Volume 22, Number 13 – 7/1/19

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  • A team of researchers has announced that they have discovered a new property of light – self-torque.
  • Microbes in the gut produce two enzymes that may be able to convert the common type A blood into a more universally accepted type.
  • ‘Plasticrust’ is a new form of pollution forming on the rocks at the edge of the ocean on a Portuguese island.
  • A study finds that a GPS outage would cost the US economy $1 billion per day.

by John L. Petersen

Free Book Offer

Our friends at The Fetzer Memorial Trust would like to give you a free hard-cover copy of the book “John E. Fetzer and the Quest for The New Age” by Brian Wilson, Ph. D.

John E. Fetzer, was a pioneer in the broadcast industry, owner of the World Series Detroit Tigers, advisor to two presidents and one of America’s 400 most wealthy individuals. Driven by a deep spiritual quest and interest in scientific exploration he is a true inspiration.

I found this biography of John Fetzer most interesting. Here was a titan of industry who had another life that was involved in helping to fund and enable a great deal of research in the metaphysical area and who set up a major foundation that continues to explore the leading edge of our reality.

The Fetzer Institute has always had a very impressive, big outlook on this world and what was possible and I’m pleased that they are making this hardcover book available at no cost to FUTUREdition subscribers.

I certainly would encourage you to take advantage of this offer. — JLP

To Receive Your Gift click here
(Limited to the first 500 requests)
Your book will be mailed to you free of charge. This is truly a free gift from The Fetzer Memorial Trust. The only mail you will receive from them, will be this book. You will not be added to a mailing list.


Author, researcher, experiencer, therapist, farmer and our friend, Dr. Penny Kelly, will be returning to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks for the fourth time on the 6th of July to talk about Trump, the Catastrophe Cycle, and the Imperative for Developing Consciousness.

Always highly interesting and provocative, Penny has systematically opened up to our TransitionTalks audiences over the years about her extraordinary experiences, capabilities and insights about who we are, where we’re going and how we’re likely to get there. The coming 6-8 years are going to be fundamentally critical for the future of humanity and Penny will be explaining how the indicators are all around us of the amazing transition that we will be experiencing.

Are we entering a grand solar minimum? Is the climate getting hotter, or are we entering an ice age? Are we facing a magnetic pole reversal? What is all the talk about the ‘solar flash,’ also known as the sun’s micro-nova? These are big questions affecting our future, yet they are coming to us at a time when everyone in our country is distracted by Trump and the chaos taking place in our government. What does this governmental chaos say about us and human consciousness? What is the real fight, why is 80% of it hidden, and what is at stake here in these United States? How is the situation in our government tangled in an extraordinary synthesis of scientific information highlighting how global warming, the ice age, magnetic pole reversal, and the sun’s nova cycle fit together? We are at a fork on the road to eternity and the only real option is to develop consciousness. How do we do that and in what ways would our perception change? How long would it take to make this change and how would the reality around us be different? Join us for an powerful look at our solar system, our planet, our future, and the great need to raise and expand consciousness. You will come away with a deep understanding of many of the ancient stories and prophecies, as well as how to move forward in the face of massive change.

Here’s an interview that we did with her for our PostScript show the last time she visited us. As you can see, this is a very special woman who has a first-hand perspective of not only how this world works (informed by her psychic skills), but also a unique personal understanding of how “advanced races” who visit our planet and will surely engage with us increasingly in the coming years, think and why they are coming here. The significant uptick in news about these UFOs and visits that now are found in the New York TimesWashington Post, NPR, CNN, FOX and almost all mainline media, are a harbinger of great change in how humans are in the early stages of expanding not only in consciousness . . . but also beyond this planet. This is really “big idea” stuff – literally about how our species is rapidly evolving.

Penny has collaborated in the writing of 14 books and just finished her ninth individual book and will have it available for signing. So, come ready for a rocket ride into the unknown and the future with this leader in the transition to a new human and new world.

You can find all information at

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.


New York Times best-selling author, Gregg Braden will be returning to Berkeley Springs on the 17th of August for an all-day event. Almost 100 people have already registered, so this is certainly going to be a sell-out again. If you’d like to spend a day with Gregg, register early at Gregg will be presenting a brand-new program, based on his new book that will be out later this year. Complete information at

Tom Drake on PostScript Show

Our April speaker at Berkeley Springs Transition Talks was former NSA executive and whistleblower, Tom Drake. Tom gave a moving and motivating talk – one person told me that it was the best that we have ever had! You can get a taste of it here from our interview on PostScript. Enjoy!

Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:



Scary Deepfake Tool Lets You Put Words into Someone’s Mouth Simply by Typing Them – (Mashable – June 11, 2019)
If you needed more evidence that AI-based deepfakes are incredibly scary, we present to you a new a tool that lets you type in text and generate a video of an actual person saying those exact words. A group of scientists from Stanford University, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University, and Adobe Research created a tool and presented the research in a paper, titled “Text-based Editing of Talking-head Video.” The paper explains the methods used to “edit talking-head video based on its transcript to produce a realistic output video in which the dialogue of the speaker has been modified.” And while the techniques used to achieve this are very complex, using the tool is frighteningly simple. A YouTube video accompanying the research shows several videos of actual people saying actual sentences (yes, apparently we’re at that point in history where everything can be faked). Then a part of the sentence is changed — for example, “napalm” in “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” is exchanged with “french toast” — and you see the same person uttering a different sentence, in a very convincing manner.

