Volume 15, Number 1 - 1/15/12Twitter   Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT...
  • "If I Die" is a Facebook app that makes sure that, after you die, your social self can still send out your last wishes and post messages to your friends years after you're gone.

  • Recent earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma have been directly linked to deep wells used to dispose of liquid wastes for hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" of natural gas, according to geological experts.

  • A new study led by a NASA scientist highlights 14 key air pollution control measures that, if implemented, could slow the pace of global warming, improve health and boost agricultural production.

  • A giant cloud of hydrogen gas, clocked at more than 150 miles per second per second, is closing in very fast on the Milky Way, likely setting off a huge burst of star formation. Collision is expected in less than 40 million years.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

I'm on my way out of town, so this is going to be a short communication.

First of all, a mea culpa. Last issue in this space I included this link:

"Obama Has Now Increased Debt More than All Presidents from George Washington Through George H.W. Bush Combined."

Turns out, that is not close to being true. I suppose I should have known by the way that the headline refers to the president that the article was highly skewed (that's being charitable), attempting to influence public opinion rather than tell the truth. We'll try to do better in the future, but since we can't fact check everything we put in FE, I rely on our trusty readers, who always (kindly) let me know when something iffy has slipped through.

Big Change Accelerating

Let me quickly juxtapose a couple of recent items to illustrate how dramatically things are changing.

The Washington Post had this article yesterday. 10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free. Law professor Jonathan Turley began this way:

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own - the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?

While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don't operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of "free," but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.

These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens - precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.

The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.


Turley goes on to list and discuss those powers.

Assassination of U.S. citizens
Indefinite detention
Arbitrary justice
Warrantless searches
Secret evidence
War crimes
Secret court
Immunity from judicial review
Continual monitoring of citizens
Extraordinary renditions


(read the whole article)

There are a number of reasons why this article is significant, but what stood out to me was that it was published in the Washington Post. In the past, the major U.S. newspapers have been sporadic, at best, in highlighting the systemic degeneration of our system. But now, this very pointed, powerful piece shows up. Perhaps it is a harbinger. I hope so.

The Revolution is Love

In contrast to the above, consider this short YouTube video featuring Charles Eisenstein called The Revolution is Love. I mentioned this presentation before, but it's worth watching it again to notice the almost angular difference between the orientation and feeling of the Turley piece and this one. Eisenstein is operating on a different plane - he's using a radically different set of metrics to assess and make sense of what is happening.

That's what is interesting to me about this big shift, "they" are changing not only the rules . . . but also the playing field. This is really a different game that we're in.

Charles Eisenstein Coming to Berkeley Springs

That's a good segue into mentioning that Charles is coming to give a presentation here in Berkeley Springs next month. He will talk about his Sacred Economics book and some of his other both creative and radical ideas. We're really looking forward to it.

If you can, you should try to come and hear Charles. He'll be here on Sunday afternoon, the 26th of February at 2PM at the Ice House. You can get details here.

We hope that you can join us.

Anticipating 2012

As I mentioned last issue, we've got a new DVD out on what 2012 looks like to me. I gathered the information from eight or nine credible sources together in a synthetic picture. It was interesting because it became clear that there were multiple indicators that were very specifically forecasting the rapid collapse of significant pieces of the existing system in the coming 12 months - some of the big pieces start coming down in the next 90 days!

For example, one can make a pretty compelling case that the global financial system could well come down by March or April and that there will be an extraordinary cosmic happening in the third quarter . . . to say nothing about two other major earth-shaking events that appear to be programmed for June and September.

2012 is gearing up to literally become one of the most important years in the history of humanity.

Very strange things seem programmed for the third quarter - events for which we don't yet have descriptive language. It is interesting how the input from both conventional and unconventional reporters pointed consistently toward the uniqueness of this period.

I talked about these things for about an hour on this DVD and then the producer, Brian Hardin, and I added a half-hour of interchange about preparing for what appears to be headed our way. If you're interested in seeing this presentation, you can get the DVD of the interview - 2012: The Year of Great Transition - here for $15. You'll find it both interesting and provocative. I promise!

