Volume 25, Number 7 – 4/1/22

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Volume 25, Number 7 – 4/1/2022


  • Some fertility clinics already claim they can help parents select embryos for IQ and risk of various diseases.
  • Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time.
  • Fires involving lithium-ion batteries are almost impossible to put out; they simply have to run out of fuel.
  • A.I. generated faces (deepfakes) are now so realistic that humans can’t tell the difference.
Sally Fallon Morell

The Contagion Myth

Saturday, April 23rd
in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia


All disease is the result of three causes: malnutrition, toxins and injury.  Microbes (bacteria, fungus, “viruses”) are often present in disease, but they are not the cause.

If you thought about this statement and said, “But they’re telling us that a “virus” is causing all of this “pandemic” . . . then you’ll really want to hear Sally Fallon Morrell, our next TransitionTalk speaker in April. 

The official explanation for today’s Covid-19 pandemic is a “dangerous, infectious virus.” This is the rationale for isolating a large portion of the world’s population in their homes so as to curb its spread. From face masks to social distancing, from antivirals to vaccines, these measures are predicated on the assumption that tiny virus can cause serious illness and that such illness is transmissible person-to-person. 

What if (as it turns out to be), all of that is not true? In this time of Covid, with all of the obvious and competing attempts to shape the narrative about “what you should be doing,” wouldn’t it be critical – and welcome – to practically understand how the human system that defends and supports disease actually works?  That would be a  powerful basis for building a clear, defendable, personal response to all of the competing claims. 

Sally Fallon Morrell, along with her co-author Dr. Thomas Cowan, wrote the book on this subject and will be coming to TransitionTalks on the 23rd of April to walk us through the very understandable logic of why viruses (including “Coronavirus”) are not the cause of disease.  

As it turns out, each of us, through our immune system, have the most powerful  — and primary – defense against the trillions of viruses and bacteria that are an integral part of our bodies. We all carry around the basis for almost every disease that exists. We don’t “catch” it from others. 

Our immune systems are our first line of defense and this presentation is going to describe how it works . . . and how you can take advantage of this knowledge and assure that you have a strong defense against any and all of those potential maladies that are with us wherever we go. 

This information packed afternoon will include discussion of malaria, the black death, scurvy and pellagra (once considered contagious), leprosy, rabies, childhood illnesses, anthrax, TB, smallpox, polio, Spanish flu and Covid-19. The probable cause of Covid-19 will be discussed along with protective dietary strategies. This is practical advice about dealing with the most significant event in our lives.

Join us on April 23rd as Sally Fallon Morell is with us for TransitionTALKS.  A wine and cheese reception will follow Sally’s talk.

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Sally Fallon Morell is the founding president of The Weston A. Price Foundation (, a non-profit nutrition education foundation dedicated to returning nutrient-dense food to American tables. She is also the founder of A Campaign for Real Milk (, which has as its goal universal access to clean raw milk from pasture-fed animals.  She is the author of the best-selling cookbook Nourishing Traditions (with Mary G. Enig, PhD); The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care (with Thomas S. Cowan, MD); Nourishing Broth (with Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN); Nourishing Fats; and Nourishing Diets. Her latest book is The Contagion Myth, co-authored with Thomas S Cowan, MD.  She and her husband Geoffrey Morell are owners of P A Bowen Farmstead ( in Southern Maryland, which produces raw cheese and milk from pastured cows, woodlands whey-fed pork and grass-fed poultry and eggs. Visit her blog at  

Annual Premium Members receive a 10% discount
AUTOMATICALLY at checkout!
Please be sure you are logged in when you order.
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Sally Fallon Morell comes to TransitionTALKS April 23rd!

The WHO Is Developing an International Vaccine Passport – (Armstrong Economics – March 3, 2022)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has signed a deal with T-Systems (a Deutsche Telecom subsidiary) for the production of a global QR system to produce an international vaccine passport. The company noted has already implemented vaccine QR codes for over 60 countries, despite the intense resistance by the people. T-Systems is also responsible for implementing the European Federation Gateway Service (EFGS), and Germany’s COVID warning app, which has been downloaded over 43 million times. This will provide governments with a tool to track and control our movements both domestically and internationally. Even if you have received the COVID shots and booster, you are only one vaccine away from becoming part of “the unvaccinated” population; you will be banished into the shadows of society. France recently repealed four million vaccine passports, halting lives instantaneously. Countries such as Israel and Australia are calling for four or five vaccines. If the people do not push back, the government will have us on a tight leash with full control over our lives.

Humans Are ‘Hackable Animals’ – (Rumble – March 3, 2022)

Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the bestselling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. He is also an advisor to Klaus Schwab, the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. In this brief video clip he talks about the potential, “soon”, for governments or corporations to “systematically hack all the people”.  He goes on, “We humans should get used to the idea that we are no longer mysterious ‘souls’.”  “By hacking organisms, elites may gain the power to engineer the future of life itself – because once you can hack something, you can usually also engineer it.”  “Science is replacing evolution by natural section with evolution by intelligent design.”