Robots to Replace up to 20 Million Factory Jobs by 2030 – (BBC News – June 26, 2019)
Regions where more people have lower skills, which tend to have weaker economies and higher unemployment rates anyway, are much more vulnerable to the loss of jobs due to robots, according to research firm, Oxford Economics. Each new industrial robot wipes out 1.6 manufacturing jobs, the firm said, with the least-skilled regions being more affected. Moreover, workers who move out of manufacturing, tend to get new jobs in transport, construction, maintenance, and office and administration work – which in turn are vulnerable to automation, it said. On average, each additional robot installed in those lower-skilled regions could lead to nearly twice as many job losses as those in higher-skilled regions of the same country, exacerbating economic inequality and political polarization, which is already growing, Oxford Economics said.


Do Brains Operate at a Tipping Point? New Clues and Complications – (Quanta – June 10, 2019)
A team of Brazilian physicists analyzing the brains of rats and other animals has found the strongest evidence yet that the brain balances at the brink between two modes of operation, in a precarious yet versatile state known as criticality. At the same time, the findings challenge some of the original assumptions of this controversial “critical brain” hypothesis. “If the brain is completely disordered, it cannot process information,” explained Mauro Copelli, a physicist at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil and a coauthor of the new research. “If it’s too ordered, it’s too rigid to cope with the variability of the environment.” In the 1990s, the physicist Per Bak hypothesized that the brain derives its bag of tricks from criticality. The concept originates in the world of statistical mechanics, where it describes a system of many parts teetering between stability and mayhem. The idea has had its ups and downs. The first empirical evidence for it came from rat brain slices in 2003. The article goes on to summarize subsequent research on this topic and discusses Copelli’s current research in detail.

How Modern Life Is Transforming the Human Skeleton – (BBC News – June 13, 2019)
From the discovery of a curious spiky growth on the back of many people’s skulls to the realization that our jaws are getting smaller, to the enigmatic finding that German youths currently have narrower elbows than ever before, it’s clear that modern life is having an impact on our bones. “I have been a clinician for 20 years, and only in the last decade, increasingly I have been discovering that my patients have this growth on the skull,” says David Shahar, a health scientist at the University of The Sunshine Coast, Australia. The spike-like feature, also known as the “external occipital protuberance” is found at the lower back of the skull, just above the neck. If you have one, it’s likely that you will be able to feel it with your fingers – or if you’re bald, it may even be visible from behind. Until recently, this type of growth was thought to be extremely rare. Feeling that something might be up, Shahar decided to investigate. Together with his colleague, he analyzed over a thousand X-rays of skulls from people ranging from 18 to 86 years old. They measured any spikes and noted what each participant’s posture was like. What the scientists found was striking. The spike was far more prevalent than they had expected, and also a lot more common in the youngest age group: one in four people aged 18-30 had the growth. Shahar thinks the spike explosion is down to modern technology, particularly our recent obsession with smartphones and tablets. As we hunch over them, we crane our necks and hold our heads forward. This is problematic, because the average head weighs around 10 pounds (4.5 kg) – about as much as a large watermelon. Of course, bad posture was not invented in the 21st Century – people have always found something to hunch over. So why didn’t we get the skull protuberances from books? One possibility is down to the sheer amount of time that we currently spend on our phones, versus how long a person would previously have spent reading. For example, even in 1973, well before most modern hand-held distractions were invented, the average American typically read for about two hours each day. In contrast, today people are spending nearly double that time on their phones.

New Property of Light Discovered – (PhysOrg – June 28, 2019)
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Spain and the U.S. has announced that they have discovered a new property of light—self-torque. Scientists have long known about such properties of light as wavelength. More recently, researchers have found that light can also be twisted, a property called angular momentum. Beams with highly structured angular momentum are said to have orbital angular momentum (OAM), and are called vortex beams. They appear as a helix surrounding a common center, and when they strike a flat surface, they appear as doughnut-shaped. In this new effort, the researchers were working with OAM beams when they found the light behaving in a way that had never been seen before. The experiments involved firing two lasers at a cloud of argon gas—doing so forced the beams to overlap, and they joined and were emitted as a single beam from the other side of the argon cloud. The result was a type of vortex beam. The researchers then wondered what would happen if the lasers had different orbital angular momentum and if they were slightly out of sync. This resulted in a beam that looked like a corkscrew with a gradually changing twist. And when the beam struck a flat surface, it looked like a crescent moon. The researchers noted that looked at another way, a single photon at the front of the beam was orbiting around its center more slowly than a photon at the back of the beam. The researchers promptly dubbed the new property self-torque—and not only is it a newly discovered property of light, it is also one that has never even been predicted.


Type A Blood Converted to Universal Donor Blood with Help From Bacterial Enzymes – (Science Magazine – June 10, 2019)
On any given day, hospitals across the United States burn through some 35,000 pints of donated blood for emergency surgeries, scheduled operations, and routine transfusions. For a transfusion to be successful, the patient and donor blood types must be compatible. Now, team led by Stephen Withers, a chemical biologist at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada analyzing bacteria in the human gut have discovered that microbes there produce two enzymes that can convert the common type A into a more universally accepted type. If the process pans out, blood specialists suggest it could revolutionize blood donation and transfusion.

CRISPR Scientists Are Teaming Up with a Pharma Giant to Look for New Drug Clues – (Technology Review – June 16, 2019)
CRISPR is the name for a type of molecular scissors that slices and edits DNA. The tool has led to a procession of gene-modified plants, animals, even human babies. GlaxoSmithKline will pour $67 million into a new laboratory at the University of California to industrialize the search for drug clues using the gene-editing tool CRISPR. The idea is to use it on cells growing in the lab, tweaking all 20,000 or so human genes (alone and in every possible combination) and watching what happens with tools that let scientists peer into individual cells. Are there special combinations that kill cancer? Any that explain why some people don’t get ill, despite a serious gene defect? The center intends to carry these novel CRISPR screens forward to an industrial scale. Hal Barron, chief scientist at Glaxo, says a single experiment can generate 400 million data points. Machine-learning software will be needed to make sense of the information, and so will clues from large biobanks containing people’s health records. The new center has the backing of CRISPR experts Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley and Jonathan Weissman of UC San Francisco, with 24 university employees and 14 from the company. But Glaxo will pay the tab, so it will have a say in what research is done and the option to license patents on discoveries or new technologies. Glaxo called the deal structure unique. In reality, though, drug industry efforts to get academia to perform its R&D are commonplace and sometimes problematic. A similar deal in 1998 between Berkeley and Novartis caused an uproar. The University of California campuses did not provide a copy of their contract with Glaxo.

