Volume 16, Number 09 - 5/15/13 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • Two geneticists have crunched the DNA data and found that — even without technological interference — biological complexity has doubled roughly every 376 million years.

  • US engineers have developed a new way to embed radio frequency identification (RFID) chips on to paper. The technique could be used for banknotes to prevent fraud as well as provide a new meaning to the term 'paper trail'.

  • The US government has demanded designs for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline after the blueprints for the plastic gun were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

  • The London-based firm ICAP, the world's largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated for possible manipulation of swap rates, a roughly $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect total assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Causes and Effects

In the previous issue, in this space I talked about the foreign response to American policy initiatives. The day after sending that issue to press, this very clear and succinct assessment of our policies toward Iran arrived at my virtual doorstep. Written by Princeton University scholar, Hossein Mousavian, who served as the Head of Foreign Relation Committee of Iran’s National Security Council from 1997 to 2005, it presents a rather clear, logical and believable explanation of the likely response to our country’s present policies. Ten consequences of US covert war against Iran proposes that targeting Iran’s nuclear program through cyber attacks and assassinations will worsen Iran’s siege mentality and drive it towards greater aggression. See what you think.

Did They Really Do That?

I’ve been impressed this past week by a number of articles and initiatives that made me stand back, rub my head, and say, “Is this really for real?” Each is rather audacious in significant ways.

It started with this extraordinary piece from Rolling Stone Magazine, Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever. I read this very well researched article and found myself thinking: nothing is as we are being told. They’re manipulating everything.

You can mentally walk through the areas of healthcare, climate change, foreign affairs, federal statistics, education, energy, ecology, food and nutrition, agriculture, and defense and national security (to mention the ones that rapidly come to mind), and quickly identify very significant issues which, in reality are not as they are being advertised by those who are representing these areas.

Things are becoming surreal. How do you know what’s real?

...which brings me to the aliens.

I had to stop and check to see if it was the first of April when someone sent me a major piece from the current issue of Vanity Fair, a rather substantial and influential publication that seriously reviews the UFO/alien issue. As I read along, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop . . . they just had to include some snide remarks about the subject somewhere . . . but they didn’t. It was rather amazing and objective. VF posed the question: Alien Nation: Have Humans Been Abducted by Extraterrestrials? And responded: A prestigious Harvard psychiatrist, John Edward Mack, thought so. His sudden death leaves behind many mysteries.

As it turns out, John Mack was a friend of mine and I very much admired his openness, intelligence and integrity in the number of extended conversations that I had with him during the period described in the article.

Finally, my wife, Diane, and I went to see the latest Tom Cruise sci-fi movie, Oblivion, last weekend, so I was kind of in a sci-fi mode when this 1984-esque report came in. It was buried in the more than 800 pages of the bi-partisan immigration reform bill: the language in the bill mandated the Department of Homeland Security to build a database with the facial biometrics of everyone with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID so that those dirty immigrants won’t ever be able to get a job in this country again. If you try to get a job and your ID doesn’t match with the picture in the database not only won’t you be able to work and take care of yourself and your family, but they’ll probably swoop in and haul you off to somewhere very distasteful.

And, of course, ultimately every police officer would be able to almost immediately determine if it was really you driving the car – just from the car license plate information. With facial recognition cameras at all the gates, the government would know who everyone was inside the stadium for a sporting event . . . or any other meeting or shopping mall or political rally. Be creative – let your mind run a bit with this. You can read about it here.

If I didn’t believe that a rather wonderful new world is going to emerge out of all of this, I’d probably be concerned.



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Engineers Develop Smart RFID-enabled Paper – (BBC News – May 1, 2013)
US engineers have developed a way to embed radio frequency identification chips on to paper that they say is quicker, cheaper and offers wider applications than current methods. The technique could be used to prevent fraud as well as provide a new meaning to the term 'paper trail'. Such smart paper could be used for banknotes, legal documents, tickets and smart labels, the team said. Some RFID-enabled paper is already on the market but the chips are much thicker, resulting in either bulky paper or a bump on the surface that would mean such paper could not be printed. The process developed by the team at North Dakota State University is known as Laser Enabled Advanced Packaging (Leap). Firstly the chips are thinned down using a plasma etcher. The patent-pending technology uses a laser beam's energy to precisely transfer the ultra-thin chips. Antennas are also embedded using the same method. "About ten years ago the Bank of Japan and the European bank signaled their intention to develop such technology but they aren't there yet," said the head of the project, Val Marinov. "I believe our scheme is the first to demonstrate a functional RFID tag embedded in paper."



