Volume 24, Number 20 – 10/15/21


Volume 24, Number 20 – 10/15/2021


  • Since the turn of the century, credit card and online “payments have become a tool of domestic and international policy,” says Aaron Klein of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank.
  • Located in Shenzhen, a 51-story “farmscraper” will hydroponically grow 590,000 pounds of produce per year.
  • In Venice, Italy, city leaders are acquiring the cellphone data of unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor visitors and prevent crowding.
  • NASA is planning to deliberately crash into an asteroid’s moon to try to shift its trajectory.

John L. Petersen

The Outline of the Shift Emerges:

Epic changes over the coming months becoming
much clearer. 

Saturday, October 16
in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

In recent weeks, a number of the brightest alternative thinkers on the planet have begun to generate the mosaic pieces of the tapestry that are pointing to an extraordinary next four years . . . and it is a mind-blowing picture indeed.

You know about the big shift and have heard of many of the elements separately, but you’ve never seen them all put together in a clear picture of massive, multi-dimensional change . . . which certainly affect us all in very significant ways. 

At The Arlington Institute, we have anticipated and talked about this shift for many years and now this amazing transition is upon us.  Every indication is that it will upend almost all aspects of our familiar way of life – financial, economic, food, and substance – to say nothing about producing a radical new understanding of government, our cosmos, history, and beginnings. The implications are genuinely breathtaking.  It is almost impossible to overestimate the magnitude and breadth of what is headed our way.  

We’re past the point of vague generalities. Now the details are coming together into a clear vision with major events, dates, and players emerging into a coherent whole.  One of the world’s most accurate forecasters, Clif High, says, “The Apocalypse is Now!”, talking about disruptions that will signal the beginning of the general, global upheaval.  What’s really important is that he says they will appear on the second and third weeks of October. 

Given the pressing importance of this shift, futurist John Petersen, The Arlington Institute’s founder, is coming to TransitionTalks on October 16th, to present an integrated, comprehensive picture of our “next” future with a timeline that we can begin to plan around. Clif High and many other big thinkers like Catherine Austin Fitts, Martin Armstrong, and others – each offer up their specific point of view – but no one has put the large chunks of the puzzle together into a big picture until now.  On the 16th of October, John will walk us out into this grand, consuming change – month by month – highlighting the major inbound events and their likely implications. 

He’ll cover the social and governmental disruptions, economic, financial, and technological shocks, big breakthroughs that will reorganize how we see ourselves, what is driving and influencing this change and what the objectives are of the major players who are vying for control.  In the end, he’ll paint a picture of how the new world looks like it will arrive and what we can all do to prepare for it.  The session will end with an extended question and answer session that will allow plenty of time for all questions both from those in the room and viewers on the livestream.  

John’s talks are always big, provocative, and inspiring and this one promises to again be equal to the magnitude of the times that dominate us. 

Do come and join us in person, if you can, or by livestream from wherever you are.  Remember, you can watch the livestream playback anytime for two weeks after the event.

Click below for more information about this event and to get tickets.
Click Here for Tickets and More Info
The outline of this shift is taking shape, moving away from the abstract with details becoming clear.  It’s an extraordinary time to be on this planet and a part of this great change. 

Join us in person or via livestream / replay.

One of the ‘Greatest Failures in Modern History’: Peer-Reviewed Journal Destroys Lockdowns – (Western Journal – October 7, 2021)

In a peer-reviewed study published by the International Journal of the Economics of Business, Douglas W. Allen, an economics professor at  Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, argued that: “It is possible that lockdown will go down as one of the greatest peacetime policy failures in modern history.’ “An examination of over 100 Covid-19 studies reveals that many relied on false assumptions that over-estimated the benefits and under-estimated the costs of lockdown,” Allen wrote in the paper (which he originally published in April). “The most recent research has shown that lockdowns have had, at best, a marginal effect on the number of Covid-19 deaths. Generally speaking, the ineffectiveness stemmed from individual changes in behavior: either non-compliance or behavior that mimicked lockdowns.” Allen noted that much of the decision-making was based on the so-called Imperial College model or models like it. However, there were multiple problems with the model, Allen wrote. It assumed a viral reproduction number and fatality rate that were too high — as well as not being age-dependent. It was also based on the assumptions that “hospital capacity was assumed fixed and unchangeable” and “individuals in the model were assumed to not change behavior in the face of a new virus.” None of these panned out. There were also costs beyond lost GDP, Allen wrote, including lost educational opportunities, increased mortality from unemployment and deaths “due to despair” (suicides, drug overdoses), an increase in domestic violence and medical treatments and examinations that were postponed. Allen then proposed a different way of looking at the costs and benefits of COVID lockdowns. Article explains the proposal with is a bit complex but offers a very interesting thought experiment.

