NSA started spying on journalists in 2002 … in order to make sure they didn’t report on mass surveillance
Read more . . .
Where is this all leading? To the implosion of the present system, of course. Paul Craig Roberts, a man of great wisdom, clarity and courage, continues to catalog the end of the era.
Here’s an excerpt:
Alone among the governments in the world, Washington requires sovereign governments to follow Washington’s laws even when Washington’s laws contradict the laws of sovereign countries.
The examples are endless. For example, Washington forced Switzerland to violate and to repeal Switzerland’s historic bank secrecy laws. Washington executes citizens of other countries, as well as its own citizens, without due process of law. Washington violates the sovereignty of other countries and murders the countries’ citizens with drones, bombs, and special forces teams. Washington kidnaps abroad citizens of other countries and either brings them to the US to be tried under US law or sends them to another country to be tortured in secret torture centers. Washington tells banks in other countries with whom they can do business and when the banks disobey, Washington blackmails them into compliance or imposes fines that threaten their existence. Last week Washington forced a French bank to pay Washington $9 billion dollars or be banned from its US operations, because the bank financed trade with countries disapproved by Washington.
Washington issues ultimatums to sovereign nations to do as they are told or “be bombed into the stone age.”
Read more . . .
So what should we be doing? The late Howard Zinn, a great intellectual force for the changes of the ‘60s, suggests that the problem is civil obedience. Start with this brief summary of his remarks from 1970, at the height of the Viet Nam war, read by Matt Damon at an event honoring his old friend Zinn. I was amazed at the parallels to today.
The Problem is Civil Obedience
Transcript of my opening statement in the debate at Johns Hopkins. It was included in a book published by Johns Hopkins Press in 1972, entitled Violence: The Crisis of American Confidence. – Howard Zinn
I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don’t have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down. Daniel Berrigan is in jail-A Catholic priest, a poet who opposes the war-and J. Edgar Hoover is free, you see. David Dellinger, who has opposed war ever since he was this high and who has used all of his energy and passion against it, is in danger of going to jail. The men who are responsible for the My Lai massacre are not on trial; they are in Washington serving various functions, primary and subordinate, that have to do with the unleashing of massacres, which surprise them when they occur. At Kent State University four students were killed by the National Guard and students were indicted. In every city in this country, when demonstrations take place, the protesters, whether they have demonstrated or not, whatever they have done, are assaulted and clubbed by police, and then they are arrested for assaulting a police officer.
Now, I have been studying very closely what happens every day in the courts in Boston, Massachusetts. You would be astounded-maybe you wouldn’t, maybe you have been around, maybe you have lived, maybe you have thought, maybe you have been hit-at how the daily rounds of injustice make their way through this marvelous thing that we call due process. Well, that is my premise.
All you have to do is read the Soledad letters of George Jackson, who was sentenced to one year to life, of which he spent ten years, for a seventy-dollar robbery of a filling station. And then there is the U.S. Senator who is alleged to keep 185,000 dollars a year, or something like that, on the oil depletion allowance. One is theft; the other is legislation. something is wrong, something is terribly wrong when we ship 10,000 bombs full of nerve gas across the country, and drop them in somebody else’s swimming pool so as not to trouble our own. So you lose your perspective after a while. If you don’t think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition-that things are really topsy-turvy.
Read the complete article . . .
Facebook Performed a Psychology Experiment on Thousands of Users without Telling Them – (Salon – July 2, 2014)
If you’re on Facebook, there’s a roughly 0.04 percent chance the social media behemoth used you for a psychology experiment in early 2012, though you’d have had no way of knowing at the time and indeed would only be finding out about the experiment this week. That’s what happened when researchers used nearly 700,000 Facebook users as guinea pigs for a study on “emotional contagion.” In brief, the study separated its users into two groups. One was subjected to a newsfeed of primarily positive posts; the other was flooded with emotionally negative items. The results “suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks,” the researchers write in a paper now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. In other words, the study confirmed what heavy Facebook users have long known to be true: what your friends post on Facebook can have a tangible impact on your own emotional state. Here is the explanation by Adam Kramer, Facebook’s “data scientist” and co-designer of the experiment. See also: US Military Admits Spending Millions to Study Manipulation of Social Media.
This Kid Made an App That Exposes Sellout Politicians – (Vice – July 7, 2014)
It can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of health care, fossil fuels, and other very important issues from one week to the next. But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plug-in that operates under the motto “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plug-in aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.” It sounds like a bit of a lofty aim for an app, but it’s actually pretty simple and effective—it provides a breakdown of a politician’s campaign contributions when that politician’s name comes up in an article. It is currently available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari and is completely free. As you can imagine, reading about how your member of Congress voted in a recent health bill becomes all the more enlightening if you know how much money the health industry showered him in at the last election.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
A 3D Printed Cast That Can Heal Your Bones 40-80% Faster – (Tech Crunch –May 29, 2014)
The Osteoid, created by Turkish student Deniz Karasahin, incorporates 3D printing and ultrasonic tech to make healing a broken bone more bearable. The idea of ultrasonic healing vibrations to heal bones (and other wounds) has been around for a while. But doctors couldn’t get past the plaster cast to apply the vibrational therapy. However, the Osteoid’s skeletal design allows ultrasonic drivers to be placed directly on the skin. The Osteoid is just a prototype at the moment; future production will enable each individual to have a custom-fitted cast. Combine this cast with the accompanying low-intensity, pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) bone stimulator system and, according to Karasahin, with a single 20 minute session daily this system promises to reduce the healing process up to 38% and increase the heal rate up to 80% in non-union fractures. See also: Benefits of Electromagnetic Pulse Therapy.
