Volume 18, Number 13 – 8/15/15

 Volume 18, Number 13 – 8/15/15


  • The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first prescription drug made through 3-D printing.
  • An Idaho court found that agricultural whistleblowing is not a crime and that “Ag Gag” laws are unconstitutional.
  • UA New-Zealand based brewery has developed the world’s first commercially obtainable, beer-derived biofuel.
  • The “world’s smallest electric car” is an aluminum board with wheels that carries a passenger like a Segway and fits into a backpack.

by John L. Petersen

War or Peace

I’m at a place in my life where I don’t understand war. Having spent 29 years closely associated with the military, it is obvious that my perspective has changed. Truth be told, it was that experience of being in two wars and looking at the “effectiveness” of the whole thing that made it quite clear.

First of all, there is nowhere else in rational life where we physically destroy something in order to get behavior change. Certainly doesn’t work in families or businesses or any other place where most of us spend time. In fact, if you do physically destroy someone/something that isn’t yours you can end up in jail. The exception, of course, are the police and the military . . . and we can all see the relative effectiveness of a mindset that suggests that killing someone or some group will really solve a problem.

And the idea of blowing things up – destroying perfectly good homes, buildings, structures – is almost barbaric . . . or at least juvenile. That’s the way kids who haven’t yet learned better act – they smash the other kid’s toy or sand castle. By adulthood most of us have learned that that kind of behavior doesn’t work. We talk to each other – sometimes better than other times, sometimes with help (like attorneys), but in any case, we don’t go around blowing things up that we don’t like.

I had a 4-star general friend who I invited to speak at an event that I sponsored some years ago who began his talk by saying: “There is no conflict or war that the United States has entered since WWII that has resolved the problem that precipitated it, didn’t generate significant unanticipated consequences or that we ‘won’.” He went on to suggest that therefore the role of the military should be to prevent conflict, not initiate it.

Why do seemingly intelligent people want to continue to pursue behavior that doesn’t work, produces horrible pain and suffering, long-lived negative side effects and other costs and is counter to common sense?

I therefore don’t know why – in the face of a potentially explosive situation in the Middle East that would only get worse if it continues — there is not a general consensus that a deal that contractually precludes there being more nuclear weapons in the area (than Israel already has), would be a good idea. Why wouldn’t the potential of peace be better than pushing for war?

I’m not necessarily a fan of, but they recently published this infographic that rather simply and effectively highlights the major issues.

I think we should be doing everything possible to resolve the whole, growing problem – rather than adding to it, as the US and Israel appear to be doing. Even our own intelligence services have come to the conclusion that our aggressive behavior (particularly in using drones), is directly producing the reaction that we are getting from groups like ISIS.

There is a strange mindset here that presumes that if you treat people poorly they will somehow respond favorably. We do it all over the place. The US does it in Guantanamo. Our police increasingly behave this way. We tortured innocent people in our secret prisons. And, of course, it’s going on in many places throughout the world.

The article below by James Zogby reminds me of my Jordanian diplomat friend who was a Palestinian. More than 20 years ago he told me about how he was treated when he would need to enter Israel from the Allenby Bridge. This cultured, credentialed man was forced to undress to his underwear and pile his $1000 suit, tie and shirt on the bare dirt ground and have all of his body cavities inspected – a process obviously designed to humiliate him.

Anywhere else, this kind of behavior would be unacceptable, but somehow humans descend to these kinds of actions – and justify them in certain situations – presuming, one supposes that the net effect will be positive. I’ve often wondered why that is.

An Open Letter to: Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Loretta Lynch
Posted on August 17, 2015 in Washington Watch
By James Zogby

No American citizen should be subjected to the treatment that George Khoury and Habib Joudeh received when they arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel last month.

George is a 70 year old Palestinian American from San Francisco.  Habib, 62, from Brooklyn, is also an American citizen of Palestinian descent. During the third week in July, both attempted to travel to Israel/Palestine. Both told me they had been excited about their trips since neither had visited the area in more than two decades. Habib and his sons were going to a family wedding in the West Bank. George is a deacon in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and was making a Holy Land pilgrimage with a priest friend. In the end, neither Habib nor George were able to complete their long awaited visits.

On arrival in Israel (George landed on July 21; Habib and his sons landed on the 23rd), they were detained for long hours, subjected to abusive interrogations, insulted by Israeli security personnel, and finally denied entry and forced to purchase, at their own expense, return tickets back to the United States.

There are some differences in the treatment they received (George was held for more than a day, while Habib and his sons were detained for six hours), but there were significant common elements with the most disturbing being the reason they were denied entry. Because both men were of Palestinian descent, the Israelis would not honor their US passports as travel documents or recognize that they were American citizens who did not want or seek Palestinian ID’s. Both were told that they needed to acquire Palestinian IDs and that, as Palestinians, they could only enter through Jordan, via the Allenby Bridge.

The reason stamped on Habib’s “deportation” order was that he was denied entry based on “prevention of illegal immigration considerations”. When the Israeli border control agent told George that, as a Palestinian, he could not enter Israel, he attempted to engage the agent saying, “I’m not coming through as a Palestinian. I’m coming as an American citizen”. To which the agent replied “No, no, you belong with the Palestinian people. This is our Israel, this is for the Jews. No Palestinian should come to Israel. You should have gone through the Allenby Bridge”. Continue to rest of article. . .

So, again I ask, what is it that fuels all of this continuing animosity? I’m not talking about obvious things like money and power – and all of the historical memories of what someone did to someone else in the past. There almost seems to be some exogenous force that shapes or conditions certain areas for hatred and violence.

Let’s go way out of the box for a minute and consider a couple of possibilities.

I first started thinking about these things quite a few years ago when a natural scientist friend proposed that he could definitively show that in the places in the world where there was the most conflict and instability the soil was characteristically lacking in a particular mineral. I don’t remember what it was at the moment, but his proposition was that this lack of a specific compound influenced the brain chemistry (through the food that they ate that grew in the area) and predisposed the people who lived in the area to short tempers and physical violence.

Certainly we know it to be true that certain chemical changes in the brain produce particular emotional responses. That is the basis of a good part of psychiatry. So, maybe the proclivity toward fighting and violence that we see in places like the Middle East have a something to do with the local geography and geology. I don’t know.

Another possibility is even further afield of conventional thought (in this part of the world, at least).

A very bright woman used to work for me who had three MS degrees from MIT (one in nuclear engineering). She is Pakistani and Muslim. It was during one memorable conversation that she explained to me about djinns. I had said something about spirits, I believe, and she allowed that Islam fully embraced that reality and that the Koran had a whole chapter describing these djinn entities which coexisted with us on this planet. They were here before humans, were multidimensional, could manifest themselves in most any kind of way that they wanted humans to see and they were just here. They were around and everybody in many parts of the world took that for granted.

