Volume 19, Number 20 – 11/01/16

Volume 19, Number 20 – 11/01/16



  • A compound found in broccoli may be a real “fountain of youth”.
  • Documents show AT&T secretly sells customer data to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
  • Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970.
  • It’s finally legal to hack your own devices, including your car.

by John L. Petersen

PostScript with Gregg Braden

We had a delightful weekend with Gregg Braden this past weekend. An appreciative crowd of about 200 people came together for the Saturday afternoon.

Gregg also sat in for two PostScript interviews. You can get a good taste of what was on his mind by clicking on the picture below.

Here’s the second segment of our interview.

Dramatic Elephant Rescue

Recently one of Air Shepherd’s drone teams came upon a baby elephant that was drowning in a waterhole in Zimbabwe. The video of the rescue is inspiring. We’re happy that National Geographic chose to feature it on their site. Air Shepherd is a program of the Lindbergh Foundation, which I head, that flies drones at day and night with cameras to spot poachers that are trying to kill elephants and rhinos. It is highly effective and merits your support. You can learn more here.

Wow! I’ve never been in a revolution before!

I think I’ve heard the word “amazing” more times in the last week than any other week of my life. We’re all sitting here watching some of the most fundamental aspects of the US come unraveled right in front of our face. It appears that there is a counter-coup underway by significant elements within the military and 16 agencies of the intelligence community to overturn what they describe as a literal coup of the country by Bill and Hillary Clinton and those around them. A great deal of corruption by the Clintons that now includes both of the Clintons being involved in pedophilia rings are now becoming public.

The representative of the intelligence community, Dr. Steve Pieczenik, who has a rich, very responsible history with the US government is now saying that it is the intelligence community (not the Russians), that is providing the documents to Wikileaks and is working with Julian Assange to expose the wrongdoings by the Clintons. Their near-term objective is to have Hillary Clinton withdraw from the presidential election.

Many groups, including the New York Police Department are also releasing damning information on the Clintons. Piczenik describes this as the Second American Revolution.

What is also becoming clear is that Donald Trump’s concerns about the election being rigged are very credible. It’s turning out that it is easy to rig elections. Multiple sources are coming forward describing the large-scale compromise of voting machines and describing the techniques for controlling the outcome of elections. In particular, one programmer has discovered a way that almost all elections can be manipulated from a centralized location with software that he developed.

On October 27th (before all of the above became public), Greg Hunter interviewed Clif High, from, and Clif predicted great upheaval before the election and Donald Trump winning by something like 90% of the vote.

So we’ll see. We’ll all have front row seats . . .

If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, consider that it also appears that Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet. Security reporter Bruce Schneier makes a compelling case:

Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses. Continue reading . . .

There were some other things that I was going to include here, but I think that a coup and counter-coup of the United States of America and the potential collapse of the Internet are probably enough for today.

As I write this, tonight is the last game of the World Series. (For those of you not from this part of the world, it’s an event related to baseball.) Some of us are hoping that the Chicago Cubs win the Series . . . for the first time since 1908. The Cubs were famous for losing. We used to live five blocks from Wrigley Field, where they played on the north side of the Windy City, and went down to watch them lose about half dozen times a year. It was great fun, but they always lost.

But, recently something happened. They reorganized, got new management, developed a new strategy, found new players, and now they’re on the verge of winning the biggest event in baseball. They rose to the occasion, changed what they were doing, built a new vision and headed into making a future more to their liking.

That’s what we all need to do in the face of the extraordinary uncertainty that is swirling around us. Our job is to rise to the occasion – to reach to discover the new ideas, courage and the wherewithal to design the emerging new world. We must become new humans. We have to develop new capabilities. Not get bogged down about the present erosion. The converging implosion of structural systems that have been the touchstones of our past is to be anticipated: the future only arrives when the present becomes the past.

Nothing stays the same. The only constant in this process is change, and this is the biggest change that humans have ever seen.

There is only movement and evolution and we can either surf that wave into the next – rather glorious – era in life on this planet . . . or not.

But sustaining the momentum requires a serious sense of hope. I had planned to pen a piece about hope for this issue, but this missive from Fred Burks’ PEERS website captured the essence of what I was feeling. I commend it to you.

You Were Made For This
By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times.

Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Author of the best seller Women Who Run with the Wolves

My friend Kingsley Dennis described the way forward as the visionary path.

Humanity’s greatness is not in what it has achieved, nor what it is, but in what it can become.
– Kingsley Dennis

At our basic level of awareness there is no perceptible pattern to the flow of events. We do not have access to objective reality, although there can be moments and instances when glimpses occur. The phenomenon of miracles is an example of this, when the laws of a reality outside of our own intervene/operate within our subjective reality. Likewise, many ancient tales, fables, allegories, etc, are representations of what we refer to as a ‘higher dimension’ operating within our own. Such cultural impulses help us, whether we are conscious of it or not, to re-frame our perception of our current consensus of reality and its accepted truths. What we often take to be reality is in fact only a very thin slice of a much ‘bigger picture.’

As part of the preparation toward the visionary state one works with relative truth and understanding – this is the case for the majority of us today. We begin to step along the visionary path from the perspective of relative truth. The visionary path is known by various names, some more prominent than others, depending upon the location and the era in which it is operating. Another long-standing name is the perennial path, or perennial tradition, to which I shall turn to in my next article on this subject.

Read complete article . . .



Banning Tablets Is Best for Children – (Wall St. Journal – October 23, 2016)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 18 months get zero screen time, and those ages 2 to 5 be limited to one hour a day—half of its prior recommendation. The group recommended that the hour be “high quality programming” that parents watch with their children. The academy doesn’t set limits for older children, but suggests curtailing screen time before bedtime and when it conflicts with healthy activities. Most parents haven’t been listening. Mobile devices—tablets, smartphones and the like—in the hands of children are a big business. Time spent in apps from the “family” category on the Google Play store doubled in the past year, according to app-tracker App Annie. Children ages 2 to 11 watch an average of 4 ½ hours a day of recorded programming. And more than 50% of Netflix Inc. accounts world-wide watch some form of children’s content, a spokeswoman says. We have been conducting a social experiment on our children since the arrival of the smartphone a decade ago and the tablet soon after. A rich library links too much television for children to ill effects ranging from obesity to attention disorders. But there are few studies examining children using tablets and smartphones.

