Volume 24, Number 7 – 4/1/21



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Volume 24, Number 7 – 4/1/21




  • The Earth is pulsating every 26 seconds, and seismologists don’t agree on the cause.
  • Trillions of lightning strikes over a billion of years of Earth’s early history may have helped unlock crucial phosphorus compounds that paved the way for life on Earth.
  • Israeli researchers have grown mice in an artificial womb for as long as 11 or 12 days, about half the animal’s natural gestation period.
  • Two states tax electric car drivers by the mile. Many more want to give it a try.

Note: Dates changed!
Robert David Steele’s new date is April 17.
John Petersen’s new date is May 15.


EARTH 4.0:
After the Defeat of the Empire, The Rise of Humanity as Lords of Light and Love

As in any state change in a large, complex, dynamic system (like water turning to ice), the tell-tale indications of the impending shift begin to show up independently across the old reality before the system ultimately flips to the new state. The system that supports human life on this planet is clearly a large, complex, highly dynamic system and similarly, if you carefully look around, it’s relatively easy to identify some of the attractors at the leading edge of this huge change that could well come together to become the basis of a new way to live.

Big thinker, Robert David Steele returns to Transition Talks in April to paint the picture of how a number of the break-through concepts and initiatives that he has developed could mesh into a dramatically new “operating platform” that would indeed be a New World.

Join us for an afternoon with Robert David Steele where he weaves together his big ideas into an integrated picture of a potential new world – that would address some of the most fundamental human problems of our lifetimes.

This event with Robert is particularly unique because he will be giving the first presentation of the stump speech he is taking on the road with a four bus tour that includes Dr. Cynthia McKinney, Leigh Dunbass, Esq, Sheriff Richard Mack, Cosmic Educator Penny Kelly, and many others. Learn more about the tour at He leaves directly for Atlanta from this event, perhaps never to return to the Washington, D.C. area.


April 17, 2021

Coolfont Resort, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia


John Petersen talks with Robert David Steele about his higher vision for a new future. Robert will be joining TransitionTalks on April 17th.





I Didn’t Order the Fauci Baloney on Rye with RNA Sauce – (No More Fake News – March 16, 2021)
Waiter, I said I didn’t want the Fauci baloney with Birx pickles and Redfield mustard and the RNA sauce. The lockdown-vaccine lunatics have a problem. They’re running out of credible front figures. Fauci says asymptomatic COVID-19 cases can’t drive an epidemic, and never have, which means most PCR positives are meaningless, and lockdowns are unnecessary. Then he turns around and says we all have to wear masks until the sun burns out. He says running the PCR test at more than 35 cycles gives a meaningless result, but the FDA and the CDC advise deploying 40 cycles. Fauci makes no judgment about THAT. He says the experimental COVID vaccine is using RNA technology for the first time in history and we’re all guinea pigs; and then he says the vaccine is absolutely safe and effective. In August, 2020 in Sturgis, South Dakota, 450,000 bikers pulled into town, as they do every year. A preliminary study out of San Diego State University claims the result was 260,000 new COVID cases in the following month across the US. No detailed contact tracing was possible. The real shortcoming of the study was: I see no report on the number of COVID deaths supposedly resulting from the Sturgis rally. People being diagnosed with COVID (a pineapple can register positive on a PCR test) is a far cry from people dying. The overwhelming percentage of COVID cases are asymptomatic, or have cough, chills, fever, and nothing more. A WebMD article describing the San Diego study only mentions one death in Minnesota claimed to be connected to Sturgis. One. After 450,000 bikers departed town.

Stanford Doctor, Calls Lockdowns the ‘Biggest Public Health Mistake We’ve Ever Made’ – (Newsweek – March 8, 2021)
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.” Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.” The Great Barrington Declaration has received signatures from over 13,000 medical and public health scientists, more than 41,000 medical practitioners and at least 754,399 “concerned citizens.” During the interview, Bhattacharya said that the declaration comes from two basic facts. “One is that people who are older have a much higher risk from dying from COVID than people who are younger…and that’s a really important fact because we know who is most vulnerable, it’s people that are older. So the first plank of the Great Barrington Declaration: let’s protect the vulnerable,” Bhattacharya said. “The other idea is that the lockdowns themselves impose great harm on people. Lockdowns are not a natural normal way to live.” He continued, “It’s also not very equal. People who are poor face much more hardship from the lockdowns than people who are rich.”

Incentivizing Vaccination Uptake: The “Green Pass” Proposal in Israel – (JAMA – March 15, 2021)
The Israeli Ministry of Health has developed a model of incentives intended to compensate for the months of social restrictions that have characterized the pandemic. This proposed model, termed the “green pass,” would allow access (currently limited to 6 months) to social, cultural, and sports events, as well as to gyms, hotels, and restaurants, for individuals with immunity, whether based on having recovered from COVID-19 or being fully vaccinated (1 week after the second dose). The green pass would also give exemption from quarantine (i.e., the need to isolate for 10-14 days after contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or upon returning from international travel). This proposal has been met with both enthusiasm and notable opposition, given the ethical and legal issues it raises, potentially creating a basis for discrimination based on vaccination status.


Résumé-Writing Tips to Help You Get Past the A.I. Gatekeepers – (New York Times – March 19, 2021)
It was inevitable: When companies made it simple to apply for a job online, applications poured in. To wade through this ever-rising tide of résumés, human resources departments are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence systems to pluck out the candidates deemed to be good fits. So while applying may be as easy as a mouse click, that résumé is much more likely to be screened out into oblivion than end up in front of a recruiter. So-called predictive hiring tools evaluate résumés by finding keywords related to categories like skills, experience and education, and weighting them according to the job requirements and any other factors the hiring company has specified. The system may weight applicants who have worked at certain companies more positively. It may infer how old a skill seems to be from where it appears in a job history. Greg Moran, chief executive of OutMatch, a system that screens more than 10 million applicants a year for companies including Pepsi, Toyota and Walmart, confirmed that the following actions (outlined in the article) would help applicants avoid an automated rejection. The rest of the article is just that: how to play the game to reduce your chances of getting knocked off by AI. What’s relevant here, whether or not you are looking for new job, is how the entire process of hiring has been changed by AI.