They were like humans, she said, in that some were kindly, some kind of didn’t care, and others were not particularly happy that humans were around. The latter group regularly attempted to provoke fear and violence because they nourished themselves on the energy that humans produced when they were scared or in pain.

Well, I found that interesting, but what to do? I certainly wasn’t aware of any of these guys in my neighborhood so I just poked it in the back of my brain.

Then I started running into the idea in other places. Robert Monroe, of the Monroe Institute, talked specifically about the energy harvesting and other sources, including Rosemary Ellen Guiley, who was a speaker at our Transition Talks series here in Berkeley Springs had a lot to say about them. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that political leaders in the Mideast regularly admit to making deals with individual djinn who are “contracted” to help them reach their particular goals.

Sounded to me like there was a clear incentive for the djinn, in any way that they might, to encourage the wars and fighting that generated the energy that they needed. Certainly out of the box, but by now I, at least, know for certain that “the box” doesn’t even come close to fully enclosing or describing the whole reality that exists.

A quarter of the world’s population is Muslim, so there are a lot of people on this planet who are looking at things in a way that is really different from how we do – particularly in this realm Maybe there is something out there that we westerners should know more about.

Then, two days ago, the following was sent to me. Dr. PMH Atwater is a well-known researcher on near death experiences who has written a number of books about those who die and are revived. In this posting she also mentions Rosemary Ellen Guiley so that got my attention.

So I send it along as a small way to poke the status quo and raise the distinct possibility that things are bigger than we think. I don’t know if ISIS is djinn, but they certainly are doing some very distasteful things . . . and I just keep wondering why that is.


I know saying this is a shock, but, it is true and we need to face that fact.  Once we do, we can turn around the threat ISIS represents while vastly weakening its power. Forward this material to any military sites in our country and in others.

To explain why ISIS is really another “cover” for Djinn, some background material will help you to better understand the concept of “hidden orders of manifestation and ensoulment.” Stories, legends, visions, myths are numerous throughout the world about the first peoples when the Earth was new and the human race was aborning.  Edgar Cayce, the most recorded (and verified) psychic in history talked a lot about the beginnings of what later became the people we now are.  He pegged the First Root Race (initial DNA group) as entering the earthplane vibration about 4.5 billion years ago.Spiritual, free-will companions of God, these initial projections were mostly etheric shape-shifters with an intense curiosity about what was possible and what was not in the earthplane. These “earliest of the early” were followed by the Second Root Race (about 12 million years ago), a type of lower vibration humanoids who were mostly fluid-forms  (without physical mass), androgynous, able to move in and out of existence freely – until their own passions and preferences got the best of them and they became stuck in the physicality of animal sex and plant growth.

Before you burst into riotous laughter at the silly notions just mentioned, switch over to  science and the finding that, using the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, you can actually trace gender. . . the first human female going back to 150,000 to 250,000 years ago, the first male to 60,000 to 100,000 years ago.  (Obviously, males are “the new kid on the block.”)  But don’t stop there.  Consider Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, which dates to about 10 to 11,000 years ago, Gunung Padang in Indonesia at 20,000 years or more. . .  both cultures advanced societies with complex architecture, design, husbandry, agriculture, mathematics, worship. . . skills that according to science were not even invented until umpteen thousands of years later. . .

THEN read such books as Forbidden Archaeology and several others of the same genre by Brad Steiger, which pushes dates back to the millions (like Cayce did). . . THEN study CHAOS THEORY for even more mind-bending dates and facts.


ADMIT IT.  WE REALLY DON’T KNOW WHEN OR HOW LIFE AS WE KNOW IT TODAY BEGAN (not to mention Haplotype X (blood type) which cannot be traced to ANY singular origin on this planet, yet the Basque, some Berbers, and certain other groups have it).

Today’s science does not match today’s artifacts.

Because this is true, we find ourselves scrambling back to religious and mystical  texts – especially the Bible and the Qur’an – for tales of fallen angels, Watchers, Nephilim (giants), Books of Enoch, Gnostic mysteries.  Search deep enough and sweep broadly enough and – surprise, surprise – these old stories begin to make a strange kind of sense.  So too do the warnings about evil (Devil/Satan/Lucifer) – CHRISTIAN VERSION, and evil eye (Djinn/Shadow People) – MIDDLE EAST-MUSLIM VERSION. 

I can hear your objections now. . . jinn?  Isn’t that the cute fella who lives in a magic lamp and when you rub it, out pops a genie who grants you three wishes?  Don’t believe Disney.  The name is Djinn (not genie), and according to ancient lore masters of desert lands in the Middle East, these “beings” trace back to the entries of the First and Second Root Races. . . the beginnings of beginnings. . . a strain of etheric drifters that still shape shift yet today to meet a moment’s need or to get their own way.

Myth?  Not really.  Read The Djinn Connection by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.  Take it easy when you read it, as it’s very negative (by intention) yet very informative.  Read maybe a chapter or two, then put the book down, recenter yourself.  Later that day or another day, tackle another chapter.  Really!  Take my advice here.  I’m not fooling.

I’ve know Rosemary for many years.  She’s an excellent researcher, knows her stuff, and cross-checks everything.  She is experienced in the field (I’ve been on one caper with her) and knows how to handle whatever occurs. I do not agree with her theory that Djinn is at the root of all evil (or Devil/Satan/Lucifer), but I do believe she has discovered connections we all need to recognize.  Her book is important.

A note from her book:  “The smokeless fire origin of Djinn may be a form of plasma, which could account for their unusual shapes, abilities, and properties.  Plasma, which contains charged particles, reacts to electromagnetic forces.  Changes in the density of plasma might account for the fluidity of Djinn forms, and the ease with which Djinn can shape-shift.  The Djinn seem to be sensitive to electromagnetic energy generated by devices and equipment.” Continue . . .



Driving a Real Car Blind Through a Virtual World with an Oculus Rift – (GizMag – May 26, 2015)
The real world and the virtual world have just intersected. Formula Drift driver Matt Powers has successfully driven his Roush Stage 3 Mustang at high speed in the real world while immersed in a 3D virtual world (via an Oculus Rift headset). Instead of the test track that he was actually driving on, Powers saw falling boulders, sheer cliff drops, crumbling and collapsing track, and other game-like elements. He did this as part of an advertisement for Castrol motor oil company. This required the development of a custom system to track the car’s movements in minute detail and simulate them in real time in the virtual world. To make it work with the Oculus Rift, creative technologists Adam Amaral and Glenn Snyder spent two months testing and installing a variety of sensors into the car to monitor the steering angle, wheel spin, brake, throttle position, dynamic damping, and more. “Essentially, we’re turning this car into a giant game controller,” Amaral said in a behind the scenes video (link embedded in article). Powers noted that the experience forced him to rely on his instincts and an intimate familiarity with the car. “Virtual Drift was exhilarating and challenging like nothing I’ve ever done before,” he said. “It’s been awesome not only being involved and testing this next generation of gaming technology, but [also] the possibilities this opens up for motor sport in general are mind blowing.” Link to the full film of the challenge in article.


