Volume 23, Number 7 – 4/1/20

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  • According to The World in 2050, six of the seven of the world’s largest economies will be today’s emerging economies.
  • Squid edit their genetic material in a uniquely weird place.
  • An elite spy group used 5 zero-days to hack North Koreans.
  • In recent days, the Open Library has been “lending” 15,000 to 20,000 books per day.

by John L. Petersen

Considerations About Corona

It’s becoming very clear that something fundamental about this whole coronavirus affair is amiss. There is a mismatch between reality and the narrative that is being promoted (in a very organized way), by the media and the government. It has the feeling of 9/11, where a major event is used to produce rapid political and social change by those who do not have the good interests of humanity in mind.

It is an amazing primer – a tutorial – on how to generate rapid, widespread fear around something that is not what it seems. Make no mistake, the effects of the political reaction to the “crisis” will have an extraordinary, profound impact on our future, starting with an almost certain economic depression. The question that people should be asking is, “Who is doing this and why are they doing it?”

Here are some links that, for me, represent some advanced, objective thinking about this landmark event. Click on the pictures for the videos.

1. One of the foremost German research scientists, who specializes in this area, offers a considered overview of what is and isn’t happening and questions the extraordinarily destructive response that has been initiated by political leaders.

2. An illuminating summary of the situation in Europe can be found here. It begins: “According to the latest data of the Italian National Health Institute ISS, the average age of the positively-tested deceased in Italy is currently about 81 years. 10% of the deceased are over 90 years old. 90% of the deceased are over 70 years old. . .

3. Here’s my personal overview, Coronavirus: It’s an Op!. This “crisis” does not make sense in conventional terms. It does make sense that it is a political or intelligence “op” or operation. I’ve included some scenarios about where it might be going.

4. James Corbett’s predictably insightful overview of the extraordinary economic and social implications of this “crisis” is here.

5. Astrologer Joni Patry, whose TransitionTalk was sadly postponed until later because of the “crisis”, suggests that we tighten our seatbelts in anticipation of what appears to be headed this way.

So, stay tuned. More to come . . .


Upcoming TransitionTalks Postponed

Sadly, our next two TransitionTalks with Regina Meredith and Gabriel Felley in April and then KRYON in early May have been affected (infected?), by the coronavirus. We will be scheduling Regina and Gabriel for a later date, and Lee Carroll and KRYON have reconfigured the event to be a livestream with all of the same participants – so you’ll be able to get updated KRYON channelings, hear Lee’s teachings and experience Amber Wolf in real time!

More is coming, I’m sure. Stay tuned!

PostScript Interview with Dr. Harold Puthoff

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

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



The Coronation – (Charles Eisenstein – March 20, 2020)
For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan’s beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them? But let us be aware of two contradictory tendencies in human affairs. The first is the tendency for hysteria to feed on itself, to exclude data points that don’t play into the fear, and to create the world in its image. The second is denial, the irrational rejection of information that might disrupt normalcy and comfort. As Daniel Schmactenberger asks, How do you know what you believe is true? In the face of the uncertainty, I’d like to make a prediction: The crisis will play out so that we never will know. If the final death tally is lower than feared, which will itself be the subject of dispute (that the statistics were falsified in either or both directions), some will say that is because the controls worked. Others will say it is because the disease wasn’t as dangerous as we were told. What I will say next is relevant whether or not Covid-19 is a genetically engineered bioweapon, is related to 5G rollout, is being used to prevent “disclosure,” is a Trojan horse for totalitarian world government, is more deadly than we’ve been told, is less deadly than we’ve been told, originated in a Wuhan biolab, originated at Fort Detrick, or is exactly as the CDC and WHO have been telling us. If there is one thing I have learned through the course of this emergency, it is that I don’t really know what is happening. I don’t see how anyone can truly know, amidst the seething farrago of news, fake news, rumors, suppressed information, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and politicized narratives that fill the Internet. I wish a lot more people would embrace not knowing. I say that both to those who embrace the dominant narrative, as well as to those who hew to dissenting ones. What information might we be blocking out, in order to maintain the integrity of our viewpoints? Let’s be humble in our beliefs: it is a matter of life and death. (Editor’s note: We recommend this long and very thoughtful essay.)

Does the Flu Shot Increase COVID-19 Risk (Yes!) and Other Interesting Questions – (Doctor Murray – no date)
There is evidence that influenza vaccines specifically increase the risk of coronavirus infection. The reason is a phenomenon known as virus interference. Yes, it appears that the flu shot protects against influenza and it appears some other types of viruses as well, but it comes at a price of actually increasing the risk for coronavirus infections. That is exactly what a study that compared the respiratory virus status among 2,880 Department of Defense personnel based on their influenza vaccination status demonstrated. The study (reference in article) concluded “Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus.” Of note: the infection rate mortality rate in Italy to COVID-19 is dramatically higher than in other countries. A contributing factor may be that in September 2019, Italy rolled out an entirely new type of influenza vaccine, called VIQCC. Most available influenza vaccines are produced in embryonated chicken eggs. VIQCC, however, is produced from cultured animal cells rather than eggs and has more of a “boost” to the immune system as a result. VIQCC also contains four types of viruses – 2 type A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and 2 type B viruses. It looks like this “super” vaccine impacted the immune system in such a way to increase coronavirus infection through virus interference that set the stage for what happened in Italy.

12 Experts on Fake Pandemic – (James – March 28, 2020)
This article showcases twelve medical experts whose opinions on the Coronavirus outbreak contradict the official narratives of the MSM, and the memes so prevalent on social media. For example: Dr. David Katz is an American physician and founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. What he says: I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near-total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long-lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.

