Volume 15, Number 21 - 11/15/12 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • With a miniature, wearable camera you can take pictures of every single moment of your life (really two photos/minute), complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This means that you can revisit any moment of your past.

  • Peruse 7 best case scenarios for the future of humanity.

  • The goal of a recent successful Air Force missile test was "to render ... electronic and data systems useless," – essentially the missile’s microwave generators generated an EMP-like field which shut down the electronics in an office building.

  • Twenty years ago, just one of every 50 tourists who returned from the tropics with fever was infected by dengue; now, it is one in six. Last month, health officials in Miami announced a case of locally acquired dengue infection.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Inbound Change

The coming days and weeks give indications (from a number of sources) as being potentially some of the most significant of any in our lifetime. The interesting thing about it is that the pivotal nature may become obvious mostly in retrospect, as we look back later and see that this period, through the end of the year, ushered in a watershed change in direction that accelerated both the erosion of the old order and the emergence of a new one.

The issue is one of subtle forces that influence directional change which only becomes obvious when the implications show up in a new trend. That becomes clear, of course, when a series of historical data points appear to line up in a new way.

I’m quite aware of the downside of what I’m suggesting here. Words like “subtle” and “retrospect” are the “outs” that let a forecaster say just about anything now and argue later that something really happened – really – but the effects are not obvious yet and in time we’ll be able to look back as see that this is the case -- just trust me.

I guess I don’t know how to talk about energetic shifts (coming out of the center of the galaxy, of all places) that multiple sources suggest will peak near the end of December (because of the shape of these beams of energy and the movement of our solar system through that area of space) in any conventional way.

It’s a little like those guys a while back who thought that the ETs riding the “micro-planet” that was hidden behind a comet were going to beam them up away from all of this worldly reality and got dressed up in common uniforms (I remember the nice tennis shoes) to be ready to be ready for their ascension.

Well, it’s not quite that bad. In this case there are multiple sources from many different directions and sectors that are broadcasting variations of the same message. (Perhaps they’re all just reading each other’s mail . . . maybe it’s just a meme that has gotten a foothold and is rapidly proliferating throughout the zeitgeist.) On the other hand, the explanations for the big cosmic cycles do make sense and are consistent with some analysis of things like the Mayan calendar and other such artifacts.

I don’t know anything for sure, but I’ve thought about a bunch of explanations like these and nevertheless come to the conclusion that there really is quite a strong, common thread running through all of these prognostications that argue for deep-seated change occurring in the none-too-distant future. It’s about change in who we are becoming as a species and how we are going to live in the future.

They all say is that the change has already begun in a substantive way. The essential shift they talk about is genetic – the activation of now-dormant DNA that will begin to rapidly make available capabilities to all of us that previously most have not been able to access.

At this point in the story there are some mixed signals. Some say that in time the widespread genetic changes will proliferate throughout the species and ultimately reshape our social, economic legal, (and every) other systems. In the end everybody makes it – one way or another – to the new world.

The other explanation is that although everyone gets the same dosage of genetic activation, a few people will adapt to it much more effectively than the majority. Most will find the changes very disconcerting. This will generate a lot of fear and fuel the continued degeneration that we are already observing in the present systems. A smaller number of people who are prepared for and embrace this shift will rise to the occasion and begin to develop new communities and operating systems built around the new capabilities and principles.

Of course, if you watch the History Channel, then you know that the world is going to end on the 21st of December (which is why Diane and I are throwing an End Of The World Party that night!)

Maybe we’ll celebrate the birth of a new world. We’ll see.

Help Us, Please.

No matter what happens, here at FUTUREdition we’ll continue to try to provide you with provocative indications of what’s headed our way and try to make some sense out of what we can -- and I hope that you’ll help us do that.

It costs about $15,000 a year to produce this free newsletter and we have no other source of funding, so every holiday season we ask you to pitch in to offset that cost. Many of you have been very generous in the past, for which I am very appreciative. I hope that you’ll be able to be generous again.

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Happy Thanksgiving (for those of you in the U.S.) and thank you for your support.


John in his messy office.