Mouse Model Shows How Parkinson’s Disease Begins in the Gut – (The Scientist – June 26, 2019)
In 2003, Heiko Braak, then a neuroanatomist at the University of Frankfurt, suggested that Parkinson’s disease pathology may start in the gut and travel from there to the brain long before a patient shows symptoms. The idea, based on postmortem analyses of samples from Parkinson’s patients, has been hotly debated ever since. Now, Ted Dawson, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and his team have created an animal model of the disease by injecting particular proteins into the stomachs of mice. About a month later, the animals showed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The model not only demonstrates how the disease protein can travel up from the gut to the brain, but also presents nonmotor symptoms rarely seen in other animal models. They’ve got cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, depression, problems with smell. And so we now have an animal model to study those problems. We hope that it opens up a whole new set of investigations using those animal models. This model shows that it’s possible for synuclein to ascend from the stomach via the vagus nerve to the brain. What we don’t know in humans with Parkinson’s disease is how that process starts. That would be the next step, to figure out how it actually starts in humans.


Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Threatens to Reach the Size of Massachusetts – (Nation of Change – June 13, 2019)
The infamous Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ could swell this summer to a record 7,829 square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts. The hypoxic zone – or dead zone, an area of little or no oxygen that seriously threatens marine life – threatens to become the second largest in history. The previous record size was 8,776 square miles in 2017. The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone occurs every year. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, it is caused by “excess nutrient pollution from human activities, such as urbanization and agriculture, occurring throughout the Mississippi River watershed.” Heavy spring rains led to high river flows and flooding this year, contributing to this year’s dead zone. Researchers from Louisiana State University predict that this year’s dead zone could be even larger than the NOAA predicted, closer to 8,717 square miles. This past May, discharge in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers was about 67% above the long-term average between 1980 and 2018. USGS estimates that this larger-than-average river discharge carried 156,000 metric tons of nitrate and 25,300 metric tons of phosphorus into the Gulf of Mexico in May alone. High amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in water stimulate the growth of phytoplankton or algae. After the phytoplankton dies and sinks to the bottom they decompose, a process that causes depletion of oxygen in the water. Marine life that can swim away will, but many animals that are live in the sediment and cannot swim away will die. The loss of life also deeply affects the commercial fishing industry operating in the area. “Low oxygen conditions started to appear 50 years ago when agricultural practices intensified in the Midwest,” said Louisiana State University in a statement.

These Indian Fishermen Take Plastic out of the Sea and Use It to Build Roads – (World Economic Forum – June 28, 2018)
Every one of India’s 1.3 billion people uses an average 11kg of plastic each year. After being used, much of this plastic finds its way to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, where it can maim and kill fish, birds and other marine wildlife. Fisherman in India’s southern state of Kerala are taking on the battle to cut the level of plastic waste in the oceans. When the trawlers drag their nets through the water, they end up scooping out huge amounts of plastic along with the fish. Until recently the fishermen would simply throw the plastic junk back into the water. Until Kerala’s fisheries minister J. Mercykutty Amma started a scheme to change this. Under her direction, the state government launched a campaign called Suchitwa Sagaram, or Clean Sea, which trains fishermen to collect the plastic and bring it back to shore. In Suchitwa Sagaram’s first 10 months, fisherman have removed 25 tons of plastic from the Arabian Sean, including 10 tons of plastic bags and bottles. Once all the plastic waste caught by the Keralan fishermen reaches the shore, it is collected by people from the local fishing community – all but two of whom are women – and fed into a plastic shredding machine. Like so many of India’s plastic recycling schemes, this shredded plastic is converted into material that is used for road surfacing. There are more than 34,000km of plastic roads in India, mostly in rural areas. More than half of the roads in the southern state of Tamil Nadu are plastic. This road surface is increasingly popular as it makes the roads more resilient to India’s searing heat. The melting point for plastic roads is around 150°F, compared to 122°F for conventional roads.

Cigarette Waste: New Solutions for the World’s Most-littered Trash – (Nation of Change – June 24, 2019)
Last year the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy reported that cigarette butts, which contain plastic and toxic chemicals, were the most-littered item at their global beach cleanups. Environmental advocacy groups have spurred increased public education about the environmental impacts and pushed for the installation of more bins to safely dispose of butts. Some cities have put restrictions on where people can smoke or instituted additional fees on cigarettes to fund clean-up costs. Butt pollution continues. Now legislators are trying a different approach — producer responsibility. New legislation in several states, including a bill in California to ban products with single-use filters, could force cigarette manufacturers to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products. The biggest problem is the filters, most of which are made of cellulose acetate, a kind of plastic. That means the filters don’t readily biodegrade, although they do break down — and send thousands of tiny plastic fibers into the environment, waterways and wildlife. Along with the fibers come chemicals like arsenic, benzene and lead. “They can drop toxins and pass that onto the aquatic environment,” says Bill Hickman, the Southern California regional manager for Surfrider. Studies have shown that these chemicals can be toxic to fish. Along with public education, Surfrider’s campaign has also helped cities install hundreds of new receptacles in high-volume areas like outside bars or near beach walkways, to make safely disposing of butts easier. Surfrider’s San Francisco chapter, for example, has installed 100 cans in select neighborhoods in the city. “In the areas where we’re installing the cans and educating people to use them, we see reductions in cigarette litter of more than 60%,” says Shelly Ericksen, a Surfrider volunteer who’s leading the effort in San Francisco. Since indoor smoking bans have pushed smokers outdoors, they need better infrastructure to collect the waste and keep butts off the street, she says.