The Rehearsal Is Over – (Charles Eisenstein – October 9, 2021)

In this thoughtful essay Eisenstein opens with a friend’s dilemma: she owns a company employing hundreds of people and is a staunch critic of the mandated vaccines. She said she has been trying to fly under the radar until sanity is restored, but with looming mandates for large employers, the radar will soon turn on her. What will she do? In the rest of the piece, Eisenstein recounts the inner monologue that her note provoked in him. Essentially it is a call to act on one’s integrity. As he put it so eloquently:  “We are here in this initiatory moment to choose who we are. The choice of whether to capitulate or to act is a declaration: Who am I to be? What is the world to be? Am I serious enough about my vision for the world to risk my security for it? That is not a challenge meant to goad myself into action. It is simply true. Through my choice, I will know myself as I am. I will become as I choose. The rehearsal is over.” See also: a short clip from Charles Eisenstein, “Relational Living” in which he talks about the need to bring the head and the heart into alignment, explaining: “Who we are is life itself, and life seeks its full expression.”

OUCH! “Dear White Liberals” – (Brighteon – October 8, 2021)

In this video clip running just under 2 1/2 minutes, Black candidate Billy Prempeh for the US Congress gives searing “Dear White Liberals” message about Covid vaccines. He details numerous times when segments of the Black community have been lied to about the safety of various medical procedures which were actually using Black citizens as medical guinea pigs.

Credit-card Firms Are Becoming Reluctant Regulators of the Web – (Economist – October 10, 2021)

Banks and credit-card companies are finding themselves playing a bigger role in what is said and done in the public square—to their, and their customers’, discomfort. Now the boundary of online censorship is being extended into the pornography business. From October 15th adult websites worldwide will have to verify the age and identity of anyone featured in a picture or video, as well as the ID of the person uploading it. The websites will need to operate a fast complaints process, and will have to review all content before publication. These requirements are being imposed not by regulators but by Mastercard, a credit-card giant. Websites can always choose not to work with Mastercard. But given that the company handles about 30% of all card payments made outside China, to do so would be costly. Visa, which manages a further 60% of payments, is also taking a firmer line on adult sites. And the trend goes beyond porn. In the shadier corners of the web, and in industries where the law is unclear or out of date, financial firms are finding themselves acting as de facto regulators. Since the turn of the century, “payments have become a tool of domestic and international policy,” says Aaron Klein of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. After the 9/11 attacks of 2001 America introduced new anti-money-laundering rules and more targeted sanctions. This system—a “21st-century precision-guided munition”, as a former head of the CIA called it—obliges financial firms to block payments to the individuals on a list which today runs to 1,604 pages. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article.)

Simulations Suggest an Earth or Mars Size Planet May Be Lurking Out Beyond Neptune – (PhysOrg – October 4, 2021)

As scientists continue to study the solar system, they are still trying to understand not only how the planets came to exist but why they occupy their current orbits. In this new effort, the authors note that simulations of the evolution of the solar system are not yet able to explain the current configuration due to missing information. And they suspect that the missing information involves a planet that once circled the sun in the outer solar system (where the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune reside) but now exists out beyond the edges of the solar system or even in deep space. They contend that it is unlikely that the natural evolution of our solar system would have four gas giants and then nothing but dwarfs. Logic suggests there should be some planets of other sizes, and their simulations back them up. Adding another Earth- or Mars-sized planet to the outer solar system, perhaps between two of the gas giants, produces a more accurate model—at least during the early stages of development. Eventually, such a planet would have been pushed farther out into space, either joining the dwarfs, or was driven all the way out into interstellar space, where it would travel alone. They conclude that if such a planet does exist at the outer edges of the solar system, new telescopes under construction may be able to spot it and thus confirm their theory. The research paper was published in Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Oldest Pair of Skis Unearthed in Norwegian Ice – (Science – October 5, 2021)

People have been getting around on skis for a long time. In 2014, Norwegian archaeologists found a lone wooden ski on a mountaintop, where it had been trapped in ice for 1300 years. The ski was well preserved, down to an intact binding made from birch rope and leather straps. Because skis come in pairs, archaeologists monitored the ice patch for summertime thaws that might reveal the other one. Seven years later, their patience has paid off: In late September, a team found the second ski (pictured), 187 centimeters long and 17 centimeters wide, partially embedded in melting ice just 5 meters away from the first find spot. Ski fragments and rock art depicting skis have been found dating as far back as 6000 B.C.E., but never with intact bindings that show how the skis were used. The skis had been extensively repaired, a sign they were too valuable to easily replace. They’re not identical, suggesting a set cobbled together from other pairs. The find leaves one big question: What happened to their owner? Perhaps, the long-ago skier took them off to hunt and lost them in the snow, the researchers speculate. Or maybe an early skiing accident left the hunter too injured to descend to safety from the frozen heights. In that case, the ice might yet hold more surprises.

