FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Humans are still evolving: here are 3 examples of recent adaptations.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is calling the locust plague in the Horn of Africa “extremely alarming,” and estimates that a swarm covering one square kilometer can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 humans.
- An “anti-solar” panel has been developed that can generate electricity at night.
- A handheld device is in development to print new skin onto burn victims.
by John L. Petersen
Predictions in the Stars: What does Vedic Astrology say about the next 5 years
The next five years will be transformative. As our global world becomes smaller are we willing to accept the radical forces of change? Many will refuse and believe what they want to believe instead of the overwhelming truth. The old paradigms are changing and a new awakening is eminent. Joni will give her insights into the cycles of change through her understanding of the planetary energies and how it will affect our world and consciousness. 2020 is the true beginning for these radical shifts! We will discuss our purpose being a part of this incredible age and time, and what we can do to assist and prepare for this awakening.
Joni Patry is one of the most recognized teachers and Vedic astrologers in the world. She was a faculty member for ACVA, CVA and Instructor for online certification programs, published many books, journals and appeared on national and international television shows. As the keynote speaker for international conferences, she has a Japanese website, and teaches in Austria, Turkey and India. She has been awarded the 2015 Jyotish Star of the year and Dr B. V. Raman’s Janma Shatamanothsava Award Jyotisha Choodamani. She publishes an online astrological magazine, Astrologic Magazine and has an online University for certification, the University of Vedic Astrology. Website: galacticcenter.org | Youtube channel: Joni Patry | Facebook: Joni Patry Vedic Astrologer | Twitter @jonipatry. Instagram @jonipatry
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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
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|Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
Google — A Dictator Unlike Anything the World Has Ever Known – (Mercola – January 26, 2020)
Robert Epstein, who received his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard in 1981 and served as the former editor in chief at Psychology Today, is now a senior research psychologist for the American Institute of Behavioral Research and Technology, where for the last decade he has researched Google’s manipulative and deceptive practices. Based on Epstein’s research, he concluded that Google’s powers pose three specific threats to society. They’re a surveillance agency with significant yet hidden (and unregulated) surveillance powers. They’re a censoring agency with the ability to restrict or block access to websites across the internet, thus deciding what people can and cannot see. They even have the ability to block access to entire countries and the internet as a whole. The most crushing problem with this kind of internet censorship is that you don’t know what you don’t know. They have the power to manipulate public opinion through search rankings and other means. “To me, that’s the scariest area,” Epstein says, “because Google is shaping the opinions, thinking, beliefs, attitudes, purchases and votes of billions of people around the world without anyone knowing that they’re doing so … and perhaps even more shocking, without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace. They’re using new techniques of manipulation that have never existed before in human history and they are for the most part, subliminal … but they don’t produce tiny shifts. Epstein’s controlled, randomized, double-blind and counterbalanced experiments have revealed a number of different ways in which Google can shift public perception. The first effect he discovered is called SEME, which stands for search engine manipulation effect. See article for a full description of the basic experiment used to identify this effect. According to Epstein’s calculations, tech companies, Google being the main one, can shift 15 million votes leading up to the 2020 election, which means they have the potential to select the next president of United States. (Editor’s note: Epstein’s research doesn’t – isn’t designed to – also detect all the other players that are busy trying to skew voters’ opinions – and not necessarily all in the same direction either.)
An Algorithm That Grants Freedom, or Takes It Away – (New York Times – February 6, 2020)
In Philadelphia, an algorithm created by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania has helped dictate the experience of probationers for at least five years. The algorithm is one of many making decisions about people’s lives in the United States and Europe. Local authorities use so-called predictive algorithms to set police patrols, prison sentences and probation rules. In the Netherlands, an algorithm flagged welfare fraud risks. A British city rates which teenagers are most likely to become criminals. Nearly every state in America has turned to this new sort of governance algorithm, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit dedicated to digital rights. Algorithm Watch, a watchdog in Berlin, has identified similar programs in at least 16 European countries. As the practice spreads into new places and new parts of government, United Nations investigators, civil rights lawyers, labor unions and community organizers have been pushing back. They are angered by a growing dependence on automated systems that are taking humans and transparency out of the process. It is often not clear how the systems are making their decisions. Is gender a factor? Age? ZIP code? It’s hard to say, since many states and countries have few rules requiring that algorithm-makers disclose their formulas. They also worry that the biases — involving race, class and geography — of the people who create the algorithms are being baked into these systems, as ProPublica has reported. A recent United Nations report warned that governments risk “stumbling zombie-like into a digital-welfare dystopia.”
Profound Evolution: Wasps Learn to Recognize Faces – (PhysOrg – January 27, 2020)
One wasp species has evolved the ability to recognize individual faces among their peers—something that most other insects cannot do—signaling an evolution in how they have learned to work together. A team led by Cornell University researchers used population genomics to study the evolution of cognition in the Northern paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus. The research suggests the wasps’ increasing intelligence provided an evolutionary advantage and sheds light on how intelligence evolves in general, which has implications for many other species—including humans. “The really surprising conclusion here is that the most intense selection pressures in the recent history of these wasps has not been dealing with climate, catching food or parasites but getting better at dealing with each other,” said Michael Sheehan, professor of neurobiology and behavior, and senior author on the paper. “That’s pretty profound.” Many vertebrate animals can recognize individual faces, at least in some circumstances, but among insects, facial recognition is quite uncommon. The few species of insects that can recognize faces share one trait: communal societies with multiple queens. In communal groups with a single queen, like honeybee colonies, the roles are clear, and each individual knows its place. But paper wasps may have five or more queens in one nest and facial recognition helps these queens negotiate with one another. (Editor’s note: The research does not discuss this per se, but implies it: queens who can recognize each other can also engage in relatively sophisticated “negotiations”.)
