Volume 25, Number 4 – 2/15/22

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Volume 25, Number 4 – 2/15/2022


  • A biohybrid fish made from human cardiac cells can swim like the heart beats.
  • Companies can put little chunks of code inside emails that report back on whether you looked at it, as well as your location and the time of day.
  • MIT Engineers Create New Material That Is Stronger Than Steel and As Light As Plastic
  • A Flying Car Just Got Certified as Airworthy to Fly

Penny Kelly
UFO’s, Aliens, Insights

Saturday, March 19th
in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

What does off planet life mean – and what does it look like?  How about extraterrestrial assistance?  What could it mean for us and our collective future?

In the early 1980’s, Penny Kelly was visited by “little men in brown robes,” a group of men from a different reality.  Through their visits, Penny was shown our possible future … by 2020 people will use digital assets as money, biological terrorism about the same time, people would begin to teach their children from home to protect from the school assassinations and epidemics …

“The most important thing for you to remember as you look at these coming changes,” said the little men in brown robes, “is that things could be so much easier if you understood why these things are happening, and if you worked with them instead of against them…”

Are you open to a higher consciousness that can inform your life and the quality of that life on a daily basis? 

In this compelling afternoon, Penny will answer questions about what she has seen (that is happening now) and what she is seeing for our near and distant future.  Bring your questions and an open mind and enjoy a riveting afternoon with us, in person or via livestream!

Click below for more information about this event and to get tickets.
Click Here for Tickets and More Info
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Penny Kelly is an author, teacher, speaker, publisher, personal and spiritual consultant, and Naturopathic physician. She travels, lectures, and teaches a variety of classes and workshops, and maintains a large consulting practice. She has been involved in scientific research and investigations into consciousness at Pinelandia Laboratory near Ann Arbor, MI.

Annual Premium Members receive a 10% discount
AUTOMATICALLY at checkout!
Please be sure you are logged in when you order.

I’d like to introduce you to TransitionNet, our new project to build a vision for a new world.
In the face of the implosion of the old system, I believe that those of us who want to be a part of building a new world must now rise to the occasion.  That’s why we’re here and we need to get about our task.  Now is our time.
Building a new world is not a simple thing.  The complexity and magnitude of our present global situation makes it seem like an effort multiple times more complex than the original founding of the United State, for example.  It’s a big deal.  But although it is much more complicated, we also have the internet and increasingly capable technologies that can both engage people who want to participate as well as build an integrated concept – a vision – of how that new world might operate.

That’s why, for the past 18 months, The Arlington Institute has been working on the conceptualization, design and development of a global collaboration platform that will allow anyone, from anywhere in the world, to participate in an organized initiative to actively design the new world.  We call it TransitionNet and it will support a worldwide network of local groups, each addressing specific pieces of the big puzzle.

All of the individual ideas and solutions from across the planet will feed into a central hub where they will be integrated into a whole picture of how the new world could work.  We want that picture to be a very interesting, dynamic graphical interface that will allow anyone visiting the TransitionNet website to be able to easily navigate around and both visualize the present, emergent state of the whole concept as well as drill down to see the supporting documents for the proposed solutions.  There will be something for everyone: government, energy, education, transportation, science, technology, etc.

Our plans are also to host an annual forum where all of the “designers” and Founders can come together and further work together in person on the big vision. 

The most important – and pressing – goal is to get the software platform finished to that we can launch it and get the project formally operational.

To do that, the first thing we need is a relatively small group of individuals who see the big picture and want to help in making this initial big step a reality. 

We need Founders – those who want to be enablers of the beginning of the biggest change in recorded history. Really. This is literally where we are. It’s a rather amazing time.

So, I’d like to give you the chance to become a Founder of TransitionNet.  Founders are the early supporters of the project who are on the ground floor for everything downstream.
I don’t have the space here to provide you with all of the specifics of TransitionNet, but you can find more information here … and I’ll certainly include a detailed overview if you choose to help us now by becoming a Founder.

You can become a Founder by investing at least $100 in TransitionNet. If only only 150 Founder friends come forth, we should be able to finish the software development for the platform.

That may sound like a small amount of money. If you know anything at all about software development, then you know that $15,000 is a VERY small amount for developing a significant platform. The only way that we can do this is because TAI has been funding the programing team for almost a year and a half, and we’re now in the last phases of the development process. So we’re very close to being able to share a working model of a new capability that is literally designed to change the world.