As an interesting exercise in seeing the ways in which two different news sources can report on the same original content and lead the reader to a very different sense of the material, read the next article which covers the same revised set of recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatricians Revise Thinking on Screen Time; Ditch Ban for Kids under 2 – (Ars Technica – October 22, 2016)
To adjust to our digital world, the American Academy of Pediatrics has rebooted its thinking on children’s media use by giving parents considerably looser recommendations than those of the past. Most notably, the academy ditched its strict ban on screen time for kids under the age of two, which had been in place since 1999. Now, the AAP acknowledges that not all screen time is equal, and even very young kids can benefit from certain types of media if parents and caregivers are involved. Specifically, the AAP now says that for kids of any age—notably infants 0 to 18 months—video-chatting (e.g. Skype and FaceTime) is A-OK with supervision. From 18 to 24 months, the AAP now says that infants can use media as long as a parent or caregiver is present to interpret and repeat educational content. When asked why the new recommendation is for kids aged 18 to 24 months and not 15 to 24 months, the AAP said that it was because toddlers vary so much in their developmental courses, but that “most toddlers will be cognitively ready to learn from screens at 18 months with the parent’s help.” The AAP notes that kids aged 2 to 5 years can start picking up lessons from media. However, some data suggest that over-reliance on media can mess up kids’ sleep and exercise habits, as well as their social, language, and cognitive development—for example, if they veg out in front of the TV for hours. The AAP recommends setting a limit of just one hour of screen time a day and sticking with “high-quality” content, such as Sesame Workshop and PBS.

Facebook Could Be Associated with a Longer Life, Study Finds – (New York Times – October 31, 2016)
A research paper, published in the journal PNAS, asserts that the health effects of active online social lives largely mirror the benefits of busy offline social lives. “We find that people with more friends online are less likely to die than their disconnected counterparts,” the paper says. “This evidence contradicts assertions that social media have had a net-negative impact on health.” The study was based on 12 million social media profiles made available to the researchers by Facebook, as well as records from the California Department of Health. It found that “moderate use” of Facebook was associated with the lowest mortality rate, and that receiving friend requests correlated with reduced mortality, but that sending friend requests did not. The study’s methods are detailed at length in the paper, and it was approved by three university and state review boards. But skeptics will note that Facebook itself was closely involved with the paper. Mr. Hobbs, who conducted the research while he was a doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego, said Facebook had not interfered with the results of the paper. “We had some things in writing that they couldn’t interfere with the publication of the research no matter what the result was,” he said.


Chicxulub Dinosaur Crater Investigation Begins in Earnest – (BBC News – October 11, 2016)
Scientists have obtained remarkable new insights into the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. They have been examining rocks from the crater that the 15km-wide space object dug out of what is now the Gulf of Mexico some 66 million years ago. The team says it can see evidence in these materials for how life returned to the scene soon after the calamity. Prof. Sean Gulick, from the University of Texas, US, is one of the two chief scientists involved. “We’ve been able to examine that first 10,000 years after the impact, which is dominated by what we call ‘disaster species’ – dominated by the organisms that love stressed environments. And then we can see evolution coming back in [during] the next few hundred thousand years after that.” Gulick said, “So, we think that this investigation will give us answers to some fundamental questions that people have been asking for decades, like the energy of the impact, maybe some information about the kill mechanisms that caused the mass extinction, and also fundamentally about how impact processes work [and] how impacts affect all planets in the rocky part of the Solar System.” Topics of early interest will include the possibility that some vestige of the impactor itself can be found in the cores. A telltale of this meteoritic material will likely be high levels of the element iridium. The scientists should also be able to comment on the tsunamis that occurred when the asteroid struck what was then a shallow sea. Colossal volumes of water would have sloshed back and forth and this action ought to be recorded in cascades of sediment.

These Amazing Little Birds Just Broke the World Record for Nonstop Flight – (Washington Post – October 29, 2016)
The common swift is “the greyhound of the sky,” Anders Hedenstrom says. Shaped like a torpedo, with long, blade-like wings, it effortlessly swoops and soars through the air, riding the wind like a creature out of mythology. For millennia, bird lovers have admired its aerial agility and seemingly endless flight. But even the most ardent ornithologists were amazed to learn that common swifts are capable of flying for 10 months without once touching land – a world record for time on the wing. “It’s the most extreme example [of nonstop flight] that we know of,” says Hedenstrom, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden and lead author of a study examining common swifts’ astonishing abilities. Hedenstrom and his colleagues spent two years tracking 13 swifts via tiny light sensors and accelerometers loaded into backpacks they attached to the birds. The light sensors allowed them to geolocate the birds by tracking the time of sunrise and sunset. The accelerometers tracked the beating of the swift’s wings and the speed of their forward movement, so scientists could calculate how far and fast the birds were traveling and the amount of time they spent on the ground. Three of the birds never landed at all. Instead they spent their entire migration aloft, traveling more than 10,000 miles without rest. No other migratory bird – not even the tenacious frigate bird, which spends weeks on the wing during long ocean crossings – is known to spend so long in the sky. Common swifts must do everything they need to survive while aloft. They mate in the air and consume airborne insects. They drink by gliding over smooth water and dipping their beak in to take sips. It’s assumed that they even sleep while in flight – Hedenstrom’s study found that the birds ride updrafts to extremely high altitudes at dawn and dusk, and it’s possible that they nap while drifting downward. But no one has documented this, so scientists can’t say for sure.