NEW REALITIES

Numbers Support Theory Large Earthquakes Can Trigger Another Far Away – (Terra Daily – April 19, 2013)
Big earthquakes can trigger other quakes far from their geographical center at least 9% of the time, a statistical analysis by a U.S. researcher shows. With a number of huge earthquakes in recent years -- in Sumatra, Indonesia, in December 2004, Chile in February 2010 and Japan in 2011 -- leading many to question whether one large quake can cause another on the other side of the world, Tom Parsons of the U.S. Geological Survey surveyed catalogs of seismic activity on every continent except Antarctica going back to 1979. Of the 260 earthquakes of magnitude 7 or greater during that period, small earthquakes on separate fault systems followed in the wake of 24 of them, triggered by seismic waves passing through distant lands, he said. Parsons says his next step will be to investigate the 24 quakes that caused far-off events and see if there is anything special about them. "So far they look fairly ordinary. So we're going to have to really dig into them," he said.

Bioelectromagnetics: Bees & Flowers Communicate Using Electrical Fields – (Natural Society – May 2, 2013)
In a recent study from the University of Bristol, scientists put electromagnetic detectors in flowers’ pollinators to determine if electrical signals given off by both bee and flower aided in communication. They also watched bee behavior. What scientists discovered is that flowers convey specific information, including how much pollen they have, if another bee has visited them recently, and what type of flower they are. Researchers also discovered that bumblebees distinguish different types of flowers utilizing floral electric fields. While plants are usually negatively charged, bees can build up to a 200-volt charge as they fly through the air. When they land on a flower, this electric charge helps the bee and flower ‘talk’ to one another. This electric relationship is not entirely understood by researchers just yet, as scientists don’t know exactly how bees (or flowers) detect electrical fields. However, the research suggests that the electrical fields that build up on bees due to their flight or movement are stimuli that could be used in social communication, according to the Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biological Sciences.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

What If Moore's Law Applied to Humans as Well? – (Washington Post – April 23, 2013)
The appearance of so many new exponentially-growing information technologies today, all of them roughly following the trajectory of Moore’s Law — combined with our growing knowledge of how to manipulate the very building blocks of life — would certainly seem to hint at a future in which human potential is eventually measured in exponential rather than linear terms. That means that even the humans of the near future may look nothing like today’s humans. Applying Moore’s Law to biological complexity and human development may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Recently, the geneticists Alexei Sharov of the National Institute on Aging in Maryland and Richard Gordon of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida crunched the DNA data and found that — even without technological interference — complexity has doubled roughly every 376 million years. What doubles in complexity is a proxy for biological complexity: the length of functional, non-redundant DNA per genome, counted by nucleotide base pairs. While a doubling every 376 million years may not sound as impressive as one every 18 months, it does mean that it’s possible to map in a tidy exponential chart the development of all life using DNA — from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to worms to fish to mammals. If you extrapolate backwards, these findings suggest that life started nearly 10 billion years ago—a finding with dramatic implications for the very origins of life on planet Earth.

Consciousness after Death: Strange Tales From the Frontiers of Resuscitation Medicine – (Wired – April 24, 2013)
Sam Parnia practices resuscitation medicine. In other words, he helps bring people back from the dead — and some return with stories. Their tales could help save lives, and even challenge traditional scientific ideas about the nature of consciousness. “The evidence we have so far is that human consciousness does not become annihilated,” said Parnia, a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital and director of the school’s resuscitation research program. “It continues for a few hours after death, albeit in a hibernated state we cannot see from the outside.” Resuscitation medicine grew out of the mid-twentieth century discovery of CPR, the medical procedure by which hearts that have stopped beating are revived. Originally effective for a few minutes after cardiac arrest, advances in CPR have pushed that time to a half-hour or more. New techniques promise to even further extend the boundary between life and death. At the same time, experiences reported by resuscitated people sometimes defy what’s thought to be possible. They claim to have seen and heard things, though activity in their brains appears to have stopped. It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known. Parnia, leader of the Human Consciousness Project’s AWARE study, which documents after-death experiences in 25 hospitals across North America and Europe, is studying the phenomenon scientifically.

