Volume 23, Number 5 – 3/1/20

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  • No person who was born blind has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia – and researchers now think they may know the reason.
  • In the United States alone, an average of 20 billion disposable diapers are tossed into the trash annually, and they take about 500 years to decompose.
  • Specially designed “mini tanks” are being deployed to disinfect coronavirus-hit areas in China.
  • Amazon has opened its first full-size, cashierless grocery store.

by John L. Petersen

Astrologer Joni Patry Coming to TransitionTalks on 14 March

In our attempt to generate as much information as we can about the extraordinary changes that are headed this way, we are pleased to have internationally acclaimed astrologer Joni Patry coming to be with us on the 14th of March at TransitionTalks here in Berkeley Springs. It will be a highly insightful afternoon that will highlight a high-level overview of what Vedic astrology says is inbound in the next 5-7 years. This period will offer us all fundamental choices about how we prepare ourselves for the biggest change in history, so we’re excited about Joni helping us think through how we all might effectively plan for the shift.

Dr. Richard Tarnas wrote an epic book called Cosmos and Psyche some time ago which looked back through history to see if the configuration of the planets and their predictions for what would happen at given times actually did come true. This extraordinary, scientific assessment made it undeniably clear that astrology, effectively utilized and interpreted, is highly accurate as a predictive approach.

Joni’s monthly predictions have been extraordinarily accurate and illuminating, so we’re pleased that she is coming to shed some light on the coming uncertainty.

I talked to her about her upcoming talk. You can see it here.

Do join us on the 14th of March. Complete information can be found at

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: | Youtube channel: Joni Patry | Facebook: Joni Patry Vedic Astrologer | Twitter @jonipatry. Instagram @jonipatry

PostScript Interview with Dr. Harold Puthoff

Here’s our interview with Hal Puthoff before his talk to a capacity crowd here in Berkeley Springs.

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:



Biohackers Encoded Malware in a Strand of DNA – (Wired – August 10, 2017)
When biologists synthesize DNA, they take pains not to create or spread a dangerous stretch of genetic code that could be used to create a toxin or, worse, an infectious disease. But one group of biohackers has demonstrated how DNA can carry a less expected threat—one designed to infect not humans nor animals but computers. a group of researchers from the University of Washington has shown for the first time that it’s possible to encode malicious software into physical strands of DNA, so that when a gene sequencer analyzes it the resulting data becomes a program that corrupts gene-sequencing software and takes control of the underlying computer. While that attack is far from practical for any real spy or criminal, it’s one the researchers argue could become more likely over time, as DNA sequencing becomes more commonplace, powerful, and performed by third-party services on sensitive computer systems. And, perhaps more to the point for the cybersecurity community, it also represents an impressive, sci-fi feat of sheer hacker ingenuity.


Ancient Gut Microbiomes Shed Light on Human Evolution – (PhysOrg – February 19, 2020)
The microbiome of our ancestors might have been more important for human evolution than previously thought, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. An adaptive gut microbiome could have been critical for human dispersal, allowing our ancestors to survive in new geographic areas. By using data from previously published studies to compare microbiota among humans, apes and other non-human primates, the interdisciplinary team of researchers found that there is substantial variation in composition and function of the human microbiome which correlates with geography and lifestyle. This suggests that the human gut microbiome adapted quickly to new environmental conditions. As such, microbial adaptation facilitated human success in a range of environments, allowing us to spread around the world. Importantly, the social sharing of microbes might have led to local microbial adaptations. Yet, our ancestors did not just share their microbiota amongst each other but they also outsourced them into their food. For instance, with fermentation, the researchers posit that ancient humans “extended” their guts outside of their bodies by co-opting body microbes to allow digestion to begin externally when food was fermented. This allowed humans to store food and stay in one place for a longer time, facilitating the persistence of larger groups living together. When these groups consumed the food items together, the microbes re-inoculated the consumers and the group’s microbiota became more similar to each other than to individuals from other groups. “We outsourced our body microbes into our foods. That could well be the most important tool we ever invented,” said Rob Dunn of the North Carolina State University.

Anti-bacterial Duck Semen Is Evolving the Species in a Way That’s Totally Unexpected – (Inverse – February 23, 2020)
Typically, the microbiome refers to gut bacteria, which is the trillions of microorganisms that live in humans’ and animals’ gastrointestinal system. Stuff like viruses, fungi, and protozoa. But the reproductive system has its own community of microbes, too. Melissah Rowe is an evolutionary ecologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology who studies reproductive biology and behavior. In a study published in January, 2020, Rowe show that the reproductive microbiome plays a key role in animals’ sexual health and fertility. From ducks to primates to bedbugs to ants. In a 2011 study Rowe reported on the surprising anti-bacterial qualities of mallard ducks’ ejaculate. It could can kill bacteria, they learned. At the same time, these antibacterial properties were linked to the color of the males’ beak — which it uses to attract females. This is where it gets really interesting: The more colorful the bill, the better the male’s sperm is at killing bacteria, and thusly, the more likely they are to bag a mate. The results suggested that bacteria, reproduction, and mate selection may be working hand-in-hand. Beyond mallard ducks, a number of animals and insects show traits suggesting that their evolution is shaped — at least in part — by the colonies of bacteria living inside them.