Many of you have been wonderful supporters of The Arlington Institute over the years, helping us yearly during these holiday campaigns.  It’s the only way we’ve kept FUTUREdition and our other programs going. 

Now, we’re taking the big step into the future with TransitionNet. Our objective is to build a model for a new world.  That is not hyperbole. It is actually what TransitionNet is designed to do.

It would be wonderful if you would join us. 

If you would like to become a TransitionNet Founder or get more information about this big, world-changing project, just click here.   We’d welcome you warmly in becoming one of the very early enablers to the biggest change in recorded history!

Johns Hopkins Analysis: ‘Lockdowns Should Be Rejected Out of Hand’ – (National Review – February 1, 2022)

We now know from a Johns Hopkins blockbuster meta-analysis that “shutting it down,” in Donald Trump’s awkward phrase, did very little to prevent deaths. It’s a long, arcane, and detailed analysis, but I these are the primary takeaways. From the study: “Overall, we conclude that lockdowns are not an effective way of reducing mortality rates during a pandemic, at least not during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results are in line with the World Health Organization Writing Group (2006), who state, “Reports from the 1918 influenza pandemic indicate that social-distancing measures did not stop or appear to dramatically reduce transmission […]” Another direct quote from the study: “The use of lockdowns is a unique feature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have not been used to such a large extent during any of the pandemics of the past century. However, lockdowns during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic have had devastating effects. They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, and undermining liberal democracy. These costs to society must be compared to the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown are marginal at best. Such a standard benefit-cost calculation leads to a strong conclusion: lockdowns should be rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.” The study shows that lockdowns in Europe and the United States reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average.

DHS: Here Is a List of Top COVID Misinformation Spreaders You Should Investigate ASAP – (Global Research – February 9, 2022)

DHS is getting tough on COVID misinformation spreaders, i.e., people who spread information that “undermines public trust in government institutions.” Article includes a memo issued February 7, entitled Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland.  To make their job easier to pursue these spreaders of COVID-19 misinformation, I’ve (author of this article) compiled a list of the Disinformation Dozen, the top spreaders of COVID disinformation that are literally killing people through spreading misinformation about COVID. Note that the list is subjective. Different people will likely have different lists but most people would agree on the top five: President Joe Biden, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and Bill Gates.

How a Hyperactive Cell in the Brain Might Trigger Alzheimer’s Disease – (NPR – January 30, 2022)

It all started with genetic data. A gene here, a gene there. Eventually the story became clearer: If scientists are to one day find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, they should look to the immune system. Over the past couple decades, researchers have identified numerous genes involved in various immune system functions that may also contribute to Alzheimer’s. Some of the prime suspects are genes that control humble little immune cells called microglia, now the focus of intense research in developing new Alzheimer’s drugs. Microglia are amoeba-like cells that scour the brain for injuries and invaders. They help clear dead or impaired brain cells and literally gobble up invading microbes. Without them, we’d be in trouble. This article looks at the emerging picture that connects microglia, the proteins beta-amyloid and tau and the immune system. To date, nearly a dozen genes involved in immune and microglial function have been tied to Alzheimer’s.

New Spinal Cord Stimulation Study Puts People with Paralysis on Their Feet Again – (CNN – February 7, 2022)

Three men between the ages of 29 and 41 participated in a clinical trial, led by Dr. Jocelyne Bloch from Lausanne University Hospital and Grégoire Courtine of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The participants had 16-electrode devices implanted in the epidural space, an area between the vertebrae and the spinal cord membrane. The electrodes receive currents from a pacemaker implanted under the skin of the abdomen. All the patients in the trial had a complete loss of voluntary movement below their injuries. Two also had a complete loss of sensation. But with the devices in place, the researchers (or the individuals) could use a tablet computer to initiate unique sequences of electrical pulses, sent to the epidural electrodes via the pacemaker, to activate the participants’ muscles. Other studies have anecdotally seen movement soon after surgery to implant similar devices, but this is the first study to report that all participants independently could take steps on a treadmill just a day after surgery, the researchers say. Previous studies out of the University of Louisville have shown that people who were completely paralyzed but still had sensation could walk again with several months of rehabilitation through electrical stimulation to the spinal cord. This trial found that within a week of their surgeries, all three participants could walk independently with the use of body-weight support from parallel bars and an overhead harness. With the implanted device, people with complete spinal cord injury can regain voluntary movement in their legs only while receiving stimulation. While the device is off, voluntary movement will not be possible. The electrodes can remain in place for life, but the pacemaker needs to be replaced every nine years.