Key to Detecting Alzheimer’s Early Could Be in the Eye – (Wall St. Journal – July 13, 2014)
Efforts to detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier and more cheaply are focusing on signs of the ailment in the eye and sense of smell. Scientists have found that certain biological changes in the retina and lens of the eye, and in the sense of smell, may help predict whether people with no or minor memory issues may go on to develop the progressive brain disease. The disease’s pathology in the brain typically begins decades before the appearance of memory symptoms. Looking for changes in the eye or smell represent “simpler, less invasive” methods that are more feasible for use in doctor’s offices and other clinical settings, Dr. David Knopman, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, said. Amyloid plaques found in the brain also are known to be deposited in the eye. Two company-funded studies found that those deposits can be detected through noninvasive eye-imaging technology and are highly correlated with the amyloid results from brain imaging. The retina is like a “piece of brain outside the brain,” said Shaun Frost, a researcher at CSIRO Australia. Smell is another area of interest because the odor center of the brain appears particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s pathology and the ability to identify different smells becomes impaired relatively early in the disease process.
Seralini Republished: Roundup-ready GMO maize causes serious health damage – (The Ecologist – June 25, 2014)
A highly controversial paper by Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues has been republished after a stringent peer review process. The chronic toxicity study examines the health impacts on rats of eating a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603 and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU. Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups. However it was retracted by the editor-in-chief of the Journal in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists. Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication.The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – however, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged. The republished study is accompanied by a separate commentary by Prof. Séralini’s team describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the editor of FCT to retract the original publication. The authors explain that the retraction was “a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide.” See also: Monsanto’s Herbicide Linked to Fatal Kidney Disease Epidemic. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this second article for its history of glyphosate and an explanation of glyphosate’s ability to bind with arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals such as those found in the groundwater and soil in Central America, India and Sri Lanka.)
DARPA Wants to Develop Electronic Memory-restoring Implants – (GizMag – July 19, 2014)
DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has instituted a new Biological Technologies Office. The goal of that division is to “merge biology, engineering, and computer science to harness the power of natural systems for national security.” The agency has just released details of one of the office’s key projects, called Restoring Active Memory. It’s aimed at using implantable “neuroprosthetics” to help army veterans and other people recover from memory deficits caused by brain injury or disease. The project will start with an attempt to build computer models that replicate the fashion in which neurons code declarative memories, or “parcels of knowledge that can be consciously recalled and described in words, such as events, times, and places.” Additionally, the researchers will try to establish methods of electrically stimulating targeted regions of the brain, in order to help it encode new memories in cases where damage has been preventing it from doing so. Once those goals have been achieved, the next step will involve developing actual devices that utilize the computer models to deliver the memory-forming stimulation.
Inter-Sex Fish Found in Three Pennsylvania Rivers Linked to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – (Nation of Change – July 7, 2014)
A study led by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) finds intersex fish in three watersheds of Pennsylvania and shows strong connections between these occurrences and increased pollution in waterways from endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The study examined three species of fish in three separate watersheds of Pennsylvania to assess whether characteristics caused by hormones and hormone-mimicking compounds, such as immature eggs in male fish, were present. In aquatic environments, the presence of these intersex characteristics is widely used as a biomarker for assessing exposure to estrogenic chemicals, as well as anti-androgenic chemicals which inhibit development of male characteristics. Vicki Blazer, PhD, a research fish biologist and lead author of the study said, “The sources of estrogenic chemicals are most likely complex mixtures from both agricultural sources, such as animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides, and human sources from wastewater treatment plant effluent and other sewage discharges,” said Dr. Blazer. In fish and humans, endocrine disrupting effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors such as estrogens, anti-androgens and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues.
New Solar Theory Predicts Imminent Global Cooling – (JoNova – June , 2014)
Using an optimal Fourier Transform, David Evans discovered a form of notch filter operating between changes in sunlight and temperatures on Earth. This means there must be a delay — probably around 11 years. This not only fitted with the length of the solar dynamo cycle, but also with previous independent work suggesting a lag of ten years or a correlation with the solar activity of the previous cycle. The synopsis then is that solar irradiance (TSI) is a leading indicator of some other effect coming from the Sun after a delay of 11 years or so. The discovery of this delay is a major clue about the direction of our future climate. The flickers in sunlight run a whole sunspot cycle ahead of some other force from the sun. Knowing that solar irradiance dropped suddenly from 2003 onwards tells us the rough timing of the fall in temperature that’s coming (just add a solar cycle length). What it doesn’t tell us is the amplitude — the size of the fall. That’s where the model may (or may not) tell us what we want to know. That test is coming very soon. This is an unusual time in the last 100 years where the forecasts from the CO2 driven models and the solar model diverge sharply. Oh the timing!