Billions of Lightning Bolts May Have Jump-started Life on Earth, Study Suggests – (Live Science – March 16, 2021)
According to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, trillions of lightning strikes over a billion of years of Earth’s early history may have helped unlock crucial phosphorus compounds that paved the way for life on Earth. “In our study, we show for the first time that lightning strikes were likely a significant source of reactive phosphorus on Earth around the time that life formed [3.5 billion to 4.5 billion years ago],” said lead study author Benjamin Hess, a graduate student at Yale University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “Lightning strikes may have therefore played a role in providing phosphorus for the emergence of life on Earth.” Phosphates form the backbones of DNA, RNA and ATP (the chief source of energy for cells), and are major components of bones, teeth and cell membranes. But about 4 billion years ago, while there was likely plenty of water and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to work with, which are also essential for life’s fundamental molecules, most of the planet’s natural phosphorus was bound up in insoluble rock, and impossible to combine into organic phosphates. How, then, did Earth acquire these critical compounds? One theory holds that early Earth got its phosphorous from meteors carrying a mineral called schreibersite, which is made partly of phosphorous and is soluble in water; if loads of schreibersite meteorites crashed into Earth over millions or billions of years, then enough phosphorus could be released into a concentrated area to create the right conditions for biological life, according to the new study. However, about 3.5 billion to 4.5 billion years ago, when life on Earth emerged, the rate of meteor strikes on Earth dropped “exponentially” as most of our solar system’s planets and moons had largely taken shape, Hess said. This fact complicates the interstellar phosphorus theory. However, there is another way to make schreibersite, right here on Earth, Hess said. All it takes is some land, a cloud and a few trillion jolts of lightning.

Scientists Discover How Humans Develop Larger Brains Than Other Primates – (PhysOrg – March 24, 2021)
A new study is the first to identify how human brains grow much larger, with three times as many neurons, compared with chimpanzee and gorilla brains. The study, led by researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, identified a key molecular switch that can make ape brain organoids grow more like human organoids, and vice versa. The study compared ‘brain organoids’ – 3-D tissues grown from stem cells which model early brain development—that were grown from human, gorilla and chimpanzee stem cells. During the early stages of brain development, neurons are made by stem cells called neural progenitors. These progenitor cells initially have a cylindrical shape that makes it easy for them to split into identical daughter cells with the same shape. The more times the neural progenitor cells multiply at this stage, the more neurons there will be later. They found that in gorillas and chimpanzees this process occurs over approximately five days. Human progenitors were even more delayed in this transition, taking around seven days. The human progenitor cells maintained their cylinder-like shape for longer than other apes and during this time they split more frequently, producing more cells. This difference in the speed of transition from neural progenitors to neurons means that the human cells have more time to multiply. This could be largely responsible for the approximately three-fold greater number of neurons in human brains compared with gorilla or chimpanzee brains. To uncover the genetic mechanism driving these differences, the researchers compared gene expression—which genes are turned on and off—in the human brain organoids versus the other apes. They identified differences in a gene called ‘ZEB2’, which was turned on sooner in gorilla brain organoids than in the human organoids.

The Earth Is Pulsating Every 26 Seconds, and Seismologists Don’t Agree Why – (Discover – October 27, 2020)
Every 26 seconds, the Earth shakes. Not a lot — but just enough that seismologists on multiple continents get a measurable little “blip” on their detectors. The pulse — or “microseism” in geologist lingo — was first documented in the early 1960s by Jack Oliver, then a researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. He’s best known for his later work that supplied some important early evidence for shifting tectonic plates. Oliver figured out that the pulse was coming from somewhere “in the southern or equatorial Atlantic Ocean” and that it was stronger in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months (or, the Southern Hemisphere’s winter). In 1980, Gary Holcomb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, looked more closely at the weird microseism, and figured out that it is strongest during storms. In 2005, then-graduate student Greg Bensen was working with seismic data at his lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and there it was: a strong signal, coming from somewhere far off. Perplexed, the team examined the blips from every possible angle and was able to triangulate the pulse to its origin: a single source in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western coast of Africa. But since then, even with further study, no one has definitively confirmed the cause of the regular seismic activity. Many assume it’s caused by waves; others think it’s caused by activity from a nearby volcano.


A Mouse Embryo Has Been Grown in an Artificial Womb—Humans Could Be Next – (Technology Review – March 17, 2021)
Israeli researchers have grown mice in an artificial womb for as long as 11 or 12 days, about half the animal’s natural gestation period. It’s record for development of a mammal outside the womb, and according to the research team, human embryos could be next—raising huge new ethical questions. “This sets the stage for other species,” says Jacob Hanna, a developmental biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, who led the research team. “I hope that it will allow scientists to grow human embryos until week five.” Growing human embryos in the lab for that long, deep into the first trimester, would put science on a collision course with the abortion debate. Hanna believes lab-grown embryos could be a research substitute for tissue derived from abortions, and possibly a source of tissue for medical treatments as well. Hanna’s team grew the mouse embryos longer by adding blood serum from human umbilical cords, agitating them in glass jars, and pumping in a pressurized oxygen mixture. Hanna likens the process to putting a covid-19 patient on a ventilation machine. The mouse embryos only died after they became too large for the oxygen to diffuse through them, since they lack the natural blood supply a placenta could provide. Hanna says scientists will want to develop human embryos this way too. He recognizes that images of lab-grown human embryos with a roughly recognizable shape—head, tail, and limb buds—could be shocking. The human equivalent of Hanna’s 12-day-old mice would be a first-trimester embryo. “I do understand the difficulties. I understand. You are entering the domain of abortions,” says Hanna. However, he says he can rationalize such experiments because researchers already study five-day-old human embryos from IVF clinics, which are also destroyed in that process. “So I would advocate growing it until day 40 and then disposing of it,” says Hanna. “Instead of getting tissue from abortions, let’s take a blastocyst and grow it.” See also: Researchers re-create key human embryo stage in lab.