Humans Are Still Evolving: 3 Examples of Recent Adaptations – (Inverse – February 2, 2020)
Here are three examples of recent changes to the human body. Recent, that is, in evolutionary terms. After all, Homo sapiens have only been around for about 200,000 years — and Earth is nearly 4.5 billion years old. We are cooling down. In 1868, a German physician published a medical manual that established 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit as the “normal” human temperature. But this temperature is swiftly becoming obsolete. In January, scientists discovered that we are actually way cooler than we think. According to their study, published this January in the journal eLife, the average temperature is much more likely to be 97.9 degrees. The team analyzed medical records from the past 200 years, which included temperature measurements. They found that, averaged together, the records indicate that there has been a gradual decrease in body temperature of 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit every decade. Read about 2 other adaptations in the article. The shift appears to mean that we need about 150 calories fewer per day to maintain our basic metabolic needs than we did in the past, she says. But any other consequences still need to be figured out — and although we may need fewer calories, we don’t seem to be eating any less.
Scientists Discover Virus with No Recognizable Genes – (Science – February 7, 2020)
Viruses are some of the most mysterious organisms on Earth. They’re among the world’s tiniest lifeforms, and because none can survive and reproduce without a host, some scientists have questioned whether they should even be considered living things. Now, scientists have discovered one that has no recognizable genes, making it among the strangest of all known viruses. But how many viruses do we really know? Another group has just discovered thousands of new viruses hiding out in the tissues of dozens of animals. The finds speak to “how much we still need to understand” about viruses, says one of the researchers, Jônatas Abrahão, a virologist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. Abrahão made his discovery while hunting down giant viruses. These microbes—some the size of bacteria—were first discovered in amoebae in 2003. In a local artificial lake, he and his colleagues found not only new giant viruses, but also a virus that—because of its small size—was unlike most that infect in amoebae. They named it Yaravirus. (Yara is the “mother of waters” according to Indigenous Tupi-Guarani mythology.) Yaravirus’s size wasn’t the only thing weird about it. When the team sequenced its genome, none of its genes matched any scientists had come across before, the group reports on the bioRxiv preprint server. Viral novelty doesn’t surprise Elodie Ghedin of New York University, who looks for viruses in wastewater and in respiratory systems. More than 95% of the viruses in sewage data have “no matches to reference genomes [in databases],” she says. Christopher Buck and graduate student Michael Tisza, virologists at the National Cancer Institute, were casting a much wider net. They were searching broadly in animal tissues for viruses that keep their genetic material in a circle. The so-called circular viruses include papillomaviruses, one of which, human papillomavirus, can cause cervical cancer, and another virus that’s usually harmless to people. But Buck has evidence the latter may be linked to bladder cancer in patients with kidney transplants and in other people. In all, the team discovered approximately 2500 circular viruses, about 600 of which are new to science. It’s still unclear what impact, if any, these microbes have on human health, the team reports.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
Landmark Study to Transform Cancer Treatment – (BBC News – February 5, 2020)
More than a thousand scientists have built the most detailed picture of cancer ever in a landmark study. They said cancer was like a 100,000-piece jigsaw, and that until today, 99% of the pieces were missing. Their studies provide an almost complete picture of all cancers. They could allow treatment to be tailored to each patient’s unique tumor, or develop ways of finding cancer earlier. The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Consortium analyzed the whole genetic code of 2,658 cancers. The project found people’s cancers contain, on average, between four and five fundamental mutations that drive a cancer’s growth. These are potential weak-spots that can be exploited with treatments that attack these “driver mutations”. However, 5% of cancers appear to have no driver mutations at all, showing there is still more work to do. Scientists also developed a way of “carbon dating” mutations. They showed that more than a fifth of them occurred years or even decades before a cancer is found.
Welsh Police Solve ‘Moo-dunnit’ Using DNA Test on Cow – (Guardian – February 5, 2020)
Police in rural south-west Wales have used DNA profiling to solve the mystery of a missing cow. Dyfed-Powys police say they are the first force in the UK to employ a technique more often used in serious crimes such as murder to reunite a heifer with its owner. The case – described locally as a “moo-dunnit” – centers on a £3,000 animal that went missing from a field in St Clears on the River Taf in Carmarthenshire. Police were called in and suspicion fell on a neighboring farmer, David Aeron Owens. The complainant, who has not been named, pointed out to officers the cow he believed was his. PC Gareth Jones was handed what Owens claimed was the cow’s passport – its identification document. Unsatisfied, police oversaw the taking of blood samples from the disputed animal, which were compared against samples from cows on the complainant’s farm to prove a familial link. The cow in question was returned home and Owens, 51, pleaded guilty to theft at Swansea crown court and was sentenced to pay a £4,000 fine and £400 costs.