‘Plasticrust’: A New Form of Pollution Is Forming on This Portuguese Island – (Nation of Change – June 24, 2019)
Researchers have discovered a new, maybe even more permanent, form of plastic pollution. Dubbed ‘plasticrust’, this type of pollution incorporates itself right into the rocky shoreline of the Portuguese island of Madeira. In 2016 marine ecologist Ignacio Gestoso noticed that strange crusts were forming on the volcanic shoreline rocks of the island. Light blue films were incorporated onto the rocks. It was assumed that the phenomenon was a one-off. Then the next year researchers returned to find the crusts still there. A year later again they returned to find that not only was the ‘plasticrust‘ still there but it had grown, spreading out over a larger area and now in multiple colors. After observing and randomly sampling rocky areas of the shoreline, researchers determined that over the three year period the plasticrust had grown from a single area to cover almost 1% of the rocks’ surfaces. Samples taken from the rocks revealed that the plasticrust was polyethylene, a common plastic substance used in single-use packaging and food containers. It is not yet known how the plasticrust will affect the ecosystem on the island. Many intertidal animals stick to these shoreline rocks and feed from the algae that normally grows on them. After observing the winkle sea snail on the plasticrust surfaces, Gestoso’s team found that the snails didn’t avoid the plasticrust surfaces, meaning they could be eating algae that settles on top of the plastic pollution and therefore may be ingesting some of the plastic in the process. Although this is a never-before-seen form of plastic pollution, a similar new type of new plastic pollution had been previously discovered. Six years ago researchers found a merger of plastic and rock in Hawaii. It was dubbed ‘plastiglomerate’ and was the result of campfires melting plastic waste and bonding it with sand and pebbles.

Devastating Rain Spells Are on Their Way – (TruthDig – June 23, 2019)
Canadian scientists have examined an exhaustive collection of rain records for the past 50 years to confirm the fears of climate scientists: bouts of very heavy rain are on the increase. They have measured this increase in parts of Canada, most of Europe, the U.S. Midwest and Northeast, northern Australia, Western Russia and parts of China. From 2004 to 2013, worldwide, bouts of extreme rainfall rain increased by 7%. In Europe and Asia, the same decade registered a rise of 8.6% in cascades of heavy rain. The scientists excluded areas where the records were less than complete, but analyzed 8,700 daily rain records from 100,000 stations that monitor rainfall worldwide. They found that from 1964 to 2013, the frequency of catastrophic downpours increased with each decade. “By introducing a new approach to analyzing extremes, using thousands of rain records, we reveal a clear increase in the frequency of extreme rain events over the recent fifty years when global warming accelerated,” said Simon Papalexiou, of the University of Saskatchewan’s college of engineering. This upward trend is highly unlikely to be explained by natural climate variability. The probability of this happening is less than 0.3% under the model assumptions used.” See also: ‘So much land under so much water’: extreme flooding is drowning parts of the Midwest.

Monarch Butterflies Reared in Captivity Lack a Crucial Ability – (Atlantic – June 24, 2019)
Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies engage in one of nature’s great spectacles, migrating from sites across North America to refuges in either central Mexico or coastal California, where winter temperatures are more tolerable. They fly south for thousands of miles, propelled by some innate sense of direction to places that neither they nor their parents have ever visited. But not all of them make the journey. Not all of them know the way. Some proportion of North America’s monarchs comes from companies that breed stocks of the insect year-round and sell them to weddings, festivals, and classrooms around the United States. Others are reared by hobbyists, who collect wild eggs from their backyard and raise the butterflies in their home. These are typically well-intentioned efforts, meant to bolster the numbers of wild monarchs, which have declined by more than 80% in the past decade. But according to a new study, these releases might do very little to save the imperiled monarch migration. By testing monarchs bought from a commercial supplier, Ayse Tenger-Trolander from the University of Chicago showed that they make terrible migrators. While their wild counterparts have a strong tendency to head south, the mail-order insects flew in random directions. Tenger-Trolander also found that wild monarchs became similarly inept if she raised them indoors, even if she tried her best to mimic natural conditions.


To Detect Fake News, This AI First Learned to Write It – (Tech Crunch – June 10, 2019)
One of the biggest problems in media today is so-called “fake news,” which is so highly pernicious in part because it superficially resembles the real thing. AI tools promise to help identify it, but in order for it to do so, researchers have found that the best way is for that AI to learn to create fake news itself — a double-edged sword, though perhaps not as dangerous as it sounds. Grover is a new system created by the University of Washington and Allen Institute for AI (AI2) computer scientists that is extremely adept at writing convincing fake news on myriad topics and as many styles — and as a direct consequence is also no slouch at spotting it. The paper describing the model is available here. The idea of a fake news generator isn’t new — in fact, OpenAI made a splash recently by announcing that its own text-generating AI was too dangerous to release publicly. But Grover’s creators believe we’ll only get better at fighting generated fake news by putting the tools to create it out there to be studied. “These models are not capable, we think right now, of inflicting serious harm. Maybe in a few years they will be, but not yet,” the lead on the project, Rowan Zellers, told me. “I don’t think it’s too dangerous to release — really, we need to release it, specifically to researchers who are studying this problem, so we can build better defenses. We need all these communities, security, machine learning, natural language processing, to talk to each other — we can’t just hide the model, or delete it and pretend it never happened.” Therefore and to that end, you can try Grover yourself right here. (Though you might want to read the rest of this article first so you know what’s going on.) See also this article from Technology ReviewYou can train an AI to fake UN speeches in just 13 hours.