Mystery in Wuhan: Recovered Coronavirus Patients Test Negative … Then Positive – (NPR – March 27, 2020)
A spate of mysterious second-time infections is calling into question the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnostic tools even as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. It’s also raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases. Some Wuhan residents who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced “recovered” have tested positive again. Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers — those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness’s associated symptoms — suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over. Could that second positive test mean a second round of infection? Virologists think it is unlikely that a COVID-19 patient could be re-infected so quickly after recovery but caution that it is too soon to know. Under its newest COVID-19 prevention guidelines, China does not include in its overall daily count for total and for new cases those who retest positive after being released from medical care. China also does not include asymptomatic cases in case counts. In February, Wang Chen, a director at the state-run Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, estimated that the nucleic acid tests used in China were accurate at identifying positive cases of the coronavirus only 30%-50% of the time. Another theory is that, because the test amplifies tiny bits of DNA, residual virus from the initial infection could have falsely resulted in that second positive reading. “There are false positives with these types of tests,” said Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University. Caixin, an independent Chinese news outlet, reported earlier this week that Wuhan hospitals were continuing to see new cases of asymptomatic virus carriers, citing a health official who said he had seen up to a dozen such cases a day. Responding to inquiries about how the city was counting asymptomatic cases, Wuhan’s health commission said Monday that it is quarantining new asymptomatic patients in specialized wards for 14 days. Such patients would be included in new daily case counts if they develop symptoms during that time, authorities said.

What We Don’t Yet Know about the Coronavirus – (Reuters – March 28, 2020)
As the new coronavirus continues to spread around the world, here are some of the most important questions researchers and doctors – as well as policymakers and economists – are still trying to answer. How many people are infected, and how many do not show any symptoms? Can people be re-infected? This is a key question – and we don’t yet know the answer. Do we know when there will be treatments or a vaccine? Does the virus spread more slowly in hot places? How long will the pandemic last? Does the amount of exposure to the virus determine how sick someone gets? When will the economy return to normal? Are the trillions of dollars in emergency spending helping? Is it a good time to invest? (Editor’s note: You don’t need to read this article – as the title implies, the answer to every question above is “No one knows.” The value of that information is in being able to be clear that, whatever you do or don’t do, you are not acting based upon someone else’s unsupported assurances.)

Would Everyone Wearing Face Masks Help Us Slow the Pandemic? – (Science – March 28, 2020)
As cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ballooned last month, people in Europe and North America scrambled to get their hands on surgical masks to protect themselves. Health officials jumped in to discourage them, worried about the limited supply of masks for health care personnel. “Seriously people-STOP BUYING MASKS!” began a 29 February tweet from U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both said that only people with COVID-19 symptoms and those caring for them should wear masks. But some health experts, including the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, think that’s a mistake. Health authorities in parts of Asia have encouraged all citizens to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of whether they have symptoms. And the Czech Republic took the uncommon step last week of making nose and mouth coverings mandatory in public spaces, prompting a grassroots drive to hand make masks. Even experts who favor masking the masses say their impact on the spread of disease is likely to be modest. Many are also afraid to promote mask buying amid dire shortages at hospitals. But as the pandemic wears on, some public health experts think government messages discouraging mask wearing should shift. “It’s really a perfectly good public health intervention that’s not used,” argues KK Cheng, a public health expert at the University of Birmingham. “It’s not to protect yourself. It’s to protect people against the droplets coming out of your respiratory tract.” Cheng and others stress that however masks are used, people must practice social distancing and stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. When people do venture out and interact, they’re likely to spew some saliva. “When people speak and breathe and sing—you don’t have to sneeze or cough—these droplets are coming out,” he says. See also this article from the New York TimesMore Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection. This article takes a slightly different tack on the question but comes to essentially the same conclusion due to the increasing awareness of asymptomatic cases.

Everyone in Iceland Can Get Tested for the Coronavirus. Here’s How the Results Could Help All of Us – (BuzzFeed News – March 18, 2020)
Iceland, a small island nation of 364,000 is carrying out large-scale testing among its general population, making it the latest country to put aggressive testing at the heart of its fight against the pandemic. But — crucially — the testing also includes people who show no symptoms of the disease. Iceland’s government said it has so far tested a higher proportion of its citizens than anywhere else in the world. The number of individuals tested by the country’s health authorities and the biotechnology firm deCode Genetics — 3,787 — roughly translates to 10,405 per million, which compares to about 5,203 in South Korea, 2478 in Italy, and 764 in the UK. Of 3,787 individuals tested in the country, a total of 218 positive cases have been identified so far. “At least half of those infected contracted the virus while travelling abroad, mostly in high-risk areas in the European Alps (at least 90),” the government said. Those numbers include the first results of the voluntary tests on people with no symptoms. The first batch of 1,800 tests produced 19 positive cases, or about 1% of the sample. About half of those who tested positive are non-symptomatic. Mass testing on the scale adopted in Iceland is unlikely to be feasible across larger countries. However, it has confirmed multiple pieces of research that have shown that asymptomatic individuals contribute to the transmission of the disease in great numbers.


The Post Corona World – (Matthias Horx – March 16, 2020)
Matthias Horx is a German futurist. He observes, “At the moment, I am often asked when Corona will be over and when everything will return to normal. My answer is: never. There are historical moments when the future changes direction. We call them bifurcations. Or deep crises. These times are now. The world as we know it is dissolving. But behind it comes a new world, the formation of which we can at least imagine. For this I would like to offer you an exercise with which we have had good experiences in vision processes at companies. We call it the RE-gnosis. In contrast to the PRO-gnosis, we do not look into the future with this technique. But from the future BACK to today.” This article goes on to do just that.

