|FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS|
DID YOU KNOW THAT...
- When people can learn what others think, the wisdom of crowds may veer towards ignorance.
- The same people who created Wikileaks have created a virtual currency called Bitcoin.
- Utah legalizes gold and silver coins as currency.
- Seventeen lost pyramids are among the buildings identified in a new satellite survey of Egypt
by John L. Petersen
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I've been reading a couple of very fascinating books in the last couple of weeks. I really don't remember where I got Dreaming a New World: A Spiritual Journey of Hope and Transformation by Nancy Van Domelen, but I do know that it was somewhere near the top of one of the piles of books not-yet-read that surround my desk chair. As I often do, on my way out of town, I look at the piles and grab the book that looks most interesting out of all of the "interesting" tomes. As is often the case, this turned out to be the book that I really needed to read.
In 1982, Nancy suddenly began writing what was being given to her from two spirit beings. It's a little longer story than that, but suffice to say, she had not spent a goodly piece of her life trying to figure out how to channel information from the other side. It kind of just showed up. In 1996 the two familiar spirit friends said it was time for them to depart and Nancy was asked to make a new, major commitment to receive transmissions that would be published as books. A new source showed up, identified itself as "The Lightbringers", and said it was going to tell her what was going on with humanity, our planet, our galaxy and the universe . . . during the coming few years. It was going to be something like USAToday for the metaphysical crowd - coherent, easy to read, no editing required.
The futurist in me immediately engaged, but unlike that ubiquitous hotel newspaper, this publication was going to turn out to be profoundly magnetic, with rich, disruptive ideas - served up, of course, in a very digestible manner. It was really good stuff with chapters like: The Divine Dance: The Ebb and Flow of Energy, The Great Awakening: A Period of Transition; and The World to Come.
As I got into it, I was impressed with how the information tracked, almost directly, with a number of other sources upon which I had happened. It had a ring of truth, timeliness and currency.
So I called Nancy Van Domelen and asked her to come to Berkeley Springs to give a talk about her most current thinking. She agreed and will be here on the evening of the 9th of August. She also asked if I had seen her second book, The Higher Dimensions Our Next Home: A Spiritual View of the Twenty-first Century and Beyond. I hadn't. She sent one. More profundity and cool views into the future. I really resonated with it.
I'll leave it to you to discover the full-spectrum fireworks of ideas that are contained in these valuable books, but I wanted to mention one notion that The Lightbringers and many other sources emphasize about this time that we are experiencing. There is a consensus that 2011 is going to be a year of great disruption and the beginning of the largest transition in the history of the planet. All of these messengers say that because of increased energy coming from the galaxy and the sun, the earth will experience an accelerating tempo of unusual, violent weather, earthquakes, volcano eruptions and other earth changes. This energy will also affect humans both physically and socially. The combination of these forces will engender failures of the global financial system and other social systems.
This is really big stuff! I have been impressed enough about this that, as I mentioned the last time in this space, I put together a presentation on what all of these sources said was on our horizon and what we could do to effectively transcend the disruption that will be all around us. That talk turned out to be two-and-a-half hours long. We videoed it and we may make it available here if there is interest in that.
But it was in light of all of this big-change thinking that I first started contemplating this Punctuations piece the week before last. We were in San Francisco and this was the headline: "Death Toll Rises to Nearly 100 From Missouri Tornado". Huge floods were washing through Montana, Tennessee and Louisiana. Then my friend Jackie sent me this link to a report on 100 mph winds in Scotland. A Tuesday storm came in fast and furious and forced hundreds from their homes in Manitoba and left nothing but destruction in its path. "It's just like a bomb hit here," Donald Walsh, Reeve (town administrator) of the Rural Municipality of Woodlands. "I've had reports that there's nothing left. Just totally destroyed."