Scientists Detect 55 Chemicals Never Before Reported in People – 42 “Mystery Chemicals” Whose Sources Are Unknown – (SciTech Daily – March 21, 2021)
Scientists at University of California San Francisco have detected 109 chemicals in a study of pregnant women, including 55 chemicals never before reported in people and 42 “mystery chemicals,” whose sources and uses are unknown. The chemicals most likely come from consumer products or other industrial sources. They were found both in the blood of pregnant women, as well as their newborn children, suggesting they are traveling through the mother’s placenta. “These chemicals have probably been in people for quite some time, but our technology is now helping us to identify more of them,” said Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF. “It is alarming that we keep seeing certain chemicals travel from pregnant women to their children, which means these chemicals can be with us for generations,” she said. The 109 chemicals researchers found in the blood samples from pregnant women and their newborns are found in many different types of products. For example, 40 are used as plasticizers, 28 in cosmetics, 25 in consumer products, 29 as pharmaceuticals, 23 as pesticides, three as flame retardants, and seven are PFAS compounds, which are used in carpeting, upholstery and other applications. The researchers say it’s possible there are also other uses for all of these chemicals.


Reddit Investors Use GameStop Proceeds to Help Protect Gorillas – (Guardian – March 18, 2021)
Gorillas, elephants, pangolins and sea turtles have been handed a lifeline by amateur investors who played the stock market at its own game. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent helping endangered animals by users of a Reddit trading tips community, giving conservation organizations across the world a much-needed financial boost during a difficult year. The money came from users of the WallStreetBets subreddit, who earlier this year bought small volumes of shares in the retailer GameStop en masse. This inflated the company’s share price, raising value for themselves and deliberately withholding it from professional investors such as hedge funds and big Wall Street firms that had hoped to profit from its failure. Many of those small investors have spent their gains on animal conservation. Gorillas have been the biggest beneficiaries, partly due to the sad story of Harambe, which still persists as a meme. In a typical weekend, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund gets 20 new gorilla adoptions. But in one week, it has received more than 3,500 adoptions worth $350,000.

Countries Tried to Curb Trade in Plastic Waste. The U.S. Is Shipping More. – (New York Times – March 12, 2021)
When more than 180 nations agreed last year to place strict limits on exports of plastic waste from richer countries to poorer ones, the move was seen as a major victory in the fight against plastic pollution. The new rules were adopted in 2019 by most of the world’s countries, although the United States isn’t among them, under a framework known as the Basel Convention. But new trade data for January, the first month that the agreement took effect, shows that American exports of plastic scrap to poorer countries have barely changed, and overall scrap plastics exports rose, which environmental watchdog groups say is evidence that exporters are ignoring the new rules. The American companies seem to be relying on a remarkable interpretation of the new rules: Even though it’s now illegal for most countries to accept all but the purest forms of plastic scrap from the United States, there’s nothing that prevents the United States from sending the waste. The main reason: the United States didn’t ratify the global ban. In 2018, China, which once accepted the bulk of that waste, banned all plastic scrap shipments, declaring that it no longer wanted to be the “world’s garbage dump.” Since then, American companies have looked to ship plastic scrap waste to countries like Malaysia and Indonesia instead. Last year, an industry group representing the world’s largest petrochemical makers lobbied for United States trade negotiators to press Kenya, one of Africa’s largest economies, to continue importing foreign plastic garbage. The scrap industry says that much of the plastic that was being shipped in January is considered legitimate under the Basel rules by the companies around the world that are purchasing it to use in manufacturing. “The contention that all of these plastic scrap exports from the United States are not legitimate is factually incorrect,’’ said Adina Adler, vice president of advocacy at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade group. But advocates say that there are clear red flags in the data. If the United States were to ratify the Basel agreement — which would require Congress to pass legislation — traders found to be shipping plastic waste overseas could be prosecuted. But short of that, the United States government is limited in its ability to stop plastic waste exports.

Electronic Waste in the US Is Changing – (The Hill – February 1, 2021)
Americans spent $400 billion in 2020 on technologies like smartphones, computers, TVs and streaming media. But in the U.S., electronic waste is actually starting to decline. A new study shows that the total weight of used electronics discarded by households has shrunk by 10% since its peak in 2015. The main reasons: technological innovation and shifting consumer preferences. For instance, households replaced bulky tube TVs with slimmer flat panel models — a shift spurred by the analog-to-digital TV transition a decade ago. Lightweight products require less natural resources to make and less electricity to operate. The phenomenon of device convergence means that a multi-function smartphone replaces separate phones, cameras, video recorders, media players and handheld gaming consoles. New products also contain less hazardous materials, in contrast to leaded glass contained in old cathode ray tubes or mercury bulbs found in early liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. Unfortunately, however, many changes that make electronics lighter and more efficient end up making them harder to reuse and recycle. With less than 40% of used electronics being recovered in the U.S., we are wasting an enormous opportunity to capture the valuable materials and components they contain. To date, 25 states have some type of regulated e-waste program. Each is slightly different, but most use an extended producer responsibility model requiring manufacturers who sell common electronics in that state to help fund their recycling. But some state programs are now reporting lower collection volumes year-over-year. The same technology shifts that make electronics lighter, like declining obsolete tube TVs, are now reaching recyclers. This trend is particularly evident in well-established state programs, such as those in California and Oregon, which saw over 10% declines from 2018 to 2019, or Vermont that dropped 6%. This decline is particularly challenging for those states that set collection targets based on pounds recycled. Some of these targets are set as a percentage of new products that manufacturers sell into that state. But as products sold get lighter, this mismatch means it is increasingly difficult for states and the obligated manufacturers to keep collecting at a pace to meet their targets. Another big issue is that state policies don’t actually cover many common electronics now being purchased. Smartphones, smart speakers and streaming devices are all on the rise, but they are rarely included in state e-waste laws. Neither are solar panels, automotive electronics or other smart home products and appliances, which will be major contributors to the future e-waste stream. Updating e-waste laws to include new products requires rewriting and passing regulations agreed upon by regulators, manufacturers and recyclers alike.