Autonomous Biohybrid Fish – Made from Human Cardiac Cells – Swims Like the Heart Beats – (SciTech Daily – February 11, 2022)

Harvard University researchers, in collaboration with colleagues from Emory University, have developed the first fully autonomous biohybrid fish from human stem-cell derived cardiac muscle cells. The artificial fish swims by recreating the muscle contractions of a pumping heart, bringing researchers one step closer to developing a more complex artificial muscular pump and providing a platform to study heart disease like arrhythmia. “Our ultimate goal is to build an artificial heart to replace a malformed heart in a child,” said Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and senior author of the paper. “Most of the work in building heart tissue or hearts, including some work we have done, is focused on replicating the anatomical features or replicating the simple beating of the heart in the engineered tissues. But here, we are drawing design inspiration from the biophysics of the heart, which is harder to do. Now, rather than using heart imaging as a blueprint, we are identifying the key biophysical principles that make the heart work, using them as design criteria, and replicating them in a system, a living, swimming fish, where it is much easier to see if we are successful.”

Anti-aging Mechanism of Calorie Restriction Identified in Yale Study – (New Atlas – February 10, 2022)

Animal studies have consistently demonstrated calorie-controlled diets lead to better health and longer lifespans. Human trials testing different dietary regimes have established calorie restriction as an effective way to lose weight, but it hasn’t been clear if long-term calorie restricted diets generate the same systemic health benefits in humans as seen in animal studies. This new study, led by scientists at Yale University, offers one of the most robust investigations into the health effects of long-term calorie restricted diets in humans ever conducted. The results have homed in on a protein that seems to play a key role in age-related immune dysfunction and the researchers hypothesize it could be therapeutically targeted to extend lifespan in humans. Article describes the design of the study. Senior author on the new study, Vishwa Deep Dixit, says this investigation into CALERIE data focused on how long-term calorie restriction in humans influenced immune response and inflammation. “Because we know that chronic low-grade inflammation in humans is a major trigger of many chronic diseases and, therefore, has a negative effect on life span,” said Dixit. “Here we’re asking: What is calorie restriction doing to the immune and metabolic systems and if it is indeed beneficial, how can we harness the endogenous pathways that mimic its effects in humans?” The first discovery came when the researchers examined MRI data focused on the thymus gland. The thymus produces immune T-cells and is known to age much more rapidly than other organs in the body. Age-related thymus dysfunction is one of the reasons immune responses in the elderly are weak.

A Cancer Treatment Makes Leukemia Vanish, but Creates More Mysteries – (New York Times – February 2, 2022)

In a paper published in Nature, Dr. June and his colleagues, Dr. J. Joseph Melenhorst and Dr. Porter, at the University of Pennsylvania,  report that experimental CAR T treatments ten years ago made the cancer vanish in two out of the three patients in that early trial. All had chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The big surprise, though, was that even though the cancer seemed to be long gone, the CAR T cells remained in the patients’ bloodstreams, circulating as sentinels. “Now we can finally say the word ‘cure’ with CAR T cells,” Dr. June said. But mysteries remain. The treatment involves removing T cells, white blood cells that fight viruses, from a patient’s blood and genetically engineering them to fight cancer. Then the modified cells are infused back into a patient’s circulation. In the case of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the cancer involved B cells, the antibody-forming cells of the immune system. A patient’s T cells are taught to recognize B cells and destroy them. The result, if the treatment succeeded, would be to destroy every B cell in the body. Patients would be left with no B cells. But also no cancer. They would require regular infusions of antibodies in the form of immunoglobulin infusions. The therapy has helped many with blood cancers, and has proved particularly effective in patients with acute leukemias and other blood cancers. “The question is not only why some patients relapse or are resistant to therapy but why are some patients cured?” said Dr. John F. DiPersio, chief of the division of oncology at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study. The CAR T treatment has also caused serious side effects in some patients like high fevers, comas, dangerously low blood pressure and even death — although in most patients the alarming symptoms resolve. It has not yet worked in people with the solid tumors found in conditions like breast and prostate cancer.