The Rise of the Twitter Spies – (Washington Post – March 23, 2022)

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has unfolded at a blistering pace over social media, it has swollen the ranks of hobbyist spies. Armed with day jobs or coursework, the self-proclaimed open source intelligence — or “OSINT” — community tracks every movement of the Russian and Ukrainian militaries online. The core of this sleuthing is geolocation, due to its ease and impact. When a video or image of conflict surfaces, hobbyists scan the footage for landmarks or other clues, trying to pinpoint its location to verify its accuracy or debunk it as a propaganda attempt. Five weeks into the war, their findings are impacting strategy on the ground. Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, said in an interview that the community’s work is crucial for his country — so much so that a Ukrainian government app, called Diia, now allows citizens to field geotagged pictures and videos of Russian troop movements. “We’re getting tens of thousands of reports per day,” Fedorov said through a translator. “They’re very, very useful.” Much of the work could be more impactful in the long term. Activists, scholars and media professionals are using their data to create a verified timeline of conflict that could impact how countries are held accountable for war crimes. Hobbyist tracking started gaining traction in 2011, during the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Smartphone and social media use was on a sharp rise, unleashing unfiltered images of conflict to the general public for the first time in history. This reached a turning point in 2014, when open source intelligence was used to track Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and provide evidence of the country’s involvement in shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought an unusual influx of interested participants, ready to provide the general public with a real-time view of the war, multiple researchers and intelligence hobbyists said. In recent weeks, established hobbyists have seen their social media followings grow by the thousands. Media outlets such as The Washington Post and the New York Times have used the community’s work in their visual investigations. Project Owl, a private community for open source intelligence gatherers, has seen its membership base grow from 15,000 members five weeks ago to nearly 30,000 presently, the group’s moderators said. Ukraine, said Eliot Higgins, founder of investigative journalism media outlet Bellingcat, will “be seen as the first conflict where [open source] information was gathered by an online community and turned into useful information that was used for accountability.”

2 Giant Blobs in Earth’s Mantle May Explain Africa’s Weird Geology – (Live Science – March 12, 2022)

Deep within Earth’s mantle, there are two giant blobs. One sits under Africa, while the other is almost precisely opposite the first, under the Pacific Ocean. But these two blobs are not evenly matched. New research finds that the blob under Africa extends far closer to the surface — and is more unstable — than the blob under the Pacific. This difference could ultimately help to explain why the crust under Africa has been lifted upward and why the continent has seen so many large supervolcano eruptions over hundreds of millions of years. The mantle blobs are properly known as “large low-shear-wave-velocity provinces.” This means that when seismic waves generated by earthquakes travel through these deep-mantle zones, the waves slow down. This deceleration indicates that there’s something different about the mantle at this spot, such as density or temperature — or both. Two popular hypotheses attempt to explain why the mantle blobs exist. One is that they’re made up of accumulations of crust that have subducted from Earth’s surface to deep inside the mantle. Another is that they’re the remnants of an ocean of magma that may have existed in the lower mantle during Earth’s early history. As this magma ocean cooled and crystallized, it may have left behind areas that were denser than the rest of the mantle. Preliminary research suggested that the blobs might be remnants of the planet-size object that slammed into Earth some 4.5 billion years ago, forming the moon. See also: Scientists Claim Earth’s Core Is a Weird New State of Matter.

Researchers Discover New Form of Ice – (PhysOrg – March 18, 2022)

Solid water, or ice, is like many other materials in that it can form different solid materials based on variable temperature and pressure conditions, like carbon forming diamond or graphite. However, water is exceptional in this aspect as there are at least 20 solid forms of ice known to us. A team of scientists working in UNLV’s Nevada Extreme Conditions Lab pioneered a new method for measuring the properties of water under high pressure. The water sample was first squeezed between the tips of two opposite-facing diamonds—freezing into several jumbled ice crystals. The ice was then subjected to a laser-heating technique that temporarily melted it before it quickly re-formed into a powder-like collection of tiny crystals. By incrementally raising the pressure, and periodically blasting it with the laser beam, the team observed the water ice make the transition from a known cubic phase, Ice-VII, to the newly discovered intermediate, and tetragonal, phase, Ice-VIIt, before settling into another known phase, Ice-X. Not only did the first-of-its-kind laser-heating technique allow scientists to observe a new phase of water ice, but the team also found that the transition to Ice-X occurred at pressures nearly three times lower than previously thought—at 300,000 atmospheres instead of 1 million. The research team had been working to understand the behavior of high-pressure water that may be present in the interior of distant planets. While it’s unlikely we’ll find this new phase of ice anywhere on the surface of Earth, it is likely a common ingredient within the mantle of Earth as well as in large moons and water-rich planets outside of our solar system.

A Locked-in Man Has Been Able to Communicate in Sentences by Thought Alone – (Technology Review – March 22, 2022)

A completely paralyzed man has been able to communicate entire sentences using a device that records his brain activity. The man was able to train his mind to use the device, which was implanted in his brain, to ask for massages, soup, and beer, and to watch films with his son. It is the first time a completely locked-in person—someone who is conscious and cognitively able but completely paralyzed— has been able to communicate in this way, say the researchers behind the work. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) record the electrical signals inside a person’s brain and convert them to commands that control a device. In recent years, BCIs have enabled partially paralyzed people to control prosthetic limbs or communicate a simple “yes” or “no” by thought alone. But this is the first time someone who is completely locked in, and unable even to control their eye movements, has used a BCI to communicate full sentences. The man, who lives in Germany, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in August 2015, when he was 30 years old. In March 2019, surgeons implanted two tiny electrode grids, each measuring 1.5 millimeters across, into the man’s motor cortex—a region at the top of the brain responsible for controlling movement. Communication is still slow—it takes around a minute to select each letter. But the device has significantly improved the man’s quality of life. He has asked for specific meals and soups, directed caregivers on how to move and massage his legs, and asked to watch films with his young son, for example. One sentence translated as “I love my cool son.” No one knows how long the electrodes will last in the man’s brain, but other studies have found that similar electrodes are still functioning five years after being implanted in other people.