Scientists Discover First Known Animal That Doesn’t Breathe – (Live Science – February 24, 2020)
When the parasitic blob known as Henneguya salminicola sinks its spores into the flesh of a tasty fish, it does not hold its breath. That’s because H. salminicola is the only known animal on Earth that does not breathe. All other multicellular animals on Earth whose DNA scientists have had a chance to sequence have some respiratory genes. According to a new study, H. salminicola’s genome does not. A microscopic and genomic analysis of the creature revealed that, unlike all other known animals, H. salminicola has no mitochondrial genome — the small but crucial portion of DNA stored in an animal’s mitochondria that includes genes responsible for respiration. H. salminicola may have once looked a lot more like its jelly ancestors but has gradually evolved to have just about none of its multicellular traits. “They have lost their tissue, their nerve cells, their muscles, everything,” said study co-author Dorothée Huchon, an evolutionary biologist at Tel Aviv University. “And now we find they have lost their ability to breathe.” Huchon added, “Animals are always thought to be multicellular organisms with lots of genes that evolve to be more and more complex. Here, we see an organism that goes completely the opposite way. They have evolved to be almost unicellular.”

Solar Storms May Throw off Whale Navigation, Cause Strandings – (National Geographic – February 24, 2020)
Gray whales migrate more than 10,000 miles up and down the western coast of North America, longer than almost any other mammal. In summer, they head north, often as far as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, and in the winter, they travel south, giving birth off the coast of Mexico. New research suggests that solar storms may temporarily interfere with their ability to navigate on these long treks, perhaps even leading them to become stranded. It points to the possibility that gray whales may use Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate. Currently they are only conclusively known to find their way using their vision. Currently gray whales are getting stranded at unusually high levels, possibly related to starvation resulting from lower abundance of prey. More than 180 have stranded since January 2019, many times the normal average. To better understand what factors might be linked to strandings, Jesse Granger, a sensory ecologist at Duke University, and colleagues examined the records of gray whales stranded alive since 1985 off the west coast of North America. These strandings were chosen to rule out other factors—the animals didn’t appear to be ill or injured upon ending up on the beach. So why were they beached? The researchers found that on days with high levels of radio-frequency noise, as caused by solar storms, whale strandings were four times more likely. We know for sure that other marine animals—like sea turtles and salmon—migrate long distances underwater by sensing these magnetic fields, says Ken Lohmann, at the University of North Carolina, and this sense has also been found in animals as diverse as bees, birds, ants, termites, and likely some amphibians. (It’s unknown whether solar storms affect these animals’ abilities to navigate.) See also: The Human Body Responds to Sharp Changes in Solar & Geomagnetic Activity.


Brain Cells Protect Muscles from Wasting Away – (PhysOrg – February 21, 2020)
While many of us worry about proteins aggregating in our brains as we age and potentially causing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of neurodegeneration, we may not realize that some of the same proteins are aggregating in our muscles, setting us up for muscle atrophy in old age. University of California, Berkeley, scientists have now found brain cells that help clean up these tangles and prolong life—at least in worms (Caenorhabditis elegans) and possibly mice. This could lead to drugs that improve muscle health or extend a healthy human lifespan. The research team’s most recent discovery is that a mere four glial cells in the worm’s brain control the stress response in cells throughout its body and increase the worm’s lifespan by 75%. That was a surprise, since glial cells are often dismissed as mere support cells for the neurons that do the brain’s real work, like learning and memory. This finding follows a 2013 study in which the UC Berkeley group reported that neurons help regulate the stress response in peripheral cells, though in a different way than glial cells, and lengthen a worm’s life by about 25%. In mice, boosting neuronal regulation increases lifespan by about 10%. When the brain senses a stressful environment—invading bacteria or viruses, for example—a subset of neurons sends electrical signals to peripheral cells to get them mobilized to respond to the stress, such as through breaking up tangles, boosting protein production and mobilizing stored fat. But because electrical signals produce only a short-lived response, the glial cells kick in to send out a long-lasting hormone, so far unidentified, that maintains a long-term, anti-stress response.

Storing Medical Information below the Skin’s Surface – (MIT News – December 18, 2019)
MIT engineers have developed a way to store medical information under the skin, using a quantum dot dye that is delivered, along with a vaccine, by a microneedle patch. The dye, which is invisible to the naked eye, can be read later using a specially adapted smartphone. Specialized dye, delivered along with a vaccine, could enable “on-patient” storage of vaccination history.

People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected from Schizophrenia – (Vice – February 11, 2020)
No person who was born blind has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Over the past 60-some years, scientists around the world have analyzed past studies, combed the wards of psychiatric hospitals, and looked through agencies that treat blind people, trying to find a case. Not one has been found. That suggests that something about congenital blindness may protect a person from schizophrenia. This is especially surprising, since congenital blindness often results from infections, brain trauma, or genetic mutation—all factors that are independently associated with greater risk of psychotic disorders. More strangely, vision loss at other periods of life is associated with higher risks of schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms. Tom Pollak, a psychiatrist and researcher at King’s College London, and Phil Corlett, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University, have a theory about what that something might be. It’s rooted in the hypothesis that one of our brain’s most important jobs is to make predictions about the world. A person who was born blind doesn’t have the visual inputs to help shape their model of the world. They have to build it with their other senses—a model of the world that Pollak and Corlett argue could be more stable. “The idea we’re trying to get at is, there must be something different in the representation and the stability of the internal world in congenitally blind people,” Pollak said. “And that stability, in a way, is keeping itself protected against the kind of mistakes and false inferences that you get in schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.”