Immune Cell That Kills Most Cancers Discovered by Accident by British Scientists – (Telegraph – January 20, 2020)
Researchers at Cardiff University were analyzing blood from a bank in Wales, looking for immune cells that could fight bacteria, when they found an entirely new type of T-cell. That new immune cell carries a never-before-seen receptor which acts like a grappling hook, latching on to most human cancers, while ignoring healthy cells. In laboratory studies, immune cells equipped with the new receptor were shown to kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer. Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author on the study and an expert in T-cells from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said, “Our finding raises the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment, a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population. Previously nobody believed this could be possible.” Asked if it meant that someone in Wales was walking around completely immune to cancer, Prof Sewell said: “Possibly. This immune cell could be quite rare, or it could be that lots of people have this receptor but for some reason it is not activated. We just don’t know yet.”
Bacteria Engineered to Protect Bees from Pests and Pathogens – (PhysOrg – January 30, 2020)
An increasing number of honey bee colonies in the U.S. have seen the dwindling of their adult bees. According to a national survey, beekeepers lost nearly 40% of their honey bee colonies last winter, the highest rate reported since the survey began 13 years ago. Now scientists from The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new strategy to protect honey bees from a deadly trend known as colony collapse: genetically engineered strains of bacteria. The engineered bacteria live in the guts of honey bees and act as biological factories, pumping out medicines protecting the bees against two major causes of colony collapse: Varroa mites and deformed wing virus. The researchers believe their method could one day scale up for agricultural use because the engineered bacteria are easy to grow, inoculating the bees is straightforward and the engineered bacteria are unlikely to spread beyond bees. The team introduced modified bacteria to hundreds of bees in a laboratory setting. Sprayed with a sugar water solution containing the bacteria, the bees groomed one another and ingested the solution. The team found inoculating young worker bees with the engineered bacteria led the bees’ immune systems to be primed to protect them against deformed wing virus, which is an RNA virus, and caused the mites’ own immune systems to fight against and ultimately kill them. While the experiments occurred under strict biocontainment protocols used with genetic engineering, Moran said, even absent such protocols, the risk of the engineered bacteria escaping into the wild and infecting other insects—and thereby conferring some anti-pest or anti-pathogen superpowers—is very low. The type of bacteria used are highly specialized to live in the bee gut, can’t survive for long outside of it and are protective for a virus that strikes only bees. Still, further research will be needed to determine the effectiveness and safety of the treatments in agricultural settings.
The Terrifying Science Behind the Locust Plagues of Africa – (Wired – February 5, 2020)
Tearing across East Africa right now is a plague of biblical proportions: Hundreds of billions of locusts in swarms the size of major cities are laying waste to the crops in their path. It’s the worst outbreak in 25 years in Ethiopia. In Kenya, make that the worst in seven decades. Fueling the locusts’ destruction is a bounty of vegetation following unusually heavy rains. All that food means the landscape can support a huge number of rapidly breeding insects. And the problem is about to get a lot worse—the insect population could boom by a factor of 500 by June. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is calling the situation in the Horn of Africa “extremely alarming,” and estimates that a swarm covering one square kilometer can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 humans. Farmers throughout East Africa now face food shortages, as the plague consumes both crops in the field and in storage. Article goes on to explain the lifecycle of these insects which is fascinating – and, compounded by current geopolitical and environmental factors, has truly horrific implications. (Editor’s note: If you have time for only one article in this issue of FE, read this one.)
America’s Radioactive Secret – (Rolling Stone – January 21, 2020)
A salty substance called “brine” is a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It is collected in tanks and hauled off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth. The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — and carried largely in the brine. Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500. However, drivers who haul the brine are not being told what’s in their trucks. John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director, said, “Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing. “All oil-field workers,” says Ian Fairlie, a British radiation biologist, “are radiation workers.” Brine can be radioactive whether it comes from a fracked or a conventional well; the levels vary depending on the geological formation, not drilling method. Colorado and Wyoming seem to have lower radioactive signatures, while the Marcellus shale, underlying Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, has tested the highest. There are about 1 million active oil-and-gas wells, across 33 states, with some of the biggest growth happening in the most radioactive formation — the Marcellus. “There is no one federal agency that specifically regulates the radioactivity brought to the surface by oil-and-gas development,” an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representative admitted. And thanks to a single exemption the industry received from the EPA in 1980, the streams of waste generated at oil-and-gas wells — all of which could be radioactive and hazardous to humans — are not required to be handled as hazardous waste.
The Man Teaching 300 Million People a New Language – (BBC News – January 27, 2020))
If anyone ever doubts the positive impact of immigration tell them about Luis von Ahn. A 41-year-old from the Central American nation of Guatemala, he went to the US in 1996, aged 18, to pursue a degree in mathematics at Duke University in North Carolina. After that he studied computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He went on to become a computer science professor, specializing in “human-based computation”, which in very simple terms is how humans and computers can best work together to solve complicated tasks. Luis became a multimillionaire by his early 30s, after selling not one but two businesses to Google (one of those is the Recaptcha system that proves online that you are not a bot). Fast forward to today, and Luis is the co-founder and head of Pittsburgh-based Duolingo, the world’s most popular language-learning app, which has more than 300 million users around the globe. The inspiration behind Duolingo was to create a language learning app that was free for people to use – be it in Guatemala, or around the world – so that they could gain the economic advantages that often come with being at least partially bilingual. Today Duolingo offers more than 100 courses across 28 different languages. While the most popular languages are English, Spanish and French, you can study everything from Arabic to Ukrainian. Duolingo also has a special focus on promoting minority languages, with courses in Welsh, Navajo, Gaelic and Hawaiian. Duolingo now has annual revenues of $90m. Some $15m of this comes from the adverts included on the free, standard app, while $75m is from the 2% of users who pay for the advertisement-free premium version.