3-D Printed Ear Made from Calf Cells and Nanoparticles ‘Hears’ Radio Frequencies – (Wired – May 2, 2013)
Nanotechnology engineers from Princeton have 3-D printed an ear from calf cells and silver nanoparticles that picks up radio signals at frequencies beyond human capacity. The creation is part of their greater plan to one day build spare parts for human cyborgs. Rather than simply adding electronics to an ear, the team decided to try and integrate the two from the start. They 3-D printed hydrogel — a polymer-based gel often used as scaffolding in tissue engineering – with calf cells, and weaved in silver nanoparticles to create an built-in antenna coil that replaces the cochlea. The calf cells matured to become cartilage and the electronics were then encased in a highly supportive ear that mirrors the complex build of the real thing. This is really a proof of concept endeavor for the Princeton team. It’s not planning on sewing its bionic ears on to human heads anytime soon — though research leader Michael McAlpine says it could, in theory, be connected to nerve endings like hearing aids are. For now, the challenge they have set themselves is to generate new techniques for building potential cyborg parts.

The Operating Room of the Future – (You Tube – January 21, 2013)
This video clip is an interview with Dr. Kobi Vortman, founder and president and Baruch Avruch, VP of Operations from the Israeli company, InSightec. The company is a leader in magnetic resonance guided Focused Ultrasound Surgery, a non-invasive treatment that can replace invasive procedures and offer alternatives treatment for such issues as brain lesions, uterine fibroids and several kinds of cancerous growths. See also: a TED talk, Ultrasound Surgery—Healing without Cuts presented by Yoav Medan, chief systems architect at InSightec.

Brain Region Found to Control Aging - (Live Science - May 1, 2013)
A brain region has been found that may control aging throughout the whole body. A signaling pathway in the brain region known as the hypothalamus could speed up or slow down aging in mice. If it applies in humans, the discovery could open up possibilities for slowing age-related diseases and increasing life span. The process of aging could involve chaotic, passive changes in individual tissues or organs, or it could be controlled centrally by a single organ — or both, said senior author Dr. Dongsheng Cai, a molecular pharmacologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Cai and his team have found that an immune system pathway in the hypothalamus also has a role in controlling aging. Usually, the immune system is involved in fending off infection or damage, but studies have also linked inflammatory changes with age-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases. Still, these changes weren't known to actively trigger aging. In the study, Cai and his colleagues studied a protein complex called nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB), which plays a central role in inflammatory processes. The researchers showed that activating the NF-κB pathway in the mouse hypothalamus sped up aging, demonstrated by decreased muscle strength and size, skin thickness and learning ability. The activation led to aging throughout the body that shortened the life span of the mice.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Midway - (Midway Film - no date)
This video clip is a trailer for an upcoming film by Chris Jordan focusing on Midway Island in the North Pacific ocean, (2,000 miles from the nearest continent), its glorious bird life and the impact of humanity.

The Army Goes Off the Grid – (Nation of Change – April 18, 2013)
“Net zero” is the term attached to an elegant idea: converting communities to total renewable energy, complete recycling, and a culture of conservation to bring humankind’s carbon footprint into a sustainable balance with a healthy earth. Now, imagine the last place you’d expect this ideal to take root…and even flourish. How about an Army base? In Texas? Well, astonishingly enough, the Army is pioneering America’s net-zero future. Fort Bliss, a sprawling military base accommodating 35,000 soldiers in El Paso, is one of our armed forces’ leading hotbeds of energy conservation and creativity. The post already has a 1.4-megawatt solar array and has placed rooftop solar panels on enough base housing to generate 13.4-megawatts of energy. It’s partnering with El Paso Electric to add a 200-acre, 20-megawatt solar farm by 2015. The base’s managers plan to convert its own waste into energy. Oh, and it’s engaged in wind power, geothermal, and conservation projects while promoting energy-efficient vehicles and building bicycle lanes. The troops have earned their green stripes by planting nearly 15,000 trees and embracing recycling. To encourage the latter, base commander Gen. Dana Pittard has invested the revenue from recycling into skate parks, gyms, and other morale-boosting recreation projects.