World-First Brain Implant Successfully Treats Resistant Depression in a Patient – (Science Alert – October 5, 2021)

Up to a third of people with depression don’t respond or become resistant to treatment. No medication or therapy type seems to help. But a new proof-of-concept intervention has provided significant relief for one patient, and could offer hope for many others. The only catch? It requires a custom-designed ‘brain pacemaker’ for each person. deep brain stimulation has had a successful past in other brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. But depression is significantly more complicated than either of those diseases. So far, results on deep brain stimulation for depression that targets particular regions of the brain – such as Brodmann area 25 – have been mixed, and mostly underwhelming. However, the neuroscience research team at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has made a significant change to this type of therapy. Instead of applying the same brain stimulation treatment for everyone, the researchers manually tracked where the patient’s depression was appearing in the brain. They identified a biomarker – in this case, a specific pattern of brainwaves – which has not been identified in major depressive disorder before, and used it to personalize the machine to only stimulate when and where the biomarker was expressed. The team put one electrode lead into the brain area where the biomarker was found, and a second where the patient’s ‘depression circuit’ was. The best location for symptom relief took some time to figure out; once it was inserted, the first lead would detect the biomarker, and the second lead would produce a tiny amount of electricity for six seconds deep in the brain region. More details in the article.

Coldest Winter on Record at the South Pole – (Real Climate Science – October 1, 2021)

The Antarctic experienced a record winter this year (April to October). The mean temperature at the South Pole station was -61.1°C, the coldest on record. The previous record was -60.6°C set in 1976. As a point of reference, this was -2.2°C lower than the mean from 1981-2010 and -2.5°C for the mean from 1991 – 2020.

DeepMind’s AI Predicts Almost Exactly When and Where It’s Going to Rain – (Technology Review – September 29, 2021)

First protein folding, now weather forecasting: London-based AI firm DeepMind is continuing its run applying deep learning to hard science problems. Working with the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, DeepMind has developed a deep-learning tool called DGMR that can accurately predict the likelihood of rain in the next 90 minutes—one of weather forecasting’s toughest challenges. Forecasting rain, especially heavy rain, is crucial for a lot of industries, from outdoor events to aviation to emergency services. The DeepMind team trained their AI on radar data. Many countries release frequent snapshots throughout the day of radar measurements that track the formation and movement of clouds. In the UK, for example, a new reading is released every five minutes. The researchers fed this data to a deep generative network, similar to a GAN—a kind of AI that is trained to generate new samples of data that are very similar to the real data it was trained on. GANs have been used to generate fake faces, even fake Rembrandts. In this case, DGMR (which stands for “deep generative model of rainfall”) learned to generate fake radar snapshots that continued the sequence of actual measurements. It’s the same idea as seeing a few frames of a movie and guessing what’s going to come next, says Shakir Mohamed, who led the research at DeepMind. In a blind comparison with existing tools, several dozen experts judged DGMR’s forecasts to be the best across a range of factors—including its predictions of the location, extent, movement, and intensity of the rain—89% of the time.

QR Codes Are a Privacy Problem — But Not for the Reasons You’ve Heard – (Washington Post – September 7, 2021)

Your favorite server at your local pizza spot may remember you love anchovies. Now, thanks in part to the QR code you used to open the menu and order, other eateries might know, too. These tiny black-and-white squares originated in factories in the 1990s and saw a resurgence during the pandemic, as more people took extra steps to keep their hands clean and touchless technologies gained ground at restaurants and retailers. But QR codes serve a purpose beyond cutting down on germs. They turn analog interactions — like ordering a pizza — into digital ones, and those digital interactions can be subject to tracking by the restaurant or store. Because QR codes open a browser, companies might use that digital signal to connect the dots between online and offline activity. According to research firm Forrester, half of adults with smartphones that have scanned QR codes in stores took steps to limit what data the linked app or site collected. And just 8% of adults with smartphones have scanned QR codes in stores at all. Contrary to some write-ups, QR codes themselves are not tracking you, Rescorla said. And no, they’re not a trapdoor into some scary underground world of tracking and surveillance. You already live in that world, said Eric Rescorla, chief technology officer of Firefox, a privacy-forward Internet browser by Mozilla, but QR codes may be a good reminder of how it all works. In this article, Rescorla explains exactly that. Also, QR codes come with some security risks, according to Allan Liska, a senior threat analyst at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. Like any other link, the codes can be the first step in a malware or phishing attack. Here Liska explains more about that.

Hackers Are Waging a Guerrilla War on Tech Companies, Revealing Secrets and Raising Fears of Collateral Damage – (Washington Post – October 7, 2021)

A chain of recent, devastating hacks is exposing some of the Internet’s most fiercely guarded secrets, stepping up a guerrilla struggle between tech firms and anonymous hackers and raising fears that everyday Internet users could get caught in the crossfire. Hackers recently dumped a colossal haul of data stolen from Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming site, revealing what they said was not just the million-dollar payouts for its most popular video game streamers but the site’s entire source code — the DNA, written over a decade, central to keeping the company alive. That followed the hack by the group Anonymous that exposed the most crucial inner workings of Epik, an Internet services company popular with the far right, and triggered firings and other consequences for some of the company’s clients whose identities had previously been undisclosed. The perpetrators of these hacks are distancing themselves from financially driven cybercriminals and ransomware gangs by portraying their attacks as moral crusades against what they said were the companies’ sins. But because the hackers hide their identities, it’s impossible to gauge their true motives. And because they’ve dumped the stolen data onto the open Web, thousands of the companies’ users have also had their personal information exposed, including, in some cases, sensitive information such as income, phone numbers and home addresses. Allan Liska, a senior intelligence analyst with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said the growing accessibility and sophistication of hacking tools and the ease with which social media can draw attention to a major hack has contributed to a dramatic upsurge in attacks by “hacktivists.” The hacks are casting a spotlight on critical weaknesses of the Internet — an aging “network of networks” strained by global growth and woven through with outdated software, vulnerable hardware and unpatched flaws. Some experts suspect the hacks are closely watched by state-sponsored hackers, cybercriminals and ransomware gangs, who can use the valuable data to gather evidence on targets or inform their next attack. See also: The Twitch Hack Revealed Much More Than Streamer Salaries. Here Are 4 New Takeaways.