Study Finds That a GPS Outage Would Cost $1 Billion per Day – (Ars Technica – June 14, 2019)
Since becoming fully operational in 1995, Global Positioning System technology has become widely adopted in the United States and abroad. The concept of satellite-based navigation has become so essential that other world powers, including China, Russia, the European Union, India, and Japan, have all started building their own regional or global systems. Now, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject has assessed the value of this GPS technology to the US economy and examined what effect a 30-day outage would have—whether it’s due to a severe space weather event or “nefarious activity by a bad actor.” The study was sponsored by the US government’s National Institutes of Standards and Technology and performed by a North Carolina-based research organization named RTI International. As part of the analysis, researchers spoke to more than 200 experts in the use of GPS technology for various services, from agriculture to the positioning of offshore drilling rigs to location services for delivery drivers. The study covered a period from 1984, when the nascent GPS network was first opened to commercial use, through 2017. It found that GPS has generated an estimated $1.4 trillion in economic benefits during that time period. According to the study, 90% of the technology’s financial impact has come since just 2010, or just 20% of the study period. Some sectors of the economy are only beginning to realize the value of GPS technology, or are identifying new uses for it, the report says, indicating that its value as a platform for innovation will continue to grow. In the case of some adverse event leading to a widespread outage, the study estimates that the loss of GPS service would have a $1 billion per-day impact, although the authors acknowledge this is at best a rough estimate. It would likely be higher during the planting season of April and May, when farmers are highly reliant on GPS technology for information about their fields.


The Next Big Thing in Fashion? Not Washing Your Clothes – (Fast Company – June 7, 2019)
I’ve (the author of this piece) been wearing the same black T-shirt every single day for two weeks now and I haven’t washed it yet. Anybody who knows me will realize this is very out of character. I’m a laundry addict. I get inordinate pleasure out of transforming my toddler’s mud- and applesauce-covered clothes into freshly laundered, neatly folded piles. And yet, I may hold off on washing this T-shirt for another few weeks. It miraculously looks (and smells!) like it was just cleaned. This $65 T-shirt is made by a startup called Unbound Merino, founded in 2016, that creates wool travel clothes that can go weeks without being washed. Unbound is part of a broader wave of startups designing clothes that require less laundering. An eco-friendly brand called Pangaia, which launched late last year and already counts celebrities like Jaden Smith and Justin Bieber as fans, creates $85 seaweed fiber T-shirts that are treated with peppermint oil to keep the shirts fresher longer between washes. The brand estimates that this will save about 3,000 liters of water over the course of a lifetime, compared to a regular cotton T-shirt. Then there is menswear label Wool & Prince, which creates everything from $128 oxford shirts to $42 boxer briefs out of wool, all designed to be washed infrequently. Last year, the company launched a sister womenswear brand called Wool& that makes dresses that can be worn for 100 days straight without washing. This new flock of wash-less brands are capitalizing on the convenience of not having to launder your clothes a lot, which is particularly useful if you’re traveling or crunched for time. But they’re also making an environmental argument: Over-washing clothes is not good for the planet. Washing machines account for 17% of our home water usage, and a quarter of a garment’s carbon footprint over the course of its lifetime comes from cleaning it. And yet, washing machine company AEG estimates that 90% of clothes washed aren’t actually dirty enough to be thrown in the laundry basket. So one of the biggest challenges for brands pitching clothes that don’t need to be washed frequently is to convince people that they will not be gross, smelly, or dirty if they aren’t constantly doing loads of laundry. (Editor’s note: This is all well and good – as long as you haven’t been bumped and spilled your coffee on your tee shirt. Of course, a black tee helps here.)

Graphene-coated Clothing Exists and We’re Finally Living in the Future – (Yanko Design – June 21, 2019)
Part jacket, part science experiment, this is perhaps Vollebak’s most ambitious project yet… and that’s after making jackets that can last on Mars, and apparel that absorbs light and glows in the dark. Graphene is incredibly light yet unbelievably tough, and consists of literally a single layer of carbon atoms bound together in their honeycomb structure. In theory, graphene apparel could one day make humans bulletproof, and the material has the ability to store infinite amounts of thermal energy. It also conducts electricity, repels bacteria, and dissipates your body’s excess humidity. Apart from the fact that it’s incredibly hard to come by in large quantities, it’s perhaps the perfect material for apparel. So in true VolleBak fashion, the adventure-clothing company managed to actually produce a series of these Graphene Jackets. The Graphene Jacket from VolleBak is two-sided, with one being coated with the wonder-material, and the other being super-stretch super-strength nylon. The reversible jacket can be worn both ways, giving it the ability to absorb and handle heat in unusual ways. According to physicists at the Max Planck Institute, graphene has the ability to store unlimited amounts of heat, making the jacket practically a radiator that you can wear in the cold. When the graphene-coated part of the jacket faces outwards, it absorbs any thermal energy it is exposed to (be it anything from the sun to a nearby fireplace). Reverse the jacket to face the graphene layer inwards (towards your skin), and the jacket’s warmth radiates to your body, keeping you warm for long periods of time. Along with heat, graphene is a brilliant conductor of electricity too, and in most of VolleBak’s prototype tests, they could literally light a bulb by passing current through the jacket, but the final iteration of the jacket comes with an increased resistance to electricity, making it safe for humans to wear. Price? $695. (Editor’s note: Despite the claims of this article, we are not actually living in the future; we’re still living in the present.)