Then on Wednesday I learned that central China was having the worst drought in 50 years. Also that day a massive thunderstorm rolled through Nova Scotia leaving at one point nearly 50,000 customers in the dark. By the end of the week the Wall Street Journal led page one with: "Devastating Toll- Three of the deadliest U.S. tornadoes on record hit this spring. May 22 - 116 dead, Joplin, Mo.; April 27 - 78 dead, Hackleburg/Phil Campbell, Ala.; April 27 - 61 dead, Tuscaloosa-Birmingham, Ala; Total 2011 fatalities: 481. (Now 147 are reported to have died in the Joplin storm.)
Further down, below the fold, was a piece entitled "Facing Up to the End of 'Easy Oil'". Inside was an article explaining how "Greece Speeds Up Plans to Sell Off State-Held Assets".
Now, stick with me here: this is not just bad news for bad news sake. There is a trend here that I want you to see that is consistent with the prophesies mentioned above.
Last week more than 120,000 homes and businesses throughout Michigan were without power on Monday after a powerful storm ripped through the state. A tornado even touched down just north of our place in West Virginia - something that hasn't happened in decades. Volcano activity was increasing in Indonesia, Costa Rica and the Philippines. A raised lava lake, described by volcano scientists as looking "somewhat like an above-ground swimming pool," has been building since lava returned to Pu'u 'O'o crater in Hawaii in March.
Today, the Quotation of the Day on the New York Times site from PAUL ASHWORTH, chief United States economist at Capital Economics was: "The economy clearly just hit a brick wall." At the same time it was reported that China has dropped 97 percent of its holdings in U.S. Treasury bills, decreasing its ownership of the short-term U.S. government securities from a peak of $210.4 billion in May 2009 to $5.69 billion in March 2011, the most recent month reported by the U.S. Treasury.
Earlier, on the 25th of May, U.S. Congressman Ron Paul made the following speech to a mostly empty House of Representatives. Now, I am not a libertarian or a Ron Paul apologist, but the points he makes certainly have a ring of honesty and credibility to me in these times of change.
The last nail is being driven into the coffin of the American Republic. Yet, Congress remains in total denial as our liberties are rapidly fading before our eyes. The process is propelled by unwarranted fear and ignorance as to the true meaning of liberty. It is driven by economic myths, fallacies and irrational good intentions. The rule of law is constantly rejected and authoritarian answers are offered as panaceas for all our problems. Runaway welfarism is used to benefit the rich at the expense of the middle class. Who would have ever thought that the current generation and Congress would stand idly by and watch such a rapid disintegration of the American Republic? Characteristic of this epic event is the casual acceptance by the people and political leaders of the unitary presidency, which is equivalent to granting dictatorial powers to the President. Our Presidents can now, on their own:
1. Order assassinations, including American citizens,
2. Operate secret military tribunals,
3. Engage in torture,
4. Enforce indefinite imprisonment without due process,
5. Order searches and seizures without proper warrants, gutting the 4th Amendment,
6. Ignore the 60 day rule for reporting to the Congress the nature of any military operations as required by the War Power Resolution,
7. Continue the Patriot Act abuses without oversight,
8. Wage war at will,
9. Treat all Americans as suspected terrorists at airports with TSA groping and nude x-raying.
And the Federal Reserve accommodates by counterfeiting the funds needed and not paid for by taxation and borrowing, permitting runaway spending, endless debt, and special interest bail-outs.