Bacteria Eating Nicotine will Lead To New Anti-Smoking Treatment – (Market Business – August 9, 2015)
Current anti-smoking treatments have been shown to fail in at least 80% to 90% of smokers. In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers explored the use of an enzyme known as NicA2 derived from Pseudomonas putida, a bacterium that consumes nicotine as its only source of nitrogen and carbon, as an alternative. Based on their research, they found that the enzyme can be recreated in the lab and feature a number of characteristics promising for drug development. The idea is that NicA2 can seek out nicotine as well as destroy it before it gets to the brain, depriving a smoker trying to quit of the “reward” triggered by nicotine which leads to a relapse into smoking. The researchers have been working for over 30 years to create a treatment like that but it was only recently that they stumbled upon NicA2. To test the enzyme for potential usefulness, the researchers combined mice blood serum with a nicotine dose equivalent to what a cigarette would have. When NicA2 was added to the mix, the half-life for nicotine went from between two and three hours to between 9 and 15 minutes. With some chemical modifications, the enzyme’s dose could be increased, further reducing the nicotine’s half-life so that it doesn’t even reach the brain. The enzyme has the ability to stay stable for over three weeks in the lab at 98 degrees Fahrenheit and doesn’t produce toxic metabolites when nicotine is degraded. The next step is to alter the bacterial makeup of NicA2 to mitigate possible immune liabilities and improve stability to allow for a single injection that can last up to a month, making the most out of the enzyme’s therapeutic potential.

FDA Approves First 3-D Printed Prescription Pill – (Associated Press – August 4, 2015)
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first prescription drug made through 3-D printing: a dissolvable tablet that treats seizures. The drug, manufactured by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, is Spritam for adults and children who suffer from certain types of seizures caused by epilepsy. The tablet is manufactured through a layered process via 3-D printing and dissolves when taken with liquid. The Ohio-based company says its printing system can package potent drug doses of up to 1,000 milligrams into individual tablets. It expects to launch Spritam in the first quarter of 2016. Aprecia said in a statement it plans to develop other medications using its 3-D platform in coming years, including more neurological drugs.

We Are Convinced the Machine Can Do Better Than Human Anesthesiologists’ – (Washington Post – May 15, 2015)
Sedasys, a machine that automates anesthesia, is a first-of-its-kind device in the United States. Only four hospitals use it for now. It’s restricted to colonoscopies in healthy patients. But Sedasys, in development for 15 years, is no longer on the true cutting edge of what’s possible with automated anesthesia. A machine with the clunky name of iControl-RP is. It’s an experimental device that pushes the boundaries of how much responsibility is turned over to technology. It monitors brain wave activity. And it’s even been tested on children. Sedasys is an open-loop system. The initial dose is pre-determined based on a patient’s weight and age. And Sedasys only reduces or stops drug delivery if it detects problems. Only a doctor or nurse can up the dose. That gave regulators a level of comfort. But the iControl-RP makes its own decisions. It is a closed-loop system. This new device, being tested by University of British Columbia researchers, monitors a patient’s brain wave activity along with traditional health markers, such as blood oxygen levels, to determine how much anesthesia to deliver.

A Lifetime of Viruses – (The Scientist – June 4, 2015)
It may be soon be possible to test patients for previous exposures to all human-tropic viruses at once. Virologist Stephen Elledge of Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and his colleagues have built such a test, called “VirScan,” from a bacteriophage-based display system they developed in 2011. The scientists programmed each phage to expresses a unique viral peptide, collectively producing about 100 peptides from each of the 206 known human-tropic viral species. The team combined the phage with serum collected from 569 donors in the U.S., Thailand, Peru, and South Africa, allowing antibodies in each sample to bind their target peptides. The researchers then isolated the antibody-peptide-phage complexes, and harvested and sequenced the DNA inside each. The sequences, which can be read millions at a time, represent peptides recognized by the antibodies, revealing which viruses a given donor’s immune system had previously seen. “This is far beyond anything we’ve had before regarding the human antibody response to viruses,” said Kristine Wylie, a microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the work. “Healthy people carry a lot of viruses, asymptomatically,” she said. Knowledge of prior viral exposures can improve health care. For example, it’s good to know whether a patient about to start chemotherapy carries a latent virus that could resurge during treatment. Detecting a virus by the presence of its genes, however, depends on the virus being present at high enough levels and in easily accessed fluids or tissues. Measuring antibodies produced in response to viruses makes it possible to detect an infection weeks or decades later using only blood serum. But this approach is typically limited to testing for antibodies against one virus at a time. Currently, testing for many viruses at once is currently too expensive and requires too much blood to be routinely feasible. But VirScan requires just one drop of blood and, for about $25, screens for antibodies against 206 viruses, covering 1,000 strains.

An Anti-inflammatory ‘Smart Drug’ That Activates Only in High-inflammation Areas – (Kurzweil AI – July 28, 2015)
Ben-Gurion University in Israel and University of Colorado researchers have developed a dynamic anti-inflammatory “smart” drug that can target specific sites in the body and could enhance the body’s natural ability to fight infection while reducing side effects. This protein molecule has an exceptional property: when injected, it’s non-active. But upon reaching a local site with excessive inflammation, it becomes activated. Most other anti-inflammatory agents have broad effects in the body. Using a non-specific agent means any patient who suffers from local inflammation could be exposed to opportunistic infections at distant sites, such as lungs, which could risk tuberculosis, for example. This is especially a concern for immunosuppressed patients, as well as older patients and patients undergoing chemotherapy as part of an anti-cancer treatment course. “The beauty of this invention lies in the use of a known natural biological code,” Rider explains. “We mimicked a natural process that occurs during inflammation.” Article includes biochemical description of how it works.