I'm on the road for the next three weeks, so I may not be able to get a Punctuations written for the next issue of FE, so the next time we talk may be the middle of February . . . which, if the indicators are correct should be a time when both the collapse of the financial system and the beginning of a middle east war will only be another six weeks away.

It will be interesting!



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

If I Die: Facebook App Lets You Leave Sweet Last Words - (Mashable - January 6, 2012)
Facebook profiles don't die the same way people do. "If I Die" is a Facebook app that makes sure that, after you die, your social self can still send out your last wishes and post messages to your friends years after you're gone. If I Die lets "you" post a final message to your wall and loved one when you're dead. After installing the app, you choose three "trustees" (Facebook friends) who are charged with verifying your death. Users can then record videos or craft any number of Facebook posts to be published posthumously. When your trustees confirm your death, your messages can be published all at once to your Facebook wall or released on a designated schedule.

We May Be Less Happy, But Our Language Isn't - (Univ. of Vermont - January 12, 2012)
New research shows that the English language is strongly biased toward being positive according to Peter Dodds, an applied mathematician at the University of Vermont. The UVM team's study "Positivity of the English Language," is presented in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.This new study complements another study the same Vermont scientists presented in the Dec. 7 issue of PLoS ONE, "Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network." That work attracted wide media attention showing that average global happiness, based on Twitter data, has been dropping for the past two years. Combined, the two studies show that short-term average happiness has dropped - against the backdrop of the long-term fundamental positivity of the English language.



NEW REALITIES

Evolution is Written All Over Your Face - (Science Daily - January 11, 2012)
UCLA biologists working as "evolutionary detectives" studied the faces of 129 adult male primates from Central and South America, and they offer some answers. The faces they studied evolved over at least 24 million years, they report. "We found very strong support for the idea that as species live in larger groups, their faces become more simple, more plain," said lead author Sharlene Santana, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in ecology and evolutionary biology and a postdoctoral fellow with UCLA's Institute for Society and Genetics. "We think that is related to their ability to communicate using facial expressions. A face that is more plain could allow the primate to convey expressions more easily. "Humans have pretty bare faces, which may allow us to see facial expressions more easily than if, for example, we had many colors in our faces." The researchers' finding that faces are more simple in larger groups came as a surprise.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Alzheimer's: Diet Can Stop Brain Shrinking - (BBC News - December 29, 2011)
A diet rich in vitamins and fish may protect the brain from ageing while junk food has the opposite effect, research suggests. The research looked at nutrients in blood, rather than relying on questionnaires to assess a person's diet. US experts analyzed blood samples from 104 healthy people with an average age of 87 who had few known risk factors for Alzheimer's. They found those who had more vitamin B, C, D and E in their blood performed better in tests of memory and thinking skills. People with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids - found mainly in fish - also had high scores. The poorest scores were found in people who had more trans fats in their blood. See also: Brain Function Can Start Declining as Early as Age 45

Assisted Suicide: Strong Case for Legalization - (BBC News - January 4, 2012)
The UK Commission on Assisted Dying - set up and funded by campaigners who want to see a change in the law - said the current UK system was "inadequate". The group said that assisted suicide should be allowed if a person was over 18, terminally ill and judged as having less than 12 months to live, making a voluntary choice and not impaired mentally. Before it should be allowed, the person would also need to be independently assessed by two doctors. It also suggested that the individual would have to take the medicine themselves as euthanasia - where another person administers the substance - should not be allowed. And it said end-of-life care needed to be improved to ensure people were not pushed into the decision because of inadequate access to care. Critics say the report is biased. (Editor's Note: Such legislation would not necessarily help Sir Terry Pratchett, who funded the study and has Alzheimer's Disease.)

Frankenstein Ants Created by Scientists - (Telegraph - January 7, 2012)
Scientists have bred supersoldier ants with enlarged heads and jaws by using ancient genes to trigger development. The monster ants, which use their size to protect the entrance to their nests, are a throwback to their ancestors that lived millions of years ago. Authors Dr Rajendhran Rajakumar, from McGill University, Canada, and colleagues wrote: "We uncovered an ancestral development potential to produce a novel supersoldier subcaste that has been retained throughout a hyperdiverse ant genus that evolved 35 to 60 million years ago." The results suggest that holding on to ancestral development tool kits may play an important role in evolving new physical traits, say the researchers.



ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Cold Winters Caused by Warmer Summers, Research Suggests - (Science Daily - January 12, 2012)
Scientists have offered up a convincing explanation for the harsh winters recently experienced in the Northern Hemisphere; increasing temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic regions creating more snowfall in the autumn months at lower latitudes. Their findings may throw light on specific weather incidents such as the extremely harsh Florida winter of 2010 which ended up killing a host of tropical creatures, as well as the chaos-causing snow that fell on the UK in December 2010. This new research suggests that the trend of increasingly cold winters over the past two decades could be explained by warmer temperatures in the autumn having a marked effect on normal weather patterns, causing temperatures to plummet in the following winter.

14,000 U.S. Deaths Tied to Fukushima Reactor Disaster Fallout - (Market Watch - December 19, 2011)
An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services. This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima. Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.

Geologists Say Ohio Quakes Directly Tied to Fracking - (MSNBC - January 6, 2012)
Recent earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma have been directly linked to deep wells used to dispose of liquid wastes for hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" of natural gas, according to geological experts. And they expect more earthquakes to come as the industry continues to expand across the eastern United States. State officials shut down all drilling around a brine-injection well after a magnitude-4.0 quake rumbled through the Youngstown, Ohio, on New Year's Eve day. That was the 11th earthquake in 2011 in the region, which is not considered seismically active. Experts are also investigating a magnitude-5.6 earthquake east of Oklahoma City that has been linked to gas drilling there, McGarr said.

What Can Be Done to Slow Climate Change - (Science Daily - January 12, 2012)
A new study led by a NASA scientist highlights 14 key air pollution control measures that, if implemented, could slow the pace of global warming, improve health and boost agricultural production. The research finds that focusing on these measures could slow mean global warming 0.9 ºF (0.5ºC) by 2050, increase global crop yields by up to 135 million metric tons per season and prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year. While all regions of the world would benefit, countries in Asia and the Middle East would see the biggest health and agricultural gains from emissions reductions.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Court OKs Immunity for Telecoms in Wiretap Case - (Associated Press - December 30, 2011)
A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision regarding the 2008 law. The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies' customers. The court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity's role in helping the government gather intelligence. "It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies ... and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, 'the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'" Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

Predictions for 2012: Games Go Outside the Box - (Pop Sci - December 12, 2011)
When Nintendo launches the Wii U later this year, it will also be launching the next generation of videogame consoles, a group expected to include, as early as 2013, the successors to Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. In the past, each new crop represented a major leap forward in graphics-rendering power. But there's not much else manufacturers can do to make pictures more detailed-at least until displays catch up. Instead, they will expand the gaming experience itself. Gamers may start a game on their console, for example, but they'll be able to pick it up again on their smartphone. That shift will also change how games are published, away from the disc-based model and toward more downloadable and cloud-based content.

Worm Steals 45,000 Facebook Passwords - (BBC News - January 5, 2012)
The data is believed to have been taken largely from Facebook accounts in the UK and France, according to security firm Seculert. The culprit is a well-known piece of malware - dubbed Ramnit - which has been around since April, 2010 and has previously stolen banking details. Social networks offer rich pickings for hackers because of the huge amount of personal data that is stored on them. Increasingly malware is being updated for the social networking age. "It appears that sophisticated hackers are now experimenting with replacing the old-school email worms with more up-to-date social network worms. As demonstrated by the 45,000 compromised Facebook subscribers, the viral power of social networks can be manipulated to cause considerable damage to individuals and institutions.

