FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Preliminary findings strongly suggest that air pollution is a contributing cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- The world’s first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, now appears to have been caused by evolution itself.
- Global life expectancy has risen by more than six years since 1990.
- From 1982 to 2009, the number of sheep farms in Catalonia almost halved, from 3,964 to 2,085 but thanks to 4 schools of sheepherding in Spain, young people are coming back into the work – and the lifestyle.
by John L. Petersen
Transition Talks Update
We have had two wonderful Transition Talks recently here in Berkeley Springs. A month ago Dr. Todd Ovokaitys gave an all-day presentation that encouraged everyone present with the extraordinary breakthroughs that he has helped manifest in the areas of healthcare and agriculture. We videotaped the session and will be making it available for online viewing in a short time. We’re working through some technical issues that will soon be remedied.
Mentalist Alain Nu wowed everyone last Saturday with his amazing presentation of mind-reading skills and metal bending with only his concentration on the selected item. After the session the operation of a local restaurant came to a stop as owners and staff were awestruck as he caused a spoon that they supplied to twist itself up 180 degrees by just holding it in his hand and concentrating on it. My friends are all still talking about that show!
You should save the dates of 22-23 January as that is when maestro Robert Haig Coxon comes to town. He’ll perform in concert on Friday night and give workshops on Saturday about using music for healing and spiritual and social development. Robert is the extraordinary composer and performer who travels with Lee Carroll and the Kryon team to all of their major international events. Robert’s music has been shown to significantly influence health, social behavior, and most recently, agriculture.
Plan on joining us. It will be a joyous time of rejuvenation and encouragement.
Current Items of Note
Massive US Senate Document On National And Global Weather Modification
You think the “weather” is just “the weather”? It just happens naturally from all of those highs and lows and humidity and stuff – right? You get what happens and it is all just an “act of God” (like the insurance policies claim)?
Well, all of the chemtrails that we see in the sky certainly suggest that something big is going on that is funded by governments (and corporations?). But it is almost certainly much more than that.
A recently surfaced congressional report from 1978 (they’ve been doing this stuff for a long time) shows conclusively that our government has been manipulating our weather – and causing droughts and other extraordinary events for at least 60 years.
So, what do you think? Is the drought in California – and all of the misery that it has produced – natural or influenced or caused by outside forces and efforts?
Dane Wigington – geoengineeringwatch.org
How big does the climate engineering elephant in the room need to be before it can no longer be hidden in plain site? How much more historical proof do we need of the ongoing climate engineering/weather warfare before the denial of the masses crumbles? When will populations around the globe bring to justice all those responsible for the ongoing and rapidly worsening worldwide weather warfare assault? At the bottom of this post is a PDF file containing the entire congressional report from 1978 that we have recently located. This report is just under 750 pages in length (20 key excerpts are posted below to give a general overview). It is a mountain of information that further confirms the ongoing extensive involvement of our government in climate modification/weather warfare. This document also confirms the involvement of foreign governments around the globe, even governments that would otherwise have been considered “hostile to US interests”. Within this text a great many aspects and consequences of the ongoing national and global weather modification programs are discussed. Legal implications (including the need for total immunity from any form of prosecution), biological implications, societal implications, environmental implications, etc. Named in the document are federal agencies involved as well as major universities.
Read the complete article . . .
If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy
I have increasingly wondered, as government and corporate interests burrow deeper into knowing who we as individuals are and what we are doing, what a world without privacy might look like. What would it be like living in an environment where either the powers that be — or “everyone” – knew everything about everyone else? Well, here’s a piece from The Atlantic that paints the picture of the significant step that we’ve all taken in that direction.
As government agencies and tech companies develop more and more intrusive means of watching and influencing people, how can we live free lives?
I knew we’d bought walnuts at the store that week, and I wanted to add some to my oatmeal. I called to my wife and asked her where she’d put them. She was washing her face in the bathroom, running the faucet, and must not have heard me—she didn’t answer. I found the bag of nuts without her help and stirred a handful into my bowl. My phone was charging on the counter. Bored, I picked it up to check the app that wirelessly grabs data from the fitness band I’d started wearing a month earlier. I saw that I’d slept for almost eight hours the night before but had gotten a mere two hours of “deep sleep.” I saw that I’d reached exactly 30 percent of my day’s goal of 13,000 steps. And then I noticed a message in a small window reserved for miscellaneous health tips. “Walnuts,” it read. It told me to eat more walnuts. It was probably a coincidence, a fluke. Still, it caused me to glance down at my wristband and then at my phone, a brand-new model with many unknown, untested capabilities. Had my phone picked up my words through its mic and somehow relayed them to my wristband, which then signaled the app?
Read the complete article . . .
Matt Drudge Drops Bombshell Warning in Surprise Interview — “I had a Supreme Court Justice say to me it’s over”
As the old world implodes, the folks who have run the place forever will increasingly do increasingly drastic things to maintain control. They’re trying to do that with the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty that would make corporate interests superior to those of governments and the people. They’re trying to control the Internet with more constraints – all benefiting corporate interests. And here is an indication that they are going after the alternative press, the very window to the real world that has illuminated and facilitated all of the positive change that is also coming.
Posted on October 7, 2015by Paul Joseph Watson
Matt Drudge warns that the very foundation of the free Internet is under severe threat from copyright laws that could ban independent media outlets, revealing that he was told directly by a Supreme Court Justice, “It’s over for me.”
During an appearance on the Alex Jones Show, Drudge asserted that copyright laws which prevent websites from even linking to news stories were being advanced.
“I had a Supreme Court Justice tell me it’s over for me,” said Drudge. “They’ve got the votes now to enforce copyright law, you’re out of there. They’re going to make it so you can’t even use headlines.”
“To have a Supreme Court Justice say to me it’s over, they’ve got the votes, which means time is limited,” he added, noting that a day was coming when simply operating an independent website could be outlawed.
Read complete article . . .
Why Are The IMF, The UN, The BIS And Citibank All Warning That An Economic Crisis Could Be Imminent?
So, the old world is collapsing and a new one is emerging – that’s what we have been saying here for years. You don’t have to be a futurist to be able to see that energy, agriculture, education, geopolitics, and social standards are all in flux – big time.
Now comes this summary from Washingtons Blog and Economic Collapse Blog that nicely wraps up the current global financial system’s health . . . or lack of health.
Posted on October 9, 2015 by Washingtons Blog
By Michael Snyder, the Economic Collapse Blog
The warnings are getting louder. Is anybody listening? For months, I have been documenting on my website how the global financial system is absolutely primed for a crisis, and now some of the most important financial institutions in the entire world are warning about the exact same thing. For example, this week I was stunned to see that the Telegraph had published an article with the following ominous headline: “$3 trillion corporate credit crunch looms as debtors face day of reckoning, says IMF“. And actually what we are heading for would more accurately be described as a “credit freeze” or a “credit panic”, but a “credit crunch” will definitely work for now. The IMF is warning that the “dangerous over-leveraging” that we have been witnessing threatens to unleash a wave of defaults” all across the globe…
Governments and central banks risk tipping the world into a fresh financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it called time on a corporate debt binge in the developing world.
Emerging market companies have “over-borrowed” by $3 trillion in the last decade, reflecting a quadrupling of private sector debt between 2004 and 2014, found the IMF’s Global Financial Stability Report.