NOAA Rewriting Earth’s History – (Real Climate Science – March 2, 2021)
In 1989, the head of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center said that earth cooled from 1921 to 1979. Now they show lots of warming during that period. “Analysis of warming since 1881 shows most of the increase in global temperature happened before 1919 — before the more re-cent sharp rise in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Thomas Karl, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. While global climate warmed overall since 1881, it actually cooled from 1921 to 1979, Karl said. But NOAA graphs now show a warming trend from 1921 to 1979. The article then goes on to show scans of numerous newspaper articles supporting the cooling trend. For example, the New York Times ran an article on January 5, 1978, titled International Team of Specialists Finds No End in Sight to 30‐Year Cooling Trend in Northern Hemisphere. And yet NOAA now shows the period as having an overall warming trend.


Zoom Escaper Lets You Sabotage Your Own Meetings with Audio Problems, Crying Babies, and More – (The Verge – March 15, 2021)
Had enough Zoom meetings? Can’t bear another soul-numbing day of sitting on video calls, the only distraction being your rapidly aging face, pinned in one corner of the screen like a dying bug? Well, if so, then we have the app for you. Meet Zoom Escaper: a free web widget that lets you add an array of fake audio effects to your next Zoom Call, gifting you with numerous reasons to end the meeting and escape, while you still can. You can choose from barking dogs, construction noises, crying babies, or even subtler effects like choppy audio and unwanted echoes. Created by artist Sam Lavigne, Zoom Escaper is fantastically simple to use. All you need do is download a free bit of audio software called VB-Audio that routes your audio through the website, then change your audio input in Zoom from your microphone to VB-Audio, and play with the effects. Article includes link to a video tutorial on how to set up Zoom Escaper and a sample of the sound effects.


Dirk Wynants Designs Hopper Picnic Table for Extremis – (Dezeen – March 26, 2021)
Spring is here and the outdoors is beckoning. The Hopper picnic table is an aluminum table designed by Flemish designer Dirk Wynants for his own company, Belgian furniture makers Extremis. The Hopper table and two benches are formed of a single continuous piece of aluminum (or wooden version with table top and benches of hardwood). The table legs dip down in a V shape before forming the benches to allow the sitters easy access. See photos in article. “Four pass-through zones at the ends eliminate the need to scramble over the benches to reach the table,” explained Extremis. (Editor’s note: This is the most brilliant, elegant picnic table design we have ever seen.)


Natural Gas Companies Have Their Own Plans to Go Low-Carbon – (NPR – February 21, 2021)
Dozens of cities have moved to restrict or ban natural gas in new buildings and use renewable electricity for heating and cooking instead. But gas companies, which have launched expensive public-relations campaigns in response, say that’s not the only way to decarbonize. Kim Heiting, senior vice president of operations for NW Natural, says her company’s pipelines — a vast network of them — don’t have to deliver fossil fuels. “Let’s use them differently,” she says. “Let’s think about the gas grid as we think about the electric grid and just change what’s going through those pipes.” Heiting says NW Natural could continue fueling home furnaces, appliances and industrial plants with a carbon-neutral mixture of renewable gas that would come from a variety of sources. First, they’d capture the methane or biogas that’s being emitted from rotting food, cow manure, wastewater and sewage treatment plants. They’d clean it and put the resulting biomethane, or renewable natural gas, into the company’s pipelines. The supply of waste methane is limited, though. Even gas industry research has found there isn’t enough renewable natural gas supply to replace all the natural gas we’re using now. So the company would then mix that lower-carbon gas with hydrogen gas, which has no carbon emissions when it’s burned. Heiting says her company could even make its own hydrogen gas. NW Natural is talking with an electric utility in Oregon about building a production plant that would use renewable electricity to make hydrogen gas by splitting the hydrogen from the oxygen in water. “Think about the natural gas distribution and storage system as a massive battery for wind and solar energy,” Heiting says. “Those are the kinds of tools we’re going to need if we’re truly going to achieve deep decarbonization economy-wide.” There are numerous sources of hydrogen gas, however, and some methods of manufacturing it use natural gas and generate carbon emissions that are sequestered to create what’s known as “blue” hydrogen. Heiting says her company would likely use a combination of hydrogen from various sources, including low-carbon “blue” hydrogen and carbon-free “green” hydrogen which is made using renewable electricity from wind, solar and hydropower.


Two States Tax Some Drivers by the Mile. Many More Want to Give It a Try. – (Washington Post – March 12, 2021)
GM is eyeing an all-electric fleet by 2035 with the backing of the Biden administration. That has lawmakers in state capitals across the country and in Washington increasingly confronting the question of how to pay for road maintenance when drivers don’t need to buy gas with its built-in gas tax. Many have settled on an answer: charging drivers a penny or two for each mile behind the wheel. The federal government has issued tens of millions of dollars in grants to back state projects exploring mileage-based tax programs. A bill that passed the House last year would have set up a national pilot program to tax vehicles by miles driven, and a Senate committee endorsed the idea. The Federal Highway Administration is beginning to explore how a pilot program might work, a spokeswoman said. Sales of electric vehicles account for about 2% of annual new-car sales, with some forecasts projecting that number to grow rapidly. But while such a system would bring in tax dollars for roads, it also would present a new set of obstacles. The current gas tax is cheap to collect, levied on a small number of wholesalers rather than customers, while taxing mileage would require tracking millions of drivers. The Federal Highway Administration pegged the collection costs at between 5 and 18% of the revenue the programs bring in. Surveys of drivers involved in pilot programs revealed questions of privacy and data security as top concerns. Many environmentalists also are opposed, saying that taxing gasoline also is also an effective tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Under a miles-driven system, the highest-emission vehicles stand to gain a tax break.


