Volume 24, Number 12 – 6/15/21

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Volume 24, Number 12 – 6/15/2021


  • Dandelions are being researched as a more sustainable material than rubber for tires.
  • Without technical advances, decommissioned wind turbine blades will likely account for 43 million tonnes of waste in 2050.
  • MIT engineers have discovered a new means of generating electricity.
  • “Shrinkflation” is a term for retail camouflage when a product’s weight drops but the price stays the same.

Pure Human:
At the Crossroad of Biology
and Transhumanism

Saturday, July 31
in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

We live our lives, choose our relationships, heal our bodies and build our society based upon the way we think of ourselves—our story. For the first time in our history, technology that mimics our biology, and virtual realities that mimic our most intimate relationships, are changing our story.

  • The danger is clear: when we replace our natural biology with computer chips, chemicals and artificial technology, our neurons, cells, unique abilities and coping mechanisms begin to atrophy. We lose the very qualities that we value, and cherish, as humans.
  • The science is clear: new discoveries ranging from human evolution and genetics to the emerging science of neuro-cardiology and heart intelligence have now overturned 150 years of thinking when it comes to who we are, and what we’re capable of. These discoveries add to a growing body of evidence revealing that we are the technology we’ve been waiting for. Within each of us lie dormant abilities and extraordinary potentials far beyond what was believed possible in the past.

In this live presentation, Gregg will provide a blueprint for Pure Human thinking and living, and the new human story that reflects the discoveries revealing who we are, and what we’re capable of. He will also teach you how to access, and program, the operating system of your own body and brain, allowing you to regulate your nervous system, as well as your emotions and perceptions, and the epigenetic triggers of your body.

These discoveries add to a growing body of evidence revealing that we are the technology we’ve been waiting for. Join Gregg Braden for this compelling in-person presentation as he shares the discoveries that that catapult us beyond the conventional thinking when it comes to creating extraordinary states of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual states of health and longevity. For the first time in human history, we have the knowledge to transcend the greatest challenges of our age by writing our new human story.

Click below for more information about this event and to get tickets.

Click Here for Tickets and More Info
Watch this recent interview as Gregg Braden discusses his upcoming TransitionTalk.

Everything going on in the world right now (pandemic, economy, unrest) is all just static, just noise. Something deeper is emerging — a battle for our very humanness. Our humanness is on the line right now.
The world is changing right now and there’s no going back and the better we know ourselves the less we fear change, and the less we fear one another.
Gregg Braden discusses the power within us, and how to know ourselves and apply this within our own lives. Our well-being is no longer hinged on something outside of us.
Gregg comes to TransitionTalks, July 31, 2021.  Join us in person or via livestream/replay.
Click Here for Tickets and More Info

Vaccine Researcher Admits ‘Big Mistake,’ Says Spike Protein Is Dangerous ‘Toxin’ – (LifeSite News – May 31, 2021)

New research shows that the coronavirus spike protein from COVID-19 vaccination unexpectedly enters the bloodstream, which is a plausible explanation for thousands of reported side-effects from blood clots and heart disease to brain damage and reproductive issues, a Canadian cancer vaccine researcher said last week.  “We made a big mistake. We didn’t realize it until now,” said Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist and associate professor at University of Guelph, Ontario, in an interview with Alex Pierson. “We thought the spike protein was a great target antigen, we never knew the spike protein itself was a toxin and was a pathogenic protein. So by vaccinating people we are inadvertently inoculating them with a toxin.” Bridle, a vaccine researcher who was awarded a $230,000 government grant last year for research on COVID vaccine development, said that he and a group of international scientists filed a request for information from the Japanese regulatory agency to get access to what’s called the “biodistribution study.” “It’s the first time ever scientists have been privy to seeing where these messenger RNA [mRNA] vaccines go after vaccination,” said Bridle. “Is it a safe assumption that it stays in the shoulder muscle? The short answer is: absolutely not.” Vaccine researchers had assumed that novel mRNA COVID vaccines would behave like “traditional” vaccines and the vaccine spike protein — responsible for infection and its most severe symptoms — would remain mostly in the vaccination site at the shoulder muscle. Instead, the Japanese data showed that the infamous spike protein of the coronavirus gets into the blood where it circulates for several days post-vaccination and then accumulated in organs and tissues including the spleen, bone marrow, the liver, adrenal glands, and in “quite high concentrations” in the ovaries. Lab animals injected with purified spike protein into their bloodstream developed cardiovascular problems, and the spike protein was also demonstrated to cross the blood brain barrier and cause damage to the brain. A grave mistake, according to Bridle, was the belief that the spike protein would not escape into the blood circulation. See also: Dr Judy Mikovits Warns Spike Protein Injections May Kill 50 Million Americans.