Oklahoma Earthquake Surge Tied to Energy Industry Activity – (Reuters – July 3, 2014)
A dramatic jump in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma to a rate never seen there by scientists before, appears to be caused by a small number of wells where wastewater associated with oil and gas production is injected into the ground, according to a recent study. Just a few of these so-called disposal wells, operating at very high volumes, “create substantial anthropogenic seismic hazard,” according to findings from Cornell University researchers published in the journal Science. Earthquake activity in Oklahoma has skyrocketed in recent years, and the U.S. Geological Survey recently warned that the state faces increasing risk of more potentially damaging earth-shaking activity. Through the end of June, the number of potentially damaging earthquakes – magnitude 3.0 or larger – was up more than 120% compared to all of last year, according to state officials. Overall, Oklahoma earthquakes in areas of high industry waste water disposal constituted nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, they added. The Oklahoma economy is closely tied to the oil and gas industry. “There is an awful lot of smoke here,” said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporations Commission, which oversees oil and gas activities in the state. “We are examining the study very, very carefully. If this is an issue, this is a risk we will manage properly.”
The Race to Stop Las Vegas from Running Dry – (Telegraph – June 28, 2014)
America’s most decadent destination has been engaged in a potentially catastrophic gamble with nature and now, 14 years into a devastating drought, it is on the verge of losing it all. “The situation is as bad as you can imagine,” said Tim Barnett, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Unless it can find a way to get more water from somewhere, Las Vegas is out of business. Yet they’re still building, which is stupid.” The crisis stems from the Las Vegas’s complete reliance on Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, which was created by the Hoover Dam in 1936 – after which it took six years to fill completely. It is located 25 miles outside the city and supplies 90 per cent of its water. But over the last decade, as Las Vegas’s population has grown by 400,000 to two million, Lake Mead has slowly been drained of four trillion gallons of water and is now well under half full. Mr Barnett predicts it may be a “dead pool” that provides no water by about 2036. The lake currently looks as if someone has removed a giant plug from it. Lake Mead’s water level is currently at 1,087ft above sea level. There are two pipes, known as “straws”, that take water from it to Las Vegas. The first extracts water at an elevation of 1,050ft and is likely to be sucking at air, rather than water, soon. The second straw is at 1,000ft. Lake Mead is expected to fall another 20ft towards that critical point by the end of this year. Beneath the ground a mammoth effort is already under way to complete a new, lower straw which will be able to draw the last of the water from the lake. But it is a painfully slow process as a giant drill the size of two football pitches advances at a rate of one inch per day.
The Young Turks on YouTube: Keepin’ It Real and Beating Out Corporate News – (Yes – June 24, 2014)
Circumventing mainstream media and its gatekeepers, The Young Turks debuted the first online daily news talk show in 2006. Since then, the network founded by Cenk Uygur has accumulated more than 1 billion views for its progressive and unrestrained programming hosted on YouTube. It’s the largest online news show network in the world. “There are no scripts, no rules, no censors—no one is telling you what you can or can’t say,” says host Ana Kasparian. More than anything, The Young Turks network’s stated focus is on telling the truth, whether it’s covering politics, economics, social trends, or pop culture. The participatory nature of online media (there’s a live comment feed alongside every show) attracts an audience quick to fact-check, correct, and provide feedback—all welcomed by the network. Here’s The Young Turks’ website.
Concept Skyscraper Made from Recycled Waste of Residents – (GizMag – July 8, 2014)
Green structures and buildings are a growing trend. Vertical gardens like the Clearpoint Residencies apartment block in Sri Lanka and The Living’s Hy-Fi organic sculpture in New York are two examples. Now, Chartier-Corbasson has designed a concept for a skyscraper that would be built from the recycled waste of its occupants. The idea proposes that the paper and plastic waste created by the existing residents or tenants of a building could be recycled and used to create panels for its continued construction. The building would grow using the waste of its residents and Chartier-Corbasson suggests that enough materials could be produced within a year to create the building’s façade. To minimize costs and make cash-flow more manageable, the proposal calls for waste materials to be collected and sorted within the building, which would then be refabricated on-site into construction panels. Chartier-Corbasson proposes the use of a scaffolding structure inspired by the bamboo scaffolding used in Asia to enable the building’s construction. The scaffolding is all one size and would be provided in prefabricated sections to simplify assembly. Rather than the scaffolding being removed once the building’s construction is complete, it would then become part of the building. (Editor’s note: As the architects specify, “this is a concept” – probably not a building that will ever be attempted, but a concept pointing in a direction that other architects may further explore.)
A New Battery That’s Cheap, Clean, Rechargeable, and Organic – (KurzweilAI – July 3, 2014)
Scientists at the Univ. of Southern California (USC) have developed a water-based organic battery that is long-lasting and built from cheap, eco-friendly components (no metals or toxic materials). The new battery is intended for use in power plants, where it could make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale means to store energy for use as needed. “The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated 15-year lifespan,” said Sri Narayan, USC professor of chemistry and corresponding author of an open-access paper published online by the Journal of the Electrochemical Society. “Lithium ion batteries degrade after around 1,000 cycles, and cost 10 times more to manufacture,” he said. The new battery is based on a redox-flow design — similar in design to a fuel cell, with two tanks of electroactive materials dissolved in water. The solutions are pumped into a cell containing a membrane between the two fluids with electrodes on either side, releasing energy. The team’s breakthrough centered around the electroactive materials. While previous battery designs have used metals or toxic chemicals, Narayan and Prakash wanted to find an organic compound that could be dissolved in water.