The Mattress Landfill Crisis: How the Race to Bring Us Better Beds Led to a Recycling Nightmare – (Guardian – February 12, 2020)
The mattress recycling game is a dirty but noble enterprise. Circom is one of only a handful of recyclers tackling the UK’s ever-growing mattress problem. The UK threw away more than 7m mattresses in 2017, the vast majority of which went straight to landfill. Zero Waste Scotland has estimated that 600,000 mattresses were thrown out in Scotland. Only about 19% of mattresses are recycled. They are a nightmare to recycle because of the springs. In fact, mattresses are a global environmental nightmare. The US throws away 18.2m mattresses a year, but there are only 56 facilities available to recycle them. Time was, you would change your mattress every eight to 10 years. But with online retailers offering more choice than ever, we have learned to expect better mattresses, and to replace them more frequently. The development of roll-down technology – which allows mattresses to be packed into small, easily shippable boxes – has led to a plethora of start-ups targeting a $30bn international market. Most of these start-ups offer 100-day comfort guarantees, during which consumers can return their mattresses for a full refund if for any reason they are not up to scratch. Some, such as the US’s Nectar, even offer a 365-day guarantee. A standard mattress retailer would aim for a return rate of less than 5%, says Jessica Alexander, of the National Bed Federation (NBF). “I’ve heard of 20% return rates, or even more, for some of these online retailers,” she adds. Some online providers have arrangements with care homes or hospitals to collect lightly used mattresses, re-cover them, and put them back into use. Others send them for recycling. But many will, inevitably, end up in landfill. “A lot of people would feel that there’s value in the materials in a mattress,” says David Fitzsimons, of the circular-economy experts Oakdene Hollins. “But, generally, that’s not true.” You may be able to get a few pounds for the metal springs in a mattress, but it’s hard to find takers for the foam and fiber.

Scientists Find Half the World’s Fish Stocks Are Recovered—or Increasing—in Oceans That Used to Be Overfished – (Good News Network – February 8, 2020)
In the most comprehensive review of fisheries’ management and fishing management on a per region basis, to date, an international team of researchers concluded that fish stocks are mostly increasing in these world waters. The research team gathered data from 50% of the world’s fish stocks, which include harvest rate, recovery rate, fishing pressure, and population numbers, as well as 50% of the world’s fisheries—including management strategies, fluctuations, and predictions in maximum sustainable yield. “This article compiles estimates of the status of fish stocks from all available scientific assessments, comprising roughly half of the world’s fish catch,” the authors begin, “and shows that, on average, fish stocks are increasing where they are assessed. Where fisheries are intensively managed, the stocks are above target levels or rebuilding.”


Switzerland Pauses 5G over Health Fears – (Total Telecom – February 13, 2020)
Countries throughout Europe are racing to deploy 5G networks and, until now, Switzerland has been one of the front runners. Having already built 2,000 antennas to upgrade its network last year alone, 5G appeared imminent for the landlocked nation. But a letter from the Swiss environmental agency, Bafu, to local governments has put a stop to the use of all new 5G towers. Bafu, which is in charge of the safety criteria surrounding telecoms operators’ radiation emissions, has said that it needs more time to fully get to grips with the health impact of 5G radiation. “Bafu will examine exposure through adaptive [5G] antennas in depth, if possible in real-world operational conditions. This work will take some time,” said the letter from Bafu, noting that there was not currently an international standard for recommendations. Swisscom, the country’s largest operator, lamented the fact that Switzerland’s regulations were “10-times stricter than those recommended by the World Health Organization in places where people stay for longer periods of time”. Swisscom said it will continue to build out their 5G infrastructure, even if they cannot operate it at full capacity immediately.


Classroom Designed to Harvest Water in Thailand – (Dezeen – February 25, 2020)
Architecture studio Pareid and students from Chulalongkorn University have built an open-walled classroom around two water collecting funnels in western Thailand. Hadin Charbel, co-founder of Pareid, said he wanted the building to be both a classroom and a visible water collection structure to demonstrate the importance of water to the school’s students. “The project is located in a very rural part of Thailand, where running water in some instances is not as easily accessible as one might assume,” he said. “It seemed fitting that a multi-use space at a local school could integrate architecture and local strategies as more than just a practical response, but one that would stimulate the students, while also making water collection accessible, transparent and a conscientious act.” To reinforce this, exercise machines have been placed around the classroom to power pumps that move the water between the underground storage areas. Thai context is a bit tricky, as it deals with two types of extreme environmental conditions – heavy rains and year-round heat,” said Pareid co-founder Deborah Lópezn. “Most typical constructions in the area respond to this by being entirely sealed off with some windows, which in turn results in the need for fans and artificial lighting. [This building] was designed with the intention of utilizing the natural environment while limiting some of the undesirable impacts – a combination of high ceilings, open plan, wall-less perimeter, and specific finishings such as translucent vinyl for light and water boiled plywood for thermal insulation, allowed us to do this.” Don’t miss the article’s photos of this building. See also: Other recently completed schools include A School for Squatters in India That Can Be Dismantled to Evade Bulldozers and a Cambodian School That Has a Gridded Facade That Doubles as a Jungle Gym.


