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Volume 24, Number 13 – 7/1/21

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Volume 24, Number 13 – 7/1/2021

FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS

  • Most major geological events in Earth’s history have clustered in 27.5-million-year intervals — a pattern that scientists are now calling the “pulse of the Earth.”
  • Plastic items from takeaway food and drink dominate the litter in the world’s oceans.
  • An IT security researcher has managed to hack ATMs and other point-of-sale (POS) machines by simply waving his phone over a contactless card reader.
  • A proposal by the South African government would legalize polyandry – when a woman has more than one husband at the same time.

Pure Human:
At the Crossroad of Biology
and Transhumanism

Saturday, July 31
in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
or via LIVESTREAM!

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
THINK LINKS

The COVID Vaccine; More Genetic Thunder – (Jon Rappoport – June 3, 2021)

Children’s Health Defense: “VAERS [US] data released today showed 227,805 reports of adverse events following COVID vaccines, including 4,201 deaths and 18,528 serious injuries between Dec. 14, 2020 and May 14, 2021.” Depending on which study you read, you can multiply reported adverse-effect numbers by 10 or 100, to arrive at a truer estimate of the human damage. I’ve (author of this article) been warning readers about the inherent dangers of any genetic treatment. The RNA COVID vaccines are just such a treatment—the first of its kind to be unleashed on the global population. In this article, I’m using a mainstream piece from the BBC as a source for what can go wrong when genes are deployed “to work miracles.” From the BBC article, “The genetic mistakes that could shape our species,” 4/12/21: “In fact, there have been no shortage of surprises in the field [of gene research]. From the rabbits altered to be leaner that inexplicably ended up with much longer tongues to the cattle tweaked to lack horns that were inadvertently endowed with a long stretch of bacterial DNA in their genomes (including some genes that confer antibiotic resistance, no less) – its past is riddled with errors and misunderstandings. More recently, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London warned that editing the genetics of human embryos can lead to unintended consequences. By analyzing data from previous experiments, they found that approximately 16% had accidental mutations that would not have been picked up via standard tests.” And 16% is the estimate of unintended ripple effects in publicly available research results. Is the COVID vaccine only forcing the production of the one intended spike protein? No large-scale study of vaccinated people has been done to find out. It’s bad enough that the COVID shot is supposed to result in the spike protein. But what about unintended proteins, whose effects are entirely unknown? The huge mounting numbers (and variety) of injuries and deaths publicly reported are a signal of a catastrophe. Whether you choose to believe this is intentional, accidental, or both, the picture is clear. The genetic experiment currently launched against the human population is not what we are being told it is. We’re GMO crops, GMO mosquitos; we’re the GMO cattle and rabbits; we’re the twin baby GMO girls in China. (Article includes links to supporting sources.)
 

Texas Bans All Government Entities & Businesses From Requiring Proof of Vaccination – (Collective Evolution – June 9, 2021)

Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, recently announced that it will be illegal for government entities and businesses within the state to require proof of vaccination in order to access their services. “Texas is open 100%. Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements. Today, I signed a law that prohibits any TX business or gov’t entity from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information,” tweeted Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas. Texas will be the seventh state to sign such a measure into law. Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, and North Dakota have also banned businesses and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination, while Utah and Arkansas have barred just governments from requiring proof of vaccination. See also: 153 People Resigned or Were Fired from a Texas Hospital System after Refusing to Get Vaccinated. So how do these two seemingly inconsistent facts fit together? The answer is in the fine print. See: Texas Governor Bans State, Some Businesses from Requiring Vaccine Passports.  “In his executive order, Mr. Abbott said it will supersede any conflicting local executive orders. He also said the order should not be misconstrued to limit the ability of any nursing home or assisted living facility from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.” The executive order can be found here.

Temp Checks, Digital Menus and ‘Touchless’ Mustard: The Maddening Persistence of ‘Hygiene Theater’ – (Washington Post – June 14, 2021)

At an ice cream shop in Rockville, Md., gloved servers scoop the frozen treat into cups, but a sign taped to the front window says “No cones: Covid.” At McDonald’s outlets along I-95 in Virginia, yellow police-style tape cordons off self-serve beverage stations. And at Nationals Park, baseball fans use a QR code and digital menu rather than ordering directly from the person who hands them their hot dog. None of these precautions provide meaningful protection against the spread of the coronavirus, safety experts say. Instead, they are examples of what critics call “hygiene theater,” the deployment of symbolic tactics that do little to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but may make some anxious consumers feel safer. (The term is widely credited to Atlantic writer Derek Thompson, who catalogued ineffective but showy anti-covid tactics last summer.) Many such precautions were first adopted early last year, when public health officials suspected the virus might linger on surfaces and spread via touch. But closer study determined that the risk of infection from doorknobs, buttons and the like was extremely low. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection” — a smidgen higher than a person’s lifetime chance of being struck by lightning. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans became accustomed to seeing security measures that experts said could do little to deter terrorism but might make people feel safer. Two decades later, lobby attendants in many office buildings still insist on seeing an ID card, any ID card, before waving a visitor along. Airline passengers still approach security checks where bins overflow with confiscated toothpaste tubes and cosmetics containers. Amid such enduring examples of what critics dubbed “security theater,” many people wonder if scenes from hygiene theater also will become permanent fixtures of public life.

