Volume 20, Number 13 – 09/01/17

Volume 20, Number 13 – 09/01/17       


A San Francisco-based startup is embarking on a controversial medical trial intended to demonstrate the benefits for elder people who receive blood transfusions from younger people.

Microsoft’s speech recognition is now as good as a human transcriber.

America’s future demographics look like California’s: Americans under 25 are 51% white, 25% Latino, 14% black, 5% Asian, 5% other/mixed – far more diverse than their elders (aged 55+: 74% white).

Tree-planting drones are about to start an entire forest from the sky.

by John L. Petersen

Rosemary Ellen Guiley coming to Berkeley Springs
Contact Experiences, Kundalini, and Transformation of Consciousness

Rosemary Ellen GuileyThe largest-ever global survey of contact experiences with nonhuman intelligent beings (NHIB), released in 2016 by the Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters (FREE), reveals a broad spectrum of contact that is positive, transformative, and conducive to kundalini awakenings. These findings point to widespread contact with ETs, “energy beings,” angels, the dead, and other intelligent life forms that initiate a marked transformation of consciousness and para-physical changes. How widespread are these contact experiences, and what are the ramifications for humanity’s evolution of consciousness? Come hear Rosemary describe the implications of this landmark study and explain how the evolutionary process may well emerge.

This will be an extraordinary opportunity to experience the future in a way that is not available in any other venue. Do come.

Saturday, September 9, 2017, 2 to 4 pm

Ice House Theatre – Mercer & Independence Streets
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411

Complete information can be found here!



Jeff Bezos Asked the World How to Donate His Money: This Artificial Hive Mind Knows the Answer – (Fast Company – August 7, 2017)
With a net worth of $86 billion, Jeff Bezos certainly has enough money to change the world. What he’s lacked, apparently, was some direction for how to spend it. In mid-June, the Amazon founder tweeted a “request for ideas” worth philanthropically investing in that would help society, both short-term–“here and now”–and in the long run, as he put it: “at the “intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” That question generated more than 46,000 responses on Twitter, leaving Bezos with another issue. How to sort and weigh all that feedback? Louis Rosenberg, the founder of Silicon Valley-based Unanimous AI had an answer, and decided to show it off using Bezos’s responses. Rosenberg and his company specialize in a form of advanced decision making called swarm intelligence, basically a computer-enhanced way to get humans to communicate like honeybees do in nature, by tapping into the experiences of large groups of individuals to make the most complete community decision possible. It took some tricky methodology and lots of processing power inside a customized platform, but the result was rather surprising. Turns out, Americans feel most strongly about things like cancer treatment assistance, cheaper medicine, and mobile health clinics. Ultimately, however Rosenberg’s simulated swarm unanimously picked a basic and fundamental issue for Bezos to focus on: universal access to clean drinking water. It’s the universality of that issue that Rosenberg finds interesting. While concerns about water safety continue to grow in the U.S. (lead contamination likely goes far beyond Flint, Michigan), access to safe, readily available water remains a critical issue in the developing world, as well.

Smart Contracts: The Blockchain Technology That Will Replace Lawyers – (Block Geeks – no date)
This article is a beginner’s guide to smart contracts. Smart contracts help you exchange money, property, shares, or anything of value in a transparent, conflict-free way while avoiding the services of a middleman. The best way to describe smart contracts is to compare the technology to a vending machine. Ordinarily, you would go to a lawyer or a notary, pay them, and wait while you get the document. With smart contracts, you simply drop a cryptocurrency amount into the vending machine (i.e. ledger), and your escrow, driver’s license, or whatever drops into your account. More so, smart contracts not only define the rules and penalties around an agreement in the same way that a traditional contract does, but also automatically enforce those obligations. Here’s an example: Suppose you rent an apartment from me. You can do this through the blockchain by paying in cryptocurrency. You get a receipt which is held in our virtual contract; I give you the digital entry key which comes to you by a specified date. If the key doesn’t come on time, the blockchain releases a refund. If I send the key before the rental date, the function holds it releasing both the fee and key to you and me respectively when the date arrives. The system works on the If-Then premise and is witnessed by hundreds of people, so you can expect a faultless delivery. If I give you the key, I’m sure to be paid. If you send a certain amount in bitcoins, you receive the key. The document is automatically canceled after the time, and the code cannot be interfered by either of us without the other knowing, since all participants are simultaneously alerted. You can use smart contracts for all sort of situations that range from financial derivatives to insurance premiums, breach contracts, property law, credit enforcement, financial services, legal processes and crowd funding agreements. (Editor’s note: This is a useful article for beginning to understand the value and reach of blockchain transactions.)


91 Volcanoes Discovered Beneath Antarctica’s Ice. But Are They Active? – (USA Today – August 14, 2017)
Scientists have identified 91 volcanoes hidden beneath the massive ice sheet covering west Antarctica, revealing one of the world’s largest volcanic regions. The under-ice volcanoes may comprise the densest region of volcanoes in the world, rivaling even the East African region where Mount Kilimanjaro is found, according to researchers at Edinburgh University. The dozens of newly determined formations nearly double the 47 volcanoes previously located in West Antarctica, with the newly identified volcanoes towering up to 2.4 miles in height. “If one of these volcanoes were to erupt it could further destabilize west Antarctica’s ice sheets,” said co-author Robert Bingham, a glacial expert, resulting in melted ice that could raise sea levels. Further study is needed to determine whether the volcanoes are active. The study’s authors don’t think volcanic activity has contributed to Antarctica’s currently retreating ice sheet. But they do theorize that the loss of an icy covering over the volcanoes, spurred perhaps by future activity, could let the volcanoes to release pressure — becoming more active.


‘Unexpected Fountain of Youth’ Found in Cardiac Stem Cells, Says Researcher – (CNN – August 14, 2017)
Cardiac stem cells derived from young hearts helped reverse the signs of aging when directly injected into the old hearts of elderly rats, based on a study published in the European Heart Journal demonstrated. The old rats appeared newly invigorated after receiving their injections. As hoped, the cardiac stem cells improved heart function yet also provided additional benefits. The rats’ fur, shaved for surgery, grew back more quickly than expected, and their chromosomal telomeres, which commonly shrink with age, lengthened. From his own previous research, Dr. Eduardo Marbán, primary investigator on the research and director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, discovered that cardiosphere-derived cells “promote the healing” of the heart after a condition known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, which affects more than 50% of all heart failure patients. He and his team injected cardiosphere-derived cells from newborn rats into the hearts of 22-month-old rats — that’s elderly for a rat. Similar old rats received a placebo injection of saline solution. Then, Marbán and his team compared both groups to young rats that were 4 months old. After a month, they compared the rats again. Even though the cells were injected into the heart, their effects were noticeable throughout the body, Marbán said. The working hypothesis is that the cells secrete exosomes, tiny vesicles that “contain a lot of nucleic acids, things like RNA, that can change patterns of the way the tissue responds to injury and the way genes are expressed in the tissue,” Marbán said. It is the exosomes that act on the heart and make it better as well as mediating long-distance effects on exercise capacity and hair regrowth, he explained. Looking to the future, Marbán said he’s begun to explore delivering the cardiac stem cells intravenously in a simple infusion — instead of injecting them directly into the heart, which would be a complex procedure for a human patient — and seeing whether the same beneficial effects occur.

Startup Offers Blood of the Young to Improve Health of the Old – (New Atlas – August 27, 2017)
In the latest season of HBO show Silicon Valley, the tech-billionaire antagonist Gavin Belson is shown undergoing a blood transfusion from his own personal “blood boy” – a young, healthy subject whom he pays to harvest youthful blood from. Like many seemingly absurd scenarios from the satirical show, it is a story with a basis in fact. Ambrosia, a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2016, is now embarking on a controversial trial intended to demonstrate the medical benefits of young blood transfusions. Anyone can enroll, as long as they are over the age of 35 and can afford the US$8,000 per transfusion charge. The modern focus on youthful blood transfusions as a fountain of youth comes mostly from a Stanford study published in 2014. While other researchers were focusing on specific genes or protiens that could possibly combat aging, a team decided to keep things simple –get some blood from young mice, remove the blood cells, and then inject the remaining plasma into old mice. Although the study was obviously incredibly limited, the results were impressive. Across several different tests the old mice that received the young blood behaved like young mice. Inspired by that study, and others, a young entrepreneur named Jesse Karmazin founded Ambrosia, kicking off its services in the form of a patient-funded open trial. The company is initially operating what is technically a formal clinical trial, recorded on ClinicalTrials.gov, and scheduled to run for two years from 2016 to 2018. The trial, (which essentially allows the company to circumvent FDA regulations), will involve measuring a large set of age-associated biomarkers from each patient before, and one month after, a blood treatment. The design of the trial has drawn significant criticism from many scientists who claim it is flawed for lacking a placebo control group, unclear in the effects of the “age-associated biomarkers” it will be testing, and problematic in being funded by the patients themselves.