Towering over the City, This ‘Farmscraper’ Will Produce 270 tons of Food from Hydroponics on 51 Stories – (Good News Network – October 12, 2021)

Combining a vertical farm and office space into a single 51-story concept out of Chinese mythology, an Italian architect is completing the Shenzhen skyline with a stunning “farmscraper.” With a façade that features a vertical hydroponic farm extending the entire height of the building, the Jian Mu Tower was designed for a leading Chinese supermarket to be a place where tenants can grow, sell, buy, or consume produce in the same place they work. Located in the south Chinese city of Shenzhen, the Turin-based Carlo Ratti Associati has unveiled plans to build a 650-foot (218-meter) tower in which 100,000 square feet (10,000 sq. meter) of the glass exterior is dedicated to producing food—590,000 pounds of it per year, which would also contain around a million square feet for office space, a supermarket, gardens, and food court. Working with ZERO, an Italian-based company that specializes in innovative approaches to agriculture, Jian Mu’s farm is optimized to produce everything from salad greens to fruits to aromatic herbs, while remaining efficient and sustainable. The building, designed as the new headquarters of supermarket chain Wumart, where the entire production chain can be “showcased in a clean, and technologically exciting way,” was named and designed after a mythical tree that separated heaven from earth in Chinese folklore.

A Tiny Piece of Plastic Is Helping Farmers Use Far Less Water – (Bloomberg – September 23, 2021)

Despite all the innovation that’s made its way into agriculture in recent years, 85% of all irrigation is still done by releasing vast quantities of water across the surface of a field, pretty much the same way it was handled 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Flood irrigation has hung on because it’s cash-cheap, but from a natural-resource perspective, it’s staggeringly expensive. As much as 70% of the water goes to waste, and overwatered crops can fail to reach their full potential. Excess fertilizer is carried away by the runoff, contaminating streams, wetlands, and lakes. Microdrip irrigation was supposed to solve all that. In the 1930s, a young engineer named Simcha Blass noticed a tree that had grown much taller than the others in the same row; when he looked closer, he found that its roots were being fed by a tiny leak from a nearby irrigation pipe. Today, there are hundreds of drip irrigation companies, but the technology is being applied to less than 5% of irrigated acres globally, usually to big-ticket crops such as almonds, wine grapes, and tomatoes. The limiting factor is cost. As the systems are currently designed, pushing water through hundreds of feet of pipe requires a lot of force, which farmers supply with pumps; electric ones if they have power in their fields, carbon-belching diesel versions if they don’t. The dripper lines are also prone to getting clogged by silt particles or algae found in natural water, so it must be filtered, which adds another expense. The whole setup amounts to at least $2,000 an acre, plus energy bills. For lower-value crops such as cotton or alfalfa, drip irrigation simply doesn’t pay. Enter an Israeli irrigation startup called N-Drip. N-Drip is the brainchild of Uri Shani, a professor of soil physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a former chairman of Israel’s water authority. He set out seven years ago to devise a microdrip irrigation system cheap enough to make sense not just for lettuces and berries but also commodity crops such as soy and corn, which make up the bulk of the world’s agricultural output. Article explains the system he invented which runs without pumps or filters.

Scientists Find the Secret to ‘Unhackable’ Security Systems on the Wings of Butterflies – (Good News Network – October 12, 2021)

Sometimes solving the most complex technology and engineering challenges involves looking towards nature for solutions. So it has gone with the Teslagram a currently-unhackable security fingerprint created from a butterfly’s wing. The wings of this most charismatic insect are cloaked in tiny scales—up to 200,000 of them, which contain a lattice-work of chitin ribbons unique to each scale. It was these scales which a Serbian technology student at the Institute of Physics, Belgrade, thought could serve as the ultimate form of security code or authenticity stamp. Fingerprints, QR codes, bar codes, and more are all coming up against their best-by dates, according to the Teslagram inventor, Marija Mitrovic Dankulov. To make the point, she recounts the story of a hacker named “starbug” taking a photograph of the German Defense Minister, and managing to zoom in at a high-enough resolution to copy her fingerprint. While analyzing butterfly scales under an extremely powerful electron microscope, a colleague of Dankulov’s, Dejan Pantelic, realized that a human fingerprint could not compare to the intricacies of the unique latticework within each scale. Dankulov and Pantelic, along with some of their colleagues then came up with the idea of the Teslagram, named after the great Serbian inventor Nicola Tesla. A butterfly scale would be attached to a product, and the details upon it would be entered into a database like a fingerprint—only one which would be extraordinarily difficult to copy maliciously using known technology. This could be used, for example, to authenticate luxury goods like jewels, watches, or designer clothing, all of which lose millions every year in market sales to counterfeiters.

