewed by other scientists. And before any formal plan could be adopted, it would have to win approval from state and federal regulators, who would require any pollution-cleansing method to be quantifiable and enforceable. Trees may not fit the bill.
Scientists Zero in on What’s Causing Starfish Die-offs – (PBS – June 19, 2014)
Starfish are dying by the millions up and down the West Coast, leading scientists to warn of the possibility of localized extinction of some species. As the disease spreads, researchers may be zeroing in on a link between warming waters and the rising starfish body count. Drew Harvell, a marine epidemiologist at Cornell University, has been leading nationwide efforts to understand what is causing starfish to die by the millions up and down North America’s Pacific shores and on the east coast as well. It’s been called sea star wasting syndrome because of how quickly the stars become sick and deteriorate. “It’s the largest mortality event for marine diseases we’ve seen,” Harvell said. “It affects over 20 species on our coast and it’s been causing catastrophic mortality.” Scientists have been working for months to find out what’s causing the massive die-off and now Harvell and others have evidence that an infectious disease caused by a bacteria or virus may be at the root of the problem. The disease, they say, could be compounded by warming waters, which put the sea stars under stress, making them more vulnerable to the pathogen.
Mass Fish Deaths: Millions Have Been Found Dead All over the World in the Past Month – (Mind Unleashed – June 4, 2014)
Millions of fish are suddenly dying all over the planet. In fact, there have been dozens of mass fish death events reported in the past month alone. So why is this happening? Why are fish dying in unprecedented numbers all over the world? When more than six tons of fish died recently in Marina Del Ray, it made headlines all over the United States. But the truth is that what just happened off the southern California coast is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2014, mass fish die-offs have pretty much become a daily event globally. Individually, each event could perhaps be dismissed as an anomaly, but when they are all put together into one list it truly is rather stunning. So is there a reason why so many fish are dying? Is there something that connects these mass fish death events? Has something about our environment changed? The remainder of the article catalogues just a few examples of the mass fish death reports that have been coming in day after day from all over the globe and provides links to original news sources.
Plastic Garbage Is Turning Into a New Kind of Rock in Hawaii – (Wunderground – June 9, 2014)
Something strange has been discovered on the Big Island of Hawaii, and it’s not just the trash that washes up along the shore of Kamilo Beach, long considered one of the dirtiest shorelines anywhere in the world. Scientists from Canada’s University of Western Ontario made a stunning find there recently of a new kind of rock they call “plastiglomerate,” made from plastic household garbage fused with volcanic rock, sea shells, beach sand and corals. Thanks to both ocean currents and its location — the beach is accessible only on foot or with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, making cleanups difficult — Kamilo catches everything from “derelict fishing gear, including nets, oyster spacer tubes and buoys; food and drinking containers; resin pellets; and abundant multi-colored fragments or ‘plastic confetti’.” In a study published by the Geological Society of America, the scientists conclude that the “Frankenrock” probably formed when people camping on the beach threw plastic garbage into their campfires. Melting fuses the plastic, rock and shell fragements and other debris together, though bits of it still stick out as recognizable forks, ropes, toothbrushes and “anything you can think of,” according to geologist Patricia Corcoran. Corcoran and her fellow researchers found plastiglomerates on more than 20 sites across Kamilo Beach, and they believe they could probably found on beaches around the world. About a billion tons of plastic have been thrown out since the 1950s, Canada’s Weather Network notes, adding that it will likely take as long as 500 years for some forms of it to biodegrade. “All around the world where there’s trash being openly burned in mass quantities, you can imagine there are even larger melted plastic deposits,” according to Douglas Jerolmack, a geophysicist with the University of Pennsylvania. See also: U.N. report: Our oceans are trashed with plastic.