And all of this is not enough. The abuses and usurpations of the war power are soon to be codified in the National Defense Authorization Act now rapidly moving its way through the Congress. Instead of repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), as we should, now that bin Laden is dead and gone, Congress is planning to massively increase the war power of the President. Though an opportunity presents itself to end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Congress, with bipartisan support, obsesses on how to expand the unconstitutional war power the President already holds. The current proposal would allow a President to pursue war any time, any place, for any reason, without Congressional approval. Many believe this would even permit military activity against American suspects here at home. The proposed authority does not reference the 9/11 attacks. It would be expanded to include the Taliban and "associated" forces-a dangerously vague and expansive definition of our potential enemies. There is no denial that the changes in s.1034 totally eliminate the hard-fought-for restraint on Presidential authority to go to war without Congressional approval achieved at the Constitutional Convention. Congress' war authority has been severely undermined since World War II beginning with the advent of the Korean War which was fought solely under a UN Resolution. Even today, we're waging war in Libya without even consulting with the Congress, similar to how we went to war in Bosnia in the 1990s under President Clinton. The three major reasons for our Constitutional Convention were to:
1. Guarantee free trade and travel among the states.
2. Make gold and silver legal tender and abolish paper money.
3. Strictly limit the Executive Branch's authority to pursue war without Congressional approval.
1. Federal Reserve notes are legal tender, gold and silver are illegal.
2. The Interstate Commerce Clause is used to regulate all commerce at the expense of free trade among the states.
3. And now the final nail is placed in the coffin of Congressional responsibility for the war power, delivering this power completely to the President-a sharp and huge blow to the concept of our Republic.
In my view, it appears that the fate of the American Republic is now sealed-unless these recent trends are quickly reversed.
The saddest part of this tragedy is that all these horrible changes are being done in the name of patriotism and protecting freedom. They are justified by good intentions while believing the sacrifice of liberty is required for our safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.
More sadly is the conviction that our enemies are driven to attack us for our freedoms and prosperity, and not because of our deeply flawed foreign policy that has generated justifiable grievances and has inspired the radical violence against us. Without this understanding our endless, unnamed, and undeclared wars will continue and our wonderful experience with liberty will end.
If you've followed me this far and have thought about what you have been reading it should be obvious that, if similar natural and human engendered trends continue, we are moving rapidly into a global environment that is reconfiguring itself in ways that do not at all reflect the past. As mentioned, the unconventional sources suggest that all of this activity will dramatically increase during the rest of this year.
The immediate question begged by all of this unpredictability is: What should we be doing? I talked about this in my lengthy presentation and I'll write more about it here in the future, but let me give you the short version: your sense of security must come from within, not from anything or anyone outside. If you are to transcend what is on our horizon you must find that place of peace within yourself that disengages you from the familiar but disintegrating systems all around us. Your responsibility is only for yourself, no one else. If you commit to find this place of peace, you will find it - the larger, intelligent, loving reality will rally to support your sincere intentions.
We are experiencing nothing less than the beginning of the end of a major era of human life on this planet. An amazing, wonderful experience is in front of us. A new world is being born.
Sharing Information Corrupts Wisdom of Crowds - (Wired - May 16, 2011)
In a new study of crowd wisdom - the statistical phenomenon by which individual biases cancel each other out, distilling hundreds or thousands of individual guesses into uncannily accurate average answers - researchers told test participants about their peers' guesses. As a result, their group insight went awry. The researchers attributed this to three effects. The first they called "social influence": Opinions became less diverse. For example, "opinion polls and the mass media largely promote information feedback and therefore trigger convergence of how we judge the facts," they wrote.
What Happens When Anonymous Gets a Bank? - (ThinkBig - May 18, 2011)
The same people who brought you Wikileaks are back, and this time, they've created a virtual currency called Bitcoin. Bitcoin is an open-source virtual currency generated by a computer algorithm that is completely beyond the reach of financial intermediaries, central banks and national tax collectors. Bitcoins could be used to purchase anything, at any time, from anyone in the world, in a transaction process that it is almost completely frictionless. Yes, that's right, the hacktivists now have a virtual currency that's untraceable, unhackable, and completely Anonymous. Veteran tech guru Jason Calacanis recently called Bitcoin the most dangerous open source project he's ever seen. TIME suggested that Bitcoin might be able to bring national governments and global financial institutions to their knees. (Editor's note: We also recommend reading (or at least, skimming) the comments following this article. This whole idea is worth noting, but right now, it may be both more and less than it seems.)