Cheerios, Nature Valley Cereals Contain Roundup Ingredient, Study Finds – (CBS News – June 13, 2019)
Twenty-one oat-based cereal and snack products popular with children contain traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, according to tests from the Environmental Working Group. EWG said the tests found glyphosate levels above what it considers safe for children in all but four of the products. The 21 products that were tested are made by General Mills, including six varieties of Cheerios and 14 of General Mills’ Nature Valley products, such as Nature Valley granola bars. This is the third round of testing, which is funded by organic food companies. The two highest levels of glyphosate were detected in Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch and Cheerios, at 833 parts per billion and 729 parts per billion, respectively, the group said. It considers anything over 160 parts per billion to be unsafe for children. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a far higher threshold for glyphosate content, ranging from 0.1 to 310 parts per million, rather than per billion. Even though several juries have found in favor of cancer patients who claim their illness is linked to glyphosate exposure, there are conflicting scientific studies. The World Health Organization’s cancer agency has said the weedkiller is “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” but other organizations have said they believe the link is unlikely. Glyphosate is sprayed on oats to dry out the crop, making it easier to harvest, the EWG said. The group said the practice increases the chances the chemical will end up in children’s cereal. Here is a link to the EWG website with detailed findings from the study including amounts of glyphosate in each cereal tested. See also: US annually uses 388 million pounds of potentially fatal pesticides banned in the EU, China and Brazil.


This Police Robot Could Make Traffic Stops Safer – (NBC – May 9, 2019)
A California man has built a robot that he hopes will take some of the danger out of traffic stops — those anxiety-provoking and potentially deadly encounters between police officers and motorists that play out on American roads more than 50,000 times a day. The GoBetween robot is attached to a rod that extends forward from an officer’s car to a motorist’s window, enabling the officer and the motorist to communicate with one another without leaving their vehicles. The bot can even issue a ticket. Reuben Brewer, a mechanical engineer at the nonprofit research organization SRI International in Menlo Park, California, and the robot’s inventor, said in an email, “I’d be absolutely thrilled for this robot to save even a single life … No one should die in a traffic stop.” GoBetween has all the tools it needs to conduct traffic stops, including a tablet screen, webcam, signature pad and a small printer that spits out the citations. A video embedded in this article shows how the proof-of-concept prototype robot works.

America Is Stuck With a $400 Billion Stealth Fighter That Can’t Fight – (Daily Beast – June 14, 2019)
If one of the U.S. military’s new F-35 stealth fighters has to climb at a steep angle in order to dodge an enemy attack, design flaws mean the plane might suddenly tumble out of control and crash. Also, some versions of the F-35 can’t accelerate to supersonic speed without melting their own tails or shedding the expensive coating that helps to give the planes their radar-evading qualities. The Pentagon’s $400-billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, one of the biggest and most expensive weapons programs in history, has come under fire, so to speak, over more than a decade for delays, rising costs, design problems and technical glitches. But startling reports by trade publication Defense News revealed flaws that previously only builder Lockheed Martin, the military, and the plane’s foreign buyers knew about. The newly-exposed problems underscore the potential fragility of American air power as the armed services work to replace more and more old fighters with as many as 2,300 F-35s while also reconfiguring to confront the increasingly deadly Chinese and Russian air forces.


America’s Legacy of Regime Change – (EastWest Accord – June 10, 2019)
White House resistance to covert regime-change operations dissolved when Dwight Eisenhower succeeded Truman at the beginning of 1953. Part of the new administration’s enthusiasm came from Allen Dulles, Washington’s most relentless advocate of such operations, whom Eisenhower named to head the CIA. The fact that he named Dulles’s brother as secretary of State ensured that covert operations would have all the necessary diplomatic cover from the State Department. During the Dulles brothers’ long careers at Sullivan & Cromwell, they had not only learned the techniques of covert regime change but practiced them. They were masters at marshaling hidden power in the service of their corporate clients overseas. Now they could do the same with all the worldwide resources of the CIA. It was not only the Dulles brothers, however, who brought the United States into the regime-change era in the early 1950s. Eisenhower himself was a fervent advocate of covert action. With a soldier’s commitment to keeping secrets, he never admitted that he had ordered covert regime-change operations, much less explained why he favored them. He would, however, have had at least two reasons. He was aware of the role that covert operations such as breaking Nazi codes had played in the war. And he saw covert action as a kind of peace project. After all, if the CIA could overthrow a government with the loss of just a few lives, wasn’t that preferable to war? Like most Americans, Eisenhower saw a world of threats. He also understood that the threat of nuclear war made overt invasions all but unthinkable. Covert action was his answer. Within a year and a half of his inauguration, the CIA had deposed the governments of both Guatemala and Iran. It went on to other regime-change operations from Albania to Cuba to Indonesia. Successive presidents followed his lead. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article which is a book review of Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War by Lindsey A. O’Rourke.)


Breach of Ethics – (Intercept – June 9, 2019)
A large trove of documents of documents furnished exclusively to The Intercept Brasil reveals serious ethical violations and legally prohibited collaboration between the judge and prosecutors who last year convicted and imprisoned former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges — a conviction that resulted in Lula being barred from the 2018 presidential election. These materials also contain evidence that the prosecution had serious doubts about whether there was sufficient evidence to establish Lula’s guilt. The archive includes years of internal files and private conversations from the prosecutorial team behind Brazil’s sprawling Operation Car Wash, an ongoing corruption investigation that has yielded dozens of major convictions, including those of top corporate executives and powerful politicians. In the files, conversations between lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol and then-presiding Judge Sergio Moro reveal that Moro offered strategic advice to prosecutors and passed on tips for new avenues of investigation. With these actions, Moro grossly overstepped the ethical lines that define the role of a judge. In Brazil, as in the United States, judges are required to be impartial and neutral, and are barred from secretly collaborating with one side in a case. Other chats in the archive raise fundamental questions about the legitimacy of the charges that ultimately sent Lula to prison. Operation Car Wash is one of the most consequential political forces in the history of Brazilian democracy and also one of the most controversial. It has taken down powerful actors once thought to be untouchable and revealed massive corruption schemes that sucked billions out of public coffers. The probe, however, has also been accused of political bias, repeated violations of constitutional guarantees, and illegal leaks of information to the press.

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid – (New York Times – June 15, 2019)
The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States. But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow. The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world. As an accompaniment to the article above, we recommend: Washington’s Dr. Strangeloves – Is plunging Russia into darkness really a good idea?


I Needed to Save My Mother’s Memories. I Hacked Her Phone. – (New York Times – June 10, 2019)
Several days after my mother died in a car accident, my two sisters and I sat together in her apartment, stunned and overwhelmed. High on our horrible to-do list — along with retrieving her smashed vehicle from the tow lot, making burial plans and meeting with the rabbi — was this: getting into her cellphone. Everything we needed to get her affairs in order was on her phone. Her contacts would tell us who to reach out to about the memorial service. Her email would tell us whether she had made plans we needed to cancel. Her finance apps would tell us whether she had been paying bills electronically. And there would be personal information, too. Her texts to family and friends. Her notepad. Her photos. The e-book she had been reading on the flight home in the hours before the accident as she left the Tulsa International Airport. Nearly anything from the past 20 years existed only online, locked away behind passwords and firewalls. Luckily, Mom had given me the passcode to her phone only a month before. But a tightness gripped my stomach as I realized that the code Mom had given me couldn’t possibly work: That code had contained four digits, and her phone was asking for six. Six digits means one million possible combinations, and her phone would give us only 10 tries before Apple would erase all of her data.

The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us with Hate – (TruthDig – May 27, 2019)
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, published in 1988, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, was published on the eve of three revolutions that have dramatically transformed the news industry: the rise of right-wing radio and Fox-style TV news that abandon the media’s faux objectivity, the introduction of 24-hour cable news stations, and the creation of internet platforms—owned by a handful of corporations—that control the distribution of news and information and mine our personal data on behalf of advertisers, political campaigns and the government. Matt Taibbi, the author of Hate Inc.: How, and Why, the Media Makes Us Hate One Another, has dissected modern media platforms in much the same way that Herman and Chomsky did the old media. The new media, Taibbi points out, still manufactures consent, but it does so by setting group against group, a consumer version of what George Orwell in his novel 1984 called the “Two Minutes Hate.” Our opinions and prejudices are skillfully catered to and reinforced, with the aid of a detailed digital analysis of our proclivities and habits, and then sold back to us. The result, Taibbi writes, is “packaged anger just for you.” The public is unable to speak across the manufactured divide. It is mesmerized by the fake dissent of the culture wars and competing conspiracy theories. Politics, under the assault, has atrophied into a tawdry reality show centered on political personalities.


Less Than Half of Undocumented Immigrants in US Are from Mexico for First Time in Decades – (The Hill – June 12, 2019)
New Pew Research Center estimates based on government data conclude that out of 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the country in 2017, 4.9 million originally came from Mexico. The number of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the country declined largely because more left the country than arrived, though the group remains a strong plurality among those coming to the U.S. without authorization from other Latin American countries. Despite the drop in undocumented Mexican immigrants, the U.S. is seeing a rise in the number of unauthorized migrants from other countries. There were 5.5 million non-Mexican undocumented immigrants in 2017, slightly higher than the 5.3 million that were in the country in 2007. A large share of that increase comes from Asia and Central America, particularly El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and India, according to Pew. The overall undocumented population remained statistically the same between 2016 and 2017, marking its lowest size in both years since 2004. Pew notes that the fall in the share of undocumented migrants from Mexico follows the trend that a growing number of immigrants in the country without authorization overstay visas rather than illegally cross the border. (Editor’s note: In other words, illegal immigration is actually lower now than in any year since 2004 and a wall is not going to do anything to address the issue of people who overstay a legal visa.) See also: Immigration officials see drastic rise in number of Africans illegally crossing US-Mexican border.

Infographic: A Decline in Working Age Population Concern Some OECD Countries – (International Business Times – June 23, 2019)
Within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Korea, Japan, Germany and Italy are among the countries most heavily affected by a decline of their working age populations. Taking each country’s population between the ages of 20 and 64 in the year 2000 as a base, the OECD calculated that by 2050, that population would only be around 80% of its original size in Korea and Italy. In Japan, the country most heavily affected, that number would be just over 60%. For the OECD in total, the size of the working age population is actually expected to increase and be at 111% of the 2000 figure in 2050. The growth is driven by countries with strong birth rates and large populations, like Australia, Turkey and the United States. While Japan’s working age population has been in decline since the 1990s, Korea’s working age population was growing until up till now but is expected to start its decline this year.


The Human Insights Missing from Big Data – (YouTube – August 2, 2017)
This TED talk addresses the question: Why do so many companies make bad decisions, even with access to unprecedented amounts of data? With stories from Nokia to Netflix to the oracles of ancient Greece, Tricia Wang, a global tech ethnographer, identifies the uses – and limitations – of big data. To augment big data, she suggests that we focus equally on “thick data” — precious, unquantifiable insights from actual people — to make the right business decisions and thrive in the unknown.

‘Ghost Base’ Perched on a Growing Ice Chasm in Antarctica Is Running on Its Own – (Live Science – June 28, 2019)
A remote science station in Antarctica forced to close over the polar winter by a dangerous ice chasm is completely empty of human life — a ghost base of sorts. Even so, its vital science experiments keep on ticking. It is the first time that important science experiments at the Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf have been operated remotely, thanks to a high-tech electricity generator that will run continuously for nine months in the below-freezing conditions. The generator and the science experiments that depend on it — including measurements of the ozone hole over Antarctica and global monitoring of lightning activity — passed the middle of the southern polar winter (complete darkness) a few days ago, on June 21.