Solar Hydrogen Trends, Inc.’s Overunity Hydrogen – (PESWiki – March 19, 2014)
Menlo Park based technology firm Solar Hydrogen Trends, Inc. has announced its invention of a hydrogen reactor for the production of unlimited hydrogen (patent pending). The hydrogen reactor uses water as a main fuel and is 100% carbon free. The technology can be used as hybrid solution for energy savings up to 95% when coupled with coal, natural gas, gasoline, biofuels, diesel power plants or incinerators (three to five times cheaper than coal power plants – two to three times cheaper than nuclear). In addition, the reactor can be coupled for production of amplified energy output with Hydropower, Solar or Wind farms in peak hours. Konstantine Balakiryan, Founder, CEO/Chief Scientist and driving force behind the seven models of the hydrogen reactor, said “With only 500 watts/hour of input energy we produce 2,797 cubic feet or 79,098 liters per hour of hydrogen or 221 kWh energy equivalent – at the cost of only $1.80USD.” The technology provides multifactorial hydrogen reactor with elevated hydrogen production due to a set of sixteen physical and chemical processes, acting simultaneously on the hydrogen bonds. The technology is non-volatile and produces free flowing hydrogen which can be compressed or used to convert to another form of energy. The reactor can be used as a free standing electrically powered device that will produce unlimited amount of hydrogen at world’s cheapest rates or a simple “bolt-on” solution that provides savings when coupled with energy producing technology. Article includes link to a downloadable report by Airkinetics, a prominent EPA-certified national emissions testing specialist conducted an engineering test that measured the hydrogen reactor output at 50 ACFM with 93.1% Hydrogen content.
Russian Physicists Launch Campaign to Rebuild Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower and Power the World – (Mind Unleashed – July 3, 2014)
“Tesla was right and we are ready to prove it!” So say the two Russian physicists who have just launched an Indiegogo campaign to rebuild Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower in Fall, 2014. Tesla believed that the tower could transmit power wirelessly but this was never definitively proven in his lifetime. If he was right, and after extensive study the team are convinced he was, the project could provide an efficient, worldwide energy transmission system that would distribute all the clean energy we can use. That Tesla was a genius is undisputed even by his detractors, but more than 70 years after his death, he remains a polarizing figure. Leonid Plekhanov and Sergey Plekhanov have spent the last five years studying and modeling Tesla’s notes and patents for the tower and they are certain the project is viable with the use of modern materials and technology. As their Indiegogo page notes: “Nikola Tesla had left us a very detailed description of the design of his Magnifying Transmitter System and the physical principles of its operation. We are a group of modern-day physicists, trained in many areas related to the operation of his Worldwide Energy System. We’ve conducted a thorough scientific expertise of his works and came to the conclusion that Tesla was on the right track.”
Daimler Demonstrates a Self Driving Truck – (New York Times – July 3, 2014)
The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, a nod to the year the carmaker hopes it will be introduced — is capable of responding to traffic while driving completely autonomously down a freeway at speeds of up to 85 kilometers per hour, or 52 miles per hour. Along an eight-lane stretch of the autobahn, the large silver truck of the future fell into line with 20 other vehicles used to simulate realistic driving conditions. The truck responded to slowing cars in its lane by adjusting its speed accordingly and registered an approaching emergency vehicle in time to slide effortlessly into the far-right lane, allowing the emergency vehicle to pass on the left. Only one prototype of Future Truck 2025 exists, and the company declined to reveal for how much the vehicle would sell. Regulatory and legal challenges also remain before the truck would be allowed to take to the road. Volvo, the Swedish manufacturer, has also been developing driverless vehicles as part of the European Union’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment program, which envisions creating a caravan of vehicles that follow a leader in an effort to reduce wind-drag and fuel costs. Only the vehicles following the leader, which is in the hands of a driver, are able to function autonomously.
Tesla Puts Electric Car Patents into the Public Domain – (CBC News – June 12, 2014)
Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors has released all its patents to the public domain in a bid to accelerate development of electric vehicle technology. CEO Elon Musk wrote, “Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Musk said Tesla took out the patents because it feared big car companies would copy its technology, but then discovered the traditional motor industry was not moving swiftly into this area. “At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all,” he said.
Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell Hits Californian Roads with Free Hydrogen – (GizMag – June 11, 2014)
The hydrogen economy sounds great, and has ever since it was first proposed in the 1970s. The tricky bit is how to get there, because without the necessary infrastructure, a fuel cell car that runs on hydrogen is little more than a conversation piece. As Hyundai delivers its first Tucson Fuel Cell CUV, the South Korean carmaker unveiled its plan to jump-start the hydrogen car economy by giving the fuel away to its customers. The Tucson Fuel Cell uses a fuel cell instead of an internal combustion engine. The fuel cell creates electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen across a solid catalyst that triggers an electrochemical reaction instead of combustion. According to Hyundai, the Tucson Fuel Cell has performance comparable to that of an electric vehicle, including the instant torque of the electric car, the lack of noise, and a similar mechanical simplicity because the fuel cell has no moving parts. The Tucson has a range of 265 miles, refuels in 10 minutes, and the only emissions it produces is water vapor. Instead of selling the Tucson Fuel Cell outright, Hyundai is providing the cars under a 36-month term lease agreement with US$2,999 down and $499 per month. The clever bit is that Hyundai picks up the cost of the hydrogen fuel and provides it to its customers free of charge as an inducement while the company develops its refueling network.