Companies Know What You Do Inside Your Email Inbox. Here’s How to Block Them. – (Washington Post – February 1, 2022)

Your inbox may feel like a cloistered environment, but it’s actually just another webpage, says Bill Fitzgerald, a privacy researcher who ran the education and privacy organization FunnyMonkey. Companies can put little chunks of code inside emails that report back on whether you looked at it, as well as your location and the time of day. And unless your email provider is end-to-end encrypted, there’s nothing stopping that provider from accessing your mail, as well. “Emails in your inbox should be treated like calls where you don’t know the number,” Fitzgerald said. “Don’t answer, delete, block the number.” As interest in data privacy grows and we learn about the many ways our apps and browsers keep tabs on us, it’s easy to assume that what we send and receive in our email accounts stays private. But email is fertile ground for tracking, and big providers do little to stop it, experts say. Because Google, Microsoft and Yahoo don’t encrypt your mail end-to-end, it’s tough to know for sure how much of it they access, privacy experts say. Information on how you respond to different emails helps brands know what types of content and offers you like and show you more of the same. But it’s tough to know where that data goes after it flies out of your inbox, Fitzgerald said. A slew of digital ad companies keep profiles on you and are always adding to them, he said. Information about your email habits can become one more data point in an ever-growing collection. Article goes on to explain exactly how email tracking works and how you can address it.

Troll Farms Reached 140 Million Americans a Month on Facebook Before 2020 Election, Internal Report Shows – (Technology Review – September 16, 2021)

In the run-up to the 2020 election, the most highly contested in US history, Facebook’s most popular pages for Christian and Black American content were being run by Eastern European troll farms. These pages were part of a larger network that collectively reached nearly half of all Americans, according to an internal Facebook company report, and achieved that reach not through user choice but primarily as a result of Facebook’s own platform design and engagement-hungry algorithm. The report, written in October 2019 and obtained by MIT Technology Review from a former Facebook employee not involved in researching it, found that after the 2016 election, Facebook failed to prioritize fundamental changes to how its platform promotes and distributes information. The company instead pursued a whack-a-mole strategy that involved monitoring and quashing the activity of bad actors when they engaged in political discourse, and adding some guardrails that prevented “the worst of the worst.” But this approach did little to stem the underlying problem, the report noted. Troll farms—professionalized groups that work in a coordinated fashion to post provocative content, often propaganda, to social networks—were still building massive audiences by running networks of Facebook pages. Their content was reaching 140 million US users per month—75% of whom had never followed any of the pages. They were seeing the content because Facebook’s content-recommendation system had pushed it into their news feeds. “Instead of users choosing to receive content from these actors, it is our platform that is choosing to give [these troll farms] an enormous reach,” wrote the report’s author, Jeff Allen, a former senior-level data scientist at Facebook. “This is not normal. This is not healthy,” he added. The report found that troll farms were reaching the same demographic groups singled out by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA) during the 2016 election, which had targeted Christians, Black Americans, and Native Americans. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for the light it sheds on Facebook’s internal awareness of how its algorithms were being used to shape public opinion among specific demographic sectors of the American public.)
Is Your Home Crawling With Gadgets? – (Dartmouth News – February 8, 2022)
These days, homes are overrun with devices, some of which may not even belong to their residents. “Without necessarily suspecting malice, you may want to know if there are devices installed by landlords or left behind by guests or previous owners,” says Beatrice Perez, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College. Or someone may simply be trying to locate a misplaced or long-forgotten device, she adds. Not only are devices numerous, they also come in a wide variety, from smart refrigerators to low-power leak sensors and tiny smart tags. “We’re trying to find one method to identify any of these,” says Perez. To achieve this, the researchers turned to radio technology. They use what is called a “harmonic radar,” a system that sends out a simple radio wave and listens for waves that are radiated back to it, akin to an echo, but at twice the frequency of the original wave. Electronic devices, simple or complex, have components that modify radio waves and change their frequency, Perez says. “So, when we tune in at double the original frequency to listen for the re-radiation, we only hear back if the object in front of our detector is electronic,” she says. The detector has picked up on TV remotes, smartphones, and myriad other electronics within a meter. With two cellphone-sized antennas wired to a computer, the detector is somewhat clunky, Perez concedes. A more portable version is in the works. Now that they can identify whether objects nearby are electronic or not, the next step is to build functionality to identify what the detector discovers in its path. The long-term goal, Perez says, is to be able to scan a whole house for devices, one room at a time. (Editor’s note: When these researchers finally have a marketable product, we foresee a substantial demand – from many different types of buyers.)