Scientists Say They Can Read Nearly the Whole Genome of an IVF-created Embryo – (Science – March 21, 2022)

A California company says it can decipher almost all the DNA code of a days-old embryo created through in vitro fertilization (IVF)—a challenging feat because of the tiny volume of genetic material available for analysis. The advance depends on fully sequencing both parents’ DNA and “reconstructing” an embryo’s genome with the help of those data. And the company suggests it could make it possible to forecast risk for common diseases that develop decades down the line. Currently, such genetic risk prediction is being tested in adults, and sometimes offered clinically. The idea of applying it to IVF embryos has generated intense scientific and ethical controversy. But that hasn’t stopped the technology from galloping ahead. Predicting a person’s chance of a specific illness by blending this genetic variability into what’s called a “polygenic risk score” remains under study in adults, in part because our understanding of how gene variants come together to drive or protect against disease remains a work in progress. In embryos it’s even harder to prove a risk score’s accuracy, researchers say. The new work on polygenic risk scores for IVF embryos is “exploratory research,” says Premal Shah, CEO of MyOme, the company reporting the results. In fact, many researchers say it’s premature to use polygenic risk scores to select which embryos are transferred. Such risk scores are “primarily still a research tool, even in adults,” says Barbara Koenig, a medical anthropologist who works on bioethics at the University of California, San Francisco. Still, some companies and fertility clinics already claim they can help parents select embryos for IQ and risk of various diseases.

A Non-hormonal Pill Could Soon Expand Men’s Birth Control Options – (EurekAlert – March 23, 2022)

Men’s birth control options — and, therefore, responsibilities — could soon be expanding. Scientists now report a non-hormonal male contraceptive that effectively prevents pregnancy in mice, without obvious side effects. To develop their non-hormonal male contraceptive, the researchers targeted a protein called the retinoic acid receptor alpha (RAR-a). This protein is one of a family of three nuclear receptors that bind retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A that plays important roles in cell growth, differentiation (including sperm formation) and embryonic development. Knocking out the RAR-a gene in male mice makes them sterile, without any obvious side effects. Other scientists have developed an oral compound that inhibits all three members of the RAR family (RAR-a, -ß and -?) and causes reversible sterility in male mice, but Georg’s team and their reproductive biology collaborators wanted to find a drug that was specific for RAR-a and therefore less likely to cause side effects. They identified a compound, named YCT529, that inhibited RAR-a almost 500 times more potently than it did RAR-ß and -?. When given orally to male mice for 4 weeks, YCT529 dramatically reduced sperm counts and was 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, without any observable side effects. The mice could father pups again 4-6 weeks after they stopped receiving the compound.

New BioAge Drug Prevents Death from COVID-19 in Old Mice by Reversing Immune Aging – (Science Daily – March 21, 2022)

The immune system deteriorates with age, making COVID-19 particularly deadly in older people — but to date, no clinically available medication addresses this key risk factor. A study published in Nature shows that an oral drug that reverses multiple aspects of immune aging effectively prevents death in mice with COVID-19, suggesting that the medication could be used to protect the elderly patients who are at greatest risk in the pandemic. In the study, 90% of the mice that received the drug survived, whereas all untreated control mice died. BGE-175 treatment was initiated two days after infection, when the mice were already ill, a time-frame relevant to real-life clinical situations in which patients would receive medication only after becoming symptomatic. BioAge’s AI-based drug discovery platform identified the PGD2-DP1 pathway as a key target for immune aging. In the study, BGE-175 increased migration of dendritic cells from the lungs into the lymph nodes, decreased the levels of neutrophils in lung tissue, and dramatically improved overall survival. From the standpoint of PGD2 pathway activity, the drug restored the immune system to a more youthful state. Pending positive results in the Phase 2 trial, BioAge intends to pursue broad clinical applications for BGE-175, including diseases such as influenza and viral pneumonia. (Editor’s note: If this drug is found suitable for people, we wonder if it will in fact retard aging more broadly by reducing immune system aging.)

Microplastics Found in Human Blood for First Time – (Guardian – March 24, 2022)

Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested. The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year. The scientists analysed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors, all healthy adults and found plastic particles in 17. Half the samples contained PET plastic, which is commonly used in drinks bottles, while a third contained polystyrene, used for packaging food and other products. A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene, from which plastic carrier bags are made. “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – it’s a breakthrough result,” said Prof Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc.” Further studies by a number of groups are already under way, he said. Vethaak said, “The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.” He noted that previous work had shown that microplastics were 10 times higher in the feces of babies compared with adults and that babies fed with plastic bottles are swallowing millions of microplastic particles a day.

The Truth about Electric Cars – (Spiked – March 3, 2022)

A cargo ship called the Felicity Ace, carrying 4,000 luxury cars collectively worth around $438million, caught fire last month. Thankfully, the crew members were not harmed and managed to quickly abandon ship. The fire, however, burned for a week. This was because the lithium-ion batteries inside the electric vehicles (EVs) in the consignment kept the fire alive. The fire only died once the supply of combustible material on board was exhausted. Something similar happened last year. In Victoria, Australia, a 13-tonne Tesla ‘Megapack’ facility – which uses a vast array of lithium-ion batteries to store energy generated by intermittent renewables – caught fire. This fire eventually burned itself out after three days. In that time, it created numerous ecological hazards, including toxic smoke, which engulfed local residents. But firefighters could do little more than monitor the environmental damage – they had to wait for the fire to put itself out. “The most significant danger of a lithium-ion battery is that [fires] are almost impossible to put out once they are ignited,” notes engineer Robin Mitchell. The article goes on to detail the ecological damage and exploitation that goes into producing the batteries.