6,000-Year-Old Knee Joints Suggest Osteoarthritis Isn’t Just Wear and Tear – (NPR – August 15, 2017)
American doctors have been noticing an increase in osteoarthritis of the knee. They have suspected two driving forces: more old people and more people who are overweight. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that’s far from the whole story. Even correcting for body mass index and age, osteoarthritis of the knee is twice as common now as it was before the 1950s. “That’s an incredible difference,” says Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of the study. So Lieberman asked Ian Wallace, a postdoctoral research fellow in his lab, to fly around the country and study human skeletons that had ended up in museums or had been donated to medical schools for scientific research. The skeletons were from people who died as long ago as 4,000 B.C. “The oldest specimens that we looked at were some skeletons from prehistoric Inuit hunter-gatherers from Alaska,” Wallace says. The most recent were the remains of people who died in Tennessee in 2015. I suppose my expectation was that people in the past, especially early hunter-gatherers and early farmers, would have had a much higher prevalence of osteoarthritis than people do today,” Wallace says. Surely all that running around, squatting, twisting and other activity in the days before cars and couches would have worn out joints quickly. But that’s not what the evidence showed.

Blood Test Finds Cancer before Symptoms Start – (NBC – August 17, 2017)
Researchers say they have taken a big step towards developing a test that can tell people if they have cancer long before the first symptoms show up. The blood test detected the majority of cancers in people with four of the biggest cancer killers: breast, colon, lung and ovarian cancer, the team at Johns Hopkins University said. The test is a long way from being used to screen for cancer, but the study shows a way to get there, the team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. It was not a slam dunk, but the test found cancer in the blood of more than half the patients who had been diagnosed with stage 1 cancer. It was even more accurate in finding late-stage cancers, but the goal would be to catch cancer in its earliest, easiest-to-treat stage. There were no false positives in 44 people who did not have cancer, they said. It’s easy to find tumor mutations if you know what to look for. “The challenge was to develop a blood test that could predict the probable presence of cancer without knowing the genetic mutations present in a person’s tumor,” Velculescu said. Velculescu’s team developed an approach called targeted error correction sequencing (TEC-Seq for short). “We have used this approach to examine 58 cancer-related genes,” the team wrote in their report. The method involved deep sequencing – sequencing DNA 30,000 times over to look for mutations in DNA from tumor cells that floats in the blood. The test still missed a large percentage of cancers and will need much improvement, Velculescu said.

Exposure to Artificial Lighting Ups Risk for Breast Cancer – (Tech Times – August 19, 2017)
A long-term study found that women who are more often exposed to artificial light during night time have higher risks of developing breast cancer. In fact, they found that the risks of breast cancer in women subjected to such exposures are higher by as much as 14%. Although similar studies have been done before, this is perhaps the most comprehensive one to examine the link between artificial light and breast cancer risks. As a matter of fact, the researchers studied data from nearly 110,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II between the years of 1989 and 2013. They also studied night time satellite images of Earth, specifically in the residential addresses of each participant. Each participant’s socioeconomic and health status, as well as possible night shift work, was also considered in the study. “The growing research on light at night and breast cancer is based on data suggesting that exposure to light during nighttime hours suppresses nocturnal secretion of melatonin and disrupts circadian patterns and sleep,” said Peter James, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is secreted by a small gland in the brain but can also be found in various food items and supplements. It is a hormone that is particularly in charge of sleep and wake cycles, which in turn affect the cell cycles of the body. Researchers state that a possible explanation for melatonin’s effects on cancer risk lies in the idea that a disruption in normal circadian patterns leads to abnormal cell division. the harmful effects of artificial lighting do not just affect humans. In previous experiments, mice that were subjected to reversed light cycles were found to have more mammary tumors. A recent study also found that the productivity of bees is significantly affected in areas exposed to artificial light. It is also possible that its negative effects aren’t just exclusive to women, especially since previous studies have also linked other forms of cancer such as prostate cancer.

There Is Now a Google Test for Depression and Mental Ill Health – (CNBC – August 24, 2017)
Google has teamed up with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to provide Americans with a test to check if you are depressed or mentally ill. The NAMI CEO said people who have symptoms of depression experience an average of a 6 to 8-year delay in getting treatment following the onset of symptoms. People in the U.S. who type “clinical depression” in Google search via a mobile device will now be invited to check if they are clinically depressed via a screening questionnaire. Google said those who click through from the search suggestion will see a “Knowledge Panel” which will give you an option to “check if you are clinically depressed”. The test, called a PHQ-9, is described by the search engine as a clinically validated screening questionnaire and is designed to test what level of depression a person may be suffering. The results can help people then have a more informed conversation with their doctor.


64 Questions for the Environmental Conservationists of the World – (Laetus in Praesens – August 7, 2017)
This article was written on the occasion of Earth Overshoot Day (2 August 2017), namely the date on which humanity’s resource consumption in 2017 exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources in 2017. The date is nearly a week earlier than in 2016. These are all provocative questions. Here is just one example: Are environmental conservationists cognitively trapped by their preferred metaphors, in accordance with the adage of Geoffrey Vickers: a trap is a function of the nature of the trapped? Is this ironically exemplified by the language of “sustainability”, “growth”, “development” and “performance” in a period when species are being driven rapidly to extinction by the quest for aphrodisiacs to enhance such processes in contexts (metaphorically or euphemistically understood) — which environmentalists are averse to discuss in terms of their implications for ever increasing population pressure?

How Arsenic Is Poisoning a Nation – (Atlantic – August 17, 2017)
Bangladesh’s contaminated well water is considered one of the largest public-health crises in the world, and yet it remains relatively unknown outside of scientific circles. An estimated 40 million people—one quarter of the population—are exposed to drinking water contaminated with arsenic. While many people think of arsenic as the fast-acting homicidal agent beloved by the Borgias and their ilk, at the diluted levels found in drinking water, arsenic becomes a different kind of hazard: a tasteless, odorless, pernicious poison. Chronic exposure may lead to only a few visible symptoms (skin pigmentation on the chest, hands, and feet occurs in a minority of cases), but the poison is exceptional in its ability to silently attack multiple organs over the course of years, or even decades. The result is that trace arsenic exposure in Bangladesh appears to have led to dramatic increases in cancers ranging from skin to liver to lung, in cardiovascular disease, and in developmental and cognitive problems for children. The Bulletin of the World Health Organization estimates that the invisible taint of arsenic in the country’s well water could now be responsible for as many as 43,000 deaths per year in the country. researchers say there is no question that the mass arsenic contamination is solvable in most cases by drilling wells deeper than 500 feet. Some deep wells could provide for several hundred villagers, while the shallow wells they would replace usually serve only one household. Geologists say that enough wells and other types of safe water projects to supply water to the worst-exposed 20 million people could be provided relatively quickly—and that such improvements could gradually be expanded to other at-risk populations. And this raises a troubling question. If ending what WHO once dramatically called “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history” involves a straightforward fix, why hasn’t that simply been done? To appreciate why that question is such a complicated one, one has to go back to the time several decades ago when public agencies decided to first tackle water quality problems in Bangladesh. The ultimate answer indeed complex, but in short phrase, it is lack of political will. However, poor people having to contend with unsafe water is not just “over there somewhere”. See also this PBS article from August 1, 2017: Study confirms how lead got into Flint’s water. And see: Arsenic in drinking water threatens up to 60 million in Pakistan.