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Memoto Lifelogging Camera – (Memoto website – October 23, 2012)
The Memoto camera is a tiny camera and GPS that you clip on and wear. It’s an entirely new kind of digital camera with no controls. Instead, it automatically takes photos as you go. The Memoto app then seamlessly and effortlessly organizes them for you. The camera has no buttons. (That's right, no buttons.) As long as you wear the camera, it is constantly taking pictures. It takes two, geotagged photos a minute with recorded orientation so that the app can show them upright no matter how you are wearing the camera. And it’s weather protected, so you don’t have to worry about it in inclement weather. The camera and the app work together to give you pictures of every single moment of your life, complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This means that you can revisit any moment of your past. The camera and the apps have been developed. Now the company is looking for backers to start production.

Light by Moore’sCloud – (Kickstarter – October 21, 2012)
Cool piece of consumer electronics currently in development and looking for funding. Fifty-two LEDs in two million colors add up to infinite possibilities of pattern and animation. With a powerful computer and WiFi connectivity, there’s no end to the ways the Light by Moore’sCloud can work for you. Beneath its stylish exterior beats a smart heart - an embedded Linux computer. The Light by Moore’sCloud can respond to commands from a local smartphone, a tablet - and anything else with an HTML5-compliant browser, or respond to a computer on the other side of the world. The temperature in Vladivostok can alter the color of a Light in Santa Fe. Capture the color of a dress, a flower, or the sky with a smartphone camera, and the Light will immediately adjust itself to generate that color. Mood lighting has never been so easy, or so versatile. Programs on other computers can also control the Light, via standard web protocols. This makes the Light a fantastic status indicator: are my servers still running? Has my build failed? Look into the Light and you’ll have an answer. Check out the “What can it do?” section of the company’s website. (Editor’s note: This is the beginning of tools, toys and everything in between becoming continuously, permanently integrated into the internet. It’s the beginning of “smart” everything. It also represents a potentially enormous increase in energy consumption.)



NEW REALITIES

Rogue Planet Spotted 100 Light-years Away – (BBC News – November 14, 2012)
Astronomers have spotted a "rogue planet" - wandering the cosmos without a star to orbit - 100 light-years away. Recent finds of such planets have suggested that they may be common, but candidates have eluded close study. The proximity of the new rogue planet has allowed astronomers to guess its age: a comparatively young 50-120 million years old. Rogue planets are believed to form in one of two ways: in much the same way as planets bound to stars, coalescing from a disk of dust and debris but then thrown out of a host star's orbit, or in much the same way as stars but never reaching a full star's mass.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Muse Lets Users Monitor Their Brain Waves on Mobile Devices – (Giz Mag – October 22, 2012)
Want to know what your brain is up to? Soon, it may be as simple as slipping on a wireless headband, then accessing an app. That’s the idea behind Muse, a wearable device developed by Toronto-based tech company InteraXon. Essentially a lightweight portable EEG (electroencephalography) machine, it lets users monitor their neural activity in real time via their mobile device. According to the folks at InteraXon, it should help users to relax, concentrate, build confidence, or otherwise take control of their mental state. By being able to see their brain waves represented visually on their smartphone or tablet’s screen, users can then more easily train themselves to achieve and/or maintain a desired state of mind. Down the road, it is also hoped that Muse could be used to control functions on smartphones, gaming consoles, computers, household appliances or other electronic devices. InteraXon is currently raising funds on Indiegogo, for the first production run of the product. A pledge of US$135 will get you a Muse, when and if the funding goal is reached and production is complete. Article includes a video clip of product.

Organ-on-a-Chip Mimics Deadly Lung Condition – (Technology Review – November 7, 2012)
Researchers at Harvard University have shown that their “lung-on-a-chip” technology can mimic a life-threatening lung condition. They also report that scientists can uncover new aspects of the disease using the lung chip that would not be found with animal experiments. The study is the first definitive demonstration that the institute’s organ-mimicking chips, which include a gut, a heart, and a kidney, can be used to model a disease and even test candidate drugs.

Triclosan in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Can Increase Allergy Risk – (Eurekalert – November 14, 2012)
Triclosan - an antibacterial chemical found in toothpaste and other products - can contribute to an increased risk of allergy development in children. This comes from the Norwegian Environment and Childhood Asthma Study, in which the Norwegian Institute of Public Health is involved. Similar results are reported in the USA. Triclosan has been in use for decades, but was recently associated with allergies in children in an American study, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The new Norwegian study found similar associations between allergies and triclosan levels measured in children's urine. Triclosan can change the bacterial flora on the skin, in the mouth and in the intestines. A change in the bacterial composition of "good" bacteria can cause an increased risk of developing allergies (hygiene hypothesis). Therefore, increased use of triclosan and antibacterial products has generally been associated with an increased incidence of allergies. In a study of triclosan use in Norway in 2001, it was found that 85% of the total amount of triclosan came from cosmetic products, of which 75% were toothpaste. In the USA, where they have annual sampling and monitoring of chemical exposure, there is little evidence that exposure to triclosan is being reduced.

