Volume 23, Number 2 – 1/15/20

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FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT–

  • Scientists have identified synergistic cellular pathways for longevity that amplify lifespan fivefold in C. elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research.
  • More commercial honeybees used for agricultural pollination die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined.
  • Chinese court rules that an AI-written article is protected by copyright.
  • Amazon now has more than 200,000 robotic vehicles which it calls “drives” that are moving goods through its delivery-fulfillment centers around the U.S.

PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Founder of Remote Viewing Program, Leading Government Researcher on UFOs Coming to TransitionTalks

Although nominated for a Nobel Prize in physics for his breakthrough theoretical work on zero point energy, Dr. Harold Puthoff, is most recognized for having been a cofounder of the secret US government “remote viewing” program that successfully used psychics to spy on the Soviet Union and China.

Now a principal and science advisor in a leading edge effort by former senior military and intelligence managers to disclose the many decades of interest that the US has had in UFOs, he comes to Berkeley Springs on the 8th of February to give a TransitionTalk about his work in making sense out of the UFO phenomena.

Dr. Puthoff’s presentation will include a summary of his current activities with To The Stars Academy, which is on the forefront of bringing into the open formerly highly classified efforts by the government to track, record and understand the meaning of hundreds of encounters that the military has had with UFOs over the past years.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to learn from and question one of the foremost thinkers and leaders of the rapidly accelerating global effort to both make the public aware of what was previously unacknowledged about UFO and alien interaction with humans and also to address the deep questions about what is happening and what it might mean for the future of humanity.

You can get complete information at TransitionTalks.org. Don’t miss this most memorable event!


Full Access to Robert David Steele Transition Talk

Robert Steele held forth to a capacity crowd in Berkeley Springs in November, entertaining a clearly engaged audience in a 90 minute survey of the most life-changing books he had read. Robert’s Talk was long on lists of books and many asked that we make the video of the presentation available so that they could capture all of the detail. So they —- and you —- are in luck!

Although in the future we will be charging for access to the TransitionTalks videos, Robert and I wanted to get this one out to as many people as possible, so here is a link where you can see the great talk:

One favor for Robert: if you like this talk, please link to it and Tweet the video with your comments to both your friends and these addresses: #UNRIG #MAGA #Triggered @GOP @POTUS


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.


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


THINK LINKS


INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Say Goodbye to Banking as We Know It – (Bloomberg – December 29, 2019)
So is China readying its own Bitcoin? It’s far bigger than that. Yes, just like any other cryptocurrency — or for that matter, cigarettes in prisoners-of-war camps — the upcoming digital yuan will be “tokenized” money. But the similarity ends there. The crypto yuan, which may be on offer as soon as 2020, will be fully backed by the central bank of the world’s second-largest economy, drawing its value from the Chinese state’s ability to impose taxes in perpetuity. Other national authorities are bound to embrace this powerful idea. Little is known about the digital yuan except that it’s been in the works for five years and Beijing is nearly ready to roll. The consensus is that the token will be a private blockchain, a peer-to-peer network for sharing information and validating transactions, with the People’s Bank of China in control of who gets to participate. To begin with, the currency will be supplied via the banking system and replace some part of physical cash. That won’t be hard, given the ubiquitous presence of Chinese QR code-based digital wallets such as Alipay and WeChat Pay. It may start small, but the digital yuan can disrupt both traditional banking and the post-Bretton Woods system of floating exchange rates that the world has lived with since 1973. No wonder that for China, “blockchain and the yuan digital currency are a national strategic priority — almost at the level of the internet,” says Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. fintech analyst Gautam Chhugani. A cumbersome and expensive network of correspondent banks becomes redundant, especially when it comes to the $124 trillion businesses move across borders annually. Imagine the productivity boost; picture the threat to lenders. China isn’t the only one experimenting. Fast, cheap cross-border payment settlement is one application of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Quorum, an Ethereum-based platform on which the Monetary Authority of Singapore is running Project Ubin, an exploration into central bank digital money. These are early days, but if blockchain technology shows promise in handling a large number of transactions simultaneously, then digital currencies could become substitutes not just for physical cash but also for bank reserves. That’s when the game changes. As Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff notes, technology “is on the verge of disrupting America’s ability to leverage faith in its currency to pursue its broader national interests.” (Editor’s note: If you have time for only one article in this issue of FE, choose this one.)


NEW DISCOVERIES

Scientists Say They’ve Found a (Partial) Way to Solve the Oldest Open Question in Astrophysics – (Science Alert – December 29, 2019)
After almost 350 years, physicists have just arrived at a statistical solution for Newton’s three-body problem – that is, the problem of figuring out how three similar objects or bodies are going to travel in space in a way that fits in with the laws of motion and gravity. In particular, they looked at a couple of centuries of previous research that puts forward the following idea: in unstable, chaotic three-body systems, one of those bodies eventually gets expelled, leaving behind a stable binary relationship between the two that are left. While the researchers point out that they haven’t come up with an exact, complete solution for the three-body problem, they have developed a working statistical method that covers a lot of these three-body to two-body events, one which can be very useful in helping physicists visualise complicated processes. “When we compared our predictions to computer-generated models of their actual movements, we found a high degree of accuracy,” says astrophysicist Nicholas Stone, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. So far so brilliant, as far as the basic physics of the Universe are concerned. But Newton ran into difficulties applying his rules to the Earth, Moon and Sun – the original three bodies. It actually became much harder to track three bodies with these mathematical rules. While scientists have found fixes for special cases, a general formula for the three-body problem has proved elusive. What the new solution does is give scientists an understanding of how the two survivors of a three-body problem are going to behave in a variety of newly stable scenarios – and that sort of understanding can be crucial in astrophysics. “Take three black holes that are orbiting one another,” says Stone. “Their orbits will necessarily become unstable and even after one of them gets kicked out, we’re still very interested in the relationship between the surviving black holes.”