French Spyware Executives Are Indicted for Aiding Torture – (June 23, 2021)

French authorities have indicted four former executives of the surveillance firm Nexa Technologies, formerly called Amesys, for complicity in torture and war crimes. Between 2007 and 2014, the firm allegedly supplied surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt. Further details can be found in this article (in English) from the Fédération Internationale pour les Droits Humains (FIDH). In the context of the Arab Spring, media revelations brought to light a hitherto little-known trade in surveillance technology. The indictment is based on the principle of extraterritorial jurisdiction of French courts, which allows the French judge to exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or victims, in application of the United Nations Convention against Torture of 10 December 1984. In this case, the presence in France of the company Amesys, which at the time of the events had its registered office in France, justified the jurisdiction of French justice for complicity in the crime of torture, even though this crime was perpetrated abroad, by foreigners as the main perpetrators (agents of the Libyan State having used the surveillance equipment supplied by Amesys, which was alleged to have acted as an accomplice) against Libyan victims. (Editor’s note: We recommend the FIDH article for its details of the case as it developed, starting in 2011, and for forcibly raising the question: To what extent are companies responsible for the use to which their products are ultimately put, particularly when the use is exactly what the product is designed for?)

Earth Has a ‘Pulse’ of 27.5 Million Years – (Live Science – June 22, 2021)

Most major geological events in Earth’s recent history have clustered in 27.5-million-year intervals — a pattern that scientists are now calling the “pulse of the Earth,” according to a new study. Over the past 260 million years, dozens of major geological events, from sea level changes to volcanic eruptions, seem to follow this rhythmic pattern. “For quite a long time, some geologists have wondered whether there’s a cycle of around 30 million years in the geologic record,” said lead author Michael Rampino, a professor in the departments of biology and environmental studies at New York University. But until recently, poor dating of such events made the phenomenon difficult to study quantitatively. The team first scoured the literature and found 89 major geological events that occurred in the past 260 million years. These included extinctions, ocean anoxic events (times when the oceans were toxic due to oxygen depletion), sea level fluctuations, major volcanic activity called flood-basalt eruptions and changes in the organization of Earth’s tectonic plates. Then, the researchers put the events in chronological order and used Fourier analysis to pick up spikes in the frequency of events. They discovered that most of these events clustered into 10 separate times that were, on average, 27.5 million years apart. That number may not be “exact,” but it’s a “pretty good estimate” with a 96% confidence interval, meaning it’s “unlikely to be a coincidence,” Rampino said. It’s not clear what’s causing such a pulse in geological activity, but it could be internally driven by plate tectonics and movement inside the mantle, the researchers wrote in the study. Or it could have something to do with the movement of Earth in the solar system and the galaxy. For example, the 27.5 million year pulse is close to the 32 million year vertical oscillation around the midplane of the galaxy, according to the study. In any case, if such a pattern exists, the last cluster was about 7 million to 10 million years ago, so the next one would likely come in 10 million to 15 million years, Rampino said. 
 

New “Dragon Man” Human Species May Be Our Closest Relative – (New Atlas – June 25, 2021)

Anthropologists have discovered a new species of human, known from a single fossil skull. Named Homo longi, or “Dragon Man,” the species appears to be our closest known relative, pipping even Neanderthals. The skull is known as the Harbin cranium, after the Chinese city where it was discovered in 1933. However, it was kept in private hands until 2017, when it was donated to scientists at Hebei GEO University. It was originally attributed to the related species Homo heidelbergensis, but on closer examination the team found enough differences to proclaim it a completely new species. The Harbin cranium is the largest skull ever found from any human species, with a brain case accommodating a similar-sized brain to ours. But compared to us, its eye sockets were larger and more angular, the mouth was wider and the teeth bigger, and the brow ridges were thick and pronounced. The new name Homo longi is based on the Long Jiang province where Harbin City is located. Long Jiang translates to “dragon river,” hence the Dragon Man nickname. The researchers say that the skull most likely came from a male aged about 50 years old, who appeared to have lived with a small group in a forested floodplain environment. Geochemical analyses revealed that the fossil is at least 146,000 years old, which puts it at the height of human migration through the Old World. Prior fossil evidence suggests modern humans had journeyed to Greece by 210,000 years ago, and Israel by 177,000 years ago. The timeline for when modern humans and Neanderthals split off from each other is widely contested, with a huge range of estimates spanning anywhere from 250,000 to 800,000 years ago. The team says that the discovery of Homo longi pushes back the time of this split, possibly to more than a million years ago. See also: Ancient Neanderthal-like fossils found in Israel may add new branch to human family tree.