Tech Giants Join Together to Stop US Government from Seeking Search Warrants for Emails Stored Overseas – (Nation of Change – June 16, 2014)
Apple, Verizon and other tech companies have banded together to support Microsoft’s fight against the U.S. government’s use of search warrants to seize emails stored overseas. Back in December, a New York magistrate judge issued a search warrant requiring Microsoft to turn over copies of emails stored on servers in Dublin, Ireland as part of a criminal investigation. The tech company contested the warrant amid privacy concerns, saying the judge had no authority to request a search seizure of property located overseas. Microsoft argues that search warrants for physical evidence can only be used within the United States borders, and can’t be used to “search someone’s home located in another country, just as another country’s prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a search in the United States,” according to a company blog post. “By disregarding that process, and the laws of the country where the data is stored, [the judge puts tech companies] at significant risk of foreign sanctions, and threatens a potential loss of customer confidence,” Apple and Cisco wrote. As a result, customers in foreign countries would simply flee to non-U.S.-based companies, Verizon wrote. Moreover, if the search warrant is allowed to stand, it could potentially “reduce the privacy protection of everyone on the planet,” Microsoft wrote in its appeal. (Editor’s note: “Potential loss of customer confidence” is an understatement; if this search warrant is not overturned, the results will financially devastate American IT companies.) See also: German Government to End Verizon Contract Citing NSA Concern.
Superradiant Discovery Opens New Path to Superfast Quantum Computing – (Kurzweil AI – June 19, 2014)
Washington State University researchers have used a super-cold cloud of atoms that behaves like a single atom, opening a new experimental path to potentially powerful quantum computing. Physicist Peter Engels and his colleagues cooled about one million atoms of rubidium to 100 billionths of a degree above absolute zero. There was no colder place in the universe, said Engels, unless someone was doing a similar experiment elsewhere on Earth or on another planet. Once the atoms acted in unison, they could be induced to exhibit coherent “superradiant” behavior, predicted by Princeton University physicist Robert Dicke in 1954, which describes the interactions between an ensemble of atoms and an optical field. Next, the atoms were placed in a suitably tailored laser field that facilitated the coupling between the internal state of the atoms and their motion. Upon changing the laser parameters, the transition to the superradiant state was observed. With this, we now have a system available with which the Dicke model can readily be realized and tested. This provides a new avenue for the study of further Dicke model-related phenomena, including quantum entanglement and quantum squeezed states, with possible applications for a next generation of atomtronic devices, quantum information storage/transmission, quantum computations and quantum precision measurements.
It’s Complicated: Facebook’s History of Tracking You – (Nation of Change – June 18, 2014)
For years people have noticed a funny thing about Facebook’s ubiquitous Like button. It has been sending data to Facebook tracking the sites you visit. Each time details of the tracking were revealed, Facebook promised that it wasn’t using the data for any commercial purposes. No longer. Just recently, Facebook announced it will start using its Like button and similar tools to track people across the Internet for advertising purposes. Using a timeline, this article provides the long history of the revelations and Facebook’s denials. Twitter and Pinterest, which track people with their Tweet and PinIt buttons, offer users the ability to opt out. And Google has pledged it will not combine data from its ad-tracking network DoubleClick with personally identifiable data without user’s opt-in consent. Facebook does not offer an opt-out in its privacy settings. Instead Facebook asks members to visit an ad industry page, where they can opt out from targeted advertising from Facebook and other companies. The company also says it will let people view and adjust the types of ads they see. Facebook hopes you will Like that.
Ikea Backtracks on Legal Takedown of Fan Site for Furniture Hackers – (Dezeen – June 19, 2014)
Ikea has said it will rethink legal action against fan site IkeaHackers, which publishes user modifications of furniture bought from the flat-pack giant. IkeaHackers.net, which was started in 2006 as a blogspot webpage by a self-confessed “crazy fan” under the pseudonym Jules Yap, is the best known furniture “hack” site and has published over 3,000 Ikea customizations. Recently the website’s founder published a post on the site detailing the fallout from a Cease and Desist letter served by an agent of Inter Ikea Systems B.V., which claimed that the blog was infringing on the company’s intellectual property rights. Following negotiations, the furniture giant agreed to let Yap keep the name on the condition that the site did not run any adverts. But Yap said the site could not be sustained without advertising income. “The site has grown so much that I could not juggle the demands of a full time job and managing IKEAhackers. It also costs quite a bit to run a site this large,” she wrote. “Now by June 23rd, I would need to take down the ads, not earn any income and still advance their brand on this site. Wonderful! I don’t have an issue with them protecting their trademark but I think they could have handled it better,” added Yap, who said she was looking at options for moving the site to a new domain. “I am a person, not a corporation. A blogger who obviously is on their side. Could they not have talked to me like normal people do without issuing a C&D?”