In a First, Mouse Eggs Grown from Skin Cells – (Science News – October 17, 2016)
For the first time, researchers have grown eggs entirely in a lab dish. Skin-producing cells called fibroblasts from the tip of an adult mouse’s tail have been reprogrammed to make eggs, Japanese researchers report. Those eggs were fertilized and grew into six healthy mice. The accomplishment could make it possible to study the formation of gametes — eggs and sperm — a mysterious process that takes place inside fetuses. If the feat can be repeated with human cells, it could make eggs easily available for research and may eventually lead to infertility treatments. “This is very solid work, and an important step in the field,” says developmental biologist Diana Laird at UC San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. But, she cautions, “I wouldn’t want patients who have infertility to think this can be done in humans next year,” or even in the near future. Stem cells reprogrammed from adult body cells have been coaxed into becoming a wide variety of cells. But producing eggs, the primordial cells of life, is far trickier. Egg cells are the ultimate in flexibility, able to create all the bits and parts of an organism from raw genetic instructions. They are far more flexible, or potent, than even the embryonic-like stem cells from which the researchers created them. Making eggs in a dish is such a difficult task that it required a little help from ovary cells that support egg growth, stem cell researcher Katsuhiko Hayashi of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, and colleagues found. The team had previously reprogrammed stem cells to produce primordial germ cells, the cells that give rise to eggs. But they had to put those cells into mice to finish developing into eggs in the ovary. It’s unclear how support cells in ovaries foster egg development, Hayashi says. Something made by support cells or physical contact with them, or both, may be necessary for the egg to fully mature. Researchers can’t yet reproduce the supporting cells in the lab and so need to get those cells from embryos, Hayashi says. That could be a problem when trying to replicate the experiments in humans.

App Helps Save Seattle Cardiac Patient – ( – October 20, 2016)
If your heart is going to stop, right outside a hospital is not a bad place for it. And if 41 people within a 330-yard radius have a cellphone app alerting them to your distress, so much the better. That’s what happened in Seattle recently when Stephen DeMont collapsed at a bus stop in front of University of Washington Medical Center. Five days later, DeMont, 60, is walking, smiling and talking about how the PulsePoint app helped save his life. Seattle officials say the rescue shows the potential the free download has for connecting CPR-trained citizens with patients who urgently need their help. It’s being used in 2,000 U.S. cities in 28 states. Developed by a former fire chief in Northern California, Richard Price, the app works through a city’s 911 system. When a call comes in, operators alert people within a certain radius that CPR assistance is needed, along with the location of the nearest portable defibrillator. About 900,000 people around the country have downloaded and carry the app, and 34,000 people have been activated to respond, he said, adding that alerts have been issued in 13,000 cardiac events. He came up with the idea in 2009, he said. He was in a restaurant when he heard sirens from his crews at the San Ramon Valley fire department. As he wondered where they were going, they arrived at the restaurant. “The patient was unconscious, unresponsive. I was 20 feet away on the other side of the wall,” Price said. “The whole time I was listening to that siren, I could have been making a difference.” It occurred to him that at any given time, two-thirds of his staff was off duty — in restaurants, out in the community. If there was a way to alert them to such emergencies by phone, it could save lives, Price said.

Zapping Undifferentiated Stem Cells with Light to Prevent Ttumors – (Kurzweil AI – October 14, 2016)
Pluripotent stem cells (PSC) could be the key to a host of regeneration therapies because they can differentiate (develop) into basically any tissue type. But some PSCs in a culture dish can remain undifferentiated, and those could form teratomas — a type of tumor — if transplanted into patients. Now a new light-based technology could remove this risk, Korean researchers report in an open-access paper in ACS Central Science. The researchers created a special dye (CDy1) that can selectively stain undifferentiated PSCs, but not differentiated ones. When the dye is exposed to light, it turns on the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which then kill these cells. The researchers used undifferentiated PSCs transplanted into mice to demonstrate the method. None of the mice that received light-treated PSCs with the dye developed teratomas, whereas all of those in the control group (receiving PSCs that were not treated with light) did. The CDy1 and/or light irradiation did not negatively affect differentiated endothelial cells. The researchers believe this dye-light combination could greatly improve the safety of a wide array of stem-cell therapies.


Fracking Linked to Cancer-Causing Chemicals, New YSPH Study Finds – (Yale School of Public Health – October 24, 2016)
An expansive new analysis by Yale School of Public Health researchers confirms that numerous carcinogens involved in the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing have the potential to contaminate air and water in nearby communities. Fracking is now common in the United States, currently occurring in 30 states, and with millions of people living within one mile of a fracking site. The study suggests that the presence of carcinogens involved in or released by hydraulic fracturing operations has the potential to increase the risk of childhood leukemia. The presence of chemicals alone does not confirm exposure or risk of exposure to carcinogens and future studies are needed to evaluate cancer risk. The team examined an extensive list of more than 1,000 chemicals that may be released into air or water as a result of fracking. According to the findings, the majority of chemicals (>80%) lacked sufficient data on cancer-causing potential, highlighting an important knowledge gap. Of the 119 compounds with sufficient data, 44% of the water pollutants and 60% of air pollutants were either confirmed or possible carcinogens. Because some chemicals could be released to both air and water, the study revealed a total of 55 unique compounds with carcinogenic potential. Furthermore, 20 chemicals had evidence of increased risk for leukemia or lymphoma specifically. This analysis creates a priority list of carcinogens to target for future exposure and health studies.

World Wildlife Falls by 58% in 40 Years – (BBC News – October 27, 2016)
Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970, a report says. The Living Planet assessment, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF, suggests that if the trend continues that decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses. Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the declines. Dr Mike Barrett. head of science and policy at WWF, said: “It’s pretty clear under ‘business as usual’ we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we’ve reached a point where there isn’t really any excuse to let this carry on. This analysis looked at 3,700 different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles – about 6% of the total number of vertebrate species in the world. The team collected data from peer-reviewed studies, government statistics and surveys collated by conservation groups and NGOs. Any species with population data going back to 1970, with two or more time points (to show trends) was included in the study. Dr Robin Freeman, head of ZSL’s Indicators & Assessments Unit, said: “But one of the things I think is most important about these stats, these trends are declines in the number of animals in wildlife populations – they are not extinctions. By and large they are not vanishing, and that presents us with an opportunity to do something about it.”