China’s Appetite for Meat Fades as Vegan Revolution Takes Hold – (Guardian – March 12, 2021)
After many years of rising meat consumption by China’s expanding middle classes for whom eating pork every day was a luxurious sign of new financial comforts, the green shoots of a vegan meat revolution have begun to sprout. Although China still consumes 28% of the world’s meat, including half of all pork, and boasts a meat market valued at $86bn, plant-based meat substitutes are slowly carving out a place for themselves among a new generation of consumers. China’s most cosmopolitan cities are now home to social media groups, websites and communities dedicated to meat-free lifestyles. VegeRadar, for example, has compiled comprehensive maps of vegetarian and vegan restaurants all across China. According to a report by the Good Food Institute, China’s plant-based meat market was estimated at 6.1bn yuan (£675m) in 2018 and projected to grow between 20 and 25% annually. Yun Fanwei, a 25-year-old student from Shanghai, is one of a new breed of vegetarians hungry for more options. “I buy some of these fake meat products and a lot of them are pretty good. They don’t necessarily taste like meat, but it makes a nice change from tofu,” she said. Eating meat has been closely connected with the growing affluence of China. In the 1960s, the average Chinese person consumed 11 pounds of meat a year. This had shot up to 44lbs. annually by the time of former leader Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening” of the late 1970s, and to 106lbs. by 2015. But in 2016, as part of its pledge to bring down carbon emissions, the Chinese government outlined a plan to cut the country’s meat intake by 50%. It was a radical move, and so far very few other governments around the world have included meat consumption in their carbon-reduction plans. The new guidelines called on citizens to consume just 1.4 to 2.6 ounces of meat a day.


What Is Biometric Authentication? Definition, Benefits, and Tools – (ToolBox – February 23, 2021)
This is a good introductory primer that covers the following topics: What is Biometric Authentication; What is Multi-Factor Authentication; Biometric Authentication vs. Verification; Benefits of Biometric Authentication for Enterprise Security; Must-Have Features for Biometric Authentication Tool; and the Top 7 Biometric Authentication Tools for Companies in 2021. The article is oriented to the corporate sector IT department, but most of us are running into these features as we navigate new cellphones and download apps that process financial data. If some of these terms are new to you, check out the article.

Why Pirates Attack: Geospatial Evidence – (Brookings Institute – March 15, 2021)
International organizations have long argued that poverty and unemployment in coastal communities are underlying causes of piracy. Others are skeptical that problems facing local fisheries are connected to piracy, based on reports that many pirates are actually members of inland nomadic clans or criminal gangs. In new research, we explore these links—not only in the context of Indian Ocean piracy, but globally. We segment the world’s oceans into 1 degree-by-1 degree cells, and analyze the spatial links between harmful fishing practices and piracy incidents between 2005 and 2014 (see map in article). Previous research has tended to focus on country-specific variables (e.g., poverty, per-capita income, conflict, etc.) and has not adequately addressed the location-specific factors that influence piracy. By contrast, our data-driven spatial analysis is based on the geographic locations of actual pirate incidents. What did we find? First, failed and fragile states create environments ripe for piracy. Second, we find that piracy is not more likely to be close to impoverished coastal areas, nor near countries affected by drought and associated agricultural losses. On the contrary, piracy tends to be more prevalent in areas with greater levels of economic activity. Third, and most critically, pirates are more likely to attack in maritime cells in which there is high bycatch (unwanted fish caught by large catch and destroyed) or where there are high rates of fish catch using habitat-destroying practices (e.g., bottom trawling, blast fishing). Similarly, piracy spikes in areas where higher levels of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing are. These findings suggest a different interpretation of the fishing-piracy nexus. It may not be poverty or unemployment itself driving piracy, as much as the expectation that industrial fishing by foreign fleets will deplete fish stocks and harm livelihoods that depend on small-scale fisheries. Most vulnerable fishing communities in the developing world have seen significant encroachment by fleets using destructive or illegal methods, by ships flying “flags of convenience.”


How the National Security State Manipulates the News Media – ( – March 9, 2021)
An especially dangerous threat to liberty occurs when members of the press collude with government agencies instead of monitoring and exposing the abuses of those agencies. Unfortunately, collusion is an all-too-common pattern in press coverage of the national security state’s activities. The American people then receive official propaganda disguised as honest reporting and analysis. The degree of collaboration frequently has reached stunning levels. During the early decades of the Cold War, some journalists even became outright CIA assets. Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein’s January 1977, 25,000-word article in Rolling Stone was an extraordinarily detailed account extraordinarily detailed account of cooperation between the CIA and members of the press, and it provided key insights into that relationship. In some cases, the “journalists” were actually full-time CIA employees masquerading as members of the Fourth Estate, but Bernstein also confirmed that some 400 bona fide American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the ClA during the previous 25 years. Article goes on to cover more recent similar occurrences. One of the CIA’s long-standing, favorite tactics is to generate favorable, including outright bogus, news stories in foreign media outlets, with the expectation that American outlets will eventually pick them up. There is no question that the U.S. government still recruits foreign journalists for propaganda missions in their home countries. For example, the United States and Britain have mounted an extensive joint propaganda effort regarding the Syrian civil war using an array of Middle Eastern reporters and columnists. Among other possible effects, one must ponder how many of those orchestrated “news” stories found their way back into American media, impacting the narrative and domestic debate about the Syrian civil war and what Washington’s stance should be toward that conflict.