Study Identifies Antibody from Common Cold Infection That Reacts to COVID – (Jerusalem Post – May 30, 2021)

Published in the academic journal Nature Communications, the peer-reviewed study investigated how the body’s immune system reacted to COVID-19 after prior exposure to one of the at least four other coronaviruses that are common in the US and trigger the relatively benign illness known colloquially as the common cold. The study found that the antibody in question reacts not only to SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, but also SARS-CoV-1, which causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). This antibody is likely produced by a memory b cell that was previously exposed to the common cold, according to Raiees Andrabi, the study’s senior author, who serves as an investigator in the Scripps Research Institute’s Department of Immunology and Microbiology. “Our identification of a cross-reactive antibody against SARS-CoV-2 and the more common coronaviruses is a promising development on the way to a broad-acting vaccine or therapy,” said Prof. Dennis Burton, one of the study’s authors.

The Many Ways in Which COVID Vaccines May Harm Your Health – (Mercola – may 30, 2021)

COVID-19 vaccines are capable of causing damage in a number of different ways. Disturbingly, all these different mechanisms of harm have synergistic effects when it comes to dysregulating your innate and adaptive immune systems and activating latent viruses. The worst symptoms of COVID-19 are created by the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and that is the very thing gene-based COVID vaccines are instructing your body to make. While the natural spike protein is bad, the spike protein your body produces in response to the vaccine is even worse, as the synthetic RNA has been manipulated in such a way as to create a very robust and unnatural spike protein. The spike protein is toxic in and of itself, and has the ability to induce vascular, heart and neurological damage. The COVID-19 vaccine disables the Type I interferon pathway, which explains why vaccinated patients are reporting herpes and shingles infection following COVID-19 vaccination.

It Was All Planned (and You Have No Idea about This) – (David Icke – December 15, 2020)

In this 10 minute video clip, Icke makes the point that mandating masks as a defense against contracting and/or spreading the coronavirus is not about health but simply another step in a series of moves all intended to increase the social control of humanity. From there he suggests, the real purpose goes much deeper – it’s about creating an IA connection to the human brain around 2030 and ultimately creating a hive human mind where basically each person is just a living computer terminal and no longer has any individuality.
The Drug That Cracked Covid – (Mountain Home – May, 2021)
Michael Capuzzo is a New York Times best-selling author. In this 15-page article, he chronicles the gargantuan struggle being waged by frontline doctors on all continents to get Ivermectin approved as a Covid-19 treatment, as well as the tireless efforts by reporters, media outlets and social media companies to thwart them. Because of Ivermectin, Capuzzo says, there are “hundreds of thousands, actually millions, of people around the world, from Uttar Pradesh in India to Peru to Brazil, who are living and not dying.” Yet media outlets have done all they can to “debunk” the notion that Ivermectin may serve as an effective, easily accessible and affordable treatment for Covid-19. They have parroted the arguments laid out by health regulators around the world that there just isn’t enough evidence to justify its use. For his part, Capuzzo, as a reporter, “saw with [his] own eyes the other side [of the story]” that has gone unreported, of the many patients in the US whose lives have been saved by Ivermectin and of five of the doctors that have led the battle to save lives around the world, Paul Marik, Umberto Meduri, José Iglesias, Pierre Kory and Joe Varon. These are all highly decorated doctors. Through their leadership of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care (FLCCC) Alliance, they have already enhanced our treatment of Covid-19 by discovering and promoting the use of Corticoid steroids against the virus. But their calls for Ivermectin to also be used have met with a wall of resistance from healthcare regulators and a wall of silence from media outlets. “I really wish the world could see both sides,” Capuzzo laments. But unfortunately most reporters are not interested in telling the other side of the story. Even if they were, their publishers would probably refuse to publish it.

In a World First, El Salvador Makes Bitcoin Legal Tender – (Reuters – June 9, 2021)

El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency, a move that delighted the currency’s supporters. Bukele has touted the use of bitcoin for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home, while saying the U.S. dollar will also continue as legal tender. In practice, El Salvador does not have its own currency. “It will bring financial inclusion, investment, tourism, innovation and economic development for our country,” Bukele said in a tweet shortly before the vote in Congress, which is controlled by his party and allies. Bukele later said he had instructed state-owned geothermal electric firm LaGeo to develop a plan to offer bitcoin mining facilities using renewable energy from the country’s volcanoes.

Newly Discovered Quasicrystal Was Created by the First Nuclear Explosion at Trinity Site – (PhysOrg – May 18, 2021)

A newly discovered quasicrystal that was created by the first nuclear explosion at Trinity Site, N.M., on July 16, 1945, could someday help scientists better understand illicit nuclear explosions and curb nuclear proliferation. “Understanding another countries’ nuclear weapons requires that we have a clear understanding of their nuclear testing programs,” said Terry C. Wallace, director emeritus of Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of the paper about the discovery, which was published today in PNAS. “We typically analyze radioactive debris and gases to understand how the weapons were built or what materials they contained, but those signatures decay. A quasicrystal that is formed at the site of a nuclear blast can potentially tell us new types of information—and they’ll exist forever.” The newly discovered material was formed accidentally in the blast of the first atomic bomb test, which resulted in the fusion of surrounding sand, the test tower, and copper transmission lines into a glassy material known as trinitite. Quasicrystals are exotic material that break the rules of classical crystalline materials. Article has more information on quasicrystals in general.