JET Nuclear Fusion Reactor Shatters Record for Energy Production – (Engadget – February 10, 2022)

The Joint European Torus (JET) fusion reactor near Oxford in the UK has produced the highest level of sustained energy ever from atom fusion. On December 21st, 2021, the “tokamak” reactor produced 59 megajoules of energy during a five second fusion pulse, more than double what it managed way back in 1997. “These landmark results have taken us a huge step closer to conquering one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of them all,” said Ian Chapman, lead of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE). The JET reactor is the flagship experimental device of the European Fusion Program funded by the EU. It’s mainly designed to help scientists prove that their modeling is correct, with an eye toward future experiments with the much larger ITER reactor being built in France, set to start fusion testing in 2025. “JET really achieved what was predicted. The same modelling now says ITER will work,” fusion physicist Josefine Proll (who is not involved with JET). The experiment pushed the reactor to its “absolute maximum,” said CCFE plasma scientist Fernanda Rimini. JET used a mixture of deuterium (aka heavy water) and tritium, the same fuel mix that will power ITER. Tritium is a radioactive hydrogen isotope that generates more neutrons when fused with deuterium than deuterium fused with itself, increasing energy output. The researchers also replaced the tokamak’s inner wall to reduce tritium waste. JET hit a Q value of 0.33, meaning it produced about a third the energy put in. ITER will not produce net energy in the form of electricity, but will pave the way for future machines that can. Before that happens, however, researchers must solve several challenges. Principally, they have to deal with the heat created in the exhaust region of ITER, as it will be much greater proportionally than with the JET reactor. Still, the experiment’s success allowed the team to glean a wealth of information that can be analyzed over the next few years.

A Flying Car Just Got Certified as Airworthy to Fly – (Good News Network – January 28, 2022)

The world’s first proven flying car just received its airworthiness certificate by the Slovakian Transport Authority. Last June, this car deployed some mechanical wings and took off from a runway in the city of Nitra in Slovakia, and landed in Bratislava 35 minutes later. After it folded up its wings, the exotic-looking sports car drove off down the highway. The aptly-named AirCar then did this 200 more times across 700 hours of flight time before the aviation authorities decided that it was reliable and safe. “AirCar certification opens the door for mass production of very efficient flying cars,” its creator, Prof Stefan Klein, said. “It is official and the final confirmation of our ability to change mid-distance travel forever.” The dramatic, watershed-moment-tone is perhaps appropriate, as the car can reach 100 mph on the road, and 8,000 feet of altitude, while needing only around 2 minutes and 15 seconds to deploy or store its wings. The manufacturer, Klein Vision, has specified that they are looking to take a share out of the aircraft market with the AirCar, not the auto market—and Morgan Stanley estimates the flying car market over the next 20 years will be worth over a trillion dollars, similar to the buzz that arose around the recent boom in private spaceflight.

A Slot Machine in Las Vegas Malfunctioned and Didn’t Tell a Tourist They Won. The Gaming Board Tracked Them Down – (CNN – February 6, 2022)

The headline tells you almost the whole story. After an exhaustive search, the Nevada Gaming Control Board says they have identified the winner of the $229,368.52 prize after a slot machine malfunctioned and didn’t notify the player or casino personnel that he was a winner. What’s interesting here is what that “exhaustive search” actually entailed – and how well one person can be identified. To identify the winner, gaming officials “combed through hours of surveillance videos from several casinos, interviewed witnesses, shifted through electronic purchase records and even analyzed ride share data provided by the Nevada Transportation Authority and a rideshare company”.  Robert Taylor probably imagined that he was basically anonymous.  He wasn’t.

Private Contractor to Drop Facial Recognition Requirement for All State and Federal Agencies after Backlash over IRS Plan – (Washington Post – February 9, 2022)

The private contractor says it will drop the facial recognition requirement in the identity-verification software used by 30 states and 10 federal agencies, a major reversal following a backlash due to the technology’s (in)accuracy and privacy concerns. The announcement came one day after the Internal Revenue Service said it would abandon its plan to require anyone seeking to access their tax records online to submit a “video selfie” to, which scans people’s faces to look for identity theft or fraud. The company’s face scans have been run on millions of Americans seeking unemployment insurance, tax credits, pandemic assistance grants or other government services in states including California, Florida, New York and Texas as well as the federal agencies handling Social Security, Labor and Veterans Affairs. After questioning from The Washington Post, the company also announced that anyone could delete their selfie or photo data starting March 1. The company said its technology has been used by 73 million people, with more than 145,000 new people joining every day. Federal research has shown that facial recognition algorithms can show wildly different accuracy levels based on factors such as the quality of the camera or the color of the person’s skin. And using it requires technical abilities — such as a smartphone or laptop camera — that millions of Americans can’t access or afford. Ten federal agencies told government auditors last year that they intended to expand their facial recognition capabilities by 2023, including expanding the face-scanning systems used to unlock doors and access computers as well as those used by investigators to seek out names of a suspect or witness to a crime. But opposition to the use of’s facial recognition by the IRS has become one of the few areas on which Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree. A flurry of bipartisan letters from roughly two dozen members of Congress slamming federal officials for allowing “an outside contractor to stand as the gatekeeper between citizens and necessary government services” drove the IRS’s decision to abandon its plan. In the wake of the IRS developments, coalitions of legislators are calling for limitations of its use by federal agencies. exploded during the pandemic by selling government agencies the promise of remotely confirming Americans’ qualifications for public aid; the company has celebrated itself as having blocked “hundreds of billions of dollars” in unemployment fraud.  See also: gathers lots of data besides face scans, including locations. Scammers still have found a way around it.

