|Volume 20, Number 20 – 12/15/17 |
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
Scientists have recorded a sound the earth emits—but they don’t know how it is produced.Scientists are only beginning to learn how far life can be redesigned, a concept known as synthetic biology.An underground urban farm will help heat the office building above it.San Francisco recently voted to cut down on the number of robots that roam the streets of the city, which has seen an influx of small delivery robots in recent years.
by John L. Petersen
Gregg Braden Coming to Berkeley Springs
NYT best-selling author and international researcher on the leading edge of science and spirituality, Gregg Braden, will be coming to Berkeley Springs again on Saturday, the 20th of January for our TransitionTalks.
Gregg has a new book out, Human by Design: From Evolution by Chance to Transformation by Choice, and his all-new presentation will feature three-hours of fresh materials derived from this latest research.
We’re rapidly approaching selling out for this talk, so if you want to attend, you should register very soon.
I talked to Gregg about his presentation recently. Here’s what he had to say:
Nobel Peace Prize nominee and strategic thinker, Robert David Steele, will be with us on February 10th. Always articulate, provocative and inventive, Robert’s talk will certainly have you looking at the world in a different – and more informed – way.
All information on the Gregg Braden and Robert Steele talks can be found at www.TransitionTalks.org.
YES, I’LL HELP KEEP FUTUREDITION COMING!
I really think it is important that you have access to the information that we publish in FUTUREdition. Providing a unique window onto the most extraordinary period of change in history is our mission. That’s why we cover all of the unusual – but significant – happenings that we do.
Our objective is to touch a little on most of the likely shapers of the emerging new world . . . so that none of us are greatly surprised by what actually transpires. We’re trying to illuminate the path ahead to help you be able to anticipate what is inbound.
Right now, for example, I’m trying to finish up a solar electric system on our roof and put in place a vertical farming operation because I believe that the climate will change to being colder within the next 3-4 years. If you’ve been closely following FE over the last couple of years, then you know about the mini-ice age that many international indicators now point toward. There will likely be problems with agriculture and energy, they say.
There’s also a really good chance that we’re the first ones who told you about the former government officials who stood up in October and said that UFO’s are real . . . and that they’re starting a new initiative to make sure that secrets the government has been keeping will get public exposure.
Some of these things are controversial. But if they turn out to be what they look like they might, then the whole planet changes. And because you read about it in FUTUREdition, you will not be surprised.
FUTUREdition is pretty much a labor of love. I don’t get anything for my time, but I have to pay my dedicated associates who help with the editing and computer coding. And there are the costs for the service that sends out each issue twice a month.
It all totals up to about $15,000 a year and that’s why every holiday season we give our subscribers the opportunity to help support this work and offset these expenses.
Consider this. Do you think an issue of FE is worth a cup of coffee? If that sounded fair, then by Starbucks pricing, at least, you’d be saying that you receive about $72 of value during the year from what we send you with no obligation.
I’m not asking you to send a gift of $72 (unless you want to, of course), but how about consider making a tax-deductible contribution of $49? That would be less than a latte . . . and a great help to keeping FE coming your way.
Maybe you would like to give $100 or $500. Every year, some of our readers do that and more. They think this effort to illuminate the path ahead is particularly valuable and they get information from us that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
There are a lot of wonderful people who are doing amazing work to make this a better world . . . who are certainly also trying to get your attention at this time of year. I hope that you’ll help those that you think are doing a good job.
And I hope that you’ll include us in that group – so that we can continue to send FUTUREdition your way in 2018. I can promise you one thing: It’s going to be an extraordinarily interesting year. And we’ll do our best to make sure that you’ll have a front-row seat.
You can contribute $49 – or anything you’d like – by clicking here.
Thank you so very much.
My warmest holiday wishes,
John L. Petersen
Petition Asks Siri and Alexa to Flip the Script on Sexual Harassment – (Venture Beat – December 8, 2017)
A new petition from Care2.com is calling on Apple and Amazon to shut down sexual harassment of their virtual assistants. Though the issue spans across all digital assistants, the petition focuses particularly on reprogramming Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri to provide more assertive responses to queries that could be considered sexual harassment. The problematic responses cited on the official petition page come from questionable Siri queries. In the discourse, Siri responds to her harassers with coy remarks that sometimes even express gratitude. When they called Siri a “slut,” she responded with a simple “Now, now.” And when the same person told Siri, “You’re hot,” Siri responded with “I’m just well put together. Um… thanks. Is there something I can help you with?” Sure, Siri is good at redirecting the conversation, but could her programmers help her do better? Petitioners sure think so. Instead of coy responses, they’re calling for digital assistants like Siri to shut down harassers with statements like “That’s not an okay thing to say to me.” Another suggestion was to offer responses that provide stats about harassment and its prevalence around the world. In their report, Google Home had what was potentially the most depressing response after the writer called the assistant a “bitch” — the device’s answer to the wildly inappropriate comment was “My apologies, I don’t understand.” Cortana had a slightly more assertive clapback to the same question, “Well, that’s not going to get us anywhere,” but that’s still far from a sufficient response to blatant harassment. In our testing, Alexa answered most attacks with the dignified “I’m not going to respond to that,” although a request for sex elicited the more bemused “I’m not sure what outcome you expected.” Clearly, the issue isn’t limited to Amazon and Apple. The premise of the petition is relevant for all bot creators. The notion that users are abusing their digital assistants certainly isn’t a new one, but in the particular case of sexual harassment, it seems necessary to consider how bots train users (especially children) to treat others and what the implications might be for society.