Sweden's Tobii Shows 'Gaze Control' on Windows 8 PC - (Computer World - January 9, 2012)
We've had gesture control with Microsoft Kinect. Now get ready for gaze control. Swedish firm Tobii is at the Consumer Electronics Show this week to promote the use of its eye tracking technology in PCs and tablets, though it could be a couple of years before it's ready for mainstream use. The technology uses a sensor built into the monitor which tracks eye movements and translates them into actions on the screen. Instead of moving the cursor with a mouse or touchpad to click a link on the screen, looking at the link makes the cursor appear there immediately.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Electrofuels Bump Up Solar Efficiency - (Electrical and Chemical Engineering News - November 28, 2011)
Photosynthesis is not efficient at converting sunlight into usable energy, and future global energy demand is expected to outstrip nature's ability to provide the fuels we have grown to depend on. So researchers are seeking ways to improve on it. One promising method is through the use of electrofuels, which are made with energy from the sun and renewable inorganic feedstocks such as carbon dioxide and water in processes facilitated by nonphotosynthetic microorganisms or Earth-abundant metal catalysts. The technology for making an "artificial leaf" holds the potential for opening an era of "fast-food energy," in which people generate their own electricity at home with low-cost equipment perfect for the 3 billion people living in developing countries and even home-owners in the United States. That's among the prospects emerging from research on a new genre of "electrofuels".

E-Cat Weekly - (Pure Energy Systems - January 5, 2012)
In the recent past, there have been at least 80 stories on the web, 4 from mainstream news, regarding Andrea Rossi's E-Cat powered by LENR or cold fusion. The hottest theme was Rossi's assertion that he is in discussion with Home Depot to distribute 1 million home heat units this Autumn for less than $2,000 USD. Reality will probably dictate a longer time-line.

China Trumpets Completion of World's Largest Battery Energy Storage Station - (Engadget - January 7, 2012)
Construction has just been completed on the Zhangbei-based project, which marries 40 Mega-Watts of renewable energy generation (both wind and solar), 36 Mega-Watt-Hours (MWh) of energy storage and a smart power transmission system. The goal? To provide a "stable solution for transferring vast amounts of renewable electricity safely to the grid on an unprecedented scale." While there are renewable generation systems of this scale in service today, there are no battery systems of this size. Article includes press release and video clip with more details.

Project to Pour Water into Volcano to Make Power - (Phys Org - January 14, 2012)
Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant Central Oregon volcano this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise. They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn't dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes - without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Honeybee Deaths Linked to Seed Insecticide Exposure - (Purdue Univ. - January 11, 2012)
Honeybee populations have been in serious decline for years, and Purdue University scientists may have identified one of the factors that cause bee deaths around agricultural fields. Analyses of bees found dead in and around hives from several apiaries over two years in Indiana showed the presence of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting. The research showed that those insecticides were present at high concentrations in waste talc that is exhausted from farm machinery during planting.

The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Food - (Atlantic - January 9, 2012)
Chinese researchers have found small pieces of rice ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to receptors in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood. The type of RNA in question is called microRNA (abbreviated to miRNA) due to its small size. MiRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been implicated as players in several human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. They usually function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. The Chinese research provides the first in vivo example of ingested plant miRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function in this way. Should the research survive scientific scrutiny -- a serious hurdle -- it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we're eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but gene regulators as well.

US to Start 'Trade Wars' with Nations Opposed to Monsanto, GMO Crops - (Natural Society - January 3, 2012)
The United States is threatening nations who oppose Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) crops with military-style trade wars, according to information obtained and released by the organization WikiLeaks. Nations like France, which have moved to ban one of Monsanto's GM corn varieties, were requested to be 'penalized' by the United States for opposing Monsanto and genetically modified foods. The information reveals just how deep Monsanto's roots have penetrated key positions within the United States government, with the cables reporting that many U.S. diplomats work directly for Monsanto. The WikiLeaks cable reveals that in late 2007, the United States ambassador to France and business partner to George W. Bush, Craig Stapleton, requested that the European Union along with particular nations that did not support GMO crops be penalized.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

More US Soldiers Committed Suicide Than Died in Combat - (Project Censored - January, 2012)
For the second year (2010) in a row, more US soldiers killed themselves (468) than died in combat (462). "If you… know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know," General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times, "because we don't know." See also: The Horrors of Bagging Soldiers' Bodies in Iraq

DARPA's Spy Telescope Will Stream Real-Time Video from Any Spot on Earth - (Network World - December 19, 2011)
Satellites zooming in at any time on any spot on globe to stream real-time video is like something you see in the movies, but DARPA has envisioned a giant spy eye with a massive contact lens peering down at our planet to meet national security needs. This lens would be about 66 feet in diameter and would be attached to a space-based spy telescope in order to hover in orbit and "take real-time images or live video of any spot on Earth." DARPA said such capabilities do not currently exist, but the Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) program will change all of that. "Taking live video of a single location would require satellites to hover by matching the Earth's rotation in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles high - but creating and launching a space telescope with the huge optics arrays capable of seeing ground details from such high orbit has proven difficult," reported MSNBC. It is estimated that the equipment could cost around $500 million.

Stuxnet Weapon Has at Least 4 Cousins - (Reuters - December 28, 2011)
The Stuxnet virus that last year damaged Iran's nuclear program was likely one of at least five cyber weapons developed on a single platform whose roots trace back to 2007, according to new research from Russian computer security firm Kaspersky Lab. Security experts widely believe that the United States and Israel were behind Stuxnet, though the two nations have officially declined to comment on the matter. Stuxnet has already been linked to another virus, the Duqu data-stealing trojan, but Kaspersky's research suggests the cyber weapons program that targeted Iran may be far more sophisticated than previously known. (Duqu is a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) designed to steal data from computers it infects. It was discovered by the Laboratory of Cryptography and Systems Security (CrySys) at Budapest University. For more information on Duqu, see: this.

Pentagon Creates Invisibility Cloak that May Lead to More Effective Spying - (The State Column - January 5, 2012)
Scientists working in conjunction with the Pentagon have announced the creation of a "time hole." A team at Cornell University, working with the support of DARPA, announced Wednesday that they have managed to hide an event for 40 picoseconds. Scientists said the experiment has yielded results consistent with a phenomenon known as "temporal cloaking," The experiment is thought to be the first time that scientists have succeeded in masking an event, though research teams have in recent years made remarkable strides in cloaking objects. Scientists said they were able to achieve temporal cloaking by altering the speed of light beams, similar to those used for data transmission. The scientists said that through the use of various lenses, they shifted the speed of light, causing some beams to travel faster and others slower. For a video clip interview of the Cornell team, see this.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

Montana High Court Upholds Ban on Election Spending by Corporations - (Great Falls Tribune - December 30, 2011)
The Montana Supreme Court restored the state's century-old ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees in a ruling Friday that interest groups say bucks a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court decision granting political speech rights to corporations. "The Citizens United decision dealt with federal laws and elections - like those contests for president and Congress," said Attorney General Steve Bullock, who is now running for governor. "But the vast majority of elections are held at the state or local level, and this is the first case I am aware of that examines state laws and elections."

Bye Bye Blackbird - USDA Has Admitted to Poisoning Millions of Birds - (Earth Issues - December 11, 2011)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has publicly admitted it is responsible for the mass poisoning of tens of millions of birds over the last several years. It's all part of the USDA's program called "Bye Bye Blackbird". (Editor's Note: Normally, we would consider this article "farfetched" at best and a number of the links do not work. But the link to this mainstream television news report is functioning. And the USDA's 744 page spreadsheet documenting how many millions of birds and other animals they've "killed/euthanized", how many they have "removed/destroyed", how many "freed/released" and how many "dispersed" in 2009 does work. On page 744, the USDA shows the total under "killed/euthanized" in 2009 is 4,120,291. To give this some perspective, please note that the number of birds and animals "dispersed" was slightly more than four times greater at 16,851,173.)



GLOBAL RELATIONS

Global Warfare: Targeting Iran: Preparing for World War III - (Global Research - January 3, 2012)
Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the US military's Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon. According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon's military road-map consists of a sequence of war theaters: "[The] five-year campaign plan [includes]... a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan." A War on Iran has been on the drawing board of The Pentagon since 2004. In recent developments, what is unfolding is an integrated attack plan on Iran led by the US, with the participation of the United Kingdom and Israel. See also: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that the planned maneuvers with Israel, dubbed Austere Challenge, will be "the largest joint exercise in the history" of U.S.-Israeli relations. What had been a biannual series of command-post computer training with simulated forces held in Germany has been expanded this year to Israel and will include U.S. Army combat troops on the ground in Israel, commanded and maneuvered by joint U.S.-Israeli command centers in Europe and Israel.

Time to Attack Iran - (Foreign Affairs - January, 2012)
A nuclear-armed Iran would immediately limit U.S. freedom of action in the Middle East. With atomic power behind it, Iran could threaten any U.S. political or military initiative in the Middle East with nuclear war, forcing Washington to think twice before acting in the region. Iran's regional rivals, such as Saudi Arabia, would likely decide to acquire their own nuclear arsenals, sparking an arms race. To constrain its geopolitical rivals, Iran could choose to spur proliferation by transferring nuclear technology to its allies -- other countries and terrorist groups alike. Having the bomb would give Iran greater cover for conventional aggression and coercive diplomacy, and the battles between its terrorist proxies and Israel, for example, could escalate. And Iran and Israel lack nearly all the safeguards that helped the United States and the Soviet Union avoid a nuclear exchange during the Cold War -- secure second-strike capabilities, clear lines of communication, long flight times for ballistic missiles from one country to the other, and experience managing nuclear arsenals. To be sure, a nuclear-armed Iran would not intentionally launch a suicidal nuclear war. But the volatile nuclear balance between Iran and Israel could easily spiral out of control as a crisis unfolds, resulting in a nuclear exchange between the two countries that could draw the United States in, as well. (Editor's Note: the Foreign Affairs article is paywalled, so a different link to the same content is provided. The article opens with a mention that in October, U.S. officials accused Iranian operatives of planning to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States on American soil. For an different perspective on that accusation, see: this.)

China's Skyscraper Craze May Herald Economic Crash - (Guardin - January 11, 2012)
China could be the next country to go bust, if its headlong rush to build ever-taller skyscrapers is a guide to its future economic health. According to a study by Barclays Capital, the mania for skyscrapers over the last 140 years is a sure indicator of an imminent crash. It points out that the construction boom that threw up New York's Chrysler and Empire State buildings preceded the New York crash of 1929 and Great Depression. More recently, Dubai built a forest of skyscraping offices, hotels and apartment buildings, including the world's tallest, the Burj Khalifa, before it got into terrible financial difficulties. In 2010 Dubai had to be bailed out by its neighbour, Abu Dhabi, to avoid going bankrupt. See also: China's Collapse Will Bring Economic Crisis to Climax in 2012



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Work Reimagined; Detroit Gets Creative - (Nation of Change - January 6, 2012)
See how residents of America's most famously down and out city are building livelihoods that also rebuild their communities. Among other projects, there are now over 1,600 farms and gardens in Detroit, producing over 3 tons of food annually, nurturing a new education paradigm, and creating social enterprises that build community and capital. When pieced together, these projects aren't merely aimed at figuring out ways for people to make a living. The city is becoming a place, in certain pockets, where citizenship isn't defined by voting and paying taxes. It's thought of more broadly-creative collaboration to create new ways of living out of necessity.

Americans Buy Record Numbers of Guns for Christmas - (Telegraph - January 1, 2012)
According to the FBI, over 1.5 million background checks on customers were requested by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in December. Nearly 500,000 of those were in the six days before Christmas. It was the highest number ever in a single month, surpassing the previous record set in November. Explanations for America's surge in gun buying include that it is a response to the stalled economy with people fearing crime waves. Another theory is that buyers are rushing to gun shops because they believe tighter firearms laws will be introduced in the future.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Gigantic Gas Cloud on Collision Course with Milky Way - (Daily Galaxy - January 2, 2012)
"We might be witnessing the final stages of the formation process of our galaxy, " says W. Butler Burton, radio astronomer. A giant cloud of hydrogen gas, clocked at more than 150 miles per second per second, is closing in very fast on the Milky Way, likely setting off a huge burst of star formation. At its current speed, the cloud will collide with interstellar gas in the Milky Way's disk in less than 40 million years, condensing into tens of thousands of bright, massive stars that will explode as supernovas within a couple of million years.

Scientists Suggest Moon Photos May Reveal Extraterrestrial Visitation - (Huffington Post - December 28, 2011)
Scientists from Arizona State University are proposing that closely examining high resolution photographs of the moon, retrieved by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), may reveal "incontrovertible signatures of non-human technology." They argue that such a project is worthwhile and could be accomplished with a small budget. ASU's Dr. Paul Davies and undergraduate student, Robert Wagner, submitted their paper, "Searching for alien artifacts on the moon", to Acta Astronautica, the official journal of the International Academy of Astronautics. In order to save money, they suggest the job could be outsourced to the general public, similar to the SETI@home and Galaxy Zoo projects. Once the pictures are released to the public, citizens could report anomalies to scientists for examination. The LRO has already taken over 340,000 images and is expected to have taken one million by the time it is finished.