Roosters’ Fertility Problem Hits U.S. Chicken Supply, Lifts Prices – (Reuters – July 9, 2014)
The world’s largest chicken breeder has discovered that a key breed of rooster has a genetic issue that is reducing its fertility, adding to problems constraining U.S. poultry production and raising prices at a time when beef and pork prices are already at record highs. The breed, Aviagen Group’s standard Ross male, is sire through its offspring to as much as 25% of the nation’s chickens raised for slaughter. Sanderson Farms, the third-largest U.S. poultry producer and one of Aviagen’s largest customers, said it and Aviagen systematically ruled out other possible causes for a decline in fertility before determining a genetic issue was at the root of the problem. Aviagen, owned privately by EW Group of Germany, provides breeding stock – hens and roosters – to Sanderson and other chicken producers, which then breed the birds and hatch their eggs to produce meat. Aviagen sent a team of scientists to Sanderson last autumn to study the issue and has acknowledged that an undisclosed change it made to the breed’s genetics made the birds “very sensitive” to being overfed. “We fed him too much. He got fat. When he got big, he did not breed as much as he was intended to,” Mike Cockrell, Sanderson’s chief financial officer, said about the breed of rooster. “The fertilization went way down, and our hatch has been way down.” Aviagen regularly tweaks genetics in birds to improve them, Cockrell added.
There Is a Secret Ingredient in Your Burgers: Wood Pulp – (Quartz – June 30, 2014)
There may be more fiber in your food than you realized. Burger King, McDonald’s and other fast food companies list in the ingredients of several of their foods, microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) or “powdered cellulose” as components of their menu items. Or, in plain English, wood pulp. The emulsion-stabilizing, cling-improving, anti-caking substance operates under multiple aliases, ranging from powdered cellulose to cellulose powder to methylcellulose to cellulose gum. The entrance of this non-absorbable fiber into fast food ingredients has been stealthy, yet widespread: The compound can now be found in buns, cheeses, sauces, cakes, shakes, rolls, fries, onion rings, smoothies, meats—basically everything. McDonald’s ranks highest on the list with cellulose integrated into 14 of their menu items including their renowned fish fillets, chicken strips and biscuits, with Burger King ranking second on the list with 13 menu items containing cellulose. (Data retrieved from publicly available nutritional information from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and Carl’s Jr.) See also: Consumer Reports: McDonald’s burger ranked worst in the U.S. noting that “Consumer Reports subscribers say these restaurants’ signature items are the worst in their categories: McDonald’s has the worst burger; KFC has the worst chicken; and Taco Bell has the worst burrito.”
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
In NSA-intercepted Data, Those Not Targeted Far Outnumber the Foreigners Who Are – (Washington Post – July 5, 2014)
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S. residents. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones pointed out that the story contradicts what the NSA has been telling the public about the materials in Snowden’s possession. See also: What Your “Startlingly Intimate, Voyeristic” NSA File Looks Like.
Hackers Crack NSA Spying Technology – (Komando – June 20, 2014)
Using some of the documents that Snowden released, radio hackers have managed to reverse-engineer some diabolically genius snooping devices. These documents, (shown in the article), outline hundreds of listening and recording devices that can easily and unobtrusively be attached to computers and phone. Many of these gadgets are so small you would have to know exactly what you’re looking for to find them. One kind of device, called a retro-reflector, has only been used by the NSA and its contractors. This means that no one knew how they worked, and couldn’t defend themselves against these spying devices. Until now. Hackers from Great Scott Gadgets in Colorado have discovered that retro-reflectors work, and have even recreated the devices.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Obama’s ‘Drone Memo’ Is Finally Public. Now Show Us the Library of Secret Law. – (Guardian – June 24, 2014)
A federal appellate court’s publication of the so-called “drone memo” finally allows the American public to evaluate the legal theories that were the basis for one of the Obama administration’s most controversial acts – the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. Authored three years ago by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the 41-page memo contends that the president has broad power to carry out the targeted killing of terrorism suspects, even in geographic areas far removed from conventional battlefields. Large parts of the memo – almost a third of it – have been redacted. The first 11 pages, which describe the government’s allegations against al-Awlaki, are redacted in their entirety. The redactions in the drone memo’s footnotes are perhaps the most disturbing, because they suggest the existence of an entire body of secret law, a veritable library of authoritative legal opinions produced by Justice Department lawyers but withheld from the American public. From one footnote, we can deduce that the OLC authored a separate drone memo assessing – and dispensing with – the proposition that an American citizen had the right not to be deprived of his life without some form of judicial process. But that earlier memo, treated by the executive branch as binding law, is still secret.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Anti-Homeless Spikes? Heartless. Cementing Over Them? Ingenious. – (Yes – June 26, 2014)
Early in the morning on June 12, a few members of a group known as the London Black Revolutionaries showed up in front of a Tesco shopping center on Regent Street in London and covered the store’s “anti-homeless spikes” with home-made cement. A few days before the stunt, the spikes generated a firestorm of public criticism of the retail giant. The criticism largely took place online and centered around a series of photos of the spikes taken in October 2013 by photojournalist Joshua Preston. The spikes were intended to deter “antisocial behavior,” a Tesco representative said response to the criticism. “We want homes not spikes,” Preston said in a press release from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an organization that campaigns against austerity policies—such as cuts to pensions and public spending. “We will show Tesco that its decision to victimize the homeless is shameful.” When Preston organized a Facebook event to protest the spikes, more than 600 people agreed to demonstrate. But the Revolutionaries got to Tesco first, and their slap-dash cement-laying did the trick: Less than 24 hours after the stunt, Tesco removed the spikes from the Regent Street store, saying “We will find a different solution.” Rates of homelessness in England have been steadily rising. Austerity measures are at least partly to blame: Homelessness has increased for three consecutive years, partly because of housing shortages and cuts to benefits, with an estimated 185,000 people a year now affected in England. The actual number of people experiencing homelessness may be significantly higher than that. Research from the charity group Crisis suggests that about 62% of single homeless people may not show up in official figures.