Neuroscientists Have Discovered a Phenomenon That They Can’t Explain – (Atlantic – June 9, 2021)

Carl Schoonover, Andrew Fink, and their colleagues from Columbia University allowed mice to sniff the same odors over several days and weeks, and recorded the activity of neurons in the rodents’ piriform cortex—a brain region involved in identifying smells. At a given moment, each odor caused a distinctive group of neurons in this region to fire. But as time went on, the makeup of these groups slowly changed. Some neurons stopped responding to the smells; others started. After a month, each group was almost completely different. Put it this way: The neurons that represented the smell of an apple in May and those that represented the same smell in June were as different from each other as those that represent the smells of apples and grass at any one time. This is, of course, just one study, of one brain region, in mice. But other scientists have shown that the same phenomenon, called representational drift, occurs in a variety of brain regions besides the piriform cortex. Its existence is clear; everything else is a mystery. Schoonover and Fink told me that they don’t know why it happens, what it means, how the brain copes, or how much of the brain behaves in this way. How can animals possibly make any lasting sense of the world if their neural responses to that world are constantly in flux? If such flux is common, “there must be mechanisms in the brain that are undiscovered and even unimagined that allow it to keep up,” Schoonover said.

The Best Type of Exercise? A Blood Test Holds Clues – (New York Times – June 9, 2021)

If we all begin the same exercise routine tomorrow, some of us will become much fitter, others will get a little more in shape, and a few of us may actually lose fitness. Individual responses to exercise can vary that wildly and, until now, unpredictably. But a fascinating new study of more than 650 men and women suggests that the levels of certain proteins in our bloodstreams might foretell whether and how we will respond to various exercise regimens. The study needs replication and expansion, but represents a meaningful start toward a blood test to indicate the best types of exercise for each of us. Researchers from Harvard University, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and other institutions have long been interested in how exercise alters the molecular environment inside the body, as well as how those changes influence health, and how diverse the alterations can be. Using state-of-the-art molecular tools, the scientists began enumerating the numbers and types of thousands of proteins in each of the 654 people’s bloodstreams. Then they tabulated those figures with data about everyone’s aerobic fitness before and after their five months of exercise. And clear patterns emerged. Taken as a whole, the new study’s results suggest that “molecular profiling tools might help to tailor” exercise plans, said Dr. Robert Gerszten, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of cardiovascular medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who conducted the new study with its lead author, Dr. Jeremy Robbins, and others. Scientists will need to study far more people, with far broader disparities in their health, fitness, age and lifestyle, to zero in on which proteins matter most for predicting an individual’s exercise response. The researchers hope, too, to backtrack and find where those molecules originated, to better understand how exercise remakes our bodies and molds our health. Expect further and more-refined results within a few years, Dr. Gerszten said. See also: What Bears Can Teach Us About Our Exercise Habits.

How Your Sense of Smell Predicts Your Overall Health – (BBC News – March 21, 2021)

In today’s world, most people would automatically attribute the loss of smell to Covid-19, but it is also a common symptom of neurodegenerative diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Research has found that up to 38% of those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis while almost half of older adults diagnosed with dementia showed signs of smell loss five years earlier. In Parkinson’s disease 45-96% of patients show smell impairment. For years, smell loss – or anosmia as it is also known – has been largely ignored as a marker for diseases such as Parkinson’s, but now some scientists believe using it as a tool of diagnosis could come with big advantages. Several initiatives are now developing tests which could use smell to help diagnose neurodegenerative diseases. Predict-PD is one such initiative. According to Alastair Noyce, a clinical senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, who leads the project, it has developed a smell test called Scratch and Sniff. This is a quick test that presents six smells to the patient that we commonly encounter throughout the day, based off a larger roster of 40 odors. The hope is the data they collect could be used to predict who is going to develop Parkinson’s, which might lead to new early treatments that could prevent the disease from progressing or slow it down. And with up to 0.45-3.4% of individuals (depending on the test) apparently unaware of their own smell loss, tools such as Predict-PD could help people to identify it. Smell impairment does not only develop as a result of neurodegenerative diseases. Around 19% of the population have some sort of olfactory dysfunction, with 0.3% losing their sense of smell entirely (anosmia) and 19.1% suffering from reduced ability to detect odors (hyposomia). Recent studies have found that smell loss may be linked to mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and dystonia, a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably. One study of more than 2,200 people aged 71-82 years old found that those with a poor sense of smell had a 46% higher risk of dying within a ten year period than those with an ordinary sense of smell. 
 

CRISPR Injected into the Blood Treats a Genetic Disease for First Time – (Science – June 26, 2021)

Using CRISPR to treat most people with genetic disorders requires clearing an enormous hurdle: getting the molecular scissors into the body and having it slice DNA in the tissues where it’s needed. Now, in a medical first, researchers have injected a CRISPR drug into the blood of people born with a disease that causes fatal nerve and heart disease and shown that in three of them it nearly shut off production of toxic protein by their livers. Although it’s too soon to know whether the CRISPR treatment will ease the symptoms of the disease, known as transthyretin amyloidosis, the preliminary data reported today are generating excitement about what could be a one-time, lifelong treatment. The work also marks a milestone for the race to develop treatments based on messenger RNA (mRNA), the protein-building instructions naturally made by cells. Synthetic mRNAs power two COVID-19 vaccines, and many companies are working on other mRNA vaccines and drugs. The new treatment, which includes an mRNA encoding one of CRISPR’s two components, “begins the convergence of the fields of CRISPR and mRNA,” says cardiovascular researcher Kenneth Chien of the Karolinska Institute, a co-founder of Moderna, which makes one of the COVID-19 vaccines and is also developing mRNA drugs.