This dangerous over-leveraging now threatens to unleash a wave of defaults that will imperil an already weak global economy, said stark findings from the IMF’s twice yearly report.
The IMF is actually telling the truth in this instance. We are in the midst of the greatest debt bubble the world has ever seen, and it is a monumental threat to the global financial system.
But even though we know about this threat, that doesn’t mean that we can do anything about it at this point or stop what is about to happen.
Read all of this article . . .
What I Learned about Climate Change: The Science is not Settled
Finally, here’s one of the most succinct statements that I’ve seen on how the whole climate change debate looks to me. David Siegel spent two years doing his homework and decided that the sun – not humans – is driving the changes on our planet. He doesn’t talk as much about the possibility of it getting cold as he might, but try this on for size. Think about what he is saying and if it makes sense or not.
What is your position on the climate-change debate? What would it take to change your mind?
If the answer is It would take a ton of evidence to change my mind, because my understanding is that the science is settled, and we need to get going on this important issue, that’s what I thought, too. This is my story.
More than thirty years ago, I became vegan because I believed it was healthier (it’s not), and I’ve stayed vegan because I believe it’s better for the environment (it is). I haven’t owned a car in ten years. I love animals; I’ll gladly fly halfway around the world to take photos of them in their natural habitats. I’m a Democrat: I think governments play a key role in helping preserve our environment for the future in the most cost-effective way possible. Over the years, I built a set of assumptions: that Al Gore was right about global warming, that he was the David going up against the industrial Goliath. In 1993, I even wrote a book about it.
Recently, a friend challenged those assumptions. At first, I was annoyed, because I thought the science really was settled. As I started to look at the data and read about climate science, I was surprised, then shocked. As I learned more, I changed my mind. I now think there probably is no climate crisis and that the focus on CO2 takes funding and attention from critical environmental problems. I’ll start by making ten short statements that should challenge your assumptions and then back them up with an essay.
Read complete article . . .
Have a nice day!
Data Never Sleeps 3.0 – (Domo – no date)
Data is being created all the time without us even noticing it. The global internet population grew 18.5% from 2013-2015 and now represents 3.2 billion people. And just how much data do our tweets, likes and photo uploads really generate? The numbers are staggering. Take a look at this infographic.
The Rapid Rise of Neural Networks and Why They’ll Rule Our World – (New Scientist – July 8, 2015))
Where is all that data going? Here is one place: An artificial intelligence, one that live-streams from a computer on the ground floor of the Technicum building in Ghent University, Belgium is having a very odd dream – psychedelic visions of brain tissue folds, interspersed with chunks of coral reef. This vision has been conjured up after a viewer in the chat sidebar suggests “brain coral” as a topic. It’s a fun distraction – and thousands of people have logged on to watch. But beyond that, the bot is a visual demonstration of a technology that is finally coming of age: neural networks. The bot is called 317070, a name it shares with the Twitter handle of its creator, Ghent graduate student Jonas Degrave. It is based on a neural network that can recognize objects in images, except that Degrave runs it in reverse. Given static noise, it tweaks its output until it creates images that tally with what viewers are requesting online. Degrave’s experiment plays off recent Google research which aimed to tackle one of the core issues with neural networks: that no one knows how neural networks come up with their answers. Neural networks can recognize different kinds of tumors in medical images. They have learned to play Super Mario World and can hold their own in the complex board game Go, performing as well as a moderately advanced human without planning ahead. Neural networks have overtaken established technologies to become the best way to automatically perform face recognition, read and understand text and interpret what’s happening in photographs and videos. And they are learning it all from us. Whenever we use the internet or a smartphone, we are almost certainly contributing data to a deep learning system, one probably relying on neural networks that our data helped train in the first place. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article in that it explores some of both the technical and ethical aspects of neural networks as they exist currently and where they may be headed.)
NASA Scientists Find Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars – (Guardian – September 28, 2015)
Liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months on Mars, according to researchers who say the discovery raises the chances of being home to some form of life. The trickles leave long, dark stains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of meters downhill in the warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop. Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns. Scientists are unsure where the water comes from, but it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers, or condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere. “There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars,” said Michael Meyer, the lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars exploration program. “Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.”
A Hydrothermal Siphon Drives Water Circulation Through the Seafloor – (UC Santa Cruz – June 26, 2015)
Vast quantities of ocean water circulate through and under the seafloor, flowing through the volcanic rock of the upper oceanic crust. About 25% of the heat that flows out of the Earth’s interior is transferred to the oceans through this process, according to Andrew Fisher, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz and coauthor of the study. Much of the fluid flow and heat transfer occurs through thousands of extinct underwater volcanoes (called seamounts) and other locations where porous volcanic rock is exposed at the seafloor. Fisher led an international team of scientists that in the early 2000s discovered the first field site where this process could be tracked from fluid inflow to outflow (more than 30 miles apart), in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Three-dimensional computer models reveal a ‘hydrothermal siphon’ driven by heat loss from deep in the Earth and the flow of cold seawater down into the crust and of warmed water up out of the crust.
A Bigger, Older Stonehenge Has Been Unearthed by Scientists a Mile from the Original – (Quartz – September 8, 2015)
Archaeologists have discovered a massive monument of stones buried in the ground just three kilometers (1.8 miles) from the famous Stonehenge site. Researchers believe that it’s older than Stonehenge and was used as a “ritual arena” of some sort. “We don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere else in the world,” said Vince Gaffney, lead researcher, of the University of Bradford. “This is completely new and the scale is extraordinary.” Using cutting-edge, multi- sensor radar technology, archaeologists found that there were once about 90 stones—out of which 30 survived intact—buried beneath Durrington Walls, a vast Neolithic settlement close to Stonehenge. The stones, as high as 15-feet-tall and believed to have been placed about 4,500 years ago, form an enormous theater around the Durrington Walls embankment, which itself aligns perfectly with the sunrise on the winter solstice. The researchers believe that the stones were deliberately toppled over in an effort to preserve them for history.
What Is Gene Therapy? – (ExtremeTech – August 31, 2015)
Gene therapy is the use of genetic material as medicine. Genes sit in each cell’s highly protected genome, the library of blueprints that lets every living thing run and rebuild itself properly. To put their code into practice, most genes must be “translated” into a protein — the DNA code specifies the order of amino acids to be added to a chain, which then folds up into a shape determined by that sequence. It’s through this folded three-dimensional structure that the protein performs its function within the cell. Gene therapy is changing the genes available to the cell’s regular protein-making machinery, in order to change how the cells behave. The earliest and still most important applications for gene therapy involve test tubes — remove a sample of a patient’s bone marrow and change a gene of interest, then inject the fixed cells back into the host. This tends to work only if the fixed cells have better fitness or longer lifetimes than the natural type, so they can out-compete the diseased cells and dominate the population. The latest techniques edit genes in vivo, within the body of a living patient. The article discusses how and when this works. For a different type of similarly cutting edge therapy see also: Scout, a dog paralyzed in both hind legs due to intervertebral disc disease (compression of spinal discs interrupting nerve flow), gets stem therapy.