Will the Future’s Super Batteries Be Made of Seawater? – (Science Daily – January 23, 2020)
Rrechargeable and efficient lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries power our smartphones, laptops and also in electric cars. But lithium is a limited resource, so it will be a challenge to satisfy the worlds’ growing demand for relatively cheap batteries. A promising alternative is to replace lithium with the metal sodium — to make Na-ion batteries. Sodium is found in large quantities in seawater and can be easily extracted from it. Another advantage is that Na-ion batteries do not need cobalt, which is still needed in Li-ion batteries. The majority of the cobalt used today to make Li-ion batteries, is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebellion, disorganized mining and child labor create uncertainty and moral qualms regarding the country’s cobalt trade. It also counts on the plus side that Na-ion batteries can be produced at the same factories that make Li-ion batteries today. “The Na-ion battery is still under development, and researchers are working on increasing its service life, lowering its charging time and making batteries that can deliver many watts,” says research leader Dorthe Bomholdt Ravnsbæk of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at University of Southern Denmark. For the Na-ion batteries to become an alternative, better electrode materials must be developed — something she and colleagues from the University of Technology and MIT are working on.

Radical Hydrogen-boron Reactor Leapfrogs Current Nuclear Fusion Tech – (New Atlas – February 21, 2020)
Australian company HB11 says it’s well on the way to nuclear fusion energy generation without the radioactive fuels or super-high temperatures. HB11 Energy is a spin-out company that originated at the University of New South Wales that has announced a swag of patents through Japan, China and the USA protecting its unique approach to fusion energy generation. Fusion is the long-awaited clean, safe theoretical solution to humanity’s energy needs. It’s just always been 20 years away from being 20 years away. A number of multi-billion dollar projects are pushing slowly forward, from the Max Planck Institute’s insanely complex Wendelstein 7-X stellerator to the 35-nation ITER Tokamak project, and most rely on a deuterium-tritium thermonuclear fusion approach that requires the creation of ludicrously hot temperatures, much hotter than the surface of the Sun, at up to 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit). This is where HB11’s tech takes a sharp left turn. The results of decades of research by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora, HB11’s approach to fusion does away with rare, radioactive and difficult fuels like tritium altogether – as well as those incredibly high temperatures. Instead, it uses plentiful hydrogen and boron B-11, employing the precise application of some very special lasers to start the fusion reaction. Here’s how HB11 describes its “deceptively simple” approach: the design is “a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction. The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator.”


The Airbus MAVERIC Aircraft’s Unique Design Helps Reduce Drag While Providing More Cabin Space – (Yanko Design – February 12, 2020)
Unveiled at this year’s Singapore Air Show, the Airbus MAVERIC features an almost singular form where the main body and wings blend into each other, rather than being visually distinct forms. This blended-wing design, according to Airbus, significantly helps reduce drag while increasing fuel efficiency by 20%. It even provides the aircraft with a larger cabin, allowing a smaller and much more efficient blended-wing body aircraft to compete with larger, regular aircrafts. Combine those factors together and the MAVERIC could dramatically increase the efficiency of air-travel, making it far more sustainable. On the inside, Airbus is leveraging a new take on interiors to make the in-flight experience enjoyable. Given that the windows on the MAVERIC are spaced further apart, thanks to the wider design, the cabin interiors are well lit and have higher ceilings to prevent feelings of claustrophobia. All seats are equipped with large infotainment modules too, to keep passengers occupied and entertained through the flight. Check out the photos; this creature looks more like a stingray than an airplane.

Public Transport Will Now Be Free in Luxembourg – (Fast Company – February 27, 2020)
If you board a train, streetcar, or bus in Luxembourg, beginning on March 1, you’ll no longer pay a fare. The country is among the first to pioneer fully free public transit. The move aims to help reduce inequality—even though the tiny country is known for its wealth, poverty is increasing. “The objective is to stop the deepening gap between rich and poor,” the country’s mobility and public works minister, François Bausch. The fares were already relatively inexpensive: a single ticket between any two points in the country cost 2 Euros and many riders already qualified for free fares. Researchers from the University of Luxembourg said that rising housing costs were a far bigger problem, and raised concerns that without ticket fares, the already outdated transit infrastructure would continue to decline. Still, the agency that operates transit says that fares only covered 10% of its operating costs, and the government is already planning to modernize its rail network and improve connections across borders and between trains, streetcars, and buses. By 2025, it wants to be able to move 20% more people on public transit. It also hopes to lure people out of cars—the country has the highest rate of car ownership in the EU.


A Growing Presence on the Farm: Robots – (New York Times – February 13, 2020)
Farm equipment is now regularly outfitted with sensors that use machine learning and robotics to identify weeds and calculate the amount of herbicide that needs to sprayed, for instance, or to learn to detect and pick strawberries. And lately, smaller, more dexterous robots have emerged in droves. “All of a sudden, people are starting to realize that data collection and analysis tools developed during the 90s technology boom can be applied to agriculture,” said George A. Kantor, a senior systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, who is using his own research to develop tools for estimating crop yields. A robot, named TerraSentia, resembles a souped up version of a lawn mower, with all-terrain wheels and a high-resolution camera on each side. In much the same way that self-driving cars “see” their surroundings, TerraSentia navigates a field by sending out thousands of laser pulses to scan its environment. A few clicks on a tablet were all that were needed to orient the robot at the start of the row before it took off, squeaking slightly as it drove over ruts in the field. The robot is designed to generate the most detailed portrait possible of a field, from the size and health of the plants, to the number and quality of ears each corn plant will produce by the end of the season, so that agronomists can breed even better crops in the future. In addition to plant height, TerraSentia can measure stem diameter, leaf-area index and “stand count” — the number of live grain- or fruit-producing plants — or all of those traits at once. The TerraSentia is among the smallest of the farmbots available today. At 12.5 inches wide and roughly the same height, the 30-pound robot fits well between rows of various crops. It also focuses on gathering data from much earlier in the agricultural pipeline: the research plots where plant breeders select the varieties that ultimately make it to market.