The Science Is “Overwhelming at This Point” Wifi Industry Appeals Brain Tumor Association Ordinance – (Collective Evolution – October 26, 2016)
Recently the Berkeley City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance to require cellphone retailers in Berkeley, California to provide consumers with information regarding the dangers associated with the wireless industry and more specifically, on cell phone radiation. It specifically requires all cellphone retailers in the area to provide consumers with a notice on radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure and the proper guidelines to help users avoid this type of exposure. Warnings may include the dangers associated with carrying a phone in a shirt, pants, tucked into a bra or anywhere else on a person that may exceed federal safety guidelines. The ordinance was created with the help of Lawrence Lessig, a Law Professor at Harvard University, and Robert Post, the Dean of Yale Law School. The wireless industry has filed an appeal against the ordinance. Some companies already have warnings in their packaging, but it’s only found in the fine print and isn’t mentioned at the point of sale. For example, here’s a statement from Apple which already has safety recommendations for cellphone use; however, most people don’t know about them: “To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories. Carry iPhone at least 10mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.”

Why the Internet Broke and You Couldn’t Do Anything about It – (Mac World – October 24, 2016)
On October 21, the Internet was unevenly available to people, with many major sites being difficult or impossible to reach. Those sites weren’t under attack: some of the Internet’s plumbing was. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against Dyn took down a hunk of the Internet in America, starting on the East Coast and then hitting the West, because that company provides one piece of networking glue for many major Internet companies. Dyn is a DNS (domain naming system) host, handling the lookup that happens every time any computer or mobile device anywhere in the world needs to convert a human-readable domain name (like into an Internet numeric address, find the appropriate mail server, or retrieve other domain-related details. Dyn certainly has a robust, globally distributed, redundant network of servers plus mitigation options—it has to, to have passed scrutiny from all the companies that contract it for service. So it’s even more terrifying that this attack was so effective and so long in duration. The downside of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that most of these “smart” devices are pretty dumb about security. Many ship with default administrative passwords and don’t require you change them. They use UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) to punch through network firewalls for remote access. They use unencrypted connections over the Internet. And they often run outdated, exploit-riddled versions of embedded operating systems and open-source modules for networking access. These devices can be hijacked, and that’s been happening lately on an alarmingly broad basis. Tens of millions to hundreds of millions of IoT devices have had malware installed that allows them to be remotely triggered as part of a “botnet” used in a DDoS. A large portion of those are apparently DVRs and home and business security cameras. Security expert Bruce Schneier noted: “The problem is [that] the patching ecosystem requires a certain price point of device to make it viable. We are dropping below that price.” He put it succinctly, “The Internet of Things too cheap to secure.” See also:Disruptive Cyberattack-Chinese Firm Story about a Chinese electronics maker’s recall of web-connected cameras sold in the U.S.

It’s Finally Legal to Hack Your Own Devices (Even Your Car) – (Wired – October 31, 2016)
You may have thought that if you owned your digital devices, you were allowed to do whatever you like with them. In truth, even for possessions as personal as your car, PC, or insulin pump, you risked a lawsuit every time you reverse-engineered their software guts to dig up their security vulnerabilities—until now. Recently, a new exemption to the decades-old law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act quietly kicked in, carving out protections for Americans to hack their own devices without fear that the DMCA’s ban on circumventing protections on copyrighted systems would allow manufacturers to sue them. One exemption, crucially, will allow new forms of security research on those consumer devices. Another allows for the digital repair of vehicles. Together, the security community and DIYers are hoping those protections, which were enacted by the Library of Congress’s Copyright Office in October of 2015 but delayed a full year, will spark a new era of benevolent hacking for both research and repair. For now, the exemptions are limited to a two-year trial period. And the security research exemption in particular only applies to what the Copyright Office calls “good-faith” testing, “in a controlled environment designed to avoid any harm to individuals or to the public.” As Andrea Matwyshyn, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University puts it, “We’re not talking about testing your neighbor’s pacemaker while it’s implanted. We’re talking about a controlled lab and a device owned by the researcher.”


Bricklaying Robots Create Bulging Brick Facade for Shanghai Arts Center – (Dezeen – November 1, 2016)
Chinese studio Archi-Union Architects programmed robots to construct the undulating brick facade of this art gallery in Shanghai’s West Bund district. The new exhibition space run by the Chi She artists collective provides space for art exhibitions, events and workshops at the heart of Shanghai’s rapidly developing West Bund neighborhood. Archi-Union Architects, which previously completed a nearby contemporary arts center featuring curved concrete walls, developed the design to combine traditional materials with contemporary robotic manufacture. Article includes photos.


That Pilot in the Cockpit May Someday Be a Robot – (US News – October 18, 2016)
Government and industry officials say they are collaborating on an effort to replace the second human pilot in two-person flight crews with robot co-pilots that never tire, get bored, or feel stressed out. The program’s leaders even envision a day when planes and helicopters, large and small, will fly people and cargo without any human pilot on board. Personal robot planes may become a common mode of travel. Consider it the aviation equivalent of the self-driving car. The program, known as Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System or ALIAS, is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and run by Aurora Flight Sciences, a private contractor. With both the military and airlines struggling with shortages of trained pilots, defense officials say they see an advantage to reducing the number of pilots required to fly large planes or helicopters while at the same time making operations safer and more efficient by having a robot step in to pick up the mundane tasks of flying. The idea is to have the robot augment the human pilot by taking over a lot of the workload, thus freeing the human pilot — especially in emergencies and demanding situations — to think strategically.

Demolition of Massachusetts Turnpike Toll Booths Has Started – (WWLP – October 30, 2016)
All electronic tolling on the Massachusetts Pike started on a recent Friday night with 16 gantries being placed along the 135 mile stretch of highway. By the next morning the MassDOT reported their new system had already processed 215,000 transactions. 477 full and part time MassDOT workers are being impacted by the change. About 120 have taken new jobs with MassDOT, 146 have taken early retirement or retirement offers, and the remaining 21 laid off. The overhead system scans your EZ Pass and takes a picture of your license plate. So if you don’t have an EZPass, you will get a bill in the mail with a surcharge. If you sign up for an EZPass within 6 months the MasssDOT will credit your account for the extra charges. MassDOT anticipates that all toll plaza infrastructure will be removed by the end of 2017. (Editor’s note: Convenience aside, removing all the toll booths means that absolutely no car can be driven on that toll road anonymously.)