Something Wiped Out Nearly All Sharks 19 Million Years Ago, New Research Suggests – (GizModo – June 3, 2021)

Scientists have stumbled upon a previously unknown extinction event that decimated ocean shark populations 19 million years ago. The cause of this sudden die-off, in which global shark populations plummeted by 90%, is a complete mystery. The previously unidentified extinction event was discovered by accident. Elizabeth Sibert, the first author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow from the Yale Institute for Biospheric Sciences at Yale University, detected evidence of the extinction event while studying fossilized fish teeth and shark scales. Sibert was seeking to learn more about these mysterious bits and pieces, collectively known as ichthyoliths, so she, along with co-author Leah Rubin, a student at the College of the Atlantic at the time of the research, embarked on a project to track shark populations across tens of millions of years. The data showed that ocean sharks experienced a dramatic decline in both population size and species diversity 19 million years ago—a period not associated with any rapid or tumultuous environmental event. Sibert, who worked as a junior fellow at Harvard University during the initial phases of this research, said “we weren’t expecting to find any change in the shark community, much less a huge extinction,” as she explained in an email. But the numbers are striking. Over the course of around 100,000 years, sharks nearly dropped off the face of the planet. Microfossil evidence suggests a decrease in abundance by more than 90% and a decrease in species diversity of around 70%. Near shore species tended to survive, but migratory, ocean-going sharks were nearly obliterated. The mass extinction was sudden rather than gradual, hinting at an unknown killing process. Importantly, sharks as a whole have never fully recovered from this extinction event—not even to this day. The current population, across all species, represents a tiny fraction of its former glory.

Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All – (New York Times – June 8, 2021)

Dr. Adam Zeman didn’t give much thought to the mind’s eye until he met someone who didn’t have one. In 2005, the British neurologist saw a patient who said that a minor surgical procedure had taken away his ability to conjure images. Over the 16 years since that first patient, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues have heard from more than 12,000 people who say they don’t have any such mental camera. The scientists estimate that tens of millions of people share the condition, which they’ve named aphantasia, and millions more experience extraordinarily strong mental imagery, called hyperphantasia. “This is not a disorder as far as I can see,” said Dr. Zeman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Exeter in Britain. “It’s an intriguing variation in human experience.” The vast majority of people who reported a lack of a mind’s eye had no memory of ever having had one, suggesting that they had been born without the faculty. Yet, they have little trouble recalling things they had seen. When asked whether grass or pine tree needles are a darker shade of green, for example, they correctly answered that the needles are. On the other hand, people with aphantasia don’t do as well as others at remembering details of their own lives. It’s possible that recalling our own experiences — known as episodic memory — depends more on the mind’s eye than does remembering facts about the world. To their surprise, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues were also contacted by people who seemed to be the opposite: They had intensely strong visions, a condition the scientists named hyperphantasia. Based on their surveys, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues estimate that 2.6% of people have hyperphantasia and that 0.7% have aphantasia. One of the original 21 people with aphantasia who were studied by Dr. Zeman, Thomas Ebeyer of Kitchener, Ontario, created a website called the Aphantasia Network that has grown into a hub for people with the condition and for researchers studying them. Visitors to the site can take an online psychological survey, read about the condition and join discussion forums on topics ranging from dreams to relationships. So far, more than 150,000 people have taken the surveys, and over 20,000 had scores suggesting aphantasia.

Major Tire Companies Explore the Use of Dandelions for a More Sustainable Material to Rubber – (Nation of Change – May 28, 2021)

Numerous manufacturers of tires are searching for a more sustainable and eco-friendly source of rubber and one German tire company is using dandelions. Dandelion rubber tires will lessen the amount of landfill waste, decrease deforestation and reduce the economic burden of rubber tree cultivation, experts said. While this isn’t a new practice, dandelions haven’t been used to manufacture rubber since the Second World War. The Soviet Union first discovered dandelions as a natural source of rubber in 1931 to “help the USSR become self-sufficient in key materials,” according to DW. But shortages of Hevea rubber from Hevea plantations during the Second World War made other countries, including the U.S., the UK and Germany, follow suit. Once the war was over, these countries went back to using Hevea tree rubber because it was cheaper and the supply was greater. As the demand for rubber continues to grow today, the tire industry has a renewed interest in the Russian dandelion. And both Europe and the U.S. have developed projects to make dandelion rubber commercially viable. But while dandelions use fewer chemicals and are sought to be a greener solution to Hevea rubber, they still leave an environmental impact. Like ordinary tires, dandelion tires will still “shed microplastics, which are then carried on air and end up in oceans,” DW reported. A recent study by IUCN found that tires accounted for 28% of the microplastics found in the oceans each year.

End of Wind Power Waste? Vestas Unveils Blade Recycling Technology – (Reuters – May 17, 2021)

Wind turbine maker Vestas has unveiled new technology which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades. Turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tonnes of waste in 2050, according to a 2017 University of Cambridge study. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle. Turbine blades are made by heating a mix of glass or carbon fibers and sticky epoxy resin, which combines the materials, providing a strong light-weight composite material, but which also make it hard to separate the original materials for recycling. Using the new technology the glass or carbon fiber is separated from the resin and then chemicals further separate the resin into base materials, that are “similar to virgin materials” that can then be used for construction of new blades. The project aims to develop the technology for industrial scale production within three years and also sees potential for the technology to be used for airplane and car components.