A Carbon Microthread That Makes Contact with the Mind – (Technology Review – November 11, 2012)
Connecting a human brain to a computer is as much a materials science problem as a biology one. What kind of interface is delicate enough not to damage nerve tissue, but resilient enough to last decades? Researchers have come up with what they call a “stealthy neural interface” made from a single carbon fiber and coated with chemicals to make it resistant to proteins in the brain. The new microthread electrode, designed to pick up signals from a single neuron as it fires, is only about 7 micrometers in diameter. That is the thinnest yet developed, and about 100 times as thin as the conventional metal electrodes widely used to study animal brains.

Injectable Sponge Delivers Drugs, Cells, and Structure – (Science Daily – November 13, 2012)
Bioengineers at Harvard have developed a gel-based sponge that can be molded to any shape, loaded with drugs or stem cells, compressed to a fraction of its size, and delivered via injection. Once inside the body, it pops back to its original shape and gradually releases its cargo, before safely degrading. Harvard professor David Mooney explains. "If you want to introduce some material into the body to replace tissue that's been lost or that is deficient, this would be ideal. In other situations, you could use it to transplant stem cells if you're trying to promote tissue regeneration, or you might want to transplant immune cells, if you're looking at immunotherapy." Consisting primarily of alginate, a seaweed-based jelly, the injectable sponge contains networks of large pores, which allow liquids and large molecules to easily flow through it.



ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

How New York City Kept its Drinking Water Pure and Saved Billions – (Nation of Change - October 26, 2012)
Beginning in the 1830s, the City of New York created a water system generally considered to have no equal in the world. But by the end of the 1980s, public health specialists were publicly stating the City would have to substantially increase the treatment of its drinking water source. The costs for the advanced treatment were estimated to be $4 billion to build and $200 million annually to operate. This would double the cost for water in New York City, with major adverse impacts on low-income families. However, allowing Catskill drinking water purity to deteriorate and then spending massive sums to clean it up was not the ideal option. It took eighteen months of mutual work between the City of New York and the the Catskill farming community but, in the end, using concepts that have now come to be called ecosystem services, an innovative and far reaching agreement was crafted.

Fracking Radioactivity - (Nation of Change - November 10, 2012)
“Horizontal hydrofracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of New York State has the potential to result in the production of large amounts of waste materials containing Radium-226 and Radium-228 in both solid and liquid mediums,” states the report by E. Ivan White, now with Grassroots Environmental Education, an organization in New York, where extensive fracking is proposed. For 30 years he was a staff scientist for the Congressionally-chartered National Council on Radiation Protection. “Importantly, the type of radioactive material found in the Marcellus Shale and brought to the surface by horizontal hydrofracking is the type that is particularly long-lived, and could easily bio-accumulate over time and deliver a dangerous radiation dose to potentially millions of people long after the drilling is over,” the report goes on.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

The 25 Most Common Passwords of 2012 - (CBS News - October 24, 2012)
Do you think your password is secure? Try comparing it with the 25 most common passwords of 2012 (listed in article). The list was compiled using data that hackers have posted online, which are said to be stolen passwords. The top three passwords of the year are "password," "123456," and "12345678." Having trouble remembering all those different passwords? Try using a password manager application that organizes and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

Innovative New Park Opens over Dallas Freeway - (WFFA - October 27, 2012)
Spanning 5.2 acres over the Woodall Rogers Freeway is a landscape bridge that took an army of dedicated citizens to create. Klyde Warren Park is a $110 million green space where families can enjoy daily free programming all year long. Every corner of the park is eye-catching for the young, young-at-heart, and every other member of the family. The park even has a special area dedicated to man's best friend. The park is named for the 10-year-old son of billionaire Kelcy Warren. See also: Photos: Five things at Klyde Warren Park you have to see to believe.