Blue Jeans Go Green – (BlueJeansGoGreen – no date)

Anything in denim has been perfect for all those Zoom meetings during the past 15 months or so. But if the time has come for you to say goodbye to some of your denim garments that are a bit the worse for wear, check out the site for info on a recycling program that turns used denim into insulation and keeps it out of landfill. Much of it is used in building lower income housing. Mailing your denim is easy (and FREE) thanks to Zappos for Good. Simply box up your old denim (make certain it’s 90% cotton or greater and doesn’t have any hangers, tags, stickers or plastic attached), create or log in to your Zappos or Amazon account, print a shipping label, and send it our way by dropping it at a local UPS store (Continental U.S. shipping only).

Takeaway Food and Drink Litter Dominates Ocean Plastic, Study Shows – (Guardian – June 10, 2021)

Plastic items from takeaway food and drink dominate the litter in the world’s oceans, according to the most comprehensive study  to date. Single-use bags, plastic bottles, food containers and food wrappers are the four most widespread items polluting the seas, making up almost half of the human-made waste, the researchers found. Just 10 plastic products, also including plastic lids and fishing gear, accounted for three-quarters of the litter, due to their widespread use and extremely slow degradation. The scientists said identifying the key sources of ocean plastic made it clear where action was needed to stop the stream of litter at its source. They called for bans on some common throwaway items and for producers to be made to take more responsibility. Action on plastic straws and cotton buds in Europe was welcome, the researchers said, but risked being a distraction from tackling far more common types of litter. Their results were based on carefully combining 12m data points from 36 databases across the planet.

‘Mr. Trash Wheel’ Gobbles Up 15 Tons of Trash Every Day from Harbors – And More Cities Are Adopting – (Good News Network – June 23, 2021)

For years, Mr. Trash Wheel has been an icon of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The googly-eyed trash collector has been gobbling up millions of pounds of the city’s river-borne garbage and led to the creation of several water-wheel allies like Capt. Trash Wheel, and Prof. Trash Wheel. The idea for some sort of garbage collector came from local inventor John Kellet, who would walk across the footbridge spanning the Jones Falls stream that feeds the Baltimore harbor—and be disturbed on seeing the unabated flow of garbage floating towards it. Mr. Trash Wheel rotates based on power drawn from the river’s current. If not enough electricity can be generated from the river alone, the wheel uses solar energy instead. Kellet, who runs Clearwater Mills, also makes specially designed cages to fit into storm drain outfalls—which is the source of most of the garbage pollution into the harbor. His idea has been so successful that several other organizations are building their own Mr. Trash Wheel. Coming soon to the Gwynns Falls River in Maryland is Gwynda the Good Wheel of the West, while Oakland, California is building one called Trasharella.

Texans Report Energy Companies Adjusting Smart Thermostats – (Austonia – June 19, 2021)

Some Texas power companies have allegedly been remotely raising the temperatures inside people’s homes in the midst of ERCOT’s (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. operates Texas’s electrical grid) energy shortage. Recently, some Texas residents have said their thermostats are set much higher than normal for several hours. Customers enrolled in energy-saving programs may experience the same thing. In Austin, the messages are appearing if customers are enrolled in the “Power Partner” Program, where Austin Energy offers customers up to a $110 rebate for smart thermostat owners who enroll. According to Austin Energy, the program allows it to “briefly adjust your thermostat settings by a few degrees only as needed during peak energy demand.” That means adjustments to Nest, Ecobee and other smart thermostat devices unless customers unenroll from the program. (Editor’s note: All of the adjusted smart thermostats were in households that were enrolled in an energy conservation program, though many people may not have realized that they had been automatically enrolled. For more specific details, see this article.

Mass-produced Floating Nuclear Reactors Use Super-safe Molten Salt Fuel – (New Atlas – June 15, 2021)

Copenhagen startup Seaborg Technologies has raised an eight-figure sum of Euros to start building a fascinating new type of cheap, portable, flexible and super-safe nuclear reactor. The size of a shipping container, these Compact Molten Salt Reactors will be rapidly mass-manufactured in their thousands, then placed on floating barges to be deployed worldwide – on timelines that will smash paradigms in the energy industry. Like other molten salt reactors, which have been around since the 1950s, they’re designed to minimize the consequences of accidents, with a pair of very neat passive safety measures the company claims can greatly change the safety equation at the heart of any nuclear power investment. Firstly, they use nuclear fuel that’s mixed into fluoride salts. The combination is liquid above 500 °C (932 °F), allowing it to flow through the reactor, which operates at near-atmospheric pressures. This liquid salt functions as a coolant for the nuclear fuel, replacing the high-pressure water cooling in older reactor designs. But if this fuel is exposed to air, instead of venting explosively as steam, it acts like lava and solidifies into rock. Secondly, if temperature starts getting out of control for some reason, a “frozen salt” plug at the bottom of the reactor is the first thing that’ll melt, and this will immediately drain the reactor core into a series of cooled drainage tanks underneath. This pair of simple measures, says Seaborg Technologies co-founder and CEO Troels Schönefeldt, radically re-focuses the nuclear safety question away from total accident prevention with four layers of redundancy at every point of failure, to much simpler consequence mitigation, and it’ll have a huge impact on the cost of nuclear power.