Architects Are Designing a 100% Food and Energy Self Sufficient ‘Smart Forest City’ – (Nexus – Novemer 23, 2019)
Until quite recently, humans were unaware of the effect that they had on the environment, but that fact has become impossible to ignore. Experts are finding that there are more efficient and sustainable ways to organize our cities, but there aren’t many real-life examples of these ideas in action. However, an architecture firm based in Milan called Stefano Boeri Architetti is hoping to change that. The firm is working on designs for what they are calling a “nature-infused smart city,” which they hope will provide an example for future sustainable designs. They are currently bidding for a 557-hectare site in Cancun, Mexico, with the property developer Grupo Karim. It is not certain that they will gain control of the site, as there are also other plans to turn the area into a shopping district. However, if the “Smart Forest City” is picked, it will become the home of up to 130,000 humans, along with 7,500,000 plants. If it comes to fruition, the city will be surrounded by a ring of solar panels, which the German company Transsolar has already offered to help out with. There will also be an agricultural field belt that wraps around the center of the city, with a channel of water that will run along the crops to keep them watered. “In particular, water is a key element in the project: it is gathered at the entrance of the City in a huge basin, where there is also a desalination tower, and it is distributed by a system of navigable canals in the whole settlement up to the agricultural fields belt that surrounds the urban area. A series of water gardens are designed to fight floods as a model for resilient landscapes,” the press release said. These features are what will make it possible for the city to be entirely energy and food self-sufficient.
Toyota to Build Prototype City of the Future – (Toyota.com – January 6, 2020)
Toyota has revealed plans to build a prototype “city” of the future on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Called the Woven City, it will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Envisioned as a “living laboratory,” the Woven City will serve as a home to full- time residents and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment. “Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure. With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology… in both the virtual and the physical realms … maximizing its potential,” said Akio Toyoda, president, of Toyota Motor Corporation.
Anti-solar Panel Can Generate Electricity at Night, Researchers Say – (Inverse – February 3, 2020)
Researchers from the University of California, Davis explain in a new paper published in the journal ACS Photonics that if you want to create a solar panel that generates electricity at night, then you just have to create one that operates the exact opposite way solar panels work during the day. It’s being referred to as the “anti-solar panel.” Solar panels are cold compared to the Sun, so they absorb the Sun’s light and turn it into energy. Space is very cold, so if you point a panel on Earth that is comparatively warm toward it, it will radiate heat as invisible infrared light. This allows you to generate electricity by capturing that power. The paper claims such a device could generate about a quarter of the electricity at night that a normal solar panel generates during the day. Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis who is an author of the paper, explained that whether it’s a solar panel or this anti-solar panel, these things are essentially just “heat engines.” This kind of device uses what is called a thermoradiative cell to generate electricity, as opposed to the photovoltaic cell used by a conventional solar panel. Where a solar panel is typically made of silicon, which is good at capturing light that’s largely in the visible spectrum, this device has to be made of something that can capture extremely long wavelength light. Munday is currently looking at mercury alloys that would be good for this. Munday and his team are currently working on developing prototypes to see how well they can make this concept work.
Supercharged Lithium-Silicon Batteries – (Wired – February 5, 2020)
Gene Berdichevsky was employee number seven at Tesla where he helmed the team that designed the lithium-ion battery pack for the company’s first car, the Roadster, which convinced the world to take electric vehicles seriously. In 2011, Berdichevsky founded Sila Nanotechnologies to build a better battery. His secret ingredient is nanoengineered particles of silicon, which can supercharge lithium-ion cells when they’re used as the battery’s negative electrode, or anode. Today, Sila is one of a handful of companies racing to bring lithium-silicon batteries out of the lab and into the real world, where they promise to open new frontiers of form and function in electronic devices ranging from earbuds to cars. The long-term goal is high-energy EVs, but the first stop will be small devices. By this time next year, Berdichevsky plans to have the first lithium-silicon batteries in consumer electronics, which he says will make them last 20 percent longer per charge. Article goes on to discuss additional companies that are hoping eventually to have their anode materials used in consumer products.
This New Ikea Store Has Zero Parking Spaces – (Fast Company – January 17, 2020)
A typical Ikea store comes with a sprawling parking lot—in Burbank, California, for example, the lot has room for 1,700 cars. But as the company works to shrink its carbon footprint, including the pollution from customers driving to suburban stores, it’s also rethinking parking. A new seven-store building that will house an Ikea store in central Vienna, now under construction, will have zero parking spaces. “The whole building is geared towards pedestrians, subway and streetcar riders, and cyclists—there is no space for cars,” the company writes in German on a store website. The location is next to a tram stop and a three-minute walk from a subway station; like other parts of the city, it’s easily accessible by bike. Anything that customers can’t easily carry away will be delivered from a new logistics center farther away (and soon, as with other Ikea stores, those deliveries will happen via electric delivery vans). “Our concept is that parking spaces are not needed, because there are no products to buy that require a car,” the website says. The company’s stores in other large cities are beginning to take similar approaches; there’s a store in Manhattan that serves solely as a showroom.