These Tree-Planting Drones Are about to Start an Entire Forest from the Sky – (Fast Company – August 10, 2017)
For the past five years, a group of villagers in the delta of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar has painstakingly planted 2.7 million mangrove trees in an attempt to begin to restore an ecosystem that has been disappearing for decades. But the work is laborious, and the local nonprofit guiding the work wants to cover a much larger area–so they’re now turning to tree-planting drones. The drones, from the startup BioCarbon Engineering, can plant as many as 100,000 trees in a single day, leaving the local community to focus on taking care of the young trees that have already started to grow. In September, the company will begin a drone-planting program in the area along with Worldview International Foundation, the nonprofit guiding local tree-planting projects. To date, the organization has worked with villagers to plant an area of 750 hectares, about twice the size of Central Park; the drones will help cover another 250 hectares with 1 million additional trees. Ultimately, the nonprofit hopes to use drones to help plant 1 billion trees in an even larger area. The drone technology works in stages. As a first step, mapping drones fly more than 300 feet over the land, collecting detailed data about the topography and soil quality. An algorithm uses that data to choose the best locations to plant trees, and the best species to plant. Next, a second group of drones, flying low over the ground, automatically follows the map to plant seeds in custom, nutrient-filled “seed pods” designed by plant scientists to support each species; each drone can carry a mix of different species simultaneously. The drones fire the pods quickly enough to penetrate the soil.


Microsoft’s Speech Recognition Is Now as Good as a Human Transcriber – (Futurism – August 23, 2017)
Microsoft recently announced that its conversational system for speech recognition has achieved a 5.1% error rate, its best performance to date. This beats the 5.9% error rate achieved in October of 2016 and put its accuracy at the same level as professional human transcribers, who can listen to text multiple times, access cultural context, and collaborate with other transcribers. Even using the a conservative standard, the system has achieved human parity. Researchers in this study reduced the error rate by around 12%, primarily by improving the language and neural net-based acoustic models of Microsoft’s speech recognition system. Significantly, they also enabled the system’s speech recognizer to make use of entire conversations instead of just snippets, which allowed it to more ably predict what phrases or words would most probably come next. This also allowed the system to more successfully adapt its transcriptions to context, just as humans do naturally in conversation. In other words, the researchers taught the system to more capably take in the whole picture when working to understand what it was hearing. According to Microsoft technical fellow Xuedong Huang, using distant microphones to achieve human levels of recognition in noisy environments, achieving higher levels of recognition for accented speech, and recognizing languages and speaking styles using only limited training data are still more distant goals. Moreover, taking this technology beyond transcribing and into deeper comprehension — such as understanding of intent and meaning — is another goal, and the next major frontier for speech technology and artificial intelligence.


An Ohio Mall Gets a Second Life Thanks to Amazon – (Tech Crunch – August 25, 2017)
Old malls are an eyesore. Built cheaply and then abandoned to chic outdoor “shopping experiences” and high-end destinations, they rot on parking lots in the hearts of small cities, taking up space and reminding folks of the way things used to be. Now, however, Amazon is going to repurpose what was once the world’s biggest mall in North Randall, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, The mall will be completely demolished to make way for a new 855,000-square-foot warehouse. The old mall remained a ghostly presence for almost a decade, slowly decaying on the edge of North Randall. Anchor after anchor closed during the 2000s, culminating in the closure of Burlington Coat Factory in 2015. Sadly this sort of move – the destruction of old real estate for warehouse space – is far more likely an outcome than Foxconn’s plan to build a factory in Wisconsin. While fulfillment is always a necessary process in the ecommerce food chain, manufacturing can still be done far more cheaply outside of the US. Every little bit helps, however, and it’s good to see old malls reborn as hubs for jobs, education, and growth – especially in a town that was so proud of their old mall that two shopping bags appear on their town seal.


From Fatberg to Fuel: The Nausea-inducing Energy Source That Lurks Beneath Our Feet – (Medium – August 18, 2017)
Fatbergs — congealed masses of cooking grease and other unsavory items such as baby wipes flushed down drains — are the grim byproduct of our high-fat, wasteful lifestyles. Many are the size of buses, lurking under our feet in sewers all over the place. They are the bane of treatment plants and cost companies millions of dollars to clean up. However, UK biodiesel producer Argent Energy has found an innovative use for fatbergs — it wants to convert them into green fuel. Tankers would collect fatbergs from processing plants and sewers and transfer them to a specialist plant. They would be heated to melt the fats and solids and water would be removed using a high-tech filtering system. The company would then siphon off a fairly clean oil, to which various chemicals would be added to produce biodiesel. About 25–40% of the mass collected would be reclaimed as oil for biodiesel, which is about 80% cleaner than normal diesel. Thames Water, a UK utilities company, has previously said that removing the oil from London’s fatbergs could produce more than 130 gigawatt hours of energy a year — enough to power about 40,000 homes. Fatbergs are usually sent to landfill or broken down and put back through the system.


Delivery without Drivers: Domino’s, Ford Team Up for Test – (Chicago Tribune – August 28, 2017)
You’re not sure you’re ready to ride in a car with no driver, but how about having your pizza ride? Here’s an inspired way to introduce autonomous cars to a dubious public. No ring of the doorbell, just a text. No tip for the driver? No problem in this test, where Domino’s and Ford are teaming up to see if customers will warm to the idea of pizza delivered by driverless cars. Now, some pizzas in Domino’s hometown of Ann Arbor will arrive in a Ford Fusion outfitted with radars and a camera that is used for autonomous testing. A Ford engineer will be at the wheel, but the front windows have been blacked out so customers won’t interact with the driver. Instead, people will have to come out of their homes and type a four-digit code into a keypad mounted on the car. That will open the rear window and let customers retrieve their order from a heated compartment. The compartment can carry up to four pizzas and five sides, Domino’s Pizza Inc. says. The experiment will help Domino’s understand how customers will interact with a self-driving car, says company President Russell Weiner. Will they want the car in their driveway or by the curb? Will they understand how to use the keypad? Will they come outside if it’s raining or snowing? Will they put their pizza boxes on top of the car and threaten to mess up its expensive cameras? The test will last six weeks, and the companies say they’ll decide afterward what to do next. Domino’s is also testing pizza delivery with drones.


Why the FDA’s Novel Plan for Nicotine Is a Step in the Right Direction – (MPR – August 23, 2017)
At one time, the FDA’s standard response to requests that it regulate nicotine in cigarettes was to assert that cigarettes are neither a food nor a drug, but “a device of pleasure” outside of their authority. However, the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently made a surprising and bold announcement that could potentially save more lives than if we ended the opioid epidemic today. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a physician and cancer survivor, said that federal regulators will start a conversation about dramatically reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, low enough to make them nonaddictive, while taking a go-slow approach to adopting new regulations on electronic cigarettes and other devices that are increasingly popular for consuming nicotine. As Gottlieb put it, efforts to reduce smoking in the United States call for “Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources.” Though the opioid crisis is currently attracting the attention of the media and decision-makers across society, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths a year. To put the scourge of conventional cigarettes in context, smoking kills 15 times more Americans per year than opioids.

Twenty-nine States Make It Illegal for Counties and Cities to Pass Seed Laws – (The Fern – August 21, 2017)
With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state. Seed-preemption laws are part of a spate of legislative initiatives by industrial agriculture, including ag-gag laws passed in several states that legally prohibit outsiders from photographing farms, and “right-to-farm” laws that make it easier to snuff out complaints about animal welfare. The seed laws, critics say, are a related thrust meant to protect the interests of agro-chemical companies. Nearly every seed-preemption law in the country borrows language from a 2013 model bill drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The council is “a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists,” essentially “voting as equals” with state legislators on bills, according to The Center for Media and Democracy. ALEC’s corporate members include the Koch brothers as well as some of the largest seed-chemical companies — Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont — which want to make sure GMO bans, like those enacted in Jackson County, Oregon, and Boulder County, Colorado, don’t become a trend.


World’s 1st Laser Weapon Is Ready to Blast Rogue Drones – (Live Science – July 18, 2017)
The world’s first laser weapon — one that can “kill” threatening, airborne drones — is ready for action. The laser, known as the Laser Weapons System (LaWS), may seem as though it were pulled straight from a James Bond movie, but it’s entirely functional and can shoot with stunning accuracy, according to the U.S. Navy. The LaWS is currently deployed aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, in the Persian Gulf. “Operationally, it works just like a laser pointer,” said Lt. Cale Hughes, a LaWS officer. “There’s a chamber inside with special materials that release photons.” The LaWS laser beam is completely silent and invisible. It’s also fast: The laser travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), meaning it’s about 50,000 times the speed of an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile, such as the one North Korea is testing, the Navy said. The $40 million system requires a team of three to operate it and a small generator to power its electricity supply. However, each blast is relatively cheap. “It’s about a dollar a shot,” Hughes said.


