FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- A single adult oyster can cleanse about 50 gallons of water per day.
- Tennessee Promise, the state’s free-college program, offers two years of tuition-free community college or technical school to all state residents with a high school diploma, regardless of income.
- The top 10 YouTube stars earned an aggregate $180.5 million this past year, up 42% from 2017.
- Physical stores still account for 90% of retail sales in the United States.
by John L. Petersen
Renowned Teacher, Healer Next TransitionTalks Presenter
Our next TransitionTalk will be on February 23rd with Pierre DuBois. Pierre is a very special guy, with highly developed abilities to access other dimensions and translate those inputs into practical advice for preparing for the coming changes. Let me tell you more about it:
Saturday, February 23rd, 1 to 4 pm
Toward an Ascended Tomorrow
Predictions, strategies, and suggestions for a graceful transition into future earth.
A cursory look at the world today will reveal that we are standing on a razor’s edge. The dream of planetary growth: the promise of the golden age of evolutionary transformation and change is being challenged by regressive ideas, fear mongering, and xenophobia where factual, empirical, historical and scientific evidence seen to evaporate leaving behind a haze of blind obedience to unscrupulous and manipulative leaders. It is evident that a separation, schism, and fragmentation between extreme is being created setting humanity up for rivalry, combat, and battle.
What is really happening? Forces that are far beyond the obvious are at play. It is not simply that corporate sponsored leaders are abusing power by enflaming core fears, but that those leaders are the center of a centrifuge or vortex that is seeking to amass souls in a process that will lead into a split into parallel realities. The planet is shifting into multiple realities each calibrated to a different root vibration, frequency, and emotions. As human beings begin to identify on a visceral level with core emotions that exist in their subconscious mind, they will be choosing which parallel reality they go into.
Keep in mind that parallel realities are not higher or lower dimensions. Going into a parallel reality is moving horizontally, while going into a higher or lower dimension is moving vertically. The Milky Way is a flat and spiral galaxy and as the earth rotates around the sun, they both rotate around the core of the Milky Way a process that takes 250 million years to complete. During that journey the earth will crest above and below the thickness of the Milky Way 8 times in one galactic year. At each cresting the earth and its inhabitants become completely bathed by the light of the galactic equator and are presented with a unique opportunity to evolve and ascend en mass. In the Galactic Core, these periods are called the great harvest.
Existence at the time of the shift is complicated for multiple realities are occupying the same space while struggling with each other for dominance and control. Understand that the core emotions of these parallel world also exist in you and they will emotionally trigger you to react thus leading you horizontally. Put differently, the space that they occupy exist in you. You will be experiencing a myriad of contradictory and opposite emotions and sensations leaving you feeling lost, confuse and without a compass.
How is one supposed to navigate these emotional and dimensional turbulences? Form a spiritual stand point, what are the predictions of where we are headed? Knowing this, what are the preparatory strategies and suggestions that can help us transition gracefully into the ascended tomorrow?
Join us for revelations, discussions, and an exchange of ideas about the shift into parallel and higher dimensions:
February 23, 2019
1:00 to 4:00 pm
The Ice House Theatre
138 Independence Street
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Click here for more information and registration.
|Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
‘Fortnite’ Has Become a Money Laundering Paradise – (NY Post – January 18, 2019)
The virtual currency used by millions of gamers who play “Fortnite” has become popular with money laundering cybercriminals, according to reports. Money launderers use stolen credit cards to purchase V-bucks – which players use to purchase weapons, outfits and other items in the wildly popular game – from the “Fortnite” store and then resell them on the dark web. Agents with the cybersecurity firm Sixgill posed as customers and uncovered operations being conducted globally in Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Arabic and English. “Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity,” said Benjamin Preminger, a senior intelligence analyst at Sixgill. The immensely popular game is free to download and play and has around 200 million players worldwide. It has generated upwards of $3 billion in revenue. Between September and October, IT security firm Zerofox found 53,000 instances of online scams related to the video game.
Scientists Find New Evidence of Life beneath Antarctic Ice – (Axios – January 17, 2019)
A research team drilling thousands of feet under the Antarctic Ice Sheet has found new evidence of microbial life there — life forms not known to exist elsewhere. It’s only the second subglacial lake in Antarctica to be explored, in an area as vast as twice the area of the continental U.S. That means scientists have to draw a lot of conclusions from drilling two holes — but it’s the only way to learn about what kind of life exists in the mysterious world of subglacial lakes and rivers deep beneath the ice. In addition, researchers think that the water moving underneath the ice sheet could further destabilize portions of the Antarctic ice sheet, adding to the already quickening pace of sea level rise. Until a little more than a decade ago, we didn’t know that subglacial lakes existed in Antarctica. Scientists discovered them largely by accident, while studying the ice sheet using satellite-based instruments. Researchers sampled the first, Subglacial Lake Whillans, in 2013, finding abundant microbial life. Now we have much more data collected from a second subglacial lake, known as Subglacial Lake Mercer. According to the project’s chief scientist, John Priscu, the ocean once covered the region of Subglacial Lake Mercer about 1 million years ago, and it’s thought that nutrients it left behind in the sediment are helping to feed microbial life.