Star Trek-Style Skin-Healing Technology Could Be the End of Chronic Wounds – (IFLScience – July 15, 2015)
A research group has just published work on the use of a small handheld ultrasonic emitter that accelerates tissue repair in situations of chronic wounds that heal slowly, if at all. This approach doesn’t provide the instant fix of Star Trek, but healing times could be reduced by 30%. This both increases comfort for the patient and shortens how long the wound is susceptible to infection. After the age of 30, our bodies’ capacity to heal deteriorates and by the time we are over 60 this deterioration can become serious. As healing deteriorates, injuries can result in chronic wounds that never heal because the damaged skin cells become dormant. Such wounds include bed sores, venous leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and pressure ulcers. The ultrasound device works by inducing nano-vibrations in the membranes and surrounding environments of skin cells. Those vibrations cause channels to open on the surface of the cell that allow calcium to move across its membranes. Calcium is the signaling currency of the cell and the mineral’s movements across membranes control many of the cell’s functions. In the case of ultrasound, the new position of the calcium within each cell gives it a defined front and back. This causes the cells to move towards the damage site, pulling the edges of the wound together and promoting healing. The research demonstrated this effect in cells isolated from venous leg ulcer patients. More importantly, we have been able to reverse a number of healing defects caused by diabetes, age and congenital disorders, so that the treated wounds heal as quickly as young, healthy wounds. (Editor’s note: Ultrasound has long been used in sports medicine; what’s new here is using it to treat chronic wounds.)

Gene Therapy Restores Hearing in Deaf Mice – (KurzweilAI – July 13, 2015)
Patients with hearing loss will one day have their genome sequenced and their hearing restored by gene therapy, says Jeffrey Holt, PhD, a scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School. A proof-of-principle study published by the journal Science Translational Medicine takes a step in that direction by restoring hearing in deaf mice. Clinical trials of gene therapy for humans could be started within 5 to 10 years, Holt believes. Holt, with first author Charles Askew and colleagues at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, focused on deafness caused by a gene called TMC1 — one of more than 70 different genes are known to cause deafness when mutated. TMC1 accounts for 4 to 8% of genetic deafness, and also encodes a protein that’s critical for hearing by helping to convert sound into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Holt’s team showed in 2013 that TMC1 and the related protein TMC2 are critical for hearing, ending a rigorous 30-year search by scientists. Sensory hair cells contain tiny projections called microvilli, each tipped with a channel formed by TMC1 and TMC2 proteins. Arriving sound waves wiggle the microvilli, causing the channels to open. That allows calcium to enter the cell, generating an electrical signal that travels to the brain and ultimately translates to hearing. Although the channel is made up of either TMC1 or TMC2, a mutation in the TMC1 gene is sufficient to cause deafness. However, Holt’s study also showed that gene therapy with the TMC2 gene could compensate for loss of a functional TMC1, restoring hearing in the recessive deafness model and partial hearing in a mouse model of dominant TMC1 deafness, in which patients gradually go deaf beginning around 10 to 15 years of age.


Our Extinction Problem May Be Far, Far Worse Than We Think – (Huffington Post – August 11, 2015)
The sharp decline of land snail species in Hawaii may have frightening implications for the extinction rates of animals worldwide. A multinational team of researchers argue that because the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (ICUN) Red List — often cited as the authority on extinct and endangered species worldwide — does not look at most invertebrates, it presents a skewed picture of extinction rates, portraying them as much lower than they are. Fewer than 1% of invertebrates worldwide have even been evaluated by the IUCN. Yet invertebrates constitute 95 – 99% of animal species, including insects, worms, snails and crustaceans — meaning there’s a lot of species that haven’t been assessed. In order to estimate the gap between extinction rates reported by the IUCN and real extinction rates, the researchers set out to conduct their own comprehensive survey of 325 known Hawaiian land snail species in the family Amastridae and compare their findings with the numbers listed by the IUCN. While the IUCN cites 33 Hawaiian Amastridae species as extinct, the newer study concludes there are 131 extinct Amastridae species. Robert Cowie, a University of Hawaii researcher who worked on both studies, said that although the new estimate may not be precise, it nevertheless suggests that “the real number of extinct species is far, far greater than that assessed as such by the IUCN.”

The Number of Volcanoes Erupting Right Now Is Greater Than the 20th century’s YEARLY Average – ( – April 16, 2015)
The number of volcanic eruptions worldwide is increasing. During the 20th century, there were a total of 3,542 volcanic eruptions globally. That works out to approximately 35 eruptions per year. That may sound like a lot, but according to Volcano Discovery there are 36 volcanoes erupting around the world right now. In other words, the number of volcanoes erupting as you read this article is greater than the 20th century’s yearly average. And all of this is part of a larger trend. In 2013, we witnessed the most volcanic eruptions worldwide that we had ever seen in a single year, and 2015 is already threatening to be another one for the record books. All over the planet, volcanoes that have long been dormant are beginning to wake up, and this is greatly puzzling many scientists. See also: Cotopaxi in Ecuador Erupts for First Time Since 1940s.

The California Drought – (Earth Justice – July, 2015)
The historic drought has dredged up old feuds over who can lay claim to water in a thirsty state. As the powerful lobby for the agricultural industry—which currently consumes 80% of California’s water supply—cries for more water to be pumped to their farms in the arid regions of the Central Valley, just who would be left high and dry? On April 1, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown announced California’s first-ever mandatory statewide water restrictions, calling for a 25% reduction in urban water use from 2013 levels. Standing on dry grass where there should have been five feet of snow, the governor said, “We are in a historic drought—and that demands unprecedented action.” Notably absent from the restrictions are any cutbacks in water use by the agriculture industry which accounts for 80% of California’s annual water usage. This article looks at many of the different stake holders and how both the acute water shortage and the various plans to address it will impact everyone involved. See also: Drought Drains California’s Energy Grid.


Researchers Create First Firmware Worm That Attacks Macs – (Wired – August 3, 2015)
The common wisdom when it comes to PCs and Apple computers is that the latter are much more secure. Particularly when it comes to firmware, people have assumed that Apple systems are locked down in ways that PCs aren’t. It turns out this isn’t true. Two researchers have found that several known vulnerabilities affecting the firmware of all the top PC makers can also hit the firmware of MACs. What’s more, the researchers have designed a proof-of-concept worm for the first time that would allow a firmware attack to spread automatically from MacBook to MacBook, without the need for them to be networked. This would allow someone to remotely target machines—including air-gapped ones—in a way that wouldn’t be detected by security scanners and would give an attacker a persistent foothold on a system even through firmware and operating system updates. Firmware updates require the assistance of a machine’s existing firmware to install, so any malware in the firmware could block new updates from being installed or simply write itself to a new update as it’s installed. The only way to eliminate malware embedded in a computer’s main firmware would be to re-flash the chip that contains the firmware. There are at least 5 known firmware vulnerabilities in Macs, three of which remain unpatched.