Arizona’s ‘Concentration Camp’: Why Was Tent City Kept open for 24 Years? – (Guardian – August 21, 2017)
“Hitler! Hitler!” the prisoners chanted to the TV cameras in protest. It was 4 February 2009. More than 200 Latino men in black-and-white striped uniforms, shackled to each other, were being marched towards an outdoor unit especially for “illegal alien” prisoners in Arizona’s infamous jail, Tent City. The chants were directed at the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who a few months before had called this outdoor jail close to downtown Phoenix – his own tough-on-crime creation – a “concentration camp” in a speech to political supporters at his local Italian-American club. When asked about the comment by the Guardian in July, Arpaio brushed it off as a joke. “But even if it was a concentration camp, what difference does it make? I still survived. I still kept getting re-elected,” he said. The jail survived too. For more than 20 years, Tent City stood within a larger jail compound in an industrial area 10 minutes south of downtown Phoenix. At its peak in the late 1990s, it comprised 82 Korean war-era military tents and housed 1,700 inmates. After 2009, it could hold up to 200 undocumented immigrants. The facility was never meant to be open for two decades. It started as a temporary solution to overcrowding in the other Maricopa County jails in August 1993. Arpaio said it cost just $80,000 to erect, using surplus military tents left over from the Korean war. For months at a time, inmates sentenced for minor crimes slept under the green cloth tents on bunk beds perched on large cement slabs on gravel. In the summer, temperatures inside could reach up to 54C (130F) in the dry Arizona heat. Though there was an indoor air-conditioned unit where detainees could shower and take sick relief from the heat, they weren’t allowed to sleep there. Inmates were issued with pink underwear, pink sandals and used pink wet towels around their necks to ease the heat. The sheriff said he chose pink so prisoners wouldn’t try to steal them.

A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack – (The Nation – August 10, 2017)
The short takeaway: Various experts say it wasn’t a hack at all, but a leak—an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. The long takeaway: At least the first half of this article is not worth more than a quick scan, but finally there is something reasonably solid: a forensic investigator offers evidence to support the claim that the DNC “hack” must actually have been a leak—a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. It was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer. The article notes that the first decisive findings, made public in the paper dated July 9, concerned the volume of the supposedly hacked material and what is called the transfer rate—the time a remote hack would require. The metadata established several facts in this regard with granular precision: On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second. These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds. Time stamps in the metadata indicate the download occurred somewhere on the East Coast of the United States—not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone. (Editor’s note: There are many reasons to be cautious in one’s reading of this article but there are also some elements of hard data that raise enough questions to suggest that, at the very least, the official stories of the DNC hack should be held lightly and with some measure of doubt.)


U.S. Wars and Hostile Actions: A List – (davidswanson.org – no date)
There is a reason that most countries polled in December 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world, and why Pew found that viewpoint increased in 2017. But it is a reason that eludes that strain of U.S. academia that first defines war as something that nations and groups other than the United States do, and then concludes that war has nearly vanished from the earth. Since World War II, during a supposed golden age of peace, the United States military has killed some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. The United States is responsible for the deaths of 5 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and over 1 million just since 2003 in Iraq. For the past almost 16 years, the United States has been systematically destroying a region of the globe, bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria, not to mention the Philippines. The United States has “special forces” operating in two-thirds of the world’s countries and non-special forces in three-quarters of them. In an attempt to quantify U.S. warmaking, the author has copied lists from three outside sources. The supreme international crime according to 2017 U.S. media reporting is interfering nonviolently in a democratic election — at least if Russia does it. William Blum, in his book Rogue State, lists over 30 times that the United States has done that. Another study, however, says 81 elections in 47 countries. France 2017 makes that total at least 82. In a reality-based assessment of U.S. crimes, the serious offenses begin beyond that threshold: the article includes Blum’s list of over 50 foreign leaders whom the United States has attempted to assassinate. (Editor’s note: this article is well researched and includes the footnotes to support its figures.)

Moscow Is Our Friend. Honest. – (Boston Globe – August 04, 2017)
Anti-Russia sentiment is deeply anchored in the American psyche. We have considered Russia an enemy ever since President Woodrow Wilson sent 13,000 troops to try to overthrow the Bolsheviks in 1918. With the exception of the few years during World War II, and a brief period in the early 1990s, Moscow has been our nemesis. Now this emotion has reached a dizzying new peak. But it is far from reality. Russia does not threaten any vital American interest. Its policies in Syria and the rest of the Middle East are in line with America’s stated desire to crush militant fanatics. Its wariness of China matches our own. As for charges that Russia intervened in an American election, they are serious and deserve investigation — but hardly the basis for howls of anger from a country that is the world champion in manipulating foreign elections. The Russia “scandal,” as we are being told to consider it, plays perfectly into the hands of Washington power. It is the ideal distraction. Republicans love it because as long as it dominates the news, there is less space for coverage of stories like the effect of new immigration policies or the rollback of environmental regulations. Democrats are just as happy, for another reason. Embracing the fantasy that Russian interference cost them the 2016 election allows them to avoid facing the reality that their defeat was really the result of presenting a widely loathed candidate and a set of policies far distant from the concerns of ordinary voters.


Inside the Country Where Down Syndrome Is Disappearing – (WTSP – August 15, 2017)
With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland. Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100% — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy. While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about the availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80% to 85% of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik. Other countries aren’t lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67% (1995-2011); in France, it’s 77% (2015); and Denmark, 98% (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity — and Down syndrome is included in this category. Geneticist Kari Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes. He has a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” he said. But “it reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” he said. “And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You’re having an impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.” He added, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”

Mnuchin’s Wife Isn’t the Only One Defining Herself Through the Brands She Promotes – (LA Times – August 25, 2017)
Why do consumers — even those in the pampered One Percent Club — so eagerly embrace corporate brands and make them their own? It’s not a new phenomenon, of course. But what’s changed is the way social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have taken things to a higher level, making brand identification more powerful, more tempting and potentially more dangerous. “Social media is amplifying and accelerating the phenomenon,” said Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It’s where we curate an idealized version of ourselves.” “Social media is amplifying and accelerating the phenomenon,” said Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It’s where we curate an idealized version of ourselves.” The Internet is now populated with “influencers” and “tastemakers” — and more than a few wannabes — who dedicate themselves to pimping popular brands. In return, many receive swag, and maybe some cash, from the companies they promote. The Kardashians and Jenners are at or near the top of this food chain, but there’s no shortage of others who have made materialism both a lifestyle and a livelihood. Today, more than ever, people are defining themselves through the brands they promote. The pay-for-play nature of the game has become so routine that the Treasury Department had to issue a statement this week saying that Linton “does not receive compensation for products she mentions.” So why do it? “She (Mnuchin’s wife) was clearly borrowing from the equity of those brands and depositing it in her own piggy bank,” said Jon Cohen, general manager of Innovation Protocol, a Los Angeles branding firm. “Those hashtags were shorthand for ‘I have power’ and ‘I have privilege.’”

Turd Reich: San Francisco Dog Owners Lay Minefield of Poo for Rightwing Rally – (Guardian – August 24, 2017)
When a group of far-right activists come to San Francisco to hold a rally, they will be met by peace activists offering them flowers to wear in their hair. Also, dog shit. Lots and lots of dog shit. Hundreds of San Franciscans plan to prepare Crissy Field, the picturesque beach in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge where rightwing protest group Patriot Prayer will gather, with a generous carpeting of excrement. (They also planned to clean it up the following day.) The “free speech” events of the Patriot Prayer group have frequently sparked violent street battles. Elected officials unsuccessfully pressured the National Park Service to deny the group a permit, and the police department is planning to deploy every available officer. But for many San Franciscans, an unwelcome visit from members of the “alt-right” is an opportunity to fight back in the spirit of the city by the bay – with flower power, drag queens, a little creativity, and an assist from the animal kingdom. There will also be contingents of clowns, kayakers, cars, and kids – all hoping to use their particular strengths (humor, seaworthiness, the ability to monopolize parking spaces, and cuteness, respectively) to thumb their noses at hate. “You have a significant number of people who would like to go and punch Nazis, and then you have people who think they should be entirely ignored,” said veteran labor and LGBTQ rights activist Cleve Jones. “In between you have all sorts of creative and crazy ideas. I kind of like that.” (Editor’s note: the Patriot Prayer group and other far-right activists ended up cancelling their rally, however, the San Francisco locals still showed up with flowers, clowns, and an LGBTQ contingent.)