Lab-grown Food Will Soon Destroy Farming – and Save the Planet – (Guardian – January 8, 2020)
Scientists are replacing crops and livestock with food made from microbes and water. It may save humanity’s bacon. In a commercial lab of a company called Solar Foods on the outskirts of Helsinki, scientists are turning water into food. Through a porthole in a metal tank, I could see a yellow froth churning. It’s a primordial soup of bacteria, taken from the soil and multiplied in the laboratory, using hydrogen extracted from water as its energy source. When the froth was siphoned through a tangle of pipes and squirted on to heated rollers, it turned into a rich yellow flour. This flour is not yet licensed for sale. But such flours are likely soon to become the feedstock for almost everything. In their raw state, they can replace the fillers now used in thousands of food products. When the bacteria are modified they will create the specific proteins needed for lab-grown meat, milk and eggs. Other tweaks will produce lauric acid – goodbye palm oil – and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – hello lab-grown fish. The carbohydrates that remain when proteins and fats have been extracted could replace everything from pasta flour to potato crisps. The first commercial factory built by Solar Foods should be running next year. The hydrogen pathway used by Solar Foods is about 10 times as efficient as photosynthesis. But because only part of a plant can be eaten, while the bacterial flour is 100% edible, you can multiply that efficiency several times. And because it will be brewed in giant vats the land efficiency, as estimated by the company, is roughly 20,000 times greater. Everyone on Earth could be handsomely fed, and using a tiny fraction of its surface.


Global Defense Spending: the United States Widens the Gap – (IISS – January 14, 2020)
In 2019, the United States remained by far the world’s largest defense spender, widening the gap between it and the second largest spender, China. US investments in weapons procurement and R&D alone were larger than China’s total defense budget. The United States’ defense investments in weapons procurement and R&D were also worth around four times as much as European states’ combined. IISS data shows that in 2019 the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India retained their positions as the world’s top defense spenders. Indeed, the only movement in the top 15 saw Italy and Australia swap places, with Italy taking the 12th position and Australia the 13th. In 2019, global defense spending rose by 4.0% in real terms over 2018 figures, but spending in the US grew by 6.6%. China’s spending also rose by 6.6% over 2018 data, but the trajectory of the two states’ defense spending is diverging. The budget increase in the US was the largest in ten years, and spending has increased year-on-year since US President Donald Trump took office.


At Guantánamo Bay, Torture Apologists Take Refuge in Empty Code Words and Euphemisms – (Intercept – January 29, 2020)
Some detainees at Guantánamo have been held for 18 years without charges against them, and others have been charged with crimes of terrorism. Forty men remain in custody of the 780 held here since January 2002, when the first prisoners of the 9/11 era were brought to this island to be kept in American custody without being in America proper. Euphemism is a foundation of the torture structure. Even Dr. James E. Mitchell, psychologists who helped design and execute the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”, railed against some of the words used by the government to describe the program he was pursuing: “You want to watch the use of euphemism for what you’re doing. Don’t be fooled by ‘enhanced interrogation,’ you are doing coercive physical techniques,” he said last week. So there is a euphemism for the euphemism, which in plain English is torture. But euphemisms abound. There are code words for locations as well as code numbers and pseudonyms for names. An overlay of psychological terminology tries to give method and reason to examples of physical abuse. These phrases are used: “intelligence requirements,” “abusive drift,” “countermeasures to resistance,” “Pavlovian response,” “learned helplessness,” “negative reinforcement,” “conditioning strategy,” a chart of “moral disengagement.” Torturers used a technique known as “walling,” in which a detainee is thrown against a wall that is described as “safe” because it is made of plywood and constructed to have “bounce.” When walling was used, a beach towel was protectively wrapped around the prisoner’s neck and later became a “Pavlovian” tool that the detainee could be shown to remind him of the suffering he’d endured. This is how torturers speak, cloaking their actions in anodyne language.


China Has Global Chokehold on Medicine, Can Shut Down Our Pharmacies, Hospitals in Months – (Sarah Westall – February 19, 2020)
Rosemary Gibson is the author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine and a senior advisor at the Hastings Center. Many over-the-counter supplements sold in the U.S. are at least partly manufactured in China, Gisbon noted. Gibson recalled, “I documented China’s penicillin cartel. There’s an incredible story of how we lost our penicillin manufacturing plants. These are huge industrial facilities, big fermentation plants, and China came in and knocked them out in the U.S. and even India by dumping it on the global market at really cheap prices — keeping it low for several years — and then the price goes back up again.” Gibson went on, “So we can’t make penicillin, and this was the playbook for how we lost aspirin manufacturing, vitamin C, and so many other antibiotics that we rely on. We’re talking about last-resort antibiotics, medicines to treat sepsis, MRSA, [and] C. diff. These are the antibiotics you give to your kids for ear infections, or you take if you have a tooth infection of staph infection.” She explained, “This has been going on for almost 20 years. In fact, no one wanted to even expose it. That’s why it took so long to figure this out and to put it out there, to reveal our dependence.” She continued, “There was country-of-origin legislation introduced in Congress around 2008 that would require companies to state on their packages where their product is made, and it was killed immediately. So I asked someone in the industry, someone who worked there for more than 30 years, ‘So, what’s going on here?’ and this person said, ‘Well, the industry thought it probably wouldn’t be good for business if their customers knew where their medicines were coming from.’” Gibson said, “There’s a chapter in China Rx called “Made in China, Sue in America? Good Luck.” One of these reasons for the cheap price is that Chinese companies assume no liability for the quality of their product. When there was this huge recall of blood pressure medicines in the U.S. and around the world, it was because of a single company in China that made the active ingredient that had carcinogens in it — these rocket fuel compounds — and they sent product to the United States, knowingly that it didn’t meet U.S. standards, and it went on for four years before we picked it up.”