World Gets 22% of Electricity From Renewable Energy – (Wall St. Journal – June 19, 2014)
The recently released Renewables 2014 Global Status Report has good news for the environment, namely that an estimated 22.1% of the world’s electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2013. That percentage is expected to rise as countries across the globe pour money and resources into alternative, clean energy. The U.S. ranks second, after China, for annual investment in renewable energy and for generating electricity from renewable sources, yet the U.S. has a lower share of energy (13%) generated from renewable sources than the world average of 22.1%. The average is brought up by a number of countries like Austria and Costa Rica, which get a majority of their electricity from renewable sources. According to the report, hydropower accounts for 16.4% of the renewable energy, whereas the alternative energies including solar and wind make up 5.7%. Article includes informative graphs.
Project LiveWire, the First Electric Harley-Davidson Motorcycle – (Seeking Alpha – June 19, 2014)
In keeping with the company’s customer-led product development approach, select consumers across the country will be able to ride and provide feedback on the bike, helping to shape the future of Harley-Davidson’s first-ever electric motorcycle. Project LiveWire is specifically designed for the purpose of getting insight into rider expectations of an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The bike offers a visceral riding experience with tire-shredding acceleration and an unmistakable new sound. “The sound is a distinct part of the thrill,” said Mark-Hans Richer, Chief Marketing Officer. “Think fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Project LiveWire’s unique sound was designed to differentiate it from internal combustion and other electric motorcycles on the market.”
Google’s Self-driving Car Prototype: No Steering Wheel, Brake, or Accelerator – (KurzweilAI – May 30, 2014)
Google is exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like without a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal. “Our software and sensors do all the work,” says the company. The early prototypes have sensors that remove blind spots, and can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections. They’ve capped the speed of these first vehicles at 25 mph. On the inside, they’ll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route — and that’s about it. Google is planning to build about a hundred prototype vehicles, and later this summer, Google’s safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls. Article includes video clip of vehicle in operation, but does not say if the vehicle is electric (that seems likely) or exactly how one would tell the car where the passengers wish to go.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
A Drone May Be Filming into Your Bedroom Window Right Now, Really – (Truthout – June 26, 2014)
Take for instance this article posted on the website of Portland, Oregon, radio station KATU, “Portland company apologizes to Seattle woman for flying drone in front of her apartment window”. A Portland company is apologizing to a Seattle woman for using drone with a camera outside her apartment window over the weekend. “It was really scary and just felt really violating,” said Lisa Pleiss. She lives on the 26th floor of a building in Downtown Seattle. She spotted the drone hovering outside her window around 7:45 a.m. on Sunday. She notified the concierge at her building, and he called police. Joe Vaughn was in Seattle on Sunday, manning the controls of the drone. He told KATU News he wasn’t spying on Pleiss or anyone else. “It was not our intent to view anything other than the views from a 20-story office building that will be built across the street,” Vaughn explained. A Seattle-based developer hired Vaughn’s company, Skyris Imaging, to use one of his drones equipped with cameras to take photos of the view for a new 20-story building. This was a commercial use of the FAA regulations, but the article mentions no enforcement against the company that was filming with the drone. In fact, one can assume that the firm will continue offering aerial drone photo and video services. One can foresee the commercial use of drones for filming – think private investigators and blackmailers – that will include hi-resolution images of anything you are doing that can visually be seen from the skies. (Editor’s note: You may wish to consider curtains or shades.)
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Public Faith in Congress Falls Again, Hits Historic Low – (Gallup – June 19, 2014)
Americans’ confidence in Congress has sunk to a new low. Seven percent of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress as an American institution, down from the previous low of 10% in 2013. This confidence is starkly different from the 42% in 1973, the first year Gallup began asking the question. Americans’ current confidence in Congress is not only the lowest on record, but also the lowest Gallup has recorded for any institution in the 41-year trend. This is also the first time Gallup has ever measured confidence in a major U.S. institution in the single digits. Currently, 4% of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in Congress, and 3% have quite a lot of confidence. About one-third of Americans report having “some” confidence, while half have “very little,” and another 7% volunteer that they have “none.”