River Runner – (Sam Lerner – no date)

Take the plunge. When a drop of rain hits the ground, where does it end up? Web developer Sam Learner got to musing about that, and, doing what web developers do, pulled together USGS data that allows you to drip a raindrop anywhere in the Lower 48 and then follow its course through the watershed—almost from drop’s-eye view. Choose your town, or anywhere else in the country, and see a rain drop’s path to the ocean.

He Realized His Dogs Have an Unusual Skill. Now He Uses Them to Help Save Turtles. – (Washington Post – June 8, 2021)

John Rucker was a high school English teacher in North Carolina when he stumbled upon something interesting: Whenever he took his two dogs hiking, they would run into the tall grass and bring him back box turtles. Like a gift, his Boykin spaniels would gently lay them at his feet, unharmed. He mentioned it to a few people, and soon, biology teachers from the University of North Carolina started reaching out to him and asking whether he would take their students out so they could put transmitters on the turtles to study them. Several years later, the outings were so successful, Rucker was fielding calls from wildlife veterinarians and zoologists who were studying turtle populations. Now, two decades later, Rucker’s spaniels are a highly in-demand, specialized team trained to sniff out box turtles by following their urine trails. Rucker’s 7 dogs travel across the country with him helping wildlife conservationists track turtle populations and identify threats and diseases. Box turtles, which can live to be as old as 100, are fascinating to scientists and conservationists for various reasons, including they are vulnerable to environmental changes, so they are indicators of how ecosystems are faring around the world.

Google Employees Admit in Lawsuit That the Company Made It Nearly Impossible for Users to Keep Their Location Private – (Business Insider – May 28, 2021)

Newly unredacted documents in a lawsuit against Google reveal that the company’s own executives and engineers knew just how difficult the company had made it for smartphone users to keep their location data private. Google continued collecting location data even when users turned off various location-sharing settings, made popular privacy settings harder to find, and even pressured LG and other phone makers into hiding settings precisely because users liked them, according to the documents. Jack Menzel, a former vice president overseeing Google Maps, admitted during a deposition that the only way Google wouldn’t be able to figure out a user’s home and work locations is if that person intentionally threw Google off the trail by setting their home and work addresses as some other random locations. Google uses a variety of avenues to collect user location data, according to the documents, including WiFi and even third-party apps not affiliated with Google, forcing users to share their data in order to use those apps or, in some cases, even connect their phones to WiFi. When Google tested versions of its Android operating system that made privacy settings easier to find, users took advantage of them, which Google viewed as a “problem,” according to the documents. To solve that problem, Google then sought to bury those settings deeper within the settings menu.

Apple’s Tightly Controlled App Store Is Teeming with Scams – (Washington Post – June 6, 2021)

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has long argued it needs to control app distribution on iPhones, otherwise the App Store would turn into “a flea market.” But among the 1.8 million apps on the App Store, scams are hiding in plain sight. Customers for several VPN apps, which allegedly protect users’ data, complained in Apple App Store reviews that the apps told users their devices have been infected by a virus to dupe them into downloading and paying for software they don’t need. A QR code reader app that remains on the store tricks customers into paying $4.99 a week for a service that is now included in the camera app of the iPhone. Some apps fraudulently present themselves as being from major brands such as Amazon and Samsung. Of the highest 1,000 grossing apps on the App Store, nearly two percent are scams, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. Even more common are “fleeceware” apps that use inauthentic customer reviews to move up in the App Store rankings and give apps a sense of legitimacy to convince customers to pay higher prices for a service usually offered elsewhere with higher legitimate customer reviews. All together those apps have bilked consumers out of an estimated $48 million during the time they’ve been on the App Store, according to market research firm Appfigures. What’s more, Apple profits from these apps because it takes a cut of up to a 30% of all revenue generated through the App Store. Regulators and competitors have zeroed in on the App Store in particular: Unlike app stores on other mobile operating systems, Apple’s store faces no competition and is the only way for iPhone owners to download software to their phones without bypassing Apple’s restrictions. Two-thirds of the 18 apps The Post flagged to Apple were removed from the App Store. (In other words, one-third of the scammers weren’t removed.) See also this article from Engadget: Apple paid woman millions after iPhone technicians posted explicit photos online. The techs were employed by a contractor, but it’s still a huge privacy lapse.

It’s About to Really, Really Suck to Lose Your iPhone – (GizModo – June 8, 2021)

The evolution of the phone as a do-everything device edged forward this week with Apple’s announcement of iOS 15. And while some of the new features seem handy, the real-world implications could create a world of hurt. The growing capabilities within Apple’s Wallet app are quickly becoming a little too useful. In addition to being able to upload your debit and credit cards to Wallet, iOS 15 expands the ability to use Wallet as your car key (by adding support for utra-wideband tech, in addition to NFC), lets you open compatible smart locks for your home, and allows you to store your driver’s license or other government-issued ID. In short, if you use all the features Wallet offers in iOS 15, your iPhone would be your house key, your car key, your driver’s license, your credit card, and your phone. No need to carry keys or a wallet anymore. Just grab your sunglasses and your phone, and you’re good to go. Sounds great, right? Until you lose your phone or your phone gets stolen—and everything else with it. Don’t think it’s likely to be that big of an issue? Let’s remember that Apple has built an entire network—Find My—to help people recover the expensive stuff they keep losing. Of course, if you have an Apple Watch, which is presumably more difficult to lose while out and about since it’s strapped to your body, this isn’t as much of an issue since you can use Find My iPhone from your watch. But just because you can find your device doesn’t mean you can actually get it back. The expanding usefulness of Wallet does appear to illuminate the path on which we’re headed, where our phones are our lives in ways that are increasingly convenient until they become a nightmare.