A World without Land Fills – It’s Closer Than You Think – (Nation of Change – April 20, 2013)
Nohra Padilla and Rossano Ercolini are two of the winners of this year’s Goldman Prize, which awards $150,000 to each of six grassroots environmentalists who have achieved great impact, often against great odds. On the surface, Padilla and Ercolini seem to have little in common. Padilla is a grassroots recycler—also known as a waste picker—from the embattled city of Bogotá, Colombia. Ercolini is an elementary school teacher from the rustic farmlands of Capannori, Italy. Though their experiences are different, they share a common cause: organizing to reduce the amount of trash—everything from cans and bottles to cell phones and apple cores—that ends up buried in landfills or burned in incinerators. Zero waste systems are designed with the goal of eliminating the practice of sending trash to landfills and incinerators. Not only is this possible, it’s already beginning to happen. Ercolini’s hometown of Capannori, Italy, has already achieved 82% recycling and reuse and is on track to bring that figure to 100% by 2020.

Smart Plastic Guide – (PBS – no date)
This webpage shows all the different grades of plastic (in the recycling symbols, #1-7), what type of plastic each one is, what it is used for, how well or poorly it can be recycled, and what, if any, known health impacts it has. Interesting, good information. Note: plastic type #5 is now more recyclable in some locations than this table indicates.

Fukushima nuclear plant shutdown may take Japan longer than predicted 40 years – (CBS News – April 22, 2013)
A U.N. nuclear watchdog team says Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant and urged its operator to improve plant stability. However the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. still have to develop technology and equipment that can operate under fatally high radiation levels to locate and remove melted fuel. The reactors must be kept cool and the plant must stay safe and stable, and those efforts to ensure safety could slow the process down. The plant still runs on makeshift equipment and frequently suffers glitches. In the past few weeks, the plant suffered nearly a dozen problems ranging from extensive power outages and leaks of highly radioactive water from underground water pools. Recently, TEPCO had to stop the cooling system for one of the fuel storage pools for safety checks after finding two dead rats inside a transformer box. Earlier in the month, a rat short-circuited a switchboard, causing an extensive outage and cooling loss for up to 30 hours.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Atoms Star in World's Smallest Movie from IBM - (BBC News - May 1, 2013)
Researchers at IBM have created the world's smallest movie by manipulating single atoms on a copper surface. The stop-motion animation, titled A Boy and His Atom, uses dozens of carbon monoxide molecules, moved with the tiny tip of what is called a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). STM, an IBM invention, garnered the scientists behind it the 1986 Nobel prize in physics. It would take about 1,000 of the frames of the film laid side by side to span a single human hair. It is a showpiece for IBM's efforts to design next-generation data storage solutions based on single atoms. IBM's scientists have been behind a number of technologies that can peer into atomic and molecular systems - their recent efforts using a related machine called an atomic force microscope have yielded pictures of single molecules and even images that detail the atomic bonds within molecules.

Revolutionary New Device Joins World of Smart Electronics – (Space Mart – April 24, 2013)
From techno-textiles to transparent electronic displays, the world of intelligent technology is growing fast and a revolutionary new device has just been added to its ranks. Researchers at the University of Exeter have developed a new photoelectric device that is both flexible and transparent. The device converts light into electrical signals by exploiting the unique properties of the recently discovered materials graphene and graphExeter. GraphExeter is the best known room temperature transparent conductor and graphene is the thinnest conductive material. At just a few atoms thick, the newly developed photoelectric device is ultra-lightweight. This, along with the flexibility of its constituent graphene materials, makes it perfect for incorporating into clothing. Such devices could be used to develop photovoltaic textiles enabling clothes to act as solar panels and charge mobile phones while they are being worn. Photosensitive materials and devices such as the one could also be used for intelligent windows that are able to harvest electricity and display images while remaining transparent.

