FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- A computer model suggests that offshore wind farms with thousands of turbines could lessen hurricane winds and storm surges and possibly prevent billions in damages.
- The man in charge of the NSA modeled his (former) office after the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
- The space tourism market could generate $650 million in annual revenues by 2021, with an estimated 13,000 space-flight passengers getting their astronaut wings each year.
- Last year, the trend of using a terrifying prank filmed by hidden cameras to promote a product became so popular that it got its own name, “prankvertising.”
by John L. Petersen
Trip to Damanhur and Findhorn
We just about have the website finished for our tour in October to Damanhur in Italy and northern Scotland’s Findhorn. This two-week trip will be a wonderful opportunity to experience two of the most interesting examples of emerging societies and learn what they might tell us about our own futures.
Damanhur is considered the “eighth wonder of the world” for it’s amazing temples dug out of the interior of a mountain, and Findhorn is famous for having accomplished seemingly impossible agricultural feats and advancing whole system sustainability.
Along the way we’ll spend a couple of days near Portofino on the Italian Riviera and tour England’s Stonehenge and the environs with two extraordinary guides, Lucy Pringle and Chris Robinson, she, one of the world’s experts on crop circles and he, the famous “dream detective”, who dreams about the future.
Join us for an extraordinary combination of art, invention, beauty and history that will excite your mind, spirit, and body. The dates are October 5-19.
Click here to be sent complete information.
Penny Kelly Coming to Berkeley Springs
Writer, speaker, teacher, publisher, consultant and Naturopathic physician Penny Kelly will be our featured speaker at the next Berkeley Springs Transition Talk. Returning for the second year, Penny impressed those fortunate folks who heard her last year with a fascinating review of how biology worked from the perspective of one who is on the leading edge of research on the direct links between the physical and the spiritual. I still remember her comments about how the cells on the leafs of plants respond in the morning to the sounds of the music of the birds and therefore when birds are lost through cutting of forests, etc., the effects are much more pervasive than commonly thought.
She’ll be with us Saturday, April 12th at 2PM at the Ice House Theatre, Mercer and Independence Streets, Berkeley Springs, WV. Hope you can make it.
Freedom of Speech
When you grow up within a country, there are some very fundamental things about that society that become imprinted upon you. You become the product of those ideas. Those concepts become the grid – the framework – through which you operate and, at some level, assume to be “right”. That is certainly the case with the notion of “freedom of speech” here in the United States.
Throughout all of our education, reinforced through the media and our parents, there was always this bedrock notion of freedom of speech and its corollaries, freedom of the press and the separation of religion and state. Academic freedom in schools of higher learning flows from this same font. The government could not tell you what to think and cannot hinder what you say (as long as it doesn’t endanger or harm someone else).
Ideas lubricate all aspects of the national system and are fundamental to the ability of the organism to adapt to change (to say nothing about the extended benefits related to personal self-image and the sense of well-being) . This is particularly the case in times of high rate of change and disruption. The solution is always in new ideas and concepts.
The founders of our country implicitly understood that Ideas are supreme. Those wise individuals also understood that there might be times when the people’s desire for change would outstrip the government’s ability to change. In that case, they said, the people’s interests win, even if they have to change the government.
Consider that in the context of these times. The dynamics are the same. As the world shifts and morphs into something new, the only way that we can safely and successfully get from here to there is with innovation – new ideas. And the more those new ideas flow, the more adaptable the country is – and the more likely it is to weather the contextual reorganization.
Do you follow that? Ideas – new ideas – are the lifeblood of a country’s potential of successfully making it through major change.
If this is the case, then the policy implications should be obvious: let the ideas flow – loosen up the interchange. Enable the ability to change and adapt with good, new ideas.
But there’s a problem. The essential nature of big government is conservative, risk adverse and defensive . . . and certainly is never characterized as highly adaptable. Rather than embracing the constant need to change and do things better, they typically defend the status quo and put on the brakes.
We’re living in a time of exponential change and Edward Snowden is an example of an attempt to insert a new idea into the mix. He’s arguing that rather than constrict the flow of ideas, the U.S. would be far better off to loosen up the flow of ideas. (If you don’t think knowing that the government is always looking at and saving records of everything you do dampens the flow of ideas and process, then you are not one of those folks who are pushing out the edges of the box, trying to get the systems to change.) Without the Edward Snowden’s of the world, governments inevitably become more ossified and bureaucratic, slowing down the rate of internal change. In the face of external change that is more than they can handle their focus becomes one of self-preservation rather than adaptation. This is the description of the beginning of the end of an empire.