Former Clinton Adviser Warns US Becoming ‘Totalitarian’ Under Lockdown Orders – (Epoch Times – February 23, 2021)
Former Democratic adviser Naomi Wolf, who aided former President Clinton during his second reelection bid, told Fox News that the nation is “moving into a coup situation, a police state” as a result of lockdowns. “That is not a partisan thing,” said Wolf. “That transcends everything that you and I might disagree or agree on. That should bring together left and right to protect our Constitution.” Wolf further explained that authoritarianism is being implemented under the guise of safety and security. “We’re at something I never thought I would see in my lifetime … it is step 10 and that is the suspension of the rule of law and that is when you start to be a police state, and we’re here. There is no way around it,” she remarked. For an explanation of Wolf’s steps to fascism, see her 2007 article in the Guardian, “Fascist America, in 10 easy steps.”


China Makes It a Crime to Question Military Casualties on the Internet – (NPR – March 22, 2021)
When China acknowledged earlier this year that four of its soldiers had died fighting Indian forces on the two countries’ disputed mountain border eight months prior, the irreverent blogger Little Spicy Pen Ball had questions. “If the four [Chinese] soldiers died trying to rescue their fellow soldiers, then there must have been those who were not successfully rescued,” he wrote on Feb. 19 to his 2.5 million followers on Weibo, a Chinese social media site. “This means the fatalities could not have just been four.” The day after, Qiu Ziming, the 38-year-old former newspaper journalist behind the blog, was detained and criminally charged. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to three years. Qiu’s is the first case to be tried under a sweeping new criminal law that took effect March 1. The new law penalizes “infringing on the reputation and honor of revolutionary heroes.” At least six other people have been detained or charged with defaming “martyrs”. The government uses the terms “revolutionary heroes” and “martyrs” for anyone it memorializes for their sacrifice for the Communist Party. The new law even seeks to criminalize speech made outside China. Such is the case of Wang Jingyu, 19, who lives in the United States and is now a wanted man in his hometown of Chongqing, China. The authorities accuse him of slandering dead Chinese soldiers after Weibo reported him for a comment questioning the number of border fight casualties. A 2018 law allows police to investigate speech defaming martyrs. Several people have been detained as a result, according to an online spreadsheet kept by a free speech activist, but such behavior did not carry a jail sentence until now. “Cyberspace is not outside the law,” the Chongqing public security bureau said in an online notice after it declared Wang would be “pursued online” for his comments. It’s unclear how authorities plan to apprehend Wang. China’s ruling Communist Party is hyper-sensitive to challenges of its rule. One of the newer threats it has identified is “historical nihilism” — that is, rejecting the party’s official version of history and its pantheon of revolutionary heroes and martyrs.

Domestic Terrorism Goes Transnational: The War on Dissidents Picks Up Momentum – (Strategic Culture – March 11, 2021)
It seems pretty clear that the Biden Administration is now preparing to go after the people that it objects to and will create new laws as necessary to do so. Attorney General Merrick Garland will certainly have a hand in that development. And if anyone is thinking of leaving all of this behind by fleeing to another country where there is an actual rule of law, it would be best to consider the matter again. On February 22nd, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that white supremacy right-wing nationalist movements have become a “transnational threat” that has exploited the fear of the coronavirus pandemic to gain support. He said that “White supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are more than domestic terror threats. They are becoming a transnational threat. Today, these extremist movements represent the number one internal security threat in several countries. Far too often, these hate groups are cheered on by people in positions of responsibility in ways that were considered unimaginable not long ago. We need global coordinated action to defeat this grave and growing danger.” It means you can run but you can’t hide. It looks like there will be a worldwide coalition to extirpate the evils that come automatically with whiteness and, as BLM is now de facto a major constituency of the U.S. Democratic Party, you know that Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi will be leading the charge.


Compulsory Romance Lessons Among Proposals at China’s Political Conference – (Guardian – March 9, 2021)
“Romance and marriage lessons” in schools, using the social credit system to penalize people who abandon their pets, and ending compulsory English lessons are among the proposals made on the sidelines of China’s most important political conference. While much of the focus is on high-level geopolitical and national announcements, the suggestions for social policies have caught Chinese people’s attention online. China’s government is facing a crisis of an ageing population, declining birth and marriage rates and rising divorce rates, which it is aiming to address with population targets and a raised retirement age. Conference delegate Yu Xinwei also proposed compulsory lessons in colleges to strengthen “emotional education” in relationships. “Most college students’ understanding of emotions and sex stays at the physiological sexual health knowledge,” Yu said. “When facing emotional or romantic setbacks they are prone to be rabid, get out of control, even commit crime.” The proposal drew support on China’s social media, with some suggesting it be taught earlier, in high school. A related hashtag has been viewed almost half a billion times, and reposted 22,000 times.

Why Grammy Winners Might Never Sound the Same Again – (New York Times – March 14, 2021)
Since the 1960s, pop music has been ruled mostly by what’s known in the business — and to your ears — as the verse-chorus form: The verse sets the scene, the pre-chorus builds tension, and the chorus reaches a climax. Then, the cycle starts again: verse, pre-chorus, chorus. By the end of the 1960s, 42% of hit songs used verse-chorus form. By the end of the 1980s, that figure had doubled to 84%. But things quickly began to shift in the 2010s. A mix of generational churn, creativity spawned by the digitization of music production and the dilution of the industry’s top-down structure — paired with the fragmentation of the media and adaptations to the streaming economy — has warped song structures. It’s inescapable that today’s aspiring artists and songwriters must operate, for survival, in a landscape of streaming services and social media. From Spotify to TikTok, the goal is to create music that will grab a listener’s attention from beginning to end. You’re not just competing against other creators. You’re also competing against everything else that takes up our time: podcasts, TV, apps and more. So to keep streaming consumers engaged, it is increasingly common for songs to begin in medias res — with a hook, followed by a hook and ending with another hook. As Quartz has reported, “streaming music is changing the way songs are written,” and largely because of the new set of economic incentives that the medium brings: Artists are mostly compensated per listen, rather than by album sales. It may seem crass that business is driving song structure, but pop music has always been informed by technology and economic incentives as much as it has been driven by culture and artistic exploration. (Editor’s note: This article includes embedded voice clips and links to many of the songs it references. If you are interested in how contemporary pop music is being driven by technology, social media, and new recording artists, this is a fascinating and insightful article.)