Optical ‘Dog’s Nose’ May Hold Key to Breath Analysis – (University of Adelaide – July 7, 2015)
University of Adelaide researchers are developing a laser system for fast, non-invasive, onsite breath analysis for disease, potentially enabling screening for a range of diseases including diabetes, infections and various cancers in the future. The researchers have developed an instrument they equate to an “optical dog’s nose” which uses a special laser to measure the molecular content of a sample of gas. “Rather than sniffing out a variety of smells as a dog would, the laser system uses light to “sense” the range of molecules that are present in the sample,” says Dr James Anstie. Those molecules are by-products of metabolic processes in the body and their levels change when things go wrong. There have been good studies undertaken around the world which show that diseases like lung and oesophageal cancer, asthma and diabetes can be detected in this way, even before external symptoms are showing. Breath analysis is a relatively new field being pursued around the world. But the system being developed offers almost-instant results, high sensitivity and the ability to test for a range of molecules at once ─ making it promising for broadscale health screening.
Completely Paralyzed Man Voluntarily Moves His Legs – (KurzweilAI – September 2, 2015)
A 39-year-old man who had been completely paralyzed for four years was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take thousands of steps in a “robotic exoskeleton” device during five days of training, and for two weeks afterward, UCLA scientists report. This is the first time that a person with chronic, complete paralysis has regained enough voluntary control to actively work with a robotic device designed to enhance mobility. In addition to the robotic device, the man was aided by a novel noninvasive spinal stimulation technique that does not require surgery. His leg movements also resulted in other health benefits, including improved cardiovascular function and muscle tone. The new approach combines a battery-powered wearable bionic suit that enables people to move their legs in a step-like fashion, with a noninvasive procedure that the same researchers had previously used to enable five men who had been completely paralyzed to move their legs in a rhythmic motion.
Does Air Pollution Cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? – (Grist – June 26, 2015)
While coarse pollution particles seldom make it past our upper lungs, fine and ultrafine particles can travel from our nostrils along neural pathways directly into our brains. Once there, they can wreak a special havoc that appears to kick off or accelerate the downward spiral of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While much of the research is still preliminary, the findings so far are compelling. Autopsies of the brains of people who lived in highly contaminated areas have turned up traces of pollution and corresponding brain trauma. And among those still living, epidemiologists have recorded elevated rates of brain disease and accelerated mental decline. In 2015, nearly 1-in-5 Medicare dollars will be spent on Alzheimer’s; this disease and other types of dementia will cost the United States $226 billion. By 2050, experts predict, that cost will rise to $1.1 trillion — the baby boomers are only now entering the phase of life when degenerative diseases usually emerge. Because boomers were born before the improvements of the Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, they likely have had a greater lifetime exposure to air pollution than any other generation before or after them. But although American air today is the cleanest it has been in four decades, pollution is still a major public health problem. According to estimates from the American Lung Association, more than 46 million Americans — about 15% of the U.S. population — are chronically exposed to levels of particle pollution that exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, with a further 44.1 million plagued by periodic unhealthy exposures on bad air days or, as in parts of California, seasonal air pollution spikes. Meanwhile, in some Chinese and Indian cities, air pollution levels are routinely three to six times higher than World Health Organization standards.
Pesticides in Paradise: Hawaii’s Spike in Birth Defects Puts Focus on GM Crops – (Guardian – August 23, 2015)
Local doctors are in the eye of a storm swirling for the past three years over whether corn that’s been genetically modified to resist pesticides is a source of prosperity, as companies claim, or of birth defects and illnesses. Pediatrician Carla Nelson waited for the ambulance plane to take the infant from Waimea, on the island of Kauai, to the main children’s hospital in Honolulu. It was the fourth [severe heart malformation] she had seen in three years. There have been at least nine in five years, she says, shaking her head. That’s more than 10 times the national rate. Corn that’s been genetically modified to resist pesticides [is] a major cash crop on four of [Hawaii’s] six main islands. In Kauai, chemical companies Dow, BASF, Syngenta and DuPont spray 17 times more pesticide per acre than on ordinary cornfields in the US mainland. That’s because they are precisely testing the strain’s resistance to herbicides that kill other plants. About a fourth of the total are called Restricted Use Pesticides because of their harmfulness. Just in Kauai, 18 tons – mostly atrazine, paraquat (both banned in Europe) and chlorpyrifos – were applied in 2012. When the spraying is underway and the wind blows downhill from the fields to the town – a time no spraying should occur – residents complain of stinging eyes, headaches and vomiting. “Your eyes and lungs hurt, you feel dizzy and nauseous. It’s awful,” says middle school special education teacher Howard Hurst, who was present at two evacuations. “Here, 10% of the students get special-ed services, but the state average is 6.3%,” he says. “It’s hard to think the pesticides don’t play a role.”
A Giant Glob of Deadly Algae Is Floating off the West Coast – (The Extinction Protocol – August 25, 2015)
From the air, the Pacific algal bloom doesn’t look like much of a threat: a wispy, brownish stream, snaking up along the West Coast. But it’s causing amnesia in birds, deadly seizures in sea lions, and a crippling decline in the West Coast shellfish industry. The culprits are single-celled, plant-like organisms called pseudo-nitzschia, a subset of the thousands of species of algae that produce more than 50% of the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis. They’re a hardy variety usually found in cool, shallow oceans, where they survive on light and dissolved nutrients, including silcates, nitrates, and phosphates. “They’re sort of like the dandelions of the sea,” says Vera Trainer, who manages the Marine Biotoxin Program at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. They tend to flare up in April or May as trade winds cycle nutrient-rich waters from offshore depths to the coast in a process called “upwelling,” but they usually fade after only a few weeks – until a few years ago. The algae produce a compound called domoic acid, a type of amino acid that leads to a condition commonly known as “amnesic shellfish poisoning.” Shellfish and some small fish, like sardines and anchovies, feed on the algae and concentrate the toxin in their flesh. When animals further up the food chain—like birds—eat those fish and shellfish, the domoic acid seeps into the bloodstream and eventually the brain, where it attacks cells in the hippocampus, the brain’s command center for memory and learning. The result: amnesia-stricken birds that will repeatedly fly into windows, and sea lions that writhe on the shore, plagued by seizures. Both are symptoms of rapidly firing neurons in the hippocampus, which will eventually burn out and kill the animal. Beaches have been littered with dead fish, birds, and sea lions up and down the Pacific coast since May—all the way up to Alaska, where NOAA is investigating the deaths of fin whales in connection with the toxin.
10 Things We Learned About Tackling Plastic Ocean Waste – (Guardian – June 23, 2015)
Earlier this year an NGO warned we could end up with ‘as much plastic in our oceans as fish’. More than 50% of ocean plastics are coming from rapidly developing geographies around the world, where population growth and increased plastics consumption is outpacing the capacity to manage waste. Even in the US, waste infrastructure is set up for a material mix that’s less relevant today. “Plastic never dies, and that means every piece we ever produce will stay on this planet,” warns Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans. We’re told of ocean plastic strangling seals and turtles swallowing it, but the mainstream media rarely frame the problem as an economic one. Bridget Croke, head of investor and industry partnerships at the Closed Loop Fund, says some big consumer packaged goods companies are demanding more recycled content because they are concerned with the price volatility of raw materials. However, she says it’s early days and markets must be pushed pro-actively. (Editor’s note: With the price of oil – the major raw material for plastic – plunging, consumer activism is going to be more important than ever in challenging corporate behavior.) See also: Study finds over 90% of seabirds have consumed plastic.