Bacteria-rich Hailstones Add to 'Bioprecipitation' Idea - (BBC News - May 25, 2011)
A study of hailstones has found large numbers of bacteria at their cores. The find lends credence to the "bio-precipitation" idea, which suggests that bacteria are actively involved in stimulating precipitation. The bacteria have protein coatings that cause water to freeze at relatively warm temperatures. Researchers suggest bacteria may have evolved to use the water cycle to facilitate their own dispersal. The idea has been around for decades but only recently has the data accumulated to support it.
GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY
Electrical Stimulation Helps Paralyzed Man - (Washington Post - May 19, 2011)
After becoming the first patient to undergo an experimental treatment, Rob Summers can now do something no one else in his condition has ever been able to do: stand up, move his hips, knees and ankles, wiggle his toes and even take a few steps. Researchers previously have been able to use electrical stimulation of muscles to produce some movement in patients with spinal cord injuries. But Summers marks the first time any paralyzed patient has regained the ability to consciously move parts of his or her body by direct stimulation of the spinal cord, which apparently reactivates the nerve circuits that remain intact.
New Studies Reveal Evidence that Cell Phone Radiation Damages DNA, Brain, and Sperm - (Kurzweil AI - May 24, 2011)
New independent studies offer proof that confirms findings from the Council of Europe: pulsed digital signals from cell phones disrupt DNA, impair brain function, and lower sperm count, according to a statement by the Environmental Health Trust (EHT). Prof. Nesrin Seyhan , WHO and NATO advisor and head and founder of the Biophysics Department and Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory at Gazi University in Ankara, found that just four hours of exposure to RF-EMF disrupts the ability of human brain cells to repair damaged genes. Other new work from Australia shows damage to human sperm.
Human Lung Stem Cell Discovered - (Huffington Post - May 12, 2011)
Scientists believe they've discovered stem cells in the lung that can make a wide variety of the organ's tissues, a finding that might open new doors for treating emphysema and other diseases. When these human cells were injected into mice, they showed their versatility by rebuilding airways, air sacs and blood vessels within two weeks. One expert called that "amazing." While stem cells have been found in bone marrow and some other parts of the body, it hasn't been clear whether such a versatile cell existed in the lung.
Mobile Phone-induced Honey Bee Worker Piping - (Springerlink - 2011)
This academic paper from a Swiss researcher details a study in which mobile handsets were placed in the close vicinity of honeybees. The sounds made by the bees were recorded and analyzed, revealing that active mobile phone handsets have a dramatic impact. They induce worker bee piping signals. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of a bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.
IRIS Earthquake Browser - (Incorporated Research Institutes for Seismology - 2011)
Interested in knowing more about where earthquakes are most frequently occurring? Here is an interactive map displaying earthquake activity, including locations, depth range and magnitude range. Map will show anything from 200 to 5,000 events depending on viewer's selection of parameters. IRIS is a university consortium sponsored by the National Science Foundation and is dedicated to the operation of scientific facilities for the acquisition, management and distribution of freely available seismic data. (Editor also recommends the main IRIS website.)
Green World Campaign - (Green World website - no date)
The Green World Campaign has a bold agenda: Catalyze a global movement to reforest our planet, raise the living standards of the rural poor, and combat climate change. Its far-reaching aim is to plant hundreds of millions of trees while lifting millions of people out of poverty. In addition to planting trees, Green World brings in appropriate technology to third world areas (i.e., solar lanterns, pumps, and water purification systems) and fosters village cooperatives to produce organic honey. In the process, it is exploring new models of social action, sustainable community, and compassionate living. See their basic plan.