Recent Discoveries Have Shattered Anthropologists’ Picture of Where Humans Came From, and When – (Business Insider – January 5, 2020)
In recent years, anthropologists around the world have discovered new human ancestors, figured out what happened to the Neanderthals, and pushed back the age of the earliest member of our species. Taken together, these breakthroughs suggest that many of our previous ideas about the human origin story — who we are and where we came from — were wrong. Until the last few years, most scientists thought that the first members of our species, Homo sapiens, evolved in East Africa approximately 200,000 years ago. But this understanding of history has been upended as new discoveries revealed that the first humans emerged much earlier than we thought and in a different part of Africa. Rather than simply replacing other competitor species, Homo sapiens seem to have interbred with them. As researchers make more of these breakthroughs, the human evolutionary puzzle gets more complicated. For example, geneticists finished sequencing the entire Neanderthal genome in 2010. That led them to realize that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans quite a bit. The idea that Homo sapiens killed off and replaced the Neanderthals was eschewed in favor of the hypothesis that the two species became one.

Scientists Uncover a Never-Before-Seen Type of Signal Occurring in the Human Brain – (Science Alert – January 6, 2020)
Researchers from institutes in Germany and Greece have uncovered a mechanism in the brain’s outer cortical cells that produces a novel ‘graded’ signal all on its own, one that could provide individual neurons with another way to carry out their logical functions. By measuring the electrical activity in sections of tissue removed during surgery on epileptic patients and analysing their structure using fluorescent microscopy, the neurologists found individual cells in the cortex used not just the usual sodium ions to ‘fire’, but calcium as well. This combination of positively charged ions kicked off waves of voltage that had never been seen before, referred to as a calcium-mediated dendritic action potentials, or dCaAPs. The deeper second and third layers of the cerebral cortex are especially thick, packed with branches that carry out high order functions we associate with sensation, thought, and motor control. It was tissues from these layers that the researchers took a close look at, hooking up cells to a device called a somatodendritic patch clamp to send active potentials up and down each neuron, recording their signals. In addition to the logical AND and OR-type functions, these individual neurons could act as ‘exclusive’ OR (XOR) intersections, which only permit a signal when another signal is graded in a particular fashion. “Traditionally, the XOR operation has been thought to require a network solution,” the researchers noted. Exactly how this new logic tool squeezed into a single nerve cell translates into higher functions is a question for future researchers to answer.

790,000 Years Ago, a Meteor Slammed Into Earth. Scientists Just Found the Crater.- (Live Science – January 7, 2020)
About 790,000 years ago, a meteor slammed into Earth with such force that the explosion blanketed about 10% of the planet with shiny black lumps of rocky debris. Known as tektites, these glassy blobs of melted terrestrial rock were strewn from Indochina to eastern Antarctica and from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific. For more than a century, scientists searched for evidence of the impact that created these pitted blobs. When a meteor hits Earth, terrestrial rocks at the impact site can liquefy from the intense heat and then cool into glassy tektites, according to the Jackson School Museum of Earth History at The University of Texas. Scientists can look at the abundance and locations of tektites to help locate an impact, even if the original crater is eroded or concealed, the study authors wrote. In this case, there were plenty of tektites — so where was the crater? The force of the impact is thought to have created a rim measuring more than 300 feet tall, according to the study. Tektites from the impact were at their biggest and most abundant in the eastern part of central Indochina, but because the tektites were so widespread, previous estimates of the crater’s size ranged from 9 miles in diameter to 186 miles, and the feature’s precise position remained uncertain even though scientists spent decades searching. Geochemical analysis and local gravity readings told researchers that the crater lay somewhere in southern Laos on the Bolaven Plateau and that the ancient impact was concealed under a field of cooled volcanic lava spanning nearly 2,000 square miles. The study authors peered below the lava’s surface by taking gravity readings at more than 400 locations. Their resulting gravity map showed one area “of particular interest” with a gravitational anomaly, a subsurface zone less dense than the volcanic rock surrounding it. Their measurements hinted at an elliptical, “elongated crater” about 300 feet thick, about 8 miles wide and 11 miles long, according to the study. Together, all of these clues suggested that “this thick pile of volcanic rocks does indeed bury the site of the impact,” the scientists wrote.

Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics – (Live Science – September 27, 2018)
There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica. Physicists know it’s some sort of cosmic ray — a high-energy particle that’s blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about — the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics — shouldn’t be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected. But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have “large cross-sections.” That means that they’ll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side. And yet, since March 2016, researchers have been puzzling over two events in Antarctica where cosmic rays did burst out from the Earth, and were detected by NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) — a balloon-borne antenna drifting over the southern continent. Because cosmic rays shouldn’t do that, scientists have begun to wonder whether these mysterious beams are made of particles never seen before.


GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY

For Better Brain Health, Preserve Your Hearing – (New York Times – December 30, 2019)
Hearing loss is now known to be the largest modifiable risk factor for developing dementia, exceeding that of smoking, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and social isolation, according to an international analysis published in The Lancet in 2017. The analysis indicated that preventing or treating hearing loss in midlife has the potential to diminish the incidence of dementia by 9%. Currently only 25% of people over 80 wear hearing aids, yet 80% of them have significant hearing loss that might be greatly improved with aids. Difficulty hearing can impair brain function by keeping people socially isolated and inadequately stimulated by aural input. The harder it is for the brain to process sound, the more it has to work to understand what it hears, depleting its ability to perform other cognitive tasks. Memory is adversely affected as well. Information that is not heard clearly impairs the brain’s ability to remember it. An inadequately stimulated brain tends to atrophy. The National Institute on Aging is currently sponsoring a trial of 997 people aged 70 to 84 with mild to moderate hearing loss to determine how effective hearing aids can be in diminishing the risk of dementia. Results of the trial, called Aging and Cognitive Health Evaluation in Elders, are expected in 2022. Meanwhile, the new findings on cognitive losses linked to subclinical hearing loss, gleaned from among 6,451 people age 50 or older, suggest that any degree of hearing loss can take a toll. The new findings linking cognitive decline to even minimal hearing loss suggest that we could do a lot to protect our brains if we protect our hearing. The fact that measurable cognitive losses occur at hearing levels below 25 decibels, and that cognition gradually worsens as hearing declines, suggests that protecting against hearing loss should start in childhood. By 2021 a selection of much less expensive over-the-counter hearing aids is expected to be on the market.

