Volume 18, Number 11 – 7/15/15

 Volume 18, Number 11 – 7/15/15


  • A newly discovered fungus could rid landfills of plastics.
  • Facebook has now claimed about one-sixth of the planet in its user base, making it the largest single communications network in history. It has more users than the population of China.
  • Seafloor volcano pulses may alter climate.
  • You can’t rent a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in America on a minimum-wage job.

by John L. Petersen

Problems and Solutions

During this epic time of rapid shift from a familiar era to a new one, the signs of both decay and emergence proliferate. Former US senator Gary Hart (whose campaigns for president I headed up in Illinois), recently summarized the degenerating situation with his usual deep and broad insight. Gary was the only politician that I ever met who was a natural grand strategist – he looks at both the big, integrated picture and the future. This article is a good example of that vision.

Gary Hart: America’s Founding Principles Are in Danger of Corruption Gary Hart is a former United States senator
by Gary Hart June 26, 2015

Welcome to the age of vanity politics and campaigns-for-hire. What would our founders make of this nightmare?

Four qualities have distinguished republican government from ancient Athens forward: the sovereignty of the people; a sense of the common good; government dedicated to the commonwealth; and resistance to corruption. Measured against the standards established for republics from ancient times, the American Republic is massively corrupt.

From Plato and Aristotle forward, corruption was meant to describe actions and decisions that put a narrow, special, or personal interest ahead of the interest of the public or commonwealth. Corruption did not have to stoop to money under the table, vote buying, or even renting out the Lincoln bedroom. In the governing of a republic, corruption was self-interest placed above the interest of all—the public interest.

By that standard, can anyone seriously doubt that our republic, our government, is corrupt? There have been Teapot Domes and financial scandals of one kind or another throughout our nation’s history. There has never been a time, however, when the government of the United States was so perversely and systematically dedicated to special interests, earmarks, side deals, log-rolling, vote-trading, and sweetheart deals of one kind or another.

What brought us to this? A sinister system combining staggering campaign costs, political contributions, political action committees, special interest payments for access, and, most of all, the rise of the lobbying class.

Worst of all, the army of lobbyists that started relatively small in the mid-twentieth century has now grown to big battalions of law firms and lobbying firms of the right, left, and an amalgam of both. And that gargantuan, if not reptilian, industry now takes on board former members of the House and the Senate and their personal and committee staffs. And they are all getting fabulously rich.

This development in recent years has been so insidious that it now goes without notice. The key word is not quid-pro-quo bribery, the key word is access. In exchange for a few moments of the senator’s time and many more moments of her committee staff’s time, fund-raising events with the promise of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars are delivered.

Corruption in a federated republic such as ours operates vertically as well as horizontally. Seeing how business is conducted in Washington, it did not take long for governors of both parties across the country to subscribe to the special-interest state. Both the Republican and Democratic governors’ associations formed “social welfare” organizations composed of wealthy interests and corporate executives to raise money for their respective parties in exchange for close, personal access to individual governors, governors who almost surely could render executive decisions favorable to those corporate interests. A series of judicial decisions enabled these “social welfare” groups, supposedly barred from political activity, to channel virtually unlimited amounts of money to governors in exchange for access, the political coin of the realm in the corrupted republic, and to do so out of sight of the American people. Editorially, the New York Times commented that “the stealthy form of political corruption known as ‘dark money’ now fully permeates governor’s offices around the country, allowing corporations to push past legal barriers and gather enormous influence.” Finish article . . .

Here’s another insightful analysis of how at the most fundamental level – the words we use – the system is trying very hard to defend the rapidly eroding status quo.

The Emergence of Orwellian Newspeak and the Death of Free Speech Posted on July 3, 2015 by WashingtonsBlog
By John Whitehead, constitutional and human rights attorney, and founder of the Rutherford Institute.

“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it…. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.” ― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

How do you change the way people think? You start by changing the words they use.

In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used. In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.

Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned—discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred—inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.

It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.

As a society, we’ve become fearfully polite, careful to avoid offense, and largely unwilling to be labeled intolerant, hateful, closed-minded or any of the other toxic labels that carry a badge of shame today. The result is a nation where no one says what they really think anymore, at least if it runs counter to the prevailing views. Intolerance is the new scarlet letter of our day, a badge to be worn in shame and humiliation, deserving of society’s fear, loathing and utter banishment from society.

For those “haters” who dare to voice a different opinion, retribution is swift: they will be shamed, shouted down, silenced, censored, fired, cast out and generally relegated to the dust heap of ignorant, mean-spirited bullies who are guilty of various “word crimes.”

We have entered a new age where, as commentator Mark Steyn notes, “we have to tiptoe around on ever thinner eggshells” and “the forces of ‘tolerance’ are intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.”

Finish article . . .

But things are not just coming apart – they’re coming together . . . in a very new way.

For about year now I have been seeing articles from quite different places related to providing everyone a living stipend, regardless of their position in life. At one level you could make that case that much of the social discord and criminal behavior on our planet is related in some way to attempts to generate the funds necessary to basically live and pay bills. So if everyone was adequately (not lavishly) taken care of, you wouldn’t nearly have the magnitude of criminal, psychological, medical and environmental problems we now have.

So pragmatically, there is an interesting argument here, it seems to me.

At a deeper level there is the additional notion that all humans have intrinsic worth and are connected to all others in direct and indirect ways. It is therefore in the best interest of all of society if everyone had enough to eat and a roof of some kind over their heads. When others hurt, we end up hurting, so the best thing is to make it a much of a good place to live for everyone.

Moreover, how we treat the least of us mirrors who we essentially are as individuals and as communities – it mirrors our values and priorities from the other parts of our lives. One could argue that all humans deserve the basics for living, just because compassion is an important part of who we want to be.

Of course, you may respond that this would never work because the poor people would just take advantage of what was provided to them from those who were better off. Well, maybe . . .

In any case, we’re going to find out.