California Throws Out Only Pay with US $ Law – (Payments – June 30, 2014)
Governor Jerry Brown signed a law, passed by the California legislature, which reversed an earlier law—seriously—that said you could only conduct transactions in California with greenbacks. No pesos, Canadian dollars, city currencies, reward points, and yes—no bitcoins, dogecoins, or any other cryptocurrency either. As its sponsor, Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, said, “In an era of evolving payment methods, from Amazon Coins to Starbucks Stars, it is impractical to ignore the growing use of cash alternatives.” The bill mentions that there are now many currencies in circulation including local currencies sponsored by cities and towns, points and reward, coupons, and various digital currencies. The Bitcoin press has gone crazy over this claiming that California has made Bitcoin legal. That is sort of right but in reality California just reversed an old law that dated to 1849, didn’t make any sense, and wasn’t enforced.
A Nationwide Gentrification Effect Is Segregating Us By Education – (Washington Post – July 11, 2014)
Census data suggests that in 1980 a college graduate could expect to earn about 38% more than a worker with only a high-school diploma. Since then, the difference in their wages has only widened as our economy has shifted to bestow greater and greater rewards on the well-educated. By 2000, that number was about 57%. By 2011: 73%. These figures, though, reflect only part of the inequality that has pushed the lives of college and high school graduates in America farther apart. As the returns to education have increased, according to Stanford economist Rebecca Diamond, the geographic segregation of the most educated workers has, too — and not by neighborhood, but by entire city. This effectively means that college graduates in America aren’t simply gaining access to higher wages. They’re gaining access to high-cost cities like New York or San Francisco that offer so much more than good jobs: more restaurants, better schools, less crime, even cleaner air. Housing costs have increased as a result, pushing low-wage and low-skilled workers out. At the neighborhood level, this cycle sounds a lot like how we describe gentrification. At the scale of entire cities — picture low-skilled workers increasingly excluded from Washington and San Francisco and segregated into cities like Toledo or Baton Rouge — Diamond describes this as a kind of nationwide gentrification effect. The larger the share of a city’s workforce that’s made up of college graduates, the more expensive it is to live there. By Diamond’s calculation, for every 1% increase in a city’s ratio of college graduates to non-graduates, the city experiences a 0.6% increase in rents.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Sify Documentary to Reveal the Truth about Aliens on the Moon – (Open Minds – July 8, 2014)
July 20, 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of man’s first landing on the Moon. To commemorate that event, Syfy will host the world premiere of Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed, a two-hour event documentary special on Sunday July 20, 2014. Film news website Twitch reports that the producer of this documentary is Robert Kiviat, a producer known for UFO related content. Among other highlights are these: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s startling interview where he reveals that a UFO followed the spacecraft for three days on its way to the historic moonwalk, and that a baffling “Monolith” has been photographed by NASA on Mars’ moon Phobos. Aldrin also assesses some of the lunar photos that strongly suggest alien structures have been detected on our Moon. Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s adamant contention that he knows for sure UFOs are real, that there is an alien presence visiting the Earth (and the space around us) and the U.S. government has been aware of it for several decades.
Arecibo Detects Mystery Radio Burst from Beyond Our Galaxy – (Kurzweil AI – July 11, 2014)
Scientists have discovered a split-second burst of radio waves using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. The finding marks the first time that a “fast radio burst” has been detected using an instrument other than the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. Scientists using the Parkes Observatory have recorded a handful of such events, but the lack of any similar findings by other facilities had led to speculation that the Australian instrument might have been picking up signals originating from sources on or near Earth. “Our result is important because it eliminates any doubt that these radio bursts are truly of cosmic origin,” said Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysics professor at McGill University in Montreal and Principal Investigator for the pulsar-survey project that detected this fast radio burst. “The radio waves show every sign of having come from far outside our galaxy — a really exciting prospect.” Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists. Possibilities include a range of exotic astrophysical objects, such as evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars — a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields.