So, it’s within this framework that we might ask the question: Does it seem right that, in a country that was built on the premise of freedom of speech, freedom of press and the free flow of ideas, the government would be actively involved in constraining free speech and suppressing the forces of change? It may not seem right, although one can understand what is happening – but even then, the details of what is going on are pretty hard to justify.
Consider this. It has now been shown that there is an active, organized, ongoing effort within the government to sway and discredit those groups that they don’t agree with, using the immense capabilities of the NSA to get inside of and manipulate their online operations and reputations. There are laws that make this illegal in the commercial arena, but our government is doing it in secret.
Spy Agencies Manipulate and Disrupt Web Discussions to Promote Propaganda and Discredit Government Critics
The alternative media has documented for 5 years (here) that the government uses disinformation and disruption (and here) on the web to discredit activists and manipulate public opinion, just like it smears traditional television and print reporters who question the government too acutely.
We’ve long reported that the government censors and manipulates social media. More proof here.
New Edward Snowden documents confirm that Britain’s spy agency is doing so.
As Glenn Greenwald writes today:
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.
These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself. Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. (read more . . . )
The Brits are carrying this personal invasion into observing intimate activities in homes and building a database of the faces of their citizens . . . just in case they need them.
The Intelligence Apparatus Is Checking Out Your “Intimate Body Parts”: According to the latest Snowden revelation, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which works in close collaboration with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), has been intercepting and storing images of millions of Yahoo webcam-chat users in a program appropriately code-named “Optic Nerve.”
Leaked GCHQ documents indicate that the snoops have discovered that “Unfortunately…it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of the body to the other person” and that “it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.” (To which the modern mind responds: “Well, duh…”) (read more . . . )
Some researchers believe that Snowden files give indications of the government cover up of knowledge related to UFOs and other such areas (that they have otherwise be disparaging).
Leaked NSA document confirms online covert deception involves UFOs
And finally, some folks are seeing the potential beginning of a shift in public opinion relative to all of this. Perhaps they are right. Maybe Edward Snowden is accomplishing his goal.
Are the American People FINALLY Starting to Stand Up to Those Who Are Trying to Take Away Our Liberties?
Pew Maps Twitter Conversations, Finds 6 Types – (TwinCities – February 21, 2014)
Looking at how conversations flow on social media can provide new insights into how people communicate in a way that was not possible until very recently. For example, people use Twitter to talk about everything from politics to breakfast to Justin Bieber in what feels like a chaotic stream of messages, but the conversations fit into just six distinct patterns. The Pew Research Center, working with the Social Media Research Foundation and using a special software tool, analyzed and mapped millions of public tweets, retweets, hashtags and replies that form the backbone of Twitter chatter. The resulting diagrams show how people, brands, news outlets and celebrities interact on Twitter, depending on the topic of conversation. Only 14% of the U.S. population uses Twitter—and not all who do use it to talk about politics. But, to use one example, when it comes to politics, Twitter’s citizens tend to form two distinct groups that rarely interact with one another, divided along liberal and conservative lines, according to the study, whose authors likened their methods to taking aerial photos of crowds gathered in public places. What emerged in maps of political conversations is that the liberal and conservative groups are not even arguing with one another. Rather, they are “ignoring one another while pointing to different web resources and using different hashtags.”
All in the (Robotic) Family: New Study Aims to Develop Emotional Bond Between Humans and Androids – (Activist Post – August, 2013)
Beyond the economic and military concerns, the commitment to neuroscience and reverse engineering the human brain coupled with the exponential increase in computing power is forcing the discussion toward the social impact robotics will have. Several studies already have been done which aim to assess whether humans can develop true emotional relationships with robots. Some cybernetics experts even have suggested the possibility for a romantic connection between robots and/or humans by 2045, but this is generally seen as stretching the limits of what is possible. In the meantime, however, there can be no doubt about the research taking place that seeks to enhance the current abilities of robotic caregivers and possibly additional family members. The University of Lincoln in England is the site for the latest research into how humans might form meaningful emotional relationships with androids. Robots and Artificial Intelligence already have gained some level of interaction with humans, but so far it has been a push-pull between competition and cooperation. This article provides links to a number of current examples.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Master Monkey’s Brain Controls Sedated ‘Avatar’ – (BBC News – February 18, 2014)
The brain of one monkey has been used to control the movements of another, “avatar”, monkey. Scientists at Harvard Medical School said they could not justify paralyzing a monkey. Instead, two were used – a master monkey and a sedated avatar. The master had a brain chip implanted that could monitor the activity of up to 100 neurons. During training, the physical actions of the monkey were matched up with the patterns of electrical activity in the neurons. The avatar had 36 electrodes implanted in the spinal cord and tests were performed to see how stimulating different combinations of electrodes affected movement. The two monkeys were then hooked up so that the brain scans in one controlled movements in real time in the other. The sedated avatar held a joystick, while the master had to think about moving a cursor up or down. In 98% of tests, the master could correctly control the avatar’s arm. One of the researchers, Dr Ziv Williams said: “The goal is to take people with brain stem or spinal cord paralysis and bypass the injury.”