Labels Unwrapped – (Center for Agriculture and Food Systems – no date)

Just what does “extra virgin coconut oil” mean? Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems has a new website designed to help people wade through the jargon on food packaging and to demystify what’s marketing and what has actual legal meaning. The new version of the website has been redesigned to be easier to use and to take into account dietary supplements, plant-based proteins, and new standards on bio-engineered foods.

How Farmers and Scientists Are Engineering Your Food – (BBC News – June 22, 2021)

Finding truly tasty fruit and vegetable varieties can be difficult, largely due to the requirements of supermarkets. They started demanding that varieties have a longer shelf life, so for example in the case of a tomato, it has a thicker skin, so the skins don’t split more easily; a tomato that perhaps ripens faster, that can absorb more water. So over time varieties were bred for attributes other than flavor. The flavor attribute started falling in importance, and as nature has it, if you breed for other traits you breed out flavor.  Prof. Harry Klee of Florida University’s horticultural sciences department is working to understand the chemical and genetic make-up of fruit and vegetable flavors – focusing on the tomato. Plant flavor is a complex phenomenon. In the case of a tomato, it stems from the interaction of sugars, acids and over a dozen volatile compounds derived from amino acids, fatty acids and carotenoids. Prof Klee wants to identify the genes controlling the synthesis of the flavor volatiles, and using this to produce a better-tasting tomato. “It’s not quite at the stage where we have completed assembling the superior flavor traits into a single line, but we expect to be there in another year or so,” he says. It is possible to use genetic modification (GM) to improve flavor by importing genes from other species, but in much of the world produce created this way is banned. However, other forms of genetic manipulation are more widely accepted. US firm Pairwise is working on new fruit and vegetable varieties by using CRISPR – gene editing technology licensed from Harvard, the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. Such gene editing is considered “non-GM” in most of North America, South America and Japan. However in Europe, where genetic modification is highly contentious, it is considered GM and is kept under strict regulation. One of Pairwise’s first products, expected in a year or two, will be a seedless blackberry it says will have a more consistent taste than traditional varieties. It is also working on a stoneless cherry. “Some of the fruits we’re interested in, like cherries where we want a pitless cherry, theoretically you could do it with breeding but it would take 100-150 years,” says Pairwise co-founder Haven Baker.

Researcher Manages to Hack ATMs Using His Phone’s NFC and an Android App – (Android Authority – June 25, 2021)

A researcher has managed to hack ATMs and other point-of-sale (POS) machines by simply waving his phone over a contactless card reader. Joseph Rodriguez, a security consultant at IOActive, managed to exploit a flaw in the Near Field Communication (NFC) system of ATMs and POS systems found widely in shopping malls, restaurants, and retail stores. He used a phone with NFC and an Android app that he designed to infect the NFC reader chips of these machines with a variety of bugs to crash them, hack them to collect credit card data, invisibly change the value of transactions, and even “jackpot” some ATMs into spitting out cash. However, the last exploit also required manipulation of existing vulnerabilities in the ATMs’ software. “You can modify the firmware and change the price to one dollar, for instance, even when the screen shows that you’re paying 50 dollars. You can make the device useless, or install a kind of ransomware. There are a lot of possibilities here,” Rodriguez said. “If you chain the attack and also send a special payload to an ATM’s computer, you can jackpot the ATM-like cash-out, just by tapping your phone,” he added.

Maine Tries to Shift Some Costs of Recycling onto Companies Instead of Taxpayers – (Washington Post – June 13, 2021)

Many Maine towns have had to cut back or close their recycling operations due to events both global and local. In 2018, China, which used to take much of America’s plastic waste, banned most of those imports. Last year, a plant in Hampden, Maine, that promised to provide state-of-the-art recycling for more than 100 municipalities shut down. With mountains of boxes and bubble wrap from online pandemic shopping now going in the trash, lawmakers are trying to make Maine the first state to shift some of the costs of its recycling onto companies — not taxpayers. If the bipartisan bill passes, Maine will join several Canadian provinces, including neighboring Quebec, and all European countries, which have for decades relied on so-called extended producer responsibility programs, or EPR, for packaging. “It’s good that the bottom fell out,” said state Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth), the bill’s Democratic sponsor. She doesn’t think the old system of shipping products halfway around the world to China makes sense as countries try to reduce their carbon footprints. “We have to face this problem and use our own ingenuity to solve it,” Grohoski said. The proposed legislation, which is vehemently opposed by representatives for Maine’s retail and food producing industries, would charge large packaging producers for collecting and recycling materials as well as for disposing of non-recyclable packaging. The income generated would be reimbursed to communities to support their recycling efforts. EPR programs already exist in many states for a variety of toxic and bulky products including pharmaceuticals, batteries, paint, carpet and mattresses. At least a dozen states, from New York to California and Hawaii, have been working on similar bills for packaging. “Ten years ago, this would have been unthinkable,” said Dylan de Thomas, vice president of external affairs at the Recycling Partnership, who said he is seeing far more openness to EPR bills from such corporate giants as Coca-Cola and Unilever than in the past. “It’s a reflection of the pressure they are seeing from corporate investors,” said de Thomas, who anticipates there may be similar shifts in national policies.