This notion of a minimum stipend is gaining momentum. There have been the well-publicized efforts of cities like Seattle to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and the Swiss referendums to provide a basic wage of about $30,000 to all Swiss citizens and now, the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands is going to provide a basic income to everyone.

This is a big deal. This is a very different new idea about the value of life and the benefits of treating people well that is a major departure from the presumptions that have framed this world for hundreds and thousands of years. It threatens the existing paradigm in a significant way and raises the values of cooperation and compassion to industrial-level applications never seen in before in modern history.

Things are changing.

Dutch city of Utrecht to experiment with a universal, unconditional ‘basic income’
June 26, 2015, The Independent (One of the UK’s leading newspapers)

The Dutch city of Utrecht … has paired up with the local university to establish whether the concept of ‘basic income’ can work in real life, and plans to begin the experiment at the end of the summer holidays. Basic income is a universal, unconditional form of payment to individuals, which covers their living costs. The concept is to allow people to choose to work more flexible hours in a less regimented society, allowing more time for care, volunteering and study. University College Utrecht has paired with the city to place people on welfare on a living income, to see if a system of welfare without requirements will be successful. The Netherlands as a country is no stranger to less traditional work environments – it has the highest proportion of part time workers in the EU, 46.1 per cent. However, Utrecht’s experiment with welfare is expected to be the first of its kind in the country. Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt: “One group … will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules. Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare. What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?” Read more . . .

During the last two weeks there was an extraordinary new crop circle that showed up near the airport in Turin, Italy. Take a look at this. I wish I had the time to decipher the amount of information in this beautiful and fascinating design.

Finally, the Internet is also changing . . . and becoming potentially far more robust, secure and independent. One significant startup is Ethereum, a global web-based financial system that could revolutionize how value is traded across the planet – and eliminate workers in the process.

The Humans Who Dream Of Companies That Won’t Need Us

How would Ethereum’s network autonomously run transportation apps, delivery services, and other companies? (And would we even want that?)
By DJ Pangburn

Like other serious crypto-anarchist visionaries, the 21-year-old Russian Canadian entrepreneur Vitalik Buterin sees the blockchain—the public ledger underlying bitcoin—as a way to liberate us all from inefficiency, cut out the middleman, and make big government and business bow at the free market’s feet. What makes his vision different is its scope. Where bitcoin aims to disrupt banks, Buterin’s Switzerland-based company, Ethereum, aims to become what he calls “the foundational platform for everything.”

At the heart of this open-source software platform is a currency, Ether, named after the pre-relativity hypothesis to explain the propagation of light waves. Though it has yet to make a public release, Ethereum has already recruited a strong roster of programmers and last year raised $18.4 million, in the third most well-funded crowdfunding effort in history.

Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s founder

Bitcoin’s blockchain model has been proposed as the backbone for a wide range of applications, from asset trading to real estate transactions, from escrow services to even a “national income distribution” system. What Ethereum proposes, in effect, is a global computer that could not only handle those transactions but also eventually emulate many of the functions of companies like Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, Amazon, and Kickstarter—but without the “inefficient” bureaucracies and the other intermediaries who take a slice of the pie. That is to say, companies that, once started, can run themselves.

Imagine your favorite Internet business—but without the “inefficient” intermediaries who take a slice of the pie. That is to say: humans. If the blockchain is a giant ledger, Buterin’s goal—first articulated in a January 2014 article in Bitcoin Magazine, which he cofounded—is to build the army of robot accountants working on top—what are sometimes known as “smart contracts.” Nick Szabo, the cryptographer who is credited with coining that term and is speculated to have been involved in bitcoin’s creation, described blockchain-based autonomous organizations last December on his blog as armies of accountant robots:

The idea of a rigid organisation or corporation will evaporate and left will be the true essence of human interaction patterns, policed only by openness and information-theoretic mathematics.. strict legality of the emergent behaviour will become increasingly less relevant as it becomes drastically pluralistic and unpoliceable with no entity, legal or otherwise, coordinating it or profiting from it. And if Ethereum fails, they insist, some future blockchain layer will accomplish the task. Continue . . .



Robot with ‘Heart’ Goes on Sale in Japan – (Irish Examiner – Thursday, June 18, 2015)
A robot equipped with a “heart” designed to not only recognize human emotions, but react with simulations of anger, joy and irritation, is on sale in Japan. Technology company Softbank’s Pepper robot moves on wheels. It has a hairless head and moving arms and went through a year of software development after first being announced. At the press announcement, it conversed with celebrity guests, did a dance, sang a birthday song and demonstrated how it could record family life in photos, and serve as a companion. It appeared to respond with joy when it was praised or stroked. Softbank Corp CEO Masayoshi Son said the company was preparing for a global sales launch next year with partners Alibaba Group of China and Foxconn of Taiwan. In Japan, it sells for 198,000 yen (£1,000). A monthly service fee costs 14,800 yen (£75), and maintenance insurance another 9,800 yen (£50). The projection is that the business will be profitable within five years. (Editor’s note: As with more and more software products, the business model for this robot is a subscription service on top of an outright purchase. The distinction between “product” and “service” is increasingly becoming so blurred as to be meaningless.) See also: SoftBank sells 1,000 units of its Pepper robot in first minute of online trade.


Quantum Entanglement Verified: Why Space Is Just the Construct That Gives the Illusion of Separate Objects – (Collective-Evolution – May 3, 2015)
An experiment devised by the Griffith University’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics, led by Professor Howard Wiseman and his team of researchers at the university of Tokyo, confirms what Einstein did not believe to be real: the non-local collapse of a particle’s wave function. Wiesmen stated that: “This phenomenon is the strongest yet proof of the entanglement of a single particle, an unusual form of quantum entanglement that is being increasingly explored for quantum communication and computation.” They did this by splitting a single photon between two laboratories, and testing whether measurement of it in one laboratory would actually cause a change in the local quantum state in the other laboratory. In doing so, researchers were able to verify the entanglement of the split single photon. So what is going on here? Either information is travelling faster than the speed of light, or, the vast distance we perceive between the objects really doesn’t exist at all! See also: Experiment suggests that reality doesn’t exist until it is measured.