What Google Search Isn’t Showing You – (New Yorker – March 10, 2022)

A Google product search will generally result in a cluttered onslaught of homogenous e-commerce options. But there are other search options. Rather than settling for the default, those who want to know what a “genuine real-life human being” thinks of a certain product have learned work-arounds, such as adding “Reddit” to their searches to bring up relevant threads on that platform. Long live Google + ‘’ ”—became the No. 10 most upvoted link ever on the tech-industry discussion board Hacker News. No. 11 is a complaint about Google’s search results looking too similar to its ads, while No. 12 is a link to an alternative, indie search engine. Obviously, search-engine discontentment is widespread in tech-land. Google Search accounts for around 85% of the global search-engine market. It has made up so much of our online experience for so long that it can be hard to envision anything different. As Goggle’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, recognized the tension between useful search results and profitable ones. “The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users,” they wrote as Stanford students, in a 1998 paper. This article talks about what “different” might look like and why Google’s smooth, merchant-friendly algorithms are what they are.

A.I. Face Study Reveals New Tipping Point for Humans – (Interesting Engineering – February 20, 2022)

A study published in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms just how convincing “faces” produced by artificial intelligence can be. In that study, more than 300 research participants were asked to determine whether a supplied image was a photo of a real person or a fake generated by an A.I. The human participants got it right less than half the time. That’s worse than flipping a coin. The results of this study reveal a tipping point for humans that should feel shocking to anybody who thinks they are savvy enough to spot a deepfake when it’s put up against the genuine article. While the researchers say this feat of engineering “should be considered a success for the fields of computer graphics and vision,” they also “encourage those developing these technologies to consider whether the associated risks are greater than their benefits,” citing dangers that range from disinformation campaigns to the nonconsensual creation of synthetic porn. The researchers behind this study started with 400 synthetic faces generated by an open-source A.I. program made by the technology giant NVIDIA. The program is what’s called a generative adversarial network, meaning it uses a pair of neural networks to create the images. The “generator” starts by creating a completely random image. The “discriminator” uses a huge set of real photos to give feedback to the generator. As the two neural networks go back and forth, the generator improves each time, until the discriminator can’t tell the real images from the fake ones. As it turns out, humans aren’t any better. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for the implications it teases out of the data.)

A Big Bet to Kill the Password for Good – (Wired – March 17, 2022)

After a decade of work, the FIDO Alliance, an industry association that specifically works on secure authentication, says it’s found the missing piece in the bridge to a password-free future. The organization has recently published a white paper that lays out FIDO’s vision for solving the usability issues that have dogged passwordless features and, seemingly, kept them from achieving broad adoption. FIDO’s members collaborated to produce the paper, and they span chipmakers like Intel and Qualcomm, prominent platform developers like Amazon and Meta, financial institutions like American Express and Bank of America, and the developers of all major operating systems—Google, Microsoft, and Apple. The paper is conceptual, not technical, but after years of investment to integrate what are known as the FIDO2 and WebAuthn passwordless standards into Windows, Android, iOS, and more, everything is now riding on the success of this next step. The passwordless FIDO standard already relies on a device’s biometric scanners (or a master PIN you select) to authenticate you locally without any of your data traveling over the internet to a web server for validation. The main concept that FIDO believes will ultimately solve the new device issue is for operating systems to implement a “FIDO credential” manager, which is somewhat similar to a built-in password manager. Instead of literally storing passwords, this mechanism will store cryptographic keys that can sync between devices and are guarded by your device’s biometric or passcode lock. More tech details in the article. Even if FIDO has finally found the magic formula, passwords won’t disappear overnight for a host of reasons. In its new white paper and elsewhere, FIDO is working to support this transition, but as with any other tech migration (ahem, Windows XP), the road will inevitably prove arduous.

Chinese Space Plane Company Targets Suborbital Tourism, Point-to-point Travel by 2025 – ( – January 27, 2022)

The Chinese company Space Transportation is developing a “rocket with wings” for space tourism and point-to-point travel. The space plane would aim to provide rapid transport between two locations on Earth through suborbital travel and be fully reusable. A video presentation on Space Transportation’s website shows animated passengers boarding a plane attached to a wing powered by rockets. After a vertical takeoff, the plane detaches from the rocket-powered wing and continues its suborbital journey to Dubai in the Middle East, landing vertically on three legs deployed from the rear. The company, whose full name is Beijing Lingkong Tianxing Technology Co., Ltd., revealed that ground tests are planned by 2023 with a first flight in 2024 and a crewed flight in 2025. Even more ambitiously, a test flight of a global, or orbital, crewed space vehicle is planned by 2030, the company says. Space Transportation was founded in 2018, according to the company’s website. If all of this seems a bit fast, the plans have not appeared out of the blue. Space Transportation announced last August that it had raised $46.3 million for its hypersonic space plane plans, and the company has recently been conducting a number of tests of its Tianxing 1 and Tianxing 2 vehicles. A 10th flight test was conducted on Jan. 23, followed by another test in collaboration with a combustion laboratory belonging to Tsinghua University. For more details on this vehicle and space tourism in general, see This New Chinese Supersonic Aircraft Will Fly From Beijing to New York in One Hour.