‘Zero-day’ Stockpiling Puts Us All at Risk – (The Conversation – August 5, 2015)
“Zero-days” are serious vulnerabilities in software that are unknown to the software maker or user. They are so named because developers find out about the security vulnerability the day that it is exploited, therefore giving them “zero days” to fix it. These vulnerabilities can be found in some of the most widely used software and platforms on the commercial market: Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer, social networks (Facebook and LinkedIn, to name two) and countless others. The recent dump of emails from Hacking Team sheds new light on the extent of government involvement in the international market for zero-days. Rather than disclosing these vulnerabilities to software makers, so that they can be fixed, government agencies buy and then stockpile zero-days. This practice and the policy that permits it expose billions of internet and software users to serious and unnecessary cybersecurity risks. A number of solutions to this problem are available. Knowledge of the existence of zero-days is valuable to criminals and intelligence agencies alike. They pay lots of money to learn about these vulnerabilities and then develop exploits (or simply purchase the exploits) to circumvent the information security of their targets. The international market for the buying and selling of zero-day vulnerabilities comprises three overlapping markets: “black,” “gray” and “white.” Nation-states historically have had a monopoly over buying in the gray market. They include Brazil, India, Israel, Malaysia, North Korea, Russia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States and many more. Defense contractors such as Northrupp Grumann and Raytheon are also thought to be buyers and/or sellers.

China Is Building a Supercomputer That Blows Away the Competition – (Futurism – August 12, 2015)
Last year, the U.S. stopped exporting its Intel chips to China for their key supercomputers, forcing them to think of alternatives in computing. But it seems that China has bounced back into the computer world, faster than before, and much sooner than anyone would have expected. Designed by Dr. Yutong Lu, the system designer for multiple iterations of Tianhe supercomputers, the Tianhe-2A is an upgrade to the Tianhe 2, using novel architecture to work around the lack of Xeon Phi cores from trade restrictions. Using this technique, they have managed to create a design that gives the computer the extra 45 petaflops it needs to reign at the top of the computing world. A petaflop represents the ability to do one quadrillion floating-point operations per second (FLOPS). The new Tianhe machine will be the most powerful machine in history, reaching up to a 100 petaflop peak. Lu says that the main application of the machine is for computational fluid dynamics (CFD), tackling scramjet combustion and aircraft simulations for large passenger and cargo ships. Perhaps more interestingly, however, is its usage for genomics, particularly population genetics and biomedical applications. The fact that the computer is hosted in a major defense research center (the National University of Defense Technology) and a design basis of digital signal processors (DSPs) makes it likely that it will also be used in a military or defense application in China.


Beer-based Fuel: It’s One for the Road – (New Zealand Herald – July 6, 2015)
Kiwis can now use a beer byproduct to fill their cars, with a new biofuel being unveiled at an Auckland service station. The fuel, dubbed “Brewtroleum”, is made by blending ethanol – extracted from yeast left over after beer is brewed – with normal petrol. It will be sold at 60 of the company’s service stations across the North Island. Though biofuels are already available in New Zealand, through petrol stations like Gull and Mobil, DB Breweries – the creators of the 98 octane Brewtroleum – claim this is the world’s first commercially available biofuel made from a beer by-product. An initial batch of 300,000 liters of Brewtroleum has been formulated using 30,000 litres of ethanol, which was extracted from more than 58,000 liters of leftover yeast slurry that would otherwise be distributed as stock feed, or discarded. “We’re helping Kiwis save the world by doing what they enjoy best – drinking beer,” said DB spokesman Sean O’Donnell. Mr. O’Donnell expected the first lot of fuel to last about six weeks, but he’d like to see it become a long-term offering.


Crazy Paving: Rotterdam to Consider Trialling Plastic Roads – (Guardian – July 10, 2015)
The Netherlands could become the first country to pave its streets with plastic bottles after Rotterdam city council said it was considering piloting a new type of road surface touted by its creators as a greener alternative to asphalt. The construction firm VolkerWessels has unveiled plans for a surface made entirely from recycled plastic, which it said required less maintenance than asphalt and could withstand greater extremes of temperature. Roads could be laid in a matter of weeks rather than months and last about three times as long, it claimed. The plastic roads are lighter, reducing the load on the ground, and hollow, making it easier to install cables and utility pipelines below the surface. Sections can be prefabricated in a factory and transported to where they are needed, reducing on-site construction, while the shorter construction time and low maintenance will mean less congestion caused by road construction. Lighter materials can also be transported more efficiently. The PlasticRoad project is still at the conceptual stage, but the company hopes to be able to put down the first fully recycled thoroughfare within three years. Rotterdam, a keen supporter of sustainable technology, has already signaled its interest in running a trial.

WalkCar Transports Passengers on a Laptop-sized Board – (Dezeen – August 11, 2015)
A Japanese inventor has developed the “world’s smallest electric car” – an aluminum board with wheels that carries a passenger like a Segway and fits into a backpack. Available as an indoor and outdoor version, the four-wheeled WalkCar is powered by a lithium battery and can reach speeds up to 6.2 miles per hour. The device works similarly to the bulkier two-wheeled Segway device, with the user shifting their weight to change direction. Stepping onto the board starts it automatically and disembarking immediately stops the motion. According to the manufacturer, Cocoa Motors, three hours of charging provides enough power for travelling distances of up to 7.4 miles. Embedded video clip shows a pretty cool device. Think of it as a mini-skateboard that can power the rider uphill instead of having to stroke uphill.


Can Solar Powered Floating Farms Provide Power for the World? – (Collective Evolution – May 23, 2015)
From an innovative company called Forward Thinking Architecture comes a design for a sustainable farm that floats in the ocean. The vision for the Smart Floating Farms (SFF) project is “a world with minimal agricultural imports, less land consumption and to promote food self–sufficiency in as many countries as possible.” The SFF is configured as a modular-expandable Multi Layer Floating Farming system, which combines some sustainable energy production systems such as solar energy, hydroponics green growing, and aquaponics. These systems have already seen great success in cities and alongside other farming methods, but the SFF is designed to be used on the ocean, saving valuable land mass and utilizing a huge untapped resource – the oceans take up 71% of the Earth’s surface. The shape of the rectangular SFF is modeled on the traditional grid configuration already being used for many floating fish farms in Asia. Each module will be very lightweight and measure 200 by 350 meters, equaling a total footprint of 70,000 square meters. The modules will have the capability to connect to other modules, forming clusters and built-in walkways. The SFF will consist of 3 main levels: the ground level, used for aquaculture (fish) and desalination technologies (allowing for water management efficiency and autonomy); the first floor, used for hydroponic crop cultivation; and the rooftop, covered in solar panels, skylights, and rainwater collectors. These are being designed to be fully automated, but will also have the capability to accommodate a human workforce. Each module is estimated to produce 8,152 tons of vegetables and 1,703 tons of fish a year. This design consumes less water than traditional farming methods, and sustainable water management practices will be fully utilized. All organic waste that is produced will be converted using a bio digester into safe, high quality fertilizers. Typical farming issues such as droughts, floods, and pests will be irrelevant, thanks to the use of greenhouses and hydroponics.