How America’s Destruction of Iraqi Society Led to Today’s Chaos – (Moyers and Company – June 21, 2014)
This Bill Moyers & Company op-ed piece notes: In the US, most of the analysis of what’s happening in Iraq comes to us from Americans. A handful of our “Iraq experts” know the country intimately; others have traveled through it embedded with US troops or experienced it from the alternate universe of the heavily fortified US Green Zone during the height of the occupation. But a majority of the people whose supposed insights shape our views of Iraq never set foot there. For an Iraqi perspective on what’s going on — and for some context — we turned to Raed Jarrar. Jarrar was born and raised in Baghdad. He lived there on and off under Saddam Hussein’s rule, and he experienced America’s “Shock and Awe” campaign from the receiving end. After the invasion, Jarrar founded an NGO that did reconstruction work in Iraq. He worked as the country director for the first door-to-door survey of Iraqi civilian casualties conducted after the invasion. When the situation in Baghdad became unbearable, Jarrar emigrated to the US and became a writer and peace activist. He translated the controversial Iraq Oil Law proposed by the Bush administration in 2007, and has consulted with several international humanitarian groups. The article follows with a transcript of an interview with Jarrar. (Editor’s note: If sectarian issues between Shiites and Sunnis have seemed confusing, this article is a must-read.)
50 Years after US Launched Secret War on Laos, Unexploded Bombs Still Killing Civilians – (Nation of Change – June 25, 2014)
Fifty years ago this month, the United States began raining down bombs on Laos, in what would become the largest bombing campaign in history. From June 1964 to March 1973, the United States dropped at least two million tons of bombs on the small, landlocked southeast Asian country. That is the equivalent of one planeload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years — more than was dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II. The deadly legacy of the Vietnam War lives on today in the form of unexploded cluster bombs, which had about a 30 percent failure rate when they fell from American planes over large swaths of Laos. Experts estimate that Laos is littered with as many as 80 million “bombies,” or bomblets — baseball-sized bombs found inside cluster bombs. Since the bombing stopped four decades ago, tens of thousands of people have been injured or killed as a result. Article includes video clip.
Monsanto and Foreign Aid: Forcing El Salvador’s Hand – (Foreign Policy Journal – June 13, 2014)
U.S. foreign aid is expected to promote poverty alleviation and facilitate developmental growth in impoverished countries. Yet, corporations and special interest groups have permeated even the most well-intended of U.S. policies. El Salvador is a recent example of corporate domination in U.S. foreign aid. The United States will withhold the Millennium Challenge Compact aid deal, approximately $277 million in aid, unless El Salvador purchases genetically-modified seeds from biotech giant, Monsanto. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is “a U.S. foreign aid agency that was created by the U.S. Congress in January 2004,” according to Sustainable Pulse, and serves as a conduit for foreign aid funds. MCC’s unethical aid conditions would force El Salvador to purchase controversial seeds from the American biotech corporation instead of purchasing non-GMO seeds from the country’s local farmers – an action that would have negative effects on El Salvador’s agricultural industry in addition to presenting serious health and environmental risks. The conditional foreign aid from MCC is an attempt to break into El Salvador’s non-GMO agricultural sector and exploit the food market. Because El Salvador has high food insecurity, it imports 85% of its food. This allows U.S. foreign aid organizations to take advantage of the dire need for their own monetary gain. The United States used similar aid policies in Haiti to force open Haiti’s agricultural market for U.S. food products – effectively destroying Haiti’s agricultural economy and creating an overreliance on food aid.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Good News for Communities Scared of Economic Decline – (Nation of Change – June 15, 2014)
An increasingly globalized economy leaves communities, especially inner city neighborhoods, anxious about losing major employers. White-collar headquarters and blue-collar factories alike can be easily uprooted, as folks in Seattle know. Boeing Aircraft, once the city’s economic engine accounting for one in six jobs in the region, has moved its corporate offices to Chicago and is shifting many of its assembly jobs to North Charleston, South Carolina. But there’s good news in every city when it comes to jobs. Some of the biggest employers aren’t going anywhere. How can we be sure? Because “anchor” institutions like colleges, medical centers and cultural institutions serve the people of a particular area. Try to imagine Ohio State University moving to Dallas or Massachusetts General Hospital to China. Anchor institutions are the largest employer in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. inner cities, according to a study from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. And on average they’ve weathered the downturn of last six years better than other industries. That’s why many cities are promoting an “Eds and Meds” strategy to keep jobs, and boost struggling neighborhoods. This strategy works because these institutions are non-profits, chartered to pursue social goals rather than profits for private owners. Article goes on to discuss specific cities that exemplify this strategy. (Editor’s note: Essentially these are all service sector employers, which is why they are relatively fixed geographically, and which have the highest average wages of service sector companies.)