Nordic Countries Are Better at Achieving the American Dream, Finland PM Sanna Marin Says – (CNBC – February 4, 2020)
Finland’s Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest prime minister, has suggested Nordic countries such as her own may be better at embodying the “American Dream” than the U.S. “I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child no matter their background or the background of their families can become anything,” she said. Marin attributed the “success story” of the “Nordic model” to the quality of education, health care and social welfare systems in these countries, which allow “anybody to become anything.” Marin added that this was likely one of the reasons Finland had been ranked one of the happiest countries in the world. Finland topped the annual World Happiness Report rankings for the second year in a row in 2019, followed by Denmark, Norway and Iceland, with Sweden also scoring high on the list. A new index published by the World Economic Forum in January found Nordic countries offered the highest level of social mobility, with Finland coming third on the list.


Never Mind the Internet. Here’s What’s Killing Malls. – (New York Times – February 13, 2020)
Some people call what has happened to the shopping landscape “the retail apocalypse.” It is easy to chalk it up to the rise of e-commerce, which has thrived while physical stores struggle. But this can be overstated. Internet shopping still represents only 11% of the entire retail sales total. Furthermore, more than 70% of retail spending in the United States is in categories that have had slow encroachment from the internet, either because of the nature of the product or because of laws or regulations that govern distribution. This includes spending on automobiles, gasoline, home improvement and garden supplies, drugs and pharmacy, food and drink. And collectively, three major economic forces have had an even bigger impact on brick-and-mortar retail than the internet has. One of those is services instead of things. With every passing decade, Americans spend proportionately less of their income on things and more on services. Article details the other two significant trends.

Compost Your Baby’s Diapers through This Subscription Service – (Fast Company – February 27, 2020)
Environmentally conscious parents can choose sustainable baby wipes and forego plastic toys for more eco-friendly alternatives, but there’s still the conundrum of what to do with the deluge of diapers their kids will go through. Reusable cloth diapers are labor intensive, and only a few cities have services to which parents can outsource all that washing. Disposable diapers, though a blessing for convenience, have been a blight on the environment; in the United States alone, an average of 20 billion disposable diapers are tossed into the trash annually, and they take about 500 years to decompose. Now parents have another option: shipping their baby’s dirty diapers off to be composted—as long as they get them from diaper subscription company Dyper. Dyper has teamed up with TerraCycle to launch its ReDyper program, through which subscribers can send back their soiled Dyper diapers in provided bags and specially designed boxes that meet United Nations Haz Mat shipping standards. When the box is full, parents can download a prepaid shipping label from the TerraCycle website, ship it away, and the diapers will end up at TerraCycle distribution centers, then industrial composting facilities that TerraCycle partners with, and ultimately, be turned into compost used for things like vegetation on highway medians. The ReDyper program is a new addition to Dyper’s subscription model, which first launched in 2018 and offers at-home delivery of bamboo diapers without chlorine, latex, alcohol, perfumes, PVC, lotions, and the chemicals tributyltin, or phthalates. They’re also free of ink, as they don’t have any patterns printed on them. See also: The Poop on Eco-Friendly Diapers.

Germany Overturns Ban on Professionally Assisted Suicide – (BBC News – February 26, 2020)
A five-year-old law banning professionally assisted suicide has been rejected as unconstitutional by Germany’s top court. The court backed complaints by a group of terminally ill patients and doctors who challenged the law that made “commercial promotion of assisted suicide” a criminal offence. Assisted dying had been legal, but the law change prompted terminally ill people to go to Switzerland and the Netherlands to end their lives. Advice centers that operated until 2015 had to stop working because of the risk of a jail sentence for promoting suicide. The head of Germany’s constitutional court, Andreas Vosskuhle, said on Wednesday that while parliament could pass laws on preventing suicide and increasing palliative care, it was not entitled to affect the impunity of assisted suicide. But there remains no legal entitlement to euthanasia and doctors cannot be required against their will to help provide assisted suicide. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg currently permit euthanasia and assisted suicide in some, strictly regulated circumstances. Switzerland permits assisted suicide if the person assisting acts unselfishly. Portugal is currently considering plans to legalize euthanasia.