What a Gambling App Knows About You – (New York Times – March 24, 2021)
Sky Bet, the most popular gambling app in Britain, compiles extensive records about its users, tracking them in ways they have never imagined. For one customer, records show that Sky Bet or one of the data providers it had hired to collect information about users, had access to banking records, mortgage details, location coordinates, and an intimate portrait of his habits wagering on slots and soccer matches. As gambling apps explode in popularity around the world, the documents show how far one of the gambling industry’s most popular apps has adopted some of the internet’s most invasive tracking and profiling techniques. Instead of using data to identify and help problem gamblers, critics of the industry said, information is used to keep players hooked. A House of Lords report published last year said 60% of the gambling industry’s profits came from the 5% of customers who were “problem gamblers,” or at risk of becoming so.


Space Propulsion by Manipulating Space-time: Can It Go From Paper to Reality? – (Open Mind BBVA – July 24, 2018)
Light moves very slowly compared to the immense scales of the universe: Earthlings would have to wait more than four years for a ship travelling at the speed of light to reach the closest stars, and 25,000 years to get to the nearest galaxy, Canis Major Dwarf. It might then seem that we are condemned to never meet other beings with whom we might establish a civilized relationship. Fortunately, modern theoretical physics offers us a solution: manipulate space-time to move ourselves to other remote places in the cosmos without formally violating the universal speed limit. The simplest explanation of why you can’t travel faster than light is this: if it were done, an effect could appear before its cause, since the velocity of light is the invariant cosmic ruler that measures physical phenomena—we could receive a phone call before the caller thinks about making it. However, if we could create wrinkles in space-time, we might be able to manage to bring a distant location much closer to us, so it would be possible to reach it without breaking the light speed barrier. A device capable of achieving this, known as a warp drive, was proposed in 1994 by the Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre. Drawing on Alcubierre’s work, a report has been published that the US Department of Defense assigned to two physicists in 2010, entitled Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions. The authors present “two loopholes to Einstein’s ultimate speed limit”: the warp drive and wormholes—technically called Einstein-Rosen bridges—a kind of shortcut in the fabric of space-time that would connect very distant regions of the universe, and whose existence is theoretically possible. Article goes on to explore the idea that there is the potential for dark energy to create a warp drive.


Nanotech Cannabis Is Here, and It Makes Edibles Look Downright Prehistoric – (Digital Trends – March 21, 2021)
Growing up in rural New York, Josh Kirby, founder of the company Kin Slips, was brought up with a very conservative attitude towards cannabis. Along with that attitude came the type of fear and paranoia that tailed marijuana like a cop car. It wasn’t until Kirby, as an adult, discovered edibles that his viewpoint slowly changed. “Most American consumers generally don’t smoke,” said Kirby, “and they’re not going to change that habit when they come into the cannabis space. So we wanted to look for a way to provide a smoke-free product.” Kin Slips came about as a way to give adults a safe, reliable, and overall not terrifying way to ingest THC without the guesswork. “The goal has always been to make something that would be indistinguishable from a product on a Walgreens shelf,” continues Kirby, “something people could feel really confident in buying.” With a background in chemistry, Kirby began by experimenting with gum until he realized the combination could never work. After the gum experiment, Kirby turned to a different method of delivery: sublingual strips. Also referred to as thin-film drug delivery, sublingual (literally translating to “under the tongue”) strips neatly and efficiently deliver cannabis directly into the bloodstream while promising a consistent experience by completely bypassing the digestive system. For those who have never tried any drugs in the sublingual strip category, they’re pretty much identical to those Listerine breath strips from way back when — a 0.03-ounce strip of plastic-feeling material that melts under your tongue. The active ingredients in each strip are then carried into the bloodstream directly through the mucosal membrane, bypassing the digestive tract, and thus preserving the active cannabinoids and terpenes. The amount of control and precision in the technology is far beyond what you can get with edibles or inhalants. Currently Kin Slips are only available at cannabis licensed retailers in California.

The Robot Will See You Now – (Mercola – March 27, 2021)
While most existing telehealth systems involve the patient controlling a tablet or smartphone, the researchers suggested that a mobile robotic telehealth system controlled by clinicians would offer a more dynamic experience. However, before implementing robots to engage with patients in emergency rooms across the U.S., they wanted to find out if robots would be accepted — and they were surprisingly well received. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers began to look for ways to minimize interactions between patients coming into emergency rooms and health care providers. In cooperation with Boston Dynamics, they created mobile robots that can measure vital signs like temperature, breathing rate, pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation. The dog-like robots have four legs and carry an iPad that allows for video communication with a health care provider. they conducted a U.S. survey of 1,000 people to gauge attitudes about using robotic systems in hospital settings. In addition to questions about their usefulness in carrying out specific health care tasks, the participants were asked to consider their usefulness “with an emphasis on using robotic systems to limit direct human contact and conserve personal protective equipment” during the pandemic. The results revealed that most people were open to robotic health care services, including not only initial interviews and reading of vital signs but also somewhat more complex procedures, like testing for COVID-19 using a nasal or oral swab, placing an intravenous catheter, drawing blood and moving critically ill patients into a prone position.