Drones, Robots, License Plate Readers: Police Grapple with Community Concerns as They Turn to Tech for Their Jobs – (Washington Post – March 9, 2022)

In their daily work, U.S. police are using drones, license plate readers, body cameras and gunshot detection systems to make their jobs more efficient and reduce injury and bodily harm. They are also grappling with growing concerns about privacy that these technologies bring and potential complications they could create for officers on the job. Enter the two drones that Mountain View, California police say cost $16,000 to begin operating and that they’ve used about a dozen times in the past two years. They’ve helped in potentially dangerous situations, search efforts and finding weapons. As a result, the department is looking to expand the program to include more drones with more features such as longer flight time, higher video quality and infrared capabilities, which help detect body heat. DJI, the Chinese tech company that makes many of the drones adopted by police departments, said more than 1,000 police departments across the country use some type of drone. But most departments that purchase DJI’s drones do so through American suppliers, DJI’s North American spokesman Adam Lisberg said. Drones are proving to be a police force multiplier across the nation, aiding with everything from lost children to dangerous suspects to crash reconstruction. Drones aren’t the only tech tools that police say have made them more efficient. More than 120 cities are using gunshot detection systems, which alert police to gunfire within the devices’ coverage area. The tech is provided by Fremont, Calif.-based ShotSpotter, which has been partnering with cities and police for 25 years. The systems use sensors and algorithms that can identify and determine which loud bangs are probably gunshots. Within about 60 seconds, they can alert police to the precise location in which the gunshots were heard. Douglas Griffith, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said ShotSpotter has helped the Houston Police Department make more than 70 arrests as well as respond to gunshot victims faster. The department has 400 fewer officers than it did 24 years ago, yet they are still responsible for covering 671 square miles. “We have to rely on tech because we don’t have the manpower sometimes,” Griffith said. Article features additional tech devices. See also: Drone Company DJI Obscured Ties to Chinese State Funding, Documents Show.

All That Glitters Is Not Necessarily Russian Gold – (Unz Review – March 17, 2022)

Sanction blowback is on the offense. The Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and China are starting to design a new monetary and financial system bypassing the U.S. dollar, supervised by Sergei Glazyev and intended to compete with the Bretton Woods system. Saudi Arabia is advancing the coming of the petroyuan. India – third largest importer of oil in the world – is about to sign a mega-contract to buy oil from Russia with a huge discount and using a ruble-rupee mechanism. Riyadh’s oil exports amount to roughly $170 billion a year. China buys 17% of it, compared to 21% for Japan, 15% for the U.S., 12% for India and roughly 10% for the EU. The U.S. and its vassals – Japan, South Korea, EU – will remain within the petrodollar sphere. India, as well as China, may not. Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Poznar, formerly with the NY Fed, IMF and Treasury Dept., and a realist, hinted in fact at the ritual burial of the financial chapter of the “rules-based international order” in place since the early Cold War years: “After the end of this war [in Ukraine], ‘money’ will never be the same.” Especially when the Hegemon demonstrates its “rules” by encroaching on other people’s money.

Saudi Arabia Considers Ditching The Dollar For Chinese Oil Sales – ( – March 15, 2022)

The status of the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world is largely based on its importance in energy and commodity markets. One of the core staples of the past 40 years, and an anchor propping up the dollar’s reserve status, was a global financial system based on the petrodollar. This was a world in which oil producers would sell their product to the US (and the rest of the world) for dollars, which they would then recycle the proceeds of in dollar-denominated assets and, while investing in dollar-denominated markets, explicitly prop up the USD as the world reserve currency. All of this supported the standing of the US as the world’s undisputed financial superpower. Those days are coming to an end. One day after we reported that the “UK is asking Saudis for more oil even as MBS invites Xi Jinping to Riyadh to strengthen ties”, the WSJ is out with a blockbuster report (paywalled), noting that “Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in yuan,” a move that could cripple not only the petrodollar’s dominance of the global petroleum market – something which would mark another shift by the world’s top crude exporter toward Asia, but also a move aimed squarely at the heart of the US financial system which has taken advantage of the dollar’s reserve status by printing as many dollars as needed to fund government spending for the past decade. According to the report, the talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom. The Saudis are angry over the U.S.’s lack of support for their intervention in the Yemen civil war, and over the Biden administration’s attempt to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Saudi officials have said they were shocked by the precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. China buys more than 25% of the oil that Saudi Arabia exports, and if priced in yuan, those sales would boost the standing of China’s currency, and set the Chinese currency on a path to becoming a global petroyuan reserve currency. It appears that the Saudis no longer care much about US “security guarantees” and instead are switching their allegiance to China.

India-Russia Currency Swaps Bypass US Sanctions – (Asia Times – March 24, 2022)

India and Russia will soon have currency swaps in place to finance trade in rupees and rubles, bypassing the US sanctions regime against Russia, according to the president of India’s export association. Several of India’s state-owned banks will execute the swaps under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of India, starting as early as the beginning of April, according to A. Sakthivel, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO). Although the volumes of prospective trade to be financed under this swap arrangement are small, the India-Russia agreement, if executed, would be the first open departure from dollar-based system of international trade financing. The US sanctions don’t extend to Russia’s oil and gas shipments to Europe and Asia, which earn Moscow more than $1 billion a day, and Russia customers do not need to seek alternative financing mechanisms. India has been an aggressive buyer of Russian oil, reportedly at discounted prices. News media cite a two-million-barrel sale to Hindustan Petroleum and a three-million-barrel sale to Indian Oil, although the true totals aren’t known. Asian countries now have $380 billion of local-currency swap lines, which allow importers and exporters to pay in their own currencies rather than in US dollars in case of need. The balance of trade would then be settled by transfers among central banks in any acceptable reserve asset, including US dollars or gold. These swap lines remain inactive, as an emergency backup system. But Asian central banks have been eager to expand them. Japan’s central bank is a strong advocate of swap line expansion, according to Asian government sources.