Scientists Make 'Bug-eye' Camera - (BBC News - May 1, 2013)
A digital camera has been developed that functions like an insect's compound eye. The "bug-eye" camera has an array of 180 small lenses, which, along with their associated electronics, are stretched across a curved mounting. The prototype currently has few pixels, so its images are low-resolution. But the device displays an immense depth of field, and a very wide-angle view that avoids the distortion seen in standard camera lenses. The development team, from the University of Illinois, believes its new imaging system could eventually find uses in surveillance and for endoscopic investigations of the human body. The researchers also suggest such cameras could be fitted to tiny aerial vehicles one day that behaved like robotic insects.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

“World’s Greenest Office Building” Makes Net-Zero Look Easy – (Yes Magazine – April 22, 2013)
Peering down Seattle’s Capitol Hill, the Bullitt Center appears to be just another high-end commercial building—until you look up and notice the roof, which is overlaid with shiny silver photovoltaic panels that extend far beyond the building’s exterior walls. Even in the cloudiest of cities, the panels generate all the electricity the six-story structure requires. It’s a commercial office space equipped with composting toilets, rainwater showers, and a stairway designed to be so beautiful that no one ever takes the elevator.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Denmark 1000 Megawatts of Offshore Wind – (Forbes – March 26, 2031)
Denmark now gets almost 25% of its electricity from windpower, and this country of 5.5 million in habitants is planning to double that number to 50% by 2020. It won’t be an easy task.  With the existing wind capacity, there have already been times in recent years when surpluses have been generated and Denmark has actually paid other countries to take the excess power supply (much like the situation in West Texas, where surpluses of wind occasionally result in negative pricing for short periods).  If significant changes to the electric system are not made, it is possible that supply might eclipse demand for up to 1000 hours per year by 2020 (out of the 8760 hours in a year). One critically important element used today is hydro storage capacity in neighboring Norway (which is supplied by 99% hydro) and Sweden (over 50% hydro), supported by robust interconnection transmission lines.  When excess wind energy is generated, power is often transmitted to these neighboring countries.  In turn, they simply throttle back their hydro plants and store more water behind dams for later use.  When more electricity is needed, power can flow the other way.  In this sense, Norway and Sweden’s hydro systems serve as large batteries in a larger interconnected system.



TRANSPORTATION

The Transition: Driven to Fly – (Terrafugia – April 4, 2013)
Here’s a vehicle that goes from your garage to the public roadways to the air—all on premium grade gasoline from a standard filling station. The Transition® is a two-place, fixed wing, street legal airplane.  It is designed to fit in a single car garage, be safely driven on the highway, and be flown in and out of general aviation airports. (Editor’s note: You can reserve one now, but we don’t know the cost or when the first deliveries are expected.)

Flying Car Crashes in Canada - (Ars Technica - May 12, 2013)
Not all flying cars are created equal. A flying car recently crashed in Vernon, British Columbia. The car, which is kept aloft by a parasail and driven forward by a rear propeller, hit a fence and then a tree. Both the pilot and passenger were injured. The experimental car is named Maverick, costs about $94,000, can travel up to 40 miles per hour in the air, and requires a 100-meter runway to both take off and land. The production company is I-TEC (Indigenous Peoples’ Technology and Education Center) and purports to “provide tools and technologies to God-followers in frontiers areas to meet their needs”.


AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases – (MDPI - April 18, 2013)
This article belongs to the special issue of Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality. Abstract of peer-reviewed article: Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide. The industry asserts it is minimally toxic to humans, but here we argue otherwise. Residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Glyphosate's inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins. (Link to entire article is included in abstract free.)



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

US Government Orders Removal of Defcad 3D-gun Designs – (BBC News – May 10, 2013)
The US government has demanded designs for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline. The order to remove the blueprints for the plastic gun comes after they were downloaded more than 100,000 times. The US State Department wrote to the gun's designer, Defense Distributed, suggesting publishing them online may breach arms-control regulations. Although the files have been removed from the company's Defcad site, it is not clear whether this will stop people accessing the blueprints. They were being hosted by the Mega online service and may still reside on its servers. Also, many links to copies of the blueprints have been uploaded to file-sharing site the Pirate Bay, making them widely available. The Pirate Bay has also publicized its links to the files via social news site Reddit suggesting many more people will get hold of the blueprints. Cody Wilson, who founded Defense Distributed, told the BBC that the genie was out of the bottle. Before making the gun, Mr. Wilson got a license to manufacture and sell the weapon from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Bureau told the BBC that any American could make a gun for their own use, even on a 3D printer, but selling it required a license.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