Scientists Name 6 More Toxins Affecting Developing Brains – (Newsday – February 14, 2014)
Researchers at the Mount Sinai Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health cited six broad groups of toxins in 2006 as having a direct impact on human brain development. Now, they have identified another six, which include metals and inorganic compounds, pesticides and dangerous solvents. Based on their examination of chemicals that are widely used — but untested for human safety — the scientists concluded that fetal and early childhood exposures have grown into a silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and even losses in IQ points. In the first study Landrigan and colleagues named arsenic, arsenic-based compounds, lead, methylmercury, toluene and polychlorinated biphenyls — PCBs — as key brain-damaging culprits. That list was culled from a longer one containing 202 brain-damaging chemical suspects. This time, they have identified the pesticides DDT, DDE and chlorpyrifos; industrial fluorides and manganese; brominated diphenyl ethers, used as flame-retardants; and tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as PERC, a colorless fluid widely used in dry cleaning. Even though the pesticide DDT was banned in this country nearly a half-century ago, it is still widely used throughout Latin America in agriculture, Landrigan added. Rising produce imports from Mexico and elsewhere increase the exposure to DDT even without its active use in this country, he said.
Nanomotors Controlled within Living Cells – (GizMag – February 11, 2014)
Imagine if it were possible to send tiny machines into living cells, where they could deliver medication, perform ultra-micro surgery, or even destroy the cell if needed. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have successfully inserted “nanomotors” into human cells, then remotely controlled those motors within the cells. The nanomotors are described as “rocket-shaped metal particles,” and they’re propelled by externally-delivered ultrasonic waves. They can also be steered, by selectively applying magnetic fields. Depending on what was required, the nanomotors could simply bump into structures within the cell, they could destroy those structures by spinning around like an egg beater, or they could rupture the cell membrane by ramming into it from the inside. The latter two functions could prove particularly valuable in therapeutic applications, when dealing with cancer cells.
Virtual Arm Eases Phantom Limb Pain – (BBC News – February 25, 2014)
Doctors have devised a new way to treat amputees with phantom limb pain. Using computer-generated augmented reality, the patient can see and move a virtual arm controlled by their stump. Electric signals from the muscles in the amputated limb “talk” to the computer, allowing real-time movement. Amputee Ture Johanson says his pain has reduced dramatically thanks to the new computer program, which he now uses regularly in his home. Mr. Johanson says he has noticed other benefits too. He now perceives his phantom hand to be in a resting, relaxed position rather than a clenched fist. “Can you imagine? For 48 years my hand was in a fist but after some weeks with this training I found that it was different. It was relaxed. It had opened.” Max Ortiz Catalan, the brains behind the new treatment, says giving the muscles a work-out while being able to watch the actions carried out may be key to the therapy. “The motor areas in the brain needed for movement of the amputated arm are reactivated, and the patient obtains visual feedback that tricks the brain into believing there is an arm executing such motor commands. He experiences himself as a whole, with the amputated arm back in place.”
Tepco Says Fukushima Radiation ‘Significantly’ Undercounted – (Bloomberg – February 25, 2014)
Tokyo Electric Power Company is re-analyzing 164 water samples collected last year at the wrecked Fukushima atomic plant because previous readings “significantly undercounted” radiation levels. The utility known as Tepco said the levels were undercounted due to errors in its testing of beta radiation, which includes strontium-90, an isotope linked to bone cancer. None of the samples were taken from seawater, the company said today in an e-mailed statement. “These errors occurred during a time when the number of the samplings rapidly increased as the result of a series of events since last April, including groundwater reservoir leakage and a major leak from a storage tank,” according to the statement. It will run new tests of the samples taken from April to September 2013 and will publish corrected beta radiation readings.