The Fountain of Youth May Actually be Broccoli – (Daily News – October 28, 2016)
If you love broccoli (and even if you hate it) science serves up a compelling reason to eat it. The everyday vegetable contains a natural compound packing a potent energy-related anti-aging punch on mice that “could be translated to humans,” according to the study. In a paper published in Cell Metabolism, a team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reports that nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), a compound that plays a key role in energy metabolism, found in broccoli, had a Benjamin Button-like effect when added to drinking water of normal aging mice. The rodents’ metabolism was boosted, age-associated weight gain lowered, eyesight improved and blood sugar levels improved. In short, Mickey, Algernon and company acted younger than their age. Though the study didn’t track how long furry subjects survived, the NMN-related improvements suggest that the boosts would extend longevity. But if you really dislike broccoli, there’s more good news: That same compound is also in cucumbers, cabbage and edamame.

First U.S. Soda Tax Cuts Consumption Beyond Expectations – (Reuters – October 28, 2016)
Berkeley voters in 2014 levied a penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks to try to curb consumption and stem the rising tide of diabetes and obesity. After the tax took effect in March 2015, residents of two low-income neighborhoods reported drinking 21% less of all sugar-sweetened beverages and 26% less soda than they had the year before, according to the report in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Dr. Kristine Madsen, a professor of public health at the University of California at Berkeley, said the drop in sugary drink consumption surpassed her expectations, though it was consistent with consumption declines in low-income neighborhoods in Mexico after it imposed a nationwide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The soda industry has spent millions of dollars defeating taxes on sugary drinks in dozens of U.S. cities. But the tax passed easily – with 76 percent of the vote – in Berkeley. In addition to soda, the measure covers sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, energy drinks like Red Bull and caffeinated drinks like Frappuccino iced coffee. Diet beverages are exempt. In June, the Philadelphia City Council enacted its own tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax is set to take effect in January, although soda trade groups have sued to try to block the measure. Meanwhile, voters in Boulder, Colorado and the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Albany will vote on whether to tax their sugary beverages on November 8.


Documents Show AT&T Secretly Sells Customer Data to Law Enforcement – (Guardian – October 25, 2016)
Telecommunications giant AT&T is selling access to customer data to local law enforcement in secret, new documents reveal. The program, called Hemisphere, was previously known only as a “partnership” between the company and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the purposes of counter-narcotics operations. It accesses the trove of telephone metadata available to AT&T, who control a large proportion of America’s landline and cellphone infrastructure. Unlike other providers, who delete their stored metadata after a certain time, AT&T keeps information like call time, duration, and even location data on file for years, with records dating back to 2008. But according to internal company documents, Hemisphere is being sold to local police departments and used to investigate everything from murder to Medicaid fraud, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars every year while riding roughshod over privacy concerns. Access to Hemisphere costs local police between $100,000 and more than $1m a year, the documents reveal, and its use requires just an administrative subpoena – a much lower judicial bar than a search warrant because it does not need to be issued by a judge. Until these documents came to light, Hemisphere’s use was kept secret from the public – and even from judges, defense attorneys and lawmakers – by an agreement between law enforcement and AT&T which means police must not risk disclosing its use in public or even in court.

DARPA’s Autonomous Ship Is Patrolling the Seas with a Parasailing Radar – (Technology Review – October 25, 2016)
Forget self-driving cars—this is the robotic technology that the military wants to use. Just off the California coast, DARPA is testing a robotic ship. The Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel has been running sea trials on its new radar system. But the technology doesn’t sit aboard the ship: instead, it’s slung behind it on a parasail in order to reach heights of between 500 and 1,500 feet. Tests show that the extra altitude boosts the radar’s effectiveness, vastly extending its range beyond what’s possible when it’s simply fixed to a ship’s mast. DARPA believes this is what the future of naval warfare looks like: drone boats out patrolling in potentially hostile waters, while manned boats remain out of harm’s way for as long as possible. DARPA isn’t alone in building robotic ships, though. Between initiatives to develop autonomous taxi boats in Amsterdam, data-collecting trimarans in California, and autonomous tugs in Boston, self-sailing boats are taking to the water all over the world.


Fraction Magic – Detail Version – (YouTube – October 31, 2016)
This video clip offers a real-time demo of the most devastating election theft mechanism yet found, with context and explanation. Demonstration uses a real voting system and real vote databases and takes place in seconds across multiple jurisdictions. Over 5000 subcontractors and middlemen have the access to perform this for any or all clients. It can give contract signing authority to whoever the user chooses. All political power can be converted to the hands of a few anonymous subcontractors. It’s a product. It’s scaleable. It learns its environment and can adjust to any political environment, any demographic. It runs silently, invisibly, and can produce plausible results that really pass for the real thing.

Why Is It So Hard to Reduce the Pentagon Budget? – (TruthDig – October 27, 2016)
The Pentagon budget is now down slightly from its peak in 2011, when it reached the highest level since World War II, but this year’s budget for the Pentagon and related agencies is nothing to sneeze at. It comes in at roughly $600 billion—more than the peak year of the massive arms build-up initiated by President Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. To put this figure in perspective: despite troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping sharply over the past eight years, the Obama administration has still managed to spend more on the Pentagon than the Bush administration did during its two terms in office. What accounts for the Department of Defense’s ability to keep a stranglehold on your tax dollars year after endless year? Pillar one supporting that edifice: ideology. As long as most Americans accept the notion that it is the God-given mission and right of the United States to go anywhere on the planet and do more or less anything it cares to do with its military, you won’t see Pentagon spending brought under real control. Think of this as the military corollary to American exceptionalism—or just call it the doctrine of armed exceptionalism, if you will. The second pillar supporting lavish military budgets (and this will hardly surprise you): the entrenched power of the arms lobby and its allies in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has put together a handy map of how its troubled F-35 fighter jet has created 125,000 jobs in 46 states. The actual figures are, in fact, considerably lower, but the principle holds: having subcontractors in dozens of states makes it harder for members of Congress to consider cutting or slowing down even a failed or failing program. Take as an example the M-1 tank, which the Army actually wanted to stop buying. Its plans were thwarted by the Ohio congressional delegation, which led a fight to add more M-1s to the budget in order to keep the General Dynamics production line in Lima, Ohio, up and running.