Evidence of Coal-Fly-Ash Toxic Chemical Geoengineering in the Troposphere: Consequences for Public Health – (Reuters – August 12, 2015)
There is growing evidence of a grave new and persistent global environmental public health threat that has gone unremarked in the scientific literature. Burning coal by electric utilities concentrates the impurities in “fly ash”, fine particles that used to go up the smokestack, but now are trapped because of their toxic environmental and public health hazards. In a recent article in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, geoscientist, J. Marvin Herndon presents “strong experimental evidence that coal fly ash is the aerosolized particulate sprayed in the troposphere by tanker-jets for geoengineering, weather-modification and climate-modification purposes.” While university scientists talk about geoengineering as if it is some possible future activity, the reality is that geoengineering has been practiced throughout the 21st century, with full scale, near-daily operational activity since about 2013. Further, while the academics talk about placing substances in the upper atmosphere (stratosphere), where little mixing occurs, with “no public disclosure, no informed consent, and no public health warnings” the on-going geoengineering activities spray toxic coal fly ash into the lower atmosphere (troposphere) where it mixes with and pollutes the air we all breathe. Herndon discloses “the consequences on public health are profound, including exposure to a variety of toxic heavy metals, radioactive elements, and neurologically-implicated chemically mobile aluminum.”
Where Loon Is Going – (Google – no date)
Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters. Project Loon began with a pilot test in June 2013, when thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island and beamed Internet service to a small group of users. The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area. Looking ahead, Project Loon will continue to expand the pilot, with the goal of establishing a ring of uninterrupted connectivity at latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, so that pilot testers in these latitudes can receive continuous service via balloon-powered Internet.
Apple’s iMessages and the Federal Fight over Data Privacy – (Fortune – September 8, 2015)
Government officials want access to private data. Apple, Microsoft, and others aren’t giving in. About two years after ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the U.S. government had intercepted tens of thousands of domestic e-mail exchanges and instant-message conversations under the guise of counterterrorism, the government is frustrated that the technology industry won’t play ball and create a technical environment to allow it to enforce the law. Apple, Microsoft, Google, and others are resisting building access points into their networks for the benefit of the government. In Apple’s case, it’s a door into the company’s encrypted iMessage communications system; in Microsoft’s case, it’s a portal into the computers in its data centers. The Justice Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security insist such points are necessary to enforce the law—say, to catch prominent drug dealers by spying on their conversations. Allowing such access opens the door, so to speak, for other government agencies around the world to tap into the technology companies’ networks, turning one of the greatest positives of the cloud-computing era—ubiquity—into a negative. The giants of the technology industry say that the Snowden incident shows how reckless the government can be when it has access and a reason. the surge in popularity for end-to-end encryption—the type that Apple uses for iMessages—has government officials up in arms. “Apple has no way to decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data when it’s in transit between devices,” the company writes on its website. “So unlike other companies’ messaging services, Apple doesn’t scan your communications, and we wouldn’t be able to comply with a wiretap order even if we wanted to.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Ashley Madison Scandal – (AlterNet – September 4, 2015)
Ashley Madison, the website offering to connect people for extramarital affairs, was detonated recently when a group known as Impact Team hacked its database and released a file containing the private info, including sexual preferences and credit card numbers, of 37 million users. This article contains 10 things you probably didn’t know about the website; most of them aren’t that interesting, but two are. An investigation by Gizmodo’s Annalee Newitz suggests that a large number of female profiles on the site were fakes. There were only 5.5 million female accounts to begin with out of 37 million total. As Newitz explains, “Ashley Madison created more than 70,000 female bots to send male users millions of fake messages, hoping to create the illusion of a vast playland of available women.” So men sitting at their computers getting turned on by naughty messages were often chatting with non-existent women — and paying for the privilege. Newitz has shown that the company made boatloads of money with this hustle. Leaked emails reveal that when the bots, or “engagers,” as Avid Life, Ashley Madison’s parent company called them, were turned off, the number of “guests” who became paying customers slumped. When they turned them back on, revenues went from $60,000 per month to $110,500. Is this really the robot revolution we’ve been waiting for? Also, polling people on their sexual habits is extremely time-consuming, difficult to do in large numbers, and gets responses that may or may not be honest. So naturally sex researchers are captivated by the idea of millions upon millions of Ashley Madison users whose demographic details, sexual preferences and habits are there for the searching. Even if you screen out the obvious fake accounts, you’d still be left with a trove of info far bigger than any phone or Internet survey could deliver. Some are wondering whether using info from a criminal hack is ethical, or even legal. Opinions vary. There’s the issue of informed consent. Do you go to every person and ask for permission to use the data? Other researchers argue that now the info is in the public domain, it’s free for the taking.
Sicilian Town Tells Outsiders: Take Our Homes. Please. – (New York Times – June 22, 2015)
Looking for a home? One Sicilian town is making an offer that is hard to refuse: It is giving away houses. There is a catch, naturally. The properties in Gangi, a picturesque central town that straddles the Madonie Mountains, are generally dilapidated, some abandoned generations ago. The structures give new meaning to the term “fixer-upper,” and anyone who acquires one of the properties has just four years to restore it and make it livable. Gangi had a population of about 16,000 in the 1950s, the mayor said. Today it is home to about 7,000. Ellis Island records show that about 1,700 Gangi residents landed in New York between 1892 and 1924. Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, Argentina became the preferred destination. Many family homes left behind were the so-called pagglialore typical of this town. The squat, tower-like structures housed donkeys on the ground floor with the paglia, or straw. Chickens and goats were kept on the middle floor. The farmer’s family lived on top. These structures are now among those that the city has made available, with the local government acting as real estate broker of sorts, facilitating the convergence of the town’s considerable supply of abandoned dwellings and the growing demand. Some have been given away, others sold for a nominal price. The owners decide. The offer has already lured dozens of holiday home hunters from around the world (about half from other parts of Sicily), and Gangi’s novel approach to revival has brought fresh opportunities to local builders and tradesmen while energizing tourism.
Drone Movie Shows Foster + Partners’ Apple Campus 2 Beginning to Rise out of the Ground – (Dezeen – September 4, 2015)
An unofficial drone movie shot over the site of the new Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, California, shows the latest progress on Foster + Partners’ “doughnut” office design. The high-definition movie shows that structural work on the building’s foundations and below-ground-level floors and car park is almost complete, with sections of the building now starting to rise up to its full four-story height. The building’s circular form is intended to help change workplace behaviors, encouraging staff to use and interact with the building and surrounding facilities. It will sit in the centre of the 150-acre site, surrounded by a large area of landscaped grounds and ancillary buildings. According to the design team, the site will be 80% green space when the project is finished. As well as revealing construction progress on the main offices, the movie shows the status of work on an auditorium building on the site, a rectangular research and development structure and a separate four-story car park. The project is so large that the company has created an on-site cement plant, according to the movie.