Growing Urban Areas Were Supposed to Save the Democrats. Here’s Why They Won’t. – (Washington Post – February 3, 2022)

It has long been received wisdom among Democrats that Republicans face a challenging demographic problem: Urban areas are growing, Democrats dominate in those regions, and as the United States grows, Democrats will gain votes and Republicans will lose them. Analysts started making versions of this argument more than a decade ago — during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.  But at least so far, things haven’t turned out as expected. If you examine the data a bit differently, a new story emerges — one where the divide between large metros and smaller cities, towns and rural areas looks more like continuing deadlock than a growing Democratic advantage. The article then examines urban/rural growth trends from 1980-2020. The political landscape changed dramatically between 1980 and 2020. Large metros have indeed shifted dramatically toward Democrats. And the small cities, towns and rural areas between them raced toward Republicans. The conventional wisdom is that major cities have been growing fast, while the rest of the country has been shrinking. But what’s missing from the larger picture is that small metros, tiny towns and rural areas have collectively kept pace with the population growth in large metros; they have not been shrinking. Remarkable growth rates in smaller cities often goes unnoticed. In percentage terms, many smaller towns and cities are growing as quickly as the nation’s biggest cities. At the same time, due to manufacturing decline, not all urban areas have grown equally. And when the trends in each category of place are combined, the population in smaller cities and towns has largely kept up with that of major metros. The urban/rural divide — a split that physically separates Americans from each other — has become ever more critical. But contrary to expectations, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Israel to Investigate Domestic Use of Pegasus Spyware as Scrutiny Hits Home – (New York Times – February 7, 2022)

The intensifying scrutiny of NSO Group, the Israeli spyware firm, has largely come from overseas as evidence mounted that authoritarian governments had used NSO products to spy on political opponents. Now, the controversy has come home as the Israeli government said it would investigate reports that the Israeli police had illegally used spyware against its citizens without a court order, including a key state witness in the corruption trial of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The moves reflected rising concerns within Israel about the use of spyware made by NSO and other companies, which had been spared significant domestic scrutiny because it was not widely seen as a threat to Israeli citizens. At this point, NSO’s flagship spyware product, Pegasus, is being portrayed in Israel in much the same way it has been by critics abroad, as a threat to democracy.

Kids Are Flocking to Facebook’s ‘Metaverse.’ Experts Worry Predators Will Follow. – (Washington Post – February 7, 2022)

In the future, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, people will meet up not on text-based social networks but in virtual physical spaces, where their avatars will move around, interact, play games, shop and hold business meetings. While Facebook was hardly the first company to embrace the metaverse — which Zuckerberg described as an “embodied internet”— its dramatic pivot ignited a frenzy of interest in the concept as rival tech giants, start-ups and venture capitalists raced to capitalize. Horizon Worlds, a beta version of which featured prominently in Zuckerberg’s announcement, launched Dec. 9 in the United States and Canada on the company’s Oculus virtual-reality platform and represents its first major attempt to deliver on his vision. In theory, kids aren’t allowed in the game. The new virtual-reality app Horizon Worlds is limited to adults 18 and older. In practice, however, very young kids appear to be among its earliest adopters. And reviews of Horizon Worlds include dozens of complaints about youngsters, some of them foulmouthed and rude, gleefully ruining the experience for the grown-ups. But experts say the presence of children in Meta’s fledgling metaverse raises a graver concern: that by mixing children with adult strangers in a largely self-moderated virtual world, the company is inadvertently creating a hunting ground for sexual predators. Unlike phones, computers or gaming consoles, VR headsets have no external display that parents can see while their kids are playing, and there’s no telltale record of their kids’ interactions on them. It’s a problem that has been documented on social apps such as Instagram and Discord along with games such as “Fortnite” and “Minecraft,” many of which have taken steps to address it. Meta did not respond to a question about whether it had received any reports of child exploitation or grooming in Horizon Worlds. It also declined to say whether it had taken any measures aimed at protecting children from those threats. It’s impossible to know with certainty that an avatar is a child, but judging by their voices and actions, they’re hard to miss. For a company that is building what it hopes is the future of online interaction, the failure to enforce an age limit — one of its most basic rules — in Horizon Worlds would seem to be an ominous sign. See also: Video Games and Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual Predators.  (Editor’s note: We recommend both of these articles for parents who may not be entirely aware of how online gaming can be used to manipulate minors.)