What Did the FBI Know? – (LewRockwell – September 30, 2021)

The New York Times recently reported that the FBI had an undercover informant amid the protestors that entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 who had related to them his knowledge of the demonstrators’ plans beforehand and his observations of events in the building in real time. The informant was a genuine member of the Proud Boys, one of the groups the feds are trying to charge with conspiracy to overthrow the government. According to the Times, the informant told the FBI in advance that there was no plan by his colleagues to disrupt the government. He also reported violence and destruction in the Capitol to his FBI handler as it was happening, and the FBI did nothing timely to stop it. The presence of the informant as a de facto federal agent at the scene before, during and after the commission of what the government considers to be serious felonies raises serious constitutional questions about the FBI’s behavior. The feds have not revealed the existence or identity of this informant; rather, the Times’ reporters found out about him and found another person to corroborate what they learned that he did. Can the government insert a person into a group under criminal investigation — or “flip” a person who is already in the group — and use him for surveillance without a search warrant? And, when they do this, must prosecutors tell defense attorneys about their informant, particularly if his knowledge and observations are inconsistent with the government’s version of events? In the early 1960s, the Supreme Court realized that the use of electronic surveillance was just as much a search as a physical search, and it required search warrants for the government to be able to use at trial whatever it learned from the surveillance. This is universally accepted today as the contemporary understanding of the Fourth Amendment. Yet, it applies only to searches by government agents or their use of evidence obtained from electronic surveillance. It does not pertain to informants. Stated differently, the feds and the states need search warrants to bug your bedroom, your office or your cellphone, but they do not need a search warrant to threaten, bribe or employ your neighbor or colleague or brother-in-law to engage you in a conversation about personal behavior and then report the contents of that conversation to them. This article examines the issues here as they are related to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The author of this article is Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, and the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. (Editor’s note: We recommend both this article and the one in the New York Times.)

The Real Deep State – (Armstrong Economics – October 12, 2021)

This article opens with a short clip of Glen Greenwald being interviewed and speaking about the Deep State (which he defines as a permanent power faction in Washington) and how it attempted to manage Donald Trump. Martin Armstrong, author of the article, then goes on: “I seriously doubt that any president can defeat the Deep State. It will take the army to rise up to defend the people. The CIA was created in 1947, and they succeeded in ensuring that Trump would lose. The entire COVID response has been supported by the Deep State, which was 72 years from 1947. Even in Canada, the military has used the pandemic to test physiological warfare on its own citizens. These people are drunk on their own power. This will come to an end, crashing down in the face by 2033. The politicians are not in charge anymore.”

Ex-CIA Officer Who Led Raid that Captured Leading Al Qaeda Suspect Is Now Denouncing CIA for Torturing Zubaydah for 20 Years In Guantanamo without Ever Charging Him with a Crime – (Covert Action Magazine – October 7, 2021)

John Kiriakou was the CIA’s Chief Counter-terrorism Operations officer in Pakistan. He led numerous military raids on al-Qaeda safehouses, captured dozens of al-Qaeda fighters, and narrowly escaped with his life after being targeted for assassination by al-Qaeda terrorists. When he discovered the agency’s secret torture program, Kiriakou became a whistleblower. In a 2014 interview (link in article), Kiriakou recounts his role in capturing Abu Zubaydah, his hours with him, the secret prisons around the world and the CIA’s official torture program, which he ultimately refused to participate in. Responding to public uproar, Congress demanded to see the CIA’s video record of the Agency’s torture sessions. In response, Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel illegally destroyed the videos despite a court order to preserve them. Not only was Haspel not prosecuted for her role in the torture program and destroying the tapes, she was later promoted to CIA Director by President Trump. Kiriakou was arrested and sentenced to 30 months in prison for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. March 22, 2022 will mark 20 years since Abu Zubaydah was taken into CIA custody. He has yet to be charged with a crime—any crime. He hasn’t even been able to question the people who tortured him. This is in what many like to think is the greatest country in the world, a shining beacon of the rule of law and respect for human rights. He has a right to be judged by a jury of his peers. If he’s the bad guy that the CIA wants us to believe that he is, then why not charge him with a crime? Is it because the CIA tortured him mercilessly and has blown any chance that he can be justly prosecuted? (Editor’s note: We recommend this article.)