Scientists Think Cosmic Rays May be Altering the Planet's Climate - (Extinction Protocol -May 22, 2011)
Physicists in Denmark and the UK have shown how cosmic rays could stimulate the formation of water droplets in the Earth's atmosphere. The researchers say this is the best experimental evidence yet that the Sun influences the climate by altering the intensity of the cosmic-ray flux reaching the Earth's surface. The conventional view on global warming, as stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is that most of the warming recorded in the past 50 years has been caused by emissions of manmade greenhouse gases. But some scientists argue that the Sun might have a significant influence on changes to the Earth's climate, pointing out that in centuries past there has been a close correlation between global temperatures and solar activity.
China Drought Affects More than 34 Million People - (PhysOrg - May 28, 2011)
Rainfall levels from January to April in the drainage basin of the Yangtze, China's longest and most economically important river, have been up to 60% lower than average levels of the past 50 years. The State Grid, China's state-owned power distributor, reportedly said this week that 10 of its provincial-level power grids were suffering severe shortages due to the drought's impact on hydroelectric generation, including Shanghai and the heavily populated southwestern Chongqing region. China could face a summer electricity shortage of 30 gigawatts -- the most severe power shortfall since 2004, the company said. China's north has been suffering from a lack of rain for nearly 15 years -- largely attributed to global warming -- while the south, especially the Yangtze river basin, has been prone to flooding during the annual summer rainy season.
Why You Can't Trust Google - (USA Today - May 4, 2011)
Book review of Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc. by Scott Cleland. Many nations around the world have investigated and sanctioned Google for illegally eavesdropping on tens of millions of people's Wi-Fi networks and collecting unencrypted e-mails and passwords. Google said that three-year effort, now known as "WiSpy," was a "mistake" and has been discontinued. What we now know is that Google has not stopped collecting people's Wi-Fi signals as they pledged publicly, they just secretly changed the signal-collection technology from Street View cars to any device with an Android operating system. In both instances, Google is collecting extremely private information without users meaningful permission or knowledge that irresponsibly puts people at unnecessary risk.
How to Pop Your Internet Filter Bubble - (Computer World - May 9, 2011)
Think you're on the Internet right now? Well, you're not. You're on your Internet. The exact version of the online world that you see is available only to you. Most of the major conduits through which you see the world online, including Google Search and Facebook, are gathering all kinds of data about you, then presenting you with a custom version of the world they think you're interested in. They're hiding or de-emphasizing the version of the world they assume you're not interested in. For example, Google uses 57 "signals" -- even when you're not logged in to Google -- to customize search results. (Google was unable to confirm the number of signals.) These "signals" include where you are, what you have clicked on in the past and who your friends are. But that's just the beginning. Google also gathers information about which browser and device type you use, how much you travel (based on where you search over time), how long it takes you to click after getting a search result, and many, many other data points. From all this data, Google decides how to sort your search results. How Facebook handles your data also deserves your attention.
Microbial Fuel Cells to Charge Your Mobile Phone with Dirt - (Crazy Engineers - May 10, 2011)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded $100k grant to Dr. Aviva Presser Aiden, of the Harvard School of Engineering & Applied Sciences for invention of Microbial Fuel Based Charger. The invention by Dr. Aiden would result in powering the cell phones using the microbes in the soil - readily available everywhere. Dr. Aiden and her team now aim to bring the cost of microbial chargers down to a dollar and improve the mechanisms so that the cell phone would be completely charged within 24 hours. Once the knowledge of microbial fuel cells spreads across the remote areas, people will be able to assemble these chargers on their own using very basic components.
Michael Pawlyn: Using Nature's Genius in Architecture - (You Tube - February 11, 2011)
How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. In this video clip of a TED talk, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun.