Earth Has an Extra Companion, a Trojan Asteroid That Will Hang Around for 4,000 Years – (Space – February 1, 2022)

In 2020, astronomers thought they’d found something incredible: the second so-called Earth Trojan asteroid ever seen. Now, a new team of researchers has confirmed that it’s real. Trojan asteroids are small space rocks that share their orbit with a planet, circling whatever host star that planet does in a stable orbit. While we have spotted Trojan asteroids around other planets in our solar system and others, until now only one of these objects, called 2010 TK7, has been confirmed to orbit along the same path as Earth. In a new study, researchers confirmed that an asteroid spotted in 2020, called 2020 XL5, is the second object of its kind, called an Earth Trojan asteroid. Think of it as an extra companion to Earth, albeit a very tiny one. “The discovery of 2020 XL5 as an Earth Trojan, confirms that 2010 TK7 is not a rare exception and that there are probably more,” study lead author Toni Santana-Ros, a researcher at the University of Alicante and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences (ICCUB) at the University of Barcelona (IEEC-UB), told “This encourages us to keep enhancing our survey strategies to find, if exists, the first primordial Earth Trojan.”

A Geomagnetic Storm May Have Effectively Destroyed 40 SpaceX Starlink Satellites – (Verge – February 8, 2022)

Elon Musk’s satellite internet service Starlink just got dealt an expensive blow — the company’s currently estimating that 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites it launched on February 3rd will be destroyed because of a geomagnetic storm. The storm caused “up to 50% higher drag than during previous launches,” keeping the deployed satellites from reaching their proper orbit around the Earth. And while Starlink tried to fly them “edge-on (like a sheet of paper)” to reduce that drag, it now looks like as many as 40 of them will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere instead of reaching their destinations. SpaceX recently crossed the 2,000 satellite launch milestone, and has plans to launch 12,000 if not a great many more — so losing 40 of them might not be a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Still, that’s the vast majority of an entire Falcon 9 rocket’s Starlink launch capacity burning up in the atmosphere. SpaceX is taking this opportunity to tout how little its satellites impact the skies — something that’s been in question this past month, as a new study furthers the concern that Starlink satellites are leaving streaks across astronomers’ images as they orbit, and could prevent us from identifying dangerous asteroids. Astronomers are forming a “Center for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference” to combat the issue.

MIT Engineers Create New Material That Is Stronger Than Steel and As Light As Plastic – (SciTech Daily – February 3, 2022)

The new substance is the result of a feat thought to be impossible: polymerizing a material in two dimensions. Using a novel polymerization process, MIT chemical engineers have created a new material that is stronger than steel and as light as plastic, and can be easily manufactured in large quantities. Polymers, which include all plastics, consist of chains of building blocks called monomers. These chains grow by adding new molecules onto their ends. Once formed, polymers can be shaped into three-dimensional objects, such as water bottles, using injection molding. Polymer scientists have long hypothesized that if polymers could be induced to grow into a two-dimensional sheet, they should form extremely strong, lightweight materials. However, many decades of work in this field led to the conclusion that it was impossible to create such sheets. One reason for this was that if just one monomer rotates up or down, out of the plane of the growing sheet, the material will begin expanding in three dimensions and the sheet-like structure will be lost. The new material is, however, a two-dimensional polymer that self-assembles into sheets, unlike all other polymers, which form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains. Such a material could be used as a lightweight, durable coating for car parts or cell phones, or as a building material for bridges or other structures, says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the new study. “We don’t usually think of plastics as being something that you could use to support a building, but with this material, you can enable new things,” he says. “It has very unusual properties and we’re very excited about that.”