The World in 2050 – (PWC – March, 2020)
By 2050, the global market is projected to double its current size, even as the UN forecasts the world’s population will only grow by a modest 26%. Though it can be challenging to predict exactly how the future will unfold, most economists agree on one thing: today’s developing markets will be tomorrow’s economic superpowers. According to The World in 2050 report by international professional services firm PwC, in 30 years, six of the seven of the world’s largest economies will be today’s emerging economies. Emerging markets (E7) could grow around twice as fast as advanced economies (G7) on average. As a result, six of the seven largest economies in the world are projected to be emerging economies in 2050 led by China (1st), India (2nd) and Indonesia (4th). The US could be down to third place in the global GDP rankings while the EU27’s share of world GDP could fall below 10% by 2050. The UK could be down to 10th place by 2050, France out of the top 10 and Italy out of the top 20 as they are overtaken by faster growing emerging economies like Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam respectively. View the article’s infographics for highlights of its GDP projections and explore the results further using the interactive data tool.


Extraordinary Fossil Isolates the Moment Fish Began Evolving Fingers – (New Atlas – March 19, 2020)
Described as “the missing evolutionary link in the fish to tetrapod transition,” a fascinating Canadian fossil reveals an ancient fish species with arm, hand and finger bones similar to our own, wrapped in fins. Found some 10 years ago in the Miguasha National Park in Canada’s Southeast, the 157-cm (61.8-in) specimen dates back to somewhere between 393 and 359 million years ago, a period called the Late Devonian age in which a certain family of fish were beginning to experiment with coming out of the water. These adventurous fish eventually evolved into the entire family of tetrapods, or four-legged vertebrates, a family that includes dinosaurs, reptiles, birds, amphibians, whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and mammals – including humans. Moving out of the water was one of the most profound and mysterious evolutionary leaps ever, and besides needing to develop a way to breathe dry oxygen, these fish found it difficult to support their weight and move on dry land. That is, until some of them started exhibiting rudimentary arms. “This is the first time that we have unequivocally discovered fingers locked in a fin with fin-rays in any known fish,” said John Long, Strategic Professor in Palaeontology at Flinders University. “The articulating digits in the fin are like the finger bones found in the hands of most animals. This finding pushes back the origin of digits in vertebrates to the fish level, and tells us that the patterning for the vertebrate hand was first developed deep in evolution, just before fishes left the water.” The Late Devonian age is particularly fascinating to evolutionary biologists, because this is where a lot of the systems in the human body first appeared. In the last decade, finds from this era have told scientists a lot about the early development of the breathing, hearing and eating systems we still use today in a much more refined form.

Diamond Samples in Canada Reveal Size of Lost Continent – (BBC News – March 21, 2020)
Canadian scientists were studying diamond samples from Baffin Island, a glacier-covered land mass near Greenland, when they noticed a remnant of North Atlantic Craton. Cratons are ancient, stable parts of the Earth’s continental crust. The North American Craton stretched from present-day Scotland to North America and broke apart 150m years ago. Scientists chanced on the latest evidence as they examined exploration samples of kimberlite, a rock that often contains diamonds, from Baffin Island. “For researchers, kimberlites are subterranean rockets that pick up passengers on their way to the surface,” University of British Columbia geologist Maya Kopylova said. “The passengers are solid chunks of wall rocks that carry a wealth of details on conditions far beneath the surface of our planet over time.” Ms Kopylova and her colleagues says the sample bore a mineral signature that matched other portions of the North Atlantic Craton. Ms Kopylova said the discovery adds about 10% to the known size of the craton. “Our knowledge is literally and symbolically deeper,” she said.

Ancestor of All Animals Identified in Australian Fossils – (Science Daily – March 23, 2020)
A team led by UC Riverside geologists has discovered the first ancestor on the family tree that contains most familiar animals today, including humans. The tiny, wormlike creature, named Ikaria wariootia, is the earliest bilaterian, or organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end connected by a gut. It was found in Ediacaran Period deposits in Australia and was 2-7 millimeters long, with the largest the size of a grain of rice.

Mammal Study Explains Why Females Live Longer – (BBC News – March 24, 2020)
In every human population, women live longer than men, so much so that nine out of 10 people who live to be 110 years old are female. This pattern, researchers say, has been consistent since the first accurate birth records became available in the 18th Century. While the same assumption has been held about animal species, large-scale data on mammals in the wild has been lacking. Now, an international team of researchers has examined age-specific mortality estimates for a widely diverse group of 101 species. In 60% of the analyzed populations, the scientists found that females outlived the males – on average, they had a lifespan that’s 18.6% longer than males. Lead author of the study, Dr Jean-Francois Lemaître, from the University of Lyon, France, noted that “the magnitude of the difference in lifespan is due to the interaction of these sex-specific genetics, the fact that males devote more resources towards specific functions (such as sexual competition and\ the growth of a large body mass) compared with females, and to the local environmental conditions.”


Turning Back the Clock on Aging Cells – (New York Times – March 24, 2020)
Researchers at Stanford University report that they can rejuvenate human cells by reprogramming them back to a youthful state. They hope that the technique will help in the treatment of diseases, such as osteoarthritis and muscle wasting, that are caused by the aging of tissue cells. A major cause of aging is thought to be the errors that accumulate in the epigenome, the system of proteins that packages the DNA and controls access to its genes. The Stanford team, led by Tapash Jay Sarkar, Dr. Thomas A. Rando and Vittorio Sebastiano, say their method, designed to reverse these errors and walk back the cells to their youthful state, does indeed restore the cells’ vigor and eliminate signs of aging. The Stanford approach utilizes powerful agents known as Yamanaka factors, which reprogram a cell’s epigenome to its time zero, or embryonic state. In 2006 Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, a stem-cell researcher at Kyoto University, amazed biologists by showing that a cell’s fate could be reversed with a set of four transcription factors — agents that activate genes — that he had identified. A cell dosed with the Yamanaka factors erases the marks on the epigenome, so the cell loses its identity and reverts to the embryonic state. Erroneous marks gathered during aging are also lost in the process, restoring the cell to its state of youth. Dr. Yamanaka shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for the work. But the Yamanaka factors are no simple panacea. Applied to whole mice, the factors made cells lose their functions and primed them for rapid growth, usually cancerous; the mice all died. In 2016, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, found that the two effects of the Yamanaka factors — erasing cell identity and reversing aging — could be separated, with a lower dose securing just age reversal. But he achieved this by genetically engineering mice, a technique not usable in people. Now the Stanford team has described a feasible way to deliver Yamanaka factors to cells taken from patients, by dosing cells kept in cultures with small amounts of the factors. Leonard P. Guarente, an expert on aging at M.I.T., said the method was “one of the most promising areas of aging research” but that it would take a long time to develop drugs based on RNA, the required chemical.