Sensor to Detect Earth’s Magnetic Field Discovered in an Animal for Very First Time – (GizMag – June 17, 2015)
It has been a long-held belief in scientific circles that many creatures navigate across land, through water, and through the skies using the Earth’s magnetic field for guidance. Now scientists and engineers working at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) have finally discovered the organic mechanism responsible for this in an animal. Looking just like a microscopic TV antenna, the structure has been found in the brain of a tiny roundworm that uses it to work out which way to burrow through the soil. This breakthrough may help scientists discover how other species with internal compasses use the magnetic field of our planet to pilot their course. Discovered in an round worm named Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans for short), the nanoscale sensor is located at the end of a neuron protruding from the worm’s brain. This gives rise to the hope that other animals may well share this attribute, particularly as parallels in brain structures exist across multiple species.


Biologists Discover the Key Mechanism That Triggers Human Ageing (Science Alert – May 1, 2015)
The mutant WRN gene that causes Werner syndrome produces a protein, which helps maintain the structure and integrity of a person’s DNA. But dysfunctional forms of this protein, like those that exist in people with Werner syndrome, can disrupt the replication and repair of DNA, and the expression of genes. Researchers have previously thought that this might be a factor in ageing, but exactly how the dysfunctional protein hinders critical cell processes was unclear. The team found that the genetic mutations responsible for this syndrome caused densely packed DNA – known as heterochromatin – to become destabilized, which serves to disrupt normal cellular functions and caused the cells to age prematurely. “This disruption of normal DNA packaging is a key driver of ageing,” said senior researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, from the Salk Institute. “This has implications beyond Werner syndrome, as it identifies a central mechanism of aging – heterochromatin disorganization – which has been shown to be reversible.” “Our study connects the dots between Werner syndrome and heterochromatin disorganization, outlining a molecular mechanism by which a genetic mutation leads to a general disruption of cellular processes by disrupting epigenetic regulation,” said Belmonte. “More broadly, it suggests that accumulated alterations in the structure of heterochromatin may be a major underlying cause of cellular aging. This begs the question of whether we can reverse these alterations – like remodeling an old house or car – to prevent, or even reverse, age-related declines and diseases.”

Artificial Leg Allows Patient to Feel (BBC News – June 8, 2015)
Scientists in Austria have created an artificial leg which allows the amputee to feel lifelike sensations from their foot. Prof. Hubert Egger of the University of Linz, said sensors fitted to the sole of the artificial foot, stimulated nerves at the base of the stump. He added it was the first time that a leg amputee had been fitted with a sensory-enhanced prosthesis. Surgeons first rewired nerve endings in the patient’s stump to place them close to the skin surface. Six sensors were fitted to the base of the foot, to measure the pressure of heel, toe and foot movement. These signals were relayed to a micro-controller which relayed them to stimulators inside the shaft where it touched the base of the stump. These vibrated, stimulating the nerve endings under the skin, which relayed the signals to the brain. Prof. Egger said: “The sensors tell the brain there is a foot and the wearer has the impression that it rolls off the ground when he walks.” The recipient, Wolfang Rangger, who lost his right leg in 2007 after a blood clot caused by a stroke, said: “It feels like I have a foot again. It’s like a second lease of life.” He added: “I no longer slip on ice and I can tell whether I walk on gravel, concrete, grass or sand. I can even feel small stones.” Another major benefit was a reduction in excruciating “phantom limb” pain. Prof Egger said the brain now received real data rather than searching for information from the missing limb. See also: Soft Robotic Glove Could Put Daily Life Within Patients’ Grasp.

The Great Cancer Test Experiment (Technology Review – June 24, 2015)
A new kind of test, called a liquid biopsy, can scan a person’s blood for small fragments of DNA released by tumors. One company performing the test, Guardant Health, a California startup heavily financed by venture capitalists, looks for the DNA sequences of 68 well-known cancer genes and can reveal the mutations driving a person’s cancer. The hope is that these clues would help doctors choose drugs that would be more effective for a given patient. This is the vanguard of what amounts to a global field study of the new DNA tests. Since laboratory diagnostics are regulated lightly in the United States, these tests have gone to market without consensus about their accuracy or data showing that they really help patients live longer. “You have tests coming to market that are sometimes proven and sometimes unproven,” says Tycho Peterson, an analyst at J.P. Morgan who tracks the industry. “Commercial activity is increasing very quickly.” He estimates $20 billion a year in tests globally by 2020, up from about $100 million today. So far, most insurers, including Medicare, don’t pay for these kinds of tests. Eventually, the most important use of liquid biopsies should be to catch signs of cancer early, before symptoms arise—when a surgeon can cure it by cutting it out. Such screening could profoundly reshape cancer medicine. See also: Biotech’s Coming Cancer Cure: Supercharge Your Immune Cells.

Building and Transplanting a Bioengineered Forelimb (KurzweilAI – June 5, 2015)
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital investigators has made the first steps towards developing bioartificial replacement limbs suitable for transplantation. The researchers used an experimental approach previously used to build bioartificial organs to engineer rat forelimbs with functioning vascular and muscle tissue. They also provided evidence that the same approach could be applied to the limbs of primates. The progenitor cells needed to regenerate all of the tissues that make up a limb could be provided by the potential recipient. The problem is that limbs contain muscles, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and nerves — each of which has to be rebuilt and requires a specific supporting structure (“matrix”), a step that has been a missing, explained Harald Ott, MD, of the MGH Department of Surgery and the Center for Regenerative Medicine, assistant professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the paper. The current study uses technology Ott discovered as a research fellow at the University of Minnesota, in which living cells are stripped from a donor organ with a detergent solution and the remaining matrix is then repopulated with progenitor cells appropriate to the specific organ. His team and others have used this decellularization technique to regenerate kidneys, livers, hearts, and lungs from animal models, but this is the first reported use to engineer the more complex tissues of a bioartificial limb.