Galaxy Clusters May Unlock the Secrets of Dark Matter and Dark Energy – (Daily Galaxy – August 28, 2017)
It’s a cosmic irony: the biggest things in the universe can also be the hardest to find. A single galaxy cluster can be as massive as a quadrillion suns, yet faraway clusters are so faint that they are practically invisible to all but the biggest Earth-bound telescopes. Distant clusters hold pieces of the story of how the web-like structure of the universe first emerged and could help illuminate the true nature of dark energy and dark matter. Now, a Boston University team led by Elizabeth Blanton, is delivering a catalog of about 200 candidate galaxy clusters which, if confirmed, may include some of the most distant clusters ever found. Galaxy clusters can contain thousands of galaxies and many trillions of stars—and that’s just what astronomers can see with ordinary telescopes. Hot gas between the galaxies glows with X-rays, and astronomers suspect that more than 85 percent of every cluster’s mass is hidden in the form of dark matter. Mapped in three dimensions, the universe is a web of bright filaments and dark voids, with galaxy clusters occupying the spots where the filaments intersect. Woven into this cosmic web are clues to two major cosmic mysteries: dark matter, the invisible stuff that permeates galaxies and the spaces between them, and dark energy, which is driving the accelerating expansion of the universe. Together, dark matter and dark energy make up some 95% of our universe, scientists suspect, but astrophysicists know of dark matter and dark energy’s existence only indirectly, by their influence on the stars and galaxies that light up the sky. The new cache of distant galaxy cluster candidates may help researchers pin down the properties of dark matter and dark energy, says Paterno-Mahler, first author on the new paper, one of a series forthcoming from Blanton’s team. “Galaxy clusters are really good test-beds for learning about the cosmological parameters of our universe, like how much dark energy there is and how much dark matter there is.”


One-fifth of Americans Find Workplace Hostile or Threatening – (Chicago Tribune – August 13, 2017)
The American workplace is grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile. So concludes an in-depth study of 3,066 U.S. workers by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles. Among the findings: Nearly one in five workers — a share the study calls “disturbingly high” — say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying. Workers who have to face customers endure a disproportionate share of abuse. Nearly 55% say they face “unpleasant and potentially hazardous” conditions. Nearly three quarters say they spend at least a fourth of their time on the job in “intense or repetitive physical” labor. “I was surprised at how physically demanding jobs were,” says lead author Nicole Maestas, a Harvard Medical School economist. Telecommuting is rare: 78% say they are required to be present in their workplace during working hours. About half say they work on their own time to meet the demands of their job.

The Kids Are All Right (and These Surprising Statistics Prove It) – (Positive News – July 25, 2017)
As their elders deteriorate into social epidemics and reactionary nationalism, young Americans as a generation are avoiding crime, violence, prison, dropout, and other major life determinants and adopting more inclusive, global attitudes. As American politics seems increasingly hopeless, striking generation gaps in attitudes and behaviors have emerged. Leaders and experts don’t comprehend how seismic youth improvements have been or what’s driving them. The gap begins with demography. The census finds Americans under 25 (51% white, 25% Latino, 14% black, 5% Asian, 5% other/mixed) to be far more diverse than their elders (aged 55+: 74% white). In harbingers such as California, nearly three-quarters of young people now are of color, and half have at least one foreign-born parent. That’s what America’s future looks like. And they’re leading a revolution. The statistics below look like typos, but they’re real. As California’s teenage youth population grew by 1 million from 1990 to 2015, Department of Justice, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and census figures show their murder arrests fell from 658 to 88 in Los Angeles (and in the notorious city of Compton, from 269 to 8), violent crimes from 21,000 to 7,000, property felonies from 54,000 to 7,000, total criminal arrests from 220,000 to 63,000, gun killings from 351 to 84, juvenile imprisonments from 10,000 to 700, births from 26,000 to 7,000, and school dropout rates from 16% to 6%. College enrolment and graduation soared (from 34% to 47%). In the 1970s, 10% of young Californians were arrested every year; in the 1990s, 7%; today, 2%. While California’s trends are especially pronounced, FBI and CDC data shows major declines in youth problems occurring across the country – from Connecticut to Texas, Michigan to Arizona, Atlanta to Seattle, in areas with vigorous anti-violence measures and those with none, with strong gun controls or “gun rights” regimes, with lots of kids in prison or few. The credit for improvements appears to lie with younger generations themselves. Maladaptation to racial and social change appears to underlie real pathologies, particularly among aging whites. Middle-aged rural and suburban whites’ soaring death rates from drugs and guns are now higher than those of inner-city black and Latino teenagers. America’s fastest growing prison population is middle-aged whites, while younger people show big decreases.


Inside the New Economic Science of Capitalism’s Slow-burn Energy Collapse – (Insurge Intelligence – August 25, 2017)
“New economic analysis shows decisively that the age of endlessly growing industrial capitalism, premised on abundant fossil fuel supplies, is over. The long-decline of capitalism-as-we-know-it began some decades ago, and is on track to accelerate well before the end of the 21st century. With capitalism-as-we-know it in inexorable decline, the task ahead is to rewrite economics to fit the real-world.” That’s the abbreviated executive summary of the article. For many readers, that will all seem self-evident. However, imagining therefore that, at a global level, we’re all going to smoothly transition to renewables or some completely new means of energy generation overlooks some critical economic factors. What makes this somewhat academic article worth reading is seeing the ways in which solid economic analysis necessarily supports those conclusions and sees that the main problem is that, as one researcher recognizes, the main incubator and agent of the non-market public economy is government — but government itself is playing a key role in dismantling, hollowing-out and privatizing the non-market public economy. (Not to mention the ways in which some governments are directly supporting the old-paradigm fossil fuel industries). See also: OPEC’s Existential Sucker Punch.

North Korea Factories Humming with ‘Made in China’ Clothes, Traders Say – (Reuters – August 13, 2017)
Chinese textile firms are increasingly using North Korean factories to take advantage of cheaper labor across the border, traders and businesses in the border city of Dandong told Reuters. The clothes made in North Korea are labeled “Made in China” and exported across the world, they said. Using North Korea to produce cheap clothes for sale around the globe shows that for every door that is closed by ever-tightening U.N. sanctions another one may open. The UN sanctions, introduced to punish North Korea for its missile and nuclear programs, do not include any bans on textile exports. Dozens of clothing agents operate in Dandong, acting as go-betweens for Chinese clothing suppliers and buyers from the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Russia, according to one businessman. Manufacturers can save up to 75% by making their clothes in North Korea, said a Chinese trader who has lived in Pyongyang. North Korea has about 15 large garment exporting enterprises, each operating several factories spread around the country, and dozens of medium sized companies, according to GPI Consultancy of the Netherlands, which helps foreign companies do business in North Korea. “North Korean workers can produce 30% more clothes each day than a Chinese worker,” said a Korean-Chinese businessman. A typical shift at the factory runs from 7:30 a.m. to around 10 p.m. And they are paid wages significantly below many other Asian countries. Chinese clothing manufacturers have been increasingly using North Korean textile factories even as they relocate their own factories offshore, including to Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia. “Wages are too high in China now. It’s no wonder so many orders are being sent to North Korea,” said a Korean-Chinese businesswoman who works in the textiles industry in Dandong.


The Guardian View on Barcelona: Solidarity Goes Beyond Victims – (Guardian – August 20, 2017)
Spain’s national cohesion faces more stresses than in most European countries. At least eight of the terrorists appear to have grown up in one small town, Ripoll. Their horrified families are blaming Abdelbaki Es Satty, the imam of one of the town’s mosques, for radicalising their sons. The small community, where one in 10 residents is a migrant, is in a state of shock to discover that football-loving kids who appeared entirely comfortable with their Spanish identity set out on such a murderous course. Police, who are investigating what they now say was a plot to launch a huge terror attack, are trying to establish whether the imam died in a gas explosion that destroyed a house. There are plenty of people, not just in the darker corners of social media, who believe there is a link between terror and refugees. Late last year, Europol reported Islamic State was deliberately trying to radicalize vulnerable refugees in order to inflame the migration crisis and turn EU citizens against refugees seeking asylum. That makes the challenge Barcelona faces now, to sustain the qualities of a multicultural cosmopolitanism, the youthful and open approach that has made it so beloved, the more important. The past year has seen terror strike half a dozen European countries. This is a desperate tragedy for millions fleeing endemic violence and insecurity. It threatens, too, the precious cohesion of neighborhoods. The terrorists want to destroy universal values of freedom and tolerance. If Europe fails refugees it is a kind of victory for them.

Mistrust, Efficacy and the New Civics – (Medium – August 17, 2017)
This whitepaper on “Trust, the Media and Democracy in America” was written for a workshop held at the Aspen Institute. Because mistrust is broad-based, press-centric solutions to mistrust are likely to fail. This is a broad civic problem, not a problem of fake news, of fact checking or of listening more to our readers. The shape of civics is changing, and while many citizens have lost confidence in existing institutions, others are finding new ways to participate. The path forward for news media is to help readers be effective civic actors. What started to emerge from discussions at the workshop was a two-dimensional grid of left/right and insurrectionist/ institutionalist to understand a picture of American politics that can include both the Occupy Movement and Hillary Clinton as leftists, and Donald Trump and Paul Ryan on the right. Another idea that came up was that the categories of institutionalism and insurrectionism are fluid and changing, because revolutionaries quickly become institutions. When Google came into the search engine game, it was a revolutionary new player, upending Yahoo!, Lycos, Alta Visa and others. Twenty years later, it’s one of the most powerful corporate and civic actors in the world. Understanding that successful revolutions tend to beget institutions is helpful for understanding insurrectionism as a political pole. Written by Ethan Zuckerman at the Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab, this article explores intersections between journalism and civic society, specifically noting that the decline of trust in journalism is part of a larger collapse of trust in institutions of all kinds; that low trust in institutions is creating a civic crisis, leaving citizens looking for new ways to be effective in influencing political and social processes; and that the search for efficacy is leading citizens into polarized media spaces that have so little overlap that shared consensus on basic civic facts is difficult to achieve. (Editor’s note: We strongly recommend this article.)

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

Why Whiskey Tastes Better with a Little Water – (CNN – August 17, 2017)
If anyone has suggested adding a little water to your whiskey, you may want to give it a try. Rather than watering it down, the addition may act as a flavor enhancement, and we now know the science behind it, thanks to a new study. The combination is a bit counterintuitive, which is part of the reason researchers wanted to look at the molecular chemistry behind what’s happening in your whiskey glass. On the surface, whiskey seems simple: It’s mostly grain and water that goes through a specific process. But from a chemistry standpoint, whiskey includes a complex variety of molecules that contribute to its unique taste. One of those is the compound guaiacol, which lends itself to the smokiness associated with some whiskeys. Guaiacol is the molecule that two researchers from the Linnaeus University Center for Biomaterials Chemistry in Sweden focused on for their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports. What they discovered is that guaiacol is most present at the surface of diluted whiskey, which is why whiskey with added water tastes better: The taste molecules are at the top of your glass. “From a molecular perspective, water and alcohol don’t completely mix,” co-author Ran Friedman wrote in an email. “Instead, we have clusters of water molecules and clusters of alcohol molecules. When whisky is diluted, the alcohol is driven to the surface, and many of the taste molecules follow it because they like to be in a slightly less aqueous environment. The taste that we experience is therefore enhanced — but there’s a limit. If we dilute the whisky too much the concentration of the taste compounds is reduced and the drink will be meager.”

Also, for what it’s worth: The nearest star (apart from the sun) is 4.25 light-years from Earth – which is why many wishes take more than 8.5 years to come true.


Germany’s Orange Ecstasy Pills Have Trump’s Name — and Face — All Over Them – (Washington Post – August 22, 2017)
Police and parents have long worried about the dangers of drugs designed to look like candy. The fear, somewhat debunked, is that children would mistakenly get their hands on, say, meth that looks much like a lollipop. But what do you tell children, or really anyone, about an ecstasy pill that looks like President Trump? On Saturday, police in Osnabrück, a city in the northwest German state of Lower Saxony, came across 5,000 of the tablets — shaped like the head of the leader of the free world. The front of each pill has Trump’s coifed hair and pursed lips. The back bears a resemblance to his campaign signs, with five stars in a line across the top and the word “Trump” in the middle. the Trump ecstasy tablets, known to have high levels of MDMA, have been spreading around Europe, selling for more than $10 a pill. It’s part of a decades-long history intertwining political imagery and illegal drugs.


There is a theory which states that, if ever for any reason anyone discovers what exactly the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened. – Douglas Adams

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

John L. Petersen is considered by many to be one of the most informed futurists in the world. He is best-known for writing and thinking about high impact surprises (wild cards) and the process of surprise anticipation. His current professional involvements include the development of sophisticated tools for anticipatory analysis and surprise anticipation, long-range strategic planning and helping leadership design new approaches for dealing with the future.


He has led national non-profit organizations, worked in sales, manufacturing, real estate development, and marketing and advertising, mostly for companies he founded. A graduate electrical engineer, he has also promoted rock concerts; produced conventions; and worked as a disc jockey, among other things.

Mr. Petersens government and political experience include stints at the National War College, the Institute for National Security Studies, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council staff at the White House. He was a naval flight officer in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve and is a decorated veteran of both the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. He has served in senior positions for a number of presidential political campaigns and was an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984. He was twice the runner-up to be Secretary of the Navy.

In 1989, Petersen founded The Arlington Institute (TAI), a non-profit, future-oriented research institute. TAI operates on the premise that effective thinking about the future is impossible without casting a very wide net. The “think tank” serves as a global agent for change by developing new concepts, processes and tools for anticipating the future and translating that knowledge into better present-day decisions. Using advanced information technology, a core group of bright thinkers and an international network of exceptionally curious people along with simulations, modeling, scenario building, polling and analysis, Arlington helps equip leaders and organizations from many disciplines with tools and actionable perspectives for dealing with uncertain times.

An award-winning writer, Petersens first book, The Road to 2015: Profiles of the Future was awarded Outstanding Academic Book of 1995 by CHOICE Academic Review, and remained on The World Future Societys best-seller list for more than a year. His Out of the Blue: How to Anticipate Wild Cards and Big Future Surprises book was also a WFS best-seller. His latest book is a Vision of 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change. His coauthored article, (The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation?) was one of the most highly acclaimed writings on Y2K. His 1988 book-length report (The Diffusion of Power: An Era of Realignment) was used at the highest levels of American government as a basis for strategic planning. He has also written papers on the future of national security and the military, the future of energy and the future of the media.

Petersen is a past board member of the World Future Society, writes on the future of aviation for Professional Pilot magazine and is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. He is a former network member of the Global Business Network and a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science. A provocative public speaker, he addresses a wide array of audiences around the world on a variety of future subjects. When he is not writing or speaking, Petersen invests in and develops resources for large, international projects and advanced technology start-up companies. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. Speaking Inquiries: Email [email protected]

Robert David Steele

Robert David Steele, former spy, former Marine Corps officer, a proponent of Open Source Everything, Presidential candidate in 2012 and perhaps again in 2024, recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 will integrate his life’s experience with his lessons from the works of others to explore love versus fear as a foundation for politics; liberty under natural law versus predatory fascism as we now have in the USA; and the possibilities for cosmic awakening very soon, in a full-on defeat of the Deep State and its Archon masters.

Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson’s amazing ability to dream about the future in terms that can be reliably translated into people, times, places, and activities has been the subject of books, major university scientific studies, films, articles, TV shows, and just about all forms of media. He has taught many people how to dream about the future and, through his advanced intuitive capabilities, helped thousands to understand how to deal with seemingly impossible personal situations. He is also a healer, having on numerous occasions led people with supposedly terminal conditions to eliminate those issues and return to a healthy life. There is no one else in the world that has Chris’s fascinating background (undercover police work, etc.), coupled with these amazing personal gifts.

Frank DeMarco

FRANK DeMARCO has been reporting on his conversations with non-physical beings for more than two decades, in magazine articles, talks, and in a dozen non-fiction books and two novels.

FRANK DeMARCO is the author of 14 books rooted in more than 25 years of psychic exploration, including It’s All One World, Awakening from the 3D World, Rita’s World (two volumes), The Cosmic Internet, The Sphere and the Hologram, and Imagine Yourself Well. Since 2005, he has been actively engaged in an on-going series of conversations with various non-physical beings, including historical individuals, “past lives,” aspects of personal guidance, and a generalized group he calls “the guys upstairs.”

He is also the author of three novels, Messenger, That Phenomenal Background (originally published as Babe in the Woods) and Dark Fire.

Dr. Larry Dossey

Dr. Larry Dossey is a physician of internal medicine and former Chief of Staff of Medical City Dallas Hospital. He received his M. D. degree from Southwestern Medical School (Dallas), and trained in internal medicine at Parkland and the VA hospitals in Dallas. Dossey has lectured at medical schools and hospitals throughout the United States and abroad. In 1988 he delivered the annual Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, India, the only physician ever invited to do so. He is the author of twelve books dealing with consciousness, spirituality, and healing, including the New York Times bestseller HEALING WORDS: THE POWER OF PRAYER AND THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE, and most recently One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters. His books have been translated into languages around the world. Dr. Dossey is the former co-chairman of the Panel on Mind/Body Interventions, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. He is the executive editor of the peer-reviewed journal EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing. Dr. Dossey lectures around the world. He lives in Santa Fe with his wife Barbara, a nurse-consultant and the author of several award-winning books.

William Buhlman

William Buhlman is a recognized expert on the subject of out-of-body experiences. The author’s forty years of extensive personal out-of-body explorations give him a unique and thought provoking insight into this subject. His first book, Adventures beyond the Body chronicles his personal journey of self-discovery through out-of-body travel, and provides the reader with the preparation and techniques that can be used for their own adventure. He has conducted an international out-of-body experience survey that includes over 16,000 participants from forty-two countries. The provocative results of this survey are presented in his book, The Secret of the Soul. This cutting edge book explores the unique opportunities for personal growth and profound spiritual awakenings that are reported during out-of-body experiences.

Over the past two decades William has developed an effective system to experience safe, self initiated out-of-body adventures. He conducts an in-depth six-day workshop titled, Out-of-Body Exploration Intensive at the renowned Monroe Institute in Virginia. As a certified hypnotherapist, William incorporates various methods, including hypnosis, visualization and meditation techniques in his workshops to explore the profound nature of out-of-body experiences and the benefits of accelerated personal development. Through lectures, workshops and his books the author teaches the preparation and techniques of astral projection and spiritual exploration.

The author brings a refreshing look to how we can use out-of-body experiences to explore our spiritual identity and enhance our intellectual and physical lives. William is best known for his ability to teach people how to have profound spiritual adventures through the use of out-of-body experiences. In addition, he has developed an extensive series of audio programs that are designed to expand awareness and assist in the exploration of consciousness. William has appeared on numerous television and radio shows worldwide. William’s books are currently available in twelve languages. The author lives in Delaware, USA. For more information visit his web site, www.astralinfo.org.

Joe McMoneagle

Joe was the longest operational psychic spy in the US government’s very highly classified Stargate program where they used psychics and intuitives to look into installations and people around the world that were of interest to government intelligence agencies. They called the process remote viewing.

As it turned out, the remote viewers discovered that they were – not limited by either time or space and produced drawings and assessments that could not have been obtained in any other way. The Soviets had an active remote viewing program at the same time and it is rumored that Russia, China and the U.S. still have initiatives of this kind that are operational.

Joe’s stories are fascinating, like the time he mentally got inside a Chinese nuclear weapon and saw how the triggering mechanism worked . . . and then went out and bought the parts at Radio Shack to show the scientists in the intelligence agency exactly how it was done. The remote viewers could find submarines at the bottom of the ocean and crashed aircraft in the middle of African jungles.

Dr. Joe Dispenza

Dr Joe Dispenza is an international lecturer, researcher, corporate consultant, author, and educator who has been invited to speak in more than 33 countries on six continents. As a lecturer and educator, he is driven by the conviction that each of us has the potential for greatness and unlimited abilities. In his easy-to-understand, encouraging, and compassionate style, he has educated thousands of people, detailing how they can rewire their brains and recondition their bodies to make lasting changes.

Dr. Joe is also a faculty member at Quantum University in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York; and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He’s also an invited chair of the research committee at Life University in Atlanta, Georgia.

As a researcher, Dr. Joe’s passion can be found at the intersection of the latest findings from the fields of neuroscience, epigenetics, and quantum physics to explore the science behind spontaneous remissions. He uses that knowledge to help people heal themselves of illnesses, chronic conditions, and even terminal diseases so they can enjoy a more fulfilled and happy life, as well as evolve their consciousness. At his advanced workshops around the world, he has partnered with other scientists to perform extensive research on the effects of meditation, including epigenetic testing, brain mapping with electroencephalograms (EEGs), and individual energy field testing with a gas discharge visualization (GDV) machine. His research also includes measuring both heart coherence with HeartMath monitors and the energy present in the workshop environment before, during, and after events with a GDV Sputnik sensor.

As a NY Times best-selling author, Dr. Joe has written Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon(Hay House, 2017), which draws on research conducted at his advanced workshops since 2012 to explore how common people are doing the uncommon to transform themselves and their lives; You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter (Hay House, 2014), which explores our ability to heal without drugs or surgery, but rather by thought alone; Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One (Hay House, 2012) and Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind (2007), both of which detail the neuroscience of change and epigenetics. His film appearances include Transcendence: Live Life Beyond the Ordinary (2018); HEAL (2017); E-Motion (2014); Sacred Journey of the Heart (2012); People v. the State of Illusion (2011); What IF – The Movie (2010); Unleashing Creativity (2009); and What the #$*! Do We Know? & Down the Rabbit Hole, extended DVD version (2005).

Dr. Todd Ovokaitys

After two years at Northwestern, he was accepted into an accelerated combined graduate/undergraduate program at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, which conferred both B.A. and M.D. degrees. Advanced training was at Georgetown University Hospital, with a Residency and Chief Residency in Internal Medicine followed by a Fellowship in Pulmonary and Intensive Care Medicine.

During his Pulmonary Fellowship, the specialty that concerns the lungs, Dr. Todd began his research with cells of the immune system. Many procedures were done on AIDS patients to diagnose their lung problems. Observing this dire disease firsthand and the toxic results of early medical treatments, Dr. Todd developed a passion for finding better solutions. Towards the end of his Fellowship, he became aware of the benefits of Holistic Medicine for improving the function of the immune system while building rather than impairing the function of other systems.

Inspired to learn more, he moved to Southern California to study with practitioners of Complementary Medicine. In the context of these studies, he had an experience so radical that the course of his life and work were forever transformed.

During a meditation class in the summer of 1989, Dr. Todd paired with another student for an exercise. The process was profound and they took turns, one in the process while the other scribed to record any breakthroughs of awareness. Much as in the Jodie Foster movie “Contact,” the usual anchor points dissolved with the feeling of instant transport to a different dimension of being. There was a doorway or portal to traverse, with a message of the responsibility taken on through the choice to go further.

Instantly upon walking through this doorway, a living form was seen that filled a room – and had the shape of a DNA strand enlarged millions of times. This form communicated that science only partly understood how DNA worked. The linear understanding of DNA as an enormous data string was correct but incomplete. In addition, DNA was a structure of coils within coils in an environment of moving charges that permitted DNA to send electromagnetic signals much as a radio transmitter. Further, DNA could receive and be conditioned by electromagnetic signals. Most significantly, if it were possible to determine and transmit the correct resonant signals, that it was possible to switch the activity of a sick cell to that of a healthy cell, an old cell to that of a young cell.

This experience brought with it a certainty that solutions were possible. After intensive review of the previous work showing the effects of electromagnetic energy patterns on cellular health and function, Dr. Todd located a colleague with the technical expertise to build the desired invention.

Mary Rodwell

Mary Rodwell is a professional counsellor, hypnotherapist, researcher, metaphysician, and founder and principal of ACERN (Australian Close Encounter Resource Network). She is internationally known for her work with ET experiencers and star children. She offers regressions and support for contactees and has organized a buddy system to help those who have had close encounters. Mary has spoken at conferences in Australia, USA, UK, Scandinavia, Hawaii and New Zealand. She is a regular guest on international radio and online shows and writes article for international publications like the UFO Truth Magazine. Mary is co-founder of FREE, a non-profit organization aimed at researching close encounters.

She is the author of, Awakening – How extra-terrestrial contact can transform your life. Mary is working on her second book, The New Human, due for release this year.

Freddy Silva

Freddy Silva is a best-selling author, and leading researcher of ancient civilizations, restricted history, sacred sites and their interaction with consciousness. He has published six books in six languages, and produced eleven documentaries. Described by one CEO as “perhaps the best metaphysical speaker in the world right now,” for two decades he has been an international keynote speaker, with notable appearances at the International Science and Consciousness Conference, the International Society For The Study Of Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine, and the Association for Research and Enlightenment, in addition to appearances on Gaia TV, History Channel, BBC, and radio shows such as Coast To Coast. He also leads private sell-out tours to ancient temples worldwide. www.invisibletemple.com

Sharry Edwards

Sharry Edwards has been accused of being too scientific by some, too esoteric by others. In actuality, she is a bridge between both fields of inquiry. Sharry is the acknowledged pioneer in the emerging field of Vocal Profiling using BioAcoustic Biology. For many years she has provided the leading-edge research to show the voice as a holographic representation of the body that can be used to change the face of medicine.

Sharry asks that we imagine a future in which we can be individually identified and maintained through the use of frequency based biomarkers that keep us healthy and emotionally balanced. Her work at the Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has shown that we can each have dominion over those frequencies by individual mind management or a simple remote control that is completely programmable. Using the unique techniques of Vocal Profiling and evaluation, emotional as well as physiological issues can be revealed and addressed.

Her work with the human voice reveals that people who share similar traumas, stresses, diseases, toxicities…share similar, if not identical, vocal anomalies. She brings together ancient knowledge with modern ideas of harmonics and frequency relationship theories to show that math can be used as a form of predictive, diagnostic and curative foundation for wellness. Through entrainment of the frequency grids of the brain, the body can be programmed to support its own optimal form and function.

Dr. John McMichael

John McMichael, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Beach Tree Labs, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and early development of new therapeutic agents targeting unmet medical needs. These disorders range from herpes infections to chronic fatigue syndrome to urinary incontinence. His PhD is in virology and immunology from Oregon State University. He headed up the labs at one of the largest private veterinary research practices in the country, was a college professor for more than a decade, and now works out of a small lab on his form in New York state and a larger, more sophisticated lab in Providence, Rhode Island. He holds over 200 patents, has published in books and peer-reviewed journals, and is currently working with his team to begin formal FDA trials for product candidates for chronic traumatic brain injury and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.

Good health is dependent on the appropriate transfer of information within and between cells. The informational and molecular disharmonies associated with disease can be reversed using appropriate therapeutic signals that stimulate the return to the normal state without adverse effects. One such signal molecule, SLO, has demonstrated clinical utility in a broad spectrum of indications that would at first glance appear to be unrelated. The underlying common thread that links these disorders is representative of the targets to which resonant molecular signals are directed.

Dr. Carrie Hempel & Brian Sanderoff

Integrative Physician Dr. Carrie Hempel and Holistic Pharmacist Brian Sanderoffare both experts in the medicinal use of cannabis in Maryland.

Dr. Hempel is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2002. As an Osteopathic Physician, she has embraced a holistic approach to patient care, providing loving attention to the relationship between mind, body, and spirit. For the past 11 years she has received specialist training, Board Certification and expertise in several fields including Internal Medicine, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, and Hospice & Palliative Medicine, along with many Integrative modalities. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Association of Cannabis Specialists, and is registered with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Over the course of her career she has seen the consistent struggle of patients dealing with chronic, progressive, debilitating illness, and witnessed the challenges and limitations of the current pharmaceutical options for pain and symptom managment. Her passion for this population has grown, along with her desire to advocate for patients to have access to non-opioid, holistic options to enhance quality of life and optimize function.

Trained as a pharmacist, Brian Sanderoff has integrated 25 years of experience with his traditional medical training and herbalism, nutrition and numerous other holistic modalities to help clients devise practical, common-sense, safe solutions to most any health issue.

His clients appreciate how he embraces a complementary approach to health and how his holistic “compass” brings them new solutions to their unique health concerns – especially chronic diseases.

Mary Rodwell

Mary Rodwell is a professional counsellor, hypnotherapist, researcher, metaphysician, and founder and principal of ACERN (Australian Close Encounter Resource Network). She is internationally known for her work with ET experiencers and star children. She offers regressions and support for contactees and has organised a buddy system to help those who have had close encounters. Mary has spoken at conferences in Australia, USA, UK, Scandinavia, Hawaii and New Zealand. She is a regular guest on international radio and online shows and writes article for international publications like the UFO Truth Magazine. Mary is co-founder of FREE, a non-profit organisation aimed at researching close encounters.

Steve McDonald

Steve McDonald is an extraordinary Australian thinker and researcher who arguably knows as much about the structure of the global planetary transition that we are experiencing as anyone on the planet. He draws coherent pictures from the deep insights of Clair W. Graves and paints clear, explanatory images of not only how humanity has evolved to this point, but what is inevitably on our horizon . . . and how this epic transition will continue to play out.

He is currently writing a book about the global paradigm shift that’s taking us beyond the scientific-industrial era. Steve served with the Australian Army for 15 years, including war service as an infantry company commander in Somalia, 1993. He is also a qualified military helicopter pilot and on leaving the army he flew a rescue helicopter in the tropical Mackay-Whitsunday region of Queensland. Building upon his extensive experience in unpredictable environments, after retiring from flying Steve specialized as a change management consultant. He consequently studied the developmental psychology research of Dr Clare W Graves and became one of the first Australians qualified to teach Dr Graves’ theory under the banner of Spiral Dynamics Integral. A long-term struggle with posttraumatic stress has driven Steve’s deep interest in human nature and consciousness. He is a founder of Psychedelic Research in Science & Medicine, an Australian non-profit association. He is also a founder of AADII, a non-profit company created to support worldwide transformational change.

Robert Coxon

Although Robert Coxon had been studying and composing music for many years, it was after taking the Silva Mind Control course that he realized how powerful sound could be in relaxing the body and opening the consciousness. He then decided to write his first album.

Cristal Silence quickly became a major hit throughout Canada, staying on top of the charts for many years. This was the beginning of his continuing phenomenal success as composer and solo artist. For the last 29 years he has performed only his original compositions in concert. Robert has been nominated four times for the prestigious “Felix” award (French Canada equivalent to the Grammy), and became Canada’s best-selling New Age artist. His international breakthrough came after composing The Silent Path in 1995. This album was an instant hit in Canada, the USA and France. After hearing The Silent Path, Lee Carroll, internationally renowned author of 15 bestselling Kryon and Indigo books, contacted Robert and asked him to join his team on tour. Through the years this has given Robert the opportunity to experience different cultures and inspires him to write music honoring these many countries he performs in.

Robert offers us nine albums, the latest three being The Infinite, essence of life, Goddess -The Power of Woman and Passion Compassion Alegeria.

Joe Dispenza

needs bio…

Gary Sycalik

Gary Sycalik has been described as an entrepreneur, businessman, project developer/manager, consultant/advisor, organizational troubleshooter, strategic planner, facilitator, futurist, business and social architect, complex problematic game designer (policy, strategic, tactic levels) and writer. Gary brings a robust horizontal and vertical functional capability to any project from the conceptual to operational stage.

Kingsley L. Dennis Phd.

Kingsley L. Dennis, PhD, is a sociologist, researcher, and writer. He previously worked in the Sociology Department at Lancaster University, UK. Kingsley is the author of numerous articles on social futures; technology and new media communications; global affairs; and conscious evolution. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books including Healing the Wounded Mind, The Sacred Revival, The Phoenix Generation, New Consciousness for a New World, Struggle for Your Mind, After the Car, and the celebrated Dawn of the Akashic Age (with Ervin Laszlo). He has traveled extensively and lived in various countries. He currently lives in Andalusia, Spain.


His homepage is www.kingsleydennis.com

Penny Kelly

Penny Kelly is an author, teacher, speaker, publisher, personal and spiritual consultant, and Naturopathic physician. She travels, lectures, and teaches a variety of classes and workshops, and maintains a large consulting practice. She has been involved in scientific research and investigations into consciousness at Pinelandia Laboratory near Ann Arbor, MI.