UC Berkeley Test Reveals Fantastically High Cesium Levels on California Roadside – (Nation of Change – February 20, 2014)
UC Berkeley lab tests are now showing high levels of cesium in cattle feed from a California dairy farm that was sent to a lab nine months prior to the test results being received – a long delay that suggests levels are much higher now. Subsequently, asphalt along a roadside in the sunny city which catches plenty of rainfall was then measured, much more recently, and a disturbing three thousand five hundred and seventy nine pci/kg were found. By anyone’s standards, that cannot just be chalked up as background radiation. Fukushima fallout isn’t just coming via ocean currents. It is in our rain, air and soil now. See details of original study.
Ocean Radioactivity from Fukushima Leak to be Tracked – (Live Science – January 16, 2014)
Since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, concerns have spread among the public that water with traces of radioactive material might be traveling in a plume across the Pacific Ocean toward the west coast of North America. Experts say the radiation levels reaching the U.S. coast and Hawaiian Islands will be too low to threaten human health or marine life, but no U.S. government or international agency is actually monitoring radiation in these places. Now, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts is launching a new citizen science project to measure levels of radioactive cesium in water washing up along the West Coast. That’s where you come in. Yes, you! The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world, is seeking help from citizen scientists, ordinary people interested in furthering the cause of science. You don’t need to have an advanced degree, lab skills, or anything else to help out; they’ll provide the tools and the instructions so you can contribute to their radiation mapping project to learn more about how Fukushima is affecting the environment. What can you do? If you live near the ocean, you can propose a location near you for sampling. If you can raise the funds (approximately $600), Woods Hole will send you a sampling kit with clear directions which you can use to collect samples and then send back to the organization for analysis and study. Additional sampling locations will help Woods Hole scientists monitor the spread and movement of radiation and make better forecasting models for both this event and future incidents. See here for more information on how to become involved.
Massive Offshore Wind Farms Could Tame Hurricane Winds – (UPI – February 26, 2014)
Offshore wind farms with thousands of turbines could lessen hurricane winds and storm surges and possibly prevent billions in damages, a U.S. researcher says. Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University who has been developing a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate, said he wondered what would happen if a hurricane encountered a large array of offshore wind turbines. For the study, Jacobson and colleagues simulated three hurricanes: Sandy and Isaac, which struck New York and New Orleans, respectively, in 2012; and Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005. The results suggested such a wind farm could disrupt a hurricane enough to reduce peak wind speeds by up to 92 mph and decrease storm surge by up to 79%, they said. Jacobson acknowledged that in the United States there has been political resistance to installing offshore wind turbines, but said he thinks financial incentives — a reduction in hurricane damage costs, along with energy generation — could motivate a change.
Facial Recognition Is in (the Reflection of) the Eye of the Beholder – (GizMag – January 16, 2014)
For a moment, let’s suppose that you received an emailed kidnap demand with a picture of your loved one in dire straits. You contacted the authorities, and in a flash (relatively speaking), they have identified the kidnapper and possibly some accomplices. How did this happen? By identifying the faces of the kidnappers caught in the reflection of your loved one’s eyes. The scenario above isn’t yet standard practice, but the basic technology for accomplishing the task now exists. A study conducted by Dr. Rob Jenkins of the University of York and Christie Kerr of the University of Glasgow has found that the picture of a high-end camera is capable of displaying images reflected from the corneas of a subject being photographed. The images, which can be of high enough quality to identify people by their faces, cover most of the area in front of the subject, owing to the curvature of the cornea. In essence, a fisheye view of the entire region in front of the subject can be found in the image of the subject’s eyes.
Google Is Working on 10 Gigabit Internet Speeds – (USA Today – February 12, 2014)
Google is working on technology that will provide data transfer speeds over the Internet that are many times faster than its current Google Fiber service in Kansas City. Google Fiber offers data transfer speeds of 1 gigabit per second currently. But the company is already working on speeds of 10 gigabits per second, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said during a recent Internet conference. Pichette called this the next generation of the Internet and said it was part of Google’s broader, long-term obsession with speed. Google is not the only one working on this. Last year, researchers in the U.K. announced that they achieved data transmission speeds of 10 gigabits per second using “li-fi” a wireless Internet connectivity technology that uses light.