Earth’s Oldest Known Rock Found on Moon – Scientists Explain How It Got There – (Sputnik News – January 27, 2019)
One of the Moon rock samples collected decades ago by Apollo 14 (in 1971) crew appears to be originally from Earth. The rock is presumed to be the oldest known rock, formed around the same time our planet was formed, according to an analysis in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Until this discovery, the oldest known rocks were around 2 billion years old. This rock was formed between 4 and 4.1 billion years ago, about 12.4 miles beneath the Earth’s crust, yet the most curious thing about it that it was found far beyond our planet’s surface – on the Moon. NASA’s Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE) have identified this small specimen as terrestrial due to it containing a number of various minerals like quartz and feldspar, which are common on Earth but rare on the Moon. It was possible to determine how deep beneath the earth the rock had been with the use of molecular analysis. But how could this rock have ended up on the Moon? For starters, the Moon itself was once a piece of Earth, detached by a collision with a particularly large asteroid early in our planet’s history. The scientists have even found pieces of Mars falling to the ground here on Earth after they were kicked into space by an impact. So, it is possible that in the early years of our Solar System when large asteroids were everywhere, that one of them hit the Earth and sent debris flying into space, and one of these rocks landed on our satellite’s surface. Before the discovery, there were only guesses as to what the early Earth’s rocks looked like, but now scientists have something to work with. And there is a good chance that this is not the only part of our Earth on the moon’s surface.
NASA Unveiled Massive Gravity Anomaly Buried Under Antarctica – (Daily Galaxy – January 23, 2019)
A NASA satellite detected a 300-mile-wide “gravity anomaly” below the ice of Antarctica consistent with a giant asteroid impact and the volcanic flows of Siberian Traps that continued for roughly two million years and spanned the Permian–Triassic mass extinction, which occurred between 251 to 250 million years ago. The impact crater is estimated and nearly three times the size of the Chicxulub crater that ended the dinosaur epoch and presumably formed before the Cretaceous formation of the east Antarctic coast. New 2018 details on the east Antarctic gravity field from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission revealed a prominent positive free-air gravity anomaly over a roughly 500-kilometer diameter buried basin centered on Antarctica’s in north-central Wilkes Land. It extensively thinned and disrupted the Wilkes Land crust where the Kerguelen hot spot and ancient Gondwana rifting developed but left the adjacent Australian block relatively undisturbed. The micrometeorite and fossil evidence suggests that the impact may have occurred at the beginning of the greatest extinction of life on Earth at ~260 Ma (a Ma, “mega-annum”, is a million years) when the Siberian Traps were on the opposite side of the planet. Antipodal volcanism is common to large impact craters of the Moon and Mars and may also account for half of the Earth’s large igneous provinces and hot spots. The GRACE data suggest that the impact may have triggered the ‘‘Great Dying’’ at the end of the Permian and contributed to the development of the hot spot that produced the Siberian Traps and now may underlie Iceland.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
Genetic Study Provides Novel Insights into the Evolution of Skin Color – (Medical Express – January 21, 2019)
Skin color is one of the most visible and variable traits among humans and scientists have always been curious about how this variation evolved. Now, a study of diverse Latin American populations led by UCL geneticists has identified new genetic variations associated with skin color. The study found that the variation of light skin among Eurasian people evolved independently from different genetic backgrounds. The genetic study analyzed pigmentation in over 6,000 Latin Americans, who have a mix of Native American, European and African ancestry. This study identifies five new associated regions involving skin, eye and hair color. Genes affecting skin color in Europeans have been extensively studied, but here researchers identified an important variation in the gene MFSD12 seen uniquely in East Asians and Native Americans. They show it was under natural selection in East Asians after they split from Europeans around 40,000 years ago, and was then carried over to America by ancient migrations of Native Americans. It is the first time this gene has been linked to skin color in Native Americans and East Asians. Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari (UCL Genetics Institute), said: “Our work demonstrates that lighter skin color evolved independently in Europe and East Asia. We also show that this gene was under strong natural selection in East Asia, possibly as adaptation to changes in sunlight levels and ultraviolet radiation.” In addition to skin tone variation, the scientists also noted a wide variation in eye color among Latin Americans. “Just like skin color, early research on eye color was Europe-centric, and mostly focused on the distinction between blue vs. brown eyes. But we show that eye color is a broad continuum, and by studying the subtler variation within brown to black, we found two new genes linked to it”, said Dr. Anood Sohail (University of Cambridge).
We May Finally Know What Causes Alzheimer’s – and How to Stop it – (New Scientist – January 23, 2019)
If your gums bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to visit your dentist. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease. Alzheimer’s often involves the accumulation of proteins called amyloid and tau in the brain, and the leading hypothesis has been that the disease arises from defective control of these two proteins. But research in recent years has revealed that people can have amyloid plaques without having dementia. So many efforts to treat Alzheimer’s by moderating these proteins have failed that the hypothesis has been seriously questioned. Evidence has been growing that the function of amyloid proteins may be as a defense against bacteria, leading to a spate of recent studies looking at bacteria in Alzheimer’s, particularly those that cause gum disease, which is known to be a major risk factor for the condition. Bacteria involved in gum disease and other illnesses have been found after death in the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s, but until now, it hasn’t been clear whether these bacteria caused the disease or simply got in via brain damage caused by the condition. Multiple research teams have been investigating P. gingivalis, and have so far found that it invades and inflames brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s; that gum infections can worsen symptoms in mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s; and that it can cause Alzheimer’s-like brain inflammation, neural damage, and amyloid plaques in healthy mice. In the new study, Cortexyme have now reported finding the toxic enzymes – called gingipains – that P. gingivalis uses to feed on human tissue in 96% of the 54 Alzheimer’s brain samples they looked at, and found the bacteria themselves in all three Alzheimer’s brains whose DNA they examined.