The Triumph of Solar in the Energy Race – (Unreasonable – August 7, 2015)
This essay by Hunter Lovins offers some very positive statistics on the economic viability of solar energy generation – not just looking way out into the future but practically now. For example: In January 2015, Deutsche Bank analyst, Vishal Shah, predicted that rooftop solar will be the cheapest electricity option for everyone in the US by 2016. Only one month later Agora Energiewende, a German think-tank, reported that solar electricity was already a low-cost renewable energy technology in many regions of the world and stated that by 2026 it will be the cheapest form of electricity everywhere. It described how large-scale photovoltaic installations in Germany fell from over 40 cents per kilowatt-hour (c/kWh) in 2005 to 9 c/kWh in 2014, with even lower prices reported in sunnier regions of the world. Even with no technological breakthroughs, the report concluded that there is no end to cost reduction, with costs of 4-6 c/kWh (competitive with just the running cost of a natural gas plant) expected by 2025, and 2-4 c/kWh by 2050. At that price, solar will compete with energy efficiency. The study warned, “Most scenarios underestimate the role of solar power in future energy systems.” That price was achieved for utility scale solar four months later when Austin, Texas, announced that the utility had “received offers for 7,976 megawatts of projects after issuing a request for bids in April. Out of those bids, 1,295 megawatts of projects were priced below 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.” See also: Why wind — and soon solar — are already cheaper than fossil fuels.
NBBJ Imagines Replacing London Underground Trains with Moving Walkways – (GizMag – September 8, 2015)
Following its plan to bring London out of the shade with shadow-free skyscrapers, NBBJ has unveiled a new proposal to replace tube trains in the London Underground’s Circle Line with travelators, or moving walkways. The firm says this would allow users to stroll relatively long distances more quickly than if traveling by train. NBBJ’s design (which is wholly conceptual) features three color-coded travelators of varying speed, marked in yellow, orange, and red. A commuter would step onto the yellow walkway first, which moves at a minimum speed of 3 mph, before it builds up speed to a maximum of 9 mph between stations, and then step onto the adjacent orange walkway, which moves at a maximum of 12 mph. Finally, the red walkway would zoom along at a top speed of 15 mph. “When added to an average walking pace of 3 mph, pedestrians would actually move faster on foot than today’s Circle Line trains, which must stop for boarding at each station,” says NBBJ. “The result would be considerably quicker, more enjoyable and healthier journeys.” Obviously, there are some drawbacks to the idea. While moving walkways are used by large number of travelers in airports worldwide, being required to navigate such a system would no doubt prove tricky for the elderly and some disabled people. (Editor’s note: This concept means that you would never have to wait for a train to arrive – because it’s always “there”. Occasional benches could be installed on the slow lane for people who simply want to get on and sit down.)
Victorian Prepper Tiny House Is Ready for Doomsday – (GizMag – September 9, 2015)
When commissioned to design and build a Victorian-era inspired tiny home by a Doomsday Prepper client – that is, someone who wants to be prepared should a huge calamity befall civilization – Maximus Extreme Living Solutions was in its element. The firm duly produced the Victorian Prepper, a towable home ready to operate off-grid and complete with ample storage for food and firearms. Victorian Prepper measures 8.6 ft x 21 ft (2.62 x 6 m), and its interior is dominated by a relatively large living space measuring roughly 178.5 sq ft (16.5 sq m). This area is decked with a hardwood floor, and includes a kitchen with steel apron sink, fridge freezer and microwave, plus a lounge space with sofa bed. A brick hearth also clads one wall ready for the owner to add a wood-burning stove. (Editor’s note: Not quite ready: where is the opening for the eventual flue?) The bathroom has concrete floors, a tiled shower stall with glass door, and a composting toilet. Domestic hot water is provided by two small on-demand hot water heaters. The home includes two lofts. One is located above the kitchen in the home’s turret and accessible via staircase (itself including storage space), and has plenty of room for food, clothing, household items, and firearms. The second is smaller and accessible via ladder, but has been designed to accommodate a year and a half’s worth of dry food supplies. Access to the home is gained via combination lock-equipped front door and the exterior is clad in diamond shaped asphalt shingles and wood composite lap siding. Article includes 22 images. See also: Bullet-proof luxury: The Range Rover Sentinel. For the customer whose daily routine involves the threat of being shot at or bombed, but whose taste doesn’t run to presidential limousines, the new Range Rover Sentinel might just fit the bill. Though other Range Rovers have been modified by third party firms, this is the first armored Land Rover to be fully engineered in-house by the company’s Special Vehicle Operations division.
A Fading Tradition in Spain Gets an Unusual Boost: Shepherd School – (New York Times – August 17, 2015)
Shepherding in Spain is a tough and solitary job that mountain farmers have passed on for as long as anybody here can remember. But steadily, as rural communities are slowly depleted, that tradition is changing. From 1982 to 2009, the number of sheep farms in Catalonia almost halved, from 3,964 to 2,085, according to the most recent census. There are no official statistics for the number of shepherds, but fewer than a dozen now work in the mountains of Catalonia, and most of them are nearing retirement age, according to the Catalan School of Shepherds. At that school, 14 students will complete a five-month course in August. The course starts with a month of classroom instruction, covering topics like nutrition and animal diseases. The students are then sent across the region to spend four months working alongside a veteran shepherd. Vanesa Freixa, is the director of Catalan School of Shepherds, which opened in 2009 and is one of four such schools in Spain. She said intake of students had been kept deliberately low to keep the school “at a human scale,” even if the number of applicants was now more than double the available spots. She argued that the school’s popularity was not so much due to Spain’s near-record unemployment as it was to people’s desire for an alternative to the hustle and bustle of urban life. Half of her applicants already have a university degree, she said. “There is a whole new generation that wants to live differently — and these are the candidates we really target, rather than those just seeking a job,” Ms. Freixa said.
Artificial Sweetener Splenda Downgraded to ‘Caution’ after Leukemia Found in Mice – (Medical News Today – May 29, 2015)
Splenda (sucralose) was downgraded from “safe” to “caution” in 2013 after an Italian animal study linked sucralose to a higher risk of developing leukemia. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said at the time that it was awaiting the Italian study’s review before deciding what long-term safety grade to assign to Splenda in its Chemical Cuisine guide to food additives. As of early 2015 this study review has not yet been published. Dr. Morando Soffritti, director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy, and team fed 843 laboratory mice varying doses of sucralose from when they were fetuses until they died. Post-mortems showed an association between leukemia risk and lifetime sucralose consumption – the more sucralose they consumed, the higher their risk of leukemia. Dr Soffritti said, “Our early studies in rats showed increases in several types of cancer, and, in our most recent aspartame studies, we observed a statistically significant increase of liver and lung tumors in male mice. This shows aspartame causes cancer in various places of the body in two different species. Health concerns over aspartame are leading consumers to switch to the widely promoted alternative: sucralose. Now that we have found evidence of a link between sucralose and cancer in mice, similar research should be urgently repeated on rats, and large scale observational studies should be set up to monitor any potential cancer risk to human health.”