India Wants to Launch a Digital Rupee and Tax Crypto Profits – (CNN – February 1, 2022)

India is planning to launch a digital version of the rupee, becoming the latest country to join the rush to create state-backed virtual currencies. The country’s central bank expects to introduce the currency “using blockchain and other technologies” some time in the new fiscal year, which begins in April, according to Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Digital payments have grown dramatically in popularity in India since late 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned the country’s two biggest rupee bank notes. Apart from homegrown players such as Paytm, some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Google and Facebook, have joined India’s cashless payments boom. The announcement comes as other major economies move forward with their own plans to launch virtual versions of their own currencies. China has been trialing its digital yuan in major cities for the last two years. It’s one of only three payment methods available to athletes, officials and journalists attending the Beijing Winter Olympics this month. India has for years expressed concern about cryptocurrencies and how best to regulate digital assets, at times even flirting with a ban on cryptos. In her speech, Sitharaman suggested that authorities are willing to continue allowing crypto trading in the country, albeit with some regulations. She said that the Indian government would impose a 30% tax on income from virtual digital assets. “There has been a phenomenal increase in transactions in virtual digital assets,” Sitharaman said. “The magnitude and frequency of these transactions have made it imperative to provide for a specific tax regime.” The budget speech was greeted with a sigh of relief from India’s crypto investors, and industry experts pointed to Sitharaman’s remarks as a sign that Asia’s third largest economy would not ban virtual currencies.

NFT Marketplace Halts Most Transactions Due to Proliferation of Fake and Plagiarized Tokens – (Engadget – February 12, 2022)

Cent, the company that last year helped Jack Dorsey auction an NFT of his first tweet for $2.9 million, is temporarily halting most transactions to address “rampant” sales of fake and plagiarized tokens. “There’s a spectrum of activity that is happening that basically shouldn’t be happening – like, legally” said Cameron Hejazi, the CEO and co-founder of the company. He said Cent has tried to ban bad actors but compared the effort to a game of whack-a-mole. “Every time we would ban one, another one would come up, or three more would come up,” Hejazi said. Last month, OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces on the internet, said more than 80% of the tokens recently created through its free minting tool involved plagiarized work, fake collections and spam. “I think this is a pretty fundamental problem with Web3,” said Hejazi. See also: As Theft Thrives, Artists Say OpenSea Does Little to Protect Copyrights.

The Keeper of the Book: My Childhood Dream of the Future – (Nova Spivack – February 10, 2022)

In this very unusual piece, Nova Spivack recounts an extraordinary dream that he had as an eight year old child in 1978. As a dream, it is fascinating and, of course, completely open to interpretation. Spivack doesn’t tell the reader how to interpret it or even exactly how he interprets it. He just puts it out there – and you can make of it what you will. Nova Spivack is an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author. He is the founder and CEO of the early stage science and technology incubator Magical and co-founder of The Arch Mission Foundation.

US Loses $1 Trillion Annually on Opiate Crisis  (Armstrong Economics – February 10, 2022)

Big Pharma kills more people in America every year than firearms and car accidents; legal pill pushers have claimed more lives than COVID. The number of overdose deaths in the US has reached its highest level since 1979. Since 1999, and the big push for opiates, over one million Americans have died from legal drug overdoses. Around 274 people die each day in America from drug overdoses or one person every five minutes. The Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking found that opiates were responsible for two in three overdoses in the first six months of 2021, marking a 30% increase from the year prior. “In terms of loss of life and damage to the economy, illicit synthetic opioids have the effect of a slow-motion weapon of mass destruction in pill form,” the report noted. Recent estimates state the US has lost $1 trillion annually for overdose deaths. The pharmaceutical companies themselves had a PR overhaul due to this pandemic where people are praising them for creating an ineffective vaccine for profit. They are not sharing the patents with others because they do not want to lose profits. The vaccine being free is a myth as it has been funded with government taxpayer money. These are not the good guys. See also: this two page summary of The Truth About the Drug Companies by Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and currently a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

Frozen Bubbles – (Youtube – January 30, 2019)

Let yourself be entranced by beauty in this 1 minute video clip. Watch as ice crystals form on the surface of a bubble in what is undoubtedly very cold weather. The photographer is Anton Maltsev, based in Russia, which explains the weather. Do this in full-screen mode to catch the high-def detail of rapid dendritic growth—like fern fronds fanning out across a newly formed world.
The future is fluid. Each act, each decision, and each development creates new possibilities and eliminates others. The future is ours to direct.
Jacque Fresco, futurist and industrial designer
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