Construction Foam from Tree Bark – (Giz Mag – October 31, 2012)
At the University of Freiburg's Biofoambark project, researchers are developing a much greener version of the insulation foam used in construction by replacing its petroleum-based ingredients with a naturally-occurring compound that ordinarily goes to waste in the lumber industry. The raw material for the biofoam is tannin, a compound found in tree bark. Properly processed, it can be used to produce hard foams that are not only good for insulation for buildings and molded auto parts, but that also have flame-resistant properties. It’s also possible that the foams could come to replace the toxic, über-un-green polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam). Additionally, the research team would like to give their biofoam an extra job by converting it into biofuel once it's ready to be discarded. This would further increase the usefulness of the raw material from which it's made.

CalmSpace Sleep Capsule – (Dezeen – October 31, 2012)
French designer, Marie-Virginie Berbet, has designed a sleeping capsule for taking power naps at the office. The booth comes equipped with preset lighting cycles and soundtracks designed to make it easier to fall asleep and then slowly wake back up. Entitled CalmSpace, it contains a single mattress where users can make themselves comfortable and can be programmed for naps of between and 10 and 20 minutes long. “Never more because after 30 minutes you can fall into a deep sleep, so the awakening is hard and you lose the benefit of a nap,” said Berbet. It seems there’s a growing trend for booths and products enabling naps in public, for example a “Sleep Box” at an airport. (Editor’s note: Given the contemporary American’s concern about the transmission of germs, it’s not clear how well either of these products would fare in the US without some modification.)



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Alaska Ice Tested as Possible New Energy Source – (Business Week – November 11, 2012)
A half mile below the ground at Prudhoe Bay, above the vast oil field that helped trigger construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline, a drill rig has tapped what might one day be the next big energy source. The U.S. Department of Energy and industry partners over two winters drilled into a reservoir of methane hydrate, which looks like ice but burns like a candle if a match warms its molecules. There is little need now for methane, the main ingredient of natural gas. But U.S. operators in Alaska may be interested in harvesting methane so they can re-injected it into the ground. Crude oil is more lucrative than natural gas, which is routinely injected into North Slope fields to maintain underground pressure to aid in oil extraction. Japan, Korea, India and China, however, want to cut down on natural gas imports by burning methane. Japan is setting up for a production test on a gas hydrate accumulation in the Nankai Trough south of Honshu, its main island. The nearly $29 million science experiment on the North Slope produced 1 million cubic feet of methane. Researchers have begun the complex task of analyzing how the reservoir responded to extraction.

Solar Power’s Effect on Green Energy Skyrockets in UK – (TechWench – October 31, 2012)
Figures released recently by the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change reveal that the amount of electricity being generated by solar-powered has soared a truly staggered 840% in the past 12 months. Solar power’s rise comes as energy consumption across the world continues to grow and demand increases – in the UK alone energy consumption has increased by 5.1% over the course of the past 12 months. Unfortunately as demand increases so do prices and total electricity costs increased 5.5% during the same period.

Volcano Power Plan Gets US Go-Ahead – (Giz Mag – October 31, 2012)
Having successfully negotiated the challenging regulatory slopes of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a host of Oregon state agencies, the Newberry Enhanced Geothermal Systems demonstration project is in the process of creating a new geothermal reservoir in central Oregon. The core of the new reservoir is a two mile deep well drilled about four miles from the center of Newberry Volcano. The rock surrounding the wellbore reaches temperatures in the order of 600° F, and is nearly impermeable to water. That, however, is about to change. The goal of the project is to produce electricity by extracting energy from the earth’s heat. To accomplish this, a subsurface system of fractures is formed in hot, impermeable rock, and water pumped down from the surface is circulated through these fractures and returned to the surface as the energy source for a geothermal power plant.

Devastating Flood in Nigeria Deplaced Over 2 Million – (The Watchers – November 6, 2012)
Since July, devastating floods affected 30 of the Nigeria’s 36 states, displacing more than 2 million people. The Nigerian Red Cross said there’s no telling when families will be able to return, and when they do, they will need help rebuilding their homes, and their lives. The situation in the camps is serious – there is severe lack of food and clean drinking water. President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to release additional funds for the procurement of medicine and seedlings for victims, particularly those in Benue state. Severe hunger has hit over 400 children at Ula-Ehuda Camp in Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers State. There is also a high risk of epidemics breaking out in the affected areas. Flooding typically occurs every year during the August to October rainy season in these low-lying areas. Flash floods are common in Nigeria in the rainy season (May to September), but news reports characterized this year’s floods as the worst in more than 40 years. Rainy season this year is not over yet and more flooding is expected.