Ohio Program Teaches ‘STEM’ Through Drone Simulations – (EdWeek – March 21, 2014)
An Ohio high school course is attempting to spark interest in high-tech careers by guiding students through simulations of drones, the aerial devices commonly known for their use on the battlefield and other applications such as firefighting and video surveillance. The new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) elective class at Greenon High School in Springfield, Ohio, allows students to experiment with the actual software used to direct unmanned aerial vehicles, and take those vehicles through various imaginary scenarios. Students in the program use software provided by Analytical Graphics Inc., a Pennsylvania firm that develops software for space, defense and intelligence agencies, to simulate how drones could respond to natural disasters as well as military crises abroad. In their second semester, in a course titled Modeling and Simulation: Surveillance & Response, students have been using the GPS skills and data knowledge they acquired to work with simulations of drones, responding to virtual scenarios like wildfires. By the end of the course, students will develop a mobile app that uses data from the drones to create an emergency route for a school bus to navigate around a disaster.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Three Orbiting Supermassive Black Holes Will Help Detect Long-Sought Gravity Waves – The Elusive ‘Ripples’ in Spacetime – (Daily Galaxy – June 25, 2014)
The discovery of three closely orbiting supermassive black holes in a galaxy more than four billion light years away could help astronomers in the search for gravitational waves: the ‘ripples in spacetime’ predicted by Einstein. At this point, very little is actually known about black hole systems that are so close to one another that they emit detectable gravitational waves. An international team, led by Dr. Roger Deane from the University of Cape Town, examined six systems thought to contain two supermassive black holes. The team found that one of these contained three supermassive black holes – the tightest trio of black holes detected at such a large distance – with two of them orbiting each other rather like binary stars. The finding suggests that these closely-packed supermassive black holes are far more common than previously thought. ‘What remains extraordinary to me is that these black holes, which are at the very extreme of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, are orbiting one another at 300 times the speed of sound on Earth,” said Deane. “Not only that, but using the combined signals from radio telescopes on four continents we are able to observe this exotic system one third of the way across the Universe.” See also: Force Needed to Measure Gravitational Waves Detected for 1st Time –“Small as One Thousandth the Diameter of a Proton”.
Measuring Wealth Inequality – (House of Debt – March 29, 2014)
How has wealth inequality changed over the years? This has been a difficult question to answer in the past because wealth is highly concentrated to begin with, and there is no good time-series data on the wealth holdings of the very rich. However, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman have preliminary work that approaches this question from a new angle. The summation of their preliminary findings: the top 0.1% of the wealth distribution has seen a dramatic rise in the fraction of total wealth held, rising from a steady level of 10% from the 1940s to the 1970s, to over 20% in 2013. The top 0.1% have seen incredible gains over the past 30 years that have take them to the same fraction of national wealth that they enjoyed in the 1920s. The other interesting finding in the Saez-Zucman study is that the increase in wealth is primarily about the top 0.1%. When we look at the top 1% excluding the top 0.1%, there is no gain. Article includes graph that makes this point very visible.
More Companies Want to Ditch America to Cut Taxes – (CBS News – June 17, 2014)
A growing number of companies are looking to move overseas to avoid the long arm of Uncle Sam. The U.S. corporate tax rate is officially 35%, although many companies take advantage of loopholes and other quirks of the system to reduce their rate. But Ireland’s corporate tax rate is just 12.5%. Moving a corporate address overseas for the tax benefits is known as a “tax inversion,” and it’s becoming an increasingly attractive option for companies. About 44 American companies have reincorporated overseas or plan to do so, Bloomberg reports, including 14 since 2012. Companies can opt for an inversion if foreign shareholders own at least 20% of their stock. Often, buying a foreign company for a large chunk of stock is the easiest way to accomplish this. Another consideration for companies is that shifting an address overseas could give them access to all the cash they hold offshore. U.S. companies have about $2 trillion sitting in overseas bank accounts, and would have to pay income taxes on that money if they wanted to repatriate it. Congress has been deadlocked for years on how to handle the issue. Some U.S. lawmakers aren’t happy with the increasing number of tax inversions. Last month, 14 senators introduced a bill that would freeze all inversions for two years while they try to figure out how to improve the corporate tax code. (Editor’s note: Increasingly, the location most Fortune 500 companies is not even global as much as virtual – which leaves them free to “locate” wherever they get the best advantage. Countries now, rather than cities or states, are competing with each other to offer companies the most attractive “packages”. For many reasons, the U.S. is often not in a position to offer the best package. And in the long run, trying to hold companies “hostage” by legislation is unlikely to succeed: corporations are better at gaming the system than a divided Congress is in rewriting the rules of the game.)