FDA Approves Merck’s New Live Ebola Vaccine Which It Says Can Shed and Cause Immunosuppression – (GreenMed – December 24, 2019)
Merck has received the FDA’s fast-tracked approval of a live, genetically modified Ebola vaccine which, according to its vaccine insert, can cause a novel new form of Ebola-type infection, resulting in immunosuppression and possible shedding of live virus to others. The ebola vaccine which contains the virus known as recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus–Zaire Ebola virus (rVSV-ZEBOV), and will be marketed under the name ERVEBO. The rVSV-ZEBOV is a live, replication-competent virus, produced with the same African green monkey derived Vero cell line Merck used to create the Rotateq vaccine targeting rotavirus infections. The Vero cell line has been previously identified to carry at least two surreptitious simian endogenous retroviruses whose significant risks to human health have not yet been formally evaluated. In its recent press release, Merck acknowledged that the vaccine may result in the shedding of RNAs from the live virus in the blood, saliva, urine, and fluid from the skin of the vaccinated, and could result in the theoretical transmission of the vaccine virus to others (based on previous RT-PCR testing). The vaccine insert also states: “ Transmission of vaccine virus is a theoretical possibility. Vaccine virus RNA has been detected in blood, saliva, or urine for up to 14 days after vaccination. The duration of shedding is not known; however, samples taken 28 days after vaccination tested negative. Vaccine virus RNA has been detected in fluid from skin vesicles that appeared after vaccination.” The clinical studies conducted on the vaccine included safety assessments, noted serious adverse effects which included life-threatening anaphylaxis (allergic reaction that causes your immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can cause you to go into shock and possibly die).

We Just Got More Evidence Our Leading Hypothesis about Alzheimer’s Could Be Wrong – (Science Alert – January 3, 2020)
For more than 30 years, amyloid plaques have been primary suspects in the cause of dementia. While the potentially toxic accumulations of protein still seem to be related, this research is part of a growing body of evidence that suggest they’re actually latecomers to the disease rather than an early trigger. Scientists from University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System came to this conclusion after analyzing brain scans of individuals showing subtle signs of cognitive decline. According to the amyloid cascade hypothesis, knotted fragments of a common protein found in cell membranes are responsible for the degeneration behind Alzheimer’s symptoms of memory loss and confusion. But with so many attempts to remove the clumps in experiments falling well short of expectations, researchers have started to think amyloid plaques might be red herrings after all. For more than 15 years, the team has been working as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which measures changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease in hundreds of volunteers in the hope of finding better methods of early diagnosis. This latest research involved 747 participants from the initiative – 305 classed as cognitively normal, with the remainder diagnosed with some form of cognitive impairment. Individuals who were objectively assessed for very early, subtle signs of impairment did, in fact, accumulate amyloid at a faster rate than clinically normal participants. But comparisons with clinically normal brains found no statistical difference in plaque concentrations during the condition’s earliest stages, indicating the protein clumps weren’t necessarily responsible for kicking off the condition. And interestingly, while the study found those with mild cognitive impairment had comparatively high levels of amyloid in their brains in early scans, these levels didn’t increase with time. A second suspect – tangled knots of a protein called tau – is increasingly gaining attention as a potential disease driver. In fact, another new study used a novel kind of imaging to map tau in brains, finding it did a far better job of explaining the pathology than amyloid.

Biologists Identify Pathways That Extend Lifespan by 500% – (PhysOrg – January 9, 2020)
Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and Nanjing University in China, have identified synergistic cellular pathways for longevity that amplify lifespan fivefold in C. elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research. The increase in lifespan would be the equivalent of a human living for 400 or 500 years, according to one of the scientists. The research draws on the discovery of two major pathways governing aging in C. elegans, which is a popular model in aging research because it shares many of its genes with humans and because its short lifespan of only three to four weeks allows scientists to quickly assess the effects of genetic and environmental interventions to extend healthy lifespan. Because these pathways are “conserved,” meaning that they have been passed down to humans through evolution, they have been the subject of intensive research. A number of drugs that extend healthy lifespan by altering these pathways are now under development. The discovery of the synergistic effect opens the door to even more effective anti-aging therapies. “The synergistic extension is really wild,” said Rollins, who is the lead author with Jianfeng Lan, Ph.D., of Nanjing University. “The effect isn’t one plus one equals two, it’s one plus one equals five. Our findings demonstrate that nothing in nature exists in a vacuum; in order to develop the most effective anti-aging treatments we have to look at longevity networks rather than individual pathways.” The synergistic interaction may also may explain why scientists have been unable to identify a single gene responsible for the ability of some people to live to extraordinary old ages free of major age-related diseases until shortly before their deaths.

Polymers Promise a More Flexible Artificial Retina – (Knowable – October 22, 2019)
One person in 4,000 is afflicted with the genetic disorder retinitis pigmentosa — a slow, inexorable death of the rod and cone cells that serve as the eye’s light detectors. Night vision is the first to go, usually in childhood. Then comes the gradual loss of peripheral vision, even in daylight. By age 40 or so, people with the condition are typically left with only a small, central patch of vision, as if they are looking at the world through a straw. The good news is that this particular form of blindness leaves an opening for technology. Two types of artificial retinas have already been approved for human use. And new work suggests a way for those retinas to one day get much better. Physicist Guglielmo Lanzani of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Milan and his IIT colleagues are investigating a new kind of retinal prosthesis made from semiconductive polymers, a class of carbon-based plastics that can conduct electricity in much the same way that silicon microchips do.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