Saphonian Bladeless Turbine Boasts Impressive Efficiency, Low Cost – (Giz Mag – November 7, 2012)
Tunisian green energy startup Saphon Energy has created a new bladeless wind turbine which draws inspiration from the design of a ship’s sails, and promises to convert the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity at up to double the efficiency – and half the cost – of a typical wind turbine. Dubbed the “Saphonian,” in honor of an ancient wind divinity worshiped by the Carthaginian Mediterranean culture which predated modern Tunisia, the current iteration of bladeless wind turbine implements a patented system called “Zero-Blade Technology” in order to harness the wind’s energy. This is said to involve channeling the wind in a back and forth motion, until it is converted into mechanical energy using pistons. The pistons then produce hydraulic pressure, which can be instantly converted to electricity via a hydraulic motor and a generator, or stored in a hydraulic accumulator. See also Solar Aero and Catching Wind Power bladeless turbines, two other companies that have developed wind turbines that do not use rotating blades which can cause noise pollution and be harmful to birds.



TRANSPORTATION

Whoa! 1.7 Billion Cars on the Road by 2035 – (CNBC – November 13, 2012)
The latest forecast from the International Energy Agency is that by 2035, the number of vehicles on the road worldwide will double to 1.7 billion. Yes, that's billion with a "B". Not surprisingly most of the growth behind that number will happen in China. According to the IEA, look at the growth in vehicles per capita in China: 2000: 4 vehicles per 1000 people; 2010: 40 per 1000 people; 2035: 310 per 1000 people. For comparison, the U.S. Currently has 660 vehicles per 1000 people. India will also see explosive growth, going from 14 million cars today to an estimated 160 million cars 23 years from now. The IEA believes internal combustion cars will still dominate the global auto market but they are likely to be more fuel efficient. In fact, the IEA predicts the U.S. will mandate 60 MPG by 2035.



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Denmark to Abandon the World’s First Fat Tax – (Daily Caller – November 10, 2012)
Denmark has decided to scrap a fat tax it introduced a little over a year ago in a world first, saying the measure was costly and failed to change Danes’ eating habits. “The fat tax and the extension of the chocolate tax — the so-called sugar tax — has been criticized for increasing prices for consumers, increasing companies’ administrative costs and putting Danish jobs at risk,” the Danish tax ministry said in a statement. “At the same time it is believed that the fat tax has, to a lesser extent, contributed to Danes traveling across the border to make purchases,” it added.

How Fly Farming May Help More Fish Stay in the Sea – (NPR – October 15, 2012)
What's the lowly house fly got to do with the $60 billion fish farming industry? Quite a lot, says Jason Drew, an entrepreneur who thinks flies can solve one of aquaculture's most vexing issues: what to feed the growing ranks of farmed fish. Farm-raised salmon, trout and shrimp need a lot of animal protein in their diet. Right now, that protein comes mainly from small, wild fish that are turned into fish meal. It takes about 3 pounds of fish to produce 1 pound of farmed salmon, and as we continue to deplete wild fish stocks, fisheries experts say we're going to run out. And so aquaculture experts all over the world are scrambling to figure out what to do about it. He was so convinced, he founded a company to give it a shot. In 2009, his company, AgriProtein, purchased its first batch of flies to breed for industrial production. After a couple of years of tinkering, his team figured out how to produce protein-rich larvae in bulk. It helps that one fly can lay up to 1,000 eggs, and 1 pound of eggs can grow into 380 pounds of larvae. Today Drew has a fly factory up and running near Cape Town and is selling his Magmeal, a brown crumbly protein meal made of maggots, or fly larvae, to South African salmon and chicken farms. By next year, he says his factory will be producing 100 tons of fly meal a day. "That's 100 tons we don't have to take out of the sea," he says. "And we can't keep up with demand."