Sugary Drink Consumption Plunges in Chile After New Food Law – (New York Times – February 11, 2020)
Four years after Chile embraced the world’s most sweeping measures to combat mounting obesity, a partial verdict on their effectiveness is in: Chileans are drinking a lot fewer sugar-laden beverages. Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks dropped nearly 25 percent in the 18 months after Chile adopted a raft of regulations that included advertising restrictions on unhealthy foods, bold front-of-package warning labels and a ban on junk food in schools. During the same period, researchers recorded a five percent increase in purchases of bottled water, diet soft drinks and fruit juices without added sugar. The rules, adopted in 2016, were a bold gambit by the government of a country with some of the world’s highest obesity rates. Three-quarters of Chilean adults and more than half of children are overweight or obese, and health officials warned that the medical costs of obesity could consume 4 percent of the nation’s health care spending by 2030, up from 2.4 percent in 2016. Since then, Peru, Uruguay, and Israel have adopted Chilean-style front-of-package labels; Brazil and Mexico are expected to finalize similar labels in the coming months, and a dozen other countries are considering them as well. The law is far-reaching. It includes mandatory package redesigns that erased cartoons like Tony the Tiger from sugary cereal boxes, and television advertising restrictions that banished ads for unhealthy products from the airwaves between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. A centerpiece of the rules is a series of black stop signs that must appear on the front of packaged foods and beverages high in salt, sugar, fat or calories. Experts say it is too soon to know whether the food regulations are making a dent in Chile’s obesity rates. But the early results could embolden policymakers in Chile. Barry M. Popkin, a University of North Carolina nutritionist who is advising the government, said legislators there are considering what he called a “mega tax” on processed foods — the frozen pizza, instant noodles and fast-food meals that are responsible for two-thirds of all calories consumed by children.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
CIA Controlled Global Encryption Company for Decades, Says Report – (Guardian – February 11, 2020)
The Swiss government has ordered an inquiry into a global encryption company based in Zug, Switzerland following revelations it was owned and controlled for decades by US and German intelligence. Encryption weaknesses added to products sold by Crypto AG allowed the CIA and its German counterpart, the BND, to eavesdrop on adversaries and allies alike while earning million of dollars from the sales, according the Washington Post and the German public broadcaster ZDF, based on the agencies’ internal histories of the intelligence operation. “It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concluded. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the US and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries.” The mention of five or six countries is probably a reference to the Five Eyes electronic intelligence sharing agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The operation, codenamed Thesaurus and then renamed Rubicon in 1980s, demonstrated the overwhelming intelligence value of being able to insert flaws into widely sold communications equipment. The CIA’s success over many years is likely to reinforce current US suspicions of equipment made by the Chinese company Huawei. Neither China nor the Soviet Union bought Crypto encryption devices, suspicious of the company’s origins, but it was sold to more than 100 other countries. Meanwhile, Switzerland has suspended foreign sales of Crypto products.
Dead Hand: Russian Real-Life Doomsday Machine – (Zero Hedge – January 26, 2020)
The existing system of international relations and arms control treaties is slowly, but steadily crumbling. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is dead, with both Washington and Moscow publicly developing previously banned short-to-medium range missiles. The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is also moving towards its end in 2021, and it is likely that New START will not be renewed. The United States, China and Russia are developing hypersonic weapons, which are not limited by any existing arms control treaties. The major powers are preparing for a possible global conflict. The dismantlement of the system of international treaties is another factor increasing military tensions around the world. Russia is actively working towards restoring lost Soviet capabilities and developing new strategic deterrence projects. One of them is the Dead Hand, also known as the Perimeter. This Cold War-era automatic nuclear weapons-control system is one of the most protected secrets and most important deterrence tools of the USSR and Russia. The Dead Hand is the last line of deterrence in the event of a crippling nuclear strike. It entered into service in 1985, shortly after a major escalation in 1983, which had almost led to war between the US and the Soviet Union. It has been likened to a real-life doomsday machine. Upon activation and determination of an ongoing nuclear strike, the system sends out command missiles with special warheads that pass encrypted launch commands to all nuclear weapon carriers of the sea, air and ground components of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.