Think Tanks Beg: Give Us War – (Lobelog – October 27, 2016)
Hillary Clinton’s recent impassioned defense of a no-fly zone in Syria may not have won her many friends in certain wings of the Democratic Party, but it spoke to at least one group: America’s foreign policy elite. Over the past year, U.S. foreign policy “thought leaders” have increasingly turned their backs on the Obama administration’s cryptic strategy in the Middle East. Reporting in The Washington Post, Greg Jaffe identifies several major players crucial to laying the groundwork for such a pivot, including fellows from the Center for American Progress, Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, and the Atlantic Council. All, Jaffe notes, are “driven by a broad-based backlash against a president who has repeatedly stressed the dangers of overreach and the need for restraint, especially in the Middle East.” Like Clinton, one immediate policy prescription they’ve identified is the establishment of safe zones—enforced, naturally, by U.S.-led no-fly zones—in Syria. And also like Clinton, one of the questions they’ve been wont to ignore is how a resurgent Russia would receive such a strategy. Despite experts’ insistence that Russia would either roll over and let the United States do its work—or, worse, could be taken out by U.S. forces in a few days—there’s still the issue that a no-fly zone would, as U.S. officials have stated, “require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.” Russian officials appear to agree. (Editor’s note: So this is how we create jobs? What about the fact that the robots can assemble military weapons just as well as they can build iPhones?)


Now More Than Ever, We Must Tell the Truth About the Iraq War – (AlterNet – October 28, 2016)
According to a report released last year by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the U.S. invasion and occupation killed at least one million Iraqi people. That would be more than 10 million people in the United States if we compared it in terms of percentage of the population. There are over 100,000 casualties on the side of the U.S. and the coalition of the willing, with a small percentage of those dead. The rest are living with permanent physical and psychological wounds, some so bad that U.S. military veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 20 a day. In 2012, suicides surpassed war as a the leading cause of death in the U.S. military. Since 2001, U.S. wars have cost taxpayers nearly $5 trillion, according to a new report from Brown University’s Watson Institute. But few can understand what that number actually means. Nor does this amount count the cost to people in Iraq or other members of the coalition of the willing. So AlterNet launched a People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War as a tool to bring the anti-war movement together and build what is needed for 2017. We aim to lay the lies and costs at the feet of President Barack Obama and call for a commission on Truth and Accountability. There are years’ worth of testimony in reports, lawsuits, books and articles. We have read the facts about the lies and costs over the years. But the totality has never been pulled together to show the breadth of all effected. Among others, Dennis Kucinich will present the letter he wrote to Congress in October of 2002 outlining his research which showed there was no operational connection between the Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction. Jeremy Corbyn will deliver the Chilcot Report. Elizabeth Holtzman, the member of Congress in the 1970s recognized as the woman who impeached Nixon, will discuss her book which called for the impeachment of George W. Bush. On day one, December first, we will focus on the lies that fed the drive to war. On day two, we will hear more than 50 people testify to innumerable costs of U.S. war in Iraq, which in fact goes back at least 25 years.


White Students ‘Storm Out’ after Professor Says ‘We Are All of African Descent’ – (Grio – October 19, 2016)
During Dr. R. Jon McGee’s Cultural Anthropology class at Texas State University, several white students left the lecture on race after the professor spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement and asserted that humanity descended from East Africa. Justine Lundy said that the professor started out the lecture by saying it would be about race. McGee spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement and asserted that human life began in east Africa. “It was dead silent,” Lundy recalled. “A lot of people left,” said Karene Taylor, 19. “It was embarrassing.” Lundy maintained that “[McGee] wasn’t picking sides or anything — he kept reiterating that” but said that the claim that everyone was of African descent was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” See also, from the Washington Post‘To Be White Is to Be Racist, Period,’ a High School Teacher Told His Class.


Will We Kill (Or Contaminate) Microbial Life on Mars? – (Kurzweil AI – October 20, 2016)
Recent evidence of water, complex organic molecules, and methane in the Martian environment, combined with findings from the 1976 Viking mission, have led to the conclusion that existing microbial life on Mars is a possibility that must be considered, according to the authors of a paper in the journal Astrobiology.Coauthors Gilbert V. Levin, Arizona State University, Tempe, and Patricia Ann Straat, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD (retired), outline the evidence to support the “biological hypothesis,” which argues that the results of the 1976 Viking Labeled Release experiment were positive for extant microbial life on the surface of Mars. The authors also evaluate the “non-biological hypotheses” to explain the Viking results, which many scientists support. But the authors conclude that the experimental evidence supports a biological explanation and the likelihood that microorganisms were able to evolve and adapt to be able to survive in the harsh conditions of the Martian environment. “Even if one is not convinced that the Viking LR results give strong evidence for life on Mars, this paper clearly shows that the possibility must be considered,” says Chris McKay, PhD, Senior Editor of Astrobiology and an astrobiologist with NASA Ames Research Center. “We cannot rule out the biological explanation,” McKay said. “This has implications for plans for sample return from Mars and for future human missions.”

The Mysterious ‘Planet Nine’ Might Be Causing the Whole Solar System to Wobble – (Washington Post – October 20, 2016)
Astronomers can’t see “Planet Nine.” But it makes its presence known. The massive hypothetical object, which supposedly looms at the edge of our solar system, has been invoked to explain the strange clustering of objects in the Kuiper belt and the unusual way they orbit the Sun. Now Planet Nine predictors Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of Caltech, along with graduate student Elizabeth Bailey, offer another piece of evidence for the elusive sphere’s existence: It adds “wobble” to the solar system, they say, tilting it in relation to the sun. “Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment,” lead author Bailey said in a statement. Before we go any further, a caveat about Planet Nine: It’s purely theoretical at this point. Batygin and Brown predict its existence based on unusual perturbations of the solar system that aren’t otherwise easily explained. But the history of astronomy is rife with speculation that is never borne out: The same guy who correctly predicted the existence of Neptune also believed that a planet he called Vulcan was responsible for the wobble of Mercury. But the evidence offered by Batygin and Brown is compelling. When the pair announced their find in January, planetary scientist Alessandro Morbidelli of the Côte d’Azur Observatory in Nice, France, told The Washington Post: “I don’t see any alternative explanation to that offered by Batygin and Brown.”