Land of the Free? Not So Much. Americans’ Sense of Freedom Drops, Poll Finds. – (Christian Science Monitor – July 1, 2014)
Seventy-nine percent of US residents are satisfied with their level of freedom, down from 91% in 2006, according to the Gallup survey. That 12-point drop pushes the United States from among the highest in the world in terms of perceived freedom to 36th place, outside the top quartile of the 120 countries sampled, trailing Paraguay, Rwanda, and the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh. According to another poll also released by Gallup, the portion of Americans who believe there to be “widespread corruption” in the US has jumped from 59% in 2006 to 79% in 2013. “Americans not only feel that the U.S. government is performing poorly, as demonstrated by record-low congressional approval ratings, but they also report that the U.S. government itself as one of the biggest problem facing the country today,” the report concludes. (Editor’s note: Almost curiously, Jon Clifton, the managing director of the Gallup World Poll, finds that he is hard-pressed to explain these trends – either that or perhaps the Christian Science Monitor does not feel comfortable simply suggesting that the polls might be a reflection of reality.) See also: The 10 Most Corrupt States in the U.S.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
10 Breakthrough Innovations That Will Shape the World by 2025 – (Fast Company – June 30, 2014)
What world-changing scientific discoveries might we see by 2025? To make some predictions, the Thomson Reuters IP & Science unit looked at two sorts of data: current scientific journal literature and patent applications. Counting citations and other measures of buzz, they identified 10 hot fields, then made specific forecasts for each. Here are four of their items: dementia declines, solar power everywhere, no more plastic garbage, and no more food shortages. Will all of these changes come to pass? Probably not. Promising research doesn’t always make it to the market. A host of things – such as politics, money, monopoly power and finding that the theory doesn’t fly – get in the way. But these are trends to watch.
Virtual Finger Enables Scientists to Navigate and Analyze Complex 3D Images – (EurekAlert – July 11, 2014)
Researchers have pioneered a revolutionary new way to digitally navigate three-dimensional images. The new technology, called Virtual Finger, allows scientists to move through digital images of small structures like neurons and synapses using the flat surface of their computer screens. Virtual Finger’s technology makes 3D imaging studies orders of magnitude more efficient, saving time, money and resources at an unprecedented level across many areas of experimental biology. Most other image analysis software works by dividing a three-dimensional image into a series of thin slices, each of which can be viewed like a flat image on a computer screen. To study three-dimensional structures, scientists sift through the slices one at a time: a technique that is increasingly challenging with the advent of big data. “Looking through 3D image data one flat slice at a time is simply not efficient, especially when we are dealing with terabytes of data,” explains Hanchuan Peng, Associate Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “This is similar to looking through a glass window and seeing objects outside, but not being able to manipulate them because of the physical barrier.” In sharp contrast, Virtual Finger allows scientists to digitally reach into three-dimensional images of small objects like single cells to access the information they need much more quickly and intuitively. “When you move your cursor along the flat screen of your computer, our software recognizes whether you are pointing to an object that is near, far, or somewhere in between, and allows you to analyze it in depth without having to sift through many two-dimensional images to reach it,” explains Peng.
The Latest Innovations Promise Big Improvements in Teaching – (Economist – June 7, 2014)
Who killed Edgar Allan Poe? The mysterious death of the 19th-century author is featured in a new online school curriculum from Amplify, the education arm of News Corp. Pupils follow clues that require close reading of Poe’s stories (the assassin’s identity varies, to prevent cribbing), and take machine-graded comprehension and vocabulary tests along the way. Another section teaches mathematics by setting quests, such as an Alaskan dog-sled race for which pupils must plan, budget and manage provisions. The latest technology promises to improve teaching methods, rather than merely shifting them from blackboard to screen, and to give all children the personalized education once only available to the rich. Game-style lessons let pupils progress at their own pace, getting instant feedback at every step. Even homework is more fun: when one company supplied tablet-based courses to schools in Alabama, they were such a hit that Wi-Fi was installed on school buses so it could be done en route. When pupils work independently, teachers can spend time on individual coaching rather than routine tasks such as marking. The data captured as pupils progress are used to improve both the software and classroom management. InfoMentor, an Icelandic firm that works with schools in several European countries, crunches data to find out where pupils drift or stall. Teachers can see what has been learnt and who is struggling. Its software has been adopted by a fifth of Swedish, and almost all Icelandic, primary schools. A head teacher in Kungsor, Sweden credits it with helping her move her school from “poor” to “outstanding” in just three years without changing staff.
Team Demonstrates Continuous Terahertz Sources at Room Temperature – (Energy Daily – June 10, 2014)
Imagine a technology that could allow us to see through opaque surfaces without exposure to harmful x-rays, that could give us the ability to detect harmful chemicals and bio-agents from a safe distance, and that could enable us to peer so deeply into space that scientists could better understand the formation of the universe. All of these scenarios are possible with terahertz radiation, electromagnetic waves with lengths that fall between microwaves and infrared light. However, the potential of terahertz waves has yet to be reached because they have been difficult to generate and manipulate. Manijeh Razeghi, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Center for Quantum Devices in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and her team are the first to produce terahertz radiation in a simplified system, making it easier to harness the power of these elusive waves. They have developed the first room-temperature, compact, continuous terahertz radiation source, and it’s six times more efficient than previous systems. Razeghi’s research group excels at room-temperature, high-power quantum cascade lasers (QCL), which are compact semiconductor lasers emitting in mid-infrared.