How Plastic Cleanup Threatens the Ocean’s Living Islands – (Atlantic – January 22, 2019)
Imagine you’re on a small boat in the middle of the open ocean, surrounded by what looks like a raft of plastic. Now flip the whole world upside down. You remain comfortably attached to your seat—the abyss towers above you, and all around, stretching up from the water’s surface, is an electric-blue meadow of life. What you thought was plastic is actually a living island. This meadow is made up of a diverse collection of animals. The most abundant are blue buttons and by-the-wind sailors, with bright-blue bodies that dot the sky like suns, and deep-purple snails found in patches so dense one scientist described collecting more than 1,000 in 20 minutes. This is the neuston, a whole ecosystem living at the ocean’s surface. Many neustonic animals are vibrant highlighter colors. Together, these small creatures may function like upside-down coral reefs: an oasis of shelter and life far out to sea. As far back as the Cold War era, scientists were describing these colorful and important ecosystems, yet they still remain all but unknown. But now, as efforts to clean the ocean of plastic start up, our ignorance is putting this ecosystem at risk. Just like reefs on the seafloor, this ecosystem does not stand apart from the open ocean around it. The neuston is a nursery for multiple species of larval fish and a hunting ground for paper nautilus octopuses. It supports sunfish, leatherback turtles, and diverse ocean grazers, which frequent these islands, relying on them as a food source. At night, soft-bodied jellies rise up to join the neuston, sparkling like fireflies. But all of this is in peril. The Ocean Cleanup project’s 600-meter-long barrier with a three-meter-deep net, a wall being placed in the open ocean, ostensibly to collect plastic passively as the currents push water through the net, raise unanswered questions. How will the neuston be impacted? But in the 146 pages of the Ocean Cleanup’s environmental-impact assessment, this ecosystem isn’t mentioned once.
Global Warming in a Climate of Ignorance – (You Tube – March 4, 2017)
It’s one of the greatest controversies in modern times: the question of whether human activity is the cause of changes in Earth’s climate. Today, we are told that institutional science and academia unite in consensus that the hypothesis of manmade global warming is no longer a hypothesis, but a science fact. Ironically, coincident with this alleged arrival at a scientific consensus, discovery after discovery have affirmed the electromagnetic connection between the Sun, Earth and all planets. What role might this connection play in “climate change” on Earth, and indeed throughout the solar system? In Part One of this presentation, physicist Wal Thornhill explores the many obstacles that institutional science and academia face in attempting to understand climate change on Earth. As Thornhill explaines, no climate models can succeed that rely on outdated and unproven assumptions, such as the belief that Earth and Venus are twins and Venus’ superheat temperatures were created by a runaway greenhouse effect. In Part Two https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E6An2u8dcA of the series Thornhill emphasizes the necessity that climate scientists recognize the electrical circuitry connecting the Earth and Sun, which may, in fact, drive climate and weather.
Cleaning New York’s Filthy Harbor with One Billion Oysters – (CNN – January 17, 2019)
The New York Harbor for years has been polluted and depleted of marine life. But one nonprofit is working to clean the murky water and revive its long-lost ecosystem — one oyster at a time. The Billion Oyster Project has worked since 2014 to rebuild oyster reefs in the waters surrounding New York City. The creatures are natural purifiers: A single adult oyster can cleanse about 50 gallons of water per day. And their reefs can provide a habitat for other marine life and help protect New York’s shores against storm surge during rough weather. The group has so far restored about 30 million oysters to local waters. But that’s still a tiny fraction of what used to thrive in the area. The group’s executive director, Pete Malinowski, said his team is seeing promising signs. Last year, there was a “dramatic” increase in the number of wild oysters that latched on to Billion Oyster Projects’ reefs. “For restoration to be successful, you need the recruitment of wild oysters from the system,” Malinowski said. It could help the population grow exponentially. Billion Oyster Project partners with more than 70 restaurants in New York City. The businesses save up their oyster shells and a collection partner for the Billion Oyster Project rounds them up and carts them off to Governors Island, a small island due east of the Statue of Liberty. The shells are then left outside for at least a year. This allows the elements to naturally cleanse them of organic matter before they are sent to the New York Harbor School, a maritime-focused public high school on Governors Island, which is heavily involved in the project.
Can You Pass Google’s Phishing Quiz? – (Gizmodo – January 22, 2019)
Phishing is clearly bad, but it’s not always easy to suss out a sketchy email from a legitimate one. To help, Alphabet subsidiary Jigsaw has made a quiz with Google to teach people how to better spot malicious emails. The quiz walks you through eight emails—some phishing, some real. All of them have been inspired by real-life phishing scams. When starting the quiz, you can add your name and email to make the examples more realistic, though none of your information actually leaves the site. During the quiz, you can linger over emails and links as you try to figure out which ones are the real deal. While the quiz shouldn’t be too challenging if you’re up to snuff on your cybersecurity basics, it can still get pretty tricksy. One example is based on a legitimate Google security alert that appeared to be a phishing attack, while another was inspired by the email Russian hackers used to dupe John Podesta to get access to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The author of this article ended up with a score of only six out of eight correct.
This Is the First Truly Great Amazon Alexa and Google Home Hack – (Fast Company – January 14, 2019)
Project Alias is designed as a completely open-source hardware/software solution for a world where big corporations have the ability to listen to us all the time. The hardware is a plug-powered microphone/speaker unit that can sit on top of your smart speaker of choice. It’s powered by a pretty typical raspberry pie chipset, the tool of choice for homebrew electronics aficionados. The speaker sounds like a white noise machine to the assistant, covering your speech with an inaudible, omnipresent static. That is, until the software side comes into play. You can train the Alias through local machine learning (no cloud here!) to learn how to wake the assistant to a unique keyword, disabling the static. When you utter your chosen word, it prompts the Alias to whisper, “Hey Google,” to activate the assistant. And then Alias goes quiet, allowing you to communicate with Google or Amazon as you normally would. The most appealing part of Project Alias is its promise of privacy. Amazon has a relatively poor track record here, having been busted for storing past conversations on the device. Google, too, collects spoken data. Of course they aren’t meant to listen in to your private conversations, but by nature, the devices must always be listening a little to be listening at just the right time. Project Alias offers an independent layer of protection to any privacy-minded person. Unfortunately, Alias is just an open source maker project. It’s not yet a real product that you can buy right now. “If somebody would be ready to invest, we would be ready for a collaboration,” says designer Tore Knudsen.