We Gave Four Good Pollsters the Same Raw Data. They Had Four Different Results. – (New York Times – September 20, 2016)
Just about every article on a new poll dutifully notes that the margin of error due to sampling is plus or minus three or four percentage points. But in truth, the “margin of sampling error” – basically, the chance that polling different people would have produced a different result – doesn’t even come close to capturing the potential for error in surveys. Polling results rely as much on the judgments of pollsters as on the science of survey methodology. Two good pollsters, both looking at the same underlying data, could come up with two very different results. How so? Because pollsters make a series of decisions when designing their survey, from determining likely voters to adjusting their respondents to match the demographics of the electorate. These decisions are hard. They usually take place behind the scenes, and they can make a huge difference. To illustrate this, the New York Times conducted a little experiment. We decided to share our raw data with four well-respected pollsters and asked them to estimate the result of the poll themselves. Well, well, well. Look at that (see graph in article). A net five-point difference between the five measures, including our own, even though all are based on identical data. Remember: There are no sampling differences in this exercise. Everyone is coming up with a number based on the same interviews. (Editor’s note: This article is illuminating – and worth your time.)


‘Bionic’ Plants Can Detect Explosives – (BBC News – October 31, 2016)
MIT scientists have transformed the humble spinach plant into a bomb detector. By embedding tiny tubes in the plants’ leaves, they can be made to pick up chemicals called nitro-aromatics, which are found in landmines and buried munitions. Real-time information can then be wirelessly relayed to a handheld device. scientists implanted nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes (tiny cylinders of carbon) into the leaves of the spinach plant. It takes about 10 minutes for the spinach to take up the water into the leaves. To read the signal, the researchers shine a laser onto the leaf, prompting the embedded nanotubes to emit near-infrared fluorescent light. This can be detected with a small infrared camera connected to a small, cheap Raspberry Pi computer. The signal can also be detected with a smartphone by removing the infrared filter most have. Co-author MIT Professor Michael Strano said the work was an important proof of principle. “Our paper outlines how one could engineer plants like this to detect virtually anything,” he said. Prof. Strano’s lab has previously developed carbon nanotubes that can be used as sensors to detect hydrogen peroxide, TNT, and the nerve gas sarin.

Machine-Vision Algorithm Learns to Judge People by Their Faces – (Technology Review – November 1, 2016)
Social psychologists have long known that humans make snap judgments about each other based on nothing more than the way we look and, in particular, our faces. These decisions may or may not be right and are by no means objective, but they are consistent. Given the same face in the same conditions, people tend to judge it in the same way. And that raises an interesting possibility. Rapid advances in machine vision and facial recognition have made it straightforward for computers to recognize a wide range of human facial expressions and even to rate faces by attractiveness. So is it possible for a machine to look at a face and get the same first impressions that humans make? Mel McCurrie at the University of Notre Dame and a few buddies have trained a machine-learning algorithm to decide whether a face is trustworthy or dominant in the same way as humans do. The team asked participants to rate 6,300 black and white pictures of faces. Each face was rated by 32 different people for trustworthiness and dominance and by 15 people for IQ and age. Having gathered this data, the team used 6,000 of the images to train their machine-vision algorithm. They use a further 200 images to fine-tune the machine-vision parameters. All this trains the machine to judge faces in the same way that humans do. All this makes it possible to start teasing apart the factors that contribute to our preconceptions, which often depend on subtle social cues. It may also allow robots to predict and repeat them.


Robots at Center of China’s Strategy to Leapfrog Rivals – (New York Times – October 24, 2016)
China is showcasing its burgeoning robot industry at the five-day exhibition in Beijing, part of a national effort to promote use of more advanced technologies in Chinese factories and create high-end products that redefine the meaning of “Made in China.” Apart from the cool factor, automation is crucial for industries facing rising labor costs and slowing growth in the work force thanks to the “one-child” policy era and aging of the population. However, China will have to make big strides to leap ahead of Germany, Japan and other nations whose robots are generations ahead. Thousands of factories in southern China’s industrial centers which long were manned by low-cost migrant workers, are now turning to robots. China has become the world’s top consumer of industrial robots and will soon have the most commercial robots in operation of any country. Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm that assembles Apple’s iPhones in China, has installed 40,000 robots in its factories. China has set national goals of producing 100,000 industrial robots a year and having 150 robots in operation for every 10,000 employees by 2020, a figure known as robot density. Currently, China ranks 28th in the world for robot density, behind Portugal and Indonesia. Chinese suppliers sold about 20,000 robots last year to local companies.

Why We Need to Plan for a Future without Jobs – (Vox – October 17, 2016)
When driverless trucks are manufactured at scale, which will happen far sooner than many realize (as soon as five years), America’s 3.5 million truck drivers will be dispensable. That doesn’t mean the profession of truck driving will disappear overnight, but it will shrink considerably. According to Morgan Stanley, autonomous technology will save the freight industry $168 billion annually, nearly half of which will come from staff reductions. Andy Stern is the former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which today represents close to 2 million workers in the United States and Canada. He resigned his post in 2010 and accepted a position as a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy. For the last year or so, Stern has argued that a universal basic income (UBI) is the best response to the social and economic disruption caused by technological change. UBI is a form of social security in which citizens receive an unconditional wage from the government. In his new book, Raising the Floor, Stern says a UBI will become essential as automation wreaks havoc on the labor market. This article is an interview with him. As an interesting counter arguement, see: Today’s Artificial Intelligence Does Not Justify Basic Income.