Her Incredible Sense of Smell Is Helping Scientists Find New Ways to Diagnose Disease – (NPR – March 23, 2020)
Joy Milne and her super smelling abilities have opened up a whole new realm of research. Researchers, including Perdita Barran at the University of Manchester, led a second, larger study and have recently found 10 compounds linked to Parkinson’s by using mass spectrometry and other techniques to analyze samples from 274 people. They’re hoping to find a way to diagnose Parkinson’s from skin-based biomarkers, according to Barran. That’s the ultimate goal, says a Parkinson’s researcher at the University of Edinburgh named Tilo Kunath: to develop a new tool to detect Parkinson’s early. “We really want to know what is behind this and what are the molecules. And then can the molecules be used as some sort of diagnostic test?” Kunath adds, “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.” Combined with potential therapies to prevent or mitigate Parkinson’s, a molecular test that identified Parkinson’s would be a powerful tool. “This idea of an olfactory biomarker [for a disease] is fascinating,” said Dr. Thomas Hummel of the Technical University of Dresden’s Smell & Taste Clinic. But there remain “numerous open questions.” Joy’s smell test for Parkinson’s is “interesting but not definitive,” Doty adds. More studies would lend it more certainty, and he says, “I think it’s still up in the air.” But Joy’s superpower is so unusual that researchers all over the world have started working with her and have discovered that she can identify several kinds of illnesses — tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes.

Scorpion Venom Protein Reverses Inflammation in Rats with Arthritis – (New Atlas – March 4, 2020)
They mightn’t seem like the most obvious places to look, but the venom of deadly creatures like spiders, snakes and scorpions are an increasingly rich source of medicines for human health. The latest example of this comes from scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, who have discovered a tiny protein in scorpion venom that could become part of a potent new treatment for arthritis. While drugs exist to treat inflammation in sufferers of arthritis, a scattergun approach means that the often bring severe side effects. Dr. Jim Olson, who led the new research, said, “Steroids like to go everywhere in the body except where they’re needed most. This is a strategy to improve arthritis relief with minimal systemic side effects.” Around four years ago while screening dozens of peptides from the venom of scorpions and spiders, he and his team found one that seemed to naturally buildup in the cartilage. This led to years of trial and error and more tinkering in the lab, until the researchers came up with a recipe that appears to have the desired effect. It involved pairing this peptide with a steroid called triamcinolone acetonide, a combination that was then tested in rats where it proved capable of concentrating in the joints and reversing inflammation in rats with arthritis. And crucially, it produced no detectable side effects. The scientists note that the treatment is still years away from entering clinical use, but describe the proof of concept as “promising.”

Squid Edit Their Genetic Material in a Uniquely Weird Place – (Science News – March 25, 2020)
Longfin inshore squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) are the first known animals that can tweak strings of RNA outside of a nerve cell’s nucleus. These genetic couriers, called messenger RNA, or mRNA, carry a cell’s blueprints for building proteins. All creatures make edits to RNA — including other types besides mRNA — and do so sparingly, based on limited studies in mammals and fruit flies. Those changes typically take place inside the nucleus and are then exported to the rest of the cell. The squids’ ability to make genetic edits in cytoplasm, the jellylike material that makes up much of a cell, may let the animals make adjustments to mRNAs on the fly. That skill could help squids produce proteins tailored to meet a cell’s needs and hone crucial cell processes. Knowing how the squids make the edits in nerve cells could help researchers hijack the technique to develop therapeutics for health conditions such as chronic pain by genetically editing cells that create inappropriate pain signals, says Joshua Rosenthal, a biologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. The method would be much like the DNA-editing technique CRISPR, but for RNA.


The Plastic-Hunting Pirates of the Cornish Coast – (New York Times – March 23, 2020)
The Cornish coast — with its high cliffs and inlets, lining the peninsula that juts out from England’s southwest corner — has a long association with pirates. Its rocky coves, secret anchorages and long winding creeks have historically been a haunting ground for seafaring scoundrels and salty sea dogs. Today, it is the home of an entirely different breed of renegade. Since 2017, Steve Green and Monika Hertlová have been setting sail in their 112-year-old boat to remove plastic pollution from the coastline’s worst affected areas. In the three years since they began operating — under the banner of Clean Ocean Sailing and alongside a team of dedicated volunteers — they have removed over 44,000 pounds of plastic waste from areas of land that are inaccessible by foot. (Editor’s note: We recommend this photo essay along the Cornish coast.)


11 Countries Are Now Using People’s Phones to Track the Coronavirus Pandemic, and It Heralds a Massive Increase in Surveillance – (Business Insider – March 26, 2020)
Governments across the world are galvanizing every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us — our smartphones. A new live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.” The US Senate’s $2 trillion economic stimulus bill includes $500 million for the CDC to launch a new “surveillance and data collection system” to monitor the spread of the virus, though it’s not yet clear exactly how this system will work. Samuel Woodhams, Top10VPN’s Digital Rights Lead who compiled the index, warned that the world could slide into permanently increased surveillance. While some countries will cap their new emergency measures, otherwise may retain the powers for future use. “There is a risk that many of these new capabilities will continue to be used following the outbreak,” said Woodhams. “This is particularly significant as many of the new measures have avoided public and political scrutiny and do not include sunset clauses.” Article includes list of countries using cell phone tracking to date.