Cocktail of Chemicals May Trigger Cancer – (Kurzweil AI – June 23, 2015)
A global task force of 174 scientists from leading research centers in 28 countries has studied the link between mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals and the development of cancer. The open-access study selected 85 chemicals not considered carcinogenic to humans and found 50 of them actually supported key cancer-related mechanisms at exposures found in the environment today. According to co-author cancer Biologist Hemad Yasaei from Brunel University London, “This research backs up the idea that chemicals not considered harmful by themselves are combining and accumulating in our bodies to trigger cancer and might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing. We urgently need to focus more resources to research the effect of low dose exposure to mixtures of chemicals in the food we eat, air we breathe, and water we drink.” William Goodson III, a senior scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and lead author of the synthesis said: “Since so many chemicals that are unavoidable in the environment can produce low dose effects that are directly related to carcinogenesis, the way we’ve been testing chemicals (one at a time) is really quite out of date. Every day we are exposed to an environmental ‘chemical soup’, so we need testing that evaluates the effects of our ongoing exposure to these chemical mixtures.”


Seafloor Volcano Pulses May Alter Climate – (Columbia University – February 5, 2015)
Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans are presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. But a new study shows that they flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years—and, that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. The pulses—apparently tied to short- and long-term changes in earth’s orbit, and to sea levels—may help trigger natural climate swings. Scientists have already speculated that volcanic cycles on land emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide might influence climate; but up to now there was no evidence from submarine volcanoes. The findings suggest that models of earth’s natural climate dynamics, and by extension human-influenced climate change, may have to be adjusted.

To Quiet Calls for Fracking Curbs, Texas Bans Bans – (Newsweek – June 4, 2015)
On May 18, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that prohibits cities and towns from passing ordinances to prohibit fracking and regulate underground activity, effectively banning fracking bans like the one the city of Denton passed last November. The legislation—the first such measure to be enacted in the nation—represents a major win for the oil and gas industry and was characterized by the governor as a defense of “private property rights” and a move to limit government bureaucracy and overregulation. “For the past century, cities in Texas have had courts and the state recognize their power to govern themselves, with the understanding that the city knows best how to protect its way of life and its citizens,” says Adam Briggle, a philosophy professor at the University of North Texas in Denton, and the president of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, which supports fracking bans. “That tradition has now been undermined.” In May, more states moved to block towns and cities from imposing municipal bans on fracking, an extraction technique in which energy companies blast hydrocarbons from rock thousands of feet below the earth. In Denton, TX, a fast-expanding university town with a population of just over 120,000, nearly 60% of its residents voted to ban fracking within the town’s city limits. The ban forced energy companies to stop drilling in Denton for six months and 12 days—until Texas lawmakers imposed a ban on the ban. Fracking has already resumed in Denton, but even with the new law in place to protect drilling activity, Denton residents, both Republican and Democrat, are starting to picket drill sites again—and protests are expected to escalate. The Barnett Shale is what’s known as a “tight” reservoir, meaning it requires more intense fracking to extract hard-to-get gas, and major portions of the field are in urban areas, with Denton at its core.

Newly Discovered Fungus Could Rid Landfills of Plastics! – (Nation of Change – May 27, 2015)
Currently, Americans discard about 33.6 million tons of plastic each year. Only 6.5 percent of it is recycled and 7.7 percent is combusted in waste-to-energy facilities, which create electricity or heat from garbage. In result, there are a massive amount of non-biodegradable materials being tossed into landfills with a wait of about 1,000 years or so before they decompose. What’s worse, many of these materials may leak pollutants into the soil and water. But thanks to a group of Yale students who discovered a new type of fungus in the Ecuadorian rainforest, a semi-solution may soon be available to help speed up the decomposition process of plastics sitting in landfills. Students from Yale’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry discovered a previously unknown type of fungus that has a hearty appetite for polyurethane, a polymer that is used in everything from hard plastics to synthetic fibers. The fungus is the first one that is known to survive on polyurethane alone, and it can do so in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, suggesting it could be used at the bottom of landfills. A large reason plastics like polyurethane take so long to break down is that microorganisms don’t typically recognize it as food, therefore it can take centuries for man-made polymers to break down into microscopic granules. But the discovery of Pestalotiopsis microspora may change all that.


D-Wave Systems Breaks the 1000 Qubit Quantum Computing Barrier – (KurzweilAI)
D-Wave Systems has broken the quantum computing 1000 qubit barrier, developing a processor about double the size of D-Wave’s previous generation, and far exceeding the number of qubits ever developed by D-Wave or any other quantum effort. At 1000 qubits, the new processor considers 21000 possibilities simultaneously, a search space which dwarfs the 2512 possibilities available to the 512-qubit D-Wave Two. ‪”In fact, the new search space contains far more possibilities than there are ‪particles in the observable universe.” The new processors, comprising over 128,000 Josephson tunnel junctions, are believed to be the most complex superconductor integrated circuits ever successfully yielded. Other innovations are discussed in the article.

The Rise of the Digital Walled Gardens – (Slate – May 12, 2015)
If you ask Indonesians about their online habits, you’ll notice something strange. Three in 10 will say they’ve used Facebook. But from the same 10, only two will say they use the Internet. Researcher Helena Galpaya’s study is a stark reminder of the way 1 billion people are set to come online over the next decade—not as part of some organic, empowering process but rather via “walled gardens” run by corporate tech giants like Facebook, whose initiative offers a scaled-down version of the Web for free in order to hook the developing world to its platform. Facebook has now claimed about one-sixth of the planet in its user base, making it the largest single communications network in history. It also has more users than the population of China. The company is, along with Google, perhaps the most powerful expression of Western soft power since Hollywood. But for all of Facebook’s apparent dominance, the social-networking future may turn out to be somewhat less linear as website-based platforms give way to more adaptive mobile technology. The phenomenal rise of messaging apps over the last few years has already given them a collective presence that dwarfs that of Facebook. The 10 biggest apps—including giants like KakaoTalk, Viber, and WeChat—now boast an astonishing 3 billion combined users across the world. WhatsApp alone has 700 million users and handled more than 7 trillion messages last year. Here, rather than the traditional social networks, is where the world’s chat time is increasingly spent. (Editor’s note: we highly recommend this article for its well-nuanced analysis of future trends in electronic communication.)