Li-Fi: The Future of the Internet – (Medium – January 2, 2019)
Imagine a time when each of the lightbulbs in your house is a source of Internet. Imagine a scenario where, standing under a lightbulb for 1 minute, you would have downloaded around 5 movies in HD. Thanks to Li-Fi technology, this may soon be a reality. With this new technology, we can reimagine the role light plays in the universe. Li-Fi stands for Light Fidelity and is a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system which uses light to send wireless data embedded in its beam. A Li-Fi enabled device converts the beam of light into an electrical signal. The signal is then converted back into data. The term was coined by German physicist Harald Haas during a TED Talk in 2011. He envisioned the idea of using lightbulbs as wireless routers. LiFi bulbs are outfitted with a chip that modulates the light imperceptibly for optical data transmission. LiFi data is transmitted by the household LED bulbs and received by photoreceptors. If implemented meticulously, Li-Fi systems can reach transmission speeds which are upto 100 times faster (more than 1 Gigabit per second) than the current traditional Wi-Fi which works on radio waves. More technical details in the article.
Bompas & Parr Creates World’s First Vegan Hotel Suite – (Dezeen – January 22, 2019)
Food design studio Bompas & Parr has created the world’s first vegan guest suite inside a London hotel, omitting the use of leather, wool and feathers throughout its interiors. Decked out exclusively in plant-based materials, the guest suite at the Hilton has been created by Bompas & Parr in a bid to show that veganism is “no longer only a dining trend, but can also influence a wider lifestyle choice”. The design studio joins a wider pool of designers making vegan-friendly products that go beyond food– Brooklyn studio Crème recently used home-grown vegetables to create sustainable coffee cups, while Sebastian Cox employed mushroom mycelium to produce suede-like home furnishings. The suite is set within Hilton London Bankside, just a short distance from Southwark tube station, and comprises of a bedroom, lounge area, and sizeable bathroom. A majority of surfaces have been upholstered in Piñatex, a leather-alternative fabric originally developed by company Ananas Anam, which is made from cellulose fibers found in waste pineapple leaves. All of the snacks, stationery, and cleaning products used in the suite by housekeeping staff are also free of animal products. See also: Don Kwaning’s Lino Leather is a vegan alternative to leather.
Boeing’s First Test Flight of Air Taxi a Success as It Works on Making Uber Air a Reality – (CNBC – January 23, 2019)
Boeing is in a race with traditional aviation manufacturers as well as tech firms and start-ups to develop autonomous air taxis. Textron subsidiary Bell, which has a long history building helicopters, is also working on small unmanned aircraft that will, in theory, shuttle people short distances in cities. Boeing and Bell are partnering with Uber as it maps out plans for an air taxi service called Uber Air. Boeing is coming closer to making its flying taxis for Uber a reality with its first successful test flight. Boeing executives are convinced they are on the right path to developing on-demand autonomous air taxis. Boeing has released video of a test flight showing its autonomous passenger air vehicle lifting off, hovering for a short time before making a controlled landing. “In one year we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype,” said Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop. The test flight in Manassas, Virginia, did not last long and did not include the aircraft flying forward. Boeing also did not test how the “PAV” (personal autonomous vehicle) transitions between vertical lift-off and flying forward. The prototype is battery powered and will have a range of 50 miles.
The Future of Wine: No Corks, No Vintages, and Maybe No Grapes – (Medium – January 17, 2019)
Recently, wine critic, author, master sommelier, and, by extension, highly opinionated wine drinker Evan Goldstein was preparing to have guests over for dinner when he had a thought. “Hey Alexa,” he ventured. “What’s your favorite cabernet?” He didn’t need the advice, of course. But he couldn’t help but wonder just how soon it would be until a robot put him out of work. The answer: Maybe sooner than he thought. “The cynical Evan Goldstein expected her to answer with whatever mass brand had bought its way to the top of her search function,” he says. But her choice of Chateau Ste. Michelle was nothing to scoff at. When he challenged her to come up with something more esoteric — her favorite German riesling — she had what he thought was a fairly astute answer for that, too. That’s when he began to sweat. Even wine can’t stave off technology forever — nor can it afford to. For one thing: Climate change has forced the wine industry to evolve more in the last 20 years than the 500 before it, says Karen MacNeil, the James Beard-award winning author of The Wine Bible. In 2017, wildfires destroyed nearly 250,000 acres of land across Napa; all over France, extreme freezes are the new normal. Will Helburn, the longtime manager of Rosenthal Wine Merchant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, says it is now common for Burgundy — one of the most storied regions for winemaking, producing some of the best, and priciest, vintages in the world — to lose a significant percentage of its crops; according to a 2016 Wine Spectator report, as much as 90 -100%, in some cases. This could result in an end to the concept of vintages, in Burgundy and elsewhere, as more winemakers are forced to create blends to compensate for bad years. MacNeil predicts the eventual emergence of “test tube” wines, made with genetically modified grapes or not even made with real grapes at all, instead “assembled” from chemical molecules. She points to engineered food products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger as paving the way.