Fully Transparent Sky Pool Provides a Swim Like No Other Between Two Housing Blocks in London – (Dezeen – June 4, 2021)

Architecture studio HAL has created a transparent swimming pool bridge between two buildings at the Embassy Gardens development in Battersea, London. Named Sky Pool, the 25-meter-long swimming pool is made entirely from acrylic panels, allowing swimmers to look directly down to the ground 35 meters below. The bridge spans 15 meters between the 10th floors of two residential blocks that were recently completed alongside the Kieran Timberlake-designed US Embassy in Battersea. Designed by HAL, the blocks form part of developer EcoWorld Ballymore’s 15-acre Embassy Gardens estate, which was master-planned by UK architecture studio Farrells and wraps around the embassy building. The affordable housing residents of the development, whose windows look straight on to the pool, are not allowed to access it.

MIT Engineers Have Discovered a Completely New Way of Generating Electricity – (SciTech Daily – June 7, 2021)

MIT engineers have discovered a new way of generating electricity using tiny carbon particles that can create a current simply by interacting with liquid surrounding them. The liquid, an organic solvent, draws electrons out of the particles, generating a current that could be used to drive chemical reactions or to power micro- or nanoscale robots, the researchers say. “This mechanism is new, and this way of generating energy is completely new,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “This technology is intriguing because all you have to do is flow a solvent through a bed of these particles. This allows you to do electrochemistry, but with no wires.” In a study describing this phenomenon, the researchers showed that they could use this electric current to drive a reaction known as alcohol oxidation — an organic chemical reaction that is important in the chemical industry.

Food Additive in Starbursts, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, +3,000 Others No Longer Considered Safe – (EcoWatch – June 1, 2021)

A study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has deemed that titanium dioxide, an additive found in more than 3,000 ultra-processed foods, including Starbursts, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Jello, and Little Debbie snack cakes, may cause cell mutations and damage DNA. This conclusion came after the review of hundreds of scientific studies. Titanium dioxide is a synthetic white pigment used to color processed foods. It’s extracted through a chemical process that utilizes sulfate or fluoride. Titanium dioxide consists of nanoparticles that not only exist in certain food products but also topicals, such as sunscreen that we put on our skin. The additive has the ability to give foods a smooth texture on the tongue, Arizona State University professor Paul Westerhoff said. Even though titanium dioxide is in many processed foods, particularly sugary, processed foods that attract children, the pet store, Petco, banned the sales of pet foods that contain titanium dioxide in May of 2019. “It’s sometimes hard to stomach that my 9-year-old cat is more protected than my 9-year-old son,” Aurora Meadows, licensed dietician and nutritionist at The Environmental Working Group said.

AI is Being Used to Profile People from Their Head Vibrations – (Principia Scientific – May 28, 2021)

Digital video surveillance systems can’t just identify who someone is. They can also work out how someone is feeling and what kind of personality they have. They can even tell how they might behave in the future. And the key to unlocking this information about a person is the movement of their head. That at least is the claim made by Elsys, the Russian company behind the VibraImage artificial intelligence (AI) system. Digital tools based on VibraImage are being used across a broad range of applications in Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. But as I (author of this article, James Wright, Research Associate, Alan Turing Institute) show in my recent research, published in Science, Technology and Society, there is very little reliable, empirical evidence that VibraImage and systems like it are actually effective at what they claim to do. Among other things, these applications include identifying “suspect” individuals among crowds of people. They are also used to grade the mental and emotional states of employees. Users of VibraImage include police forces, the nuclear industry and airport security. The technology has already been deployed at two Olympic Games, a FIFA World Cup and a G7 Summit. In Japan, clients of such systems include one of the world’s leading facial recognition providers (NEC), one of the largest security services companies (ALSOK), as well as Fujitsu and Toshiba. In South Korea, among other uses it is being developed as a contactless lie detection system for use in police interrogations. In China, it has already been officially certified for police use to identify suspicious individuals at airports, border crossings and elsewhere. Across east Asia and beyond, algorithmic security, surveillance, predictive policing and smart city infrastructure are becoming mainstream. VibraImage forms one part of this emerging infrastructure. Like other algorithmic emotion detection systems being developed and deployed globally, it promises to take video surveillance to a new level. As I explain in my paper, it claims to do this by generating information about subjects’ characters and inner lives that they don’t even know about themselves.