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
US Special Operations Forces Deployed to 135 Countries in 2015 – Report – (RT – September 25, 2015)
The Pentagon’s most elite troops have been dispatched to nearly 70% of the world’s countries in 2015, according to a report. It says US soldiers are “practicing night raids or sometimes conducting them for real… sometimes actually gunning down enemies from afar.” The US special operations soldiers are carrying out missions in up to 90 nations every day, according to a spokesman for Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Ken McGraw. The dramatic increase over the last five years is “indicative of SOCOM’s exponential expansion which first shifted into high gear following the 9/11 attacks,” the report stated, adding that SOCOM would not “name the 135 countries in which America’s most elite forces were deployed this year, let alone disclose the nature of those operations.” The report notes that in the waning days of the Bush administration, Special Operations forces (SOF) were deployed in “only about” 60 nations across the world. But by 2010, just a year after George W. Bush had left office, this figure had already reached 75, and by 2013 it had skyrocketed to 134 nations, before hitting a new record of 135 this summer. Up to 11,000 special operation troops are deployed or stationed outside the US each day, with many more on standby, waiting to respond in case of an overseas crisis, SOCOM commander General Joseph Votel stated earlier, according to the report. “I think a lot of our resources are focused in Iraq and in the Middle East, in Syria for right now. That’s really where our head has been,” However, Votel told the Aspen Security Forum in July, bluntly insisting that his troops were not “doing anything on the ground in Syria.” See also the Tom Dispatch article with further details.
National Guard Drones – (Bard College Drone Center – August 28, 2015)
On August 28, 2013, an MQ-1 Predator drone took off from March Air Reserve Base in Southern California and headed north. The Predator’s mission was to provide aerial imagery to support almost 4,000 firefighters battling the Rim Fire, which by then had burned 160,000 acres and was only 20 percent contained. According to a report by the Forest Service, the Predator flew 150 hours in support of the firefighters, identifying the locations where the fire had spread and mapping the perimeter of the blaze. The Predator was operated by the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing of the California Air National Guard, one of dozen or so national guard units across the country that fly military-grade drones. A growing number of National Guard units from other states besides California are flying drones. In addition to the units that fly the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, many Army National Guard units are training to fly smaller tactical drones like the RQ-7 Shadow. “You can accomplish the mission of saving lives and then go to your 9-year-old’s soccer game,” Colonel Dana Hessheimer, commander of California’s 163rd, said in an interview. In recent years, the U.S. Air Force has come to rely on the Air National Guard units to staff Predator or Reaper surveillance missions over Iraq or Afghanistan. Some of these units are now wondering why these drones can’t be put to greater use at home. “Imagine sitting in your Air National Guard unit, just a few miles from your home, and controlling precision-guided munitions in a battle thousands of miles away. As a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Officer, you’ll supervise and lead those missions.” – Air National Guard recruitment advertisement.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
After 13 Years of Hell, a Man Held Without Charges Has One Question for US – (Common Dreams – June 24, 2015)
Moath al-Alwi, who has been a prisoner of the U.S. government and detained at the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002 without ever being charged with a crime or afforded a trial, has a simple yet urgent question for the American people and the U.S. government: Why am I still here? If the war in Afghanistan is now over, as he has heard President Obama and other lawmakers say many times, the Yemeni national wonders what possible reason could the U.S. have in keeping a man like himself—guilty of no crime—locked away on an island prison for nearly thirteen years. Despite the protests of dedicated human rights and legal activists in the U.S. and around the world, the fact that the U.S. government continues to justify the “indefinite detention” of human beings for a war that has become detached from geographical boundaries and has no end date, remains one of the most glaring, yet ignored, realities of post-9/11 America.
America’s Got War – Poverty, Drugs, Afghanistan, Iraq, Terror, or How to Make War on Everything – (Huffington Post – June 29, 2015)
The biggest mistake in American policy, foreign and domestic, is looking at everything as war. When a war mentality takes over, it chooses the weapons and tactics for you. It limits the terms of debate before you even begin. When you define something as war, it dictates the use of the military (or militarized police forces, prisons, and other forms of coercion) as the primary instruments of policy. Violence becomes the means of decision, total victory the goal. Anyone who suggests otherwise is labeled a dreamer, an appeaser, or even a traitor. Like Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush before him, President Obama, too, accepted the preeminence of war in American policy in his 2009 Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo. There, he offered a stirring defense of America’s role and record as “the world’s sole military superpower”: “Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.” It was a moment that defined the Obama presidency as being remarkably in tune with America’s already omnipresent war ethos. It was the very negation of “hope” and “change” and the beginning of Obama’s transition, via the CIA’s drone assassination program, into the role of assassin-in-chief.
The Power of False Narrative – (Common Dreams – September 28, 2015)
In this age of pervasive media, the primary method of social control is through the creation of narratives delivered to the public through newspapers, TV, radio, computers, cell phones and any other gadget that can convey information. This reality has given rise to an obsession among the power elite to control as much of this messaging as possible. So, regarding U.S. relations toward the world, we see the State Department, the White House, Pentagon, NATO and other agencies pushing various narratives to sell the American people and other populations on how they should view U.S. policies, rivals and allies. The current hot phrase for this practice is “strategic communications” or Stratcom, which blends psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into one mind-bending smoothie. It turned out that the most effective part of this propaganda strategy was to glue black hats on adversaries. Since nearly all foreign leaders have serious flaws, it proved much easier to demonize them – and work the American people into war frenzies – than it was to persuade the public that Washington’s favored foreign leaders were actually paragons of virtue. Given the careerist conformity of Washington, nearly everyone fell into line, including news outlets and human rights groups. That this conformity has not served American national interests is obvious. Take, for example, the disastrous Iraq War, which has cost the U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion, led to the deaths of some 4,500 American soldiers, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and unleashed chaos across the strategic Middle East and now into Europe. Most Americans now agree that the Iraq War “wasn’t worth it.”
Protocols of the Hackers of Zion? – (Lobelog – June 11, 2015)
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Google chairman Eric Schmidt, he boasted about Israel’s “robust hi-tech and cyber industries.” Just how diversified and developed Israeli hi-tech innovation has become was revealed the very next morning, when the Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Labs, which claims more than 400 million users internationally, announced that sophisticated spyware with the hallmarks of Israeli origin (although no country was explicitly stated) had targeted three European hotels that had been venues for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, Kaspersky itself had been hacked also by malware whose code was remarkably similar to that of a virus attributed to Israel discovered in 2011. Code named “Duqu” because it used the letters DQ in the names of the files it created, the malware had first been detected in 2011. Symantec, another cyber security firm, announced it too had discovered Duqu 2 on its global network, striking undisclosed telecommunication sites in Europe, North Africa, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. The original Duqu shared coding with, and was written on the same platform, as Stuxnet, a computer worm that disabled enrichment centrifuges in Iranian nuclear power plants, according to a 2012 report in The New York Times. Intelligence and military experts said that Stuxnet was first tested at Dimona, a nuclear reactor complex in the Negev desert that houses Israel’s own clandestine nuclear weapons program. While Stuxnet is widely believed to have been a joint Israeli-U.S. operation, Israel seems to have developed and implemented Duqu on its own. Duqu 2’s one hundred “modules” enabled the cyber attackers to commandeer infected computers, compress video feeds (including those from hotel surveillance cameras), monitor and disrupt telephone service and Wi-Fi, and steal electronic files. The hackers’ penetration of computers used by the front desk would have allowed them to determine the room numbers of negotiators and delegation members. Duqu 2 also gave the hackers the ability to operate two-way microphones in the hotels’ elevators and control their alarm systems. The penetration of the Iran negotiations by “Duqu 2″ reveals the advancements in the malware used by Israel against not only its enemies but its friends and allies as well.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Number of Americans Living on Less Than $2 a Day Is Skyrocketing – (AlterNet – September 2, 2015)
The World Bank and other global institutions use a very specific measure to record global poverty rates. They gather data designed to record the number of people in a country who live on less than $2 a day, and then use the information to make a “poverty headcount ratio”— the percentage of people in a country who live under this standard. In most recent data, Sierra Leone, for example, had a staggering 82.5% of its citizens living in poverty by this count. What is less known is that millions of Americans are living in situations of similar poverty. A new book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, explores the status of Americans who face this extreme level of poverty. “Most of us would say we would have trouble understanding how families in a country as rich as ours could live on so little,” Kathryn J. Edin, who co-wrote the book with H. Luke Shaefer, said. “These families, contrary to what many would expect, are workers, and their slide into poverty is a failure of the labor market and our safety net, as well as their own personal circumstances.” According to her research, the number of Americans living on $2 a day or less has “more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million households and 3 million children in this desperate economic situation.” (Editor’s Note: $2 a day, in this case, does not mean that people are living on $2/day every day, but that some people and, in fact, some families are reduced to living on $2/day for some days in a month.)