Idaho’s Anti-whistleblower Ag Gag Law Ruled Unconstitutional – (Huffington Post – August 4, 2015)
An Idaho court found that agricultural whistleblowing is not a crime. Consumers who want to know the truth about the food system won a big victory this week against the culture of silence thanks to U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who struck down Idaho’s anti-whistleblower Ag Gag law. He ruled the legislation unconstitutional, stating: The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment. Increasingly common undercover investigations showing mistreatment of animals have inspired more public interest in how these operations run and what’s really happening behind the barn doors. Despite the public outcry, the industry hasn’t changed its behavior. Discovered and seeing a threat to their bottom lines, industry lobbyists have pushed state legislators to enact Ag Gag statutes that essentially make it a crime to report a crime. The Idaho law didn’t just try to stop undercover investigations; it attempted to silence the truth and truth-tellers – even whistleblowing employees.


Your Smartphone and Laptop Battery Life Could Endanger Your Privacy – (Mashable – August 4, 2015)
A new research paper shows how your smartphone or laptop’s battery can be used to compromise your privacy. A HTML5 feature called the Battery Status API lets websites check the status of your device’s battery with such precision that it could be used to track you in short time intervals, researchers claim. And that’s even if you’re using identity-concealing software such as Tor. This happens because the Battery Status API can pull several pieces of information about your device’s battery — level, charging time and discharging time. Combined, this data is nearly unique for each device, meaning it allows potential attackers to create a digital fingerprint of your device and track your activities on the web. “In short time intervals, Battery Status API can be used to reinstantiate tracking identifiers of users, similar to evercookies. Moreover, battery information can be used in cases where a user can go to great lengths to clear her evercookies. In a corporate setting, where devices share similar characteristics and IP addresses, the battery information can be used to distinguish devices behind a NAT, of traditional tracking mechanisms do not work,” the paper claims. As of June 2015, Firefox, Opera and Chrome support the HTML5 feature. According to the paper, the potential privacy issues of the Battery Status API have been discussed as early as 2012, but the API was not revised to alleviate them. The issue is extremely easy to fix, researchers argue: Just make the battery readings less precise. By rounding the values down, none of the functionality would be lost, but it would be nearly impossible to identify a user.


Did a Judge Just Undermine the Administrative State with SEC Ruling? – (Forbes – June 9, 2015)
A federal judge’s ruling against the Securities and Exchange Commission for using its own judges in an insider-trading case might be looked at in hindsight as the beginning of the end of an alternative system of justice that took root in the New Deal but has raised serious constitutional questions ever since. In a 45-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May in Atlanta issued an injunction halting administrative law proceedings against Charles Hill, a businessman the SEC has accused of reaping an illegal $744,000 profit trading in Radian Systems stock. The judge ruled that the agency violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution by subjecting Hill to proceedings before an administrative law judge who isn’t directly accountable to the President, officials in charge of the SEC or the courts. While it’s just a single ruling by a single judge on a seemingly arcane point of administrative law, the decision echoes the deep concerns some judges and academics have about extrajudicial proceedings, said Philip Hamburger, a professor a Columbia Law School and author of Is Administrative Law Unlawful?, a book that compares the modern administrative state to the Star Chamber operated by King James I.

FBI Behind Mysterious Surveillance Aircraft over US Cities – (Associated Press – June 5, 2015)
Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned. The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009. For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy. The FBI says the planes are not equipped or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance. The surveillance equipment is used for ongoing investigations, the FBI says, generally without a judge’s approval. The FBI confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services.

Politicians from Both Sides of the Aisle: Corruption Has Destroyed America – (Washington’s Blog – August 3, 2015)
This article offers some very telling quotes from high-level insiders about corruption in the American system of government at all levels. For example: “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. …  It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re  wrong [and] vote no.” — Vice President Joe Biden  in  2015. And this one: “Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. …  [They]  on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. …  [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.” — Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2015. See also: Jimmy Carter Is Correct that the U.S. Is No Longer a Democracy.


Parsing the Iran Deal – (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – August 8, 2015)
On July 14, 2015, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) concluded a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning the future of Iran’s nuclear program. The deal, which is the outcome of more than two years of negotiations, includes limits on Iran’s nuclear program as well as provisions for verification, implementation, procurement, sanctions relief, and peaceful nuclear cooperation. It singles out specific nuclear sites in Iran for particular scrutiny and restrictions, including the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow and the heavy-water reactor, with its supporting facilities, at Arak. Unsurprisingly, the deal is complex—the text and its five annexes stretch to over 100 pages. This article’s aim is to analyze the deal as impartially and objectively as possible solely from a nonproliferation perspective. It is not to offer a final conclusion about whether the deal is a good or bad one, but instead to help readers make up their own minds. As in many complex negotiations, parties to the JCPOA traded compromises between seemingly unrelated areas. Accordingly, it looks at the benefits and risks of the agreement as a whole, as well as the pros and cons of individual provisions. Throughout, it identifies key questions and issues that will need to be addressed in the months and years ahead if the deal is to be implemented successfully.


Costa Rica Becomes First Latin American Country to Ban Hunting for Sport – (Inhabitat – June 27, 2015)
Costa Rica just became the first country in Latin America to ban hunting for sport. Costa Rica’s Congress has voted unanimously to approve the ban, which will protect the country’s wildlife – including several species of native big cats. Any hunters caught breaking the new law will face jail time or hefty fines. Hunters from around the world flock to Costa Rica to hunt the country’s jaguars and pumas for sport – or to capture the cats and sell them on the black market as pets.  Illegal hunting tours bring in a pretty penny for tour leaders, and their popularity helped spur the newly announced ban. Parrots are also a target, since they can be captured and smuggled out to be sold as pets around the world. The Costa Rican people started the initiative to protect their animals – it began as a grass-roots campaign that brought over 177,000 signatures to the national Congress. Now that the bill has been approved, violators of the hunting ban will face up to four months in jail and fines up to $3,000. (Note that this legislation was passed before Cecil the lion was killed on July 1, 2015.) See also: Costa Rica Plans to Shut Down Its Zoos and Free All Animals in Captivity.