Professor: UFOs May Be Time-Traveling Humans from the Future – (Futurism – January 22, 2020)
A new book, Identified Flying Objects, suggests that scientists take a closer look at a seemingly bizarre idea: that it’s not extraterrestrials piloting UFOs, but time-traveling humans from the future. “We know we’re here. We know humans exist. We know that we’ve had a long evolutionary history on this planet. And we know our technology is going to be more advanced in the future,” said author Michael Masters, a professor of biological anthropology at Montana Technological University. Masters isn’t the first to float this idea. But in his new book, he attempts to support it by drawing on his expertise in anthropology. If future scientists could go back in time to see what today’s humans were like — rather than trying to learn from ancient relics — it might be hard for them to pass up the opportunity. But scientists aren’t the only future humans Masters thinks could be visiting us via UFOs — he believes time travel could be a big tourist industry in the future, too. “Undoubtedly in the future, there are those that will pay a lot of money to have the opportunity to go back and observe their favorite period in history,” he said.

An Object in Deep-Space Sends Radio Signals to Earth Every 16 Days — and Researchers Don’t Know Why – (People – February 11, 2020)
A mysterious object 500 million light-years away has been discovered transmitting signals toward Earth in a repeating pattern — and researchers can’t figure out why. Scientists have zeroed in on an area of the sky where fast radio bursts, known as FRBs, have occurred every 16.35 days. In the 16-day progression that scientists observed, the object flashes one to two radio pulses every hour for four days then goes silent for 12 days before repeating the sequence again. “Given the source’s location in the outskirts of a massive spiral galaxy, a supermassive black hole companion seems unlikely, although lower-mass black holes are viable,” the authors explained. The researchers hope to detect similar FRBs in the future to help them pinpoint a cause. Until then, the astronomy community isn’t getting behind one popular idea for the bursts. “If it were an alien beacon, I would think it would emit more quickly because a 16-day period is not efficient for communication,” said Leon Oostrum of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.


Mini Tanks Deployed to Disinfect Coronavirus-hit Areas in China – (Fox News – February 17, 2020)
Authorities in China have resorted to using remote-control operated mini tanks to disinfect city streets amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak that’s sickened over 70,500 in the country and killed at least 1,770. The tank, which was originally designed to disinfect prisons and can cover up to 540,000 square feet in an hour. Photo shows one of two currently being controlled by hazmat-wearing teams that are patrolling city streets. Hou Yongei, deputy secretary-general of the Shanxi Province Unmanned Vehicle Association, reported, “They were used to disinfect prisons and other high-security environments. Now, twice a day, we send them into gated communities where there have been confirmed cases.” Hou said using the tanks cuts down the risk of transmission between workers and infected patients.

Down on the Farm That Harvests Metal from Plants – (New York Times – February 26, 2020)
Nickel’s chemical compounds are increasingly used in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energies. However, it is toxic to plants, just as it is to humans in high doses. Where nickel is mined and refined, it destroys land and leaves waste. In areas where soils are naturally rich in nickel, typically in the tropics and Mediterranean basin, plants have either adapted or died off. But with roots that act practically like magnets, these metal tolerant organisms — about 700 are known — flourish. Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters. The plants not only collect the soil’s minerals into their bodies but seem to hoard them to “ridiculous” levels, said Alan Baker, a visiting botany professor at the University of Melbourne who has researched the relationship between plants and their soils since the 1970s. This vegetation could be the world’s most efficient, solar-powered mineral smelters. What if, as a partial substitute to traditional, energy-intensive and environmentally costly mining and smelting, the world harvested nickel plants? On a plot of land rented from a rural village on the Malaysian side of the island of Borneo, Dr. Baker and an international team of colleagues have proved it at small scale. Every six to 12 months, a farmer shaves off one foot of growth from these nickel-hyper-accumulating plants and either burns or squeezes the metal out. After a short purification, farmers could hold in their hands roughly 500 pounds of nickel citrate, potentially worth thousands of dollars on international markets.


Can We Have Prosperity Without Growth? – (New Yorker – February 3, 2020)
After a century in which G.D.P. per person has gone up more than sixfold in the United States, a vigorous debate has arisen about the feasibility and wisdom of creating and consuming ever more stuff, year after year. On the left, increasing alarm about climate change and other environmental threats has given birth to the “degrowth” movement, which calls on advanced countries to embrace zero or even negative G.D.P. growth. Even within mainstream economics, the growth orthodoxy is being challenged, and not merely because of a heightened awareness of environmental perils. In Good Economics for Hard Times, two winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, point out that a larger G.D.P. doesn’t necessarily mean a rise in human well-being—especially if it isn’t distributed equitably—and the pursuit of it can sometimes be counterproductive. “Nothing in either our theory or the data proves the highest G.D.P. per capita is generally desirable,” Banerjee and Duflo, a husband-and-wife team who teach at M.I.T., write. That’s not to say that Banerjee and Duflo are opposed to economic growth. In a recent essay for Foreign Affairs, they noted that, since 1990, the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day—the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty—fell from nearly two billion to around seven hundred million. Yet for advanced countries, in particular, they think policies that slow G.D.P. growth may prove to be beneficial, especially if the result is that the fruits of growth are shared more widely. In this sense, Banerjee and Duflo might be termed “slowthers”—a label that certainly applies to Dietrich Vollrath, an economist at the University of Houston and the author of Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success. He doesn’t base his case on environmental concerns or rising inequality or the shortcomings of G.D.P. as a measurement. Rather, he explains this phenomenon as the result of personal choices—the core of economic orthodoxy. (Editor’s note: This article offers a basic primer on the trends of thought in the area sustainable growth.)