FBI ‘Drive-By’ Hacking Warning Just Got Real: Here’s How This Malicious New Threat Works – (Forbes – February 5, 2020)
“Hackers can use innocent devices to do a virtual drive-by of your digital life,” warned the FBI in December. The risk, according to the FBI, was the surge in connected devices at home and at work. Every one of which is a potential vulnerability. The reality of that risk has now been exposed by the researchers at Check Point, who continue their mission to expose vulnerabilities in the everyday technology we surround ourselves with. The firm’s head of research, Yaniv Balmas, explained that, “With this exploit I can be 200 or 300 meters away from your home or office. I can take over your device, I can connect to your network.” According to Balmas, they wanted to emphasize the risks and so selected the simplest and most common endpoint they could think of—smart light bulbs. “The first company who came up with these smart light bulbs was Philips Hue,” he says. Vulnerabilities with Philips Hue connected light bulbs have been reported before, the issue here is jumping from the light bulb to the bridge and from the bridge to the network. In its report, Check Point says it “used the light bulb as a platform to take over the bulbs’ control bridge completely.” In practice, this starts with a takeover of the bulb, knocking it offline and forcing the user to reset it using their control app—this requires it to be deleted and then added back. The compromised light bulb is then added back, compromising the wider network. This, says Check point, “also enables the hacker to install malware on the bridge—which is in turn connected to the target business or home network.” Unsurprisingly, this warning isn’t really about light bulbs or Philips Hue, notwithstanding the “huge number” of these devices now open to attack. “Philips is a big European brand,” Balmas says. “It takes security very seriously. But there are many others, Chinese or otherwise, that take security much less seriously. If we could find this in Philips think about the implications for all those Chinese devices.” (Editor’s note: Update your Hue firmware with a patch.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Millennials Most Likely to Commit Financial Infidelity – (Yahoo – February 5, 2020)
According to a new report by CreditCards.com, more than half (57%) of millennials ages 25 to 37 admit to having committed financial infidelity, compared to 45% of Gen-Xers and 37% of baby boomers. Among millennials who have kept financial secrets from their current spouse or partner, 42% say they’re spending money their significant other wouldn’t be comfortable with, compared to 37% of Gen X respondents and 28% of boomers. CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman attributes millennials’ financial infidelity to having a greater sense of financial independence in relationships. “Millennials are more likely to have two-income households,” he said. “They’re making their own money, so they feel, ‘it’s mine.’ This other person shouldn’t have any say over it,” he added. CreditCards.com found that 27% of millennials are keeping a secret checking, savings, or credit card account, compared to 15% of Gen X and 11% of baby boomer respondents. Seventeen percent of millennials say they’re secretly carrying debt, compared to 10% of Generation X and 9% of boomers. More than a quarter (27%) of survey respondents overall say that financial infidelity is worse than physical infidelity, compared to 20% who said it was worse last year.
Why Liberal White Women Pay a Lot of Money to Learn over Dinner How They’re Racist – (Guardian – February 3, 2020)
Race to Dinner: A white woman volunteers to host a dinner in her home for seven other white women – often strangers, perhaps acquaintances. (Each dinner costs $2,500, which can be covered by a generous host or divided among guests.) A frank discussion is led by co-founders Regina Jackson, who is black, and Saira Rao, who identifies as Indian American. They started Race to Dinner to challenge liberal white women to accept their racism, however subconscious. “If you did this in a conference room, they’d leave,” Rao says. “But wealthy white women have been taught never to leave the dinner table.” Rao and Jackson believe white, liberal women are the most receptive audience because they are open to changing their behavior. They don’t bother with the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. White men, they feel, are similarly a lost cause. “White men are never going to change anything. If they were, they would have done it by now,” Jackson says. The women who sign up for these dinners are not who most would see as racist. They are well-read and well-meaning. They are mostly Democrats. Some have adopted black children, many have partners who are people of color, some have been doing work towards inclusivity and diversity for decades. But they acknowledge they also have unchecked biases. White Fragility, a book released last year that posits every person partakes to some degree in racism and needs to confront that, is now assigned reading for women before they can attend a dinner.
Denver Non-profit Converts Former Hotel into Affordable Housing for Homeless – (Nation of Change – February 11, 2020)
In Denver, there are at least 5,700 people homeless and with many more living in long-term poverty a local study revealed. Denver has passed an urban camping ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by a Denver County judge, yet still enforced by the city pending appeals, John Parvensky, the president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), set out to create an affordable housing option to help solve the problem. His solution to the severe shortage of affordable housing: converting a hotel into affordable housing. The former Quality Inn & Suites located on Quebec Street in Park Hill in now 139 microapartments for individuals or couples who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Named Fusion Studios, the development is a source of relief for some of Denver’s homeless to rebuild their lives. The former hotel was purchased for $8.4 million—secured with private, city and state funds— and is Parvensky’s seventeenth building opened to help the homeless in 3 decades of work. Fusion Studios was developed by Renaissance Housing Development, an arm of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and provides move-in ready apartments. Each fully-furnished room starts at 300 square feet and includes a private bathroom and kitchenette. A food pantry will also be available to residents. The former hotel has 24-hour security staff including a front desk attendant, a full-time property manager, an assistant property manager, housekeeping and maintenance staff. Governor Polis said the coalition’s six-month revamp is an “example of cutting through the red tape … at a teeny fraction of the cost of building something new and a teeny fraction of the time.”
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Inside Skinwalker Ranch, a Paranormal Hotbed of UFO Research – (VICE – January 30, 2020)
Skinwalker Ranch, about a three hour drive from Salt Lake City, has a long and sordid history well catalogued by researcher Ryan Skinner. It’s hard to make sense of what’s real and what’s not. The author’s host bought the ranch from hotel and aerospace magnate Robert Bigelow in 2016. Locals say the ranch has been plagued by strange creatures and cattle mutilations. It’s also been used for government UFO research. So what’s really happening there? This article can’t fully answer that question any more than the property’s owner can. But it raises a lot of interesting questions.