Bridge Out of Nowhere – (Slate – June 21, 2015)
MX3D, a research and development startup specializing in robotic 3-D print technology, is planning to construct a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam sometime this September using only two robots. The robots will start on both banks and work their way towards each other in the middle, ejecting molten steel as they go, crafting their beams from multiple angles instead of on a more typical horizontal plane. Article includes video clip of proposed project.

Fullgrown – (Fullgrown website – no date)
Gavin Munro and his company, Full Grown, are at the cutting edge of an emerging art form that highlights an interesting way to be closer to art and nature and to create symbiotic abundance for both. Originally working with willow and now with a number of other woods as well, Munro grows furniture into its final shape through shaping and grafting. About the process he says, “Challenging the way we create products as well as how we see the items with which we surround ourselves, the Grown Furniture has an immediate tactile, visceral and organic appeal.” See also a short BBC film about Full Grown, “The man who grows fields full of tables and chairs”. The furniture is beautiful and fascinating. The first crop of chairs should be ready to harvest next year and the company has already sold out of pre-orders.


This Cloudy-day Black Silicon Solar Cell Can Hit a Record 22.1% Efficiency – (Extreme Tech – May 20, 2015)
Most cells perform best when there’s plenty of sunlight. That bright sunlight may no longer be necessary. Researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have achieved a record-breaking 22.1% efficiency for a nanostructured silicon, or black, solar cell. They accomplished this by overlaying a thin, passivating film on the nanostructures by a process known as atomic layer deposition, and by integrating all of the metal contacts on the cell’s back side. Perhaps the best part: Black solar cells work really well on cloudy days. “This is an advantage particularly in the north, where the sun shines from a low angle for a large part of the year,” said professor Hele Savin from Aalto University, who coordinated the study, in a statement. “We have demonstrated that in winter Helsinki, black cells generate considerably more electricity than traditional cells, even though both cells have identical efficiency values.”


Car Owners Can Rent Their Vehicles to Let It Pay for Itself Thanks to Ford! – (Benchmark Reporter – June 28, 2015)
Ford is now officially the first manufacturer in the UK that allows its customers to rent out their vehicles to other drivers and pay for the vehicle via a Ford finance package. The company has teamed up with easyCar Club and now enables owners to rent out their vehicles via a website. The idea is that people who have their car sitting out and not being used, maybe at their own driveway or when they are at work, could make some cash while someone else in need of the car may hire it and use it. This is the first that such an arrangement has allowed people to rent out cars that are still being paid for through various car financing plans such as hire purchase plans. The scheme is still being trialed by Ford with 12,000 of its London-based credit customers and the deadline to sign up for the six-month pilot is till August. Identities and records are of the drivers are checked and apart from two speeding convictions, no motoring offences are permitted. Drivers who have any non-motoring criminal convictions, or more than two fault claims in the past three years, will be turned away from this scheme. “Prices vary according to car, location and length of rental, but there are cars available for as little as £20 a day,” says Morgan Young of easyCar.

Solar Plane Lands in Hawaii, Ending Perilous Leg of Global Journey – (CNN – July 3, 2015)
After nearly 118 grueling, consecutive hours over the Pacific Ocean, the sun-powered Solar Impulse 2 is back on land – and freshly stamped into aviation record books. Pilot Andre Borschberg landed the plane on the Hawaiian island of Oahu on the morning of July 3rd, five days after he took off from Japan – ending the longest and most dangerous leg in his team’s attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel. The leg – the eighth of a planned 13 – set a record for the world’s longest nonstop solo flight in terms of time. It also was the longest flight in time and distance (more than 8,200 kilometers, or 5,100 miles) for a plane run only on solar power, organizers said. Borschberg, having been off his feet for five straight days, didn’t attempt to stand until another 50 minutes passed. Someone climbed up to the cabin to give him a leg massage before he finally stepped onto a platform. “So much joy. So much incredible feeling,” the Swiss pilot said moments later.


A New Alternative to Antibiotics? – (Modern Farmer – June 24, 2015)
Dr. Mark Cook, an animal science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has discovered an antibiotic alternative for certain infections common in livestock. “We were trying to make animals more sensitive to disease so that we could find a replacement for antibiotics,” says Dr. Mark Cook, a professor of animal science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Interleukin 10 (IL-10) is a protein that is a kind of “off switch” for the immune system that can be manipulated by some bacteria and other pathogens to shut down an animal’s resistance before the microbes invade. “What we discovered is that when we feed an antibody to Interleukin-10, it blocks a variety of infections in poultry and cattle. Our antibody turns the switch on (disabling the protein ‘off’ switch) allowing the immune system to kill the microbe,” says Cook. The researchers vaccinate laying hens to create antibodies to IL-10. The immunity passes into the eggs, which are then dried and sprayed onto animal feed. The largest test so far involved 300,000 chickens that were fed the anti-IL-10, resulting in the animals being fully protected against coccidiosis, a common diarrheal illness in farm animals. Tests involving smaller samplings in larger livestock have also been positive, according to the researchers. According to Cook, it’s “highly likely” the technology has applications in human medicine, since if they “can show it works from chickens to cows, it will work in humans.” See also: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria is Blowin’ in the Wind downwind of large animal feedlots.

U.S. Forced to Import Corn as Shoppers Demand Organic Food – (Bloomberg – April 15, 2015)
A growing demand for organics, and the near-total reliance by U.S. farmers on genetically modified corn and soybeans, is driving a surge in imports from nations where crops largely are free of bioengineering. Imports such as corn from Romania and soybeans from India are booming, according to an analysis of U.S. trade data.. Most of the corn and soybean shipments become feed for chickens and cows so they can be certified organic under U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. As a result, imports to the U.S. of Romanian corn rose to $11.6 million in 2014 from $545,000 the year before. Soybeans are the second-biggest U.S. organic import, with $184 million shipped last year. India is the No. 1 source, followed by China. The USDA only began collecting data on organic crops in 2011. Most of what’s tracked is fresh produce and major grains — processed foods and meats, for example, aren’t reported in an organic category. The four years of records show rapidly growing trade relationships. In 2014, U.S. organic exports were $553 million, almost quadruple the 2011 total. Imports last year were $1.28 billion, led by $332.5 million of organic coffee.