Vandals Cut Short Robot’s Hitchhiking Adventure – (Boston Globe – August 2, 2015)
A hitchhiking robot that left Marblehead last month to seek adventure crossing the country was cut down in its prime, its creators reported Sunday. The robot, called hitchBOT, had covered a lot of ground since its July 17 departure, visiting Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. But on Saturday, while passing through Philadelphia, hitchBOT was vandalized. “Oh dear, my body was damaged,” the robot was quoted on the project’s website, “But I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!” It was an ignoble halt to hitchBOT’s quest to reach San Francisco. The robot was designed as a social experiment by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and Ryerson University in Toronto. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots…but this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?” Frauke Zeller, one of the robot’s creators, asked. The robot has been across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands with no problem, but shortly after arriving in the United States it was destroyed. Researchers declined to provide a photo of the robot’s injuries, saying they were “afraid to upset young fans.” However, they said hitchBOT would be repaired. The genderless robot stands 3 feet tall, and weighs about 25 pounds. Made out of a minicomputer and circuit contained in a bucket, it looks like somebody “cobbled together odds and ends to make a robot,” said David Harris Smith, one of the robot’s creators. It has pool noodles for arms, a cake saver for a head, garden gloves for hands, and it wears bright yellow rain boots. But what it lacks in conventional beauty, it makes up for with brains. The robot has camera vision, a speaker system, GPS capabilities, world knowledge from Wikipedia, and speech recognition processing abilities. See also: Parents of the Decapitated HitchBOT Say He Will Live On.

Why Singapore Is the World’s Most Successful Society – (Huffington Post – August 4, 2015)
Singapore turns 50 on Aug. 9, 2015. Singapore has improved the living standards of its people faster and more comprehensively than any other society in recorded history. So why did Singapore succeed so comprehensively? The simple answer is three exceptional policies: Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty, (the MPH formula). Meritocracy means a country picks its best citizens, not the relatives of the ruling class, to run a country. Pragmatism means that a country does not try to reinvent the wheel. As Dr. Goh Keng Swee would say, “No matter what problem Singapore encounters, somebody, somewhere, has solved it. Let us copy the solution and adapt it to Singapore.” Copying best practices is something any country can do. However, implementing “Honesty” is the hardest thing to do. Corruption is the single biggest reason why most Third World countries have failed. The greatest strength of Singapore’s founding fathers was that they were ruthlessly honest. It also helped that they were exceptionally shrewd and cunning.


The Battle Above – (CBS News – August 2, 2015)
This article provides the transcript from the “The Battle Above” which aired on April 26, 2015, and was rebroadcast on August 2, 2015. Without most of us noticing, our everyday activities — everything from getting cash at an ATM to watching this program — depend on satellites in space. And for the U.S. military, it’s not just everyday activities. The way it fights depends on space. Satellites are used to communicate with troops, gather intelligence, fly drones and target weapons. But top military and intelligence leaders are now worried those satellites are vulnerable to attack. They say China, in particular, has been actively testing anti-satellite weapons that could, in effect, knock out America’s eyes and ears. No one wants a war in space, but it’s the job of a branch of the Air Force called Space Command to prepare for one. If you’ve never heard of Space Command, it’s because most of what it does happens hundreds even thousands of miles above the Earth or deep inside highly secure command centers. The Pentagon told us it spends $10 billion a year on space. But we found a White House report that estimates the real cost is much higher — $25 billion dollars when you count spy satellites and other classified spending. That’s more than NASA or any other space agency in the world. Eleven countries, including Iran and North Korea, now have the ability to launch objects into orbit. And Russia and China have been testing new anti-satellite technologies. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article. It’s informative and fascinating on a topic otherwise rarely considered.)

3 Ways Intelligent Extraterrestrials Could Traverse the Universe in Seconds – (Collective-Evolution – July 27, 2015)
Thanks to the official disclosure of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) by dozens of countries which details encounters with UFOs, more questions are being asked. Apart from wondering what and who exactly these beings are, people are also asking how they got here. This article offers some possible explanations, but a civilization so advanced as to visit us probably has methods that we cannot yet comprehend. For example, the idea behind the Alcubierre Drive is to basically place a craft within a space that is moving faster than the speed of light. Therefore the craft itself does not have to travel at the speed of light from its own type of propulsion system. It’s easier to understand if you think in terms of a flat escalator in an airport. The escalator moves faster than you are walking! In this case, the space encompassing the ship would be moving faster than the ship could fly, keeping all the matter of the ship intact. Therefore, we can move faster than light in a massless cloud of space-time. The Alcubierre Drive is based on Einstein’s field equations, and it  suggests that a spacecraft could achieve faster-than-light travel. Rather than exceed the speed of light alone in a craft, a spacecraft would leap long distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it. This would result in faster than light travel. Physicist Miguel Alcubierre was the first (that we know of) to identify this possibility.


Here Are 11 Things Other Countries Do Way Better Than America – (Raw Story – July 10, 2015)
Americans, maybe more than anyone on Earth, are guilty of the sin of hubris, i.e. excessive pride. As the great Greek poets of the ancient world have noted, hubris can lead to devastating outcomes. The reality is that a good portion of the rest of the world has far outpaced the United States in things like healthcare. But healthcare is not the only way America lags behind the rest of the world. Here are 11 things other countries do better than us. For example: food waste reduction. Almost 50 million Americans, present to some degree in every single county of the country, live in a food-insecure household. Meanwhile, up to 40% of the food supply, more than 20 pounds of food per person per month, is wasted. France has a better way. This year, national French law banned the disposal of unsold food. Instead, the food must be donated to charity or used as animal feed.


“Nano-spirals” Could Make Counterfeiting Almost Impossible – (GizMag – June 5, 2015)
Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee have created the world’s smallest continuous spirals. Made from gold, the spirals exhibit a set of very specific optical properties that would be difficult to fake, making them ideal for use in identity cards or other items where authenticity is paramount. The team used electron-beam lithography to create the minuscule gold spirals, subsequently testing them using ultrafast lasers at Vanderbilt University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington. It’s not the first time that microscopic spirals have been studied by researchers, but previous efforts have focused on spirals made from individual nanoparticles rather than solid bars, like drawing in dots of ink rather than full lines. The nano-spirals in the new study are also much smaller than those in prior research, with a square array featuring some 100 nano spirals measuring less than one hundredth of a millimeter wide. Each individual spiral is smaller than the wavelength of visible light, affording it some interesting and difficult-to-fake properties. When the researchers shone an infrared laser on them, an effect known as frequency doubling or harmonic generation occurred, causing a visible blue light to be emitted.