A Debate Between AI Experts Shows a Battle over the Technology’s Future – (Technology Review – March 27, 2020)
On March 26 at MIT Technology Review’s annual EmTech Digital event, two prominent figures in AI took to the virtual stage to debate how the field might overcome these issues. Gary Marcus, professor emeritus at NYU and the founder and CEO of Robust.AI, is a well-known critic of deep learning. In his book Rebooting AI, published last year, he argued that AI’s shortcomings are inherent to the technique. Danny Lange, the vice president of AI and machine learning at Unity, sits squarely in the deep-learning camp. He built his career on the technique’s promise and potential, having served as the head of machine learning at Uber, the general manager of Amazon Machine Learning, and a product lead at Microsoft focused on large-scale machine learning. It’s an insightful conversation. For example in looking at the combination of deep learning and symbolic AI. Markus noted that “The reason to look at humans is because there are certain things that humans do much better than deep-learning systems. That doesn’t mean humans will ultimately be the right model. We want systems that have some properties of computers and some properties that have been borrowed from people. We don’t want our AI systems to have bad memory just because people do. But since people are the only model of a system that can develop a deep understanding of something—literally the only model we’ve got—we need to take that model seriously.” Lange was clearly at odds with that, “I’m very skeptical of trying to solve AI by trying to mimic the human brain. Deep learning is not necessarily a silver bullet, but if you feed it enough data and you have the right neural-network architecture, it is able to learn abstractions that we as humans cannot interpret but that makes the system very efficient at solving a wide range of tasks.” And the horses were out of the gate.


Shipping Container-based ICU Being Developed for COVID-19 Treatment – (New Atlas – March 26, 2020)
Shipping containers have been used for lots of different projects before, such as swimming pools, bars, and houses, but Connected Units for Respiratory Ailment (CURA) is an example that could potentially save lives. It involves transforming the metal boxes into easily transportable intensive care units (ICU) that can be shipped worldwide to help those in need of treatment as COVID-19 continues to spread. The development is open-source. The units are built from standard 20 ft (6.1 m) long shipping containers that we’d assume are either new or very carefully and thoroughly cleaned. The containers are modified with windows and entrances and then joined onto a larger inflatable structure to create modular configurations in different sizes as needed, from four beds to over 40. While doctors already have hospital tents at their disposal for emergency situations, CURA would (with the correct equipment installed) offer a benefit over tents by creating a negative room pressure system. Put simply, the negative room pressure means that air flows into the containers but not out, helping to mitigate the risk of further spreading the virus. The system is often used in traditional brick-and-mortar isolation wards. The project envisions placing some units next to hospitals, such as in parking lots, for example, to expand ICU capacity, while others could be used to create field hospitals. It would also make use of shipping containers’ easy transportation to move them around on trains, trucks and ships. The first prototype CURA is currently being constructed for use in a hospital in Milan.


Arcimoto Donates Deliverator e-trike to Help Eugene’s Unhoused – (New Atlas – March 27, 2020)
Last year, Arcimoto launched a new version of its three-wheeled electric trike aimed at local and last mile delivery businesses called the Deliverator. Now the company has teamed up with Carry It Forward to field test the vehicle in Eugene, Oregon. The Deliverator can manage a top speed of 75 mph (120 km/h) and has a per charge city range of 100 miles (160 km). Though there’s a windshield and roof cover to protect the driver from the elements, there are no doors. But this will allow for quick ingress/egress, which is handy for package delivery. Company founder and CEO, Mark Frohnmayer said, “Right before our planned launch, Carry It Forward reached out to Arcimoto to see if we could help in any way to expand their delivery capacity for emergency supplies to the unhoused. Non-profit Carry It Forward will use the vehicle to transport critical emergency supplies to unhoused communities in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. Article includes photos of the electric delivery trike and a brief video clip.


Can Farming Make Space for Nature? – (New Yorker – February 10, 2020)
The United Kingdom is a farmed country. Almost seventy-five per cent of the land is given over to agriculture—compared with some forty-five per cent in the United States. After the privations of the Second World War, the country joined a continent-wide push to banish hunger from Europe. Between 1935 and 1998, aided by chemicals, subsidies, heavy machinery, and crop science, British farmers more or less tripled their per-acre yields. Many seminatural habitats were drained or plowed under. An estimated 97% of hay meadows were lost. Between 1990 and 2010, the area of crops treated with pesticides in the U.K. increased by 50%. The environmental damage caused by Britain’s intensive agriculture has only recently been properly understood. In 2013, twenty-five nature organizations published the first “State of Nature” report. “Even the most casual of observers may have noticed that all is not well,” Sir David Attenborough wrote in the foreword. In 2014, scientists found that lots in the city of Leicester contained a third more organic carbon—a standard measure of soil fertility—than the surrounding farmland. For ecological and political reasons, British farming has reached a turning point. In January, 2018, Michael Gove, the U.K.’s Environment Secretary at the time, announced that, after Brexit, farmers would be paid “public money for public goods”—such as projects to improve soil health, plant trees, and mitigate climate change. Gove also announced a new, twenty-five-year plan for the British environment, based on the principle of “natural capital,” in which the nation’s air, water, soil, and biodiversity will be reimagined as an economic resource. It is possible that British farming, which has revenues of around nine billion pounds a year, is currently worthless—once you take away its subsidies and the damage that it causes to the nation’s waterways and wildlife. But the benefits offered by new forms of agriculture, such as vertical farming, or the restoration of wetlands, to sequester carbon, or nature-friendly food production, such as Jake Fiennes’s, are potentially enormous. (Editor’s note: This is a long and fascinating article that features one very eccentric British naturalist/farmer, Jake Fiennes, and the last 200 years of British farming history. It’s relevant in the US, because our farmers and our wildlife are facing the same issues. It’s worth your time to read it.)