Sky-high Levels of Radioactivity in Fish from Fukushima Means Inedible Seafood for at Least a Decade (Watchers – November 13, 2012)
Since the disaster first occurred (March, 2011), researchers from Japan have been routinely catching and analyzing sample fish from the waters near the Fukushima Prefecture, which became tainted by radioactive runoff from damaged cooling pools and failed nuclear reactors. Much to the team’s surprise, radiation levels were found to still be about the same as they were before, indicating that either the Fukushima plant is still leaking radioactive materials, or that these radioactive materials have been accumulating at the ocean’s bottom, where fish continue to become exposed to them. In either case, cod, flounder, halibut, pollock, skate, sole, and various other bottom-feeding fish living in the area are likely unsafe for human consumption for at least the next ten years. “These fish could have to be banned for a ling time,” said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “The most surprising thing for me was that the levels [of radioactivity] in the fish were not going down. There should have been much lower numbers.” Among roughly 9,000 fish sampled, Buesseler observed that levels of cesium-134, the half-life of which is about two years, are generally the same as they were a year ago.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

New Air Force Missile “Turns out Lights” – (AOL Defense – October 23, 2012)
The goal of an Air Force missile test on Oct. 16 was "to render ... electronic and data systems useless," according to Boeing, the lead contractor for the three-year, $40-million Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, initiated in 2009. Basically, the missile’s microwave generators generate an EMP-like field which shuts down electronics. "This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare," Keith Coleman, the CHAMP program manager at Boeing Phantom Works, told Jackson. "In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy's electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive."



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

Was Petraeus Borked? – (Propublica – November 14, 2012)
Will the scandal surrounding David Petraeus, General John Allen, Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley, and a shirtless F.B.I. agent turn into the same sort of eureka moment that Congress experienced when Judge Robert Bork was, as the saying now goes, "borked"? Although the lustful portion of the Petraeus scandal is hardly disappearing — who else will be drawn into it, and when will we read the emails? — attention is turning toward the apparent ease with which the F.B.I. accessed the electronic communication of Petraeus, Broadwell, Kelley, and Allen. The exact circumstances of how the F.B.I. got its hands on all this material remains to be revealed — for instance, whether search warrants were obtained for everything — but the bottom line appears to be that the F.B.I. accessed a vast array of private information and seriously harmed the careers of at least Petraeus and Broadwell without, as of yet, filing a criminal complaint against anybody. As the law professor and privacy expert, James Grimmelmann, tweeted the other day, "The scandal isn't what's illegal; the scandal is what's legal (or what the FBI thinks is legal)." Until now, Congress has not stood in the way of the expanding surveillance, mainly because it was justified as part of the effort to prevent another 9/11. But the Petraeus case shows that among the people who have the most to lose from unchecked surveillance are the people who thought they would benefit from it—government elites who allocate the funding and make the laws and operate the bureaucracy of surveillance. Perhaps they will start worrying a bit more about becoming the next Petraeus or Bork. Our legislators, who are not all angels, now have real skin in the game, so to speak.

Cheating on Energy Department Guard Force Tests Was Widespread - (Nation of Change - November 3, 2012)
A culture of cheating pervades the guard force at America’s premier processing and storage site for nuclear weapons-grade uranium, according to a new report this week by the Energy Department’s inspector general. Contract officers and supervisors of the force at the Y-12 plant outside Knoxville, Tennessee, shared advance copies of test materials with patrolmen, said inspector general Gregory H. Friedman, rendering their responses unreliable. But he put the blame squarely on the Energy Department for mismanaging the facility’s operations. The abuses he cited are not new. Eight years ago, Friedman blew the whistle on even worse cheating by the Y-12 guard force, disclosing that for years they obtained advance word of mock assaults meant to test their capabilities, and carefully redeployed their forces to produce impressive but faked results.

The System Ain’t the System – (Austin Chronicle – August 31, 2012)
One political question cuts through all others: Who benefits? Who, for instance, benefits from the lawful bribery we call "elections"? "The average member of the House of Representatives has to raise $367 for every hour they're supposedly serving their constituents to pay for their re-election campaigns. The average senator needs to wrangle $819 an hour" (Mother Jones, quoted in The Week, June 29, p.20). Crunch those numbers. Unless you've got an awful lot of money, your representatives are not representing you – which leads one to believe that these days Congress may be doing exactly what it's paid to do: nothing. (Editor’s note: Michael Ventura, the author of this article, is superb at collecting open-source data points and then connecting the dots in ways that most of us miss.)

Plan for Hunting Terrorists Signals U.S. Intends to Keep Adding Names to Kill Lists – (Washington Post – October 23, 2012)
Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.” The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones. A senior administration official said. “We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ” That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero. (Editor’s note: This article is one in a series on the topic of “The Permanent War”. See other links within the article.)