China Pulling the Plug on Foreign Mainframes – (Caixin – June 25, 2014)
E-commerce companies and banks in China are scrapping hardware and uninstalling software for mainframe servers made by American suppliers in favor of homegrown brands said to be safe, advanced and a lot less expensive. The movement dates to 2008, when Alibaba’s computer network department director Wang Jian proposed cutting back on foreign suppliers and replacing their wares with equipment and technology developed almost entirely in-house. What Wang wanted was to get rid of most of the so-called IOE system, an acronym for an IT network based on the names of three suppliers: IBM, whose servers are packaged with the Unix operating system; Oracle, which supplies database management systems; and EMC, the maker of data storage hardware. Wang dubbed his campaign the “De-IOE Movement.” Wang decided to revamp Alibaba’s network by replacing its Unix-based servers with less expensive, X86-based PC servers running on the open-source Linux operating system. In such a system, several PCs with X86 microprocessors inside can be linked in a chain to function as a server, replacing a mainframe server. The e-commerce company also built a database management system of its own with an open-source structure, and started storing data on an internal cloud-storage system. The switch to servers made at home has been a slow process for Chinese banks, although they’re being encouraged by the government to choose Chinese suppliers, according to a source close to the China Banking Regulatory Commission. Former U.S. computer security expert Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on government espionage, gave a boost to proponents of the De-IOE campaign. But the switch is not happening overnight. A Bank of China IT department employee said some Chinese suppliers have yet to meet the security and stability standards that are required of any bank computer network working with customer accounts. IOE systems have been commonly used in Chinese banks since the late 1990s, and are at the heart of the IT networks driving 70% of the world’s banks and other financial institutions.
North Dakota Oil-By-Rail Routes Published for First Time – (Nation of Change – June 28, 2014)
For the first time, DeSmogBlog has published dozens of documents obtained from the North Dakota government revealing routes and chemical composition data for oil-by-rail trains in the state carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale. The information was initially submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under the legal dictates of a May 7 Emergency Order, which both the federal government and the rail industry initially argued should only be released to those with a “need-to-know” and not the public at-large. In its submission to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, Canadian Pacific Rail (CP Rail) revealed it sent seven oil-by-rail trains through 13 counties in North Dakota the week of June 9-15. CP Rail also estimated it generally sends 2-5 trains through those same counties during an average week. Some oil-by-rail trains, dubbed “bomb trains” by some due to their propensity to explode, carry over 2,677,500 gallons of fracked oil. The trains are often over a mile in length and contain over 100 cars. The company also released information on the chemical composition of the Bakken oil it sends on its rail cars, conceding that Bakken oil is “highly flammable” and “easily ignited by heat, sparks or flames.” Further, CP Rail admitted that Bakken oil has “a very low flash point” and that “water spray when fighting [its] fire may be inefficient.” See also: Oil train records show what the State of Oregon and rail companies tried to hide.
Red Cross: How We Spent Sandy Money Is a ‘Trade Secret’ – (ProPublica – June 26, 2014)
Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy? The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a “trade secret.” The Red Cross’ “trade secret” argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it’s not clear yet how much since the documents haven’t yet been released. That’s where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in. An attorney from the firm’s New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law’s trade secret exemption. The documents include “internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information,” wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general’s office. If those details were disclosed, “the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’s business model for an increased competitive advantage,” Levin wrote. The letter doesn’t specify who the Red Cross’ “competitors” are.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Travel App Can Recommend Places by Looking at Them – (Technology Review – July 14, 2014)
A travel app called Jetpac hopes to tackle two of the most pressing questions of our time: how can machines reliably extract information from images, and what exactly is the definition of a hipster? Jetpac provides a consumer guide to local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. But unlike competitors such as Yelp, it doesn’t rely on customers writing up reviews. Instead the company uses software to process public Instagram photos tagged with the business’s name and measures things like the number of smiles in the picture or amount of blue sky. Jetpac uses that information to help people searching for a tranquil coffee shop with outdoor seating or suitable venue for a social gathering. “It’s like you stuck your head in the bar,” says Jetpac CTO Pete Warden. “Photos have a lot of signals in them.” Those include whether a bar is dog-friendly (which can be determined by counting pooches per picture) or high-class (by looking for clues such as martini glasses rather than beer cans). To inform the app’s “hipster finder,” which tries to point people to the coolest places in a city, Warden and his team used the crowdsourcing service Mechanical Turk. People were asked to label photos with key markers, like mustaches, plaid clothing, or chunky glasses, providing baseline data that allowed software to look for similar patterns in future photos to peg establishments with high hipster attendance.
JUST FOR FUN
Stix by Ricky Syers – (YouTube – February 3, 2013)
“Stix” is a beautifully crafted marionette – and a vintage moonshiner! Watch him in action. Here’s an interview with Ricky Syers, puppet maker extraordinaire.
A FINAL QUOTE–
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley
A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Arthur Gillman, 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