Whistleblowing Now Akin to Treason – (Salon – April 14, 2013)
The persecution of a former National Security Agency official highlights a disturbing government initiative. When Thomas Drake, then an official at the National Security Agency, realized that the agency’s decision to shut down an internal data analysis program and instead outsource the project to a private contractor provided the government with less effective analysis at much higher cost, he tried to do something about it. Drake’s decision to join three other whistleblowers in asking the agency’s inspector general to investigate ultimately made him the target of a leak investigation that tore his life apart. In 2005, the inspector general of the Department of Defense, of which NSA is a part, confirmed the whistleblowers’ accusations of waste, fraud and security risk. Nevertheless, Drake’s efforts to expose that waste and abuse would ultimately lead to his being charged under the 1917 Espionage Act — a law intended for the prosecution of spies, not whistleblowers. Thomas Drake’s prosecution is just the most egregious of a series of cases the Obama administration has pursued against whistleblowers. While a number of the cases were initiated under the Bush administration, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama has used the Espionage Act far more expansively than his predecessors. All told, Obama’s DOJ has prosecuted six whistleblowers and a researcher under the Espionage Act. Also, highly recommended: The Last Whistleblower, an op-ed piece by Paul Craig Roberts, former editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury.

What to Do with G.W. Bush? – (Consortium News – April 21, 2013)
Now that a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel has reached the conclusion that President George W. Bush and his top advisers bear “ultimate responsibility” for authorizing torture in violation of domestic and international law, the question becomes what should the American people and their government do. Yet, the panel demanded no meaningful accountability from Bush and his top aides, as former Ambassador Pickering made clear in a recent Washington Post op-ed. The only rational (and legal) response to Bush’s use of torture is to arrest him and his key advisers and put them on trial. Yet, in this case, the rational and legal remedy is considered unthinkable. If President Obama’s Justice Department were to move against Bush and other ex-officials, the Washington Establishment – from the Republican Party to the mainstream news media to much of the Democratic Party – would react in apoplexy and outrage. There would be fears about Washington’s intense partisanship growing even worse. There would be warnings about the terrible precedent being set that could mean that each time the White House changes hands the new administration would then “go after” the former occupants.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

The Same Motive for Anti-US 'Terrorism' is Cited Over and Over – (Information Clearinghouse – April 24, 2013)
In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on U.S. soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing (article quotes these individuals' statements): that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world - violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children. It is vital to understand why there are so many people who want to attack the US as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Brazil, or Mexico, or Japan, or Portugal. It's vital for two separate reasons. First, some leading American opinion-makers love to delude themselves and mislead others into believing that the US is attacked despite the fact that it is peaceful, peace-loving, freedom-giving and innocent. As these myth-makers would have it, we don't bother anyone; we just mind our own business (except when we're helping and liberating everyone), so why would anyone possibly want to attack us? Second, it's crucial to understand this causation because it's often asked "what can we do to stop Terrorism?" The answer is right in front of our faces: we could stop embracing the polices in that part of the world which fuel anti-American hatred and trigger the desire for vengeance and return violence. See also: It’s Time To Reconsider US Policies That Create Terrorism which notes that the U.S. has been at war with the people of various Muslim-majority countries for decades, since perhaps as early as 1953 when the U.S. engineered Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh’s overthrow in Iran after he nationalized his nation’s oil industry.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Over 10,000 People at Cannabis Smoke Out in Hyde Park London – (Norml-UK – April 20, 2013)
For a number of years, among members of the cannabis community, April the 20th has meant only one thing– a chance to protest. In the UK the focal point of the protests has for a number of years been Hyde Park in London. The number of people who had said they would be attending on the Facebook page had reached over 5000 by Saturday morning, but no one really expected that many to turn up. What actually happened was testament to the power of the internet and mobile phones, as well as a sign that the current momentum in the worldwide cannabis movement is showing no signs of slowing down.