Antibiotic Use on Oranges Gets Trump Administration’s Approval – (Center for Biological Diversity – December 10, 2018)
The Trump administration has approved the use of the medically important antibiotic oxytetracycline as a pesticide on citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges and tangerines anywhere they are grown. The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision, released late Friday, comes just days after the agency approved residues of the antibiotic on fruit. The EPA’s latest decision paves the way for up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with 388,000 pounds of oxytetracycline per year to combat citrus canker and citrus greening disease. Estimates also indicate 23,000 citrus acres are likely to be treated each year in California. The approval comes as the rise in deaths due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria has spurred leading researchers to caution against expanding use of antibiotics like oxytetracycline that are used to treat respiratory infections such as pneumonia. The analysis that accompanied the decision indicates that there is a “high” probability the use of oxytetracycline on citrus will lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a “medium risk” of human health being adversely impacted.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Data Breach Exposes 773 Million Email Addresses and 21 Million Passwords – (Consumer Affairs – January 18, 2019)
A newly discovered data breach has reportedly exposed 772,904,991 unique emails and 21,222,975 unique passwords. The breach, dubbed “Collection #1,” was first detailed by Troy Hunt, who operates the website Have I Been Pwned. Hunt said the data cache stolen was approximately 87GB in size (a large file made up of 12,000 separate files). It was likely “made up of many different individual data breaches from literally thousands of different sources,” he said. The data had been uploaded to MEGA, a popular cloud service, and then posted to a popular hacking forum. The hashing of the stolen passwords had been cracked, meaning the passwords are easy to use because they’re available in plain text. The breach means compromised email and password combos are more vulnerable for a practice called “credential stuffing,” according to Hunt. “Credential stuffing is the automated injection of breached username/password pairs in order to fraudulently gain access to user accounts,” he explained. To find out if your email address is affected by the breach, visit Have I Been Pwned and type in your email address and search, then scroll down to the bottom of the page. You can also find out if your password has been compromised by running it through the “Pwned Passwords” feature on the site. (Editor’s note: The news of another data breach is getting to be old hat. What is useful here is the website Have I Been Pwned. Check it out.)
I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone – (Motherboard – January 8, 2019)
It’s common knowledge that law enforcement agencies can track phones with a warrant to service providers, IMSI catchers, or until recently via other companies that sell location data such as one called Securus. However, at least one company, called Microbilt, is selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from car salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters, according to sources familiar with the company’s products and company documents obtained by Motherboard. Compounding that already highly questionable business practice, this spying capability is also being resold to others on the black market who are not licensed by the company to use it, including me, seemingly without Microbilt’s knowledge. The tracking tool relies on real-time location data sold to bounty hunters that ultimately originated from the telcos themselves, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, a Motherboard investigation has found. Telecom companies in the United States sell access to their customers’ location data to other companies, called location aggregators, who then sell it to specific clients and industries. Last year, one location aggregator called LocationSmart faced harsh criticism for selling data that ultimately ended up in the hands of Securus, a company which provided phone tracking to low level enforcement without requiring a warrant. LocationSmart also exposed the very data it was selling through a buggy website panel, meaning anyone could geolocate nearly any phone in the United States at a click of a mouse. There’s a complex supply chain that shares some of American cell phone users’ most sensitive data, with the telcos potentially being unaware of how the data is being used by the eventual end user, or even whose hands it lands in. See also, from The New York Times, Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret. (Editor’s note: Based on the Motherboard exposé, the practice of location data selling has been curtailed by some telcos (as distinct from Apps selling location data). See AT&T Stops Selling Location Data of Americans to Bounty Hunters.)
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The Red State That Loves Free College – (Politico – January 16, 2019)
As Republicans nationally have grown increasingly hostile toward universities they see as elitist, Republicans in Tennessee have gone precisely the opposite direction. The state’s free-college program, called Tennessee Promise, has been offering two years of tuition-free community college or technical school to all high school graduates, regardless of income, since 2014. The results here have been so promising that the state’s conservative Legislature decided to double down, expanding free community college beginning last year to all adults, regardless of income, who don’t already have a credential. The program has been wildly popular: The state’s higher education commission had anticipated just 8,000 adults would apply for the expanded program; 33,258 did. Nearly 15,000 of them enrolled in the first semester. The story of Tennessee Promise shows that there can be significant bipartisan agreement on education if the policy is framed right. And its success holds lessons for not only how to talk about education in America, but how to bridge political divides by reaching out to those who feel left behind, in rural and urban America alike. From the beginning, free college in Tennessee was framed not as a form of personal betterment, or social welfare, but in terms of economic development. State leaders found that companies considering locating in Tennessee wanted a broad base of skilled workers more than just about any financial incentive they could offer.
What Does the US Embassy in Baghdad Export to Finland and Dozens of Other Countries? – (Helsinki Times – January 1, 2019)
Cargo shipments from the US Embassy in Baghdad to other American embassies and consulates around the world have been revealed on a Wikileaks’ database. Procurement orders of US embassies are public documents, but Wikileaks put them in a searchable database making it easier to analyze. The database displaying worldwide US embassy orders of goods and services reveals Baghdad as a postal and shipping centre for tons of freight. Though military freight might be expected between the US and Iraq, records show that embassies across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa are all receiving deliveries from Baghdad too. According to the database, orders to ship more than 540 tons of cargo to the US were made in May 2018. The same document shows other main delivery destinations included 120 tons of freight to Europe, and 24 tons to South Africa, South America and Central Africa respectively. In comparison, only two and a half tons of freight were moved within Iraq between Baghdad, Basra and Erbil International Airports. The content of the deliveries and whether the quantity of tonnage relates to many small deliveries or a small number of very large ones is unknown. So discounting the movement of more than a thousand staff members out of Iraq to countries around the world (implausible) means that the content and purpose of the shipments remains a mystery. The Wikileaks’ database findings coincide with the discovery of a previously undisclosed US Embassy warehouse near Malmi Airport (in Finland), a storage facility suitable for receiving large truckloads of incoming freight. The database also reveals that items listed as ‘Tactical Spy Equipment’ were ordered for US embassies in Latin America, with Colombia and El Salvador receiving a range of spy cameras disguised as pens, glasses, hats, USB drives and even shirt buttons. This latest uncovering of unusual US embassy activity follows the 2017 exposure of the US Consulate in Frankfurt being used as a buying and postal dispatch center of spying equipment for other US consulates. These latest Wikileaks disclosures raise concerns that the US Embassy in Baghdad may be serving as a hub for secret operations worldwide.