Venice, Overwhelmed by Tourists, Tries Tracking Them – (New York Times – October 4, 2021)

The mayor of Venice is taking crowd control to a new level, pushing high-tech solutions that alarm even many of those who have long campaigned for a Venice for Venetians. The city’s leaders are acquiring the cellphone data of unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor visitors and prevent crowding. Next summer, they plan to install long-debated gates at key entry points; visitors coming only for the day will have to book ahead and pay a fee to enter. If too many people want to come, some will be turned away. “Either we are pragmatic, or we live in the world of fairy tales,” said Paolo Bettio, who heads Venis, the company that handles the city’s information technology. But many residents see the plans to monitor, and control, people’s movements as dystopian — and either a publicity stunt or a way to attract wealthier tourists, who might be discouraged from coming by the crowds. New high-definition cameras record about 25 frames per second. Software tracks people’s speed and trajectory. And in a control room a few miles away, city officials examined phone data gathered from about everyone in Venice. The system is designed to collect people’s age, sex, country of origin and prior location. “We know minute by minute how many people are passing and where they are going,” Simone Venturini, the city’s top tourism official, said as he surveyed the control room’s eight screens showing real-time frames of Saint Mark’s Square. “We have total control of the city.” Originally, the surveillance cameras beaming in the images — along with hundreds more citywide — were installed to monitor for crime and reckless boaters. But now they double as visitor trackers, a way for officials to spot crowds they want to disperse. Officials say the phone-location data will also alert them to prevent the type of crowds that make crossing the city’s most famous bridges a daily struggle. In addition, they are trying to figure out how many visitors are day-trippers, who spend little time — and little of their money — in Venice. Once officials establish such patterns, the information will be used to guide the use of the gates and the booking system. If crowds are expected on certain days, the system will suggest alternative itineraries or travel dates. And the admission fee will be adjusted to charge a premium, up to 10 euros, or about $11.60, on what are expected to be high-traffic days. City leaders dismiss critics who fret about the invasion of privacy, saying that all of the phone data is gathered anonymously. The city is acquiring the information under a deal with TIM, an Italian phone company, which like many others is capitalizing on increased demand for data by law enforcement, marketing firms and other businesses.

Winds in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Are Speeding Up, Now Over 400 mph – (USA Today – September 27, 2021)

The biggest storm in our solar system is getting wilder. Winds in Jupiter’s great red spot are getting faster, astronomers reported in a new study. While not a dramatic increase, “we find that the average wind speed in the great red spot has been slightly increasing over the past decade,” said study lead author Michael Wong of the University of California, Berkeley Specifically, researchers determined the winds have increased by up to 8% from 2009 to 2020. “When I initially saw the results, I asked ‘Does this make sense?’ No one has ever seen this before,” Wong said. The observations of the storm’s winds were made using the Hubble Space Telescope. “Since we don’t have a storm chaser plane at Jupiter, we can’t continuously measure the winds on site,” explained Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who contributed to the research. “Hubble is the only telescope that has the kind of temporal coverage and spatial resolution that can capture Jupiter’s winds in this detail.” The massive storm’s red clouds spin counterclockwise at speeds that now exceed 400 mph – and the vortex is bigger than Earth itself, according to NASA. In fact, the storm has raged since at least 1830 and possibly since the mid-1600s, when the red spot may have been first seen from Earth.

NASA’s DART Mission Will Deliberately Crash into an Asteroid’s Moon in the Name of Planetary Defense – (CNN – October 5, 2021)

After launching in November, NASA’s DART mission, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test, will test its asteroid deflection technology in September 2022 to see how it impacts the motion of a near-Earth asteroid in space. The target of this asteroid deflection technology is Dimorphos, a small moon orbiting the near-Earth asteroid Didymos. This will be the agency’s first full-scale demonstration of this type of technology on behalf of planetary defense. Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets whose orbits place them within 30 million miles of Earth. Detecting the threat of near-Earth objects, or NEOs, that could potentially cause grave harm is a primary focus of NASA and other space organizations around the world. DART will deliberately crash into Dimorphos to change the asteroid’s motion in space, according to NASA. This collision will be recorded by LICIACube, a companion CubeSat or cube satellite provided by the Italian Space Agency. The CubeSat will travel on DART and then be deployed from it prior to impact so it can record what happens. “Astronomers will be able to compare observations from Earth-based telescopes before and after DART’s kinetic impact to determine how much the orbital period of Dimorphos changed,” said Tom Statler, DART program scientist at NASA Headquarters, in a statement. “That’s the key measurement that will tell us how the asteroid responded to our deflection effort.”

Modernizing Planetary Protection: Less Restrictive “Bioburden” Rules Would Make Mars Missions Simpler – (SciTech Daily – October 9, 2021)

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies criteria that could allow robotic missions to certain locations on Mars to be carried out with less restrictive “bioburden” requirements, which are designed to prevent harmful contamination by Earth-based microbes at Mars. “Currently, meeting planetary protection requirements – for instance, using rigorous sterilization techniques – can be seen as imposing, costly, and complex, and it could be that these restrictions can be simplified and modernized, in some cases, which can help make some areas of Mars more accessible,” said Hendrix, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “The report suggests techniques for modernizing and providing flexibility in planetary protection implementation. One way to do this is by utilizing a risk management approach, that could be tailored to individual missions’ needs,” Hendrix said. “The Committee’s findings can lead to making portions of Mars more accessible to both commercial and government endeavors by relaxing planetary protection requirements while remaining careful about access to potential habitable zones.”