US Muslim Placed on No-fly List Is Unable to See His Ailing Mother – (Guardian – November 5, 2012)
In April of this year, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its "no-fly list", which bars him from flying into his own country. Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel. He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying. The Associated Press has learned that "the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans." Worse, the Obama administration "lowered the bar for being added to the list". As a result, reported AP, "now a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list" but can be included if they "are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security", a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

Blaming the Muslims – (AntiWar – October 24, 2012)
It is perhaps human nature to seek to blame someone else for one’s own personal failings. But what is possibly only a misdemeanor in personal interactions becomes rather more serious when entire nations and races are systematically and comprehensively blamed for the failures of other nations to comprehend simple truths. Instead, witness the disastrous foreign policy that we Americans have endured for the past 11 years, which is coming home to roost now in places such as Libya and Syria. Neither President Barack Obama nor Gov. Mitt Romney has dared to say the truth, which is that the past 11 years have been disastrous for the United States because of a gross overreaction to a terrorism problem that we helped create. That overreaction has led to one unnecessary major war in Iraq that has helped bankrupt the country while also killing more than 100,000 people who had nothing to do with any threat against the United States. We have even punished the children of those we have killed: witness the stunning rise in birth defects caused by depleted uranium in parts of Iraq where the fighting was most intense.

Mexican Cartel Bought Guns From U.S. Border Patrol – (Wired – November 8, 2012)
The testimony of a Mexican hitman turned government witness has revealed some astonishing details of life inside Mexico’s criminal underworld. Most astonishing of all: claims that cartel assassins obtained guns from the U.S. Border Patrol. According to Mexican magazine Revista Contralinea, the testimony comes from a protected government witness and former hitman, who cooperated in the prosecution of a Sinaloa Cartel accountant by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office. The testimony details a series of battles fought by a group of cartel members attempting to drive out rival gangsters from territory in Mexico’s desert west. To do it, the group sought weapons from the U.S., including at least 30 WASR-10 rifles — a variant of the AK-47 — allegedly acquired from Border Patrol agents. If true, it could reignite the debate over Operation Fast and Furious, the last time U.S. authorities allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican gangsters. Two days after the election, Attorney General Eric Holder — who had been at the center of allegations surrounding the scandal — is now talking like he might not stay with the administration for much longer.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Create a Martian – (Electronic Products – October 22, 2012)
The day is nearing when we can say that scientists are creating Martians. John Craig Venter, researcher and entrepreneur, is working to develop a machine that can sequence DNA found on Mars and then “beam” it back to earth. Venter’s goal is to send a “biological teleporter” to Mars, collect Martian DNA, and then recreate Martian life from it. He hopes to include the device that would consist of a sending and receiving unit on a future Mars rover mission, once improvements have been made on future rovers, including drills that can dig deeply to collect soil samples. Venter looks optimistically toward the subsurface life-form possibilities that Mars holds. On Earth, life forms can be found as far as 2 miles below the surface. “There will be DNA life forms,” Venter said confidently. Once they are able to isolate the DNA found in the soil, they will be able to sequence it immediately. To beam the Martian life form back to earth could take only 4.3 minutes when Earth and Mars are at their closest.



DEMOGRAPHICS

As Dengue Fever Sweeps India, a Slow Response Stirs Experts’ Fears – (New York Times – November 6, 2012)
An epidemic of dengue fever is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world. India has become the focal point for a mosquito-borne plague that is sweeping the globe. Reported in just a handful of countries in the 1950s, dengue (pronounced DEN-gay) is now endemic in half the world’s nations. “The global dengue problem is far worse than most people know, and it keeps getting worse,” said Dr. Raman Velayudhan, the World Health Organization’s lead dengue coordinator. In Thailand, almost every child is infected by dengue at least once before adulthood. “Twenty years ago, just one of every 50 tourists who returned from the tropics with fever was infected by dengue; now, it is one in six, said Dr. Velayudhan. Last month, health officials in Miami announced a case of locally acquired dengue infection. On Oct. 9, Puerto Rico’s Health Department declared a dengue epidemic after at least six people died and nearly 5,000 people were sickened. The tropical disease, though life-threatening for a tiny fraction of those infected, can be extremely painful. See also Pakistan Uses Smartphone Data to Head off Dengue Outbreak