More Than Three Quarters of Conservatives Say the Poor “Have It Easy” – (Washington Post – June 26, 2014)
The Pew Research Center has created a political typology which “sorts voters into cohesive groups based on their attitudes and values.” More than three quarters of conservative Americans – those in the steadfast conservative, business conservative, and young outsider typology groups – agree that “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.” Only 7% of steadfast conservatives say that the poor “have hard lives.” Even a not-insignificant share of left-leaning groups say that the poor have it easy. But overall the widespread agreements among conservatives on this point is what’s really striking here. There are reasonable, well-intentioned arguments on either side of many poverty-related issues – about the causes of poverty (see the right half of the chart), or whether government benefits provide a leg up or simply perpetuate poverty, for instance. Article includes excellent graph display of more complete research results.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
How To Build an Optical Invisibility Cloak for a Diffusive Medium – (KurzweilAI – June 9, 2014)
Invisibility cloaks can’t make objects fully invisible in all directions, colors, and polarizations, but Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) physicists have developed a workaround: an ideal invisibility cloak for diffusive light-scattering media, such as fog. In diffusive media, light is scattered by the particles in the medium. Examples are fog, clouds, or frosted glass panes that let the light in, but hide the light source. “This property of light-scattering media can be used to hide objects inside,” says Robert Schittny, first author of the study. The study represents pure fundamental research to demonstrate the principle. “We will have to wait a long time for real applications,” Schittny said. “But it might be possible to produce frosted glass panes for bathrooms with integrated [invisible] metal bars or sensors [to deter] burglary.”
Dangers of Central Banks’ Public Investments – (USA Today – June 15, 2014)
Central banks have leapt to the forefront of public policy-making. Now it seems that they have become important, too, in building up holdings of equities to increase depleted yields on their much-increased reserves of foreign currencies. Evidence of equity-buying by central banks and other public sector investors has emerged from a large-scale survey compiled by Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), a global research and advisory group. The OMFIF research publication Global Public Investor (GPI) 2014, launched on June 17 is the first comprehensive survey of $29.1 trillion worth of investments held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries. The report, which focuses on investments by 157 central banks, 156 public pension funds and 87 sovereign funds, underlines growing similarities among different categories of public entities owning assets equivalent to 40% of world output. The best-known example is the Norwegian sovereign fund, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), with $880bn under management of which more than 60% is invested in equities. The fund owns on average 1.3% of every listed company globally. It now appears that NBIM has rivals from a number of unexpected sources. One is China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), part of the People’s Bank of China, the biggest overall public sector investor, with $3.9 trillion under management, well ahead of the Bank of Japan and Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), each with $1.3 trillion. (Editor’s note; Clearly there are a number of central banks, perhaps nearly all of them, that have a significant stake in maintaining not only the stability of their own currencies but also the profitability of the global financial markets.)
Rethinking Mass Production: Why Making Things One at a Time Is More Efficient – (Forbes – June 18, 2014)
It’s a basic tenet of mass production: Making things in batches is the most efficient way to manufacture anything. So why, then, is lean manufacturing evangelist Ted Duclos arguing that America can revitalize its manufacturing base by making things one at a time? “It’s counterintuitive in the minds of many,” admits Duclos, president of Michigan-based Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies (a joint venture between Germany’s Freudenberg and Japan’s NOK). Instead of using a massive injection-molding machine to shape a bunch of thermoplastic pieces simultaneously (sometimes with inconsistent results), he’s promoting a system of small, single-cavity presses that squeeze out one flawless part at a time – and it could be revolutionary. Chrysler, for instance, was looking to replace a piston in its automatic transmissions with a more cost-effective and lightweight alternative. Working with plastic supplier Chevron Phillips Chemical, Freudenberg-NOK used the single-cavity injection-molding process to produce a piston as durable as the aluminum one it replaced but was 30% lighter and had six times better quality. There was no material waste, and the whole process required 20% less floor space in the factory. Chrysler wouldn’t say how much it saved overall, but the project earned an award for innovation from the Society of Plastics Engineers.