Half of the Pandemic’s Unemployment Money May Have Been Stolen – (Axios – June 10, 2021)

Criminals may have stolen as much as half of the unemployment benefits the U.S. has been pumping out over the past year, some experts say, making this not just theft, but a matter of national security. Blake Hall, CEO of, a service that tries to prevent this kind of fraud, estimtes that America has lost more than $400 billion to fraudulent claims. As much as 50% of all unemployment monies might have been stolen, he says.Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, estimates that at least 70% of the money stolen by impostors ultimately left the country, much of it ending up in the hands of criminal syndicates in China, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere. “These groups are definitely backed by the state,” says Talcove. Much of the rest of the money was stolen by street gangs domestically, who have made up a greater share of the fraudsters in recent months. Before the pandemic, unemployment claims were relatively rare, and generally lasted for such short amounts of time that international criminal syndicates didn’t view them as a lucrative target. After unemployment insurance became the primary vehicle by which the U.S. government tried to keep the economy afloat, however, all that changed. Unemployment became where the big money was — and was also being run by bureaucrats who weren’t as quick to crack down on criminals as private companies normally are. Unemployment fraud is now offered on the dark web on a software-as-a-service basis, much like ransomware. States without fraud-detection services are naturally targeted the most.

In South Korea’s ‘Healing Forest,’ the Pandemic-stressed Compete for the Ultimate Chill – (Washington Post – May 29, 2021)

Jeju, South Korea — Organizers of South Korea’s annual competition to be the best at doing nothing — seriously, nothing — needed just the right spot for the work-from-home parents, remote-learning students and others weary of the pandemic. So what could be better than a “healing forest” on the southern island of Jeju? The woodlands are known as a site for other therapeutic programs. Twenty-eight pandemic-battered competitors gathered under the leafy canopy Wednesday for the Space Out Competition. The premise is simply: zone out for 90 minutes, with the winner having the lowest and most stable heart rate. Spectators also cast votes for the top three who displayed the best Zen. (A Jeju-based hair stylist, who barely moved during the 90 minutes, won.) South Korean artist Woopsyang created Space Out in 2014 as a pushback against South Korea’s fast-paced and high-pressure society. It has since spread to other places such as Hong Kong and the Netherlands. The competition made an in-person return this year. Last year, it was online. Article includes interviews with three of the participants in the Space Out Competition.

‘Collectibles Versus Commodities’: As Target Halts Sales of Trading Cards, Collectors Reckon with Fast-changing Hobby – (Washington Post – May 13, 2021)

Target says it’s done with trading cards — at least for the time being — after a dispute outside one of its Milwaukee-area stores escalated into violence and multiple arrests. The company will stop selling MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokémon cards in stores “out of an abundance of caution,” but they’ll still be available online. The baseball card industry — a blanket term for all trading cards, including popular game and collection brands Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh — has exploded during the pandemic, according to aficionados, as people reengage with old habits, and many face financial pressures. “Grading” companies, or firms that appraise a card’s value, have been inundated with submissions from new and existing collectors resulting in backlogs of millions of items. Demand at retail establishments, especially big-box stores, has swelled, collectors say, as enterprising card “flippers” descend on stores, purchase their inventories and resell them at sometimes four or five times their retail price online. But collectors say it was getting harder to come by new cards at big-box stores even before the pandemic because flippers are notorious for scouting out stores’ restocking schedules and parking themselves in front of store entrances early in the morning to buy up inventories. It has led to a surge in valuations for cards of all types, with some Pokémon cards quadrupling in value in the past year. One collector said he has sold baseball cards in recent months once worth $50 each for upward of $500. The new entrants have divided the hobby squarely into two camps: Traditionalists who buy and sell cards as a pastime; and new-school collectors who trade cards as they would investments, looking to short the market and take advantage of the space’s volatility. The trend has repeated itself in other collectible markets through the pandemic, including comic books, coins and stamps.

Space Debris Has Hit and Damaged the International Space Station – (Science Alert – May 31, 2021)

The inevitable has occurred. A piece of space debris too small to be tracked has hit and damaged part of the International Space Station – namely, the Canadarm2 robotic arm. The instrument is still operational, but the object punctured the thermal blanket and damaged the boom beneath. It’s a sobering reminder that the low-Earth orbit’s space junk problem is a ticking time bomb. Obviously space agencies around the world are aware of the space debris problem. Over 23,000 pieces are being tracked in low-Earth orbit to help satellites and the ISS avoid collisions – but they’re all about the size of a softball or larger. Anything below that size is too small to track, but travelling at orbital velocities can still do some significant damage, including punching right through metal plates. Canadarm2 is a multi-jointed titanium robotic arm that can assist with maneuvering objects outside the ISS, including cargo shuttles, and performing station maintenance. It’s unclear exactly when the impact occurred. The damage was first noticed on 12 May, during a routine inspection. “Despite the impact, results of the ongoing analysis indicate that the arm’s performance remains unaffected,” the CSA wrote in a blog post. “The damage is limited to a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket. Canadarm2 is continuing to conduct its planned operations.” Although the ISS seems to have gotten lucky this time, the space debris problem does seem to be increasing. Last year, the ISS had to perform emergency maneuvers three times in order to avoid collisions with space debris at its altitude of around 250 miles.