British ‘X-Files’ of UFO Sightings Is Going Public – (Live Science – February 4, 2020)
From the early 1950s until 2009, a department in the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) documented and investigated reports of UFOs. Now, more than a decade after the program ended, many of those formerly classified files about UFO sightings will be made available to the public for the first time. Previously, some MoD files about UFOs had been published online at the U.K. National Archives website. However, all of the agency’s UFO reports will be released this year on “a dedicated gov.uk web page,” according to a spokesperson for the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The decision came after PA Media, a British news agency, filed a request for the UFO files under the Freedom of Information Act. MoD officials decided “it would be better to publish these records, rather than continue sending documents to the National Archives,” the RAF spokesperson said. The last UFO report to be published online by the MoD dates to 2009, covering sightings that took place from January through the end of November of that year. These included “a silver disc-shaped light” (reported in January 2009), “up to 20 orange and red glowing lights” (reported in June), “a large bright silver/white ball/sphere” (reported in July) and “three blazing gold orbs in a diagonal line in the sky” (reported in September). After MoD enacted a policy change on Dec. 1, 2009, the agency no longer recorded or investigated UFO sightings, according to the report. But what they did find — including many recent UFO reports that were previously available only as hard copies — will be published online within the next few months, said Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the MoD.
Meteorite Chunk Contains Unexpected Evidence of Presolar Grains – (PhysOrg – January 28, 2020)
Presolar grains—tiny bits of solid interstellar material formed before the sun was born—are sometimes found in primitive meteorites. But a new analysis reveals evidence of presolar grains in part of the Allende meteorite (which fell in northern Mexico in February 1969) where they are not expected to be found. “What is surprising is the fact that presolar grains are present,” said Olga Pravdivtseva, lead author of a new paper in Nature Astronomy. “Following our current understanding of solar system formation, presolar grains could not survive in the environment where these inclusions are formed.” Curious Marie is a notable example of an “inclusion,” or a chunk within a meteorite, called a calcium-aluminum-rich inclusion (CAI). These objects, some of the first to have condensed in the solar nebula, help cosmochemists define the age of the solar system. This particular chunk of meteorite—from the collection of the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies at the Chicago Field Museum—was in the news once before, when scientists from the University of Chicago gave it its name to honor chemist Marie Curie. Pravdivtseva said. “This finding forces us to revise how we see the conditions in the early solar nebula.”
This Age Could Be the New Benchmark for Retirement – (CNBC – February 11, 2020)
The retirement age is creeping higher in the U.S. and elsewhere, said Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. In the U.S., according to the Social Security Administration, full retirement age for individuals born in 1960 and later is 67. Other countries are also moving in that direction, Collinson said. The Netherlands is already at 67, while France, Spain and Poland all have plans to move towards that age. “That tends to be the prevailing benchmark,” Collinson said. Meanwhile, in the U.S., many anticipate extending their working years, according to recent research from Transamerica. A majority of workers — 54% — said they expect to stop working sometime after age 65 or never retire at all, the research found. Meanwhile, just 24% said they plan to retire at 65, and 22% said they plan to retire earlier. U.S. workers may also be driven to work longer for another reason: concerns about the future of Social Security, Collinson said. Three in 4 workers said they are worried that Social Security will not be there for them when they retire.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
This Handheld Device Could Print New Skin onto Burn Victims – (Smithsonian – May 30, 2018)
Researchers have long been looking for methods of creating artificial skin grafts, either from biological or synthetic materials. There are a number of such products on the market, but they have limitations: some are expensive, some can only be used temporarily, some take weeks to create from the patient’s own skin cells. Spanish scientists from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (CIEMAT) created a large bioprinter that prints human skin in 2017. Then in 2018, University of Toronto researchers developed a printer the size of a shoe box, weighing less than one kilogram (2.2 pounds). It dispenses strips of “bio ink” made of biological materials. These materials include collagen—the most abundant protein in the dermis, or middle layer of the skin—and fibrin, a protein needed for wound healing. The strips of artificial skin can be deposited directly on the injured area. “The analogy is a tape dispenser, where instead of a roll of tape you have a microdevice that squishes out a piece of tissue tape,” said Axel Guenther, a professor of engineering at the University of Toronto, who supervised the research. The researchers have successfully tested the device on pigs, and hope to move to human trials in the next few years. For a new material or technique to work, it would need to be able to withstand infections which are one of the biggest challenges in developing synthetic skin graft products and techniques.
How Google Got Its Employees to Eat Their Vegetables – (One Zero – February 5, 2020)
Google’s free food is a well-known perk, both in and beyond Silicon Valley. For some time now, Google has been quietly adding a (virtuous) new wrinkle to its food program: It’s no longer enough just to keep its employees happy; it’s trying to make them healthy, too. Over the past five years, the company has taken a typically Google-ish approach to the food it serves — methodical, iterative — to create the largest and most ambitious real-world test of how to nudge people to make healthier choices at mealtime. The campaign isn’t changing just the food itself, but how it’s presented. Google’s tactics include limiting portion sizes for meat and desserts and redesigning its premises to lead its “users” to choose water and fruit over soda and M&M’s. The goal, says Michiel Bakker, Google’s director of global workplace programs, is to make the healthy choice the easy choice and the preferred one. The results, though limited, are impressive. Google’s strategy is simple, subtle, and replicable. With the exception of the panoramic city views, the Google cafés I visited at the company’s New York offices looked a lot like the coffee bars, fast-casual burrito shops, made-to-order salad bars, and buffets you’ll find anywhere else. But the small changes make big differences. The plates on the buffet line are only eight to 10 inches wide, versus a standard 12 inches, which effectively limits serving sizes. Vegetables always come first on the line, so by the time you get to the meat or the snickerdoodles and chocolate tarts, there’s not much space on your plate. “Spa water,” bobbing with strawberries or cucumbers or lemons, is everywhere — and deliberately more accessible than sugary drinks or even bottled water. A burrito at Google weighed in at about 10 ounces — 60% smaller than the whopping one-pound nine-ounce log filled with similar ingredients that I picked up at a Chipotle near my home in Washington, D.C. In other words, it’s a vision of what sensible eating could look like.