Fukushima Update: A Very Bad Situation - (Chris Martenson - May 15, 2011)
TEPCO has finally admitted that Reactor #1 has experienced a meltdown event that may have breached the primary containment vessel. Further, truly alarming levels of radiation are now being reported in and around Tokyo. A radioactive substance of up to 170,000 becquerels per kilogram was detected in incinerator ashes at a sewage plant in Koto Ward, east Tokyo, in late March, the Kyodo News Agency quoted government sources as saying. The highly-contaminated ashes have since been recycled into materials used for construction, such as cement, sources with knowledge of the matter said. This is outrageous and shocking news. First, because of the levels, and second, because these things were detected in "late March" and then hidden from the public to such an extent that the screaming hot ashes were allowed to be recycled into construction materials. Now that's a cover-up. See also: More Melted Fuel At Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant Uncovered During UN Probe.
Rossi's Cold Fusion Validated by Swedish Skeptics - (Pure Energy Systems - April 7, 2011)
The evidence in support of Andrea Rossi's "cold fusion" or "LENR" (low energy nuclear reaction) based Energy Catalyzer continues to grow. His system combines nickel powder, hydrogen gas, and an input of pressure and heat to produce a large output of thermal energy. On March 29th, 2011 yet another test of the technology was performed at the University of Bologna. Like previous tests, the outcome was a success. Two guest observers were present: one was Hanno Essen, associate professor of theoretical physics at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology and chairman of the Swedish Skeptics Society. The other guest observer was Professor Sven Kullander of Uppsala University and chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Energy Committee. Kullander and Essen stated, "Any chemical process for producing 25 kWh from any fuel in a 50 cm3 container can be ruled out. The only alternative explanation is that there is some kind of a nuclear process that gives rise to the measured energy production." See also: An American company named Ampenergo has made a deal with Andrea Rossi to market his Energy Catalyzer technology in the Americas.
New Solar Product Captures up to 95% of Light Energy - (EurekAlert - May 16, 2011)
Energy generated using traditional photovoltaic (PV) methods of solar collection is inefficient and neglects much of the available solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum. The device Patrick Pinhero and his team has developed - essentially a thin, moldable sheet of small antennas called nantenna - can harvest the heat from industrial processes and convert it into usable electricity. Their ambition is to extend this concept to a direct solar facing nantenna device capable of collecting solar irradiation in the near infrared and optical regions of the solar spectrum.
Heated Red Wine Produces Superconductivity - (Bordeaux Undiscovered - July 31, 2010)
Researchers in Japan have found that a special iron compound displays super-conductive qualities after it has been soaked in heated red wine and then cooled. The study, conducted by the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, was a serious search for super-conductive properties in various materials. (NIMS is a research institution specializing in materials research in metals, organic or inorganic substances). In order to determine what element in the air caused the superconductivity, experiments were conducted using steam as well as the elements that make up steam: oxygen and hydrogen. Alcohol was included in the study because it contains oxygen and hydrogen atoms. But alcohol content apparently has no bearing on the process. Further research is in order.
More Automakers Ditch Spare Tires - (USA Today - May 22, 2011)
The single-minded goal of cars that deliver better fuel economy looks like it's on the way to dooming an American institution: the spare tire. More automakers are shedding spares in their vehicles. General Motors, which didn't include a spare in its new compact, the Chevrolet Cruze, is explaining why. Eliminating the spare in the Cruze knocks 26 pounds off the car's weight, including the jack and tools, GM says. It might not sound like a lot but less poundage is one of the ways that the Cruze Eco version is able to get 42 miles a gallon on the highway. Instead, the Cruze offers a tire inflater kit in case the car gets a flat tire.
Robyn O'Brien: TED Talk - (You Tube - March 24, 2011)
A former Wall Street food industry analyst, Robyn O'Brien brings insight, compassion and detailed analysis to her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of our children. Grounded in a successful Wall Street career that was more interested in food as good business than good-for-you, this mother of four was shaken awake by the dangerous allergic reaction of one of her children to a "typical" breakfast. Her mission to unearth the cause revealed more about the food industry than she could stomach, and impelled her to share her findings with others.