New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong about Russian Social-Media Involvement in US Politics – (The Nation – December 28, 2018)
Far from being a sophisticated propaganda campaign, it was small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election. The reports, from the University of Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Research Project and the firm New Knowledge, do provide the most thorough look at Russian social-media activity to date. With an abundance of data, charts, graphs, and tables, coupled with extensive qualitative analysis, the authors scrutinize the output of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) the Russian clickbait firm indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller in February 2018. On every significant metric, it is difficult to square the data with the dramatic conclusions that have been drawn. Also hurting the case that the Russians reached a large number of Americans is that they spent such a microscopic amount of money to do it. Oxford puts the IRA’s Facebook spending between 2015 and 2017 at just $73,711. As was previously known, about $46,000 was spent on Russian-linked Facebook ads before the 2016 election. That amounts to about 0.05 percent of the $81 million spent on Facebook ads by the Clinton and Trump campaigns combined. A recent disclosure by Google that Russian-linked accounts spent $4,700 on platforms in 2016 only underscores how minuscule that spending was.
Michelle Alexander Opened a Door – (Lobelog – January 27, 2019)
On a recent Sunday, The New York Times featured on the front page of its “Week in Review” section a major column by Michelle Alexander: “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine.” It was, by any measure, an important article because of who wrote it, where it appeared, and its breathtaking indictment of both Israel’s history of violations of Palestinian rights and the silence of U.S. policymakers to address these outrageous behaviors. As a renowned civil rights attorney and author of the best-selling The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Alexander has a voice that matters. The placement and promotion given to this article guaranteed that it would gain national attention. And it did. The reaction in Israel and among the American Jewish establishment was immediate. The Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, and the American Jewish Committee in tweets and statements called the article: “dangerously flawed,” “anti-Semitic,” an “anti-Israel rant…filled with errors,” and “a shameful appropriation” of the memory of Martin Luther King. This panicked reaction to Alexander represents just one more indication that hardline Israeli propagandists are losing their ability to shape political discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Polling shows that Israel has lost significant support among the young, the educated, and minority communities (African American, Latino, and Asian American – who together comprise about a third of the U.S. population). As a consequence, there is a debate on Israel/Palestine underway on campuses, among major Protestant churches, in the Black community, and in the Democratic Party. And, in this debate, arguments demanding justice for Palestinians are being heard and winning.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Why Do We Hurt Robots? – (New York Times – January 19, 2019)
Why do people lash out at robots, particularly those that are built to resemble humans? It’s a global phenomenon. In a mall in Osaka, Japan, three boys beat a humanoid robot with all their strength. In Moscow, a man attacked a teaching robot named Alantim with a baseball bat, kicking it to the ground, while the robot pleaded for help. Are we secretly terrified that robots will take our jobs? Upend our societies? Control our every move with their ever-expanding capabilities and air of quiet malice? Quite possibly. The specter of insurrection is embedded in the word “robot” itself. It was first used to refer to automatons by the Czech playwright, Karel Capek, who repurposed a word that had referred to a system of indentured servitude or serfdom. Paradoxically, our tendency to dehumanize robots comes from the instinct to anthropomorphize them. The comedian Aristotle Georgeson has found that videos of people physically aggressing robots are among the most popular he posts on Instagram under the pseudonym Blake Webber. Agnieszka Wykowska, a cognitive neuroscientist, researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology and the editor in chief of the International Journal of Social Robotics, said that while human antagonism toward robots has different forms and motivations, it often resembles the ways that humans hurt each other. Robot abuse, she said, might stem from the tribal psychology of insiders and outsiders. Frédéric Kaplan, the digital humanities chair at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, suggested that Westerners have been taught to see themselves as biologically informed machines — and perhaps, are unable to separate the idea of humanity from a vision of machines. Also very worth reading: Do You Take This Robot.
Highest-Paid YouTube Stars 2018: Markiplier, Jake Paul, PewDiePie And More – (Forbes – December 3, 2018)
Brand partnerships, a clothing line, millions of fans: What was once solely the province of superstar athletes and Hollywood A-listers now includes “Markiplier,” one of the world’s highest-earning YouTubers, who hauled in $17.5 million over our 12-month scoring period. The Hawaii native (real name Mark Fischbach) launched his YouTube channel in 2012 when he was a biomedical-engineering student at the University of Cincinnati. At first he recorded audio snippets as practice for a potential career in voice acting, but he soon found an audience through clips in which he played video games while providing wry running commentary. Don’t think watching someone play PS4 sounds like fun? Markiplier’s 22.4 million YouTube subscribers, with their 10 billion video views of his work, beg to differ. The top 10 YouTube stars earned an aggregate $180.5 million this past year, up 42% from 2017. It pays to play: Compared with other common YouTube categories, such as scripted comedy or elaborate pranks, gaming clips can be produced and edited quickly; and some gamers post new footage daily. More posts mean more viewers, naturally—and more ad dollars. See also: How This 7-Year-Old Made $22 Million Playing With Toys.