Watch a Year of Life on the Space Station Squeezed into 60 Seconds – (Digital Trends – October 11, 2021)

Most astronauts visiting the International Space Station (ISS) would probably be more than happy to spend the entirety of their six-month stay staring out of the window, the beauty of the passing scenery causing their jaw to hit the floor, or, more realistically, float around (considering the microgravity conditions). Truth be told, astronauts are kept extremely busy during their stays on the orbiting outpost 250 miles above Earth, tasked with everything from science experiments and spacewalks to more mundane but necessary activities such as exercising and keeping the place clean. A fun video shared by the European Space Agency attempts to show what a typical day on the ISS is like by taking clips shot over many months and squeezing them into an action-packed 60-second sequence.

Deep Learning’s Diminishing Returns – (IEEE Spectrum – September 24, 2021)

Deep learning is now being used to translate between languages, predict how proteins fold, analyze medical scans, and play games as complex as Go, to name just a few applications of a technique that is now becoming pervasive. Success in those and other realms has brought this machine-learning technique from obscurity in the early 2000s to dominance today. While deep learning’s rise may have been meteoric, its future may be bumpy. Today’s deep-learning researchers are nearing the frontier of what their tools can achieve. To understand why this will reshape machine learning, you must first understand why deep learning has been so successful and what it costs to keep it that way. The good news is that deep learning provides enormous flexibility. The bad news is that this flexibility comes at an enormous computational cost. This unfortunate reality has two parts. The article goes on to explain.

Holograms Are (Maybe, Finally) Real: Light Field Labs’ SolidLight – (PC Map – October 7, 2021)

San Jose-based company, Light Field Lab has mastered how light can be beamed to recreate 3D floating objects that appear like their real-life counterparts would.  The company manages this through a custom 28-inch display it can produce for customers. The panel is not only capable of scattering photons into discernible images, but it can do so through an insanely high 2.5 billion pixels. A standard TV generally has millions of pixels beaming the light in only one uniform direction. Light Field Lab’s holographic tech changes this by sending the photons into a central area, where the light can converge and then scatter, forming images visible to the human eye. Light Field Lab is already producing displays in 90-, 120-, and 150-inch sizes, and beyond. Its first enterprise customers are expected to begin debuting them as soon as next year, although a more conservative estimate is within a “one- to three-year” timeframe.  The larger displays cost several millions dollars and currently rely on a server feeding them 3D digital content. So for now, the technology will likely first pop up in entertainment venues, such as theme parks, where they’ll beam 3D images of things like dolphins, sharks, and dinosaurs that approach the audience. “Ultimately, the goal is you won’t even know you saw a hologram when you walk through an experience,” says CEO Jon Karafin. “I want people to say, ‘Wow, that actor was amazing.’”

Prices Are Rising. But Does Anyone Know Where Inflation’s Heading? – (ABC Australia – October 10, 2021)

Skip the first three-quarters of this article if you have a basic understanding of inflation. Scroll down to the section “Economists have no general theory of inflation?” Last month, the European Central Bank held a two-day forum to discuss what monetary policy might look like in the future, and it included a debate on “the future of inflation.” One of the panellists in that debate, Charles Goodhart, set some fireworks off. Goodhart is professor emeritus at the London School of Economics. He’s as establishment as you can get. Eton College. Trinity College at Cambridge. A PhD from Harvard in 1963. A long-time senior official at the Bank of England. Professor Goodhart told the forum the world was in an extraordinary situation at the moment because economists had “no general theory of inflation.” Come again? He said economists used to have two theories, but those theories had lost credibility. He said the vacuum had been filled by a “bootstrap theory of inflation” in which economists assumed that inflation depended on peoples’ expectations of future inflation. “It’s a very weak reed because actually, inflation expectations are much more associated … with what has happened in the past, from which people tend to extrapolate, than what is likely to happen in future.” What does Professor Goodhart think will happen to inflation in coming years? He thinks the world is going to experience both a cyclical and trend increase in inflation, driven by major demographic changes and the next chapter in globalization. In the article he explains his thinking. (Editor’s note: Not all economists agree with him and he may not adequately be factoring in the total effect of the expansion of robotics. But his argument is worth reading.)