The Booming Market in Human Breast Milk - (Daily Mail - May 20, 2011)
Rich and creamy or fresh and fatty? Organic or gluten free? These are just some of the terms women are using to sell their own breast milk on the web. There are hundreds at it, all advertising their surplus supplies on Only the Breast.com, a Craigslist-style website. You buy it by the ounce for around $1 to $2.50 (a six-month-old baby consumes around 30 ounces a day) but the price is being driven down to as little as 65 cents per ounce as more and more mothers look to turn their milk into hard cash.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Are Cameras the New Guns? - (Gizmodo - June 10, 2010)
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer. Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists. The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
Utah Legalizes Gold and Silver Coins as Currency - (Huffington Post - May 22, 2011)
Utah legislators want to see the dollar regain its former glory, back to the days when one could literally bank on it being "as good as gold." To make that point, they've turned it around, and made gold as good as cash. Utah became the first state in the country this month to legalize gold and silver coins as currency. The law also will exempt the sale of the coins from state capital gains taxes. Craig Franco hopes to cash in on it with his Utah Gold and Silver Depository, and he thinks others will soon follow. The idea is simple: Store your gold and silver coins in a vault, and Franco issues a debit-like card to make purchases backed by your holdings. He plans to open for business June 1, likely the first of its kind in the country. (Editor's note: We wonder how the exchange rate will be determined.)
U.S. Postal Service Nears Collapse - (Business Week - May 26, 2011)
Can the USPS reinvent itself like European services have-or will it implode? With the rise of e-mail and the decline of letters, mail volume is falling at a staggering rate, and the postal service's survival plan isn't reassuring. Elsewhere in the world, postal services are grappling with the same dilemma-only most of them, in humbling contrast, are thriving. Since 2007 the USPS has been unable to cover its annual budget, 80% of which goes to salaries and benefits. In contrast, 43% of FedEx's budget and 61 percent of United Parcel Service's pay go to employee-related expenses. According to SJ Consulting Group, the USPS has more than a 15% share of the American express and ground-shipping market. FedEx has 32%, UPS 53%. The USPS has stayed afloat by borrowing $12 billion from the U.S. Treasury. This year it will reach its statutory debt limit. After that, insolvency looms.
Middle East Protests, Country by Country - (BBC News - May 17, 2011)
Using this interactive map, you can click on any of the northern African and Middle Eastern countries and see a summary of current events and a statistical snapshot of the country including literacy, poverty, median age, unemployment, social unrest, level of corruption and the length of time the current ruler has been in power. Information sources are the World Bank, the CIA, Transparency International, the UN, and the Economist.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Panera's Pay-what-you-want Café Proving Successful - (Washington Post - May 16, 2011)
A year ago Panera converted the Clayton, MO restaurant into a nonprofit pay-what-you-want restaurant with the idea of helping to feed the needy and raising money for charitable work. Panera founder and Chairman Ronald Shaich said the café, operated through Panera's charitable foundation, has been a big success. What developed was the largest example yet of a concept called community kitchens, where businesses operate partly as charities. Panera's success in Clayton has led it to open two similar cafes - one in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Mich., and one in Portland, Ore. It plans to add a new one every three months or so. Overall, the café performs at about 80% of retail and brings in revenue of about $100,000 a month. That's enough to generate $3,000 to $4,000 a month above costs, money being used for a job training program for at-risk youths.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Planets May Be Vastly More Numerous than Believed - (LA Times - May 19, 2011)
The Milky Way galaxy may be filled with millions upon millions of Jupiter-sized planets that have escaped their solar systems and are wandering freely in space, researchers said Wednesday in a finding that seems certain to make astronomers rethink their ideas about planetary formation. Scientists had previously thought that about 20% of stars had massive planets attached to them, but the new results suggest that there are at least twice as many planets as stars, and perhaps several times as many. The Japanese team of astronomers who discovered the wandering planets speculate that the orphan bodies were ejected from formative solar systems soon after they condensed from the interstellar dust that also formed the stars.