Ex-Trader Joe’s Exec Opens Supermarket to Combat Food Waste – (Entrepreneur – June 5, 2015)
Food waste is a large — and largely unmentioned — problem in the United States. As much as 30% to 40% of the country’s food supply is wasted — the equivalent of 20 pounds of food per person, per month. Doug Rauch, the former president of supermarket chain Trader Joe’s is working to take a bite out of the issue of food waste by opening a new supermarket, Daily Table, in Dorchester, Mass. A not-for-profit, Daily Table gets its groceries from other food suppliers who have excess inventory. Using volunteers to stock, sort, package or label food, the store offers the goods at a deep discount. Canned vegetables are two for $1, for example, and a dozen eggs cost 99 cents, NPR reports. Shoppers can also buy prepared meals for the price of fast food. The food is not expired, and Rauch is sure that the products are safe to eat. “If you have a product that says ‘sell by…. Oct. 1,’ and, you know, it’s Oct. 2, most customers don’t realize you can eat that. I think that the issue here is really how you talk about it and how you educate,” he said.


Rise of Robotic Killing Machines Has a Cautious World Talking – (San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2015)
They’re called lethal autonomous weapons, or LAWs, and their military mission would be to seek out, identify and kill a human target independent of human control. Representatives of 60 nations … met in Geneva during the third week of April in an attempt to define the level of artificial intelligence needed for an international definition of robotic autonomy. The Panel of Experts, under the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), will meet again next year to continue the discussion. None of the industrial nations admits having a LAW, but there’s really no way to confirm the nonexistence of a weapon that would be classified as secret. The U.S. Department of Defense has had a directive in place for three years that outlines the chain of command that would approve their deployment on a case-by-case basis. It’s called Directive 3000.09. On April 15, the third day of the panel meeting, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the creation of a new office for unmanned warfare systems. According to Stuart Russell, who addressed the panel, “Devices in the 1-gram range might be able to selectively kill a chosen human target on contact using a shaped explosive charge. I’m not sure what countermeasures one might try against a swarm of 5-gram robots. There will be … a LAWs arms race.”


Keeping Truth Legal: It Is Our Right to Film Police – (Huffington Post – May 21, 2015)
Without the video from the cases of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott, these cases and many others would have gone uninvestigated and unnoticed. Still, even with these cases, large public outcry, and overwhelming evidence, there is still mistrust and demonization of the people decrying their treatment by law enforcement. Instead of admitting that the state of policing in this country is hugely problematic and working with communities to fully uncover depths of the problem, many local law makers and states are systematically working to cover up any trace that a problem exists. Twelve states have adopted what is known as a two party consent eavesdropping law that police have successfully used to confiscate and arrest anyone filming them on duty. These laws simply mean that if someone, including police, has “a reasonable expectation of privacy” when they are filmed, they have to give their consent to be recorded. The problem, of course, is that public servants, such as police, should NOT have a reasonable expectation of privacy while performing their public duties, in public spaces, amongst the public. Luckily, the Supreme Court seems to agree that outlawing citizens’ right to film is not constitutional. So why is this still an issue? The point is the mere THREAT of being put through the legal system is enough of an intimidation tactic to dissuade people from being brave and doing this civic duty. Not to mention that the legal process takes a ton of time. If in that time, the footage of police brutality can be inadmissible in, say, a homicide case, it was well worth the loss on appeal for that city government.

We Spend Billions to Keep Half a Million Unconvicted People Behind Bars – (The Washington Post – June 11, 2015)
At any given time, roughly 480,000 people sit in America’s local jails awaiting their day in court, according an estimate by the International Centre for Prison Studies, a research group based in England. These are people who have been charged with a crime, but not convicted. They remain innocent in the eyes of the law. Some are certainly violent criminals who need to await their trials behind bars in the interest of public safety — murderers, rapists and the like. But most — three quarters of them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — are nonviolent offenders, arrested for traffic violations, or property crimes, or simple drug possession. Some will be given community service, or probation. Many will be found innocent and have their charges dropped completely — a 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics Report found that one third of felony defendants in the nation’s largest counties were not ultimately convicted of any crime. That same report found that the defendants who were detained before trial waited a median of 68 days in jail — that’s a long time to spend behind bars, especially if you’re found innocent. In many areas, that wait can be even longer — the New York City mayor’s office recently found that 400 inmates in the city’s Riker’s Island facility had waited over two years for their trial. Some had been waiting six years or more for their day in court. Many of these people waiting in jail are forced to wait simply because they can’t afford to post bail. A recent analysis by the Vera Institute, a research group advocating for various changes in criminal justice laws, found that 41% of New York City’s inmates were sitting in jail on a misdemeanor charge because they couldn’t meet a bail of $2,500 or less. For reasons like this, some civil rights reformers are advocating abolishing bail completely. Eliminating bail is not as radical as it sounds: Washington D.C. effectively stopped using bail back in the late 1960s. Instead, the city’s Pretrial Services Agency determines the best option for dealing with defendants before they go to court. The cost is somewhere around $17 billion dollars annually to keep people locked up as they await trial.