Could Humans Have Contaminated Mars with Life? – (BBC News – May 10, 2021)

Although NASA and its engineers in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have precise and thorough protocols to ensure their spacecraft are free from any organisms that might inadvertently hitchhike on a space mission, two recent studies highlight how some organisms might have survived the cleaning process and also the trip to Mars, and also how fast microbial species can evolve while in space. Spacecraft are painstakingly built one layer at a time, like an onion, with everything cleaned and sterilized before it is added. These methods ensure that almost no bacteria, viruses, fungi, or spores contaminate the equipment to be sent on a mission. Spacecraft are built in ISO-5 clean rooms (where ISO-1 denotes cleanest facilities and ISO-9 are least clean) with air filters and strict biological control procedures. These are designed to ensure that only a few hundred particles can contaminate each square foot and ideally no more than a few dozen spores per square meter. But, it is almost impossible to get to zero biomass. Microbes have been on Earth for billions of years, and they are everywhere. They are inside us, on our bodies, and all around us. Some can sneak through even the cleanest of clean rooms. In JPL’s clean rooms, we found evidence of microbes that have the potential to be problematic during space missions. These organisms have increased numbers of genes for DNA repair, giving them greater resistance against radiation, they can form biofilms on surfaces and equipment, can survive desiccation and thrive in cold environments. It turns out that clean rooms might serve as an evolutionary selection process for the hardiest bugs that then may have a greater chance of surviving a journey to Mars. These findings have implications for a form of planetary protection called “forward contamination”. This is where we might bring something (accidentally or on purpose) to another planet. It is important to ensure the safety and preservation of any life that might exist elsewhere in the Universe, since new organisms can wreak havoc when they arrive at a new ecosystem. (Editor’s note: If we are catching this article’s implications correctly, it would seem that humans do not have sufficient techniques to insure that they don’t contaminate other planets – and, in fact, may be almost guaranteed to do so.)

Long Slide Looms for World Population, with Sweeping Ramifications – (New York Times – May 22, 2021)

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore. Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students. A village school in Gangjin County, South Korea, has enrolled illiterate older people so that it can stay open as the number of children in the area has dwindled. Germany has demolished around 330,000 housing units since 2002 with the land turned into parks. Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time. A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But recent census announcements from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

One Way Companies Are Concealing Higher Prices: Smaller Packages – (Washington Post – June 1, 2021)

Consumers are paying more for a growing range of household staples in ways that don’t show up on receipts — thinner rolls, lighter bags, smaller cans — as companies look to offset rising labor and materials costs without scaring off customers. It’s a form of retail camouflage known as “shrinkflation,” and economists and consumer advocates who track packaging expect it to become more pronounced as inflation ratchets up, taking hold of such everyday items such as paper towels, potato chips and diapers. “Consumers check the price every time they buy, but they don’t check the net weight,” said Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, who has been tracking product sizes for more than 30 years. Such cutbacks, economists say, typically coincide with economic downturns, when shoppers tend to be more mindful of cost. There was similar product shrinkage during the 2008 recession, according to John Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School. Often, branding experts said, companies pass off shrinking product sizes as packaging innovations. Hershey’s, for example, shaved off nearly 2 ounces from its 18-ounce packs of its dark chocolate Kisses — but kept the list price the same — as part of a 2019 makeover that swapped out its “traditional lay-down bags” for a pricier resealable, stand-up pouch. Tillamook County Creamery Association, a farmer-owned cooperative in Oregon, reduced its family-size containers of ice cream from 56 ounces to 48 ounces earlier this year, bringing it on par with its competitors. The price, though, remained the same at about $6. The last time the company raised prices was 2014. But most of its costs have risen since then, he said, including manufacturing and freight (which is up by 50%), labor and benefits (30%) and ingredients (20%).

RV Park Owner Throws in the Towel. The Business Has Changed, Even Shockingly – (RV Travel – June 7, 2021)

The last few years have brought a sea-change in the campground business. It’s busier, bigger and more demanding, from the amount and size of the traffic rolling onto the grounds, to the out-sized expectations of many campers for all the comforts they left at home, to the fraying of whatever “community” they may once have enjoyed. The campground biz, as long-time campers already know, is becoming increasingly commodified: more corporate, more Disney-fied, less attuned to the very things that once separated camping from other forms of transient lodging. What is “glamping” if not a campground form of gentrification? What are the proliferating rows of “cabins”— really just downsized cottages — if not a suburbanized version of a Motel 6, one long building chopped up into individual units, at some campgrounds with just an alleyway between them? Slap on some faux logs and stick a fire ring out front and voila! It’s back to nature. The world of private campgrounds is rapidly charging down the path already forged by the larger lodging industry. Thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, but preceding it as well, the campground sector has become a hot investment sector and the big boys are charging in. If you’re a campground owner, this has become a golden moment to sell — and selling they are. For example, Shenandoah Acres, a 522-site campground in Virginia, sold last year to a holding company for $3 million — which then turned around and sold it this past February (that’s right — less than a year later) for $17 million. The buyer is Sun RV Resorts, which already owns several hundred properties in the U.S. and Canada. And as campers and employees soon discover, there is a world of difference between a family-owned operation and a corporate one. For campers, for example, there’s the adoption of demand pricing, which many readers of this site have misunderstood. Demand pricing is not having one set of rates for in-season and one for off-season, or one set of rates for weekdays and one for weekends. Demand pricing is, first and foremost, dynamic: The cost of the same site for the same date will change from day to day, depending on when you make your reservation and how many similar sites are being sought by other campers at the same time. It’s what airlines do, and it’s why you will no longer be able to get a set answer to the question, “What does a water and electric back-in site at your campground cost?”