DEMOGRAPHICS

Youth Bulge - (UPI - January 3, 2012)
With more than 50% of the world's population under age 30, e-mail is already passé. Some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts. The social gamers have taken center stage. Facebook now tops Google+. E-readers surpass book readers. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world (after China and India). Now at 93%, almost all marketers use social media for business. Eighty percent of companies use Facebook for recruiting. One-in-five couples meets on line. For gays, it's three-in-five. One-in-five divorces is blamed on Facebook. Fifty percent of Internet traffic in Britain is for Facebook, which now adds 200 million a year, the same number that use it every 24 hours.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Global Risks Survey 2011 - (World Economic Forum - January 11, 2012)
Based on the responses of 469 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society, the Global Risks 2012 report (151 pages plus videos and maps) discusses the interactions of various risks and how they can impact all stakeholders. Three distinct constellations of risks posing a serious threat to future prosperity and security emerged from this year's set of responses. Case 1: Seeds of Dystopia - The first case explores the danger that could arise if declining economic conditions break the social contracts between states and citizens. In the absence of viable alternative models, this could precipitate a downward spiral of the global economy fuelled by protectionism, nationalism and populism. Case 2: How Safe Are Our Safeguards? - The complexities inherent in globalization require engaging a wider group of stakeholders to establish more adaptable safeguards that could improve effective and timely responses to emerging risks. Case 3: The Dark Side of Connectivity - While significant material and human resources were required in the past to exercise geopolitical or geo-economic influence, borders have become permeable as power shifts from the physical to the virtual world. A healthy digital space is needed to ensure stability in the world economy and balance of power.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Can We Build Tomorrow's Breakthroughs? - (Technology Review - January, 2012)
Academic researchers have begun documenting the complex connections between innovation and manufacturing with an eye to clarifying how the loss of U.S. manufacturing could affect the emergence of new technologies. For many people in industry, the connections between innovation and manufacturing are a given-and a reason to worry. "We have learned that without a foothold in manufacturing, the ability to innovate is significantly compromised," says GE's Idelchik. The problem with outsourcing production is not just that you eventually lose your engineering expertise but that "businesses become dependent on someone else's innovation for next-generation products." One repercussion, he says, is that researchers and engineers lose their understanding of the manufacturing process and what it can do: "You can design anything you want, but if no one can manufacture it, who cares?"



FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.

Kanzi, a Bonobo Ape Has Learned to Make and Cook with Fire - (Daily Mail - December 30, 2011)
Like all red-blooded males, Kanzi loves messing around with a barbecue. But Kanzi is a bonobo, (a pygmy chimpanzee), and his love of fire is challenging the way that we think about our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Kanzi is one of eight bonobos in the care of Dr Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, one of the world's leading experts in ape behavior and language. With two other apes at the centre, he uses paper keyboards to communicate. In conversation with the researchers he points to symbols, known as lexigrams, on the keyboards representing different words. He has learnt to 'say' around 500 words through the keyboard, and understands 3,000 spoken words. He also enjoys toasting marshmallows on his own grill. Article contains many photos and a video clip.



JUST FOR FUN

Kaleidoscope - (Inoyan - no date)
Here is a virtual kaleidoscope - and just as glorious as the kaleidoscope you may remember from childhood. Move your curser around on the page and see what happens. Or do nothing and let the magic happen anyway.



TWO FINAL QUOTATIONS...

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. - Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Sit, be still, and listen for you are drunk and we are at the edge of the roof. - Jaläl ad-Dïn Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273)



A special thanks to: Allan Balliett, Tom Burgin, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Tom Carter, Kevin Clark, Eric Davis, Larry Dossey, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Jeanne Mozier, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Stu Rose, John Steiner, Jeff Stegman, Gary Sycalik, Hal Taylor, 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.
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org



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Edited by John L. Petersen
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org
www.arlingtoninstitute.org

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