The Missing 99%: Why Can’t We Find the Vast Majority of Ocean Plastic? – (Guardian – December 31, 2019)
Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where is the other 99% of ocean plastic? Unsettling answers have recently begun to emerge. It is becoming apparent that plastic ends up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column. Perhaps most frighteningly, says Helge Niemann, a biogeochemist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, it could fragment into such small pieces that it can barely be detected. At this point it becomes, Niemann says, “more like a chemical dissolved in the water than floating in it”. For example, the 276 miles of coastline that runs from the narrow mouth of San Francisco Bay, past the open water of Monterey Bay to the scenic mountains and redwood forests of Big Sur, is the land border of America’s largest National Marine Sanctuary. To anyone visiting the beaches near Santa Cruz or driving the coastal highways, it appears remarkably unspoiled. But that is not the whole story. For the past two years, scientists from the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have been using customized remote-control submersibles to take samples of the near-invisible plastic drifting far below the surface. Her team found that at a depth of 200m, there were nearly 15 bits of plastic in every liter of water, similar to the amount found at the surface of the so-called garbage patches. The remote samplers were still finding plastic at their maximum depth of 1km.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/08/us/glaciers-national-park-2020-trnd/index.html” target=”_blank”>Glacier National Park Is Replacing Signs That Predicted Its Glaciers Would Be Gone by 2020 – (CNN – January 8, 2020)
The signs at Glacier National Park warning that its signature glaciers would be gone by 2020 are being changed. The signs in the Montana park were added more than a decade ago to reflect climate change forecasts at the time by the US Geological Survey, said park spokeswoman Gina Kurzmen. In 2017, the park was told by the agency that the complete melting off of the glaciers was no longer expected to take place so quickly due to changes in the forecast model, Kurzmen said. But tight maintenance budgets made it impossible for the park to immediately change the signs. The most prominent placards, at St. Mary Visitor Center, were changed last year. Kurzmen says that park is still waiting for budget authorization to update signs at two other locations. But the glacier warning isn’t being removed entirely. The new signs will say: “When they will completely disappear depends on how and when we act. One thing is consistent: the glaciers in the park are shrinking.

The Deadly Truth behind Your Almond-milk Obsession – (Guardian – January 8, 2020)
Commercial honeybees are considered livestock by the US Department of Agriculture because of the creature’s vital role in food production. But no other class of livestock comes close to the scorched-earth circumstances that commercial honeybees face. More bees die every year in the US than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined. A recent survey of commercial beekeepers showed that 50 billion bees – more than seven times the world’s human population – were wiped out in a few months during winter 2018-19. This is more than one-third of commercial US bee colonies, the highest number since the annual survey started in the mid-2000s. Beekeepers attributed the high mortality rate to pesticide exposure, diseases from parasites and habitat loss. However, environmentalists and organic beekeepers maintain that the real culprit is something more systemic: America’s reliance on industrial agriculture methods, especially those used by the almond industry, which demands a large-scale mechanization of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes. Like all bees, honeybees thrive in a biodiverse landscape. But California’s almond industry places them in a monoculture where growers expect the bees to be predictably productive year after year. California’s $11bn almond industry has grown at an extraordinary rate. In 2000, almond orchards occupied 500,000 acres. By 2018 that had more than doubled – almond groves in the Central Valley now blanket an area the size of Delaware, producing 2.3bn lb (1m tons) of almonds annually sold around the world. The average American eats 2 pounds of almonds every year, more than in any other country. US almond milk sales have grown 250% over the past five years to reach $1.2bn, over four times that of any other plant-based milk. But these enormous orchards can’t function without bees. Pesticides are used for all kinds of crops across the state, but the almond orchards are doused with greater absolute quantities than any other. One of the most widely applied pesticides is the herbicide glyphosate (AKA Roundup), which is a staple of large-scale almond growers and has been shown to be lethal to bees as well as cause cancer in humans. One beekeeper featured in this article finds himself in a vicious circle: he is constantly battling to keep enough bees alive to meet the requirements of his almond contract. But if he was not pollinating almonds, maybe his bees would be healthier. This year his bees, like more than two-thirds of the United States’ commercial honeybee population, will spend February in the toxic chemical soup of California’s Central Valley, fertilizing almonds one blossom at a time.


COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Elon Musk: You’ll Connect to Starlink with “UFO on a Stick” – (Futurism – January 8, 2020)
Stargazers have already mistaken SpaceX’s Starlink satellites for alien spacecraft. Now, CEO Elon Musk says the devices used to connect to the micro-sats will look like UFOs, too. The Starlink Terminal will look like “a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick,” Musk tweeted, noting that users will just need to plug in the device and point it at the sky to access SpaceX’s satellite internet network. SpaceX successfully deployed its third batch of Starlink satellites, bringing the total number now in space up to at least 172. It has plans to complete upwards of 20 more launches in 2020 on the path to its ultimate goal of 42,000 deployed satellites. Together, these satellites will form a megaconstellation SpaceX claims will be capable of providing high-speed broadband internet to practically all corners of the globe by 2021.


SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

The Coolest Architecture on Earth Is in Antarctica – (New York Times – January 6, 2020)
Throughout the 20th century, architecture in Antarctica was a pragmatic and largely makeshift affair, focused on keeping the elements out and the occupants alive. In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty dedicated the continent to research. Since then scientists have come in growing numbers and with ever more complex needs. Construction in Antarctica, long the purview of engineers, is now attracting designer architects looking to bring aesthetics — as well as operational efficiency, durability and energy improvements — to the coldest neighborhood on Earth. Representatives from Brazil’s scientific community and government will head to Antarctica this month to inaugurate its new Comandante Ferraz Research Station, which replaces a facility lost to fire in 2012. The two low-slung buildings, designed by Estudio 41, a Brazilian architecture firm, house laboratories, operational support and living quarters — and could be mistaken for an art museum or a boutique hotel. Article includes photos of current and proposed research stations for a number of countries.