New Zealand Updates List of Banned Baby Names – (Time – May 2, 2013)
King, Princess, Prince. Just because your own little darling is a sweet princess in your eyes doesn’t mean the government of New Zealand will let you name your newborn baby that. The country’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages has released an updated list of 77 unacceptable baby names, perhaps to discourage new parents from picking ones that, well, might haunt their children for life. Article includes a partial list of the banned names; they all look like reasonable candidates for banning. By the way, New Zealand isn’t the only country to crack down on strange names; Germany and Iceland also have rules for registering a newly born child.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

Alien Nation: Have Humans Been Abducted by Extraterrestrials? – (Vanity Fair – May 10, 2013)
Anne Ramsey Cuvelier, an elegant and garrulous woman in her 70s, isn’t an “abductee”. But she remembers as a teen in the 1940s hearing her father, Rear Admiral Donald James Ramsey, a World War II hero, muttering about strange flying craft that hovered and streaked off at unimaginable speed, and she’s been an avid ufologist ever since. “I want to get information out so these people don’t have to suffer,” she says. “Nobody believes you. You go through these frightening experiences, and then you go through the ridicule.” So, for a week each summer for almost two decades, she’s been turning away paying guests at her family’s historic B&B on the cobblestoned waterfront in Newport, to host these intimate gatherings of seemingly ordinary folk with extraordinary stories, along with the occasional sympathetic medical professional and scientist and other brave or foolhardy souls not afraid to be labeled nuts for indulging a fascination with the mystery. Following a lovely (rather lengthy) introduction, this article focuses on John Mack, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, who spent years trying to fathom their stories and reached an astonishing conclusion: they were telling the truth. That is, they were not insane or deluded; in some unknown space/time dimension, something real had actually happened to them—not that Mack could explain just what or how. (Editor’s note: as with most Vanity Fair articles, this is well researched, well written, and worth your time.)

A 'Fifth Force' May Alter Gravity at Cosmic Scales – (Daily Galaxy – May 5, 2013)
New research is attempting to characterize the properties of a fifth force that disrupts the predictions general relativity makes outside our own galaxy, on cosmic-length scales. University of Pennsylvania astrophysicist Bhuvnesh Jain, says the nature of gravity is the question of a lifetime. As scientists have been able to see farther and deeper into the universe, the laws of gravity have been revealed to be under the influence of an unexplained force. Two branches of theories have sprung up, each trying to fill its gaps in a different way. One branch — dark energy — suggests that the vacuum of space has an energy associated with it and that energy causes the observed acceleration. The other falls under the umbrella of “scalar-tensor” gravity theories, which effectively posits a fifth force (beyond gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces) that alters gravity on cosmologically large scales. Jain’s research is focused on the latter possibility; he is attempting to characterize the properties of this fifth force that disrupts the predictions general relativity makes outside our own galaxy, on cosmic length scales. By innovatively analyzing a well-studied class of stars in nearby galaxies, Jain and his colleagues have produced new findings that narrow down the possibilities of what this force could be.

DEMOGRAPHICS

US Suicide Rate Rose Sharply among Middle-aged - (Associated Press - May 2, 2013)
The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed a startling 28% in a decade, a period that included the recession and the mortgage crisis. The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group. Their suicide rate jumped 40% between 1999 and 2010. But the rates in younger and older people held steady. And there was little change among middle-aged blacks, Hispanics and most other racial and ethnic groups, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Why did so many middle-aged whites — those aged 35 to 64 years old — take their own lives? One theory suggests the recession caused more emotional trauma in whites, who tend not to have the same kind of church support and extended families that blacks and Hispanics do. Another theory notes that white baby boomers have always had higher rates of depression and suicide, and that has held true as they've hit middle age. During the 11-year period studied, suicide went from the eighth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.


NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Nano Optical Antennas Could Be Revolutionary – (Technology Review – April 24, 2013)
At Harvard University, researchers have devised a new way of manipulating light using nano-scale optical antennas. They effectively take a radio antenna, bend it into a V, and shrink it by a factor of about a million, to create what is called an “optical resonator.” By patterning a surface with a number of these resonators, bent at different angles—to create what’s known as a metasurface—they discovered they could get light to do just about anything they want. Here’s some of what they’ve managed to make so far. Mirrors that (seem to) violate the laws of reflection: We learned it in grade school: the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Send light straight at a mirror and it will come right back. Not anymore. The researchers’ antenna-based metasurface mirrors reflect light into arbitrary directions of their choosing. Besides giving us a more general understanding of the physics of reflection and refraction, these devices permit us to control and redirect light in ever more versatile ways. A flat lens as thin as a hair: A lens, we’re told, is a round piece of glass with a bulge in the center, used to bring light to a point. To focus a camera, we have to move the lens until an image sharpens into view. But what if the focusing element can be made just 60 nanometers thick, the whole lens the width of a few human hairs? What if by changing the shape of some tiny antennas within such a lens we can shift the focus? This could allow imaging components to be miniaturized like never before.