A Perfect Storm: Supply Chain Crisis Could Blow World Economy Off Course – (Guardian – October 2, 2021)

A supply crunch that initially put a question mark over the availability of luxury cars or whether there would be enough PlayStations under our Christmas trees is instead morphing into a full-blown crisis featuring a shortage of energy, labor and transport from Liverpool to Los Angeles, and from Qingdao to Queensland. Energy shortages are providing the starkest illustration of the problem, with increasing numbers of petrol stations in the UK running out of fuel, and cities in northern China having to ration power and force factories in the world’s number one manufacturing nation to shutter just when pre-Christmas demand is reaching a peak in the west. Along with ongoing Covid-related restrictions in some large manufacturing countries such as Vietnam, and a well-documented shortage of components such as computer chips, factories are simply not producing enough. But even if they could get their hands on more sources of energy and materials, and factories could make more goods, it would still cost more to ship things. Drewry’s shipping index, which measures the cost of containers, is up 291% compared with a year ago. On some busy routes, such as from China to Europe’s biggest port Rotterdam, the cost of shipping a container has risen sixfold in the past year. The problems don’t end when the goods arrive at a port, with labor shortages presenting a final problem in the increasingly tortuous journey of products to their final destination. A lack of truck drivers in many parts of Europe, partly because of disputes over conditions and partly because of ongoing Covid restrictions, is causing further delays. Flavio Romero Macau, a supply chain expert at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, says that massive pent-up consumer demand in the wake of the pandemic has strained the world’s delicately balanced economic ecosystem. “Consumers are crazy to buy things because the world is awash with dollars from government stimulus, higher savings and pent-up demand. PlayStations, laptops, phones, gym equipment – you name it people are trying to buy it,” he says. “Higher demand and restricted supply equals inflation: there’s no way out of it. You put all these things together and it’s a perfect storm.”

Sometimes Mindlessness Is Better Than Mindfulness – (Scientific American – August 31, 2021)

Mindfulness may indeed have psychological benefits. Earlier this year, a synthesis of randomized controlled trials revealed that mindfulness-based interventions had small to moderate benefits for a number of health outcomes, including stress, anxiety and depression. That said, the effects of mindfulness were smaller and less consistent when compared with those of other therapies, and some effects appeared to fade months after the intervention. Although mindfulness has its merits, psychological research has also revealed that in some circumstances it’s important to be mindless. That is, as we develop skill in complex tasks, we can perform them with increasing facility until attention seems to be unnecessary. Everyday examples range from riding a bike to chopping cucumbers to brushing your teeth. To be clear, paying attention is important when learning a new skill. But expertise research has also revealed that paying too much attention to what you’re doing can have damaging effects, particularly when you perform well-practiced skills. In fact, this is one reason why some experts appear to “choke under pressure”: they think too much about the mechanics of the task at hand. Article includes some interesting research done with skilled golfers. The important message from this research is that there are situations where we should let automaticity take over. The next time you ride a bike or swing at a golf ball, don’t overthink it.

AI Is No Match for the Quirks of Human Intelligence – (MIT Press – no date)

This article is adapted from Algorithms Are Not Enough: Creating General Artificial Intelligence by Herbert L. Roitblat, Principal Data Scientist at Mimecast. As he observes, we’ve now succeeded in creating machines that can solve specific fairly narrow problems — “smart” machines that can diagnose disease, drive cars, understand speech, and beat us at chess — but general intelligence remains elusive. To drill down into general intelligence and its capacity for creative solutions, Roiblat looks at different types of ways in which humans solve problems, specifically focusing on the “insight problems” in which the solution is essentially found outside the data set. Relatively little is known about how we solve insight problems and algorithms are not yet close to being able to deliver “Eureka!” style problem solving.

I Asked Historians What Find Made Them Go ‘Wait, Wut?’ Here’s a Taste of the Hundreds of Replies – (The Conversation – September 15, 2021)

Recently, Australian historian Evan Smith reached out to fellow historians. On Twitter, he asked a simple question: “What is the thing that made you go ‘wait, wut?’ in the archives or in your research?” The response was overwhelming – over 300 replies and 450 quote tweets at last count.  Answers poured in, among them: love letters between women from 1760, partially written in blood; John Wayne’s prediction at a charity dinner that Watergate “will be a footnote” in history; 17 tubes of processed opium in the Dutch archives from 1946 Indonesia. And a 1931 letter from an NYU debate team prepping to discuss capitalism and looking for Josef Stalin’s insights.

The Unhealthiest Restaurant in Every State – (Eat This, Not That – October 4, 2021)

This list is a guide to the infinite depths of the American culinary imagination. For example, in Talkeetna, Alaska, the West Rib Pub and Grill’s claim to fame is “Seward’s Folly”.  It comes loaded with 12 strips of bacon, 2 pounds of caribou meat, half a pound of smoked ham, and much more. Or the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas which has set Guinness world records by offering a burger that comes in with over 9,000 calories and has a burger menu that proudly boasts of how many thousands of calories are found in each item. Do not – repeat do not – put these places on your bucket list. Unless you simply have to.

Underrated Websites – (Twitter – no date)

This Twitter thread comes from PR account manager Lucy Hughes with her list of 24 of “the most underrated websites.” There are some possibly better known favorites on here—Radio Garden, Window Swap—but also, for example, the scale of the universe (with a kind of mind-blowing slider function), a map of lightning strikes in almost real time, caffeine amounts for thousands of food and drink items, how to design a custom sex toy for 3D printing, diagrams of skyscrapers around the world…and more.
I can’t change the past, but one person can change the future – anything can happen.
Paul Mooney, American comedian, writer, social critic, and actor.
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Abby Porter, 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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Quartet – Effects of a Supply Chain Collapse

News Alert – October 21, 2021