San Francisco’s First Tiny Home Village for Homeless People Opens. At $15,000 a Pop, City Says It’s Cost-effective. – (San Francisco Chronicle – March 7, 2022)

A paved lot at 33 Gough St., between Market and Mission streets, in San Francisco has been used since December 2020 as a city-sanctioned “safe sleeping village,” holding 44 tents for homeless people. The city has been spending about $60,000 per tent for safe sleeping villages, including food, security and supportive services. Elizabeth Funk, 52, is founder and executive chairman of DignityMoves, a nonprofit that emerged during the pandemic to address the crisis on the streets. To change that picture, in less than a year, she has raised $2 million to construct a total of 70 rooms in duplexes of prefabricated panels assembled on steel frame foundations with insulation and electrical outlets. The site will have improved bathrooms, storage spaces and a dining area. The cabins, along with the dining and other facilities, will be paid for by DignityMoves and the nonprofit Tipping Point Community as part of a pilot program. The cost is around $15,000 to build each unit, but adding in amenities like the two dining halls, restrooms, a computer and landscaping, it totals $30,000 per unit. The city will pay for the meal service, security and supportive services. Known as the DignityMoves Village, the site is San Francisco’s first experiment with tiny homes, an approach to homelessness that’s been used in Oakland, San Jose and other Bay Area cities. The land belongs to a private developer awaiting construction permits for permanent housing. The city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is leasing it until at least March 2023, with possible extensions. Shireen McSpadden, director of DHSH, said that if the pilot project is a success, the department “might want to replicate it into other parts of the city.” Everyone who has been living in a tent on the site for a year was offered a room. Nobody turned it down. A sister village is being built in Santa Barbara with a separate budget of $1.8 million, and more are being contemplated around the state.

How Long Should It Take to Grieve? Psychiatry Has Come Up With an Answer. – (New York Times – March 18, 2022)

After more than a decade of argument, psychiatry’s most powerful body in the United States added a new disorder this week to its diagnostic manual: prolonged grief. The new diagnosis, prolonged grief disorder, was designed to apply to a narrow slice of the population who are incapacitated, pining and ruminating a year after a loss, and unable to return to previous activities. Its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders means that clinicians can now bill insurance companies for treating people for the condition. It will most likely open a stream of funding for research into treatments — naltrexone, a drug used to help treat addiction, is currently in clinical trials as a form of grief therapy — and set off a competition for approval of medicines by the Food and Drug Administration. Critics of the idea have argued vigorously against categorizing grief as a mental disorder, saying that the designation risks pathologizing a fundamental aspect of the human experience. And they fear grief will be seen as a growth market by drug companies that will try to persuade the public that they need medical treatment to emerge from mourning.

Nine Mass Shootings – (New York Times – March 23, 2022)

Crime experts define a mass shooting as an event in which four or more people are shot. Over the weekend of March 19-20, there were a shocking number of them — at least nine — across the U.S. That continues a trend that began almost two years ago, early in the Covid-19 pandemic, and shows no signs of easing. Murders have risen more than 30% since 2019, recent data suggests. They are still far below the levels of the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s but have reached the highest point in more than two decades. What explains this? There is no fully satisfying answer, but experts point to several plausible partial explanations. They include: Social isolation and frustration caused by the pandemic. A sense of lawlessness stemming from police violence (like the murder of George Floyd). Police officers’ timidity in response to recent criticism of them. And a rise in gun sales during the pandemic. Yet the crime wave seems both too broad and too distinctly American for any one of these factors to be a tidy explanation. Gun crime isn’t the only kind of violent crime that is rising, for example. Nor are the crime increases limited to places where police brutality has been worst. As for the pandemic, if it were the only cause, you would expect crime to have surged in many countries. Instead, it has held fairly steady in Britain, Canada, France, Japan and elsewhere. Criminologists and historians who have studied past crime waves point out that they often occur when people are feeling frustrated with society, government and their fellow citizens. This frustration can feed a breakdown in societal norms and a rise in what the sociologist Émile Durkheim called “anomie.” By many measures, Americans are feeling frustrated with their government, their economy and their fellow citizens. Along with these signs of alienation, a wide range of behavior has deteriorated. Alcohol abuse and drug overdoses have increased. Americans’ blood pressure is up, and measures of mental health are down. And vehicle crashes have surged. See also: Alcohol-Related Deaths Soared During Pandemic, Outpaced COVID-19 For Adults Under 65.

Parts of the Milky Way Are Much Older Than Thought – (Space – March 26, 2022)

The Milky Way’s thick disk is 2 billion years older than astronomers previously thought and likely formed barely 800 million years after the Big Bang, a new study based on an unusual type of star found. Our galaxy can be split into two major parts: the thin disk, which holds the solar system and most of what we recognize as the Milky Way; and the much sparser, larger and older thick disk. To reconstruct the history of these components, a team of astronomers from the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, looked at a population of stars in the Milky Way known as sub-giants. Sub-giants are stars captured in the brief (in cosmic terms) period between their regular stellar life and the red giant phase, in which they expand far beyond their original envelope. Nuclear fusion at the cores of these stars has just stopped, but the stars haven’t bloomed out into red giants yet. Since the sub-giant phase in a star’s life only lasts a few million years, astronomers can pinpoint the age of these stars by comparing their chemical composition with computer models of stellar evolution. In the new study, the scientists determined the ages of 250,000 sub-giants in the Milky Way using data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia mission and China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST). The data revealed that most of the star formation in the Milky Way’s history happened in two distinct waves. The first wave, associated with the thick disk, started only 800 million years after the Big Bang, some 13 billion years ago, but accelerated 2 billion years later when the nascent Milky Way collided with another galaxy, which astronomers call Gaia-Sausage-Enceladus, ESA said in a statement.