Inside the Military’s Top Secret Plans If Coronavirus Cripples the Government – (Newsweek – March 18, 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic raises the fear that huge swaths of the executive branch or even Congress and the Supreme Court could also be disabled, forcing the implementation of “continuity of government” plans that include evacuating Washington and “devolving” leadership to second-tier officials in remote and quarantined locations. But Coronavirus is also new territory, where the military itself is vulnerable and the disaster scenarios being contemplated — including the possibility of widespread domestic violence as a result of food shortages — are forcing planners to look at what are called “extraordinary circumstances”. Above-Top Secret contingency plans already exist for what the military is supposed to do if all the Constitutional successors are incapacitated. Standby orders were issued more than three weeks ago (as of 03/18) to ready these plans, not just to protect Washington but also to prepare for the possibility of some form of martial law. “We’re in new territory,” says one senior officer, the entire post-9/11 paradigm of emergency planning thrown out the window. In recognition of the equal vulnerability of military forces, the Pentagon has instituted unprecedented restrictions on off-base travel. Currently it has restricted most overseas travel for 60 days, and issued supplemental domestic guidance that essentially keeps all uniformed personnel on or near military bases. There are exceptions, including travel that is “mission-essential,” the Pentagon says. Mission essential in this regard applies to the maze of more than a dozen different secret assignments, most of them falling under three larger contingency plans (detailed in the article). All of these plans are the responsibility of U.S. Northern Command (or NORTHCOM), the homeland defense military authority created after 9/11. Air Force General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy is NORTHCOM’s Colorado Springs-based commander. On February 1, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper signed orders directing NORTHCOM to execute nationwide pandemic plans. Secretly, he signed Warning Orders (the WARNORD as it’s called) alerting NORTHCOM and a host of east coast units to “prepare to deploy” in support of potential extraordinary missions.

An Elite Spy Group Used 5 Zero-Days to Hack North Koreans – (Wired – March 26, 2020)
Cybersecurity researchers at Google’s Threat Analysis Group revealed on Thursday that an unnamed group of hackers used no fewer than five zero-day vulnerabilities, or secret hackable flaws in software, to target North Koreans and North Korea-focused professionals in 2019. The hacking operations exploited flaws in Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Windows with phishing emails that carried malicious attachments or links to malicious sites, as well as so-called watering hole attacks that planted malware on victims’ machines when they visited certain websites that had been hacked to infect visitors via their browsers. Google declined to comment on who might be responsible for the attacks, but Russian security firm Kaspersky says it has linked Google’s findings with DarkHotel, a group that has targeted North Koreans in the past and is suspected of working on behalf of the South Korean government. Costin Raiu, the head of Kaspersky’s Global Research & Analysis Team, points out that DarkHotel has a long history of hacking North Korean and Chinese victims, with a focus on espionage. “They’re probably one of the actors that’s the most resourceful in the world when it comes to deploying zero days,” Raiu says. “They seem to be doing all this stuff in-house, not using code from other sources. It says a lot about their technical skills. They’re very good.” The group’s sophistication should serve as a reminder that countries considered “second-tier” in their hacking resources—that is, countries other than Russia, China, and the US—may have surprising capabilities. “People underestimate the risk. If you have this level of capability in a second-tier cyberpower, you have to assume all second-tier cyberpowers have these capabilities. If you think ‘I’m not being targeted by the Chinese, [so] I’m OK,’ you have a strategic problem.”


China’s Damning US Human Rights Report May Be Propaganda, but It’s Not Wrong – (Mint Press – March 18, 2020)
China just released a 13,000-word report on the state of human rights in the United States. While the report clearly has an agenda, it’s not inaccurate. The document reads similarly to reports from other human rights groups like Amnesty International, Freedom House or Human Rights Watch, providing copious facts and figures to highlight shortcomings of the American system on a range of issues. For example, on racist policing, it notes that, “Shootings and brutal abuse of African Americans by policemen are frequent. African American adults are 5.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than white adults. A U.N. Special Rapporteur called such racial disparities a vestige of slavery and racial segregation.” If skim-read, China’s report could be mistaken for one written by liberal Western organizations based in London or Washington, D.C. But, it goes much further than most Western human rights reports do, incorporating economic and social rights into its critique. These rights are enshrined in the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and are commonly seen as the cornerstone of human rights. The report states that homeless people are in a “miserable situation,” in the United States and are rarely treated with sympathy or helped, noting that an astonishing 80,000 California community college students had been forced to sleep in cars during the previous year alone. It also highlights the “shocking problem” of child poverty; the poverty ratio of American children having barely improved in the last 30 years. The report concluded that, “No child should have to worry where her next meal will come from or whether she will have a place to sleep each night in the wealthiest nation on Earth.” A lack of healthcare is also noted; around 14% of adults have no coverage whatsoever. The United States, however, has always explicitly rejected the Universal Declaration and its economic and social rights. Its ambassador to the U.N. during the Reagan years, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, famously labeled the Declaration a “letter to Santa Claus.”


China’s Blood Donations Dry Up as Coronavirus Outbreak Quells Giving – (Reuters – February 26, 2020)
“Blood reserves have reached their lowest levels in history, and the blood supply for clinical use is facing an unprecedented challenge,” warned the blood collection center in the city of Jining on Feb. 10 on social media platform WeChat. While hospitals are postponing elective surgeries until after the epidemic is controlled, cancer patients, people suffering from blood diseases and critical care patients still need transfusions. The shortage highlights how the epidemic has exacerbated existing problems in China’s healthcare sector. Blood supplies have long been tight. With quarantine measures to prevent the coronavirus spread limiting large gatherings, donation centers are struggling to match regular levels of giving by students, military members, employees at state-owned companies and walk-in contributions. The city of Nanjing needed daily donations from 300 people to meet demand, but only about 10 people a day had donated blood recently, the Jiangsu Province Blood Centre noted on its website on Feb. 6. With many surgeries postponed, the real increase in demand for blood could come after the epidemic is controlled. See also: How coronavirus is upsetting the (U.S.) blood supply chain.