The Value of an Amazon Business Is Surging – (Modern Retail – February 1, 2021)
As Amazon acquisition businesses boom, the average value of a third-party business on Amazon is shooting up. According to data from Empire Flippers, an online marketplace where sellers can list their companies for sale, the average sales price of a third-party Amazon business leapt by about 80% percent between 2019 and 2020, jumping from $298,558 to $538,742. “That’s a gigantic increase in terms of how these businesses are being valued,” said Greg Elfrink, the director of marketing at Empire Flippers. 2019 was already a growth year for Amazon businesses, he said, which saw their value increase from an average sale price of $212,117 in 2018. Those numbers speak both to Amazon’s record year of growth last year, which in Q3 saw revenues spike 37% year over year, and to the rise of venture-capital-backed companies, that specialize in buying up successful Amazon businesses and using their resources to grow sales. The largest of these companies, Thrasio, has raised nearly $900 million. Its pitch is that it can give Amazon sellers a lucrative exit, then leverage its logistics, pricing and branding acumen to scale their businesses far faster than any small seller could. What started as a small, niche phenomenon in the early 2010s — individual hobbyists buying and flipping Amazon businesses on the hopes of making a tidy profit — has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. And as a result, the value of a third-party Amazon business is ballooning. This increase is evident on one-to-one marketplaces like Empire Flippers as well as in the bids of larger roll-up companies like Thrasio — but some experts see signs of a bubble.

The End of Silicon Valley as We Know It? – (O’Reilly – March 11, 2021)
High-profile entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, venture capitalists like Peter Thiel and Keith Rabois, and big companies like Oracle and HP Enterprise are all leaving California. During COVID-19, Zoom-enabled tech workers have discovered the benefits of remote work from cheaper, less congested communities elsewhere. Is this the end of Silicon Valley as we know it? Perhaps. But other challenges to Silicon Valley’s preeminence are more fundamental than the tech diaspora. Understanding four trends that may shape the future of Silicon Valley is also a road map to some of the biggest technology-enabled opportunities of the next decades: 1. Consumer internet entrepreneurs lack many of the skills needed for the life sciences revolution; 2. Internet regulation is upon us; 3. Climate response is capital intensive, and inherently local, and 4. The end of the betting economy. Article discusses each trend in detail. For example, the nexus of machine learning and medicine, biology, and materials science will be to the coming decades what Silicon Valley has been to the late 20th and early 21st century. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for its analysis of the intersection of tech and the larger landscape.)


American Evangelicalism’s Critical Theory Problem – (Right and Free – March 4, 2021)
Critical theory is a Marxist idea developed in postmodernity in which absolutes, objectivity and absolute truth are no longer accepted. Critical theory purports to explain the world in terms of power, and its proponents believe those with the least power have the most moral authority to speak. Power is, therefore, mapped through intersectionality — race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. The white male heterosexual Christian has the most power and therefore has the least moral authority to speak in society. Some in the church scream loudly that any conversation about racism in the church is somehow bringing critical theory into the conversation. In fact, a lot of well-meaning, reasonable and grounded theologians think the church needs to account for the individual and corporate sin around issues of race. But those who simply refuse scream about critical theory and Marxism as if anyone who brings up the issue has bought into critical theory. Churches in America need an honest conversation about race. Christians who scream about critical theory to avoid that conversation need to repent. But critical theory itself needs to be more widely denounced from pulpits and seminaries. Its embrace within American Christendom will do far, far more damage than an evangelical embrace of former President Donald Trump ever did. It will fully separate Christians from the truth of the gospel and drag them into a religion without grace, which makes any sort of racial reconciliation impossible.


Lego Announces Its Biggest and Most Detailed Space Shuttle Set Yet – (TheVerge – March 22, 2021)
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle launch, Lego is releasing a new Space Shuttle Discovery set in collaboration with NASA. Discovery is the shuttle that launched the Hubble Space Telescope, which is also included in the set. The set has 2,354 pieces, including three newly designed pieces for the windscreen and payload bay. It also includes 108 drum lacquered silver pieces, the most of any Lego set yet. At 1:70 scale, the assembled shuttle comes in at around 8.5 inches high, 21 inches long, and 13.5 inches wide. The set comes with two stands so you can display the shuttle and telescope separately or together, as though the telescope is emerging from the payload bay. Article includes embedded video clip from Lego showcasing the set. Cost $200.


Meet the Man Who Walks Across Entire Countries in a Straight Line – (Atlas Obscura – February 16, 2021)
Tom Davies knows a thing or two about staying the course. The 29-year-old British adventurer is perhaps now best known for his “Mission Across” series, which chronicles his adventures trying to cross entire countries in a straight line. He chooses a route, uploads it to a handheld GPS, and sets off. The mission’s success is determined by the accuracy with which he follows that linear route; he even has a grading system. A mission in which there is no deviation of more than 25 meters (about 80 feet) is defined as a platinum run. Less than 50 meters (a little more than 160 feet)? It’s a gold run. His two attempts to cross Wales were unsuccessful, but Davies recently scored a platinum run across Norway, no small achievement given the country’s abundance of mountains and fjords. The rest of the article is an interview with Davies who starts by explaining, “Its roots hark back to my late childhood, when myself and my then step-brother, and now best friend, Greg would leave my mother’s house, perched on the edge of the huge conurbation that is the West Midlands (of England), and simply set off in an easterly direction into the countryside of Staffordshire searching for adventure and mischief. Aged 13 and with nothing but a fiver in our pockets and the clothes on our back, we would “mission” our way through fields, clamber over fences, hedges and rivers, evading farmers and inevitably making some sort of strange and intriguing discovery. Without fail we would have a string of great stories to regale Greg’s dad, who would begrudgingly pick us up from some random town 15 miles away.”


Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.
— Marcus Aurelius


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




Edited by John L. Petersen

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News Alert March 23, 2021

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