This Odd-Looking Clothing Is Designed to Help Autistic Kids – (Wired – August 13, 2015)
Wearing a Sensewear jacket isn’t like wearing an ordinary jacket. It doesn’t just keep you warm; it can kind of hug you, thanks to its inflatable lining. When you throw on a Sensewear scarf, it does more than wrap around your neck. It can also emit soothing aromas that bring back pleasant memories. In general, Sensewear isn’t ordinary apparel. It’s a wild-looking line of prototype clothing designed as an example of how apparel could help treat people with sensory perception disorders. Emanuela Corti and Ivan Parati, Dubai-based designers who make up the Caravan design collective, imagine the collection of jackets, shirts, and scarves as sort of garment-therapist prototypes for people who undergo sensory occupational therapy. The prototype line, which won the prestigious Lexus Design Award this spring, is made up of five pieces. They look outlandish and impractical, but integrated into each one is an idea for dealing with a different kind of sensory interaction. The jacket, for instance, has an inflatable lining and a hand pump, so the wearer can mechanically induce a pressurized, hugging feeling similar to an infant being swaddled. There’s an oversized necklace you can bite, touch, or shake like a tambourine to relieve stress. There are two scarves: an aromatic model that acts as a traveling olfactory memory bank, and another that’s more like a many-tentacled elastic snake, meant to provide pressure and comfort around the neck, shoulders, waist, or wherever. The last piece is a pullover with a stretchy hood, for people with sensitivity to noise. You can burrow inside it and create your own custom acoustic chamber. Embedded video clip of clothing.


Japanese Whisky Heads to Space – (NDTV – August 1, 2015)
A Japanese brewing and distilling company is sending samples of its whisky and other alcoholic beverages to the International Space Station next month to study the effect of zero gravity on the flavor of the drinks. Suntory Holdings will send a total of six samples of its whiskies and other alcoholic beverages to the ISS, where they will be kept for at least a year to study the effect zero gravity has on the ageing process. According to a spokesman at the company, the samples, which will be carried in glass flasks, will include both a 21-year-old single malt and a beverage that has just been distilled. The company hopes to learn how the ultimate zero gravity environment affects the taste of the products, he added. The company has conducted collaborative research which suggests the probability that mellowness develops by promoted formation of the high-dimensional molecular structure in the alcoholic beverage in environments where liquid convection is suppressed. “On the basis of these results, the space experiments will be conducted to verify the effect of the convection-free state created by a microgravity environment to the mellowing of alcoholic beverage,” the company said in a statement. The first samples will return to Earth in about a year, while the rest will remain in space for at least two years.

Jeremy Deller Designs Special-edition Note for Brixton Pound – (Dezeen – August 10, 2015)
Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller has created a new limited-edition banknote for the Brixton Pound, a currency that supports south London’s local economy. To mark five years since the currency’s launch, the Brixton Pound recently unveiled a new special-edition of the B£5 designed by British artist Deller – who won the top Turner Prize in UK art in 2004. The new note features a psychedelic graphic around an unidentifiable face on the front, accompanied by a quote from philosopher Karl Marx’s book Capital on the back. “These are the most amazing currency notes ever produced, no exaggeration,” said This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll creative director Charlie Waterhouse. “They’re beautiful and mysterious, spiritual and politicizing. In two sides of paper it provides the most compelling response to the rot that emanates from the Square Mile that I’ve seen since we were all told we had to live under the yoke of austerity,” (Editor’s note: Alternative currencies are coming of age.)


Hiroshima Remembers the Atomic Bomb: Abolish the Evil of Nuclear Weapons – (Guardian – August 6, 2015)
Hiroshima has marked the 70th anniversary of the moment the city was flattened by an atomic bomb with prayers, a moment’s silence and vows to redouble efforts to halt nuclear proliferation. On a sweltering day in the Japanese city, tens of thousands of people lowered their heads and stood in silence at 8.15am, the time the bomb was dropped on 6 August 1945, killing 80,000 people instantly and another 60,000 in the months that followed. Doves were released into the morning sky and a Buddhist temple bell tolled as people across Japan marked the anniversary of the first nuclear attack in history. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said that Japan would submit a new resolution to the UN general assembly this autumn calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. He would “encourage world leaders to get firsthand accounts of the tragic reality of atomic bombings” during next year’s G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Hiroshima. This year, as on every other anniversary, the names of survivors – the hibakusha – who died in the previous 12 months will be added to the peace park’s cenotaph. On the eve of the 70th anniversary, the total stood at 292,325.

The Millennium Project’s Newly-released “2015-16 State of the Future” – (PR Web – August 13, 2015)
The “2015-16 State of the Future” just released by The Millennium Project gives trends on 28 indicators of progress and regress; new insights into 15 Global Challenges; impacts of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and other advanced technologies on employment over the next 35 years; and how economic change is inevitable by 2050. This is the 18th global assessment of the foreseeable future. It distills much of the leading research from UN organizations, national governments, think tanks, and insights from thought leaders around the world. The 14-page executive summary is freely available in several languages. Some of the key findings include: By 2050, new systems for food, water, energy, education, health, economics, and global governance will be needed to prevent massive and complex human and environmental disasters. The 2015 State of the Future Index shows slow but steady improvement in general human welfare over the past 20 years and next 10 years—but at the expense of the environment and with worsening intrastate violence, terrorism, corruption, organized crime, and economic inequality. The future can be much better than most pessimists understand, but it could also be far worse than most optimists are willing to explore.

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

Inside a Dog Retirement Home – (National Geographic/YouTube – June 5, 2015)
This is a video clip featuring House with a Heart, a senior pet sanctuary located in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It is a retirement home for some lucky dogs (and cats) that get to spend the rest of their days here. The furry residents have ended up at the pet sanctuary for various unfortunate reasons. The good news is this is going to be their forever home as Sher Polvinale and a team of volunteers are committed to caring for the dogs until the very end. The dogs are never forgotten as they are remembered on a very special Stairway To Heaven. See also: the nonprofit’s website: House with a Heart.


Trees Trained to Grow into Furniture – (GizMag – June 2)
The wood to make furniture has to be harvested from a felled tree which is then milled, sawed, planed, sanded, put back together with glue and screws, and finished. Wouldn’t it be easier to avoid most of these steps and simply coax a tree to grow into a piece of furniture? That way, it would be one-piece, inherently strong, and could potentially last many years longer than assembled furniture. Gavin Munro thought this too, and about a decade ago set about achieving this goal. His company, Full Grown, now creates furniture by cajoling trees to grow into one-piece items that are not only inherently practical, they are also eminently beautiful. Over a period of between four to eight years, Munro trains trees to grow over plastic formers to become chairs; carefully interlacing their branches to form a solid, intricate unit. Each tendril is slowly and deliberately coerced into creating entwined legs, stiles, rails, and stretchers that create a fully-formed piece of furniture. Article includes 36 photographs showing how the trees are trained.


The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create. – Leonard I. Sweet, American theologian and semiotician.

A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Sergio Lub, 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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Volume 18, Number 12 – 7/31/15

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