More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek a Try – (NPR – February 21, 2020)
Companies around the world are embracing what might seem like a radical idea: a four-day workweek. The concept is gaining ground in places as varied as New Zealand and Russia, and it’s making inroads among some American companies. Employers are seeing surprising benefits, including higher sales and profits. Many employers aren’t just moving to 10-hour shifts, four days a week, as companies like Shake Shack are doing; they’re going to a 32-hour week — without cutting pay. In exchange, employers are asking their workers to get their jobs done in a compressed amount of time. Last month, a Washington state senator introduced a bill to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is backing a parliamentary proposal to shift to a four-day week. Politicians in Britain and Finland are considering something similar. Hundreds — if not thousands — of other companies are also adopting or testing the four-day week. Last summer, Microsoft’s trial in Japan led to a 40% improvement in productivity, measured as sales per employee. “Core to this is that people are not productive for every hour, every minute of the day that they’re in the office,” said Andres Barnes, CEO of Perpetual Guardian, New Zealand’s largest estate planning company, which means there was lots of distraction and wasted time that could be cut. Simply slashing the number and duration of meetings saved huge amounts of time. Also, he did away with open-floor office plans and saw workers spending far less time on social media. All this, he says, made it easier to focus more deeply on the work.

Amazon Is Opening Its First Full-size, Cashierless Grocery Store. – (CNBC – February 24, 2020)
Amazon has opened its first, full-size, cashierless grocery store. Five years in the making, the Amazon Go Grocery is in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, in the Amazon corporate headquarters’ backyard. Amazon has been working on the space since 2015. At 10,400 square feet, the store at 610 E. Pike St. incorporates the same technology found in the two dozen or so Amazon Go locations. Shoppers can walk in, scan a QR code from their Amazon mobile app at a turnstile, carry or add whatever they want to their baskets throughout the store, and walk out when they are finished. Every item is priced individually, meaning no weighing required for produce, for example. Bananas are 19 cents each and avocados are 49 cents. Zero human interaction is required, though the store will staff a couple dozen people to help stock shelves and answer shoppers’ questions. The space in Seattle is still smaller than a typical U.S. grocery store that’s about 40,000 square feet. Amazon Go Grocery is meant to stock shoppers’ kitchen cabinets, and help them with dinner, while Amazon Go stores are meant to serve bustling business districts during the breakfast and lunch hours.

10 Tech Jobs That Will Shape the 2020s – (Tool Box – February 7, 2020)
A recent report by the World Economic Forum indicates 42% of skills are expected to change by 2022, which implies that continuous learning should be on the agenda of the global tech workforce. A recent Gartner report further buttresses this point with another alarming statistic — by 2024, 69% of manager-level tasks will be automated.In this article, the Toolbox team explores 10 emerging job roles at the intersection of technology, public policy and science that have become popular in organizations and explains what these roles entail.


The Global Village – (Nations on Line – no date)
This article offers readers a succinct global perspective. If we could shrink the Earth’s population of 7 billion to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like this: (have in mind, that each of the villagers represents a population of 70 million, that’s more than the whole population of France). The village would consist of 61 people from Asia, of whom 19 would be from China, and almost 18 would be Indians (people from India), there are 15 people from Africa, 10 would be from Europe, not quite 9 would be from South America and the Caribbean, and 5 from North America. 12 are speaking Mandarin Chinese, 5 would speak Spanish, 5 would speak English, 5 would speak Hindi or Bengali, 3 would speak Arabic, more than 2 speak Portuguese, 2 speak Russian, 2 speak Japanese, and 1 speaks German, the rest of the villagers can choose among the 6000 languages spoken on the planet. 33 would believe in witchcraft, ghosts, aliens, etc. The number is a rough assumption, but according to a Gallup Poll in Sub-Saharan Africa, 55% of its residents personally believe in witchcraft. According to a poll by the Associated Press and Ipsos, a third of Americans say they believe in ghosts.


The Lessons to Be Learned from Forcing Plants to Play Music – (NPR – February 21, 2020)
The indoor houseplant market is booming, especially among millennials. By one report, sales surged almost 50%, to $1.7 billion, between 2016 and 2019. Now, through bio-sonification devices like Music of the Plants and PlantWave, plant enthusiasts can open channels of communication with their plants, conducted in the trending language of ambient noise. The plants can speak “ambient chill,” it turns out. PlantWave grew out of a zero-waste record label called Data Garden, started by Joe Patitucci and Alex Tyson in 2011. In 2012, an early iteration of PlantWave was born when the Philadelphia Museum of Art invited the label to do an installation at the museum. Data Garden worked with an engineer to develop a device that translated micro-conductivity on the surface of plants into a graph that could be used to control hardware and software synthesizers. The result was “Data Garden Quartet,” featuring four harmonizing plants that played continuous music. Plantwave’s primary mission with plant music is to foster an awareness of plants as living organisms. The consumer version of the invention includes sensors that issue small signals through the plant, measuring variations in electrical resistance between two points within it. “The variation in the connection is largely related to how much water is between those two points, which changes a lot as the plant is moving water around while it’s photosynthesizing,” Shapiro said. “Then we graphed that change as a wave, and then we translate that wave into pitch, so then essentially we’re getting a stream of all these pitch messages coming from the plant.” Article includes audio link to sample plant sounds. (Editor’s note: The title of this piece is a bit odd: it’s a stretch to connect much in the article with “lessons to be learned” and there is certainly no “forcing” of the plants. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting article.)


Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in. ― Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

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


Edited by John L. Petersen

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