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

What Sandy Is Teaching New York City That 9/11 Didn't – (Bloomberg – November 5, 2012)
Superstorm Sandy delivers a message first heard on Sept. 11, 2001: New York, as a proxy for the United States, is unprepared for anticipated 21st century threats. Sandy elicits no moral shock of war, no blinding national insult. Instead we're up against something much more elusive, an enemy we're much more poorly equipped to deal with than sleeper terrorist cells: the Earth. (Editor’s note: since when has the Earth been an “enemy”?) We know, from Munich Re's new study, Severe Weather in North America, that the number of natural catastrophes per year has been rising everywhere since 1980, but nowhere as steeply as in North America. Restoring New York and New Jersey is an exercise in climate change adaptation, a largely theoretical policy topic until recently. Sandy puts adaptation at the center of global attention, and demands an answer to the tough question, what should governments, businesses and citizens want to adapt to? Cities can adapt to the present, by updating infrastructure destroyed by the storm. But what about 2050, when the city projects its mean sea level could be a foot higher. Using more gut than quantitative modeling, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week, "We have 100-year floods every two years now."

7 Best Case Scenarios for the Future of Humanity – (io9 – November 7, 2012)
Most science fictional and futurist visions of the future tend towards the negative — and for good reason. Our environment is a mess, we have a nasty tendency to misuse technologies, and we're becoming increasingly capable of destroying ourselves. But civilizational demise is by no means guaranteed. Should we find a way to manage the risks and avoid dystopic outcomes, our far future looks astonishingly bright. Here are seven best-case scenarios for the future of humanity. It's worth noting that many of the scenarios listed here are not mutually exclusive. If things go really well, our civilization will continue to evolve and diversify, leading to many different types of futures.



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

Liquid Trust – (Vero Labs – no date)
This is the pitch line for a product that can be ordered online: “Spray on Liquid Trust in the morning while getting dressed, before important meetings during the day or in the evening before going out to socialize. Everyone you encounter will immediately and unconsciously detect the Oxytocin in Liquid Trust that you are wearing. Without realizing why, the people around you have a strong feeling of trust. They can’t explain it, but you know that Liquid Trust is doing its magic.” The product is not a joke or scam. Oxytocin, a hormone which occurs naturally in the brain and helps regulate emotion, has been shown in studies to lead people to be more trusting. It also seems to promote social interaction, and might be used to help people with social phobias or autism. Oxytocin also helps promote mother/baby bonding. Here is a link to an NPR report on Oxytocin and here is a BBC report on it. Oh, and more thing: you can also buy it on Amazon.

MRSA Found In Wastewater Treatment Plants – (Huffington Post – November 8, 2012)
Drug-resistant bacteria has made its way to wastewater treatment facilities, according to a new study from the University of Maryland. The study included samples from the four different water treatment plants as they went through the treatment process. MRSA was found in half of all the samples gathered, while MSSA (methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus) was found in 55% of all the samples gathered. MRSA was found in 83% of the raw sewage, but researchers noted that as the water went through the treatment process, fewer and fewer samples had MRSA. By the end of the treatment process, only one of four plants had a sample with MRSA, though researchers noted that this particular plant is known to not chlorinate its water regularly -- a step known as "tertiary treatment." MRSA is of particular importance in the public health realm because it is resistant to the usual antibiotics that are used to fight staph. It's particularly common in hospitals, what is known as hospital-acquired MRSA, though community-acquired MRSA is also possible.



JUST FOR FUN

World’s First 3D Printing Photo Booth to Open in Japan – (Spoon & Tamago – November 9, 2012)
Interested in having a miniature sculpture of yourself? The world’s first 3D printing photo booth is set to open for a limited time at the exhibition space EYE OF GYRE in Harajuku. From November 24 to January 14, 2013, people with reservations can go and have their portraits taken. Except, instead of a photograph, you’ll receive a miniature replica of yourself. You can pick from 3 sizes, S (10cm), M (15cm) and L (20cm) for 21,000 yen ($264), 32,000 yen ($403) and 42,000 yen ($528), respectively.



A FINAL QUOTE--

The future has a way of arriving unannounced. – George Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.



A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Philip Bogdonoff, Bernard Calil, Jackie Capell, Kate Carruthers, Ken Dabkowski, Jack DuVall, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Beverly Spicer, 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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Edited by John L. Petersen
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org
www.arlingtoninstitute.org

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