China Is Kicking Out More Than Half the World’s Bitcoin Miners – and a Whole Lot of Them Could be Headed to Texas – (CNBC – June 15, 2021)

China has long been home to more than half the world’s bitcoin miners, but now, Beijing wants them out ASAP. In May, the government called for a severe crackdown on bitcoin mining and trading, setting off what’s being dubbed in crypto circles as “the great mining migration.” This exodus is underway now, and it could be a game changer for Texas. Mining is the energy-intensive process which both creates new coins and maintains a log of all transactions of existing digital tokens. Despite a lack of reserves that caused dayslong blackouts last winter, Texas often has some of the world’s lowest energy prices, and its share of renewables is growing over time, with 20% of its power coming from wind as of 2019. It has a deregulated power grid that lets customers choose between power providers, and crucially, its political leaders are very pro-crypto – dream conditions for a miner looking for a kind welcome and cheap energy sources. “You are going to see a dramatic shift over the next few months,” said Brandon Arvanaghi, previously a security engineer at crypto exchange Gemini. “We have governors like Greg Abbott in Texas who are promoting mining. It is going to become a real industry in the United States, which is going to be incredible.” Past estimates have shown that 65% to 75% of the world’s bitcoin mining happened in China – mostly in four Chinese provinces: Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Yunnan. Sichuan and Yunnan’s hydropower make them renewable energy meccas, while Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia are home to many of China’s coal plants. The drawdown in miners has already begun in Inner Mongolia. After failing to meet Beijing’s climate targets, province leaders decided to give bitcoin miners two months to clear out, explicitly blaming its energy misses on crypto mines. “We do not want to face every single year, some sort of new ban coming in China,” said De La Torre, vice president of Hong Kong-headquartered mining pool Poolin. “So we’re trying to diversify our global mining hashrate (an industry term used to describe the computing power of all miners in the bitcoin network), and that’s why we are moving to the United States and to Canada.” One of bitcoin’s greatest features is that it is totally location agnostic. Miners only require an internet connection, unlike other industries that must be relatively close to their end users.

U.S. Blocks Websites Linked to Iranian Disinformation – (Reuters – June 22, 2021)

The U.S. Justice Department recently seized 36 Iranian-linked websites, many of them associated with either disinformation activities or violent organizations, taking them offline for violating U.S. sanctions. The Justice Department said the 33 domains used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) are owned by a United States company and that IRTVU did not obtain a license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to utilizing the domain names. Press freedom advocates caution that the takedowns have much broader implications for free speech rights and foreign relations alike. The semi-official Iranian news agency YJC agency said the U.S. move “demonstrates that calls for freedom of speech are lies.” As was easily predictable, many of those websites resurfaced within hours at a different domain thus raising the question: What was the real message here and to whom was it really addressed?

It’s Hard to Sell a Piano These Days. It’s Even Harder to Contemplate Junking One. – (Washington Post – June 10, 2021)

It hasn’t been the best of times for pianos. A fixture in middle-class homes throughout much of the 20th century — as a source of entertainment and a status symbol — pianos have gradually fallen out of favor. They’re bulky and expensive to maintain properly. Sales in the United States peaked in 1910, when nearly 365,000 were sold, and even in 1980 they were still a healthy 228,000. But by 2020, only 20,870 were sold. It’s hard to compete with inexpensive electronic keyboards that come with programmable bass and drum accompaniment. It’s also hard to sell a used “acoustic” piano, as they are now called. People trying to get rid of their piano quickly progress from trying to sell it, to trying to donate it, to begging someone, anyone, just to take it. (Editor’s note: This is effectively part of a larger trend of “dematerializing” to accommodate the reality that most of us have relatively little space for storage or for things that are seldom used – such as all the things that were once stored in a china closet/buffet in the dining room or in trunks in the attic. What dining room? What attic?)

Outcry over South Africa’s Multiple Husbands Proposal – (BBC News – June 27, 2021)

A proposal by the South African government to legalize polyandry – when a woman has more than one husband at the same time – has led to howls of protest from conservative quarters. This does not surprise Professor Collis Machoko, a renowned academic on the topic. The objections are “about control,” he said. “African societies are not ready for true equality. We don’t know what to do with women we cannot control.” South Africa has one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, embracing same-sex marriages for all and polygamy for men. Businessman and TV personality Musa Mseleku – who has four wives – is among those opposed to polyandry. “This will destroy African culture. What about the children of those people? How will they know their identity?” asks Mr Mseleku, who stars in a South African reality TV show about his polygamous family. “The woman cannot now take the role of the man. It’s unheard of. Will the woman now pay lobola [bride price] for the man. Will the man be expected to take her surname?”

China Wants to Build a Sustainable Human Presence on Mars – (Space.com – June 16, 2021)

China is looking at the ways of getting astronauts to Mars and back safely and potentially establishing a long-term presence on the Red Planet. That’s according to a senior Chinese space industry official, Wang Xiaojing, president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, speaking on June 16 at the Global Space Exploration (GLEX) conference taking place in St. Petersburg, Russia. Wang revealed that CALT, which belongs to China’s main space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), has completed comprehensive research on mission architecture. This includes looking at the available launch times, the types of orbits the spacecraft can use to get to Mars and the propulsion system best suited to allow short- and long-term stays and regular, repeated visits. The initial robotic phase of China’s exploration plans would rely on chemical rockets, the propulsion used today for launches. Early human missions would use a number of heavy-lift launchers to construct the Mars spacecraft in orbit, Wang said. These would then rendezvous and dock with a ferry stage using nuclear electric and nuclear thermal propulsion for Earth-Mars transfer. Cargo would fly to and land on Mars separately, and a Mars descent and ascent vehicle (MDAV) would transfer astronauts to and from the surface, he added. The plan presented by Wang is both ambitious but also at a very early stage.