The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood – (Nautilus – October 3, 2018)
A recent advance in wood technology should interest the neighborhood’s developers: Teng Li, a University of Maryland mechanical engineer, created with his colleagues wood that’s as “strong as steel, but six times lighter,” he said. Liangbing Hu, Li’s co-author on the study, added, “This kind of wood could be used in cars, airplanes, buildings—any application where steel is used.” Making it is just a two-step process. The scientists first boiled natural wood in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite, to remove some of the lignin and hemicellulose, substances contained in the walls of wood cells (the former retard parasite and bacterial attacks, the latter cover and bind fibers). Then they put the wood in a hot press, which leads, as they say in the paper, “to the total collapse of cell walls and the complete densification of the natural wood with highly aligned cellulose nanofibers.” The result, they conclude, is a “low-cost, high-performance, lightweight alternative” to “most structural metals and alloys.” The Economist published a video titled, “Wooden skyscrapers could be the future for cities.” The main obstacle to this outcome—what a 2016 paper called “a full timber building renaissance”—is the public’s fear of city fires, which has been reflected over centuries in construction codes globally. Some researchers, like Alastair Bartlett, at the University of Edinburgh, see in these obstacles an “opportunity,” as he wrote in a 2017 study, “to revisit compartment fire behavior and to quantify the impact of these new construction technologies on the compartment fire dynamics.” The fire issue is addressed by research described in the article.


ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Scientists Develop New Way to Produce Hydrogen Fuel That’s Safe, Cheap, and Ultra-Efficient – (GoodNews – December 17, 2019)
In September, researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute for Technology published a paper in the journal Nature detailing their success in creating a safe, clean, inexpensive, and ultra-efficient new method of splitting water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen fuel. Removing hydrogen from water is the only environmentally clean way to produce liquid hydrogen—a chemical that is normally expensive and inefficient to produce, but that can create electricity almost as efficiently as gasoline. Currently, most hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels which produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The team’s H2Pro system, which uses their specialized E-TAC technology (electrochemical thermally activated chemical), splits water 30% faster than the traditional method of electrolysis, but doesn’t require rare, expensive earth minerals—and it can be manufactured at a 50% reduced cost. E-TAC was developed by Prof. Gideon Grader, Prof. Avner Rothschild, Dr. Hen Dotan, and Avigail Landman at the Technion. Their research has raised $5 million in investments from companies like Hyundai. Since H2Pro can achieve electrolysis so much faster and be manufactured at a much cheaper cost, motoring companies have the option of not only greater efficiency and more power in their fuel cell models, but reduced production costs—a major issue in the Toyota Mirai, where it was estimated Toyota lost $100,000 on each Mirai sold.


TRANSPORTATION

When the Transportation Revolution Hit the Real World – (Wired – December 26, 2019)
In 2009, Google cofounder Larry Page tapped computer scientist Sebastian Thrun to build a self-driving car. But billions of dollars and thousands of engineers haven’t produced a robot that can match, let alone eclipse, the ability of the human driver. At this point, GM has pushed back its debut date indefinitely. Nissan has stopped talking about self-driving. But where the tech lords have rethought how we use existing tools instead of forging new ones, they’ve done better. By turning anyone with a car into a potential transporter, Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies turned millions of users into fare game. All along, Uber and its ilk have insisted they are software companies. They don’t own cars or employ drivers. That line has failed to shield them from the brutal reality of what it means to be in the transportation game. Consider Uber’s recent crime report, which revealed its riders and drivers reported more than 3,000 sexual assaults and nine murders, over 1.3 billion rides in 2018. At this point, Uber finds itself responsible for combating violent human behavior, and stretching itself far beyond its core competency: writing great dispatch software. The greater threat to Uber’s future, though, is more banal. Since going public, both Uber and Lyft have struggled to curtail heavy losses. Travis Kalanick may have been right to say the taxi industry was “anti-competitive, and generally acting against the interests of the public.” He was definitely right to think an influx of drivers would make catching a ride easier and cheaper. But by exploding the rules that would have kept him out, he risked making the game unwinnable. The bar to compete is now so low, nobody can make real money. A recent analyst report indicating Uber and Lyft might someday be profitable—if they raised prices—made headlines. In 2018, a bevy of companies like Bird, Lime, Spin, and Scoot flooded American cities with shared electric scooters and dockless bikes. There too, the real world results have been decidedly mixed.

Segway’s Newest Self-balancing Vehicle Is an Egg-shaped Wheelchair – (The Verge – January 3, 2020)
Segway’s newest self-balancing vehicle won’t require you to stand up. Dubbed the S-Pod, the new egg-shaped two-wheeler from Segway-Ninebot is meant to let people sit while they effortlessly cruise around campuses, theme parks, airports, and maybe even cities — all of the same places you’d expect to see one of the company’s iconic (if still a bit dorky) stand-up vehicles. The S-Pod is powered by basically the same gyroscopic self-balancing technology as a traditional Segway. But unlike a traditional Segway, which is driven by leaning forward, backward, and to the sides, the S-Pod is controlled using a little joystick on the right side of the seat. Segway says its self-balancing technology will always keep the chair level and that the two-wheel setup will allow for quick changes in direction even while stopped. That said, there are three more small wheels visible on the underside of the chair, presumably for moving the S-Pod while its motors aren’t on. The S-Pod, with a top speed of 24 miles/hour will debut in the third quarter of 2020. It plans to sell them to the public after that, possibly in 2021. Segway did not say how much the S-Pod will cost. See short video clip in the article. (Editor’s note: Compared to any motorized wheelchair currently on the market, the S-Pod is truly elegant.)

These Car Tech Innovations Will Change Your Life – (Road Show – January 10, 2020)
Long before full autonomy becomes a reality, cars are going to be ever more closely monitoring drivers and occupants for many reasons, including making sure they’re paying attention to the act of driving, optimizing safety systems in the event of a crash and tailoring infotainment experiences to individual passengers. Biometrics will be an important new way to help accomplish these goals. Even if you’re not a motorcyclist, you stand to benefit from the advent of smart helmets. They will make the roadways safer for all motorists, and even pedestrians. In the case of Tali Connected’s new motorcycle helmet, that includes high-visibility features like built-in turn signals and taillights. In addition to trick lighting, Tali’s helmet will sync with a smartphone app via Bluetooth to enable not only expected features like telephony and music, but also navigation directions and even accident/fall detection and automatic emergency service notification. The idea of integrating solar panels into a vehicle’s roof has been around for quite a long time, and thus far, the impact of the technology has been pretty minimal. But thanks to improvements in both efficiency and cost reductions, you can expect a lot more of this sunlight-capturing tech in the coming years, especially as cars load up on more and more power-sapping sensors for increasing levels of automation and even more creature comforts. Article continues with more innovations.