Crack Baby Myth Goes Up in Smoke – (Aljazeera – March 10, 2015)
Crack’s spread in the late 1980s and early 1990s was rapid and vicious in America’s inner cities where many people were broke, hungry and out of work. Amid that desperation, crack seemed to be the perfect remedy for the inner-city blues. Potent and cheap, crack shook Philadelphia to its knees. A 1989 study found that one in six newborns delivered at Philadelphia hospitals had mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy. Dr. Hallam Hurt, then the chair of neonatology at Albert Einstein Medical Center, spearheaded the groundbreaking study, following the babies of mothers who smoked crack during their pregnancy between 1989 and 1992 – the height of the crack epidemic. After 25 years of research, she found there were no differences in the health and life outcomes between babies exposed to crack and those who weren’t. The crack baby was a myth. What did make a difference for those babies, however, was poverty and violence. “We have a lot of information about the children and in particular the home,” she said. “And it turns out that the children that were scoring at or above average had more nurturing and cognitively stimulating home environments regardless of cocaine exposure. It [crack] didn’t make a difference.”

“Vanity Capital” Is the New Metric for Narcissism, and Analysts Say Its Value Worldwide Is Greater Than Germany’s GDP – (Quartz – May 11, 2015)
Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently released the compellingly titled report, “Vanity Capital: The global bull market in narcissism,” which put a price tag on the amount we spend globally on products and services that enhance our appearance or prestige. That price tag is huge: $4.5 trillion, according to the report—larger than the fourth largest economy in the world, Germany, with its GDP of $3.7 trillion—and still growing. The immediate question the report raises is whether it’s even possible to measure such a thing. The premise—to quantify the dollar value of all purchases worldwide motivated in some way by vanity—is a little nutty at its foundation. On top of that, the process of separating vanity from non-vanity purchases is a rather subjective one. For example: Is your smartphone a vanity spend, or a practical necessity? Do you wear a wedding ring to enhance your appearance or prestige? As for spending on services instead of products: Sure, a getting botox treatment is somewhat vain, but what about pursuing an Ivy League education? And the report includes middle-market products too, such as makeup, fitness wear, and health supplements. In fact, the non-luxury category makes up the vast bulk of the vanity-capital market—90% according to the report. Still the report does raise some intriguing points—and just the fact that Bank of America Merrill Lynch, one of the largest banks in the US, would try to quantify the size of worldwide vanity spending indicates that this is a market worth watching. The report’s calculations offer a compelling explanation for why: It is one of the most durable growth stories in emerging (and developed markets).

Old Is the New Young – (ElleUK – February 3, 2015)
Era-defining singer Joni Mitchell is the latest star of Saint Laurent’s Music Project. She’s 71. Iconic 60s supermodel Twiggy has been unveiled as the new L’Oréal Professionnel UK brand ambassador at 65. And Céline’s newest ad campaign stars Joan Didion, the 80-year-old multi-award-winning American journalist and author. Older age has long been pushed off the agenda, particularly when we talk about women. Older men succeed – see Robert Redford, Harrison Ford – whereas typically, older women simply fade out. But in case you missed it, experience – or, let’s be frank, older age – is trending. For example, Kate Spade’s s/s 2015 global ad campaign shows 93-year-old woman linking arms with a young girl on a park bench. So far so sweet, right? Except the 93-year-old in question is Iris Apfel: interior designer, businesswoman and fashion icon. And the girl she’s linking arms with is Karlie Kloss.


DARPA Wants to Use Genetically Engineered Organisms to Make Mars More Earth-Like – (Tech Times – June 27, 2015)
As it is now, Mars is uninhabitable, but by creating organisms and introducing them to the Red Planet, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is keen on warming it up and thickening the environment. The genetically engineered organisms are designed to grow under Martian conditions, photosynthesizing plants, algae and bacteria to make Mars less barren. “For the first time, we have the technological toolkit to transform not just hostile places here on Earth but to go into space not just to visit, but to stay,” said Alicia Jackson, deputy director for the new Biological Technologies Office at DARPA. DARPA has what is known as DTA GView, a software that is basically Google Maps for genomes. A lot of information has already been collected about genomes and Jackson wants to tap into all of that knowledge and not just let it sit there without being utilized. Before these genetically engineered organisms can make it to Mars, however, they will first be tested out here on Earth as a means of repairing environmental damage. According to Jackson, extremophile organisms can be re-engineered for that purpose, taking advantage of their innate ability to survive in scarred wastelands to rehabilitate areas after man-made or natural disasters strike. Once Jackson’s team has found a way to restore damaged landscapes on Earth to their former glory, they are confident that they will have what it takes to start preparing Mars for the arrival of a colony. DARPA has not released a timeline for this project.


You Can’t Rent a One-bedroom Apartment Anywhere in America on a Minimum-wage Job – (Raw Story – May 1, 2015)
A new report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition shows that there is no state in the U.S. where a full-time, minimum-wage worker can afford the rent of a one-bedroom apartment. According to the report, the national average Housing Wage in 2015 is $19.35 for a two-bedroom unit, and $15.50 for a one-bedroom unit, while the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour in 2015, which hasn’t been raised since 2009. In 13 states and D.C., Housing Wage is more than $20 per hour. The Housing Wage is an estimate of the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford a decent apartment at HUD’s estimated Fair Market Rent (FMR) for no more than 30% of their income. In no state or D.C. can a full-time minimum-wage earning worker at the federal minimum wage afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment for his or her family. With the exception of just a few counties in Washington and Oregon (where the state minimum wage is $9.47 and $9.25, respectively), in no county in the U.S. is a one-bedroom unit at the FMR affordable to someone working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage, according to the report.


The ‘Living Concrete’ That Can Heal Itself – (CNN – May 14, 2015)
No matter how carefully it is mixed or reinforced, all concrete eventually cracks, and under some conditions, those cracks can lead to collapse. Professor Henk Jonkers, of Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, explains, “If you have cracks, water comes through — in your basements, in a parking garage. Secondly, if this water gets to the steel reinforcements — in concrete we have all these steel rebars — if they corrode, the structure collapses.” Now Jonkers has come up with an entirely new way of giving concrete a longer life. “We have invented bioconcrete — that’s concrete that heals itself using bacteria,” he says. The bioconcrete is mixed just like regular concrete, but with an extra ingredient — the “healing agent.” It remains intact during mixing, only dissolving and becoming active if the concrete cracks and water gets in. How it actually works chemically (which indeed it does) is brilliant.