Computer Interface User Types 90 Characters Per Minute with Mind – (Scientist – May 13, 2021)

A brain-implant system trained to decode the neural signals for handwriting from a paralyzed man enabled a computer to type up to 90 characters per minute with 94% accuracy, researchers report. That’s a considerable improvement on a previous BCI the group developed that was based on having participants control a computer mouse with their brain signals and click on letters, which achieved about 40 characters per minute. In fact, the authors write, to their knowledge, it’s the fastest typing rate for any BCI so far. Speed is critical for people who need BCIs to communicate, notes Emily Oby, who works on BCIs at the University of Pittsburgh and was not involved in the work, because “the faster and more efficiently that they can communicate the better, in terms of increasing their quality of life, and just making interactions more easy and smooth and less stressful.” The study’s authors say this brain-computer interface (BCI) is a considerable improvement over other experimental devices aimed at facilitating communication for people who cannot speak or move, but many steps remain before it might be used clinically. The study came out of a long-term clinical trial called BrainGate2 in which participants who are paralyzed have sensors implanted in the motor cortex of their brains and work with researchers who aim to use the sensors’ data to develop BCIs. “Because of the animal model heritage and the history of the [BCI] field, a lot of the early stuff is focused on this point-and-click typing method where you move a cursor on a screen, and you type on keys individually,” explains Frank Willett, a member of the Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory (NPTL) at Stanford University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research specialist. “We’re interested in kind of pushing the boundaries and looking at other ways to let people communicate.”

Smartphone-connected Device Detects Infections in Less Than an Hour – (New Atlas – June 25, 2021)

There are three main problems with the analysis of body fluid samples in labs. For one thing, in the few days that it takes to get a result, any infection that is present could get worse. For another, it’s possible that the doctor may put the patient on antibiotics right away, just in case they are infected – if it turns out that they aren’t, then they will have taken the medication (and endured any side effects) needlessly. Additionally, in remote locations or developing nations, suitably equipped labs may be a long distance away. It was with such limitations in mind that scientists at Canada’s McMaster University created the prototype device. The tool actually consists of two parts – a two-channel electrical sensor chip, and a USB-stick-like main processing module that the chip is plugged into. Doctors start by placing a droplet of blood, urine or saliva on the chip. There, DNA enzymes already on the chip react with signature proteins produced by the suspected bacteria – assuming the bacteria are present in the first place, that is. Both the chip and the main module are plugged into a smartphone, where a dedicated app interprets and displays the data in less than an hour. The technology has already been successfully used to detect harmful E. coli bacteria in urine samples, and is capable of detecting other types of bacteria by utilizing different DNA enzymes. What’s more, it could reportedly also be adapted to detect viral infections, including COVID-19.

Hotel Industry Emerges from Pandemic with New Business Model, Possibly Fewer Workers – (Washington Post – June 11, 2021)

As Americans travel more, they are encountering a hotel industry that has undergone dramatic transformations and might never return to its pre-pandemic business model. One thing that hotels across the board are considering is whether many of their customers are willing to accept fewer services than before, such as daily room cleanings and sizable breakfast spreads, analysts say, and that might mean a smaller hotel workforce in the years following the pandemic. “The work we’re doing right now in every one of our brands including Tru and Hampton everything else is about taking — making them higher margin businesses and taking — creating more labor efficiencies, particularly in the areas of housekeeping, food and beverage and other areas,” Hilton chief executive Chris Nassetta told investors in February. “When we get out of the crisis, those businesses will be higher-margin and require less labor than they did pre-covid.” Job loss in the leisure and hospitality industry has been particularly acute over the last year: Employment at accommodations like hotels is still down more than 25% — more than 500,000 jobs — from where it was before the pandemic. In a new report, the labor union Unite Here estimates that the loss of daily room cleanings could mean that at least 181,000 cleaning jobs — about 39% of all cleaning jobs in hotels — never return.

15 Universities Have Formed a Company That Looks a Lot Like a Patent Troll – (EFF – June 10, 2021)

Imagine this: a limited liability company (LLC) is formed, for the sole purpose of acquiring patents, including what are likely to be low-quality patents of suspect validity. Patents in hand, the LLC starts approaching high-tech companies and demanding licensing fees. If they don’t get paid, the company will use contingency-fee lawyers and a litigation finance firm to make sure the licensing campaign doesn’t have much in the way of up-front costs. This helps give them leverage to extract settlements from companies that don’t want to pay to defend the matter in court, even if a court might ultimately invalidate the patent if it reached the issue. That sounds an awful lot like a patent troll. Unfortunately, this description also applies to a company that has just been formed by a consortium of 15 large research universities. This patent commercialization company has been secretly under discussion since 2018. In September 2020, it quietly went public, when the University of California Regents authorized making UC Berkeley and UCLA two of its founding members. In January, the DOJ said it wouldn’t challenge the program on antitrust grounds. While larger tech companies can absorb the cost of either litigating or paying off the patent assertion entity, smaller innovators will face a much larger burden, proportionately. That means that that the existence of this licensing entity could harm innovation and competition. When taxpayers fund research, as they do through many government research grants, the fruits of the research should be available for all. 