Delta’s ‘Parallel Reality’ Display Sounds Like Sci-fi, But It’s Coming Soon – (Fast Company – January 7, 2020)
Albert Ng is the cofounder and CEO of Misapplied Sciences, a Redmond, Washington startup. A demo of the company’s display panels can show different things to different people at one time—no special glasses, smartphone-camera trickery, or other intermediary technology required. The company calls it parallel reality. For example, the technology will let dozens of travelers see their own flight info—and nothing else—on one screen, all at the same time. The simulated airport terminal is only one of the scenarios that Ng and his cofounder Dave Thompson show off for me in their headquarters. They also set up a mock store with a Pikachu doll, a Katy Perry CD, a James Bond DVD, and other goods, all in front of one screen. When I glance up at it, I see video related to whichever item I’m standing near. In a makeshift movie theater, I watch The Sound of Music with closed captions in English on a display above the movie screen, while Ng sits one seat over and sees Chinese captions on the same display. Judged purely as a technological magic trick, parallel reality is one of the most freakishly unexpected feats I’ve seen in years. Misapplied Sciences has been quietly working on it for half a decade, largely in stealth mode. Ng tells me that one of his startup’s business challenges is the widespread impression that what it’s doing is fantasy. “Most people, even if they believe that this is possible, think it’s 10 to 20 years away,” he says. The potential applications for the technology—from outdoor advertising to traffic signs to theme-park entertainment—are many. But if all goes according to plan, the first consumers who will see it in action will be travelers at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Starting in the middle of this year, Delta Air Lines plans to offer parallel-reality signage, located just past TSA, that can simultaneously show almost 100 customers unique information on their flights, once they’ve scanned their boarding passes. Available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and other languages, it will be a slicked-up, real-world deployment of the demo I got in Redmond.

AGRICULTURE/FOOD

The Farming of the Future: The Rise of Hydroponic Food Labs – (Guardian – December 26, 2019)
Needing no soil or sun, an underground farm in Liverpool, UK challenges traditional methods. Two academics pooled their resources, recruited PhD and master’s students and are growing food hydroponically in towers – an increasingly popular concept where salads and leafy greens are grown all year round under precise conditions in vertically stacked foam-filled beds without natural sunlight and soil. The farm is the creation of Jens Thomas and Paul Myers, who founded Farm Urban, a technically advanced indoor vertical farm buried deep in a basement at a former warehouse, in 2014. Beautifully arranged rows of bok choi, parsley, tarragon and basil alongside dozens of variety of lettuce grow together in harmony under the pink glow of an LED light in a former sugar factory. Water infused with nutrients trickles on to the green towers, keeping the rosettes hydrated and fed. They note that the traditional methods of agriculture and using acres of land are no longer sustainable. The world’s population is growing – the World Health Organization estimates it will have increased to 9.7 billion people by 2050, with 70% of people living in urban areas. To preserve natural habitats and improve worldwide food security there needs to be a complete overhaul of food production methods, say Thomas and Myers. They are in precarious territory. Similar schemes have failed, including one in Greater Manchester. The Biospheric Foundation, based in a mill by the banks of the River Irwell in Salford, was supposed to be a state-of-the-art urban aquaponic farm, where fish waste provided the food source for growing plants, and the plants provided a natural filter for the water. Three years after the project opened, it went under more than £100,000 in debt, with the reputation of the whole scheme in tatters. Such food production schemes face very real financial challenges. First, there are the costs that, if not carefully managed, could end up being astronomical. They are mainly associated with the energy use required to maintain a controlled environment and provide artificial light. There is the issue of the carbon footprint of using high amounts of energy amid efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There has also been criticism of the farms for being geared to producing only leafy greens and not higher-calorie crops. Thomas and Myers insist their project is different.


SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

The Death of Clandestine HUMINT in the Digital Age – (PhiBetaIota – December 30, 2019)
Quoting from the public website of the CIA: “Human intelligence (HUMINT) is defined as any information that can be gathered from human sources. The National Clandestine Service (NCS) is the branch of the CIA responsible for the collection of HUMINT. The NCS is charged with strengthening national security and foreign policy objectives through the clandestine collection of HUMINT.” When hackers began slipping into computer systems at the Office of Personnel Management in the spring of 2014, no one inside that federal agency could have predicted the potential scale and magnitude of the damage. Over the next six months, those hackers — later identified as working for the Chinese government — stole data on nearly 22 million former and current American civil servants, including intelligence officials. The OPM hack was a watershed moment, ushering in an era when big data and other digital tools may render methods of traditional human intelligence gathering extinct, say former officials. It is part of an evolution that poses one of the most significant challenges to undercover intelligence work in at least a half century — and probably much longer. The data breach, which included fingerprints, personnel records and security clearance background information, shook the intelligence community to its core. Among the hacked information’s other uses, Beijing had acquired a potential way to identify large numbers of undercover spies working for the U.S. government. The fallout from the hack was intense. Personal data was being weaponized like never before. During a summit of Western intelligence agencies in early 2019, officials wrestled with the challenges of protecting their employees’ identities in the digital age, concluding that there was no silver bullet. “We still haven’t figured out this problem,” says a Western intelligence chief who attended the meeting. Such conversations have left intelligence leaders weighing an uncomfortable question: Is spying as we know it over?