The Instagram-Husband Revolution – (Atlantic – January11, 2019)
Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Markle, Beyoncé, and many influencers, in order to capture the perfect ’gram-worthy shot, rely on the help of her “Instagram husband.” When you start looking, you’ll see Instagram husbands everywhere you go. Over the Christmas holiday, a friend of mine posted a photo of an exotic beach littered with beautiful women. Standing about 10 feet away from almost all of them was a man holding a camera snapping photographs. “Instagram husbands working hard out here,” he wrote. An Instagram husband can be any gender and sexual orientation, and he doesn’t have to be your actual husband. “Instagram boyfriend, or husband, is a loose term for whoever is the invisible person behind the camera of all of your Instagram photos,” Kaitlyn Tiffany recently explained on Why’d You Push That Button?, a podcast about technology. It’s the person who will stop traffic to get the perfect shot, or stand endlessly in the rain while you pose for photos. Though people have almost always relied on other people to take photos of themselves, Instagram and influencer culture has transformed that duty into a near-full-time job. In 2015, a fake PSA (which is hilarious) produced by Jeff Houghton solidified the term and went massively viral. With nearly 7 million views, the video profiles the men “behind every cute girl on Instagram.” They bemoan having to delete all the apps on their phone to make room for more photos and transforming into “a human selfie stick.” But Instagram and the digital landscape it created have shifted massively since the video was released. Those women people laughed at for taking endless photos in front of a brick wall are now influencers—people who leverage a social-media following to influence others and make money—and are worth millions. And while men used to be seen as begrudging participants, more so-called Instagram husbands are embracing the term and becoming an integral part of their partner’s business.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
‘Project Blue Book’ Is Based on a True U.F.O. Story. Here It Is. – (New York Times – January 15, 2019)
“Project Blue Book,” History’s popular new series on the Air Force’s program to investigate and debunk U.F.O.s, is not your historian’s Project Blue Book. We viewed the first six episodes from the standpoint of writers who have long worked on the serious side of U.F.O.s. We broke the December 2017 New York Times exclusive on a secret Pentagon program investigating the phenomenon, with our colleague Helene Cooper. The History series predictably sensationalizes and overdramatizes case investigations and the historical figures involved, adding many story elements that simply never happened. It’s already hard enough for those trying to understand the truth about government involvement with U.F.O.s without mixing fact and fiction. Nonetheless, melodrama aside, the real story is there: Project Blue Book was the code name for an Air Force program set up in 1952, after numerous U.F.O. sightings during the Cold War era, to explain away or debunk as many reports as possible in order to mitigate possible panic and shield the public from a genuine national security problem: an apparently technological phenomenon that was beyond human control and was not Russian, yet represented an unfathomable potential threat. Blue Book compiled reports of 12,618 sightings of unidentified flying objects, of which 701 remain unexplained to this day. But what’s most important to study during that era is what occurred outside Project Blue Book, to the extent that it has been revealed. When we reported on the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which began in 2007, we offered a glimpse into a similar scenario today: military cases being investigated and filmed without the public knowing. This time, however, there was no public agency to accommodate reports of incidents, even when hundreds of witnesses were involved.
Earth Is Caught in an Epic Asteroid Surge – (Science Alert – January 21, 2019)
Like the battered face of the Moon, our own planet is covered in craters: a scarred legacy of millions of years of asteroid impacts. What’s weird, though, is once you look back about 300 million years, the evidence of this onslaught seems to almost disappear. For a long time, scientists assumed the comparative rarity of impact craters dating back beyond 300 million years ago on Earth was linked to erosion; environmental processes like weather or tectonic activity had somehow wiped the slate clean, creating what’s known as a ‘preservation bias’ in the scientific record. Not so, according to a new study, which suggests an even simpler reason for the invisible asteroids: there just weren’t as many asteroids hitting us – or the Moon, for that matter – way back when. Ever since then, however, we’ve been caught up in an epic surge in asteroid activity, in which two to three times as many space rocks have rained down upon Earth and its trusty satellite. Planetary scientist Sara Mazrouei from the University of Toronto explains, “The implication is that since that time we have been in a period of relatively high rate of asteroid impacts that is 2.6 times higher than it was prior to 290 million years ago.” But if both Earth and the Moon started getting hit by a massive surge in local asteroids around 290 million years ago, what force unleashed this barrage? Nobody really knows, but the researchers suggest a collision or breakup in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter could have flung debris across space in our direction.
United States Doesn’t Even Make Top 20 on Global Democracy Index – (Common Dreams – January 17, 2019)
According to the 2018 edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, the U.S. doesn’t even make the list of top 20—its demonstrably “flawed democracy” notching it the 25th spot. The ranking is based on 60 indicators spanning five interrelated categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Each category gets a 0-10 score, with the final score being the average of those five. Topping out the index are Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Denmark. They are each declared “full democracies,” as their scores, all above 9.22, were easily above the 8.2 threshold. With a final score of 7.96, the United States, in contrast, earned the “flawed democracy” label. The country’s highest score was 8.22, which it earned back in 2006 and again in 2008. North America still holds the claim for the highest average score of any region, but that’s thanks to Canada’s 9.15, which landed it the number 6 spot overall. Twenty countries (12%) were designated as full democracies, 14 of which are located in Western Europe.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
The Rise of the Swiss Army Gadget – (Wired – January 14, 2019)
A router that’s also a speaker. A mirror that’s also a lamp. A picture frame that charges your smartphone. Welcome to the hybrid gadget revolution! Convergences have long been a staple of progress, from multitools to kitchen implements. But over the last year or two, the combinations have come more quickly, and grown both increasingly outlandish and outrageously useful. Let’s start with voice assistants generally. As of a year ago, about 50 third-party devices had Alexa baked in. By December 2018, that number had doubled. Add to those the 28,000 smart home devices that work with Amazon’s voice assistant—as in, they can’t talk themselves, but you can tell your Echo to turn them off and on—and you’ve got quite a menagerie. One that includes both a microwave and a toilet. Kohler’s Numi 2.0 “intelligent” toilet occupies space at extreme end of the hybrid trend, introducing unlikely technological possibilities—like built in-surround speakers and LED mood lighting— to the bathroom. “We already know that 80% of consumers are bringing a phone or a tablet into the bathroom to do something,” says Kohler project lead Jonathan Bradley. “We know that 13% are already using voice in some regard. Consumers are already doing it; Kohler has an opportunity to do it in a more gracious experience.” Kohler envisions a world in which you can chat with all of your fixtures and currently sells a voice-command faucet for kitchen sinks. Besides, as ubiquitous as the rubric of “product, but it talks” has become, stopping there would oversimplify the more nuanced way gadgets have converged. Check out what else is available or on the horizon.