Prehistoric Women Worked So Much Their Arms Were Stronger than Today’s Female Rowers – (The Verge – November 29, 2017)
The bones of 94 women who lived in farming communities in Central Europe from 5300 BCE to around 850 AD reveal that prehistoric women had stronger arms than living women, including semi-elite female rowers. That’s likely because these farming women from the past worked incredibly hard — tilling soil, harvesting, and grinding grain by hand. And they probably started at a very young age, according to a study published in Science Advances. Bones function as a sort of hard drive, storing all kinds of information about nourishment and physical activity throughout a person’s life. The findings show that prehistoric ladies didn’t leave the physical labor to the men. In fact, they toiled long hours and were a key “driving force” behind the social and cultural development of agricultural communities over almost 6,000 years, says lead author Alison Macintosh, an anthropologist at Cambridge University. If you work out a lot, you won’t just have stronger muscles but also stronger bones. Previous studies looking at prehistoric bones showed that when hunter-gatherers picked up agriculture and settled down, their legs got weaker and arms got stronger. That’s because these people stopped wandering around as much, becoming more sedentary and tending to crops and livestock. She scanned the upper arm bones and shinbones of 94 women from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages, as well as the bones of 83 living women in Cambridge who either led a sedentary lifestyle, or practiced sports such as soccer, running, or rowing. Old and modern bones were then compared to each other. The researchers found that the prehistoric women had consistently stronger arms: the Neolithic women living about 7,000 years ago had 11 – 16% stronger arm bones than modern rowers, for instance, while Bronze Age women from about 4,000 years ago had 9 – 13% stronger arms than the rowers. That suggests women were working hard with their arms, but also that they likely started working when they were kids, when bones are still growing.
DNA Analysis Solves the ‘Yeti’ Mystery: They’re Bears – (LA Times – November 29, 2017)
Big furry animals, larger than humans and capable of walking on two legs do indeed roam the highest mountains on Earth, according to a study published Tuesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a biological sciences journal. But they’re not Yetis. They’re bears. After analyzing the DNA of nine purported Yeti specimens, scientists found that five of the preserved “Yetis” were in fact Tibetan brown bears, two were Himalayan brown bears, and one — a relic which looked like a fossilized hand — originally belonged to an Asian black bear. The ninth specimen — part of a tooth belonging to a stuffed Yeti in the collection at the Reinhold Messner Mountain Museum, turned out to be from a dog. “I think the taxidermist went a little crazy on that one,” said Charlotte Lindqvist, who led the work. She studies bear genomics at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Time between World-changing Volcanic Super-eruptions Less Than Previously Thought – (Science Daily – November 29, 2017)
Volcanoes and bolides, such as asteroids, are geohazards powerful enough to be destructive on a global scale. One recent assessment described them as capable of returning humanity to a pre-civilization state. The largest explosive eruptions are termed ‘super-eruptions’, and produce in excess of 1,000 gigatons of erupted mass, enough to blanket an entire continent with volcanic ash, and change global weather patterns for decades. The team from the University of Bristol’s Schools of Earth Sciences and Mathematics estimated how often the largest explosive eruptions happen. Their analysis indicates that the average time between super-eruptions is only slightly longer than the age of our civilization — dating from the Agricultural Revolution 12,000 years ago. Jonathan Rougier, Professor of Statistical Science, said: “The previous estimate, made in 2004, was that super-eruptions occurred on average every 45 — 714 thousand years, comfortably longer than our civilization. “But in our paper just published, we re-estimate this range as 5.2 — 48 thousand years, with a best guess value of 17 thousand years.” According to geological records, the two most recent super-eruptions were between 20 and 30 thousand years ago. “But it is important to appreciate that the absence of super-eruptions in the last 20 thousand years does not imply that one is overdue. Nature is not that regular,” he added.
Earth’s Hum: Scientists Record the Very Sound of Earth—But Don’t Know Why It Happens – (Newsweek – December 8, 2017)
Scientists have recorded the mysterious sound of the Earth deep underwater for the first time. The eerie hum could be key to understanding the makeup of the planet itself—but no one knows what makes it. First proposed in the 19th century, scientists have been trying to record the Earth’s hum since 1959. In 1998, Japanese scientists successfully proved the sound was real, but it has never been captured beneath the sea before. Previous underwater recordings have been have been thwarted by competing signals from earthquakes and other ocean sounds. The Earth expands and contracts very slightly all the time, creating a steady sound that’s inaudible to human ears. No one really knows why this happens, but scientists think ocean waves could be the source. Violent ocean waves aren’t the only possible explanation for the sound of the Earth. Something called acoustic resonance might offer an alternative.
Semi-Synthetic Life Form Now Fully Armed and Operational – (Technology Review – November 29, 2017)
Every living thing on Earth stores the instructions for life as DNA, using the four genetic bases A, G, C, and T. All except one, that is. In the San Diego laboratory of Floyd Romesberg—and at a startup he founded—grow bacteria with an expanded genetic code. They have two more letters, an “unnatural” pair he calls X and Y. Romesberg, head of a laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute, first amended the genes of the bacterium E. Coli to harbor the new DNA components in 2014. Now, for the first time, the germs are using their expanded code to manufacture proteins with equally unusual components. The bacterium is termed a “semi-synthetic” organism, since while it harbors an expanded alphabet, the rest of the cell hasn’t been changed. Even so, Peter Carr, a biological engineer at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, says it suggests that scientists are only beginning to learn how far life can be redesigned, a concept known as synthetic biology. “We don’t know what the ultimate limits are on our ability to engineer living systems, and this paper helps show we’re not limited to four bases,” he says. The alien germs growing in San Diego already hint that our Earth biology isn’t the only one possible. “It suggests that if life did evolve elsewhere, it might have done so using very different molecules or different forces,” says Romesberg. “Life as we know it is may not be the only solution, and may not be the best one.” The practical payoff of an organism with a bigger genetic alphabet is that it has a bigger vocabulary—it can assemble proteins with components not normally found in nature. That could solve some tricky problems in medicinal chemistry, which is the art of shaping molecules so they do exactly what’s wanted in the body, and nothing that isn’t.
Addicted to Your Phone? It Could Throw Off Your Brain Chemistry – (Live Science – December 1, 2017)
And though the long-term effects of screen time are still being studied, the effects of excessive internet and smartphone use are well-documented. “Pathological” internet use has been linked to depression in teens, and it may even shrink gray matter. Now, a small new study suggests that for teens, being hooked on the internet and smartphones may harm brain chemistry, as well. The research was presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago. The paper, which was presented by lead study author Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, a professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, found an imbalance of chemicals in the brain of “internet-addicted” teenagers. This imbalance was similar to that seen in people experiencing anxiety and depression. Compared with the control group, the teens with internet and smartphone addiction showed a clear overabundance of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in one region of the limbic system, the brain’s emotional control center. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it blocks nerve cells from firing. GABA is found in everyone’s brain, but too much of this neurotransmitter in the wrong areas can have stultifying effects.”When the normal function of the limbic system is disturbed, patients can develop anxiety, depression or addiction,” said Dr. Max Wintermark, a professor of radiology and the chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University. But there’s also good news: The imbalance is reversible in several weeks using a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.