Sex Dolls That Talk Back – (New York Times – June 12, 2015)
Matt McMullen has proved that some people are willing to spend thousands on sex dolls. Mr. McMullen, the creator of the RealDoll, says he has sold over 5,000 customizable, life-size dolls since 1996, with prices from $5,000 to $10,000. Customers decide on body type and skin, hair and eye color, as well as special, custom-ordered features. Mr. McMullen’s new project, which he is calling Realbotix, is an attempt to animate the doll. He has assembled a small team that includes engineers who have worked for Hanson Robotics, a robotics lab that produces shockingly lifelike humanoid robots. Mr. McMullen is first focusing on developing convincing artificial intelligence, and a robotic head that can blink and open and close its mouth. One of the challenges that Mr. McMullen will have to contend with is the so-called uncanny valley. It is a concept first written about in 1970 by a Japanese researcher, that says people’s responses to robots will shift sharply from empathy to revulsion the more closely the robots resemble humans. In other words, something robotic that looks alive, but is not completely convincing, will creep people out. Mr. McMullen says the Realbotix head, which can be attached to the existing RealDoll body, will cost around $10,000, and be commercially available in two years. The full body, which he will begin developing next, will most likely range from $30,000 to $60,000. McMullen is an artist with a background in figurative sculpture; see embedded video clip of an interview with him in his factory.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
“Autobiographical Memory” Lets Robots Act as Knowledge Go-betweens for ISS Crews – (GizMag – September 8, 2015)
Anyone who’s had to take on job responsibilities from someone who left the company months ago will appreciate this robotic system designed with the International Space Station (ISS) in mind. With the design challenge of retaining important experiential information between rotating crews of astronauts, French researchers used the popular Nao robot to form an “autobiographical memory” of human interactions and pass on the know-how to new crew members. Led by Peter Ford Dominey, the team at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research chose the Nao humanoid robot because its programmable platform makes it one of the most evolved robots available on the market. With the system, humans can teach the Nao new actions through directly manipulating its joints, allowing it to mimic them by capturing their movements via a Kinect, or using voice commands. The Nao stores these interactions along with the context, such as who else was involved, when it took place, and a video of the demonstration. From a robotics perspective, this is different than simply providing predetermined sets of instructions, as the human and chronological component provides important context, such as might be relayed through two human technicians being able to consult with each other. Better systems for interacting with robotic assistants are becoming more relevant to space travel as Robonaut 2 is permanently serving aboard the ISS as of 2011. Faster and stronger than previous dextrous robots, Robonaut 2 is similar to the “helper” envisioned by the NAO/human interaction. And with space travel being constrained to short time periods for the foreseeable future, and the Robonaut 2 being the only link between rotating crews, sharing gained knowledge becomes an important link in not reinventing the cogwheel.
Life Expectancy Climbs Worldwide But People Spend More Years Living with Illness and Disability – (Kurzweil AI – September 2, 2015)
The good news: as of 2013, global life expectancy for people in 188 countries has risen 6.2 years since 1990 (65.3 to 71.5). The bad news: healthy life expectancy (HALE) at birth rose by only 5.4 years (56.9 to 62.3), due to fatal and nonfatal ailments. In other words, people are living more years with illness and disability. Ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections, and stroke cause the most health loss around the world. For dozens of countries — including Botswana, Belize, and Syria — healthy life expectancy in 2013 was not significantly higher than in 1990. In some countries, including South Africa, Paraguay, and Belarus, healthy life expectancy has actually dropped (by as much as 10 years) since 1990. Article lists countries with the 10 highest and lowest healthy life expectancy.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
From Science Fiction to Reality: The Dawn of the Biofabricator – (The Conversation – August 30, 2015)
Science is catching up to science fiction. Last year a paralyzed man walked again after cell treatment bridged a gap in his spinal cord. Dozens of people have had bionic eyes implanted, and it may also be possible to augment them to see into the infra-red or ultra-violet. Amputees can control bionic limb implant with thoughts alone. Meanwhile, we are well on the road to printing body parts. We are witnessing a reshaping of the clinical landscape wrought by the tools of technology. The transition is giving rise to a new breed of engineer, one trained to bridge the gap between engineering on one side and biology on the other. Enter the “biofabricator”. This is a role that melds technical skills in materials, mechatronics and biology with the clinical sciences. It is a vocation that’s already taking off in the US. In 2012, Forbes rated biomedical engineering (equivalent to biofabricator) number one on its list of the 15 most valuable college majors. The following year, CNN and payscale.com called it the “best job in America”. These conclusions were based on things like salary, job satisfaction and job prospects, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a massive growth in the number of biomedical engineering jobs over the next ten years
Pushing the Resolution and Exposure-time Limits of Lensless Imaging – (KurzweilAI – September 25, 2015)
Physicists at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany are pushing the boundaries of nanoscale imaging by shooting ultra-high-resolution, real-time images in extreme ultraviolet light — without lenses. The new method could be used to study everything from semiconductor chips to cancer cells, the scientists say. They are improving a lensless imaging technique called “coherent diffraction imaging,” which has been around since the 1980s. To take a picture with this method, scientists fire an extreme ultraviolet laser or X-ray at a target. The light scatters off, and some of those photons interfere with one another and find their way onto a detector, creating a diffraction pattern. By analyzing that pattern, a computer then reconstructs the path those photons must have taken, which generates an image of the target material. But the quality of the images depends on the radiation source. Now, Michael Zürch and his research team have built an ultrafast laser that fires extreme UV photons 100 times faster than previous table-top machines and is able to snap an image at a resolution of 26 nanometers (the size of a blackline walnut virus) — almost the theoretical diffraction limit for the 33-nanometers UV light used. They were also able to get real-time images at a rate of one per second at the reduced resolution of 80 nanometers. The prospect of high-resolution, real-time imaging using a relatively low-cost, small setup could lead to all kinds of applications, Zürch said. Engineers could use this to hunt for tiny defects in semiconductor chips. Biologists could zoom in on the organelles that make up a cell. Eventually, he said, the researchers might be able to reach shorter exposure times and higher resolution levels.