Torture Enters the Courtroom – (Lew Rockwell – June 10, 2021)

For the first time in American history, a federal judge has authorized the government to admit as evidence in a criminal case in a public courtroom words uttered by the defendant that were obtained under torture. Here is the backstory. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a low-level former member of the Taliban, is accused with others of plotting the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 that killed 17 American sailors. He has been in U.S. custody since 2002 and at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2004. When he was first captured, he was turned over to the CIA for interrogation, not the Department of Justice for prosecution. The practice of the federal government immediately following 9/11, when it captured anyone overseas from whom it believed it could extract national security information, was to hand the person over to the CIA for torture — the feds call it “enhanced interrogation” — at a “dark site” in a foreign country with which the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty. The article recounts the rest of the story to date.

Do Animals Hug Each Other? – (Live Science – May 29, 2021)

To answer that, first we have to define exactly what we mean by “hug.” From a subjective human standpoint, of course, a hug happens when someone wraps their arms around someone else. Naturally, this restricts hugging to animals with arms — and those are mainly primates, like us. This quickly reveals that, while we might see hugs as a uniquely human trait, hugging is actually just as prominent in the lives of nonhuman primates. Article examines hugging behavior among a number of primate species and looks at the situations in which hugging behavior typically occurs.  Primate studies indicate that embraces function to bond, reassure, console and make peace, but hugs could have myriad analogues in other animals. For example, horses groom one another, and studies reveal that this activity decreases their heart rates — a hallmark of comfort and calm. Researchers have observed that if the prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) detects signs of distress in its mate, it will rush over and rapidly start grooming the mate’s fur; researchers have interpreted this behavior as a possible act of consolation. Lions (Panthera leo) rub heads and nuzzle, which is believed to boost their social connections. Hundreds of other mammal species lean against, nestle and huddle with one another to provide comfort and warmth, or to form a united front against danger — which might play a similar role to the steadying hug we see in primates. Meanwhile, dolphins seem to display a kind of consoling peacemaking behavior: Studies show that these cetaceans are more likely to engage in reconciliatory activities after a conflict — for instance, giving each other a flipper rub, or gently towing each other through the water, like an apologetic piggyback. If animal behavior piques your interest, you might also check out: Do Any Animals Know Their Grandparents?

One Man’s Amazing Journey to the Center of the Bowling Ball – (Wired – May 27, 2021)

The Super Hoinke, held in cavernous 68-lane bowling alley on the edge of Cincinnati, was a Thanksgiving weekend bowling tournament that drew hundreds of the nation’s top amateurs. They came to the Super Hoinke (“HOING-key”) to vie for a $100,000 grand prize and bowling-world fame. Maurice “Mo” Pinel, a star ball designer for the sporting-goods giant AMF showed up at the 1993 tournament. Pinel had come to Cincinnati to promote his latest creation, the Sumo. The ball had quickly become a sensation, hailed for the way it naturally darted sideways across the lane—a quality known as flare. Bowling is easy to shrug off as a boozy weekend pastime in which anyone with decent hand-eye coordination can perform well enough. But hardcore bowlers have a very different take on the sport: To them it’s a physics puzzle so elaborate that it can never be mastered, no matter how many thousands of hours they spend pondering the variables that can ruin a ball’s 60-foot journey to the pins. The athletes who obsess over this complexity also understand the debt they owe to Pinel, whose career as a ball designer was just beginning when he attended the Super Hoinke in 1993. Notorious as a bit of a colorful crank, he is also the figure most responsible for transforming how bowlers think about the scientific limits of their sport. Unlike baseballs and golf balls, which are built around spherical cores, bowling balls contain cores that defy easy description: They can bear vague resemblance to gas masks, hand grenades, guitar bodies, Easter Island statues, and Rorschach ink blots. Looking into the scientific reasons these cores are so strangely shaped, the name Mo Pinel kept popping up. He was widely credited as the designer who’d sparked the proliferation of funky cores in the early to mid-1990s, and at the age of 78 he was still espousing his theories as the technology director for Radical Bowling, a ball manufacturer that prides itself on catering to “geeks, physicists, and performance junkies.” This is his story.

Random Street View – (Random Street View – no date)

Let’s say you could pop up anywhere in the world but didn’t get a choice where. Would you do it? Sure you would, because all you’ve got to lose—fair warning—is half your morning. That’s what Random Street View gives you. As its tagline goes, it “does what it says”: uses Google Street View to take you at random to, say, the Tsirang Highway in Bhutan, then to roadsides or cart tracks or neighborhood streets in Estonia, Israel, Spain, Swaziland…
So often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events.
And in today already walks tomorrow.

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