Tiny Houses for the Homeless: An Affordable Solution Catches On – (Nation of Change – February 24, 2014)
On a Saturday in September, more than 125 volunteers showed up with tools in hand and built six new 16-by-20-foot houses for a group of formerly homeless men. It was the beginning of Second Wind Cottages, a tiny-house village for the chronically homeless in the town of Newfield, N.Y., outside of Ithaca. The project is part of a national movement of tiny-house villages, an alternative approach to housing the homeless that’s beginning to catch the interest of national advocates and government housing officials alike. On January 29, the village officially opened, and its first residents settled in. Each house had cost about $10,000 to build, a fraction of what it would have cost to house the men in a new apartment building. See photos of the Second Wind Cottages on the organization’s website.
DIY Houses in the Internet Age: Some Assembly Required – (NPR – February 17, 2014)
If you can barely swing a hammer, you can still build your own home. Builders at the Maker Faire in New York City proved this point last fall, with something akin to an old-fashioned barn-raising. The event celebrates the do-it-yourself aesthetic, particularly when it comes to digital fabrication and open-source construction plans. Using wooden mallets cut from plywood, a crew of eight banged together the slotted frame of a WikiHouse without a single nail. The result: a livable home. Advances in technology and a bit of architectural activism have led to the WikiHouse project, founded in London by Alastair Parvin two years ago. The project makes digital blueprints available online for free. Amateur builders use computer-cut plywood pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. It took the WikiHouse team of eight just two days to build its two houses, which were 12 feet wide, 26 feet long and nearly 10 feet high. See also: The photo journal of the construction of FOUNDhouse.
Renewables Power a Rural German Village – (Nation of Change – February 21, 2014)
A small town in the eastern corner of rural Germany, 40 miles south of Berlin, may be one of the best examples of decentralized self-sufficiency. Feldheim (pop. 150), in the cash-strapped state of Brandenburg, was a communist collective farm back when Germany was still divided into East and West. Now it is a model renewable energy village putting into practice Germany’s vision of a renewably powered future. By 2009, Feldheim was producing all its own energy with renewable sources. Residents then wanted to take things a step further and free themselves from the large utility company which was supplying the grid. But the utility company refused to either sell or lease the part of its energy grid that ran through Feldheim. As a result, each of the 150 residents contributed 3,000 Euros (~$4,000 at today’s exchange rates) so that they could build their own smart grid. With help from a local renewable energy company and financing from the European Union and government subsidies, the smart grid was completed in 2010, making Feldheim then the only town in Germany with its own mini-grid. This allows the locally produced heat and electricity to be fed straight to consumers and gives them control over their electrical prices, which are set at community meetings. They now pay 31% less for electricity and 10% less for heating than before. The town consumes less than 1% of the electricity produced annually by its wind turbines and solar panels, and sells the rest back to the market.
Desert Plants Used for Aviation Biofuel Production – (GizMag – January 21, 2014)
Whenever the topic of plant-derived biofuels is raised, the issue of turning valuable arable land over to the task of growing feedstock is generally not far behind. A discovery by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SRBC) that desert plants fed by seawater can produce biofuel more efficiently than other well-known feedstocks could help alleviate such concerns. The SRBC, which is affiliated with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, is receiving funding from Boeing, Etihad Airways and Honeywell UOP to develop and commercialize a sustainable biofuel that emits 50 – 80% less carbon through its lifecycle than fossil fuels. Plants called halophytes, which are highly salt tolerant, could be the answer. Halophyte seeds contain oil suitable for biofuel production and the entire shrub-like plant can be turned into biofuel more effectively than many other feedstocks. In the coming year, a test site will use waste seawater from a fish and shrimp farm to nourish the plants, with the water then flowing into a field of mangroves before being returned to the ocean.