New Device Enables Ultra-sharp Turns of Light without Losing Energy – (GizMag – April 21, 2015)
A team of researchers from the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and the University of Central Florida (UCF) has created a new device that allows for the steering of light around sharper corners than ever before. The device is tiny, constructed from an inexpensive material, and could one day become an integral part of computer hardware. Researchers believe that a better harnessing of light beams may lead to much faster computing than current methods allow, with data transfer speeds up to 1,000 times that of conventional, electricity-carrying copper wires. But for the sake of viability, the light beams need to be able to make the same sharp turns as those made by wires on a circuit board. Conventional light waveguides, such as hollow metal pipes or optical fibers, are only able to steer light around gradual turns, with the beams losing energy if the angle is too sharp. The team’s solution for the problem is a honeycomb-like plastic device with a complex geometrical “bending” lattice structure that guides light through turns. Providing that the individual unit cells of the lattice are uniform in both size and shape, light is able flow around corners twice as tight as previous methods would allow – at angles of up to 90 degrees. The material used to create the light-controller lattice is inexpensive – a simple epoxy plastic – making it viable for widespread use.


Affluent Millennials Expect Brands to Become a Resource – (Forbes – June 10, 2015)
Millennials and money are two terms that we don’t often associate together. After all, millennials have taken on more student debt than any previous generation. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported an increase of over $500 billion in student debt over the last eight years alone. While many people seem to love stereotyping millennials as a generation full of jobless, homeless, indebted couch surfers, a new millennial segment is fueling a different story. Currently, there are over 6.2 million millennials aged 18-34 with annual household incomes over $100,000. However, these millennials don’t all look the same. There are four unique segments of this group that differ not just in demographics, but behaviors and attitudes as well – labeled big city bachelors, calculating go-getters, family forward, and active influencers . What’s important to recognize about this group is that while they account for less than 10% of the 18-34-year-old population, they hold a huge influence over the entire millennial generation in both dollars and impact. Unlike nonaffluent millennials who often say one thing and act differently (most millennials will say they buy organic but then run through the store register with the off-brand peanut butter), affluent millennials are unfettered from issues of general affordability. Essentially, they can buy the products and services that fit their general millennial mindset – fresh, organic, fast, high quality – and do not have to trade up to get them.


How Corporate America Invented Christian America – (Alternet – April 23, 2015)
This article is an adapted excerpt from Kevin Kruse’s new book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, and it shines a light on a piece of American history that most of us didn’t even realize existed. “In December 1940, as America was emerging from the Great Depression, more than 5,000 industrialists from across the nation convened at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for the annual meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers. The program promised an impressive slate of speakers: titans at General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Mutual Life, and Sears, Roebuck; popular lecturers such as etiquette expert Emily Post and renowned philosopher-historian Will Durant; even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Tucked away near the end of the program was a name few knew initially, but one everyone would be talking about by the convention’s end: Reverend James W. Fifield Jr. Handsome, tall, and somewhat gangly, the 41-year-old Congregationalist minister bore more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Stewart. Addressing the crowd of business leaders, Fifield delivered a passionate defense of the American system of free enterprise and a withering assault on its perceived enemies in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Decrying the New Deal’s “encroachment upon our American freedoms,” the minister listed a litany of sins committed by the Democratic government, ranging from its devaluation of currency to its disrespect for the Supreme Court. Singling out the regulatory state for condemnation, he denounced “the multitude of federal agencies attached to the executive branch” and warned ominously of “the menace of autocracy approaching through bureaucracy.” It all sounds familiar enough today, but Fifield’s audience of executives was stunned. Over the preceding decade, as America first descended into and then crawled its way out of the Great Depression, these titans of industry had been told, time and time again, that they were to blame for the nation’s downfall. Fifield, in contrast, insisted that they were the source of its salvation. They just needed to do one thing: Get religion.” From there, the article continues to open a window we hadn’t even seen, much less, looked through.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.

1921: Black Business District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Attacked, Aerially Bombed and Razed, Victims Dumped in Mass Graves – (Washingtons Blog – May 16, 2015)
An otherwise poor and uninformative documentary (funded by Pennsylvania Public Television and Corporation for Public Broadcasting) on the US bombing and burning alive of 11 residents, adults and children, of the MOVE house in Philadelphia, 1985, begins with one minute (10:30 to 11:30) on the rarely-mentioned 1921 onslaught, aerial bombing, and incineration of the “Black Wall Street” business district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, by white mobs, including the KKK and government forces. Wikipedia states that on May 31 and June 1, 1921: …a group of white people attacked the black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as “the Black Wall Street” and the wealthiest black community in the United States, being burned to the ground. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities vary from 55 to about 300.” Approximately 4,000 black men, women, and children arrested and placed in concentration camps, where they are required to carry ‘passes’. The city quickly re-zoned the neighborhood to make way for a railroad.

Aalto University Helps Native Americans Relocate after Concerns of an Impending Tsunami – (Alto Univ. – April 9, 2015)
The Quileute community of La Push, Washington lies on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. This small Native American tribe says whales have informed them that a natural disaster will soon wipe out (in 2017) their reservation in Washington State. La Push is located at the intersection of three tectonic plates, and is prone to earthquakes of a 9-point magnitude. The tribe has started a Move to Higher Ground project to move their community to a new location. By a series of coincidences, Finland’s Aalto University was selected by the tribe’s council to draw up the building plans.


Intelevator: Intelligent Voice Activated Elevator – (YouTube – May 14, 2015)
These two talented dudes prank unsuspecting elevator passengers in various languages and forms at the Clarion Hotel in Norway. (Editor’s note: This is hilarious footage; how we are not certain it is entirely what it claims to be. We wonder how two “average dudes” (however talented) managed to talk the Clarion Hotel into allowing it, managed to borrow stuffed animals from a natural history museum, and arranged the set up of all the various cameras and audio feeds needed to film what the viewer sees.)


The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. – biologist E. O. Wilson

A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.


Edited by John L. Petersen

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