Free Shipping Is a Lie – (Fast Company – November 1, 2016)
Spend a certain amount—and your shipment is free. Or subscribe to a service like Amazon Prime, which offers members free shipping on millions of eligible items. But the truth is that, like virtually everything else, “free” shipping is not actually free. The implications of the lie aren’t often felt by us consumers, who have come to expect free shipping. The biggest impact is felt by e-commerce businesses, particularly smaller ones, which face what some have called an emerging crisis: The cost of free shipping, in many cases, is unsustainable. For many online shops, the cost of a free shipment is either folded into the prices for items or funded by investors. Jerry Storch, CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company, a brick-and-mortar giant that includes Canada’s The Bay department store, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue, says it’s much more expensive for retailers like them to deliver products to a customer’s front door than to have them shop in the store. For the retailers that can pay for it, he says, free shipping is becoming a loss leader. “Direct-to-home has a supply chain cost three times higher than a store-based model. So when we say the internet retailer can charge less, how can that be? Maybe this is why so many of us have so much trouble emulating Amazon’s model and making any money. It’s because it’s really expensive and it’s also why Amazon’s had trouble making money on merchandising sales. It’s a very expensive model and it’s not less expensive than the store-based model.” Typically, Amazon recovers only about 55% of the amount it spends on shipping. As it expands its Prime service and other recent offerings, Amazon’s net shipping costs—the difference between what it pays for shipping and the amount customers pay in shipping fees and Prime memberships—reached nearly $1.75 billion in the third quarter, its highest quarterly total ever outside of the peak holiday season. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for its behind-the-scenes look at this very real cost of e-commerce and some of its implications.)


Websites – Alternative News – (Last American Vagabond – no date)
This is a compilation of leading websites in the world of Alternative News. Each is chosen based on their dedication to providing factual, unadulterated content, and a desire for change. (Editor’s note: This is the best compilation of alternative news sources that we’ve seen. However, just like the mainstream news sources, every one of them has some bias, some agenda. So use discernment, pick and choose, and discover some of what’s going on in the world that you might otherwise miss.)

Neuroscientists Show How Tiny Fibs Snowball into Big Lies – (LA Times – October 24, 2016)
Scientists who studied the brain activity of people who told small lies for their own benefit found that these fibs appeared to pave the way to telling whoppers later. Conventional wisdom holds that small transgressions often lead to bigger and bigger ones, said study coauthor Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London. The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, demonstrate how self-serving lies can escalate and offer a window into the processes in the brain that allow this to happen. The researchers suspected this had to do with a biological process known as emotional adaptation, where over time the brain responds less and less strongly to a repeated stimulus. In the study, the authors found that the first time people exaggerated the estimates to benefit themselves at the expense of their partner, they stretched the truth only slightly. On top of that, a region of the brain called the amygdala — which is associated with emotion — lit up. But as the experiment went on, the exaggerations grew bigger and the response from the amygdala waned. The larger the drop in activity in the amygdala, the bigger their future lies. “I think this study’s the first empirical evidence that dishonest behavior escalates when it’s repeated … and it ties this phenomenon to emotional adaptation,” said study lead author Neil Garrett. “The same mechanism may well underlie all sorts of other escalations, such as escalation of risk-taking or escalation of violent behavior.”

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

How a 105-year-old Ended Open Defecation in Her Village – (BBC News – November 1, 2016)
Dhamtari became the first district in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh to be declared free from open defecation. And the credit for that is being given to Kunwar Bai Yadav, a woman who claims to be 105, and sold her only assets – a few goats – to build a toilet at home. India was shamed into action when official figures showed that 550 million people – nearly half of India’s billion plus population – defecated in the open. The fact that more people had access to mobile phones than toilets invited much ridicule about misplaced priorities. The authorities began a massive campaign to encourage people to build toilets and government officials were sent into the remotest areas to tell people about the benefits of ending open defecation. And that’s how Mrs. Yadav, who had for a century gone out in the nearby forests to defecate, heard about toilets last year for the first time in her life. Mrs. Yadav has had no formal education and in the absence of any birth certificate, it’s impossible to corroborate her claim that she’s 105, but her heavily lined face, stooped frame and failing eyesight are a testimony to the times she has lived through. In recent years, she says she’s been finding it difficult to do the daily trek to the forest for her ablutions and had fallen twice and hurt herself. “I thought if I somehow built a toilet at home, it would save me a lot of trouble,” she says. The toilet, the first in her village, soon became a talking point with her neighbors who came around to look at it. Within weeks, farmers from nearby villages also started dropping by and soon, many started building their own toilets. Within a year, every single home in the village had a toilet.

Capitalism Killing You? Income Sharing Could Save Our Lives…- (Nation of Change – October 22, 2016)
Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi wrote in a personal blog post over a decade ago, “Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house… Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise… Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap… Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.” Economic insecurity is the American nightmare. It kills us earlier, messes up our mental health, saps the life out of us. Since Scalzi’s 2005 post, we’ve learned that more than 60% of us can’t afford a $500 emergency – which roughly translates to hoping the toothache goes away. That’s a pretty raw deal in exchange for an economic system that’s also killing the planet. But there are groups of Americans who are turning that indifference on its head. Within the larger intentional communities movement are a growing number of egalitarian, income-sharing communities, whose members combine their wealth and income to create spaces where people make economic decisions cooperatively, rely on one another and a democratic policymaking process for security, and cease to consider finances—or their financial challenges—the responsibility of lone individuals. The financial families they create range from a half-dozen to nearly a hundred people, in locations from urban Baltimore, Portland and Washington D.C. to rural Missouri and Virginia. In mainstream society, poverty is a tremendous waste of human resources, including time and health. “The human potential that is lost is massive,” says Sky Blue, Executive Director of the Fellowship for Intentional Community and a second-generation member of Twin Oaks, the nation’s largest income-sharing community. Its proponents say it works, and they have evidence: People in such communities can live comfortably on as little as $5,000 per-person per-year; if people get too old or too sick to work, they receive support from others in the community and the care-time devoted to them is not a zero-sum game like it is with families in the mainstream economy. See also: The Federation of Egalitarian Communities.


Czech Team “Mad Ravens” – (You Tube – February 3, 2016)
Indoor skydiving is an emerging sport and the Prague-based Mad Ravens are among the most accomplished synchronized indoor skydivers around. Check out their spectacular anti-gravity feats in a specially-designed vertical wind tunnel. In this clip they perform their free routine at the 1st FAI World Indoor Skydiving Championship 2015 in Prague. With this performance the team won the silver medal.


You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – R. Buckminster Fuller

A special thanks to: Martha Christian, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Michael Milbert, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, David Townsend, 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 19, Number 19 – 10/15/16

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