Future Space Tourists Train Like Fighter Pilots – (SmartPlanet – November 2, 2013)
Some 23 miles north of Philadelphia sits a hulking stucco-and-aluminum clad warehouse – a key destination on what has become America’s epic journey to commercial space flight. Inside it stand classrooms, training bays and 15 flight simulators, including a state-of-the-art centrifuge, like a giant clock arm set horizontal and spinning fast enough to simulate the G-forces of space flight. Its flight pod contains a mock-up altimeter, nerve-tingling surround sound speakers, a motion simulator that shakes your seat with the force of a rocket blast and an Epcot-quality video feed that shows the earth receding like a pebble in a pond behind you. More than 300 future space tourists and civilian researchers from around the world have traveled here, to the National Aerospace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center, to test their bodies and minds on this machine. Far from being a Disneyland experience on steroids, space flight will make huge physical, mental and emotional demands on these passengers. Virgin plans to drop its spaceship from the bottom of a jet at 50,000 feet. The ship will then rocket its way into sub orbit, 68 miles above earth. It will hit 2,800 miles per hour and exert up to 6 G-forces (six times each person’s weight, enough to force blood from their heads toward their feet and put them on the edge of blacking out) on the passengers’ bodies. The zero-gravity of space will be disorienting. And the plunge back to earth will be as grueling as the ride up. But according to a 2006 Survey on Public Space Travel funded by NASA, the space tourism market could churn out some $650 million in annual revenues by 2021, with an estimated 13,000 untrained space-flight passengers getting their astronaut wings each year.
Could This Baker Solve the Gluten Mystery? – (Mother Jones – February 12, 2014)
Washington State University’s agriculture research and extension facility in Mount Vernon, about an hour due north along the Puget Sound from Seattle, looks at first glance like any recently built academic edifice: that is to say, boring and austere. Inside, professors and grad students shuffle through the long halls, passing quiet offices and labs. Yet one of those labs is not like the others. In place of the vaguely chemical smell of most university labs, you get the rich, toasty aroma of fresh-baked bread. The Bread Lab is the brainchild of Washington State wheat breeder Stephen Jones, who’s also the director of the Mount Vernon research outpost. Jones believes fervently that grain breeding—the art and science of creating new varieties—has been hijacked by large seed, milling, and baking interests, giving rise to high-yielding but boring varieties geared to the mass production of crappy, and mostly white, bread. According to Jones, low-quality industrial white flours and fast-rising commercial yeasts, along with additives like vital wheat gluten—a wheat product added to give bread structure despite superfast rises—have generated a backlash against bread in the form of the “gluten-free” craze. While people with celiac disease genuinely can’t process the gluten in wheat, they argue, most people actually can. The problem is that most industrial bakeries only allow bread to rise for a matter of minutes—not nearly long enough to let the yeast and bacteria digest all the gluten in the flour, let alone the extra dose in the additives. The result can lead to all kinds of problems in the gut.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
The Man in Charge of the NSA Modeled His Office after the Bridge of the Starship Enterprise – (Zero Hedge – September 15, 2013)
Privacy: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the NSA, as it enters every computer and pries whatever data can be stolen and recorded in perpetuity. Its ongoing mission: to explore the internet and all TCP/IP packets, to seek out new emails, phone records, backdoors, webcams and bank accounts, to boldly go where no man with or without a search warrant has gone before. Before Keith Alexander was put in charge of the NSA, he was a one-star general in charge of the Army Intelligence and Security Command (AISC), the military’s worldwide network of 10,700 spies and eavesdroppers. During his tenure at the AISC, Alexander made it quite clear that he perceived himself as none other than Star Trek’s James T. Kirk, or to a lesser extent, Jean-Luc Piccard, if only based on how he decorated his “office” – called the “Information Dominance Center.” It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Article includes photos.
Where Is the Tipping Point for America’s Trust in the Military? And Are We Near It? – (Foreign Policy – February 14, 2014)
Back in 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey wondered aloud at a National Guard leadership conference why the U.S. military had scored the highest among Americans polled on what institutions they trusted most. “Maybe if I knew what it would take to screw it up, I could avoid it,” he said. The numbers haven’t wavered outside of statistical error since then. Despite highly unfavorable public opinion of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, polls by Gallup and Pew back in June showed public confidence in the military holding above 75% . The implication appears to be that no one blames the military for failing to achieve distinct victory. It leads one to wonder just what the American people will blame the military for. In the last year, the military has run some of the biggest governmental scandals this side of the fiscal cliff. This article recaps some of the higher profile ones, by service, some with links to original articles, some without. For example: A recruiting fraud scandal running up a $100 million tab.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Anatomy of the Deep State – (Bill Moyers – February 21, 2014)
There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg is the “Deep State”, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. (Editor’s note: This article is hosted on Bill Moyers’ website and was written by Mike Lofgren, with its points well supported and insightful.)
Snowden’s Lawyer Interrogated By UK Authorities at Heathrow Airport – (Techdirt – February 17, 2014)
One of the most chilling moments so far in the Snowden saga was when Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was held and interrogated for nine hours at London’s Heathrow airport by the UK authorities, in a series of moves worthy of a tinpot dictatorship. And in case you thought that was a one-off, they’ve done it again — this time, to Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer who represents Snowden and has spoken on his behalf several times. See also: Intelligence officials investigating how Edward J. Snowden gained access to a huge trove of the country’s most highly classified documents say they have determined that he used inexpensive and widely available software to “scrape” the National Security Agency’s networks.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Baltimore’s People of the Woods: Inside the Hidden Homeless Camps – (Daily Mail – February 21, 2014)
In this photo-essay, photographer Ben Marcin captures makeshift settlements near railway lines, gas stations, Wal-Marts and bridges. He said many of Baltimore’s homeless feel safer in the woods than in shelters. While most homes are made from tarps, some more elaborate constructions use milk crates and wooden doors.
David Simon: ‘There Are Now Two Americas.’ – (Guardian – December 8, 2013)
The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract. “America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity. There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America….That notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.”
This Ad Didn’t Make It to the Super Bowl – (Films for Action – January 3, 2014)
The National Congress of American Indians did not have the funds to run this ad during the Super Bowl. But it’s well worth watching.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
NASA Announces Discovery of 715 New Worlds – (UPI – February 26, 2014)
NASA says its Kepler space telescope has delivered another bonanza of distant planets, finding 715 new worlds orbiting 305 distant stars. Many of the discoveries are of multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system, according to the space agency. Nearly 95% of these planets are smaller than Neptune, a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets outside our solar system, NASA officials said. “Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then thousands, of planet candidates — but they were only candidate worlds,” said Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, who led the research team. “We’ve now developed a process to verify multiple-planet candidates in bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable bonanza of new worlds.” The latest discoveries bring the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Scientists Turn Table Salt into Compounds That Violate Textbook Rules – (GizMag – January 20, 2014)
The international team of researchers led by Artem R. Oganov, a Professor of Crystallography at Stony Brook University, predicted that taking table salt and subjecting it to high pressure in the presence of an excess of one of its constituents (either chlorine or sodium) would lead to the formation of totally unexpected compounds. In spite of salt being one of the most thoroughly studied chemical compounds out there, the researchers predicted the formation of compounds forbidden by classical chemistry, such as Na3Cl and NaCl3. Their predictions were proven by subsequent experiments. “They are ‘forbidden’ at ambient pressure, but the situation changes at high pressures,” explains Alexander Goncharov, a Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a key team member, responsible for the experimental confirmation of Zhang’s and Oganov’s predictions. “Pressure stabilizes new compounds and changes rules of chemistry we are used to at ambient pressure. These materials violate textbook chemistry at ambient pressure, but they do not violate any laws of physics, or more general chemistry rules at high pressures. The only trouble is that these more general rules still remain to be discovered.” Not only does the development challenge the theoretical foundation of chemistry, but it is also expected to lead to the discovery of new exotic chemical compounds with practical uses and shed light on the deep interiors of planets.
Tiny Swimming Bio-bots Boldly Go Where No Bot Has Swum Before (Illinois University – January 17, 2014)
The alien world of aquatic micro-organisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots. A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells near the junction of the head and the tail. The cells self-align and synchronize to beat together, sending a wave down the tail that propels the bio-bot forward. This self-organization is a remarkable emergent phenomenon, lead researcher Taher Saif said, and how the cells communicate with each other on the flexible polymer tail is yet to be fully understood. But the cells must beat together, in the right direction, for the tail to move. “The long-term vision is simple,” said Saif, “Could we make elementary structures and seed them with stem cells that would differentiate into smart structures to deliver drugs, perform minimally invasive surgery or target cancer?”
10 Insanely Scary Marketing Pranks from Around the World – (Business Insider – January 18, 2014)
Great advertisement sells something and strikes a primal emotion. Last year, advertisers from around the world became obsessed with marketing through fear. The trend of using a terrifying hidden camera prank to promote a product became so popular that it even got its own name, “prankvertising.” Most of the ads included in this list got tens of millions of views on YouTube, but their critics wondered if views actually translated into effective marketing.
Derek Muller’s “Facebook Fraud” – (You Tube – February 10, 2014)
In this video clip, Derek Muller of Veritasium gives viewers a highly informative look “behind the curtain” at the ways in which businesses can accumulate “likes” on Facebook. He demonstrates that some likes are fakes, that often ads aren’t reaching target audiences – and why. He kicks off the video with the company ”Virtual Bagel,” put up by BBC’s tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones to illustrate the fake “like” problem.
‘Pony’ Botnet Steals Bitcoins, Digital Currencies – (Reuters – February 24, 2014)
Cyber criminals have infected hundreds of thousands of computers with a virus called “Pony” to steal bitcoins and other digital currencies, in the most ambitious cyber attack on virtual money uncovered so far, according to security firm Trustwave. Trustwave said that it has evidence that the operators of a cybercrime ring known as the Pony botnet have stolen some 85 virtual “wallets” that contained bitcoins and other types of digital currencies. The firm said it did not know how much digital currency was contained in the wallets. Trustwave said it believes the crime ring is still operating, though it does not know who is running the group. The company said it has disrupted the servers that were controlling machines infected with Pony, but expects the group to launch more attacks on virtual currency users. Trustwave in December uncovered a trove of some 2 million stolen passwords to websites including Facebook Inc, Google Inc, Twitter Inc and Yahoo Inc while probing a command and control server using a less sophisticated version of the Pony malware. Trustwave said that the new version of Pony compromised another 600,000 website credentials.
Here Is the FT‘s Gold Price Manipulation Article That Was Removed – (Zero Hedge – February 25, 2014)
Recently the Financial Times released a clear, informative and fact-based article, titled simply enough “Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert” in which author Madison Marriage, citing a report by the Fideres consultancy, revealed that global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50% of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013. To those who have been following the price action of gold in the past four years, gold manipulation is not only not surprising, but accepted and widely appreciated (because, like the Chinese, those who buy gold would rather do so at artificially low rather than artificially high fiat prices) and at this point, after every other product has been exposed to be blatantly and maliciously manipulated by the banking estate, it is taken for granted that gold has not avoided a comparable fate. But the article is no longer available on the FT website. And since we can only assume the article has been lost to FT readers due to some server glitch, and not due to post-editorial censorship or certainly an angry phone call from the Bank of England or some comparable institution, we are happy to recreate it in its entirety. . . just in case someone is curious as to why “Gold Price Rigging Fears [should] Put Investors on Alert”.
A Valuable Reputation – (New Yorker – February 10, 2014)
Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a professor at UC Berkeley, discovered that atrazine may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when Hayes tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. This article in the New Yorker magazine used court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union. Atrazine is the second most widely used herbicide in the U.S., where sales are estimated at three hundred million dollars a year.
How Wolves Change Rivers – (You Tube – February 13, 2014)
When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains. NOTE: The elk shown in this video are referred to by the narrator as “deer.” This is because the narrator is British and the British word for “elk” is “red deer” or “deer” for short.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Policy: How to Regulate Fecal Transplants – (Nature – February 19, 2014)
It is just over a year since the publication of the first randomized controlled trial investigating the medical use of human feces. The 43 trial participants had recurrent Clostridium difficile infections, which cause dangerous, painful and persistent diarrhea. Those in the control groups received antibiotics alone. Those in the test group received antibiotics along with a fluid derived from filtered feces, which was delivered into the upper small intestine through nasal tubes. This small trial was stopped ahead of schedule because the fecal slurry was more than twice as effective in resolving symptoms as antibiotics alone. Non-randomized studies, with outcomes collected from hundreds of people suffering from recurrent C. difficile infections and treated with similar procedures, have had typical success rates of around 90%. Interest has surged in the past five years. In May 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public announcement that it had been regulating human feces as a drug. This classification requires physicians to submit a time-consuming Investigational New Drug (IND) application before performing the procedure. At a public meeting hosted that month by the FDA and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), patients, physicians and representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several professional medical societies voiced concern about restricting access to care for these increasingly prevalent infections. Six weeks later, the FDA revised its position and concluded that feces are not a drug.
JUST FOR FUN
Bio Optical Organized Knowledge Device – (You Tube – June 7, 2010)
Check out this great product: the Bio Optical Organized Knowledge (BOOK) device. Video clip in Spanish with English subtitles.
A FINAL QUOTE–
The only certain thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have seen furthest into it. – Eric J. Hobsbawm, British historian (1917-2012)
A special thanks to: Kevin Clark, Frank DeMarco, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Judy Gardiner, Laura George, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Debra Whiddon 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