Meet Global Corruption’s Hidden Players – (YouTube – July 8, 2013)
Chairman Penelope Gooch is a British anti-corruption campaigner and activist and a co-founder and board member of the NGO Global Witness, where she works to uncover and fight corruption in the developing world. In this TED talk, she exposes the links between corrupt leaders, their families, shell corporations, and global banks. When the son of the president of a desperately poor country starts buying mansions and sportscars on an official monthly salary of $7,000, Gooch suggests, corruption is probably somewhere in the picture. In a blistering, eye-opening talk (and through several specific examples), she details how global corruption trackers follow the money — to some surprisingly familiar faces. What she goes on to demonstrate is that corruption is not just “how the world works” but that legislation can, and indeed is, changing that picture. (Editor’s note: We recommend this 14 minute video clip.)


Going the Distance (and Beyond) to Catch Marathon Cheaters – (Wired – February 14, 2020)
In 2015, Derek Murphy started a website called Marathon Investigation. In late 2016, a friend developed a data scraper for Murphy that pulls all the published race result splits into an Excel document, making it easier for Murphy to see anomalies. “If there are splits missing, or there’s one split that’s considerably faster than the other splits, then it raises red flags,” he says. He typically starts his probing by looking at race splits—the time it takes a runner to cover a particular segment of a course. During many races, especially big ones like the LA Marathon, radio-frequency identification chips are embedded in runners’ bibs and record when the racers run over an RFID-enabled mat. This article highlights Murphy’s painstaking process of detective work. One of Murphy’s sharpest critics is Scott Kummer, a lawyer in Chicago whom Murphy invited to be his cohost on his Marathon Investigation podcast. The show explores famous cheating cases, and often the pair butt heads. Kummer observed, “If it’s an elite runner who’s caught, that seems OK. But if it’s just Joe Average, who are we really helping with that? Anybody who goes to great lengths to cheat in a marathon probably has some issues to begin with, and having 4 million people on Facebook talk about what a piece of garbage they are isn’t good.” Murphy is unyielding. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a big race or small race,” he told me. “If somebody is reaching the podium and they cheated, it’s wrong. The point is to preserve the integrity of the sport.” Unyielding principle is one thing, however the results can be tragic.

Real Learning in a Virtual Classroom Is Difficult – (Arc Technica – March 28, 2020)
“Remote teaching sucks. It’s yucky, and it is not the future of education.” Thus spake my wife, a high school English teacher with many years of experience. And she’s right. I teach at a university, and we have also moved to virtual lessons in the face of COVID-19. Even before the current crisis, I already made extensive use of digital tools in the classroom. However, virtual lessons are a poor substitute for actual in-person instruction. Let me take you on a tour of a future that we all should be trying to avoid. (It isn’t all doom and gloom, though; we’ve discovered some hidden treasures as well.) Teaching is a performance. The anonymity and safety in large classes does not mean that teachers are not seeing and modifying their approach via instantaneous feedback from their classes. Video technology, virtual whiteboards, and all the rest of it simply don’t allow for a connection. And, when introduced at such short notice… well, you can imagine the chaos. For example, my daughter is getting virtual lessons via Google Meets, but the permissions for the meeting are never set correctly (I am not sure if Google Meets even has the flexibility). Kids are able to mute the teacher for everyone without the teacher noticing. They can choose their own nicknames—with predictable results—and kick each other out of the class. In other words, classroom management has a whole range of different problems that requires a different skill set and, most importantly, planning. The unexpected benefit was the Teams environment which some teachers were using. Teams provides a setup specific for the classroom, with a class notebook, based on OneNote. The notebook has a class materials area that is read-only for students. The instructor places all the lesson material there. It has a collaborative area that everyone can play in. Joint assignments can be done there.

Rome’s Homeless Don’t Have the Luxury of Staying Home – (New York Times – March 24, 2020)
“For the thousands who are homeless or living in extreme poverty in Rome, keeping off the streets is nearly impossible,” Francesca Zuccari, coordinator of services for people in extreme poverty for the Community of St. Egidio charity, said of the 8,000 people who typically live on Rome’s now empty streets, “The problem is that these are the most fragile members of the population, and those who are most exposed.” Though soup kitchens and shelters in Rome remain open, the informal systems of support — spare change dropped in a cup, or a paid-for breakfast pastry — no longer exist. The closing of bars and restaurants has inadvertently cut off access to washrooms. “Citizens keep being told to wash their hands,” Ms. Zuccari said. “The homeless don’t know where to go.” More than anything, the seismic disruption to street life in the city has meant many are going hungry. Three days a week, people can receive a hot meal at the soup kitchen that St. Egidio runs from a palazzo in Rome’s central Trastevere neighborhood. Because of social distancing, fewer guests can sit together at the long rows of tables in the kitchen’s main dining hall, so the charity stays open longer “to give everyone a chance to eat,” Ms. Zuccari said. On other days, the charity’s volunteers deliver box dinners in areas where the homeless usually congregate, including the city’s main train stations. Every week, the charity distributes 2,500 boxed meals. Many homeless have moved closer to the Vatican. There, the pope’s charity distributes food and operates showers near the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa, also minister to the poor in the area.