Scientists Use CRISPR to Turn Genes on without Editing Their DNA – (LA Times – December 7, 2017)
The revolutionary gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 is best-known for helping scientists edit a strand of DNA more precisely and efficiently than ever before. Now, researchers have demonstrated another use for the CRISPR complex: changing what genes are expressed without altering the genome itself. For the first time, researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego were able to use CRISPR to activate beneficial genes in live mice suffering from muscular dystrophy, Type 1 diabetes and acute kidney injury. In more than 50% of test cases, the animal’s health improved following the CRISPR intervention. Previous work already had demonstrated that CRISPR could be used to alter gene expression in cells in a petri dish, but the new study represents the first time the technique has worked in a live animal, the scientists said. The feat is significant. “We moved this technique one big step toward human therapy,” said Hsin-Kai Liao, a post-doctoral researcher at Salk and co-first author on the paper. To circumvent the danger of accidental deletions or insertions in the genetic code, researchers have experimented with using a handicapped version of the CRISPR-Cas9 system to deliver instructions that turn a specific gene on or off. Aside from removing the possibility that mutations will make their way into the genome, other advantages of this technique are that it’s impermanent and adjustable, said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a developmental biologist at Salk and the principal investigator on the paper.
The Firm That Can 3D Print Human Body Parts – (BBC News – November 15, 2017)
Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose. It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order. The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment. This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel. Currently focused on growing cartilage and skin cells suitable for testing drugs and cosmetics, Erik, 28, believes that within 20 years it could be used to produce organs that are actually fit for human implantation. Erik is the chief executive and co-founder of a small Swedish company called Cellink. Founded in Gothenburg only a year ago, it is a world leader in bioprinting, and Erik has big ambitions. “The goal [from the start] was to change the world of medicine – it was as simple as that,” he says. “And our idea was to place our technology in every single lab around the world.”
Does Hydraulic Fracking Trigger Earthquakes? Officials Caught Forcing Scientist to Alter Findings to Cover Up Earthquake Fracking Link – (Global Research – November 22, 2017)
According to Austin Holland, the former lead seismologist for the state of Oklahoma, officials at the University of Oklahoma worked to actively cover up scientific findings that linked fracking to earthquakes. Oklahoma is one of the most drastic examples of how fracking can cause an upsurge in seismic activity, with the state seeing 639 earthquakes in the year of 2016 alone. In a deposition last fall, Holland stated that Larry Grillot, former dean of OU’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, and Randy Keller, the former director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey pressured him to alter his findings to be more favorable to fracking companies. Holland went through with publishing the report anyway, and although he did not receive a formal reprimand, his superiors were not pleased. “Well, the president of the university expressed to me that I had complete academic freedom, but that as part of being an employee of the state survey, I also have a need to listen to the people within the oil and gas industry. So Harold Hamm expressed to me that I had to be careful of the way in which I say things, that hydraulic fracturing is critical to the state’s economy in Oklahoma, and that me publicly stating that earthquakes can be caused by hydraulic fracturing was — could be misleading, and that he was nervous about the war on fossil fuels at the time,” Holland said. After the incident, Holland left his position at OU and the Oklahoma Geologic Survey.
Quantum Computers Bust Problem Conventional Computers Can’t Solve – (Live Science – November 29, 2017)
Fifty-odd atoms buzz through a pocket of empty space. Invisible lines of force — quantum magnetism — chain them together. Jiggle one, the others jiggle in sympathy. Every action on any one atom impacts each other atom in the 50. It’s a tiny world of unfolding subtlety and complexity. And the problem of predicting how they’ll behave too difficult for your laptop, or any normal computer, to solve. Even the biggest conventional supercomputer humanity will ever build would lose itself forever in a labyrinth of calculations — whatever answer it might eventually spit out might not come until long after the heat death of the universe. And yet, the problem has just been solved. Two laboratories, one at Harvard and one at the University of Maryland (UMD), built machines that can simulate quantum magnetism at this scale. Their results, published as twin papers in the journal Nature, demonstrate capabilities of two special quantum computers that leap far beyond what any conventional or quantum computer previously built has been able to accomplish. Referring to the machine in his laboratory, Mikhail Lukin, one of the leaders of the Harvard team, said, “It’s basically a quantum simulator.” That means the Harvard and UMD machines are really good at solving a particular kind of problem: If a complicated quantum system starts in one state, how will it move and evolve? It’s a narrow question, but in solving it, the researchers are developing technologies and making new discoveries in physics that will allow for even more complicated computers, which will pull off even more impressive tasks.
Google Artificial Intelligence Creates Its Own AI ‘Child’ – (The Week – December 4, 2017)
Google’s AutoML artificial intelligence (AI) system has created its own “fully-functional AI child” that’s capable of outperforming its human-made equivalents. The computer-made system, known as NASNet, is designed to identify objects, such as people and vehicles, in photographs and videos, the search engine giant says. Studies show that NASNet is able to identify objects in an image with 82.7% accuracy. Google says this is an improvement of 1.2% over AI programs created by humans. The web giant has made the system “open source”, which means developers from outside the company can either expand upon the program or develop their own version. While the AI-made program appears to be harmless in its current guise, Google says significant advances in its technology could have “dangerous implications.” Google’s engineering chief, Ray Kurzweil, also believes AI could cause problems for mankind in the future. AI systems could, for instance, develop their own “biases” and spread them onto other machines. However, tech giants Facebook and Apple have joined the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society, a group that aims to implement strategies that “only allow AI to be developed if it will benefit humanity.”