Blythe Masters Tells Banks the Blockchain Changes Everything – (Bloomberg – August 31, 2015)
Blythe Masters is the wunderkind who made managing director at JPMorgan Chase at age 28, the financial engineer who helped develop the credit-default swap and bring to life a market that peaked at $58 trillion, in notional terms, in 2007. She’s the banker later vilified by pundits, unfairly some say, after those instruments compounded the damage wrought by the subprime mortgage crash in 2008. Now, one year after quitting JPMorgan amid another controversy, Blythe Masters is promoting something wilder: It’s called the blockchain, and it’s the digital ledger software code that powers bitcoin. Masters is the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, a New York tech startup. She says her firm is designing software that will enable banks, investors, and other market players to use blockchain technology to change the way they trade loans, bonds, and other assets. If she’s right, she’ll be at the center of yet another whirlwind that will change the markets. “You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the Internet in the early 1990s,” Masters, a lithe 46-year-old Englishwoman with auburn hair and the proper diction of the Home Counties, explains to the rapt audience. “It’s analogous to e-mail for money.” That’s a bold statement, but Masters isn’t the only voice heralding the coming of the blockchain. The Bank of England, in a report earlier this year, calls it the “first attempt at an Internet of finance,” while the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis hails it as a “stroke of genius.” In a June white paper, the World Economic Forum says, “The blockchain protocol threatens to disintermediate almost every process in financial services.”
Evidence That Earth’s First Mass Extinction Was Caused by Critters Not Catastrophe – (Science Daily – September 2, 2015)
In the popular mind, mass extinctions are associated with catastrophic events, like giant meteorite impacts and volcanic super-eruptions. But the world’s first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, now appears to have had a more subtle cause: evolution itself. “People have been slow to recognize that biological organisms can also drive mass extinction,” said Simon Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University. “But our comparative study of several communities of Ediacarans, the world’s first multicellular organisms, strongly supports the hypothesis that it was the appearance of complex animals capable of altering their environments, which we define as ‘ecosystem engineers,’ that resulted in the Ediacaran’s disappearance.” The earliest life on Earth consisted of microbes — various types of single-celled microorganisms. They ruled the Earth for more than 3 billion years. Then some of these microorganisms discovered how to capture the energy in sunlight. The photosynthetic process that they developed had a toxic byproduct: oxygen. Oxygen was poisonous to most microbes that had evolved in an oxygen-free environment, making it the world’s first pollutant. But for the microorganisms that developed methods for protecting themselves, oxygen served as a powerful new energy source. Among a number of other things, it gave them the added energy they needed to adopt multicellular forms. Thus, the Ediacarans arose about 600 million years ago during a warm period following a long interval of extensive glaciation.
Carl Sagan: “Reincarnation Deserves Serious Study.” Years Later & the Results Are In – (Collective-Evolution – June 18, 2015)
Carl Sagan, the well-known American astronomer, astrobiologist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and author passed away in 1996. He was very skeptical of non-mainstream work, and was the same when it came to many topics within the realm of parapsychology. Almost 20 years later, we now have substantial evidence to confirm that various phenomena within the realm of parapsychology are indeed real. Some of these include telepathy, psychokinesis, distant healing, ESP, and many others, including reincarnation. Sagan did not brush off the scientific study of these phenomena, in fact, he felt that some of them deserved “serious study.” If Sagan were alive today, he would see that the serious scientific study of reincarnation has indeed been undertaken, despite the fact that it is a touchy subject, and the results challenge the belief systems of many. Most of the rest of the article discusses research done by University of Virginia psychiatrist Jim Tucker.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Blue Skies in China Suddenly Disappear after ‘Victory Parade’ – (Morning Ticker – September 8, 2015)
Residents in Beijing enjoyed beautiful blue skies for a few days as China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II — and then poof, the smog was back. A Sept. 3 military parade that marked the end of the war included amazing blue skies in the smog-choked city, but the smog was back the very next day. For two weeks between Aug. 20 and Sept. 3, the government had a series of measures to block the air pollution to ensure blue skies for the big parade, knowing that the world would be watching. As a result, the level of PM2.5, or particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller in diameters, reached its lowest point since monitoring began in 2012. People called the resulting blue skies “parade blue,” and they were gone immediately, prompting some residents to say that it was like a dream that suddenly disappeared. Others said the blue sky made them uneasy because they had grown accustomed to the smog. It wasn’t easy to reach that point. Officials had to shut down factories throughout northern China. A total of 2,000 local businesses and construction sites were shuttered in Beijing, and the number of cars were restricted. This reduced air pollutants by 30% in the surrounding provinces, and a whopping 40% within Beijing. (Editor’s note: This is a stark “proof of concept” of what it would mean in terms of the Chinese economy to dramatically reduce the air pollution given the current pollution containment practices in place.)
Microdosing: A New, Low-Key Way to Use Psychedelics – (AlterNet – June 12, 2015)
Microdosing refers to taking extremely small doses of psychedelics, so small that the affects usually associated with such drugs are not evident or are “sub-perceptual,” while going about one’s daily activities. It’s being done by anyone from harried professionals to extreme athletes to senior citizen businesswomen, and they’re claiming serious benefits from it. To trip brains (or have a transcendental experience) on LSD, a dose of 400 micrograms or more is called for; to explore your inner self, take 200 micrograms; for creative problem solving, try 100 mikes; but for microdosing, take only 10 to 15 micrograms. Similar microdoses for other psychedelics would include 0.2-0.5 grams of dried mushrooms (about one-fifth the normal dose) or about 50-75 micrograms of mescaline. Pioneering psychedelic researcher Dr. James Fadiman explained that, beginning in 2010, he had been doing a study of microdosing. Since research with LSD remains banned, he couldn’t do it in a lab, but had instead relied on a network of volunteers who administered their own doses and reported back with the results. The subjects kept logs of their doses and daily routines, and sent them via email to Fadiman. The results were quite interesting, he said. “Micro-dosing turns out to be a totally different world,” he explained. “As someone said, the rocks don’t glow, even a little bit. But what many people are reporting is, at the end of the day, they say, ‘That was a really good day.’ You know, that kind of day when things kind of work. You’re doing a task you normally couldn’t stand for two hours, but you do it for three or four. You eat properly. Maybe you do one more set of reps. Just a good day. That seems to be what we’re discovering.”
JUST FOR FUN
Futurist Talks to a Baby About the Meaning of Life and the Video Goes Viral – (Entrepreneur – September 4, 2015)
Teams of brilliant content strategists in tall, fancy office buildings obsess over what they can do to make videos go viral online. Here’s a pro tip: Put a baby girl in the hands of a futurist and have them stare into each other’s eyes. Jason Silva, the host of the Emmy-nominated show Brain Games on NatGeo, posted a 53-second video on his Facebook page in which he holds a baby and waxes philosophical about how human beings are created. As Silva informs this big-eyed baby that she is both like a “wetware Android” and “transcendent,” she looks at him as though she understands and is fascinated by every single word he says. (Editor’s note: We’re not sure the baby looks as though she understands and is fascinated by what Silva says; she might just be fascinated by his animated facial expressions….)
A FINAL QUOTE–
The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination. – Emily Dickinson
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. [email protected]
Edited by John L. Petersen