Mars Probe Shows Trees - (The Sun - January 13, 2010)
A MARS probe has stunned NASA scientists by sending home photographs of what look like trees. Rows of dark "conifers" appear to sprout from alien hills on the Red Planet. But the scene is actually a remarkable optical illusion. The "trees" are really trails of debris caused by landslides as ice melts in Mars's spring. The photographs are fascinating.
India's Unwanted Girls - (BBC News - May 22, 2011)
India's 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven - activists fear eight million female fetuses may have been aborted in the past decade. In 1961, for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven, there were 976 girls. Today, the figure has dropped to a dismal 914 girls. Although the number of women overall is improving (due to factors such as life expectancy), India's ratio of young girls to boys is one of the worst in the world after China. Many factors come into play to explain this: infanticide, abuse and neglect of girl children, but the decline is primarily due to the increased availability of prenatal sex screening.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
3-d Cloaking Achieved for Visible Light - (Kurzweil AI - May 19, 2011)
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) researchers have created the first 3-D invisibility cloak for ordinary (non-polarized) visible light, limited at this time to the 700 nm. (red) range. For the cloak to be invisible at wavelengths visible to human beings, the metamaterial particle size needs to be in the range of a 700 nanometers (for red light) or less. If CFN can get the metamaterial particle dimensions down below 400 nm., invisibility in white light can be achieved. At that point, we are in the realm of Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.
Is Graphene a Miracle Material? - (BBC News - May 21, 2011)
Graphene was touted as "the next big thing" even before its pioneers were handed the Nobel Prize last year. Many believe it could spell the end for silicon and change the future of computers and other devices forever. Graphene is said to be the strongest material ever measured, an improvement upon and a replacement for silicon and the most conductive material known to man. Mechanical engineering professor James Hone of Columbia University said, "It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap."
U.S.: Where Europe Comes to Slum - (Reader Supported News - May 15, 2011)
Slumming in America is fast becoming a business model for some of Europe's leading companies, and they often do things here they would never think of doing at home. These companies - not banks, primarily, but such gold-plated European manufacturers as BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Siemens, and retailers such as IKEA - increasingly come to America (the South particularly) because labor is cheap and workers have no rights. In their eyes, we're becoming the new China. Our labor costs may be a little higher, but we offer stronger intellectual property protections and far fewer strikes than our unruly Chinese comrades. A study released this month by the Boston Consulting Group concludes that when you compare China's soaring wages and still-low levels of productivity with our stagnating wages and rising levels of productivity, the price advantage of manufacturing in China instead of the US will shrink to insignificance by 2015. Investment in the US, says the group, "will accelerate as it becomes one of the cheapest locations for manufacturing in the developed world."
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
Egyptian Pyramids Found by Infra-red Satellite Images - (BBC News - May 24, 2011)
Seventeen lost pyramids are among the buildings identified in a new satellite survey of Egypt. More than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements were also revealed by looking at infra-red images which show up underground buildings. Initial excavations have already confirmed some of the findings, including two suspected pyramids. The team analyzed images from satellites orbiting 700km above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pin-point objects less than 1m in diameter on the earth's surface. Ancient Egyptians built their houses and structures out of mud brick, which is much denser than the soil that surrounds it, so the shapes of houses, temples and tombs can be seen.
JUST FOR FUN
30 Dumb Inventions - (Life - May 20, 2011)
The 20th century saw many remarkable technological innovations. The automobile revolutionized the way people live and work, the internet changed the way people think about information, and the U.S. put a man on the moon. But some technological advances from the earlier part of the 20th century didn't exactly stand the test of time. Here are a few inventions that are "history" - fortunately!
A FINAL QUOTE...
A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. - Sydney J. Harris
A special thanks to: Kenton Anderson, Marc Barasch, Thomas Bergin, Dennis Bushnell, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, T. Roberts, Stu Rose, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen