Volume 15, Number 9 - 5/15/12 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • One in six cancers - two million a year globally - are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest.


  • Drone strikes, electronic surveillance and stealth engagements as well as dependence on private corporations, mercenary armies and terrorist groups, are now arguably more common as tools of US foreign policy than conventional warfare or diplomacy.


  • Demographic indicator: in Japan, sales of adult diapers exceeded those for babies for the first time last year.


  • A mysterious kind of brain nerve cell that has been linked to empathy, self-awareness, and even consciousness resides in Old World monkeys. The finding extends the domain of the neurons beyond humans, great apes and other large-brained creatures.



PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

KRYON Coming to Berkeley Springs

There has been an increasing amount of solar storm activity in the last two weeks. This energy hits the earth and our magnetic field and affects our weather and climate, earth changes like earthquakes and volcanoes and, scientists now say, our DNA. The unusual cosmic energy is changing who we are as humans.

Lee Carroll channels the extraordinary entity KRYON who talks very specifically about this DNA change and what the implications will be. Lee and KRYON are coming to Berkeley Springs again on the 30th of June. We always have a good turnout for this full-afternoon event, so I wanted to let you know now so that you could plan accordingly.

Over the last 20-plus years, KRYON has provided unparalleled wisdom – often about our science – that has always turned out to be accurate. Over and over again he has explained the mechanics of aspects of biology, physics, astronomy and many other physical domains, only to have the exact descriptions published in major scientific journals a year or two later by scientists who “discovered” the principles to be true.

Lately, KRYON has been describing the functioning of DNA and how humans are evolving into a new version of the species. It is a message that is quite encouraging.

In this year of epic changes, hearing the insightful, forward-looking perspectives of Lee and KRYON will certainly help anyone position themselves for the coming global transition.

Hope you can make it. Get more information here.

Discovering Truth

I’d like to talk here a bit about discovering truth and why it is not as easy as most people think – particularly in this time of extraordinary change. Let’s start with global warming – not climate change, but global warming.

Global Warming Is Not

For the last 12 years, the earth has not significantly warmed. Contrary to the models’ vitriol, politics and various films, there has not been global warming as we were warned. As MSNBC was quoted in this recent article, Alert: ‘Gaia’ scientist James Lovelock reverses himself: "I was ‘alarmist’ about climate change & so was Gore! ‘The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago.’"

The piece continues: “Contrast Lovelock’s 2012 skeptical climate views with his 2007 beliefs during the height of the man-made climate fear movement. [ Flashback 2007: Lovelock Predicts Global Warming Doom: ‘Billions of us will die; few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in Arctic’ ]”

Climate Depot chimed in with SHOCK 2010: UK Green Guru James Lovelock Reconsiders Warming Views?!: Lovelock: Man-made Carbon Emissions ‘Have Saved Us from A New Ice Age’—Lovelock: ‘I hate all this business about feeling guilty about what we’re doing. We’re not guilty’—‘We haven’t learned the lessons of the ozone-hole debate. It’s important to know just how much you have got to be careful’—‘According to Dr Lovelock’s Gaia theory, the earth is capable of curing itself. ‘A planet that is effectively alive can regulate itself and its composition and climate,” he said’


A thoughtful, researcher friend piled on with 20 reasons to do nothing about global warming.

THE WORLD is not warming as fast as predicted. There is no scientific reason why it ever will. Even if the world warmed as fast as predicted, it would be many times more cost-effective to adapt in a focused way to any adverse consequences of future warming than to spend any money now. The science is in, the truth is out, Al Gore is through, the game is up, and the scare is over. Twenty reasons to do nothing about warming:
  1. A generation ago, the IPCC’s first Assessment Report in 1990 provided high, medium and low estimates of how much warming would occur by today. The real-world, measured outturn is below the IPCC’s lowest model-based estimate. The models, and the “consensus”, got it wrong.

  2. The models and the “consensus” get it wrong because all 7 of the key parameters in the fundamental equation of climate sensitivity – the CO2 radiative forcing, the Planck sensitivity parameter and five “temperature feedbacks” – are unmeasured, unmeasurable, unknown, and unknowable. The models that are the basis for the “consensus” are expensive guesswork.

  3. The IPCC admits the climate is a mathematically-chaotic object, so that “the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible”, whether by central estimates surrounded by error-bars or, for that matter, by the IPCC’s attempts at probability distributions.

  4. The scientists’ final draft of the IPCC’s second Assessment Report in 1995 plainly said five times that no human influence on climate was discernible and it was not known when it would be discernible. At the IPCC’s request, a single scientist replaced all five statements with a single statement saying the opposite. The “consensus” is a consensus of one man. He, and it, are wrong.

  5. Aristotle, 2300 years ago, said that the argument from consensus was a logical fallacy. If we are told many people say they believe a thing is so, that is no evidence that many say they believe it, still less that they believe it, still less that it is so. Science is based on evidence, not head-counts.

  6. The notion that learned experts must be right is Aristotle’s fallacy of argument from authority. If we are told the experts believe a thing is so, that is no evidence that their reputation is deserved, still less that they are acting in accordance with it, still less that what they assert is true. Science is not based on the speculations of “experts”, however profitable, but on hard evidence.

  7. The third Assessment Report in 2001 said there was no medieval warm period, but the IPCC’s “hockey-stick” graph of 1000 years’ temperatures has been exposed as a scientific fraud. Papers by 1000+ scientists from 400+ institutions in 40+ countries provide hard, real-world evidence that the medieval warm period was real, global, and warmer than the present.

  8. By a statistical trick that the IPCC has refused to justify or correct, the fourth Assessment Report in 2007 said the world was warming ever faster and we were to blame. It isn’t. We’re not.

  9. NOAA’s State of the Climate report in 2008 said the models would be proven wrong if there was no global warming for 15 years. There has been no warming for 15 years. The models are wrong.

  10. Over the six decades since 1950, the world has warmed at a rate equivalent to little more than 1 Celsius/century. Yet the IPCC predicts 3 C° over the 21st century. That is thrice what is observed.

  11. Sea level in the past 8 years has risen at a rate equivalent to just 1.3 inches/century.

  12. The 50 million “climate refugees” the UN confidently and loudly predicted by 2010 do not exist.

  13. Hurricane activity in the two years 2010 to 2011 was at its lowest in the 30-year satellite record.

  14. Arctic sea-ice loss is largely matched by gains in Antarctic sea ice, for Antarctica has cooled.

  15. The IPCC said Himalayan glaciers will be gone in 25 years. It has admitted it was wrong. There has been little or no net loss of Himalayan ice in recent decades.

  16. The UK Government’s figures indicate that the cost of action to prevent global warming is more than twice the benefit. The true cost/benefit ratio is 10-100 times worse.

  17. No policy to abate global warming by taxing, trading, regulating, reducing, or replacing CO2 emissions will be cost-effective solely on grounds of the welfare benefit from climate mitigation. Since the premium so very greatly exceeds the cost of the risk, don’t insure.

  18. CO2 mitigation strategies inexpensive enough to be affordable will be ineffective; strategies costly enough to be effective will be unaffordable. Focused adaptation (if necessary) would be better.

  19. The failed draft of the UNFCCC Copenhagen Treaty, using climate as the pretext, would have established an unelected world “government” with vast powers. The Cancun agreement created almost 1000 world-government bureaucracies. The draft Durban agreement would have given legal rights to Mother Earth, set up an international climate court against Western nations, and halved CO2 concentration to 200 ppmv (parts per million by volume), killing plants, animals, and humans wholesale.

  20. Windmills kill rare birds and bats by the million and destroy the rural environment. Thousands of square miles of China have been wrecked by the acid-process for extracting the rare earths such as neodymium that go into electric cars’ batteries and windmills’ generators (2 tons Nd per windmill). Palm-oil monocultures for biofuels are among the biggest destroyers of forests worldwide. Herr Jean Ziegler, the UN’s Right-to-Food Rapporteur, said in 2007: “When millions are going hungry, the diversion of food to biofuels is a crime against humanity.” Today, the greatest threat to the environment is environmentalism.
So, it looks like millions of people and billions of dollars were chasing something that the “scientific community” thought was true -- but it wasn’t. Twice that has been the case now – if you missed the comment by Lovelock that the ozone hole was a similar fiasco.

The question therefore is, how, in the face of all of the flying information and egos do we determine what is true or not?

Let me try something on you here. What if I told you that automobiles were dangerous because a car traveling sixty miles an hour (about 100 km/hr) could kill over 100 people and therefore should be, say, driven no faster than 30 miles per hour.

If you thought about that a bit, you’d probably come back to me and say, “Wait a minute there. What do you mean that a car traveling that speed could kill over 100 people? That doesn’t make sense.” If I then told you that well, if you packed 50 people up shoulder-to-shoulder and packed belly-to-back, bunched them into the corner of a reinforced concrete structure and got another 50 people to sit on their shoulders -- and then drove a car straight at them and put it into a slide so that it hit them broadside, the amount of energy produced by that moving mass can clearly be shown to be enough force to kill 100 people -- what would you then say? If you were me, you’d respond, “But that’s not how life works. That’s almost impossible. You’re not playing fair here. You’re not being honest.”

But that kind of manipulation of data is what seems to happening, in part, at least with a new global concern that is sweeping the planet.

Fukushima-Di-ichi and the end of all life on the planet

About three weeks ago I started finding and receiving articles like this.

FOIA Documents Reveal NRC Cover-Up, Deception Over Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

According to several stunning editorials by authors Lucas W. Hixon and Joy Thompson on the website Enformable.com, evidence obtained through an FOIA request reveals a ‘cover-up’ by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an effort to conceal the severity of the meltdowns in Fukushima, Japan.

Radiation Levels in California Rain Recorded at 506% Above Normal

A radiation test carried out after a storm swept through Southern California has recorded radiation at 506% above normal background levels.

The EnviroReporter, through their Inspector Alert nuclear radiation monitor, has conducted over 1,500 radiation tests with the most recent one being by far the highest levels seen.


I had so many friends and readers sending me information about what supposedly was going on that I got all worked up and started to collect all of the scary articles to put in this piece. Then I noticed that some of the sources that everyone was quoting were saying things like: each of the 1200 spent fuel rods in the number four reactor could kill 2.3 billion people. I thought about that and started to dig and found, that like my automobile example above, in order to make that case one had to assume that each rod decomposed to the smallest particles, each of which was distributed, one particle to each human all across the planet. That, of course, is not how things work and therefore I found some of those “facts” more than a little disingenuous.

Then they were also saying that 14,000 babies died from the Fukushima fallout in the first month after the disaster, not in Japan but on the U.S west coast. The reports I have been reading say that no one in Japan – not even the workers who have been inside of the destroyed reactors – have died from radiation, but here are “experts” saying that many thousands of American babies did. It didn’t sound right to me. So, I turned to a dear friend and extraordinary researcher and asked her to look into it. Here’s what I got back.

John, I’m a bit embarrassed to send you this rushed, surface-skimming overview of the free-floating miasma that is the “nuclear wars” topic. In the limited time I had to drill down into so vast a field, I tried to distil what seems to me to be the salient aspects of the vast subject, and then I cherry-picked the most representative (if not most authoritative – no such thing in 2012) or at least noteworthy or useful source(s) to each aspect. This barely scratches the surface, needless to say … And my assumption is, as always, that you already know all of what’s below, and more than I do, anyway, and will spot the obvious gaps --
  1. Current known situational status in Japan – broadest overview. See a summary by Greenpeace here (factual while not agenda-free, of course – none such exists). See also here about protests in Japan, now that the last reactor is shut down (and, just by the way, here about current status of quake-tsunami debris removal), and here for running daily updates. Latest: TEPCO has just been effectively nationalized (taken into “protective custody” by the Japanese government).

  2. Massive controversy and a myriad of voices. Quantification of topic info providers: For an interesting and useful (though limited) mapping mashup of the post-Fukushima radiation debate online, see this graphic aggregation and analysis of the many spheres and categories of actors involved. Using Navicrawler to scrape, refine and structure official data, the resultant graph depicts websites taking part in the radiation issue – producing and using info, and debating the nature, location and level of radiation – as nodes. The project also provides a list of the websites utilized, with the data sets ranked according to a hits algorithm - numerically and cluster-wise. The mapped topology shows the highly polarized nature of the issue, mainly between official sources (Japanese ministries, prefectures, industries, international organizations, and universities) and civil society (delineated here as anti-nuclear activists, independent bloggers, citizen and neighborhood defense group, and the “mother and children defense organization”).

    Excluded from this exercise: global debates raging in discussion groups, personal/grassroots Web commentary, alternative news outlets – and, of course, all “unconventional” info sharing. Though these info outposts constitute minefields for discernment, my own opinion/bias is that this fact shows up the real limitations and partial-only nature of this project. Still pretty interesting to me, though. 

    Note, especially: The above mapping project also provides only a temporary snapshot of the ongoing great online debate – this one harnessed in August 2011, but published with a brief update in March 2012. Another beautiful version of the graph here, published in Der Freitag. (If you want me to translate the German text, just let me know.)

    Two aspects to the global debate. One year on, the debates seem to have settled into a) a fiercely renewed disagreement globally about the general/theoretical need for and wisdom of nuclear power. One article (from a great many) summing up the four main global polarizing perspectives and a number of international stances here. And b) an acute info war, spanning the entire voice spectrum from “Crisis? What crisis? Utter nonsense!” on the one end to “End of the world – we’re already dying and everything is being hushed up” on the other – between the establishment actors and the activists/radical concerned counterculturals.

  3. In b) above, a few voices carry (perhaps) more viral influence than others.

    * Most often quoted/reposted source on the mainstream concerned/pessimist side: Gunderson and Robert Alvarez, IPS, ex US DOE (Why Fukushima Is a Greater Disaster than Chernobyl and a Warning Sign for the U.S.) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) (After Tour of Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, Wyden Says Situation Worse than Reported). As expected, Wyden drew much criticism for “politicking without being a knowledgeable scientist” – see, e.g., Steve Skotnik (Overheated rods & rhetoric). French sociologist Paul Jobin’s concerns are also often quoted/reposted, including his reference to Japanese Minister of Health Kosako resignation (in tears on TV).

    The enormous controversy around the details of actual and “allowable” radiation levels (specifically in Japan, in the USA, and generally elsewhere) is too huge to touch here … See just one recent example here of the ongoing tests and claims and investigations.

    * Recent typically quoted/reposted source on the mainstream unconcerned/optimist/pro-business side – the usual suspects – from too many to mention: TIME (“ … it appears now that the disaster wasn't as serious as many experts first believed — with even the Fukushima emergency workers spared dangerous exposure to radiation … ”); WSJ (“Fukushima Health Impact: Minimal?”); MediaCorp Asia Channel News (“Fukushima Prefecture: Unfounded fears over radiation contamination has badly affected the whole of Japan's northern Tohoku region.” ‘These are levels that are comparable to major cities like Singapore and New York. The measurement is even lower than in Seoul.”)

    * The independent, more “radical” view: Most notable for me, this report (FOIA accessed NRC meeting transcript) in March on EneNews, the outing/activist site for all things Fukushima-related (Controversy after US gov’t estimate showed 40,000 microsievert thyroid dose for California infants from Fukushima — Data not released to public — “Very high doses to children”). An insightful, while not surprising, read!

    This *seemingly* lends support to the most prevalent conspiracy claims around the Web that the NRC projected a possible maximum thyroid dose at that lethal level and suppressed their intel; that they did not issue even a cautionary advisory pending plume arrival and actual West Coast measurements; and that they issued an "all clear," crossing their fingers. Consensus in more radical/activist circles: Just because “we lucked out” doesn't eliminate the NRC's gross dereliction of duty.

    Note: The argument here that “we lucked out” (re plume arrival) seems to contradict the ongoing claim in the same circles that “the worst is yet to be.” Or does it?

    (Regarding “plume arrival” and subsequent claims, see, just for example, AN UNEXPECTED MORTALITY INCREASE IN THE UNITED STATES FOLLOWS ARRIVAL OF THE RADIOACTIVE PLUME FROM FUKUSHIMA: IS THERE A CORRELATION? here – quoted on/linked to from countless alt sites; see also alt report on the so-called “Plume-gate”/FOIA NRC transcript here.)

    My usual favorite alt website (note my own bias/worldview herewith), ZeroHedge, had a representative summary here, also quoting Wyden, titled Fukushima Fuel Pools Are an American National Security Issue, among regular posts on the topic.

    I no longer follow the worst of the tabloidy alt sites, the content of which are IMO just too unsubstantiated or sensationalism-driven, such as NaturalNews, infowars.com/Alex Jones, and many similar ones – but Jones did have a rather useful issue summary here a few weeks ago.

  4. Recent and ongoing studies and tests. Random examples: Highest Estimate Yet: Fukushima about equal to Chernobyl, says US gov’t funded study (Enenews report) – actual study here; Washington fish tested for tsunami-related radiation (report); in Japan, latest on schools tested civil groups by: Nuclear 'hot spots' detected at 20 schools in Fukushima, also reported here.

  5. Related issues beyond Fukushima as such. The disaster triggered renewed debate (and political infighting) across the entire energy landscape, not limited to but most notably in these areas:

    *The global nuclear waste disposal conundrum: See, for example, here, and here (in 2 parts).

    *Nuclear vs. fossil and other forms of energy: Examples here, and here.

    *What comprises “clean energy?”: Here. Important and interesting to me!

    *Developing nuclear policy in the US (expanding evacuation policy, etc.): Example here.  

  6. My personal opinion, for what it’s worth. As you know, in this and all political wars I accept/believe barely a word coming from official and mainstream sources, though I follow the strategic developments and try to discern where the partisan/vested/moneyed interests lead. I always lean towards the alternative info sources, bearing in mind that they’re far from being paragons of virtue, either. I really don’t know, John. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was going through my (typical) youthful save-the-world developmental phase, I was quite active in the anti-nuclear movement in the then fledgling nuke industry – and it saddens me now to see how little the strategies and arguments and claims and statistics quoted on both sides of the nuclear divide have changed – let alone advanced - (beyond some structural-related detail updates due to the changed times): in most ways, we’re fighting the exact same wars, making more or less the same claims, using the same forms of argumentation and claims, as three decades ago. (Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.") I just can’t think the extremes on either side regarding (post-)Fukushima is correct – but I do suspect, from all I’ve read and followed, that the fallout (in every sense of the word) is probably much worse than any official authority lets on – or even knows. The end of the world, though? What does that even mean?
Then this piece came out about a week ago:

Nuclear Cheerleaders Use Voodoo Science to Pretend Low Levels of Radiation Are Safe Or Even Good For You

My friends who have PhDs in nuclear engineering scoff at the notion that low levels of radiation are harmful, saying that we live in an intrinsically (low level) radioactive environment. They talk about concrete structures all having low levels of radiation and walking across the yard on a sunny day and flying in aircraft exposing you. One very credible friend who had worked with nuclear power generators all of his life told me that he had, on a number of occasions been exposed to amounts of radiation that the “experts” were now saying were dangerous but he was in good health and approaching 90 and knew that these assertions were unfounded.

So, I don’t really know what is really real here -- what is true. . This could be bad or might not be. It’s hard for find anyone who is truly objective. In any case, I’m not certain what to do about it right now.

But here’s my bottom line: For those of us who believe that we exist is a benign reality that is moving us all through the end of one era (that of course must necessarily end) toward a new world that has every indication of being quite wonderful, these kind of events will not be the end of the world – at least our world. Something extraordinary is going on and there are a lot of moving parts in play and, by definition, it’s too complicated for mere mortals to fully understand what really is happening and what it means.

Furthermore, many “unconventional” sources that we have quoted here and recommended to you, very specifically say that there will be great trying events during this period and our job is not to get caught up in all of the drama and give energy to the dystopian possibilities that will continue to swirl around us for the coming months. In fact, it will probably get worse, with big earthquakes and other solar-engendered events on the horizon, (to say nothing about the global financial system that is clearly not doing well), so we might think of this Fukushima situation as just a dry-run for a growing series of increasingly impressive events.

I don’t think we came this far in our evolutionary process to all die before the new world could emerge. We’ve done better than that.

A Rather Interesting Angle to the Issue

What isn’t mentioned much in the attempt to fan up a catastrophe is the very interesting story bubbling around underneath all of the high-profile stuff – the possibility that Japan has nuclear weapons and that part of the lack of transparency is their (and the U.S.’s) attempt to see that that secret is not exposed. Here are a couple of pointers to that possibility.

United States Circumvented Laws To Help Japan Accumulate Tons of Plutonium

The United States deliberately allowed Japan access to the United States’ most secret nuclear weapons facilities while it transferred tens of billions of dollars worth of American tax paid research that has allowed Japan to amass 70 tons of weapons grade plutonium since the 1980s, a National Security News Service investigation reveals.

Missing' plutonium leaves nuclear industry red-faced

About 200 kilograms of plutonium produced by a Japanese nuclear plant - enough to make 25 nuclear bombs - have technically gone "missing", Japanese authorities have revealed. Secret Weapons Program Inside Fukushima Nuclear Plant?

U.S.-Japan security treaty fatally delayed nuclear workers' fight against meltdown

The smoke and mirrors at Fukushima 1 seem to obscure a steady purpose, an iron will and a grim task unknown to outsiders. The most logical explanation: The nuclear industry and government agencies are scrambling to prevent the discovery of atomic-bomb research facilities hidden inside Japan's civilian nuclear power plants.

That’s it for now. Back to you in a couple of weeks.



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Property Rights in the Cloud – (Nation of Change – May 5, 2012)
In the last few years, major technology companies have become integral to interpersonal communication and information management. At the same time, many of these firms have tweaked user agreements in exactly the way Google has, helping the industry legally position itself for a mass intellectual property grab. That means whether you are using a photo-sharing site or a web-based email account, you may have signed off on letting one of these corporations do whatever it wants with your data. As evidence of that reality, Facebook in 2009 let advertisers employ users' uploaded photos to market products without users' explicit approval. Indeed, nobody has any comprehensive idea of how tech companies are using these provisions in their secret business-to-business dealings. If they are already using your photos, what else are they doing behind their firewall? Are they selling your data? Are they mining your cloud files looking to preemptively appropriate the next great innovations? Nobody knows--well, except the tech companies themselves. It's easy to ignore such concerns by believing that the scope of a mass data mining operation is prohibitively large. But with the government already mining data from millions of Americans' phone records in the name of fighting terrorism, it's reasonable to expect that multibillion-dollar corporations can do the same.

Could This Photograph Change the Future? – (Io9 – May 10, 2012)
A few weeks after Google announced the completion of their paradigm-warping technology Google Glass, the photograph at the opening of this article appeared in the G+ account of Google VP Sebastian Thrun. It was taken while he was playing with his son and wearing his Glass technology — basically, a pair of "smart" glasses that can give you a virtual overlay on the real world, sort of like you're wearing your Android device in your eyeballs. Glass can take pictures too. And suddenly, when people saw what these pictures would look like, the idea of Glass caught fire. Thrun's picture was shared by thousands of people. This first-person perspective image captures a kid's smiling face, which isn't remarkable — until you consider that it could never have been taken by somebody holding a camera at the same time. Before this, the public hadn't really been sure what it would mean to wear a Glass device, other than getting a lot of ads trickling down the periphery of your vision. With Glass, you can record everything you see. Literally. (Editor’s Note: I doubt that we can even begin to imagine how this might change society - especially when the technology gets to the point where a person can not only record but instantly send what he sees. Think of what this could do to journalism, police brutality, crime, etc.)



NEW REALITIES

Chinese Physicists Smash Distance Record For Teleportation – (Technology Review – May 11, 2012)
Physicists have been teleporting photons since 1997 and the technique is now standard in optics laboratories all over the world. The phenomenon that makes this possible is known as quantum entanglement,  the deep and mysterious link that occurs when two quantum objects share the same existence and yet are separated in space. Teleportation turns out to be extremely useful: because teleported information does not travel through the intervening space, it cannot be secretly accessed by an eavesdropper. For that reason, teleportation is the enabling technology behind quantum cryptography, a way of sending information with close-to-perfect secrecy. In 2010, a Chinese team announced that it had teleported single photons over a distance of 16 kilometers. Now the same team says it has smashed this record. Juan Yin and colleagues at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai say they have teleported entangled photons over a distance of 97 kilometers across a lake in China.

Destabilization: Scientists Discover New Unstable Region the Size of New Jersey under Antarctica Ice Sheet – (Extinction Protocol – May 10, 2012)
Using ice-penetrating radar instruments flown on aircraft, a team of scientists from the U.S. and U.K. have uncovered a previously unknown sub-glacial basin nearly the size of New Jersey beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) near the Weddell Sea. The location, shape and texture of the mile-deep basin suggest that this region of the ice sheet is at a greater risk of collapse than previously thought. Don Blankenship, senior research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics and co-author on the new paper said, “With its smooth bed that slopes steeply toward the interior, we could find no other region in West Antarctica more poised for change than this newly discovered basin at the head of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. The only saving grace is that losing the ice over this new basin would only raise sea level by a small percentage of the several meters that would result if the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet destabilized.”



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Bucky Balls Could Double Your Lifespan – (GizModo – April 17, 2012)
Buckminster fullerene molecules, the naturally occurring spheres made up of 60 carbon atoms, have long been suspected to have biological benefits. Now, a study that set out to establish if they were toxic when administered orally has proven quite the opposite—they almost doubled the lifespan of the rats that they were fed to. The results of the experiments carried out at the Université Paris Sud, France. took the researchers by surprise. The control group had a median lifespan of 22 months. But the Bucky ball group? They stuck it out for 42 months, almost double the control group. The researchers have established that the effect is mediated by a reduction in oxidative stress—an imbalance in living cells that contributes to ageing.

Stem Cell Shield Could Protect Cancer Patients – (BBC News – May 9, 2012)
Bone marrow is incredibly susceptible to being compromised by chemotherapy. The treatment results in fewer white blood cells being produced, which increases the risk of infection, and fewer red blood cells, which leads to shortness of breath and tiredness. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, said these effects were "a major barrier" to using chemotherapy and often meant the treatment had to be stopped, delayed or reduced. In a study done with three patients, bone marrow was taken from the patients and stem cells, which produce blood, were isolated. A virus was then used to infect the cells with a gene which protected the cells against a chemotherapy drug. The cells were then put back into the patient. The lead researcher, Prof Hans-Peter Kiem, said: "We found that patients were able to tolerate the chemotherapy better, and without negative side effects, after transplantation of the gene-modified stem cells than patients in previous studies who received the same type of chemotherapy without a transplant of gene-modified stem cells." The researchers said the three patients had all lived longer than the average survival time of 12 months for the cancer. One patient was still alive 34 months after treatment.

Citywide Smoking Ban Reduced Maternal Smoking and Preterm Birth Risk – (Science Daily – May 10, 2012)
The results of a “natural experiment” compared outcomes in two Colorado cities, (Pueblo, CO and a comparison community) one with a smoking ban and one without a ban, showed reductions in both maternal smoking and premature births in the city with a smoking ban. The study provided the first evidence in the U.S. that such public interventions can impact maternal and fetal health, according to an article in Journal of Women’s Health. The article is available free here.

One in Six Cancers Worldwide Are Caused by Infection – (BBC News – May 8, 2012)
One in six cancers - two million a year globally - are caused by largely treatable or preventable infections, new estimates suggest. The Lancet Oncology review, which looked at incidence rates for 27 cancers in 184 countries, found four main infections are responsible. These four - human papillomaviruses, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C viruses - account for 1.9m cases of cervical, gut and liver cancers. Nearly a third of cases occur in people younger than 50 years old.



ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Beaches Closed in Peru as Bird and Dolphin Deaths Continue – (Extinction Protocol – May 8, 2012)
At least 877 dolphins and more than 1,500 birds, most of them brown pelicans and boobies, have died since the government began tracking the deaths in February, according to the Environment Ministry. Officials insist that the two die-offs are unrelated. The dolphins are succumbing to a virus, they suggest, and the seabirds are dying of starvation because anchovies are in short supply. But even three months after officials began testing the dolphins, the government has not released definitive results, and there is growing suspicion among the public and scientists that there might be more to the story. Some argue that offshore oil exploration could be disturbing wildlife, for example, and others fear that biotoxins or pesticides might be working their way up the food chain.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Are Smart Phones Spreading Faster than Any Previous Technology in Human History? – (Technology Review – May 9, 2012)
Presented in the article is a graph of the U.S. market penetration achieved by nine technologies since 1876, the year Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. Penetration rates have been organized to show three phases of a technology's spread: traction, maturity, and saturation. Those technologies with "last mile" problems—bringing electricity cables or telephone wire to individual homes—appear to spread more slowly. It took almost a century for landline phones to reach saturation, or the point at which new demand falls off. Mobile phones, by contrast, achieved saturation in just 20 years. Smart phones are on track to halve that rate yet again, and tablets could move still faster, setting consecutive records for speed to market saturation in the United States. In 1982, there were 4.6 billion people in the world, and not a single mobile-phone subscriber. Today, there are seven billion people in the world—and six billion mobile cellular-phone subscriptions.



SHELTER

Hacking Homelessness: San Franciscans Hope Startup Approach Can ease Neighborhood’s Problems – (Washington Post – May 5, 2012)
Optimism reigns in San Francisco, especially when it comes to the promise of technology to improve people’s lives. Recently, a crowd of such optimists came together for a “hackathon,” a weekend of intense work and little sleep, as part of a nonprofit project called Creative Currency. Engineers and entrepreneurs joined with designers and neighborhood advocates to figure out how technology could help homeless people in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas of the city. For example, one team designed a mobile wash station that people could use to take showers and launder their clothes. The project, RefreshSF, would be funded through small donations made via text message to pay not just for the wash stations themselves but to employ attendants who would ensure the stations didn’t suffer the same foul-smelling fate of so many San Francisco public restrooms.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Gearing Up for Noble Gas Engine Roll-out – (Pure Energy Systems – April 15, 2012)
A noble gas engine is one that runs on what its developer calls a "plasmic transition" process using noble gases to create the plasma, with a coil around the cylinder to control the plasma, and a high voltage spark (actuator) to initiate the process. The fuel is essentially free, both because so little is consumed over time, and because the fuel is inexpensive. Also, because it has fewer moving parts and its power density is greater, the engine itself is much less expensive to build than the engine it would be replacing. An engine-driven generator using this technology would not only be clean, but more affordable than energy that comes from the grid, enabling off-grid, distributed, concentrated, and portable power applications, while also enabling applications that hitherto were not feasible such as buildings and communities that float in the air, and flying vehicles. It also makes energy deployment entirely feasible to places where power is currently unavailable, such as the third world.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Farmers Markets Move Online – (Yes – April 26, 2012)
Only local farms can deliver the very freshest produce. But while the common methods of providing this bounty to consumers—community supported agriculture (CSA) plans and farmers’ markets—are essential components of a revitalizing fresh-food sector, they don’t always provide a sufficiently flexible or robust shopping experience. However, small producers have a tool that could provide a far greater advantage to locally oriented growers than to big nationally focused ones: the Internet. One example is the Farmers Fresh Market program run by the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. The organization created a proprietary online system to allow individuals and businesses in nearby cities to order fresh produce from growers local to Rutherfordton. In many cases, buyers receive the food the same day the growers picked it. One important trend is the establishment of businesses that distribute the fruits of local farms to individual customers via online ordering systems, like Arganica Farm Club in the mid-Atlantic, Green Bean Delivery in the Midwest, and SPUD in the Northwest. Other services, like Ecotrust’s FoodHub, currently covering the Western U.S., is specifically geared toward providing food to businesses, restaurants, and other institutions.

Mad Cow Case Confirmed in California – (Yahoo News – April 22, 2012)
The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed that it found a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a dairy cow from central California. The infected cow was found as part of a "targeted surveillance system," says John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinary officer, who said at no time did it present a threat to humans. This is the nation's fourth confirmed case of BSE since 2003, which can be fatal to humans who eat parts of the animal infected. The animal tested positive for atypical BSE, a very rare form of the disease not generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed. The USDA is collaborating with international animal labs and U.S. public health officials to determine the origins of the case.

Roundworm Gene Turns Cloned Sheep to "Good" Fat – (Reuters – April 24, 2012)
Chinese scientists have cloned a genetically modified sheep containing a "good" type of fat found naturally in nuts, seeds, fish and leafy greens that helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Lead scientist Du Yutao at the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in Shenzhen and colleagues inserted the gene that is linked to the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids into a donor cell taken from the ear of a Chinese Merino sheep. The cell was then inserted into an unfertilized egg and implanted into the womb of a surrogate sheep. As a reference point, the United States is a world leader in producing GM crops. Its Food and Drug Administration has already approved the sale of food from clones and their offspring, saying the products were indistinguishable from those of non-cloned animals. U.S. biotech firm AquaBounty's patented genetically modified Atlantic salmon are widely billed as growing at double the speed of unmodified fish and could be approved by U.S. regulators as early as this summer.

Frost Kills Early Blooms, Apple Crop Losses to Top $100M – (Windsor Star – May 4, 2012)
A catastrophic freeze has wiped out about 80% of Ontario, Canada’s apple crop and has the province’s fruit industry looking at losses already estimated at more than $100 million. Warm temperatures got fruit trees blooming early and when temperatures then plummeted, it damaged or wiped out much of the $60 million apple crop and 20 – 30% of Ontario’s $48 million tender fruit crop which includes peaches, cherries, pears, plums and nectarines. Orchard owner Keith Wright said, “This is unheard of where all fruit growing areas in basically the Great Lakes area, in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York State, Ontario, are all basically wiped out.” Wright lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of apples and peaches when freezing temperatures killed the blossoms. See also: Chaotic Spring Crushes Fruit Crops in Pennsylvania. Northwestern Pennsylvania is part of a vast fruit-producing region that roughly follows the Great Lakes, where losses this spring of apples, grapes and cherries have been staggering, said James Schupp, an associate professor at Penn State University's Fruit Research and Extension. Warm weather brought early buds to trees and vines, before the frost. "We are talking about 25 to 30 million bushels of fruit -- about one-quarter of the nation's fruit. It is a huge economic loss for these areas," he said.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Is There a Drone in Your Neighborhood? – (Daily Mail – April 24, 2012)
Following a landmark Freedom of Information lawsuit, federal authorities have been forced to reveal that there are at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S. The unmanned planes – some of which may have been designed to kill terror suspects – are being launched from locations in 20 states. Most of the active drones are deployed from military installations, enforcement agencies and border patrol teams, according to the Federal Aviation Authority. But, astonishingly, 19 universities and colleges are also registered as owners of what are officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles. There are also 21 mainstream manufactures, such as General Atomics, who are registered to use drones domestically.

US Military Course Taught Officers 'Islam Is the Enemy' – (Associated Press – May 11, 2012)
A course for US military officers at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, has been teaching that America's enemy is Islam in general and suggesting that the country might ultimately have to obliterate the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina without regard for civilian deaths, following second world war precedents of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. The Pentagon suspended the course in late April when a student objected to the material. The FBI also changed some agent training last year after discovering that it, too, was critical of Islam. A copy of the presentation was obtained and posted online by Wired.com's Danger Room blog. A Pentagon spokesman authenticated the documents. Commenting on the course, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Forces Staff College, said, "It was just totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn't academically sound." The problem of negative portrayals of Islam in federal government is not new. A six-month review the FBI launched into agent training material uncovered 876 offensive or inaccurate pages that had been used in 392 presentations, including a PowerPoint slide that said the bureau can sometimes bend or suspend the law in counterterror investigations.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

How America Went Rogue; The US Shadow Wars – (AlterNet – April 22, 2012)
Covert operations are nothing new in American history, but it could be argued that during the past decade they have moved from being a relatively minor arrow in the national security quiver to being the cutting edge of American power. Drone strikes, electronic surveillance and stealth engagements by military units such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), as well as dependence on private corporations, mercenary armies and terrorist groups, are now arguably more common as tools of US foreign policy than conventional warfare or diplomacy. But these tools lend themselves to rogue operations that create peril for the United States when they blow back on us. And they often make the United States deeply unpopular. The US embassy in Baghdad has 16,000 employees, most of them civilian contractors. They include 2,000 diplomats and several hundred intelligence operatives. By contrast, the entire US Foreign Service corps comprises fewer than 14,000.

Public Overwhelmingly Supports Large Defense Spending Cuts – (iWatch News – May 10, 2012)
While politicians, insiders and experts may be divided over how much the government should spend on the nation’s defense, there’s a surprising consensus among the public about what should be done: They want to cut spending far more deeply than either the Obama administration or the Republicans. That’s according to the results of an innovative, nationwide survey by three nonprofit groups, the Center for Public integrity, the Program for Public Consultation and the Stimson Center. Not only does the public want deep cuts, it wants those cuts to encompass spending in virtually every military domain — air power, sea power, ground forces, nuclear weapons, and missile defenses.

FISA Approved Every Surveillance Warrant in 2011 – (Activist Post – May 4, 2012)
Although the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) is secretive and does not reveal the type of surveillance that was approved, it may be the most transparent surveillance program the Feds admit to.  At least the warrants are issued and can be counted. An annual government report showed that every warrant submitted by the Feds to spy on Americans was approved by the secret FISA court in 2011. The total number of applications submitted and warrants approved was 1,745; that represented a 10.5% increase over 2010. An anonymous counterterrorism official said the increase was "in response to materials seized in relation to the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and the resulting investigations.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

Behind the Official Story of Finding bin Laden – (TruthOut – April 3, 2012)
A few days after US Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, a senior intelligence official briefing reporters said that bin Laden was “active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions." The official called the bin Laden compound, "an active command and control center." But none of it was true. During his six years in Abbottabad, bin Laden was not the functioning head of al-Qaeda at all, but an isolated figurehead who had become irrelevant to the actual operations of the organization. In fact, bin Laden was in the compound in Abbottabad because he had been forced into exile by the al-Qaeda leadership. The article goes into further detail as to what was revealed by documents that were seized in that action.

U.S. Circumvented Laws to Help Japan Accumulate Tons of Plutonium – (DC Bureau – April 09, 2012)
The United States deliberately allowed Japan access to the United States’ most secret nuclear weapons facilities while it transferred tens of billions of dollars worth of American tax paid research that has allowed Japan to amass 70 tons of weapons grade plutonium since the 1980s, a National Security News Service investigation reveals. These activities repeatedly violated U.S. laws regarding controls of sensitive nuclear materials that could be diverted to weapons programs in Japan. According to CIA reports, the United States has known about a secret nuclear weapons program in Japan since the 1960s. While Japan has refrained from deploying nuclear weapons and remains under an umbrella of U.S. nuclear protection, it appears that the country has used its electrical utility companies as a cover to allow the country to amass enough nuclear weapons materials to build a nuclear arsenal larger than China, India and Pakistan combined. This deliberate proliferation by the United States fuels arguments by countries like Iran that the original nuclear powers engage in proliferation despite treaty and internal legal obligations.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Renting Prosperity – (Wall St. Journal – May 4, 2012)
Americans are getting used to the idea of renting the good life, from cars to couture to homes. Our shift from a nation of owners to an economy permanently on the move may create efficiencies that will lead to the next boom. The rising popularity of rentership is hardly contained to the housing market. Indeed, it has spurred the creation and growth of innovative businesses in a number of other realms—particularly those that cater to America's cash-strapped, credit-wary youth. Enter the auto-sharing company Zipcar. Or take textbooks: Chegg.com, founded in 2001, has raised more than $200 million in funding and is aiming to displace the college bookstore. An undergrad can buy an economics textbook new for, say, $263. At Chegg.com, she can rent a hard copy of the same book for $94 for 180 days, or an electronic copy for $128 for the same period. As more students come to campus with e-readers, the more efficient consumption of college textbooks is likely to grow rapidly.