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America’s Busiest Spaceport – (The Verge – January 17, 2019)
America’s busiest spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is about to get a new tenant: a startup that shares SpaceX’s ambitious plans of turning humans into a multiplanetary species. The new occupant is LA-based launch provider Relativity Space, a company that wants to revolutionize how rockets are manufactured through the use of fully automated 3D printing. The company will soon have its very own launch site at the Cape for its future 3D-printed vehicles. Thanks to a new deal with the US Air Force, Relativity will be taking over a site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station called LC-16. It’s a pad that was once used by the US military to launch Titan and Pershing ballistic missiles. But since the late 1980s, LC-16 has been dormant. The Air Force picked Relativity to move into the area after a very competitive bidding process, and the company will modify the pad to suit its rocket technology. “Getting the launch site agreement was a huge checkmark,” said Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space. “That was the final infrastructure piece we need to have a clear path toward launching.” The company, which was founded in 2016, has raised more than $45 million in funding. It also has multiple workspaces in Los Angeles, and it’s currently using facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test the Aeon engine it’s been working on. Relativity’s goal is to disrupt the entire process of manufacturing rockets. At the company’s Los Angeles headquarters, Relativity has the largest metal 3D printer by volume, a machine that’s capable of creating parts that are up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
An Algae-based Alternative to Single-use Plastic Packaging – (Dezeen – January 18, 2019)
Chile-based designer Margarita Talep has created a sustainable, biodegradable alternative to single-use packaging, using raw material extracted from algae. Disappointed by the abundance of non-recyclable materials currently used to contain food products, Talep decided to develop her own eco-friendly packaging that would stand in for plastic. Particularly concerned that we commonly allocate an indestructible material to packaging that is quickly disposed of, it was essential that the resulting organic material would easily break down. According to the designer, the material only includes natural matter, including the dyes used to color it, which are extracted from the skins of fruits and vegetable such as blueberries, purple cabbage, beetroot and carrot. The basic mixture is made up of a polymer, a plasticizer and an additive, with the amounts of each ingredient varying depending on the desired consistency of the final product. The polymer and main ingredient in this case is agar – a jelly-like polysaccharide substance that is extracted from red algae by boiling. Talep adds water as a plasticizer and natural dyes to add gentle color. The bioplastic packaging is especially suited to containing dry food products. It is best sealed with heat rather than glue in a bid make the end result as natural as possible.
How Data-Driven Commerce Is Driving Retail – (Fast Company – June 19, 2018)
Yes, brick-and-mortar retailing has been disrupted by e-commerce, m-commerce, and other shopping innovations. No, it is not doomed to destruction—even if some brands won’t survive the upheaval. The companies that emerge from this disruption stronger will do so because they know their customers better than competitors know theirs. For that, these companies will turn to data-driven commerce. Amid the din, leading executives see cause for optimism. According to research by Deloitte, 44% of consumers spent more on retail in 2017 than they did the previous year. Just 14% spent less. Is that any surprise when, for instance, one in six young people say they won’t wear an outfit again once they’ve been seen in it on social media? Physical stores account for 90% of retail sales in the United States, and shoppers say the in-store experience is important to them. Retailers and brands are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation shift, as consumers demand more relevancy from the companies they patronize—rather than just good products at lower prices. Customers want brands and retailers to talk about things that matter to them and to deliver curated offers that feel tailored just for them. They expect consistent, quality experiences on social media, on their devices, and in stores—a unified conversation for unified commerce. Many retailers are stumped. The answers they need are in the data. (Editor’s note: This article is heavy with marketing jargon and it reads like a B-school case study, but if you’re interested in the process by which consumers become fish being netted by savvy companies using multiple strands of data collection, the clues are here.)
The Most Powerful Person in Silicon Valley – (Fast Company – January 14, 2019)
Billionaire Masayoshi Son, the chairman of SoftBank – not Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg – has the most audacious vision for an AI-powered utopia where machines control how we live. And he’s spending hundreds of billions of dollars to realize it. Computers, Son believes, will run the planet more intelligently than humans can. Futurist Ray Kurzweil coined the term “the singularity” to describe the moment when computers take over—and he predicts it will be here by 2040. Son’s Vision Fund could move up this date. And Son is pouring unprecedented amounts of capital into the people and companies employing artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize every industry that affects our lives—from real estate to food to transportation. He has long told people, “I have a 300-year plan,” and that declaration is not just the fantastic ambition of a billionaire. He has the means to pursue these dreams, and they’re starting to become very real. He is one of the few people with the power to make decisions that could have global consequences for the future of technology and society for decades, if not centuries. (Editor’s note: If you have time for only one article in this issue of FE, choose this one.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
Emotional Support Alligator Offers Comfort, Sharp Teeth – (Stars and Stripes – January 14, 2019)
On a recent Monday afternoon, Joie Henney walked into the Glatfelter Community Center at the Village at Sprenkle Drive, an assisted-living development north of York, Pennsylvania with his emotional support animal on a leash. He walked by an elderly woman sitting on a bench by a window, reading a book. The woman glanced up from her book, took a look at Joie’s emotional support animal, shrugged and went back to her book. Which seemed kind of unusual. Joie’s emotional support animal is a four-and-a-half foot alligator. Joie paused in the hallway while residents and staff gathered in a semi-circle, an air of curiosity mixed with the terror of seeing a huge reptile, its sharp teeth visible inside its powerful jaws, and kept their distance. Joie said it was all right. Wally – that’s the gator’s name – wouldn’t hurt them. He’s a pretty mellow reptile, and he likes people in the companionship way, not the potential food way.
JUST FOR FUN
Breathtaking Winter Photos from Around the World – (Sputnik News – January 17, 2019)
Wherever you are, we hope it’s this beautiful.
A FINAL QUOTE
If we want everything to stay as it is, everything will have to change. – from The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Todd Pierce, 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