INTERNATIONAL TRENDS

Chinese Court Rules AI-written Article Is Protected by Copyright – (VentureBeat – January 10, 2020)
A court in Shenzhen, China, has ruled that an article generated by artificial intelligence (AI) is protected by copyright, according to state news outlet China News Service, representing a notable milestone for AI’s credentials as a creative force. For the past five years Chinese tech titan Tencent has published content produced by automated software called Dreamwriter, with a focus on business and financial stories. In 2018, an online platform operated by a company called Shanghai Yingxun Technology Company replicated an AI-generated financial report from Tencent on its own website. The article included a disclaimer that said it was “automatically written by Tencent Robot Dreamwriter”; however, the court found that the article’s articulation and expression had a “certain originality” and met the legal requirements to be classed as a written work — thus it qualified for copyright protection. Tencent isn’t the only company publishing journalistic content written by algorithms. The Associated Press (AP) uses AI for baseball coverage and earnings reports via a partnership with Automated Insights. Chicago-based Narrative Science offers something similar, with a specific focus on business intelligence for the enterprise, or “data storytelling,” as it calls it.


LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

The Family in 2050: Artificial Wombs, Robot Caregivers and the Rise of Single Fathers by Choice – (Guardian – December 31, 2019)
It’s certainly true that the family has changed immensely over the past few decades, and those trends are continuing. The number of people living alone is increasing, as is the number of women choosing not to have children, and we are having fewer children than before, too. There have been developments in reproductive technology alongside changing social attitudes. “Certainly, since the turn of this century, the two have come together to create family types that just wouldn’t have been possible before,” says Susan Golombok, the director of the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge University, and author of the forthcoming book We Are Family. She adds: “One thing that we are studying is a small but growing number of people who are meeting each other over the internet in order to have children together, without a romantic relationship. We don’t know how that works out for them or for the children yet, but it’s certainly happening.” We’re now beginning to see single fathers by choice. It’s a very small group, but they do exist. Some of them are gay men, so that, in a way, is more obvious, but there are also single heterosexual men having children through surrogacy and egg donation. “Artificial eggs and sperm are on the horizon,” says Golombok, “which will not just be helpful for infertile heterosexual couples but will allow same-sex couples to both be the biological parents of their children, because that will mean men can produce eggs and sperm, and so can women. For single people who want to have children, it would even be possible for them to produce eggs and sperm.”

Americans Are Retiring to Vietnam, for Cheap Healthcare and a Decent Standard of Living – (LA Times – December 25, 2019)
Rapid growth in Vietnam and its Southeast Asian neighbors has created a situation that would have been unthinkable in the past: Aging American boomers are living a lifestyle reminiscent of Florida, Nevada and Arizona, but in Vietnam. Monthly expenses here rarely exceed $2,000, even to live in a large condo, including the help of a cook and a cleaner. The neighbors are friendly: A majority of Vietnamese were born well after the war ended in 1975, and Rockhold, one American transplant featured in this article, says he has rarely encountered resentment, even when he talks about his service as a combat veteran. The vast majority of the owners in his apartment building are members of Vietnam’s burgeoning urban middle class; many work in government or in education, and can afford to take vacations abroad. He estimates that no more than 1 in 5 residents in the 25-floor complex are foreigners. In semi-retirement, Vietnam has relaxed visa rules to lure American retirees, along with their savings. Interviews with about a dozen such retirees suggest that some are here on one-year tourist visas; others are here just for a season or two; and still others have qualified for long residence by marrying Vietnamese citizens.

Alienated, Alone and Angry: What the Digital Revolution Really Did to Us – (BuzzFeed News – December 17, 2019)
Looking back from the shaky edge of a new decade, it’s clear that the past 10 years saw many Americans snap out of this dream, shaken awake by a brutal series of shocks and dislocations from the very changes that were supposed to “create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace.” When they opened their eyes, they did indeed see that the Digital Nation had been born. Only it hadn’t set them free. They were being ruled by it. It hadn’t tamed politics. It sent them berserk. And it hadn’t brought people closer together. It had alienated them. The truth is we don’t have the right language yet to talk about an entirely new constellation of alarming and negative interactions, from threats to dogpiles to friend requests that go unanswered for a bit too long to yes, sorry, cancellations. They’re both more and less serious than we can manage to express with words, and the gap between that and what they feel like is an alienation. What is an information Superfund site? For that matter, how do we even agree on what’s toxic? Every attempt to name the problem with bad information on the internet runs into the “fake news” dilemma: Anyone can use this metaphor at scale, including and especially people who have a vested interest in keeping things extremely toxic. The sense that shared language is impossible: an alienation. Even when we get “good” information online, we can’t always be sure where it’s coming from and why we’re seeing it when we’re seeing it. A profit-driven information apparatus uses a huge and growing fake user base to juice the statistics it shows to advertisers. The incentive is not to show you true things, but to be able to claim as many people as possible are seeing something, anything. (Editor’s note: This article is long and may seem a bit rambling, but it is raises good points and asks readers to actually pay attention to things that we are becoming so quickly habituated to that we generally don’t see them.)

Navy Vet Who Won Watershed Student Loan Ruling Tells His Story – (Yahoo – January 12, 2020)
For nearly 15 years, U.S. Navy veteran Kevin Rosenberg owed six figures in student loans. But on January 7, 2020, a New York judge ruled that the $221,385.49 in student loan debt owed by Rosenberg as of November 2019 was dischargeable under chapter 7 bankruptcy. “I have a chance now to have a life,” said the 46-year-old Rosenberg. A bankruptcy expert noted that Rosenberg’s case is a watershed in that it dispels the notion that student loans were not dischargeable in bankruptcy. “What I found most fascinating, and I think heartening, is the very strong language that the judge used to call out on what she calls this quasi-mythic status of student loan non-dischargeability,” said Jason Iuliano, an assistant professor of law at Villanova University and an expert on bankruptcy. “I’ve never seen it put quite so pointedly before in a judicial opinion like that.”


CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Cotton Candy Planet Mysteries Unravel in New Hubble Observations – (PhysOrg – December 19, 2019)
“Super-Puffs” may sound like a new breakfast cereal. But it’s actually the nickname for a unique and rare class of young exoplanets that have the density of cotton candy. Nothing like them exists in our solar system. This exoplanet system, which actually boasts three super-puffs orbiting a young Sun-like star, was discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope in 2012. However, it wasn’t until 2014 when the low densities of these planets were determined, to the surprise of many. The recent Hubble observations allowed a team of astronomers to refine the mass and size estimates for these worlds—independently confirming their “puffy” nature. Though no more than several times the mass of Earth, their hydrogen/helium atmospheres are so bloated they are nearly the size of Jupiter.