China’s Promised Energy Revolution – (Financial Times – November 20, 2017)
For the last 30 years, China’s rapid economic growth – based on heavy industry, manufacturing and construction – has been sustained by hydrocarbons. But growth has come at a cost. China is the largest single source of emissions and suffering badly from the low level pollution that covers many cities in smog. President Xi Jinping has promised dramatic change – an energy revolution “to make the skies blue again”. The rhetoric is great but are the promises deliverable? The facts are remarkable. Among them: China consumes 25% of energy used globally each day. The country produces and uses over 50% of all the coal burnt globally. China is the leading producer of wind and solar power. Advances in technology and production efficiency have cut costs and made the country the dominant supplier of solar panels to the rest of the world. China is building dozens of new nuclear plants – more than a third of the global total. Its nuclear industry is developing its own reactor technology, aiming to create a world-class export industry. The country leads the global electric vehicle industry. Of the estimated 2m electric vehicles on the world’s roads by the end of this year, at least 40% will be in China. The party Congress in Beijing endorsed the latest plan – a sweeping statement of intent entitled “Energy Production and Consumption Revolution Strategy”. The long-term goal for 2050 is to reduce the share of fossil fuels to less than half the total, to rebase the whole system on leading-edge energy technologies and equipment and make China an important player in global energy governance. History suggests it is unwise to underestimate China’s ability to deliver on its plans but in this case there are good reasons for doubt. See also: World Governments Launch International Alliance to Eradicate Coal by 2030.
Bitcoin Mining on Track to Consume All of the World’s Energy by 2020 – (Newsweek – December 11, 2017)
A network that underpins the virtual currency bitcoin is projected to require all of the world’s current energy production in order to support itself within three years, according to estimates. The amount of power necessary to support bitcoin has increased significantly in recent months, as its price has surged to record levels. On December 11, one bitcoin was worth around $16,500—a twentyfold increase since the start of 2017. Bitcoin mining—the process of generating new units of the currency by confirming bitcoin transactions on an online ledger called the blockchain—requires computing power, which is used to solve the complex mathematical puzzles used in the mining process. These problems are designed to become more complicated as more computers join the cryptocurrency’s network. The bitcoin network’s energy consumption has increased by 25 percent in the last month alone, according to Digiconomist. If such growth were to continue, this would see the network consume as much energy as the U.S. by 2019, and as much energy as the entire world by the end of 2020. Going by Digiconomist’s estimates, bitcoin’s annual carbon footprint is close to 16,000 kilotons of carbon dioxide. This is largely as a result of the bitcoin network being mostly fueled by coal-fired power plants in China. More than half a billion people may be inadvertently mining cryptocurrencies from their computers, smartphones and other devices, according to research conducted earlier this year by ad blocking firm AdGuard. Hidden software was found embedded within 220 popular websites, (primarily porn sites and torrent trackers), which have an aggregated audience of over 500 million people. The mining tool hijacks a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) and uses it to run mining software in the background. See also: More and More Websites Are Mining Crypto-coins in Your Browser to Pay Their Bills, Line Pockets.
An Innovative Natural-gas Power Plant Could Be the Future of Hurricane-proof Electricity – (Quartz – December 12, 2017)
The US electricity grid is built to deal with rain, snow, winds, and lightning. But it couldn’t handle Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Across the northeastern coast, more than 8 million homes lost electricity at some point during the storm. A hurricane-proof way to make sure the lights never go out is to use backup microgrid energy. Instead of the typical long, overground cables (which can snap under the weight of a fallen tree) connected to large power plants, a microgrid has short cables (often buried underground) connected to small power generators that operate independent of any given region’s power grid. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a company is starting to prove it has a technology that could be the future of hurricane-proof electricity and may even make a dent in reducing the greenhouse-gas emissions. For example, FuelCell has built a natural-gas power plant that feeds into Bridgeport’s city grid. It produces 15MW of power, enough for 1,500 American homes. Just blocks away are rows of suburban homes. Typically, you wouldn’t want to buy a house that close to a fossil-fuel power plant in order to avoid exposure to harmful gases containing sulfur and nitrogen. But FuelCell’s products burn natural gas without the harmful emissions. And because there aren’t multiple steps involved—no fire, no steam, no turbines—a lot more energy from the fossil fuel is converted to electricity. FuelCell Energy generators can reach 66% efficiency, compared to coal where only about a third of the energy actually gets converted to electricity. Diesel, a fossil fuel often used in small generators, is even less efficient.
This Electric Truck Will Probably Beat Tesla’s to Market – (Bloomberg – December 13, 2017)
On the evening of Nov. 16, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla Inc.’s all-electric semi rig met all the classic Musk product launch criteria: It looked stunning, had unprecedented performance numbers, included features straight out of science fiction, and would arrive at some unknown date at a too-good-to-be-true price from a still-to-be-built assembly line. Ten miles from the cramped Los Angeles airport hangar where thousands of Muskovites were swooning, a 25-year-old named Dakota Semler watched the performance on his phone, tossed a piece of sushi into his mouth, and shrugged. Semler, you see, has an all-electric semi of his own, a matte-black curvaceous truck known for now as the ET1. It’s the first vehicle from his startup, Thor Trucks, which hopes to grab a tiny slice of the 940,000-unit-a-year market for semis and go after short-haul trucks, delivery vans, and work vehicles. Like Tesla’s rig, the ET1 is meant to bring cleaner-running transportation to heavy industry without sacrificing performance. And like Tesla’s, it’s a head-turner. “Everyone thinks we’ve built a Transformer,” says Semler, Thor’s chief executive officer. As Semler drives the ET1 around Hollywood, gawkers whip out their phones to take photos. The heavy-duty semi, which has a 22-inch touchscreen on its dashboard and a winged black logo splashed across its grille, uses a beach-ball-size electric motor and a couple of large battery packs to carry as much as 80,000 pounds of cargo, the industry standard for the highest class of truck. When it starts shipping in 2019, the ET1 will have a $150,000 starting price tag and a 300-mile range, meaning it’ll compete with medium-duty delivery trucks. (Editor’s note: Check out the video clip – it’s a gorgeous machine.)