Chinese Scientists Create New Mutant Bird-Flu Virus - (Wired - May 2, 2013)
In nature, some strains of the influenza virus are highly lethal while others jump easily from person to person. What public health officials fear most is a hybrid that combines the lethality of one with the transmissibility of the other, creating a deadly global pandemic. Now a team of Chinese scientists has investigated that in their lab by creating a new hybrid virus. They combined H5N1 avian influenza, which is highly lethal but doesn’t transmit easily between people, with the highly contagious H1N1 swine flu strain responsible for infecting tens of millions of people in 2009. The new hybrid virus passed easily between guinea pigs, which are used to study how flu infects mammals. Molecular changes in the virus may provide clues of what to look for in circulating H5N1 strains, perhaps allowing scientists to anticipate when viruses will more easily infect humans. The experiments reflect a controversial approach to studying influenza: attempting to create strains in a lab that would, if accidentally released or used for nefarious purposes, pose a potentially global health threat.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever – (Rolling Stone – April 25, 2013)
The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There's no price the big banks can't fix. Witness the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets." That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world's largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps. Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It's about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget. (Editor’s note: For a little gallows humor, we recommend the Wall St. Journal article, The Best RBS Libor Quotes.)

A New Brick in the Great Wall – (Economist – April 27, 2013)
Western countries led the development of 3D printing, and the technique has been praised by Barack Obama as a way to revive America’s manufacturing industries. It may yet do so. But the extent to which that revival will be brought about by the return to America of production which has migrated to countries like China is harder to predict—for China has plans of its own. One of the country’s largest 3D printers is 12 meters long and it belongs to the National Laboratory for Aeronautics and Astronautics. Wang Huaming, the laboratory’s chief scientist, told a digital-manufacturing seminar organized recently by the Laboratory of High Performance Computing, a government research institute, that this behemoth is being employed to make large and complex parts for China’s commercial-aircraft program, which plans to build planes to rival those turned out by Airbus and Boeing. These parts include titanium fuselage frames and high-strength steel landing-gear—objects that require the metal they are made from to be free of flaws which might cause them to fail. Printing such things, rather than making them from precast metal, will be a technical tour de force, and Dr Wang’s team is therefore working on the tricky problem of controlling the recrystallization of metals after they have been melted by the laser. Making planes is about as high-tech as mechanical engineering gets. But 3D printing in China is also busy at the other end of the market: extruding filaments of molten plastic to build up objects such as toys, mobile-phone cases and car fittings.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Augmented Reality from MIT Media Lab – (Retrevo – May 9, 2013)
This is a short video entitled “Smarter Objects”. With all the attention going to Google Glass, here’s a related application that overlays information on a “real” image.



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

Russian Commuter Dogs – (My Encephalon Journeys – July 25, 2012)
Each morning, like clockwork, they board the subway, off to begin their daily routine amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. But these aren’t just any daily commuters. These are stray dogs who live in the outskirts of Moscow, Russia and commute on the underground trains to and from the city center in search of food scraps. Then after a hard day scavenging and begging on the streets, they hop back on the train and return to the suburbs where they spend the night. Experts studying the dogs, who usually choose the quietest carriages at the front and back of the train, say they even work together to make sure they get off at the right stop – after learning to judge the length of time they need to spend on the train. Scientists believe this phenomenon began after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, and Russia’s new capitalists moved industrial complexes from the city center to the suburbs. Dr Andrei Poiarkov, of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute, said: “These complexes were used by homeless dogs as shelters, so the dogs had to move together with their houses. Because the best scavenging for food is in the city center, the dogs had to learn how to travel on the subway – to get to the center in the morning, then back home in the evening, just like people.”



JUST FOR FUN

40 Inspiring Workspaces of the Famously Creative - (BuzzFeed - April 15, 2013)
40 photographs: from the austere to the cluttered, from the simple to the ornate. From tiny writing desks to giant painting studios, what all of these creative spaces have in common is that they housed inhabitants whose creative genii still inspire us.



A FINAL QUOTE--

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953



A special thanks to: John Alexander, Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Duncan Campbell, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, 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
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