Could Manipulating the Microbiome of Artworks Prevent Their Decay? – (The Scientist – June 1, 2019)
On the ceiling of the basilica of Santa Maria in Vado, a church in Ferrara, Italy, is a circular canvas nearly three meters in diameter. On it is a depiction of the Virgin Mary being crowned queen of heaven by God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The painting is believed to be a masterwork of early Baroque artist Carlo Bononi and has hung on the church ceiling since the 1600s, where it remained until 2012 when an earthquake struck Ferrara, forcing conservators to remove the painting from the ceiling. The artwork didn’t show severe damage to its paint layers, with the exception of a network of cracks and some small cuts and deformations. The back of the piece, however, had severe deterioration as a result of exposure to birds, insects, and rodents that got into the church through a fissure in the ceiling and roof of the building where the painting hung. And they’re not the only critters that got cozy with the painting; microbes also inhabited the work—feeding on its glue, canvas, and paint. Thanks to their often degradable materials, artworks such as paintings are prime locations for microbial colonization, said Sante Mazzacane, a researcher who studies chemical and microbial pollution at the University of Ferrara. In the past, art conservators and researchers have studied the effects of microbes on stone monuments, murals, and frescoes in order to better understand how to preserve them. But little work has been done to understand the microbial degradation of canvas paintings.


The Truth about Algorithms – (YouTube – October 17, 2018)
We live in the age of the algorithm – mathematical models are sorting our job applications, curating our online worlds, influencing our elections, and even deciding whether or not we should go to prison. But how much do we really know about them? In this short animated clip, former Wall St. quant, Cathy O’Neil, exposes the reality behind the AI, and explains how algorithms are just as prone to bias and discrimination as the humans who program them.

Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined – (Atlantic – July, 2019)
No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984. The title, the adjectival form of the author’s last name, the vocabulary of the all-powerful Party that rules the superstate Oceania with the ideology of Ingsoc – doublethink, memory hole, unperson, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Thought Police, Room 101, Big Brother – they’ve all entered the English language as instantly recognizable signs of a nightmare future. It’s almost impossible to talk about propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics, or perversions of truth without dropping a reference to 1984. This article is a book review of The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey. It also an article that probes the question: What does the novel mean for us? Not Room 101 in the Ministry of Love, where Winston is interrogated and tortured until he loses everything he holds dear. We don’t live under anything like a totalitarian system. “By definition, a country in which you are free to read Nineteen Eighty-Four is not the country described in Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Lynskey acknowledges. Instead, we pass our days under the nonstop surveillance of a telescreen that we bought at the Apple Store, carry with us everywhere, and tell everything to, without any coercion by the state. The Ministry of Truth is Facebook, Google, and cable news. We have met Big Brother and he is us.

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

I Wrote This on a 30-Year-Old Computer – (Atlantic – June 11, 2019)
Here’s a “blast from the past”. Can you remember what computing was like 30 years ago? For example, the Macintosh SE, a popular all-in-one computer sold by Apple from 1987 to 1990. By today’s standards the machine is a dinosaur. It boasts a nine-inch black-and-white display. Mine came with a hard disk that offers 20 megabytes of storage, but some lacked even that luxury. And the computer still would have cost a fortune: The version retailed for $3,900, or about $8,400 in 2019 dollars. In 1984, when the Macintosh first appeared, about 8% of U.S. homes had a computer; five years later, when the computer I’m writing on was sold, that figure had risen to a whopping 15%. That made for a totally different relationship to the machine than we have today. Nobody used one every hour—many people wouldn’t boot them up for days at a time if the need didn’t arise. They were modest in power and application, clunking and grinding their way through family-budget spreadsheets, school papers, and games. A computer was a tool for work, and diversion too, but it was not the best or only way to write a letter or to fritter away an hour. Computing was an accompaniment to life, rather than the sieve through which all ideas and activities must filter. That makes using this 30-year-old device a surprising joy, one worth longing for on behalf of what it was at the time, rather than for the future it inaugurated. On my modern MacBook Pro, a million things are happening at once. By contrast, the Macintosh SE just can’t do much. It boots to a simple file manager, where I face but a few windows and menu options. I can manage files, configure the interface, or run programs. It feels quiet here, despite the whirring noise. At least it’s literal noise, in the ears, instead of the ethereal kind that bombards my faculties on the MacBook Pro. There aren’t many programs worth running on this old machine, anyway. I installed Pyro, a popular screen saver of the era, and Klondike solitaire, as if I couldn’t distract myself with my iPhone instead. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for the way it has captured how much the computer – and particularly internet-connected handheld devices – have changed our lives.)


NASA’s Photo Shows Mars’ Grand Canyon in Spectacular Detail – (My Modern Met – June 28, 2019)
Measuring the length of the entire United States, Mars’ Valles Marineris—Mariner Valley—is an enormous canyon that makes our Grand Canyon appear minuscule. Stretching across a good expanse of the Red Planet, Valles Marineris is captured in spectacular detail thanks to the work of the Viking orbiter. NASA’s high-resolution mosaic of the Valles Marineris hemisphere gives a magnificent look at this canyon system. Located along Mars’ equator, Valles Marineris spans one-fifth of the entire circumference of the planet. With depths of up to 4 miles and widths reaching up to 120 miles, the 2,500-mile-long canyon system is one of the largest in the entire Solar System. To put things into perspective, the Grand Canyon is a fraction of the size, running 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and with a depth of only up to a little over a mile.


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

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.


Edited by John L. Petersen

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Volume 22, Number 14 – 7/15/19