How America Ends – (Atlantic – December, 2019)
The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests. Sometime in the next quarter century or so, depending on immigration rates and the vagaries of ethnic and racial identification, nonwhites will become a majority in the U.S. In 2002, the political scientist Ruy Teixeira and the journalist John Judis published a book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which argued that demographic changes—the browning of America, along with the movement of more women, professionals, and young people into the Democratic fold—would soon usher in a “new progressive era” that would relegate Republicans to permanent minority political status. Many conservatives, surveying demographic trends, have concluded that Teixeira wasn’t wrong—merely premature. They can see the GOP’s sinking fortunes among younger voters, and feel the culture turning against them, condemning them today for views that were commonplace only yesterday. They are losing faith that they can win elections in the future. With this come dark possibilities. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article.)
The Problem with Impeachment – (Truth Dig – January 27, 2020)
Impeaching Donald Trump would do nothing to halt the deep decay that has beset the American republic. Just for starters, it would not magically restore democratic institutions. It would not return us to the rule of law. Impeachment is about cosmetics. The ruling elites have had enough of Trump’s vulgarity, stupidity and staggering ineptitude. They turned on him not over an egregious impeachable offense—there have been numerous impeachable offenses including the use of the presidency for personal enrichment, inciting violence and racism, passing on classified intelligence to foreign officials, obstruction of justice and a pathological inability to tell the truth—but because he made the fatal mistake of trying to take down a fellow member of the ruling elite. But this kind of dirty quid pro quo is the staple of politics and international relations. Four decades ago, Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, William Casey, asked the Iranians not to free the American hostages held in Tehran until after the November presidential election to hurt incumbent Jimmy Carter, according to Gary Sick, Carter’s chief aide on Iran. The American hostages were released the day Reagan was inaugurated, in January 1981. Trump’s fatal mistake was that he was overt in his request and he made it himself. Editor’s note: We already know how this turned out, but we still recommend this op-ed piece which spares no one.)
How McKinsey Destroyed the Middle Class – (Atlantic – February 3, 2020)
McKinsey alone serves management at 90 of the world’s 100 largest corporations. Managers do not produce goods or deliver services. Instead, they plan what goods and services a company will provide, and they coordinate the production workers who make the output. Because complex goods and services require much planning and coordination, management (even though it is only indirectly productive) adds a great deal of value. And managers as a class capture much of this value as pay. This makes the question of who gets to be a manager extremely consequential. To understand how things have changed, begin with this snapshot taken in 1950: a mid-century study of General Motors published in the Harvard Business Review—completed, in a portent of what was to come, by McKinsey’s Arch Patton—found that from 1939 to 1950, hourly workers’ wages rose roughly three times faster than elite executives’ pay. The management function’s wide diffusion throughout the workforce substantially built the mid-century middle class. Things began to change in the 1970sthe 1970s and accelerated into the ’80s and ’90s: upgraded management consultants pursued new ideal of shareholder primacy by expressly and relentlessly taking aim at the middle managers who had dominated mid-century firms, and whose wages weighed down the bottom line. As the business journalist Walter Kiechel put it in his book Lords of Strategy, consultants openly sought to “foment a stratification within companies and society” by concentrating the management function in elite executives, aided (of course) by advisers from consultants’ own ranks. Whereas at mid-century a typical large-company CEO made 20 times a production worker’s income, today’s CEOs make nearly 300 times as much. In a recent year, the five highest-paid employees of the S&P 1500 (7,500 elite executives overall), obtained income equal to about 10% of the total profits of the entire S&P 1500. (Editor’s note: For anyone wondering “How did it happen that economic inequality has become so extreme?”, this article is well worth reading.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
A Cancer Patient Stole Groceries Worth $109.63. She Was Sentenced to 10 Months. – (New York Times – February 1, 2020)
As lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman is a very busy man. But he was prepared to drop everything and drive to a Weis Markets in Lebanon, Pa., to hand deliver a personal check for $109.63, the exact sum of groceries that a woman with advanced cancer was recently convicted of stealing. A judge had sentenced the woman, Ashley Menser, to at least 10 months in prison — a punishment that Mr. Fetterman called overly harsh and emblematic of a flawed criminal justice system. “In what universe do you deserve to be sent to prison for 10 months for stealing $110 worth of groceries?” he asked in an interview. Ms. Menser’s mother, Stephanie Bashore, said that her 36-year-old daughter has advanced uterine cancer, as well as cervical cancer, and needs surgery to remove her uterus and the tissue around it. Ms. Menser had a history of minor drug and theft crimes but had been drug-free for some time. He said she had also been on powerful psychiatric medication to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, partly brought on by the death of her child. To Mr. Fetterman, the case epitomizes many of his frustrations about the criminal justice system and how it treats people with addictions or mental health issues, especially those charged with minor drug or theft crimes.
JUST FOR FUN
Pharrell Williams – Happy – (YouTube – November 21, 2013)
Here’s a smile for you. It might even get you to break out a few dance moves. Try it!
A FINAL QUOTE
He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. ― George Orwell.
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Hal Taylor, 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