Internet Archive Offers 1.4 million Copyrighted Books for Free Online – (Ars Technica – March 28, 2020)
One of the casualties of coronavirus-related social distancing measures has been public libraries, which are shut down in many communities around the world. This week, the Internet Archive, an online library best known for running the Internet’s Wayback Machine, announced a new initiative to expand access to digital books during the pandemic. For almost a decade, an Internet Archive program called the Open Library has offered people the ability to “check out” digital scans of physical books held in storage by the Internet Archive. Readers can view a scanned book in a browser or download it to an e-reader. Users can only check out a limited number of books at once and are required to “return” them after a limited period of time. Until this week, the Open Library only allowed people to “check out” as many copies as the library owned. If you wanted to read a book but all copies were already checked out by other patrons, you had to join a waiting list for that book—just like you would at a physical library. Of course, such restrictions are artificial when you’re distributing digital files. Earlier this week, with libraries closing around the world, the Internet Archive announced a major change: it is temporarily getting rid of these waiting lists. “The Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners,” the Internet Archive announced. “This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.” Almost 20,000 new users very quickly signed up. In recent days, the Open Library has been “lending” 15,000 to 20,000 books per day.


“Pandemic Drone” Could Help Detect Infections in Crowds – (New Atlas – March 26, 2020)
The University of South Australia (UniSA) and Canada-based drone technology specialist Draganfly Inc have teamed up to develop a “pandemic drone” platform that uses special sensors and computer vision to find people with infectious respiratory diseases. One of the major problems in controlling a pandemic like the COVID-19 virus is finding out who is infected and how widespread the disease is. One way to do this is to look for people showing symptoms. However, asking the population of an entire city to queue up to have their temperatures taken is hardly practical, so a UniSA team led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl is opting for remote sensing and computer algorithms. According to the team, the new drone is capable of monitoring someone’s temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. It can also detect sneezing and coughing. This works even in crowds, including those at offices, airports, cruise ships, and aged care homes. The technology was originally unveiled in 2017 by Chahl, Ali Al-Naji, and Asanka Perera when they demonstrated the ability to measure heart and breathing rates, analyze human movements to detect coughing and sneezing at a distance of up to 10 m (33 ft) using drone videos and within 50 m (165 ft) from fixed cameras. Chahl says that the detection rate isn’t perfect, but it is a practical tool for seeing if a disease is present in a crowd.


The Second Virus Shockwave Is Hitting China’s Factories Already – (Bloomberg – March 26, 2020)
Since last week, emails from foreign clients have been flooding into export manager Grace Gao’s in-box, asking to delay orders already made, putting goods ready to be shipped on hold until further notice, or asking for payment grace periods of up to two months. Gao’s firm, Shandong Pangu Industrial Co., makes tools like hammers and axes, 60% of which go to the European market. As the virus ravages the continent from Spain to Italy, the shutdowns there are cutting off orders to Chinese factories just as they were beginning to get back on their feet. It’s a story playing out across the country. “It’s a complete, dramatic turnaround,” lamented Gao, estimating sales in April to May will plunge as much as 40% from last year. “Last month, it was our customers who chased after us checking if we could still deliver goods as planned. Now it’s become us chasing after them asking if we should still deliver products as they ordered.” “It is definitely the second shock-wave for the Chinese economy,” said Xing Zhaopeng, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. The global spread of the virus “will affect China manufacturing through two channels: disrupted supply chains and declining external demand.” Chinese firms are saying that canceled orders, uncertain logistics and delayed payment have become their latest headaches. “Manufacturers are seeing many cases where overseas clients regretted their orders or where goods can’t be delivered due to customs closures in other countries,” said Dong Liu, vice president of Fujian Strait Textile Technology Co. in southeastern China. His factory was about to resume full capacity, after the return of workers who had been stranded in Hubei province, the center of the original outbreak. “The dent on export orders is rather serious.”


Princeton Researchers Discover How Loners and Introverts Will Save Society – (Fast Company – March 27, 2020)
Loners are not dysfunctional failures of the herd. They save the herd. They are herd heroes. This is the finding of Princeton researchers who empirically demonstrated that across the animal kingdom, loners—defined as “individuals out of sync with a coordinated majority”—likely serve as evolutionary insurance plans, ensuring species survival. For example, if a pandemic of a coronavirus called, say, COVID-19, hit a species, the introverted shut-ins who stayed alone in their homes until they received vaccines would have a 100% survival rate. Their antisocial tendencies would make them invulnerable to the group threat. Loners exist across the animal kingdom, such as small herds of mammals that skip group migrations and plants that flower days before or after the rest of the species. But until now, evolutionary biologists have struggled to determine whether loners are random or part of a survival strategy, because studying unpredictable outliers is difficult. So the researchers identified loner amoebas in a slime mold—the ones that, in times of starvation, fail to coalesce with other amoebae into blobs that eventually attach onto passing insects. They found the loners are likely to survive if food returns, and also likely to survive various amoeba blob misfortunes and ailments. Collective action, after all, carries the risk of collective failure. They also discovered that the loners are not at all random: the ones that hang back have heritable loner behavior, and their numbers flatline as the amoeba population grows. This means that individual loners exist as functions of their environment and communication with other amoebae. The researchers write that loners are “critical to understanding collective and social behaviors” across the animal kingdom. So carry on loners. You’re winning evolution.


Take a Virtual Tour of These 12 Amazing Museums Closed Because of Coronavirus – (USA Today – March 17, 2020)
As it happens, Google Arts and Culture partnered with more than 2,500 museums and galleries around the world to offer virtual tours of their collections and spaces, way before the coronavirus pandemic. You could spend hours here traveling the world – or even just museum-clogged New York City. You’d rather be shopping? Keep in mind, almost every museum now offers delectable gifts and art through online shopping. Here is a sample of just some of the museums in the United States. You might start with the National Gallery of Art: Washington, D.C. The nation’s art museum lists over 42,000 artworks online, and two special “exhibits”: “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting,” from the gallery’s 2018 exhibit, focuses on the always-popular 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer.


Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. – Leonard da Vinci

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


Edited by John L. Petersen

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