Climate Change: The Bigger Picture – (Resurgence – June 20, 2014)
Charles Eisenstein challenges our obsession with climate change at the expense of all other values. He notes some parallels among three defining institutions of our civilization: money, war, and mainstream religion. All three demand, in one way or another, the sacrifice of the immediate, the human, or the personal in service to an overarching ulterior goal that trumps all. Anyone who is wary of these institutions might also be wary of the standard climate change narrative, which lends itself to the same mentality of sacrifice to an all-important end. If we agree that the survival of humanity is at stake, then any means is justified, and any other cause – say reforming the prisons, housing the homeless, caring for the autistic, rescuing abused animals, or visiting your grandmother – becomes an unjustifiable distraction from the only important thing. Taken to its extreme, it requires that we harden our hearts to the needs in front of our faces. There is no time to waste! Everything is at stake! It’s do or die! How similar to the logic of money and the logic of war. That climate-change alarm sits so comfortably within our culture’s familiar way of thinking, should give us pause. It doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t dangerous or that humans aren’t causing it, but it does suggest that our approach to the problem could be strengthening the psychic and ideological substructure of the system that is devouring the planet. This is especially relevant given the near-universal agreement among activists that efforts to limit carbon emissions have failed miserably. This failure comes not because the movement is too radical and needs to ‘work more closely with business’ or embrace the oxymoron of ‘sustainable growth’. It is rather that it is not radical enough – not yet willing to challenge key invisible narratives that drive our civilization. On the contrary, the movement itself embodies them. (Editor’s note: We recommend this thoughtful essay that views the issue of climate change within a much broader context than usual.)
How to Forgive Your Torturer – (Nation of Change – June 18, 2014)
According to an Amnesty International Poll released in May, 45% of Americans believe that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable” in order to “gain information that may protect the public.” Twenty-nine percent of Britons “strongly or somewhat agreed” that torture was justified when asked the same question. This article goes on to recount the story of Eric Lomax, a British officer in World War II, who had been tortured by the Japanese in Thailand while working on the infamous Bangkok-Burma railroad, the one most people know about through another film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Eric, like so many victims of atrocities, was plagued by the experience, his life destroyed by memories of his agony and the desire for revenge. What differentiated him from so many others persecuted worldwide was not only that, more than 40 years later, he tracked down the man he held responsible for his suffering, the anonymous interpreter at his beatings and waterboardings, but the astounding fact that this tormentor, Takashi Nagase, once found and identified, turned out to have become a Buddhist monk. The additional details in this article are worth the read.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally – (Commonwealth Fund – June, 2014)
The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity. The United Kingdom ranks first, followed closely by Switzerland. The 2014 edition incorporates patients’ and physicians’ survey results on care experiences and ratings on various dimensions of care.
The Macabre World of Books Bound in Human Skin – (BBC News – June 19, 2014)
A book owned by Harvard University library recently revealed its grisly history, when scientists confirmed that it was bound in human skin. Staff at the university believe that the book, Des Destinees de l’Ame (Destinies of the Soul), was covered with the skin of an unclaimed female mental patient who died of natural causes. Writer Arsene Houssaye is said to have given the book in the mid 1880s to his friend, Dr. Ludovic Bouland, who apparently carried out the unusual binding. Covering books in human skin, known as anthropodermic bibliopegy, was a particular subject of interest in the 19th Century, although it is understood the practice goes back further. One of the few surviving examples in the UK is owned by the Bristol Record Office and made from the skin of the first man to be hanged at Bristol Gaol. Its embossed dark brown cover was made with the skin of 18-year-old John Horwood, who was hanged for the murder of Eliza Balsum. Interest in binding books in skin peaked in the 19th Century, says Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library, which holds books on medical history. The library has one book bound in skin, a 16th century text on virginity that was rebound in human skin in the 19th century, also by Ludovic Bouland. The frontispiece, in French, reads: This curious little book on virginity and the female reproductive functions seems to me worthy of a binding appropriate to the subject and covered by a portion of female skin, tanned by myself with sumac. – Dr. L. Bouland.
JUST FOR FUN
Vertical Tango – (YouTube – January 7, 2010)
Vertical Tango, Live at Teatro Zinzanni’s Spiegeltent. This is pole dancing. Then again, so is this.
A FINAL QUOTE–
Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet. – Alice Walker
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen