Volume 17, Number 5 – 3/15/14

 Volume 17, Number 5 – 3/15/14


  • Genomics entrepreneur Craig Venter’s newest venture is a company that will create what it calls the most comprehensive and complete data set on human health to tackle diseases of aging.
  • Wind has overtaken nuclear as an electricity source in China.
  • Battery replacement may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a breakthrough that may allow miniature electronic devices to harvest electricity from low frequency vibrations, the most abundant and ubiquitous energy source in the surroundings.
  • The NSA has an in-house advice columnist. Seriously. Just “Ask Zelda”.

by John L. Petersen

It’s Not What We Are Being Told

I’m rather amazed about the amount of fabrication and disinformation that seems to be in every area of our lives these days. Perhaps this is a characteristic of societies and institutions under pressure – trying everything possible to maintain the status quo.

So, what I’ve collected here (all within the last two weeks), are significant articles about major issues that are being hidden, spun or fabricated in order to shape the way we all respond.

First of all, in the face of the continuing global warming alarm, it has been reported that the US is Having its coldest six month period since 1912.

In the climate change space, G. Edward Griffin posted this last week.


In the old days, when an important, late-breaking news story came into the offices of a newspaper, the editor would shout: “Stop the presses!” so the story and headline could be inserted on the front page. At least, that’s the way it was portrayed by Hollywood.

About an hour ago, I had a late-breaking idea and began shouting: “Stop the cameras!” Well, not literally. I am speaking about our upcoming documentary, Racing with the Sun, dealing with hardening the power grid against solar storms. Frankly, it’s been tough to convince people that this is really a pressing issue or that there is something that can be done about it. I know we can make a strong case for both of those points in the documentary, but it’s difficult getting financial support to produce the program without first making the case – so that is the Catch-22 that now confronts us.

Back to the late-breaking idea. This afternoon, I took a book from my to-read stack and snuck off to Coffee Bean to have a blended mocha, which sometimes is the only way I can carve out a little bit of time for serious reading. The book was Solar Storms; How the Sun Shaped The Past, by Lawrence Joseph.

As the title suggests, this book shows the profound effect that cycles in solar-flare activity have had on human history. As solar activity increased, so did the temperature of the planet. As solar activity decreased, the planet cooled down again – totally logical and amply supported by the geological record.

To my delight, Joseph documented the fact that the current period of warming (which, incidentally, has just about ended) is merely a repeat of warming and cooling cycles going back thousands of years and has nothing to do with human activity. Nothing!

Fortunately, he doesn’t stop there. He shows how the famous hockey-stick graph presented in the late 1990s by geoscientist Michael Mann at the University of Massachusetts (and used to great effect by Al Gore in his film, An Inconvenient Truth) was a scientific fraud – and the details are fascinating. Here are two examples:

(1) It was discovered by two scientists from Canada, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, that the computer program used to create the hockey-stick graph produces a similar result from almost any data fed into it. In the world of statistical analysis, there is a standard routine called the Monte Carlo Test that uses random data with no trends whatsoever to confirm that a computer model has no built-in errors or biases. If all is well, the Monte Carlo Test will produce zero trends. When McIntyre and McKitrick ran the test on Mann’s computer model, out popped a hockey-stick graph just like the one for global temperatures. Conclusion: The computer model was rigged.

(2) The time span for the data used in this study was approximately a thousand years, an absurdly short period when sampling the Earth’s climate history. Data was available for a longer period, so why did Mann stop at a mere 1,000 years? The answer is that, when the period is extended just two-hundred years further into the past, lo and behold, another hockey stick appears at the other end! It’s what is known as the Medieval Warming Period. Conclusion: Politically motivated scientific deception!

This doesn’t mean that global temperature didn’t rise in the last 100 years, because it did. It just means that the increase is not a unique event and was much less than what it appears to be on the graphs. The hockey stick is a grossly exaggerated representation to dramatize a miniscule effect and frighten people into thinking that, with such severe increases in temperature, the end of the world must be near – unless, of course, we accept carbon taxes and more government control over industry and lifestyle.

We published most of this information in Unfiltered News at the time it first became known, but Joseph’s book brought it all back to mind, and it dawned on me that this should be included in our documentary, Racing with The Sun. We didn’t start out to critique the theory of man-made global warming, but this afternoon it became clear that this is exactly what will happen if we tell the whole story of solar cycles.

So this is an important addition to Racing with the Sun. The expanded story now includes three parts. The first is a look into the past at how solar storms have influenced the course of civilization. It includes shifts in migration and agriculture, the evolution of cultures, and the development of nations, all related to climate change from cycles in solar-storm activity. The second part is a look into the future to examine how these effects will continue to influence the direction of civilization. Whether or not that direction will be to our liking depends to a large extent on how we respond to the information presented in part three, which relates to the effect of solar pulses on power grids.

The electronic infrastructure of the modern world is a new phenomenon in history. It hasn’t yet been tested by large-scale solar storms, which have occurred as recently as a hundred years ago. The grid didn’t exist at that time but, if it had, engineers say it would not have survived. When the next one will arrive is unknown, but one thing is certain: we are not ready for it. Unless steps are taken to protect transformers and control systems, the grid WILL be knocked out by the next large-scale storm.

The technology exists to harden the system for about twenty cents per household per year, so cost is not the problem. The problem lies in the lack of unity and coordination among power companies and political bodies. The purpose of Racing with the Sun is to bring public awareness to bear on this issue and, thereby, energize utilities and governments into speedy action.

I need your help to produce this documentary. Become part of this historic project.

It’s a chance to expose the politically motivated myth of global warming and, just perhaps, to head off the collapse of civilization ˗ both with the same shot.

G. Edward Griffin — For more information, click here.

The ability to proliferate these manipulated ideas is just about to spread much faster (and without your control or influence), in the near future.

Scientists demonstrate first contagious airborne WiFi virus
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have shown for the first time that WiFi networks can be infected with a virus that can move through densely populated areas as efficiently as the common cold spreads between humans.

The team designed and simulated an attack by a virus, called “Chameleon”, and found that not only could it spread quickly between homes and businesses, but it was able to avoid detection and identify the points at which WiFi access is least protected by encryption and passwords. Read more

We found out this week that the NSA Can Swallow a “Nation’s Telephone Network Whole”. Read about this and ask yourself – is the unnamed country the U.S.?

Emblem of the MYSTIC program on a cover slide from a weekly briefing slide deck from the NSA’s Special Source Operations team

The National Security Agency has the ability to record every single phone call made in an unnamed foreign country and can rewind and revisit those calls up to a month later, The Washington Post revealed Tuesday.

Citing “people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden,” reporters Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani outline the NSA’s “MYSTIC” voice interception program and its RETRO (retrospective retrieval) tool, which was first used against a country in 2011.

“In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary,” according to The Washington Post.

While the report’s authors did not disclose which country this occurred in, at the request of the NSA, they note that documents indicate “similar operations elsewhere.”

“No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole,” note the authors. (read more)

Remember the President and NSA saying that they only collect metadata and that they were not collecting your private communications? Well, now Researchers Confirm: When NSA Watches Your Metadata, It Is Watching You

Stanford researchers prove what civil liberties advocates have warned since NSA scandal broke.

Sarah Lazare, writer for Common Dreams says:

Photo: Vasile Cotovanu / Flickr Creative Commons

Stanford University researchers have confirmed what civil liberties advocates have warned since the NSA scandal broke: metadata surveillance is a window to highly sensitive personal information, including medical issues, financial history, and even marijuana cultivation.

Two Stanford graduate students proved this by doing the snooping themselves. Since November, they have surveyed the phone records of 546 volunteers and consulted Yelp and Google Places directories to determine how much sensitive personal information metadata can reveal. Participants installed a “MetaPhone” app on their Android phones to enable the surveillance.

“The degree of sensitivity among contacts took us aback,” wrote researchers Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler in an announcement of their findings published Wednesday. “We found that phone metadata is unambiguously sensitive, even in a small population and over a short time window.”

. . . As the researchers point out, this study directly contradicts the repeated assurance by President Obama that the NSA “is not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.”

They warn that the metadata they had access to is dwarfed by what the amount the NSA has access to. “The dataset that we analyzed in this report spanned hundreds of users over several months. Phone records held by the NSA and telecoms span millions of Americans over multiple years.”

And then, have you heard everything that our press and government has said about what has happened in Ukraine? It turns out that almost all of it is demonstrably false. Start with this from Common Dreams:

The Siege of Sevastopol Threatens War
by Howard Friel

Naval ships of Ukraine in Sevastopol, 2007. (wikimedia/creative commons)

A U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) “Resource Summary” for Fiscal Year 2013 says this about its policy toward Europe in 2013: The objective of the Endowment in most of the countries where it is active in the Europe region is “helping new democracies to succeed.” For Eastern and Southeastern Europe, this goal is best met through these countries’ accession to the European Union and NATO (italics added).

In the same paragraph, the NED lists Ukraine as its first priority in Europe as follows: “In the Europe region, the 2013 priority countries will include Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo.”

Likewise, a U.S. State Department “Budget Summary” for Fiscal Year 2013 says this about Ukraine:

U.S. assistance aims to promote the development of a democratic, prosperous, and secure Ukraine, fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community as it struggles to overcome the effects of the global financial crisis and worsening backsliding on democratic reform (italics added).

Given that the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol, Crimea, which as of now is part of Ukraine, my question is: How does the Obama administration expect Russia to respond to the U.S.-led effort to “integrate” Ukraine, including the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, into the NATO military alliance? Isn’t this where the provocation lies? Why not avert a military showdown with Russia, which is reportedly massing troops near Crimea, and thus avoid the risk of major war, by letting the citizens of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea decide whether to secede from Ukraine, just as the U.S. supported the will of the people in Kosovo to secede from Serbia in 2008?

Of course, the Russians have had a treaty in place with Ukraine for some time now to allow them to use the Sevastopol harbor . . . and to base 20,000 of their troops there. Those are the same troops who were supposed to have “invaded” the Crimea.

So, I ask you, if 89% of a population comes out to vote and 97% of them decide something (like becoming independent of Ukraine and joining with Russia), how is that an illegitimate election? No shots fired. No troops in the streets. Just an election where everyone is essentially unanimous in desiring change. Well, the western powers seem to think that something bad has happened.

Here’s the best overall summary of that whole situation that I found:

Global Research News, March 18, 2014

Ukraine and the Referendum in Crimea

Crimeans decided to join Russia. According to international observers, the referendum held last Sunday was open, free and fair. The mainstream media, however, presents another narrative. For Obama, Crimea Self-Determination Constitutes a “Threat To US National Security”. To know what is really going in Ukraine and Crimea, read the following articles.

Crimeans Choose Russia –  Stephen Lendman

An astonishing 96.77% chose Russia – 95.6% of Sevastopol voters. Results show Crimeans overwhelmingly reject Kiev putschists. Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars agree. Claims otherwise are false.

Ukraine Protests Carefully Orchestrated: The Role of CANVAS, US-Financed Color Revolution Training Group – F. William Engdahl Ukrainians have found evidence of direct involvement of the Belgrade US-financed training group, CANVAS behind the carefully-orchestrated Kiev protests.

Obama Declares a National Emergency: Crimea Self-Determination Constitutes a Threat To US National Security – Paul Craig Roberts

In his March 6 Executive Order, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine,” Obama declares that support for Crimean self-determination constitutes “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”

Double Standards and Hypocrisy: Where are the Sanctions against the West? Iskandar Arfaoui

As the US and the European Union impose sanctions on 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine for helping the people of Crimea to make a democratic choice, one specific question arises – where were all the sanctions when the West was carrying out genuinely illegal wars and interventions that resulted in destruction and thousands of innocent civilians being killed?

Media Disinformation

There is a lot the western mainstream media won’t tell you. In turn, what it tells you is more than often pure propaganda. As we have seen with the war on Iraq, the corporate media is pro-war and pro-empire. To get your facts straight, take a peek at our latest articles on the subject.

Information, Disinformation and the Credibility Crisis. Where is the Truth in Today’s News Reporting?
Joachim Hagopian

Where is the truth in news reporting today? A large percentage of the American population no longer trusts mainstream news outlets either on television or in print.

What the Western Media Won’t Tell You: Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians Also Voted to Join Russia –  Michel Chossudovsky

Contrary to the reports of 135  international observers from 23 countries, the Western media in chorus has suggested without a shred of evidence that the elections were rigged and that Crimea was under Russian military occupation.

A Distorted Lens Justifying An Illegitimate Ukrainian Government – Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Why does Western media ignore critical information about the snipers that killed Euromaidan protesters in Ukraine? Support it or oppose it, a coup d’état took place in Kiev after an EU-brokered agreement was signed by the Ukrainian government and the mainstream opposition on Feb. 21.

Pro-War and Pro-Empire: Media’s Reporting on Ukraine as Terrible as It Was on Iraq – Washington’s Blog

After giving mea culpas for horrible Iraq coverage, the media does the exact same thing on Ukraine. We noted last year that the American media was doing the exact same thing in Syria. In reality, it’s not just Iraq or Syria… the corporate media is always pro-war, and pro-empire.

And finally, here’s a simple explanation of what’s happening in those drone strikes that the U.S. rains down on unsuspecting foreigners (and Americans).

Drone Wars Made Simple
Obama’s drone wars have killed more than 2400 civilians in countries that pose no threat to us and with whom we are not at war, and continue to mock international law and the U.S. constitution.

Among those targeted and killed have been United States citizens.

Before the 2012 election, Obama told John Stewart of The Daily Show: “One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president is reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making.” (read more)



Collective Consciousness: Consciousness Technology in a Radical New App – (Indigogo – no date)
Collective Consciousness is a free mobile app designed to be an exploration of the nature consciousness and reality, and the possibilities of collective consciousness. With this app, you can: see if your mind has any influence on your environment; participate in large-scale consciousness experiments; and help build a platform for developers and artists utilize this possible “consciousness technology” in their own projects, and even tap in to global consciousness data in real time to do cool new stuff. The purpose is to promote deeper thinking about consciousness, explore the boundaries between mind and reality through experiments, and help expand our technological horizon. We’re not aiming to prove anything; this is a fun and interesting project delving into a subject that millions of people care about. But what we find may impact our society by giving us a better understanding of what it means to say “we’re all connected.”


Out of Siberian Ice, a Virus Revived – (New York Times – March 3, 2014)
Siberia fills the heads of scientists with dreams of resurrection. For millions of years, its tundra has gradually turned to permafrost, entombing animals and other organisms in ice. Some of their remains are exquisitely well preserved — so well, in fact, that some scientists have nibbled on the meat of woolly mammoths. in 2012, Russian scientists reported coaxing a seed buried in the permafrost for 32,000 years to sprout into a flower. Now a team of French and Russian researchers has performed a resurrection of a more sinister nature. From Siberian permafrost more than 30,000 years old, they have revived a virus that’s new to science. The thawed virus, which infects amoebae, is not a threat to humans. But if the new study holds up to scrutiny, it raises the possibility that disease-causing viruses may also be lurking in the permafrost. Measuring 1.5 micrometers long, the viruses are 25% bigger than any virus previously found. “Sixty percent of its gene content doesn’t resemble anything on earth,” said Dr. Abergel, one of the discoverers.

Physicists Ask: “Is Gravity an Illusion?” – (Daily Galaxy – March 03, 2014)
After an interesting video interview with Alfonso Cuaron, the Oscar-winning director of Gravity, this article continues on a more scientific note. In January 2010, Erik Verlinde, professor ofTheoretical Physics and world-renowned string theorist, caused a worldwide stir with the publication of On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton, in which he challenged commonly held perceptions on gravity, going so far as to state ‘for me gravity doesn’t exist’. If he is proved correct, the consequences for our understanding of the universe and its origins in a Big Bang will be far-reaching. “We have other phenomena in Physics like this,” Verlinde continued. “Take a concept like ‘temperature’, for instance. We experience it every day. We can feel temperature. But, if you really think about the microscopic molecules, there’s no notion of temperature there. It’s something that has to do with the property of all molecules together; it’s like the average energy per molecule.” To Verlinde, gravity is similar. It’s something that only appears when you put many things together at a microscopic scale and then you suddenly see that certain equations arise. (Editor’s note: This is the first readily understandable explanation we have found of the concept of “gravity doesn’t exist” and we highly recommend the article.)


These Glasses Help Surgeons Spot Cancer – (SmartPlanet – February 11, 2014)
The future of wearable technology is “all about creating the superhuman.” Of course, the ultimate superhuman would be free of cancer. We’re obviously nowhere near that reality yet. But we’re a little bit closer. For the first time, a surgeon has used special glasses to distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells in a patient during surgery to remove cancer cells. Samuel Achilefu, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, developed technology that causes cancer cells as small as one millimeter in diameter to glow blue when viewed through the glasses. The glasses are not going to stop cancer, but they can at least make the treatment process a little more effective and efficient.

Miniaturized Hearing Aids That Will Fit Into the Ear Canal – (KurzweilAI – February 17, 2014)
Fraunhofer IZM researchers are developing a miniature, low-power wireless microsystem to make hearing aids so small they can be concealed out of sight within the ear. The technology is also suitable for implants, pacemakers, and insulin pumps. This all means that the system uses only a fraction of the energy required by conventional devices, keeping cumbersome battery changes to a minimum. “Ideally, patients should not even be feeling of wearing the hearing aid over long periods of time,” says Dr. Dionysios Manessis from Fraunhofer Institute of Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin. With dimensions of just 4 mm by 4mm by 1 mm, the new microsystem is fifty times smaller than the current models. To achieve this, the project partners first developed especially small components such as innovative miniature antennas, system-on-chip integrated circuitry and high frequency filters, then integrated the 19 discrete components in a single module, using a modular 3D stacking concept that saves extra space.

‘Living Drug’ Kills Leukemia in 88% of Patients – (AFP – February 20, 2014)
A new approach to killing cancer cells that uses a patient’s own immune system has beaten back leukemia in 88% of adults, US researchers said. The latest trial, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, involved 16 people with a kind of blood cancer known as adult B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Some 1,400 people die of ALL in the United States each year, and while it is among the most treatable cancers, patients often become resistant to chemotherapy and eventually relapse. For this study, 14 of 16 adult patients achieved complete remission after their T cells were genetically engineered so that they could focus on eradicating cancer. The process involves removing some of the patient’s T-cells and altering them with a gene to make them recognize a protein, known as CD19, on the cancer cells, so that they can attack them. Left to their own devices, T cells can attack other harmful invaders in the body but will allow cancer to grow uninterrupted. “Basically, what we do is re-educate the T cell in the laboratory with gene therapy to recognize and now kill tumor cells,” said lead author Renier Brentjens, director of cellular therapeutics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The longest remission among the patients so far is about two years, and that person is still going strong.

Microbes and Metabolites Fuel an Ambitious Aging Project – (Technology Review – March 11, 2014)
Genomics entrepreneur Craig Venter has announced his latest venture: a company that will create what it calls the most comprehensive and complete data set on human health to tackle diseases of aging. Human Longevity, based in San Diego, says it will sequence some 40,000 human genomes per year to start, using Illumina’s new high-throughput sequencing machines. Eventually, it plans to work its way up to 100,000 genomes per year. The company will also sequence the genomes of the body’s multitudes of microbial inhabitants, called the microbiome, and analyze the thousands of metabolites that can be found in blood and other patient samples. By combining these disparate types of data, the new company hopes to make inroads into the enigmatic process of aging and the many diseases, including cancer and heart disease, that are strongly associated with it. The key is to go beyond genome sequencing by looking at gene activity and changes in the array of proteins and other molecules found in patient samples.


Toxins from Oil Spills Are Putting Fish into Cardiac Arrest – (Nation of Change – February 16, 2014)
Attempting to draw attention to marine animals exposed to the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, scientists from both Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have released a study showing that oil spills are causing death-by-cardiac arrest in tunas and other types of fish. The study says chemicals in crude oil — such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — can be harmful to the hearts of embryonic and developing fish. PAHs are created when products like coal, oil, gas, and garbage are burned but the burning process is not complete, according to the EPA. Even after an oil spill occurs and is cleaned up, PAHs can remain marine habitats for many years, according to the study. The PAHs in the oil block key processes in living organisms’ cardiac cells, according to Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences at Stanford. The scientists at Stanford and NOAA took in vitro preparations of living cardiac cells taken from the hearts of tuna, and bathed those cells in crude oil at a level similar to what fish in early life stages may have encountered after the oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has also been linked to other abnormalities in marine life. Dolphins living in an area hit hard by the spill are now suffering from lung damage and hormonal levels that are lower than in any other recorded dolphin population, a study from NOAA found in December.

Sun Scientists Debate Whether Solar Lull Could Trigger Another ‘Little Ice Age’ – (Huffington Post – January 24, 2014)
Some scientists say we could be headed for another “Little Ice Age,” given how eerily calm the sun has been in recent years. The sun goes through cycles that last roughly 11 years, marked by the ebb and flow of sunspots on its surface. At peak sunspot activity, the so-called solar maximum, the sun sports lots of sunspots and is steadily unleashing solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Since our current solar cycle, Number 24, kicked off in 2008, the number of sunspots observed has been half of what heliophysicists expected.“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Dr. Richard Harrison, head of space physics at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England, told the BBC. “If you want to go back to see when the sun was this inactive in terms of the minimum we’ve just had and the peak that we have now, you’ve got to go back about 100 years.” Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics at the University of Reading in the U.K., estimated that we have up to a one-in-five chance of being in Maunder Minimum (mini-ice age) conditions in 40 years. However, as of now, the sun does not appear to be “going quietly into that good night”; see Sun Erupts with Huge X-Class Flare, Biggest of 2014. And, as recently reported in the Wall St. Journal, insurance companies believe that a “Catastrophic Solar Storm Is Inevitable”.


IBM Sets New Speed Record for Big Data – (KurzweilAI – February 15, 2014)
IBM has announced it has achieved a new data-transmission advancement that will help improve Internet backbone speeds to 200 — 400 gigabits per second (Gb/s) at extremely low power. The speed boost is based on a new lab prototype chip design that can be used to improve transfer of Big Data between clouds and data centers via fiber four times faster than current technology allows. As Big Data and Internet data traffic continue to grow exponentially, future networking standards have to support higher data rates. For example, in 1992, 100 gigabytes of data was transferred per day; today, traffic has grown to two exabytes per day, a 20-million-fold increase. To support the increase in traffic, scientists at IBM Research and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have been developing ultra-fast, energy-efficient, analog-to-digital converter (ADC) technology to enable transmission across long-distance fiber channels. For example, scientists plan to use ADCs to convert the analog radio signals that originate from the cosmos to digital. It’s part of a collaboration called DOME between ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, DOME-South Africa, and IBM to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Who Holds the Seven Keys to the Internet? – (Guardian – February 28, 2014)
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: Seven smart cards control one master cryptographic key that can reset or shut down the internet.  They are  held by individuals from all over the world, and together they control security at the core of the web.  The idea behind this is to make it impossible for any one person, company, or government to control the internet. A private ceremony at the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) headquarters takes place every three months at which the keys are renewed.  ICANN manages the Domain Name System (DNS). This video clip describes it roughly. See also: Information for the ICANN KSK Ceremony XVI held on February 13 and 14, 2014. See here for a more detailed explanation.


Tamedia Office Building – (ArcSpace – January 16, 2014)
The use of wood in multi-storey buildings is an art form almost completely buried a hundred years ago. Reinforced concrete structures became the norm worldwide. In recent years, however, the sustainability debate has brought a renaissance to wood and an interest in large, urban, wooden structures has awakened. Shigeru Ban, well-known for his use of paper and paperboard, has built an office building in Zurich made entirely of wood, or to be more precise 2,000 cubic meters of Austrian spruce. The height of seven floors and the mansard roof shape respects the neighborhood perimeter block and the peculiarities of the district. The building, in the heart of the city, houses the headquarters of the group and a radio studio. Inaugurated in July 2013, it is the first building to be designed by Ban in Switzerland. Article includes numerous photographs.

Collapsible Woven Refugee Shelters Powered by the Sun – (Green Prophet – March 6, 2014)
More than 40 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes and left to find shelter in strange lands. Maybe they find a tarp, or a tent, but their quality of life almost always remains dismal. To close this gap in need, Jordanian-Canadian architect and designer Abeer Seikaly designed a new kind of shelter: one that allows refugees to rebuild their lives with dignity. Seikaly, now living in Amman, Jordan is well poised to design a dwelling for refugees given that her ancestors in Jordan probably toggled between nomadic and sheltered life in the desert for centuries. Comprised of a structural woven fabric that “blurs the distinction between structure and fabric,” the shelter expands to create a private enclosure and contracts “for mobility.” It also comes with some fundamental amenities required by modern people, including water and renewable electricity. The outer solar-powered skin absorbs solar energy that is then converted into usable electricity, while the inner skin provides pockets for storage – particularly at the lower half of the shelters. And a water storage tank on the top of the tent allows people to take quick showers. Water rises to the storage tank via a thermosiphoning system and a drainage system ensures that the tent is not flooded. These shelters are visually elegant and climate-adaptable. See article for photos. For more detailed information on construction, see the designer’s website.


RWE Posts First Annual Net Loss in Over 60 Years – (BBC News – March 4, 2014)
Germany’s biggest energy company, RWE, has posted its first annual net loss in more than 60 years. The electricity and gas firm was hit by an expansion in solar and wind capacity that undercut the profitability of its power plants in Europe. RWE made a net loss of 2.76bn euros in 2013, compared with a profit of 1.31bn euros in the previous year. The company last posted a net loss in 1949. It said it expects the next few years to be lean. “Our power plants will earn even less in the coming years than we had feared,” said chief executive Peter Terium. (Editor’s note: The economic tension in the developed countries between environmentally green renewables which promote energy independence at the national level and large power companies is just beginning. Much of that tension is going to be resolved by the government regulators of utility companies.  Exactly how these issues will be resolved – with a great deal of profit at stake – remains to be seen.)

Solar-induced Hybrid Fuel Cell Produces Electricity Directly from Biomass – (Solar Daily – February 20, 2014)
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new type of low-temperature fuel cell that directly converts biomass to electricity with assistance from a catalyst activated by solar or thermal energy. The hybrid fuel cell can use a wide variety of biomass sources, including starch, cellulose, lignin – and even switchgrass, powdered wood, algae and waste from poultry processing. The device could be used in small-scale units to provide electricity for developing nations, as well as for larger facilities to provide power where significant quantities of biomass are available. In the new system, the biomass is ground up and mixed with a polyoxometalate (POM) catalyst in solution and then exposed to light from the sun – or heat. A photochemical and thermochemical catalyst, POM functions as both an oxidation agent and a charge carrier. The POM oxidizes the biomass under photo or thermal irradiation, and delivers the charges from the biomass to the fuel cell’s anode. The electrons are then transported to the cathode, where they are finally oxidized by oxygen through an external circuit to produce electricity. “This is a very generic approach to utilizing many kinds of biomass and organic waste to produce electrical power without the need for purification of the starting materials,” said Yulin Deng, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology.

Using Vibrations to Power Microelectronics – (Asian Scientist – February 12, 2014)
Battery replacement may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a breakthrough that may allow miniature electronic devices to harvest electricity from low frequency vibrations, the most abundant and ubiquitous energy source in the surroundings. The energy harvester, developed by researchers at Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME), has the ability to continuously convert the vibrations – across a wide frequency range in different environments – into electricity. This breakthrough presents a green, economical and sustainable long-term solution to eliminate the manual re-charging or replacement of power sources in miniature devices. The aluminum nitride-based energy harvester is capable of generating electricity equivalent to three commercial implantable batteries over a 10-year period. Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of IME, said, “This breakthrough presents tremendous opportunities to realize a practical, sustainable and efficient energy renewal model with attractive small-form factor, low cost solution for a wide range of applications from implantable medical devices, wireless communication and sensor networks, to other mobile electronics.”

Wind Surpasses Nuclear in China – (Earth Policy Institute – February 19, 2014)
Wind has overtaken nuclear as an electricity source in China. In 2012, wind farms generated 2% more electricity than nuclear power plants did, a gap that will likely widen dramatically over the next few years as wind surges ahead. Since 2007, nuclear power generation has risen by 10% annually, compared with wind’s explosive growth of 80% per year. Before the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, China had 10,200 megawatts of installed nuclear capacity. With 28,000 megawatts then under construction at 29 nuclear reactors—19 of which had begun construction since 2009—officials were confident China would reach 40,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2015 and perhaps 100,000 megawatts by 2020. The government’s response to the Fukushima disaster, however, was to suspend new reactor approvals and conduct a safety review of plants in operation and under construction. When authorities finally lifted the moratorium on approvals in October 2012, it was with the stipulation that going forward only “Generation-III” models that meet stricter safety standards would be approved. China has no experience in operating these more advanced models; several of the Generation-III reactors it has currently under construction are already facing delays due to post-Fukushima design changes or supply chain issues.


Nissan Readies Smart Rear Vision Combining Mirror, LCD and Image Processing – (GizMag – March 1, 2014)
Nissan has announced the commercialization of a new type of driver rear visibility system that integrates a wide-aspect, hi-res LCD monitor (rear-facing camera display) with image processing into the traditional rearview mirror. With the system switchable between mirror and LCD modes, the big advantage of the “smart” mirror is that in LCD mode, it can provide an unobstructed rear view without blind spots, and an enhanced picture in difficult conditions. In conditions where glare is a problem, such as dawn, dusk and with a tailing car with headlights on high beam, the image processing software can provide a clearer picture by modifying the image. Similarly, in low contrast situations such as rain and snow, the image processing also provides clearer visual information to the driver, as well as overcoming the issues of a wet, clouded or dirty rear window. Nissan plans to introduce the Smart rearview mirror to the Japanese market as an option over the next few months, with a global roll-out planned for 2015.

World’s Largest Aircraft Unveiled – (Telegraph – February 28, 2014)
The world’s largest aircraft, which can stay airborne for up to three weeks and will be vital in delivering several tons of humanitarian aid as well as transporting heavy freight across the world, has been unveiled. The 300ft ship is part plane, airship and helicopter, and there are plans to eventually use it to transport hundreds of tons of freight across difficult terrain throughout the world as well as deliver aid to risky areas. It is environmentally friendly, being part airship filled with inert helium, and will also be used for surveillance and communications. Developers hope to make more of the ‘green vehicles’ which they hope to make capable of taking off from land, water, desert, ice and fields. Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd (HAV), which created the hybrid craft, said they expect there to be as many airships as helicopters in the sky in years to come as they provide an environmentally friendly and efficient solution to transporting dozens of tonnes of freight and reaching hard to access areas. The company also expects to create ‘luxury’ hybrids, with infinity pools stretching across hundreds of feet, and planes being used for things like safaris and whale watching because they run on often just one engine so are quieter than traditional vehicles and can access hard to reach areas.


Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers – (New York Times – February 16, 2014)
A giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field in California’s agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water. It is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping an abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface. Financed by the Panoche Water District with state funds, the $1 million solar thermal desalinization plant is removing impurities from drainage water at half the cost of traditional desalinization, according to Aaron Mandell, a founder of WaterFX. If the technology proves commercially viable — a larger plant is to be built this year — it could offer some relief to the West’s long-running water wars. WaterFX faces a daunting and urgent task. The water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills, and is so polluted that it must be constantly drained to keep it from poisoning crops.

Build a $300 Underground Greenhouse for Year-round Gardening – (Tree Hugger – February 22, 2013)
Growers in colder climates often utilize various approaches to extend the growing season or to give their crops a boost, whether it’s coldframes, hoop houses or greenhouses. Greenhouses are usually glazed structures, but are typically expensive to construct and heat throughout the winter. A much more affordable and effective alternative to glass greenhouses is the walipini (an Aymara Indian word for a “place of warmth”), also known as an underground or pit greenhouse. First developed over 20 years ago for the cold mountainous regions of South America, this method allows growers to maintain a productive garden year-round, even in the coldest of climates. This article includes a video tour of a walipini that even incorporates a bit of interior space for goats.


Lying to Survive at the Air Force Academy: An Open Letter to Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson – (TruthOut – February 15, 2014)
The letter reprinted in this article was written by a client of the Military Religious Freedom Association to Lt. Gen Michelle Johnston at the United States Air Force Academy: In our world here at the Air Force Academy, having the indispensable odor of a practicing, “all in”, committed Christian among our peers and superiors means being accepted as one of the pack.  With that “in” smell, no one bothers us, tries to convert us, questions our honor, our commitment to service, our motives—we are generally left to our own devices, studying, practicing, flying, athletics and marching. Frequently, though, and to our disgust, we feel forced to embrace the odor; to “roll in it.”  If we question or run away or attempt to fight back, then the pack circles and strikes.  Some cadets decide to fight, but that doesn’t last long.  They’re branded as not having “character” or ethical standards.  Our dream is to succeed and excel and prepare to serve once we escape the Academy’s South Gate entrance’s gravity permanently.  We deeply fear that word of our not belonging to the great pack (or even suspicion thereof) will follow us after the Thunderbirds roar overhead at our graduation and that friends and leaders of USAFA’s pack will be all too ready to poison our futures, wherever we go. We’ve seen it happen.  Over and over again.

The Military Is Leaving the Missing Behind – (Nation of Change – March 7, 2014)
When the military couldn’t identify a set of remains in the years after WWII, it put all the documentation it had assembled—where the body was found, skeletal details and dental charts—into a file assigned an X-number to stand in for a name. This is the story of one man’s unrelenting search for his cousin’s remains – and all of the military’s bureaucratic roadblocks that have consistently, one might almost say intentionally, hampered him.


Just How Easy Is It for the President to Kill an American Citizen? – (The Nation – February 18, 2014)
Terrorism (ter-ror-ism; see also terror) n. 1. When a foreign organization kills an American for political reasons. Justice (jus-tice) n. 1. When the United States government uses a drone to kill an American for political reasons. It’s still possible to remember, almost nostalgically, how the Fifth Amendment used to guarantee Americans due process. If you were plotting to kill an American over coffee, you could end up in jail on a whole range of charges including—depending on the situation—terrorism. However, if the president’s doing the killing, it’s all nice and—let’s put those quote marks around it—“legal.” How do we know? Because the Justice Department says so. And that’s justice enough in post-constitutional America. Through what seems to have been an Obama administration leak to the Associated Press, we recently learned that the president and his top officials believe a US citizen—name unknown to us out here—probably somewhere in the tribal backlands of Pakistan, is reputedly planning attacks against Americans abroad. As a result, the White House has, for the last several months, been considering whether or not to assassinate him by drone without trial or due process.

The C.I.A. Torture Cover-up – (New York Times – March 11, 2014)
It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now the leader of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress. On Tuesday, the C.I.A. director, John Brennan, denied hacking into the committee’s computers. But Ms. Feinstein said that in January, Mr. Brennan acknowledged that the agency had conducted a “search” of the computers. She said the C.I.A.’s inspector general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. “Besides the constitutional implications,” of separation of powers, she said, “the C.I.A.’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.” Ms. Feinstein’s speech detailed the lengths to which the C.I.A. had gone to hinder the committee’s investigation, which it began in 2009 after senators learned the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations under President George W. Bush. Under President Obama, prosecutors exonerated the officials who ordered those tapes destroyed. See also: CIA Spies On Senate Intelligence Committee In Effort to Block Senate Report On Disastrous CIA Torture Program.

Predictable Backlash: Pentagon Now Fears Drones Being Used against US – (TruthOut – March 06, 2014)
The defense industry dreams of genies. That’s because it is really hard to get the genie back into bottle after you let it loose. Really, the only option after releasing a genie is to invent new, expensive ways to combat it. But that’s the nature of war-based economies. They depend upon running in arms races. Once the starting gun is fired, science and technology and huge amounts of tax revenue are marshaled into a hamster wheel-like sprint to stay ahead of everyone else. It is a perpetual machine unlike any other. And it’s a machine that’s becoming more and more automated, autonomous and pervasive with the advent of drones. The Army’s new search for “anti-drone” technology is the logical next step in what is sure to be a long-lived and highly profitable new arms race for the 21stCentury. According to the website Defense Systems, the Army has “issued a sources sought notice for information that can help in developing an affordable Counter Unmanned Aerial System (CUAS).” Why? Because, as the solicitation notes, “U.S. forces will be increasingly threatened by reconnaissance and armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the near and far future.” Near and far?


A Campaign That Is Gathering Weight – (Economist – February 11, 2014)
Once derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.” See also: The Red Cross has suspended aid to displaced Palestinians, because the Israeli government was confiscating the goods.


NASA Conspiracy – UFO Sightings & Alien Structures – (You Tube – March 6, 2014)
Is it possible that there could be an entirely different history of human spaceflight than what the public generally believes? This presentation initially covers the bizarre encounters between Apollo 10 and the eerie “Music” heard behind the far side of the Moon, as well as the tracking of multiple UFOs that follow the Apollo 10 spacecraft and appear under intelligent control. The film also explores the possibility that NASA has known for some time about an extraterrestrial presence on the Moon and Mars – and the ancient structures and artifacts they’ve left behind. Images and video footage from lunar and martian spacecraft reveal tantalizing evidence of unusual structural and vehicular objects on and around other worlds. A strange, unidentified craft seen by both Apollo 10 and Apollo 11, as well as vector and velocity changing UFOs seen by the ISS, are also presented. (Editor’s note: The NASA footage, as far as we can tell, is authentic – and, at a minimum, interesting.)


US Prison System Resembling Huge Geriatrics Ward – (Nation of Change – March 1, 2014)
Due to unhealthy conditions prior to and during prison terms, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) considers inmates over the age of 50 to be “aging”. By this calculation, there are some 246,600 elderly inmates in state and federal joints, a number that is expected to jump to nearly 400,000 by the year 2030, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A Human Rights Watch report entitled ‘Old Behind Bars’ says the number of prisoners aged 55 and older nearly quadrupled between 1995 and 2010, marking a 218% increase in just 15 years. “Tough on crime” laws of the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a surge of decades-long sentences for crimes that hitherto carried no more than 10 to 15 years of jail time. Whatever the reasons, experts are agreed that the cost of imprisoning anyone over the age of 50 is astronomical. An ACLU report entitled ‘At America’s Expense’ found that, while it cost just 34,135 dollars a year to house the average prisoner, elderly inmates incurred almost double the expenses, reaching 69,000 dollars per prisoner annually.


The Flying Phantom: US$40k Sailboat Levitates Two Feet above the Waves – (GizMag – March 9,2014)
Sailing types can now buy themselves a racing catamaran that breaks free from the drag and discomfort of the water. The Flying Phantom mimics the hydrofoiling action demonstrated by the 2013 America’s Cup field by rising up on two J-shaped wings at speed until both hulls are a good two feet out of the water. “The main speed limits of a catamaran are the length of the hull, the wetted surface, and the pitch poling as you push it too hard,” explains Phantom’s Nicolas Felix. “When you’re foiling and the hulls aren’t dragging in the water, you can get nearly limitless performance. On a regular boat, you’re always fighting to gain a tenth of a knot, fighting against the friction of the water and the pitching of the waves. When you take off, the drag just disappears and there’s pure silence. Every puff of wind is transformed directly into acceleration.” Hydrofoiling is not new in the sailing world, “flying” boats have held the outright sailing speed records for more than a decade, and the current champ “Vestas Sailrocket II” smashed out a truly scary 65.45 knots back in 2012. But the Flying Phantom is the first product to bring the levitation experience to the commercial market – a “democratizing” of the foiling catamaran.


Global Debt Crosses $100 Trillion, Rises By $30 Trillion Since 2007; $27 Trillion Is “Foreign-Held” – (Zero Hedge – March 9, 2014)
Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from  2007 to 2013, from “only” $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS’ just-released quarterly review. It should come as no surprise to anyone by now, but the only reason why global stocks haven’t plummeted since the Lehman collapse is simple: governments have become the final backstop for onboarding risk, with a Central Bank stamp of approval – in other words, the very framework of the fiat system is at stake should global equity levels collapse. The BIS admits as much: “Given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers,” according to Branimir Gruic, an analyst, and Andreas Schrimpf, an economist at the BIS. China’s credit expansion over this period is easily the most important, and overlooked one. Which is why with China out of the epic debt issuance picture, and with the Fed tapering, all bets are slowly coming off.


How Disinformation Agents Spread Their Web of Deception – (Want to Know – no date)
It is quite easy for a shadow government disinformation agent to spin a rich disinformation tale and then craft several different versions of the tale with new “facts” to support the story in each one. These tales are usually a good mix of real, verifiable facts and cleverly designed lies, so that people who check the facts and find them true then tend to believe the lies mixed in. The disinformation agent has only to feed these differing versions of his tale to several of the many conspiracy oriented websites out there and voila! It’s all over the Internet, but not on any OF what one would call reliable websites. Because of this, the author of this piece is skeptical of any new conspiracy-oriented news that comes out until he sees it on a website that doesn’t benefit from reporting controversial news. As an example, when ABC or the Wall Street Journal or New York Times report news about a 9/11 or other major cover-up, it holds a lot of credibility for him, because they are going against what some of their advertisers would want. This article goes on to examine a few samples of purported “disclosure” and explains how one might go about substantiating or debunking them for oneself.

How Wolves Change Rivers – (You Tube – February 13, 2014)
When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent for 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.

A Happy Life or a Meaningful One—Do We Really Need to Choose? – (Yes – March 11, 2014)
Philosophers, researchers, spiritual leaders—they’ve all debated what makes life worth living. Is it a life filled with happiness or a life filled with purpose and meaning? Is there even a difference between the two? These aren’t just academic questions. Recently some researchers have explored these questions in depth, trying to tease apart the differences between a meaningful life and a happy one. Their research suggests there’s more to life than happiness—and even calls into question some previous findings from the field of positive psychology, earning it both a fair amount of press coverage and criticism. “A happy life and a meaningful life have some differences,” says Roy Baumeister, a Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. The article goes on to enumerate five differences between the two. It then goes on to explore some of the different definitions of “happiness” – and how the definition influences “meaning”.

The NSA Has An Advice Columnist. Seriously. – (The Intercept – March 7, 2014)
What if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about? You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees. In the letter, which Zelda published in a column on September 9, 2011, the employee calls himself “Silenced in SID” – referring to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the heart of the NSA’s surveillance operations. Zelda’s column, headlined “Watching Every Word in Snitch City,” offers an ironic insight into a spy agency where the spies apparently resent being spied upon.


Between Two Ferns – (Funny or Die – March 11, 2014)
Here is presidential repartee as we’ve not heard it before. In his program, “Between Two Ferns”, actor Zach Galifianakis interviews President Obama, who rises to the challenge of handling an interviewer who treats him with total irreverence.

Snowflake Formation under a Microscope – (Big Think – February 25, 2014)
The intricate design of snowflakes is captured in this breathtaking video clip by Russian filmmaker Vyacheslav Ivanov who has captured their mesmerizing formation under a microscope.


It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task. ~   Robert Francis Kennedy

A special thanks to: Frank DeMarco, Kingsley Dennis, Chas Freeman, Kevin Foley, Ursula Freer, Thomas Kosbau, Victoria Pendragon, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Jillian Tucker, Steve Ujvarosy, Kermit Weeks 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

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