Machine-Made News – (TomDispatch – April 22, 2012)
Historically, the book, almost alone, has resisted that great colonizing form of our age, the advertisement. But not necessarily for much longer. The coming generations of e-readers are going to alter the traditional reading experience: that sense—when you step inside a book's covers—of having plunged into another universe. You can’t really remain in another universe long with your email pinging in the background. The book, along with the experience of reading it, is bound to morph into something different. Just what our new electronic landscape, and its melding of the ad and the word, may give—and take—from the human experience is Lewis Lapham’s latest subject. His article, Word Order: The Internet as the Toy With a Tin Ear, is embedded in the larger article referred to above.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Flying over the Earth at Night – (NASA – March 05, 2012)
Time lapse footage of the Earth as seen from the International Space Station. Passing below are white clouds, orange city lights, lightning flashes in thunderstorms, and dark blue seas. On the horizon is the golden haze of Earth's thin atmosphere, frequently decorated by dancing auroras as the video progresses. The green parts of auroras typically remain below the space station, but the station flies right through the red and purple auroral peaks. Solar panels of the ISS are seen around the frame edges. The wave of approaching brightness at the end of each sequence is just the dawn of the sunlit half of Earth, a dawn that occurs every 90 minutes.

Sun’s Magnetic Poles Switch Every 11 Years – (Daily Galaxy – April 22, 2012)
About every 11 years the magnetic field on the sun reverses completely – the north magnetic pole switches to south, and vice versa. This flip coincides with the greatest solar activity seen on the sun in any given cycle, known as "solar maximum." But in two upcoming papers scientists highlight just how asymmetrical this process actually is. Currently the polarity at the north of the sun appears to have decreased close to zero—that is, it seems to be well into its polar flip from magnetic north to south—but the polarity at the south is only just beginning to decrease. "Right now, there's an imbalance between the north and the south poles," says Jonathan Cirtain, a space scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight. "The north is already in transition, well ahead of the south pole, and we don't understand why." See also: Solar poles to become quadrupolar in May. Researchers also speculate that the sun may be entering a period of reduced activity, that could result in lower temperatures on Earth. The current activity of sunspots resemble an 80-year period in the 17th century, when London's Thames river froze.

Fading Star Shoots Searchlight Beams – (Wired – April 30, 2012)
The Hubble space telescope has taken the most detailed photograph yet of a fading star that’s beaming twin searchlights through its dusty grave. The Egg Nebula, as astronomers call the object they discovered 37 years ago, is a cocoon of dust and gas illuminated like a lantern by an aging central star. Slightly larger and hotter than the sun, the star long ago ran out of hydrogen fuel and switched to fusing heavier elements. The change swelled it into a red giant star that ultimately shed most of its outer gases, which are now being blown away by solar winds from the star’s small, remaining core. The photographs are quite beautiful. In a similar vein, see also Spectacular Galaxy Site of Massive Black Hole Eruption as seen with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Astronomers Report Five UFOs on Moon, Suggest Intelligent Alien Life – (Examiner – May 14, 2012)
Paul Davies and Robert Wagner, astronomers affiliated with Arizona State University, report seeing five UFOs on moon in mid April 2012 according to testimony supplied from M24digital.com. Davies and Wagner had proposed a search for alien evidence on the surface of the moon in 2011. These astronomers had believed that a detailed study of thousands of photographs taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter might reveal such evidence. “If it costs little to scan data for signs of intelligent manipulation, little is lost in doing so, even though the probability of detecting alien technology at work may be exceedingly low,” they said. It appears that these astronomers might have gotten an unexpected breakthrough which they had sought out to obtain. M24digital.com reported that in mid April 2012, these astronomers captured five UFOs flying over the moon disappearing into its dark side. These astronomers now say that: “the search for life beyond Earth should focus on the Moon.”



DEMOGRAPHICS

No Recovery in Sight for Labor Markets – (International Labour Organization – April 29, 2012)
According the ILO’s “World of Work Report 2012: Better Jobs for a Better Economy”, despite signs that economic growth has resumed in some regions, the global employment situation is alarming and shows no sign of recovery in the near future. Among its findings: Employment rates have increased in only 6 of 36 advanced economies (Austria, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Malta and Poland) since 2007; youth unemployment rates have increased in about 80% of advanced countries and in two-thirds of developing countries; poverty rates have increased in half of developed economies and in one-third of developing economies, while inequality rose in half of developed countries and one-fourth of developing economies. (Editor’s Note: Here, finally, is one examination of unemployment as a global issue. The problem isn’t that there are not enough jobs in this or that country, but that there aren’t enough jobs in almost every country in the world. At some point, the global economy is going to have to address that fact. Shuffling jobs from one country to another is ultimately akin to rearranging deck chairs; bemoaning that shuffling is myopic.)

More Nonretirees Expect to Rely on Social Security – (Gallup – April 30, 2012)
The expected retirement age is now 67 up from 60 during the 1990s, and a new low of 38% expect to retire comfortably. Thirty-three percent of American nonretirees now anticipate that Social Security will be a major retirement funding source. In 2007, prior to the recession and financial crisis, just 27% did so. Are nonretirees being realistic about what Social Security will be contributing to their income streams in later years—or unrealistic about how much their other sources of income will provide? As a reference point, 57% of current retirees consider Social Security a major source of income.

Record Number of Elderly in Japan – (Business Week – May 10, 2012)
Sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies for the first time last year. At the Daiei Inc. supermarkets, to meet the needs of aging customers, shopping carts are now lighter. The number of Japanese over 65 hit a record 23.3% of the population in October, 2011. The country is becoming a test case of how a modern retail economy can switch from focusing on traditional, younger customers. Because of its one-child policy introduced in 1979 to curb population growth, “China will necessarily face the aging society at an even faster pace than Japan.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Swiss Scientists Demonstrate Mind-controlled Robot – (Associated Press – April 24, 2012)
Swiss scientists have demonstrated how a partially paralyzed person can control a robot by thought alone, a step they hope will one day allow immobile people to interact with their surroundings through so-called avatars. Similar experiments have taken place in the United States and Germany, but they involved either able-bodied patients or invasive brain implants. The team at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne used only a simple head cap to record the brain signals of Mark-Andre Duc, who is partially quadriplegic. Duc's thoughts - or rather, the electrical signals emitted by his brain when he imagined lifting his paralyzed fingers - were decoded almost instantly by a laptop. The resulting instructions - left or right - were then transmitted to a foot-tall robot scooting around the lab. The robot itself is an advance on a previous project that let patients control an electric wheelchair. By using a robot complete with a camera and screen, users can extend their virtual presence to places that are arduous to reach with a wheelchair, such as an art gallery or a wedding abroad.

Michael Pritchard's Water Filter Turns Filthy Water Drinkable – (TED Talks – July, 2009)
Too much of the world lacks access to clean drinking water. Engineer Michael Pritchard did something about it—inventing the portable Lifesaver filter. Using a non-chemical nano-filtration hollow fiber membrane with 15 nanometer pores (it is designed to block viruses), the Lifesaver bottle can make the most revolting swamp water drinkable in seconds. Better still, a single long-lasting filter can clean 6,000 liters of water. Given the astronomical cost of shipping water to disaster areas, Pritchard's Lifesaver bottle could turn traditional aid models on their heads. (Editor’s note: This TED talk was given three years ago – but safely potable water is still unavailable to millions. This technology needs more exposure.)



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Food Stamp Rolls to Grow through 2014 – (Wall St. Journal – April 19, 2012)
The Congressional Budget Office has reported that 45 million people in 2011 received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, a 70% increase from 2007. It said the number of people receiving the benefits, commonly known as food stamps, would continue growing until 2014, by which point it expects the economy to improve. Spending for the program, not including administrative costs, rose to $72 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion four years earlier. The CBO projected that one in seven U.S. residents received food stamps last year.

Tech Billionaires Bankroll Gold Rush to Mine Asteroids – (Reuters – April 24, 2012)
Google Inc. executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and filmmaker James Cameron are among those bankrolling a venture to survey and eventually extract precious metals and rare minerals from asteroids that orbit near Earth. Planetary Resources, based in Bellevue, Washington, initially will focus on developing and selling extremely low-cost robotic spacecraft for surveying missions. A demonstration mission in orbit around Earth is expected to be launched within two years, said company co-founders Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson. Planetary Resources' first customers are likely to be science agencies such as NASA, as well as private research institutes. Within five to 10 years, however, the company expects to progress from selling observation platforms in orbit around Earth to prospecting services and plans to extract raw materials from some of the thousands of asteroids that pass relatively close to the Earth.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

“It All Turns on Affection” – (National Endowment for the Humanities – April 23, 2012)
Wendell E. Berry, noted poet, essayist, novelist, farmer, and conservationist, delivered the 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on Monday, April 23, 2012 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The annual lecture, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. In his lecture, entitled “It All Turns on Affection,” Berry lamented the increasing divergence of modern man from the environment and local communities. Invoking the words of his mentor, the writer Wallace Stegner, Berry observed that throughout history Americans have been divided into two kinds:  the “boomers” who “pillage and run,” and the “stickers” who “settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.” Inspired by a passage from E.M. Forster’s Howards End, Berry called for a land use ethic that is shaped by a sense of “affection” for land and place. “And so,” he said, “I am nominating economy for an equal standing among the arts and humanities. I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth: the arts of adapting kindly the many human households to the earth’s many ecosystems and human neighborhoods.”  (Article includes the complete text of Berry’s lecture.)

The Flesh Underneath – (Ted Conover/The Nation – February 27, 2012)
Book review of Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. With Timothy Pachirat’s Every Twelve Seconds, Yale Publishing has taken a bet on a book-length first-person account of slaughterhouse work. Pachirat moved with his wife and daughters to Omaha and found work in a slaughterhouse, where he did not announce himself as a researcher. His first assignment, lasting several weeks, was “hanging livers”—lifting big beef livers onto hooks inside a refrigerated room. Pachirat then worked a few days in the killing chutes, helping move cattle toward their date with death (where a cow is killed roughly every 12 seconds and thus the title of the book) —the worker on the line known as “the knocker,” who fires a hydraulic bolt gun into a cow’s forehead. Finally, he was promoted off the line to a job as a quality control officer, one of the corps of people who oversee production, essentially trying to keep “excreta” (feces) and “ingesta” (straw) off the meat, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors in the plant from seeing same. The details of the slaughterhouse are not for the squeamish. What is important is that the book spotlights one particular example of how we’ve divorced ourselves from the violence of current methods of production (of food and other products) — and how, in doing so, we have made it psychologically easier to support such brutality. (Editor’s Note: the book review closes by being disappointed that Pachirat does not name the slaughterhouse and sees it as a serious shortcoming in “speaking truth to power”; in this, the reviewer may be naďve. It is likely that, due to considerations of lawsuit, Princeton would not have published the book if Pachirat had named the company.)

Art to Turn the World Inside Out – (YouTube – March 4, 2011)
The TED Prize is awarded annually to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, "One Wish to Change the World." Designed to leverage the TED community's exceptional array of talent and resources, the Prize leads to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact. This TED talk is given by JR, a French street artist, who uses his camera to show the world its true face. His audacious TED Prize wish: to use art to turn the world inside out. Here is an engaging talk about art and who we—this community of humans— are. JR’s vision and audacity are simultaneously stunning and moving.



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

Rare Neurons Found in Monkeys’ Brains – (Science News – May 8, 2012)
A mysterious kind of nerve cell that has been linked to empathy, self-awareness, and even consciousness resides in Old World monkeys. The finding, published May 10 in Neuron, extends the domain of the neurons beyond humans, great apes and other large-brained creatures and will now allow scientists to study the habits of a neuron that may be key to human self-awareness. While carefully scrutinizing a small piece of a macaque brain for a different experiment, anatomist Henry Evrard  of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, stumbled across the rare, distinctive cells. About three times bigger than other nerve cells, von Economo neurons have long, fat bodies and tufts of message-receiving dendrites at each end. Evrard compares the first sighting to seeing the tip of an iceberg. After many additional tests, he and his colleagues concluded that the cells, though smaller and sparser than their human counterparts, were indeed the elusive von Economo neurons. No one knows what these hulking, strangely-shaped neurons do, but scientists have hints that the job may be very important. One reason for this assumption was that initially, von Economo neurons were found exclusively in big-brained animals with complex social lives: people, great apes, elephants, whales and dolphins, for instance. (A recent sighting in zebras’ brains presented a puzzle.)



JUST FOR FUN

Henri 2, Paw de Deux – (You Tube – April 6, 2012)
Henri is a French cat—very French—with very existential issues. Enjoy.



A FINAL QUOTE--

To predict the future, we need logic; but we also need faith and imagination, which can sometimes defy logic itself. — Arthur C. Clarke



A special thanks to: Falk Beindorf, Thomas Bergin, Norman Birnbaum, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kevin Clark, Bruce Erickson, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Kurzweil AI, Diane Petersen, Petra Pieterse, Bobbie Rohn, Burt Rutan, Gary Sycalik , 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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