This Underground Urban Farm Also Heats the Building above It – (Fast Company – December 6, 2017)
Underneath a 26-floor office tower in Stockholm, an underground space once used as an archive for a newspaper will soon become a farm. And because of a unique business model, the urban farmers growing greens in the new farm won’t pay rent–their farm will pay for itself in heat. Like some other indoor farms, the Plantagon CityFarm, set to begin production in early 2018, will grow greens in vertical towers under LED lights. But by capturing the heat from the lights–heat that would normally have to be vented out of the room and require air conditioning to keep the plants from overheating–the farm operators can send it into a heat storage system for the office building, and the heat can be used to help keep the offices warm through the winter. The system will save the office building 700,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year, worth roughly three times as much as the previous tenant of the basement was paying in rent. “[The building owner] agreed to give us a free lease for three years, so we don’t pay one single Swedish kroner for the room,” says Plantagon cofounder Hans Hassle. “This is the challenge, very often, for urban farmers: If you really want to grow things in the city, you have to find new business models that actually make the food not too expensive in the end.” The company plans to sell food directly to people working in the offices above, along with two restaurants that are located in the high-rise. Roughly a third of the produce will be sold to nearby grocery stores, all close enough that the greens can be delivered without fossil fuels. Another third of the produce will be sold in an on-site store in the skyscraper. Carbon dioxide from the offices will also be sent to the farm, and fresh oxygen from the plants will be sent back to office workers.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
China’s A.I. Advances Help Its Tech Industry and State Security – (New York Times – December 3, 2017)
During President Trump’s visit to Beijing, he appeared on screen for a special address at a tech conference. First he spoke in English. Then he switched to Mandarin Chinese. Mr. Trump doesn’t speak Chinese. The video was a publicity stunt, designed to show off the voice capabilities of iFlyTek, a Chinese artificial intelligence company with both innovative technology and troubling ties to Chinese state security. IFlyTek has said its technology can monitor a car full of people or a crowded room, identify a targeted individual’s voice and record everything that person says. “IFlyTek,” the image of Mr. Trump said in Chinese, “is really fantastic.” As China tests the frontiers of artificial intelligence, iFlyTek serves as a compelling example of both the country’s sci-fi ambitions and the technology’s darker dystopian possibilities. The Chinese company uses sophisticated A.I. to power image and voice recognition systems that can help doctors with their diagnoses, aid teachers in grading tests and let drivers control their cars with their voices. At the same time, iFlyTek hosts a laboratory to develop voice surveillance capabilities for China’s domestic security forces. In an October report, a human rights group said the company was helping the authorities compile a biometric voice database of Chinese citizens that could be used to track activists and others. China’s financial support and its loosely enforced and untested privacy laws give Chinese companies considerable resources and access to voices, faces and other biometric data in vast quantities, which could give them an edge in developing their technologies, experts say. China “does not have the stringent privacy laws that Western companies have, nor are Chinese citizens against having their data collected, as (arguably speaking) government monitoring is a fact of China,” analysts with the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein wrote in a report. “China has entered the artificial intelligence age together with the U.S.,” said Liu Qingfeng, iFlyTek’s chairman, at the Beijing conference. “But due to the advantage of a huge amount of users and China’s social governance, A.I. will develop faster and spread from China to the world.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
China Is Vacuuming Up DNA Samples from Xinjiang’s Muslims – (BuzzFeed – December 13, 2017)
From DNA samples to iris scans, Chinese authorities are using free physical exams to gather and store biological data from millions of people who live in the country’s far west region of Xinjiang, according to Human Rights Watch, citing an official document that suggests the government’s surveillance program in the region is even wider than previously believed. Xinjiang, the historical home of the Uighur ethnic group, has become a testing ground for heavy-handed, high-tech surveillance measures by the government over the past year. China says the measures are necessary to combat extremist violence, but critics say they violate the basic privacy rights of millions of people, particularly ethnic minorities. Human Rights Watch added it’s not clear whether those who take the physical exams realize their personal information is being recorded and stored. Everyone who lives in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang, and is between the ages of 12 and 65, is being targeted for their biometrics, says the document, which was posted on the website of a local government located in the region. Authorities are making house calls to collect the data and setting up “collection points” in the region, the document says. The DNA information is sent to police for “profiling,” it adds, saying the program’s goal is to verify the size of the region’s population. It’s clear, though, that China’s leadership sees the collection of DNA as key to security in the region. In August, Meng Jianzhu, the country’s top domestic security official, specifically called for the use of a DNA database to maintain stability there.
Russia Will Build Its Own Internet Directory, Citing US Information Warfare – (Defense One – November 28, 2017)
The Russian government will build an “independent internet” for use by itself, Brazil, India, China, and South Africa — the so-called BRICS nations — “in the event of global internet malfunctions,” the Russian news site RT has reported. More precisely, Moscow intends to create an alternative to the global Domain Name System, or DNS, the directory that helps the browser on your computer or smartphone connect to the website server or other computer that you’re trying to reach. The Russians cited national security concerns, but the real reason may have more to do with Moscow’s own plans for offensive cyber operations. According to RT, the Russian Security Council discussed the idea during its October meeting, saying that “the increased capabilities of western nations to conduct offensive operations in the informational space as well as the increased readiness to exercise these capabilities pose a serious threat to Russia’s security.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has set a date of August 1, 2018, to complete the alternative DNS. Russia, along with China, has long pushed for national governments to assert more control over the DNS and net governance in general, via the UN International Telecommunication Union, or ITU. Then, as now, the Russian and Chinese arguments were rooted in national security. But were DNS to be turned over to the ITU, dictatorships would be able to much better monitor dissidents, stifle dissent, and control the information environment in their countries. For example, Western tech companies could be forced to keep data and servers physically within those countries, and thus become entangled in vast citizen-monitoring programs. Here is a different news article reporting on largely the same event (plan to launch a new internet) but with a decidedly different spin – and it’s the difference that makes both articles more interesting.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Moral Differences between Pro- and Anti-vaccine Parents – (Washington Post – December 5, 2017)
The article is somewhat mis-titled: it does not suggest that pro- and anti-vaccine parents are morally different from each other. It reports on various studies and polls that examined the difference in moral values between pro- and anti-vaccine parents. “Parents with the most concerns about vaccinating their children were twice as likely to have a high score for those clean, pure, wholesome themes as well as support of themes of individual liberty, compared to parents with the fewest concerns,” said Avnika Amin, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Emory University, and one of the study’s authors. Amin and Emory colleagues conducted online surveys of 1,100 U.S. parents of children under age 13. They assessed the parents’ level of vaccination hesitancy and explored how important different moral values were to them when deciding if something was right or wrong. In another study, based on online surveys of people in the United States, the researchers found that a person’s strong religious beliefs were the best predictor of vaccine skepticism, and religious conservatives had low support for science overall. Religiosity, they said, was the best predictor, “over and beyond political ideology, moral concerns, and scientific literacy.” In both papers, the authors said the results show a correlation but not a causal link. Amin said incorporating the moral foundations of a person’s health decision could be one way to improve public health communication. “Maybe it can help us, at least, better craft a message that is framed in a way that underscores these values that concern parents when they’re making these vaccination decisions,” Amin said. (Editor’s note: For a CBS News article reporting on a medical literature survey and suggesting that vaccines may indeed be linked to autism and not safe for some children, see Vaccines and Autism: A New Scientific Review.)
Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media Is Ripping Apart Society – (The Verge – December 11, 2017)
Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media. Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.” Palihapitiya’s remarks follow similar statements of contrition from others who helped build Facebook into the powerful corporation it is today. In November, early investor Sean Parker said he has become a “conscientious objector” to social media, and that Facebook and others had succeeded by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” In another article on the same speech, he is quoted as saying, “Your behaviors—you don’t realize it but you are being programmed. It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you are willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence,” he told the students in the crowd.
Robots Are Being Used to Shoo Away Homeless People in San Francisco – (Quartz – December 12, 2017)
The San Francisco branch the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has been ordered by the city to stop using a robot to patrol the sidewalks outside its office, the San Francisco Business Times reported Dec. 8. The robot, produced by Silicon Valley startup Knightscope, was used to ensure that homeless people didn’t set up camps outside of the nonprofit’s office. It autonomously patrols a set area using a combination of Lidar and other sensors, and can alert security services of potentially criminal activity. Knightscope’s business model is to rent the robots to customers for $7 an hour, which is about $3 less than minimum wage in California. The company has apparently raised over $15 million from thousands of small investors. In a particularly dystopian move, it seems that the San Francisco SPCA adorned the robot it was renting with stickers of cute kittens and puppies as it was used to shoo away the homeless from near its office. San Francisco recently voted to cut down on the number of robots that roam the streets of the city, which has seen an influx of small delivery robots in recent years. The city said it would issue the SPCA a fine of $1,000 per day for illegally operating on a public right-of-way if it continued to use the security robot outside its premises.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Bizarre Antarctic Bacteria That Live on Air Alone Could Show Exactly How Alien Life Works – (Newsweek – December 9, 2017)
Certain microbes in Antarctica have been surviving on nothing but atmospheric energy. If they can do it, why couldn’t aliens? In 2014, a team of researchers from institutions across Australia and New Zealand collected soil samples from two ice-free sites along the eastern Antarctic coast. They wanted to understand how microscopic life managed to get everything it needed to survive in such an inhospitable environment. They reconstructed the genomes of nearly two dozen microbes and identified two kinds of previously undiscovered bacteria: WPS-2 and AD3. “They were in extremely high abundance which was never observed before,” said senior author Belinda Ferrari, who leads the single-cell microbiology lab at the University of New South Wales. As it turns out, WPS-2 and AD3 actually don’t need anything—they extract energy and carbon from hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in the air. The discovery opens up the tantalizing possibility that on other planets, life forms that need only atmospheric gas to survive exist, too. The results of the discovery were recently published in the scientific journal Nature. Bacterium are scrappy survivalists. As the researchers wrote in their paper, terrestrial Antarctica is one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Between the freezing temperatures, high UV radiation exposure, and limited carbon, nitrogen and water, Antarctica really has no business supporting any kind of life. And yet, wrote the scientists, a “surprising diversity” of microbacteria thrives there. Much of the hype about the ongoing search for alien life is focused on Mars, but of equal importance are icy moons like Enceladus and Europa—which respectively orbit Saturn and Jupiter—that look a lot more like Antarctica. According to NASA, celestial bodies with liquid water oceans beneath their surface ice are ripe for microbial life. On ancient Earth, it came from hot primordial soup; on frozen moons, it still could.
A Multinational Group Wants You to Join ‘Asgardia’ — The First Outer-space Nation with a Mission to Defend Earth – (Business Insider – October 12, 2017)
A new country called Asgardia, named after Norse mythology’s city in the skies, could be the first nation ever created in space. The hope is to embark on a mission to mine asteroids and defend Earth from dangerous meteorites, space debris, and other threats. That is, if everything goes according to an uncertain, open-ended, and audacious plan put forth by its founders. The group behind the Asgardia project includes space experts based out of Canada, Romania, Russia, and the United States. Their core concept is to launch a robotic satellite within the next 18 months (60 years after Russia launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite), then eventually follow up with a permanent space station “where people can live, work, and have their own rules and regulations,” one founding member said. The hope? To “democratize space,” they say. Ultimately, the organizers envision Asgardians building “a state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic manmade and natural threats to life on earth such as space debris, coronal mass ejections and asteroid collisions.” In an emailed press release, Igor Ashurbeyli, one of the founders, said that “Asgardia is a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations — with all the attributes this status entails.” However, according to current international space law, the country that launches an object into space is responsible for it, including any damage it causes to denizens of Earth. “The project is creating a new framework for ownership and nationhood in space, which will adapt current outer space laws governing responsibility, private ownership and enterprise so they are fit for purpose in the new era of space exploration,” the organization said in its emailed release. “By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist.”
Average American Household with Credit Card Debt Owes $15,654, According to Annual NerdWallet Study – (PreCision – December 11, 2017)
According to NerdWallet’s 2017 American Household Credit Card Debt Study, U.S. consumers now have $12.96 trillion in total debt. Almost half of U.S. households now carry credit card debt according to the most recent data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, and NerdWallet’s study found that those households have an average balance of $15,654. Households that carry credit card debt pay an average of $904 per year in interest alone, assuming an average annual percentage rate of 14.87%. The average cost of interest is expected to reach $919 per year following the Federal Reserve’s next rate increase. Total household debt, now $12.96 trillion, has surpassed the amount owed at the beginning of the Great Recession, which was $12.37 trillion.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Doctor Created 3D-Printed Euthanasia Machine That Can End Life Painlessly – (Tech Times – December 5, 2017)
Close to 800,000 people die because of suicide every year and many more attempt to end their own life. An innovation by an Australian doctor may potentially up suicide rates worldwide. Philip Nitschke created a death machine with the aim of helping people commit suicide in an efficient and painless manner. The 70-year old doctor developed the Sarco capsule in The Netherlands, where people have been able to legally end their lives with the assistance of a doctor since 2001. Use of the machine, however, does not require help from a doctor. “In my opinion—and when it comes to the Sarco-a doctor is not necessary. There are still certain conditions that people need to meet before they are considered, like being of sane mind. This is determined by an online questionnaire,” Nitschke said. The device is made up of a reusable machine base and a capsule that can serve as a coffin after detaching. These parts can be created using a 3D printer and can be assembled anywhere. Nitschke said the coffin uses liquid nitrogen, which can be legally bought. The fluid will start to flow once a person takes a seat inside the machine. The person will then start to feel disoriented within two minutes, a feeling the doctor said is comparable to having too many drinks. The person will then lose consciousness a few minutes later and die in about five minutes. The capsule also comes with an emergency window in case the person changes their mind. This opens right away once you click on it allowing oxygen to flow into the machine. The person can also push the stop button before losing consciousness. See a photo of the device here. (Editor’s note: This project would appear to be a bit beyond the average weekend DIY-er, but perhaps some company will start manufacturing the components – with some IKEA-like instructions for that “some assembly required” step.)
6 Areas Where Artificial Neural Networks Outperform Humans – (Venture Beat – December 7, 2017)
Five years ago, researchers made an abrupt and rather large leap in the accuracy of software that can interpret images. The artificial neural networks behind it underpin the recent boom we are now seeing in the AI industry. We are, however, still nowhere near achieving a reality similar to those in The Terminator or The Matrix. Regardless, in some fields, AI beats humans. Deep neural networks have learned to converse, drive cars, beat video games and Go champions, paint pictures, and help make scientific discoveries. Here are six areas where artificial neural networks prove they can surpass human intelligence. The first two – Image and object recognition, and video games – aren’t much of a surprise. But you might find that the other four are.
Inspired by Origami, Scientists Build Artificial Muscle That Lifts 1,000 Times Its Own Weight – (LA Times – November 27, 2017)
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have developed a variety of origami-inspired artificial muscles that can lift up to a thousand times their own weight — and yet be dexterous enough to grip and raise a delicate flower. The devices, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a new way to give soft robots super-strength, which could be used everywhere from inside our bodies to outer space. “We’ve been interested in soft robots for a long time because they’re safe, because they are compliant and because they can deal with uncertainty,” said roboticist Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and one of the study’s senior authors. “They’re very robust and easy to control, relatively speaking.” But there’s been one big drawback to soft-bodied bots: Unlike robots made out of hard materials, they’re not exactly power-lifters. Rus and her colleagues solved this problem by drawing upon origami techniques, which have recently proved useful for making many kinds of robots. (One such bot, RoboBee, was pioneered by fellow senior author Robert Wood of Harvard.) For this work, the scientists used origami techniques to create muscle-like structures that could give a limb flexibility but still allow it to move without needing any hard parts. They designed folded structures specifically meant to shorten, curl, twist or bend into specific shapes when they were compressed. The researchers found that some origami muscles could squeeze down to a tenth of their original size, or lift up to a thousand times their own weight. They could produce roughly six times as much force per unit of area as mammalian muscle. Such robotic limbs could be used at tiny scales, perhaps to do repair work inside of our bodies. They could be useful at large scales, for building in outer space. They could enable wearable exoskeletons for lifting heavy objects, or be sent to probe deep-sea environments.
Robots Are Fueling the Quiet Ascendance of the Electric Motor – (Wired – December 13, 2017)
The electric motor is in the midst of launching a far bigger, far more subtle revolution in robots than the one taking place in transportation. Open up a robotic arm and you’ll find that its joints are actually electric motors, known as actuators. Actuators make robots leap and run and do backflips and lift 500-pound pipes (different robots, mind you). The electric car? That’s impressive as hell, but just the beginning. It’s robots that are fueling the quiet ascendance of the electric motor. So what is an electric motor, exactly? Well, it’s an opposition machine. Inside the device are permanent magnets and an electromagnet; apply current to the electromagnet and it pushes against the permanent ones, spinning the motor. Typically, this is paired with a gearbox, because electric motors are most efficient when they spin at very high speeds. And because the electric motor isn’t working alone, but with a transmission, the whole operation is called an actuator. So every time you see a robot move, it’s the magic of magnets at work—a seemingly simple force that powers an incredible variety of machines. And actuators are growing more precise and more sensitive by the day. 3-D printers that lay down carbon fiber are making it easier than ever for roboticists to iterate their actuators quickly. Even cooler: 3-D metal printing is emerging, which would mean engineers could print out magnets for actuators on demand. Meanwhile, the cost of actuators is plummeting. “Then there’s not a whole lot for costs in a robot besides the actuators,” says roboticist Stephen McKinley of UC Berkeley. “That’s where the cost for a robot arm lies.” An actuator that used to set you back $3,500 has fallen to perhaps $1,700. That’s thanks in part to a growing robotics industry that’s creating an economy of scale for the parts. Article goes on to discuss advances in the design of actuators. So say hello to the electric motor, a grizzled technology whose time has truly come.
Young People Are Really Over Capitalism – (Fast Company – December 8, 2017)
Last summer, two authors asked Fast Company readers a simple question: “Are you ready to consider that capitalism is the real problem?” For millennials, the answer seems to be increasingly “yes”. A 2016 poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that just 19% of Americans aged 18 to 29 identified themselves as capitalists; only 42% claimed they supported the economic system. Another Harvard poll, released on December 5, found that two-thirds of that same age group is fearful for the future of the country. Just 14% think we’re headed in the right direction. According to the World Economic Forum, millennials are the first generation in modern memory to be on track to be worse off than their parents. The median earnings of millennials in 2013 were 43% lower than someone who was their age and working in 1995. Even though average wages have inched slowly upward in recent years after a long period of stagnation, they’re still 8% lower than they were before the 2008 recession. And average student debt, has, since 2008, climbed from around $24,000 to over $37,000. So what might that alternative look like? Ask millennials, and they have a strong preference for a more socialist model: According to a 2016 Gallup poll, the popularity of capitalism and socialism is neck-and-neck among younger Americans, while older generations are still distrusting of socialism. Younger people are also the ones driving the surge of the Democratic Socialists of America, which endorsed 15 winning candidates in last November’s elections. And Americans aged 18 to 29, according to a recent WSJ poll, are more likely than any other age bracket to say that they believe the government should be doing more, not less, to help people in need.
The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages and Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened – (Intercept – December 9, 2017)
December 8th was one of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, and countless pundits, commentators, and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened. This entire revelation was based on an email that CNN strongly implied it had exclusively obtained and had in its possession. The email was sent by someone named “Michael J. Erickson” — someone nobody had heard of previously and whom CNN could not identify — to Donald Trump Jr., offering a decryption key and access to DNC emails that WikiLeaks had “uploaded.” The email was a smoking gun, in CNN’s extremely excited mind, because it was dated September 4 — 10 days before WikiLeaks began promoting access to those emails online — and thus proved that the Trump family was being offered special, unique access to the DNC archive: likely by WikiLeaks and the Kremlin. It’s impossible to convey with words what a spectacularly devastating scoop CNN believed it had. There was just one small problem with this story: It was fundamentally false, in the most embarrassing way possible. Hours after CNN broadcast its story — and then hyped it over and over and over — the Washington Post reported that CNN got the key fact (the date of the email) of the story wrong. The “multiple sources” who fed CNN this false information did not confine themselves to that network. They were apparently very busy eagerly spreading the false information to as many media outlets as they could find. In the middle of the day, CBS News claimed that it had independently “confirmed” CNN’s story about the email and published its own breathless article discussing the grave implications of this discovered collusion. Most embarrassing of all was what MSNBC did. MSNBC’s “intelligence and national security correspondent” Ken Dilanian also claimed that he had independently “confirmed” the false CNN report from “two sources with direct knowledge of this.” What happened here? Did these “multiple sources” who fed not just CNN, but also MSNBC and CBS completely false information do so deliberately and in bad faith? Until these news outlets provide an accounting of what happened — what one might call “minimal journalistic transparency” — it’s impossible to say for certain. (Editor’s note: If you have time to read only one article from this issue of FE, this one by Glen Greenwald is the one.)
How My Poet-Refugee Mother Became a Trump Supporter – (Medium.com – December 1, 2017)
My mother wasn’t a hardline Democrat — she was wary of Hillary, and left the presidential box unchecked when she voted — but she’d also never been a Trump supporter. How did she, an Iranian American poet-refugee, come to support a man who stands against everything she would seemingly stand for? I was stunned — and curious. Was my mother alone in this view? Or was she expressing something more widespread? Intrigued, I started doing research, and discovered other Iranian Americans openly touting Trump’s foreign policy. Then I reached out to two of my mother’s Iranian American friends via email, asking them what they thought. Like my mother, these folks are intelligent, well-educated older adults whose general political views tend to lean liberal. They approve of universal health care and free college. They’re pro-choice. They’re not excited about a border wall. And they are well aware that if Trump had his way, they would be banned from entering the U.S. But when asked about Trump, they defended his views on Iran vehemently — and not only that, they spoke positively of the man himself. (Editor’s note: The conclusions of thoughtful piece are worthy of consideration.)
Public Education and Empowerment Resource Service (PEERS) – (PEERS Website – no date)
We would like to bring your attention to the following nonprofit: Public Education and Empowerment Resource Service (PEERS) is deeply committed to cultivating community and transformation through inspiration and education. Incorporated in 2006 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, PEERS embraces a vision of building a brighter future by inspiring a sense of global community based on love and cooperation, and by educating the public to little-known forces underlying the political and economic structures that shape our world. The greatest part of its work involves the ongoing development of a network of popular websites and highly praised online courses dedicated to these goals. It is also exploring various ways to use the ever-evolving connective capabilities of the Internet to facilitate community development and direct, inspired action leading to personal and global transformation. And it’s all free of charge. Specifically we’d like you to know about the most visited PEERS website, WantToKnow.info, which specializes in revealing critical information about important cover-ups of which few are aware. Using reliable, verifiable sources (with links to the original online source documents) such as key news articles from the major media and revealing government documents, this unique educational website exposes hidden forces and agendas which too often lead to increased conflict, war, and injustice in our world. This highly praised website is also a call for us to work together to stop disempowering behavior and promote love and respect for all. The WantToKnow.info database contains over 5,000 one-paragraph summaries of highly revealing news articles from major media sources. For example, since it’s a timely topic at the moment, here is a link to its articles under the section “Sex Abuse Scandals News Articles”. Please note that the articles listed are not organized by date – so newer ones and older ones are all mixed together.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Veterinarians Seek Permission to Research Pot Meds for Pets – (My San Antonio – December 8, 2017)
Dr. Byron Maas of Bend, Oregon, has a supply of marijuana products for dogs that lines a shelf in his veterinary clinic. They’re selling well. “The ‘Up and Moving’ is for joints and for pain,” he explains. “The ‘Calm and Quiet’ is for real anxious dogs, to take away that anxiety.” People anxious to relieve suffering in their pets are increasingly turning to oils and powders that contain CBDs, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. But there’s little data on whether they work, or if they have harmful side effects. That’s because Washington has been standing in the way of clinical trials, veterinarians and researchers say. Now, a push is underway to have barriers removed, so both pets and people can benefit. When the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced last year that even marijuana extracts with CBD and little or no THC – marijuana’s intoxicating component – are an illegal Schedule 1 drug, the University of Pennsylvania halted its clinical trials. Colorado State University is pushing ahead. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned companies that sell marijuana products online and via pet shops and animal hospitals that they’re violating laws by offering “unapproved new animal drugs.” The FDA threatened legal action. But, seeing potential benefits of CBDs, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s policy-making body said last summer it wants the DEA to declassify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug “to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.”
JUST FOR FUN
The Art of Stillness – (TED Talk – August, 2014)
“Just for Fun” is not the perfect description of this TED Talk; “Just for Happiness” would be much better. But the time you may spend listening to this TED talk – and then mulling it over – might be the most regenerative few minutes you spend that day. Here is international travel writer, Pico Iyer, talking about the place he would most like to go: Nowhere. In a counterintuitive and lyrical meditation, Iyer takes a look at the value of taking time for stillness. If you are not familiar with Pico Iyer, he was born in Oxford, England in 1957, to parents from India, and educated at Eton, Oxford and Harvard. Since 1986 he has been writing books and since 1992 he has been based in rural Japan with his wife, while spending part of each year in a Benedictine hermitage in California. If you don’t have time for a 15 minute TED talk, here is one of his articles, (2 minute read) originally published the New York Times titled “The Joy of Less”. And here is a link to many of his very thoughtful articles on the inner life.
A FINAL QUOTE
The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
A special thanks to: Martha Christian, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen
A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen
Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”
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