STATISTICS/DEMOGRAPHICS

The Americans Dying Because They Can’t Afford Medical Care – (Guardian –January 7, 2020)
A December 2019 poll conducted by Gallup found 25% of Americans say they or a family member have delayed medical treatment for a serious illness due to the costs of care, and an additional 8% report delaying medical treatment for less serious illnesses. A study conducted by the American Cancer Society in May 2019 found 56% of adults in America report having at least one medical financial hardship, and researchers warned the problem is likely to worsen unless action is taken. Dr Robin Yabroff, lead author of the American Cancer Society study, said last month’s Gallup poll finding that 25% of Americans were delaying care was “consistent with numerous other studies documenting that many in the United States have trouble paying medical bills”. Despite millions of Americans delaying medical treatment due to the costs, the US still spends the most on healthcare of any developed nation in the world, while covering fewer people and achieving worse overall health outcomes. A 2017 analysis found the United States ranks 24th globally in achieving health goals set by the United Nations. In 2018, $3.65tn was spent on healthcare in the United States, and these costs are projected to grow at an annual rate of 5.5% over the next decade.


ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Amazon Employees Struggle with ‘Nerve-racking’ Robot Co-workers – (Fox Business – December 30, 2019)
Amazon is increasingly requiring warehouse employees to get used to working with robots. The company now has more than 200,000 robotic vehicles it calls “drives” that are moving goods through its delivery-fulfillment centers around the U.S. That’s double the number it had last year and up from 15,000 units in 2014. Its rivals have taken notice. Many are adding their own robots in a race to speed up productivity and bring down costs. Without these fast-moving pods, robotic arms and other forms of warehouse automation, retailers say they wouldn’t be able to fulfill consumer demand for packages that can land on doorsteps the day after you order them online. But while fears of fully automated warehouses haven’t come to fruition, there are growing concerns that keeping up with the pace of the latest technology is taking a toll on human workers’ health, safety and morale. According to their makers, the machines should take on the most mundane and physically strenuous tasks. In reality, they’re also creating new forms of stress and strain in the form of injuries and the unease of working in close quarters with mobile half-ton devices that direct themselves. Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics’ chief technologist, said worker safety remains the top priority and ergonomic design is engineered into the systems at the beginning of the design stage. A recent journalistic investigation of injury rates at Amazon warehouses from The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal found that robotic warehouses reported more injuries than those without. In fact, the report found a correlation between robots and safety problems, such as in Tracy, California, where the serious injury rate nearly quadrupled in the four years after robots were introduced.

AMAZON: Past, Present & Future – (State of the Nation – December 31, 2019)
Amazon is treading on thin ice. The author of this piece offers some comments here on what they have accomplished in the aftermath of his 2007 briefing that appears to have inspired multiple Amazon patents filed in 2008 without further substantive contact with him; and his hopes for a future in which Amazon (and the US Government) focus on the needs of the public, not the police state rabbit hole. Hopefully Amazon will become the hub of the World Brain, to serve humanity, and to increase its profits a thousand fold, but to do so ethically, in the public interest. Hopefully Jeff Bezos will not go down the same old rabbit hole that spends trillions on processing 1% of what we collect to no good end for the public. This article includes an embedded link to a video interview of Robert Steele with Steve Arnold, titled Amazon Past and Future.


PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

The Equality Conundrum – (New Yorker – January 6, 2020)
In 2014, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to rank the “greatest dangers in the world.” A plurality put inequality first, ahead of “religious and ethnic hatred,” nuclear weapons, and environmental degradation. And yet people don’t agree about what, exactly, “equality” means. Across the political spectrum, we grieve the loss of what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “general equality of conditions,” which, with the grievous exception of slavery, once shaped American society. It’s not just about money. Tocqueville, writing in 1835, noted that our “ordinary practices of life” were egalitarian, too: we behaved as if there weren’t many differences among us. Today, there are “premiere” lines for popcorn at the movies and five tiers of Uber; we still struggle to address obvious inequalities of all kinds based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. Inequality is everywhere, and unignorable. We’ve diagnosed the disease. Why can’t we agree on a cure? This article is a thought-provoking examination of that question. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article for its ability to tackle a difficult – and yet very important – question in a deep and nuanced manner.)


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

Ireland’s Bizarre Barack Obama-themed Service Station, Complete with a Museum and Statues – (Business Insider – December, 2019)
Since 2014, one of Ireland’s main highways has a bizarre service station dedicated to former US President Barack Obama. It’s a nice rest stop on a boring highway that has a widely stocked store, nice places to eat, friendly staff, and comfortable seats. The justification for its existence is that Obama visited Moneygall, a nearby village back in 2011 after learning that his great-great-great-grandfather was from there. But that doesn’t make the Barack Obama Plaza – a themed site that has branded mugs, Obama’s name on trash cans, and a whole floor as a free museum – any less strange. Walk in, and one of the first things you see is a life-size cutout of Barack and Michelle. It’s a heavily branded wonder that is equally embraced by Irish people as a pleasant and useful place to stop and a source of national embarrassment that this place even exists.


JUST FOR FUN

What Being Beautiful Means in 25 Countries around the World – (Independent – October 16, 2016)
Across the world, our ideas of what makes a woman look “beautiful” vary immensely. If you ever needed proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, look no further than this collection of photographs. Journalist Esther Honig asked Photoshop editors around the world to edit her face according to the beauty standards of their country, and the results are revealing. Article includes the original photograph that Honig sent out and 25 “improved” versions. (Editor’s note: Mind you, this is only “beauty” according to one Photoshop editor in each country, so some personal preferences can also be assumed to have influenced the finished photos. We wish Honig had also sent out a photograph of a man’s face for a comparative look at the differences in male attractiveness.)


A FINAL QUOTE

If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic. – Hazel Henderson


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