Mysterious Odd Radio Circles Seen in Space, New Image Shows – (CNN – March 24, 2022)

They are known as odd radio circles, or ORCs. While the thought of ORCs may bring the goblinlike humanoids from the “Lord of the Rings” books to mind, these fascinating objects have baffled scientists since they first discovered them in 2020. Astronomers found the odd radio circles using the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, operated by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, or Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, two years ago. These space rings are so massive that they measure about a million light-years across — 16 times bigger than our Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers believe it takes the circles 1 billion years to reach their maximum size, and they are so large that the objects have expanded past other galaxies. A new image captured by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s MeerKAT telescope provides more detail and information. Researchers have narrowed down a range of theories to three. The odd radio circles could be remnants of a huge explosion at the center of a galaxy, not unlike what happens when two supermassive black holes merge together. Second, they might be powerful jets pumping out energetic particles from the galactic center. The third possibility is that they could be the result of a starburst shock wave triggered by the birth of stars in a galaxy. Only five radio circles have been found so far.

Want to Make Robots Run Faster? Try Letting AI Take Control – (The Verge – March 17, 2022)

Usually, when engineers are creating the software that controls the movement of legged robots, they write a set of rules about how the machine should respond to certain inputs. So, if a robot’s sensors detect x amount of force on leg y, it will respond by powering up motor a to exert torque b, and so on. Coding these parameters is complicated and time-consuming, but it gives researchers precise and predictable control over the robots. Now, a group of researchers from MIT says one way to improve their functionality might be to use AI to help teach the bots how to walk and run. The approach is to use machine learning — specifically, a method known as reinforcement learning that functions through trial and error. This works by giving your AI model a goal known as a “reward function” (e.g., move as fast as you can) and then letting it loose to work out how to achieve that outcome from scratch. MIT PhD student Gabriel Margolisand postdoc fellow Ge Yan say a big advantage of developing controller software using AI is that it’s less time-consuming than messing about with all the physics. By using a simulator, engineers can place the robot in any number of virtual environments — from solid pavement to slippery rubble — and let it work things out for itself. Indeed, the MIT group says its simulator was able to speed through 100 days’ worth of staggering, walking, and running in just three hours of real time.

A Financial Revolution Is Coming That Threatens To Change Everything (And Not For The Better) – ZeroHedge – March 27, 2022)

Around 90 central banks are either in the process of experimenting with or are already piloting central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). In a world of just over 190 countries that is a large contingent, but given they include the European Central Bank (ECB) which alone represents 19 Euro Area economies, the actual number of economies involved is well over 100. They include all G20 economies and together represent more than 90% of global GDP. The International Monetary Fund, the world’s most powerful supranational financial institution, has been lending its expertise in the roll out of CBDCs. In a recent speech the Fund’s President Kristalina Georgieva lauded the potential benefits (on which more later) of CBDCs while heaping praise on the “ingenuity” of the central banks busily trying to conjure them into existence. The findings of the experimental CBDC program could assist in the adoption of CBDC international settlement for G-20 nations, though given the rising geopolitical fissures in the so-called “international rules based order”, it is far from clear which countries would be willing to engage with one another in such a way. At the same time, the U.S. is determined to continue playing a leading role in the new global financial architecture. To that end, it has cobbled together a tentative consortium of “seven of the largest Western-aligned central banks, led in practice by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank… aimed at creating a system of ‘interoperable’ CBDCs,” reports Washington DC-based blogger and analyst NS Lyons in the article, Just Say No to CBDCs.  The ZeroHedge article explores the answers to three questions: What are CBDCs? How will they work? What purposes could they serve? See also: Will the World Soon Be Ready for Central Bank Digital Currencies? The IMF Seems to Think So. (Editor’s note: We recommend the Lyons article for its look at possible severe downsides of CBDCs, but we are keeping in mind that any major change in a complex system usually has unintended consequences. For example, government payments that have an expiration date to strongly encourage you to use them might hugely balloon the use of gift cards as an alternate way to store – and exchange – value.)

Smart Glasses, Holograms and AI-equipped Robots Will Change Our Jobs – (Washington Post – March 17, 2022)

The future of how we work will, in a few years, include smart glasses that transport workers into augmented or virtual reality environments, communicating with your co-workers via a hologram from anywhere in the world or relying on robots powered by artificial intelligence to help run manufacturing operations. That’s the direction technology is headed, says Cristiano Amon, president and CEO of wireless chip firm Qualcomm. Since becoming CEO, he has been working to diversify Qualcomm’s business from focusing primarily on chips for mobile phones to those used in self-driving cars, A.I.-enabled manufacturing machines and more powerful and battery-efficient laptops. Given that Qualcomm chips power many of the devices we use, we sat down with Amon to discuss how he sees technology transforming the way we will work in the future. The rest of the article is the text of that interview.