From Tinfoil Hat to Vindication: The Verification of a Conspiracy Theory – (Paul Craig Roberts – June 8, 2021)

Governments have extensive knowledge of the UFO phenomenon and technology, but why the 180 degree turn from tinfoil hat to officially admitted phenomena? Why the sudden about face? Obviously, flying saucers have been mustered in support of an agenda. One possible agenda is that an alien threat is a new reason for increasing the military/security complex budget. The militarization of space can be justified by the extraterrestrial threat and disguise US preparation of an attack on Russia and China. Will there be some kind of false flag “alien attack” to bring the public into compliance? Alternative possibility: In 2011, the Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman stated that the world needed “an alien invasion” in order to fix the financial crisis: “If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack, and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.” Personally, I (author of this article) would be relaxed more than alarmed by extraterrestrials keeping an eye on us.  They haven’t used their superior technology to dominate us. It is all to the best if they decide we can’t be trusted with nuclear weapons any more than children should be able to play with matches and take them away from us.  As Washington has proved incapable of maintaining good relations with Russia and China, the extraterrestrials could perform the adult role.

Health Care Journal Publishes Research Calling Whiteness A ‘Parasitic Condition’ Without ‘Permanent Cure’ – (Federalist – June 7, 2021)

The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association did indeed publish an article titled “On Having Whiteness” on May 27, 2021. Here is the abstract from the article: “Whiteness is a condition one first acquires and then one has—a malignant, parasitic-like condition to which “white” people have a particular susceptibility. The condition is foundational, generating characteristic ways of being in one’s body, in one’s mind, and in one’s world. Parasitic Whiteness renders its hosts’ appetites voracious, insatiable, and perverse. These deformed appetites particularly target nonwhite peoples. Once established, these appetites are nearly impossible to eliminate. Effective treatment consists of a combination of psychic and social-historical interventions. Such interventions can reasonably aim only to reshape Whiteness’s infiltrated appetites—to reduce their intensity, redistribute their aims, and occasionally turn those aims toward the work of reparation. When remembered and represented, the ravages wreaked by the chronic condition can function either as warning (“never again”) or as temptation (“great again”). Memorialization alone, therefore, is no guarantee against regression. There is not yet a permanent cure.”  Understandably, the reader might have an “Excuse me?” response, possibly phrased more colloquially as “WFT?”. But, as you might guess, there’s more to the story – which is worth reading. You can find it here. The short explanation is that the author, Donald Moss, is an activist who, with the publication of this lecture in article form, has finally hit outrage pay dirt. He also happens to be Chair of the Program Committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association which funds the journal that published the article. (Editor’s note: We feel for the editor of the journal who probably realized that his neck was on the line if he published this article – and if he didn’t.) See also: WaPo ripped for video on ‘white accountability groups’ to help understand ‘whiteness’.  The Post’s video ran on their homepage before being noticed by conservative critics, who blasted the video’s central conceit that “whiteness” equates to racism on its own and accused the project’s ‘experts’ of pushing “neoracist” points about skin color.

Why Astrophysicists are Questioning Einstein’s Theory of Space-time – (Principia Scientific – May 29, 2021)

Try and use general relativity and quantum theory together, and it doesn’t work. “Above a certain energy, you get probabilities that are larger than one,” said Hossenfelder. One is the highest probability possible — it means an outcome is certain. You can’t be more certain than certain. Equally, calculations sometimes give you the answer infinity, which has no real physical meaning. The two theories are therefore mathematically inconsistent. So, like many monarchs throughout history, physicists are seeking a marriage between rival factions to secure peace. They’re searching for a theory of quantum gravity— the ultimate diplomatic exercise in getting these two rivals to share the throne. This has seen theorists turn to some outlandish possibilities. Arguably the most famous is string theory. However, to pull that particular rabbit out of the hat, the strings have to vibrate across eleven dimensions — seven more than the four in Einstein’s space-time fabric. As yet there is no experimental evidence that these extra dimensions really exist. Partly inspired by string theory’s perceived failings, other physicists have turned to an alternative called Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG). They can get the two theories to play nicely if they do away with one of the central tenets of general relativity: That space-time is a smooth, continuous fabric. Instead, they argue, space-time is made up of a series of interwoven loops — that it has structure at the smallest size scales. The trouble is that when LQG physicists say small, they mean really small. These defects in space-time would only be apparent on the level of the Planck scale —around a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a meter. That’s so tiny that there would be more loops in a cubic centimeter of space than cubic centimeters in the entire observable universe.

How This Guy Stacks Playing Cards Impossibly High – (Youtube – no date)

Bryan Berg has made card stacking an art form. He holds numerous Guinness World Records (so many he’s lost count), and keeps upping the ante on the difficulty. Stacking a house of playing cards on a running dryer? Why not! Berg has mastered the art of card stacking with architectural integrity – and elegance.
We must beware of needless innovation, especially when guided by logic.
Winston Churchill
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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Preview – Answers to your Questions Episode Four, Part One

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