Walgreens Replaced Some Fridge Doors with Screens. And Some Shoppers Absolutely Hate It – (CNN – March 12, 2022)

Walgreens and other retailers have swapped out the clear fridge and freezer doors at thousands of stores, instead adding opaque doors with iPad-like screens showing what’s inside. Some customers really, really aren’t into it. The screens, which were developed by the startup Cooler Screens, use a system of motion sensors and cameras to display what’s inside the doors — as well as product information, prices, deals and, most appealing to brands, paid advertisements. The tech provides stores with an additional revenue stream and a way to modernize the shopping experience. But for customers who just want to peek into the freezer and grab their ice cream, Walgreens risks angering them by solving a problem that shoppers didn’t know existed. The company wants to engage more people with advertising, but the reaction, so far, is annoyance and confusion. Someone on Twitter said, “The digital cooler screens at Walgreens made me watch an ad before it allowed me to know which door held the frozen pizzas.”  (Editor’s note: Let’s call this what it is: an abuse of customers’ time.)

Apple Is Reportedly Planning an iPhone Hardware Subscription Service – (Engadget – March 23, 2022)

Apple’s iPhones and other devices have become increasingly expensive, and the company may be using alternative sales models to help soften the blow. Bloomberg sources claim Apple is developing a subscription service for the iPhone and other hardware. Akin to the iPhone upgrade program, you’d pay a monthly fee rather than an up-front cost or financed installments. Full details of the service would include regular upgrades and launch in either late 2022 or early 2023. Pricing is unknown. Apple’s current upgrade program currently requires $35 or more per month to get both yearly iPhone upgrades and continuous AppleCare+ coverage. (Editor’s note: When Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, predicted that by 2030 “you’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy”, this is what he was talking about – at least as far as owning nothing. Leased car, leased tax prep software, leased college textbooks, leased music, leased designer clothing – almost everything as a leased service. But as far as “being happy”, what was he thinking?)

Rent-a-stranger: This Japanese Man Makes a Living Showing Up and Doing Nothing – (Washington Post – March 19, 2022)

For years, there’s been a cottage industry in Japan and South Korea of renting strangers to impersonate friends, family members or other acquaintances, as a way to save face at social functions where plus-ones are expected. But over the past four years, Shoji Morimoto, 38, has built a cult following by offering himself as a warm body who can simply be there, liberating his clients from the social expectations of the spoken and unspoken norms of Japanese society. Morimoto — nicknamed “Rental-san,” incorporating an honorific — has inspired a television series and three books and has drawn international attention through his viral social media posts. Morimoto often finds that his clients don’t want to burden people they care about with their needs. Hig’s gigs have run the gamut. He waited at the finish line of a marathon for a client who wanted to see a familiar face at the end of the race. Someone hired him to sit with them while they finished their thesis, because they might slack off working alone. One woman hired him to accompany her as she filed her divorce papers. He once sat with a client for a hemorrhoid surgery consultation — with plenty of graphic photos. Someone hired him for a dramatic farewell as they boarded a bullet train to move from Tokyo to Osaka; he showed up and waved goodbye. Morimoto often finds that his clients don’t want to burden people they care about with their needs. He charges 10,000 yen (about $85) per session, and is most frequently hired to accompany people who are at a turning point in life, who want to rewrite traumatic memories or experience a vulnerable moment they feel uncomfortable sharing with friends or family. He’ll just be there, with no judgment, and away from your personal space.

If You Need Life Advice, Press Two. If You Need a Pep Talk from Kindergartners, Press Three. – (Washington Post – March 11, 2022)

Every hour around-the-clock, about 9,000 people call in to an elementary school hotline. They are seeking a pep talk from children. Sometimes so many people dial in at once that the hotline — a project created by a California public school — is overwhelmed and callers only hear a busy signal. For the lucky ones who get through, this is what they hear from a cheerful young voice: “If you’re feeling mad, frustrated, or nervous, press one.” “If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press two.” “If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press three.” The hotline, called PepToc, was created by students at West Side School in Healdsburg, Calif., in Sonoma County, and was the idea of art teacher Jessica Martin. It was intended to be part of a community project for the small school, which has 141 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. But it quickly caught on when it launched in late February as people are grasping for something positive amid headlines about Russian forces invading Ukraine and the third year of the pandemic. The pandemic has been difficult for kids as well as adults, Martin noted, but she said young children have a way to “maintain their joy and optimism even in an incredibly dark world.” People started sharing the hotline phone number on social media, and the call volume quickly exploded: It got some 800 calls in one hour soon after launching in the last weekend of February, said Asherah Weiss, a visiting artist who worked on the project with Martin. A week later, it was getting 10 times that, and the numbers keep growing. Weiss said, “We thought this project could bring some joy to everybody, and that the kids could see that they could put their positive messages out in the world and be received. We just didn’t realize that the reception would be to this scale.” Rima Meechan, principal of West Side School, said she loved the hotline idea when Martin presented it, and she hopes to get enough funding to keep PepToc operating through the end of the school year. Article includes the phone numbers. Press three to hear a group of kindergartners shouting: “You can do it! Keep trying! Don’t give up!”

Cool Tree Houses You Can Vacation In Throughout New England – (Boston Magazine – no date)

These aren’t the treehouses of your childhood. This article showcases 8 vacation treehouses that you can rent. Accommodations and prices vary widely but they all look charming. Who knew? Heated stone flooring, internet and a smart television, full bath or a composting toilet – the options abound.
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
— E. B. White
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News Alert – April 7, 2022

PostScript Insight – Compassion vs. Empathy