Volume 16, Number 17 - 9/15/13 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • Both morphological and genetic evolution during the Cambrian explosion were five times faster than today.

  • A new malaria vaccine proves to be 100% effective, however it’s far from ready for public use.

  • According to a UN report, 28% of the world’s agricultural area is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.

  • On a newly discovered azure blue planet 63 light years away, it rains liquid glass – sideways amid 4,500 mph winds.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

John Petersen Speaking on Climate Change in Berkeley Springs

The whole business of climate change has been a political and scientific football over the past decade, with assertions and counter assertions and predictions and counter predictions flying all over the place. There’s a lot of research money and many reputations at stake, so the struggle has been serious, but neither of the major positions on both sides of the argument for anthropogenic global warming are telling you the whole truth.

There are a lot of rather extraordinary, fascinating converging forces in play – including a thinning of our atmosphere, a decrease in solar activity and the accelerating trend toward a planetary magnetic pole shift that fly in the face of the usual arguments that humans are causing global warming or that this is all just a ruse by the government to take more of our money through things like carbon taxes. The truth is much bigger than that and you should understand what is happening.

For the last six months I have been collecting everything that I can find on the climate change subject and building a coherent picture (to me, at least) of what is really going on. I’ll be laying out the whole picture in a Transition Talk on Saturday the 26th of October at 3:00 PM at the Ice House here in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. There will be lots of slides and graphics that help to present a comprehensive image of all of the moving parts, where they seem to be going and what we probably should be doing about it. Hint: it’s really big stuff.

I hope that you will be able to join us. It will be a good afternoon. Come and spend the weekend and enjoy our town’s warm hospitality.

The Big Shift

Here it is.  The accelerating of the shift.  A Relationship or a One-Night Stand? Was the coalition of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats on Syria simply a product of the dispute over Syria, or is it the beginning of something more?

It started with gay marriage, picked up with marijuana legalization, was pushed by the NSA exposure and now manifests itself in a broad-based antiwar reaction.  Something significant is happening here.

Sources

The Association of Professional Futurists recently published this list of “desert island feeds” of essential information sources that their membership apparently suggested. Fortunately, you are aware of at least one of them.

Cited

Source / Feed

Comments

A collection of new/information/insight sources mentioned in a thread about “desert island feeds” what is the one source you’d want if you could only have one? On the APF listserv, early September, 2013. Note, many responses went beyond just one, so the tallies shown are not a true accounting for any kind of rank, etc.

1

APF listserv



Ars Technica

They do a very good job curating science and technology at multiple levels, from current news to scientific journals, and their writers often do a good job providing insightful analysis rather than just regurgitating the news


The Atlantic


3

brainpickings.org

Because we too often seem to focus on technology and not culture, I'd make sure everyone was tracking Brainpickings


Bruce Sterling

Bruce has an uncanny knack of starting to talk about things two or three years before they're all over the world like a conversational rash


BusinessInsider



The Conversation


While Australian focused, has articles from a number of Australia's universities on a wide range of topics.


Design analysis sources

More thoughtful design analysis, e.g. designobserver, bldgblog, and cityofsound.


Dvice


3

Fast Company

(www.fastcompany.com,
www.fastcodesign.com, www.fastcoexist.com, www.fastcocreate.com, www.fastcolabs.com) Three short and sweet scanning hits by email each morning


Future Edition (Arlington Institute)


2

Futurity.org


2

Gizmag.com



The Guardian



Gwynne Dyer



H+



Innovation Daily

Though it is somewhat US-centric

2

Jan Chipchase @janchip

Also at: www.janchipchase.com ‎ His output's more intermittent these days, but it's always immersion-anthropology gold.


Kickstarter

is a great place to see what people are really up to especially on a socio-cultural level


KurzweilAI.Net



Life Edited


1

LiveScience.com



Mashable



MIT Technology Review



nakedcapitalism



NewScientist


1

Newspapers print or online

(including www.nytimes.com, online.wsj.com, The Economist, and local papers)


Open Culture



PandoDaily



Paper.li

My own, custom edition of Paper.li


PBS Newshour (TV)



PhysOrg



Pinterest Products category

These photos have a way of keeping me in sync with inventions, emerging tech, and new fashions.


Podcasts

They are underappreciated, I think, partly because we're focused on video these days, and partly because it's sometimes hard to link to them (thanks to Apple's iTunes)


Quartz



Resilience.org

Because of the great aggregation job it does across a whole lot of resilience/ environmental/ sustainability/ new economics/ appropriate tech sources


schwartzreport.net



Science Daily



Science fiction

Remains a potent source.  e.g., Vernor Vinge's imagined high school and university life (Rainbows End, "Fast Times at Fairmont High") is a terrific prompt for future of higher education discussions.


Senseable.mit.edu


2

Shaping Tomorrow


2

Singularity Hub



SlinkingTowardRetirement



Technology Review



TED



twistedsifter



Venture Beat



Visual sources

e.g. architizer, designboom, treehugger, Io9, designmilk, inhabitat.


The Week

Print or online weekly. The magazine does a terrific job of curating sources from a middle of the road perspective


Zite app (iPad)

Custom news based on your interests



Conspiracies

During the last two weeks we’ve just worked ourselves through another anniversary of the events of 9/11 here in the U.S. Lots of memorial services and references to the so-called war on terror and justifications for the terror that we are in turn raining down on a number of mid-eastern countries. The date has also presented a target of opportunity for the increasingly sophisticated (and compelling) arguments for an alternative explanation of the day’s events from that which our government has promoted.

If you believe that what the government has told us about 9/11 is true and you are not about to have your mind changed, then just skip these next couple of links. They’ll just add to your frustration with all of these people who are coming up with conspiracy theories that fly in the face of the truth.

On the other hand, if you’d be interested in engaging in honestly thinking about very well presented and documented proposals that support each other and significantly threaten the “official story”, then you’ll find these links particularly interesting and provocative. They also raise a lot of very deep and serious questions.

Debunking Conspiracy Theorists by Gerard Holmgren

Here’s a wonderfully written piece that sets the stage for thinking about what happened that fateful day in September.

Stay with the logic and think about what Holmgren says. Does it make sense to you?

Here’s an excerpt:

The suspension of disbelief required for this outrageous concoction is only for the hard-core conspiracy theorist. For a start, they conveniently skip over the awkward fact that there weren't any Arabs on the planes. If there were, one must speculate that they somehow got on board without being filmed by any of the security cameras and without being registered on the passenger lists. But the curly question of how they are supposed to have got on board is all too mundane for the exciting world of the conspiracy theorist. With vague mumblings that they must have been using false ID (but never specifying which IDs they are alleged to have used, or how these were traced to their real identities), they quickly bypass this problem, to relate exciting and sinister tales about how some of the fictitious fiends were actually searched before boarding because they looked suspicious. However, as inevitably happens with any web of lies, this simply paints them into an even more difficult corner. How are they supposed to have got on board with all that stuff if they were searched? And if they used gas in a confined space, they would have been affected themselves unless they also had masks in their luggage. Read more.

If you (reasonably) question the evidence, then drill down a bit. Go to 911truth.org/ where you’ll find a great deal of supporting material. Check out other such sites. Fair warning: once you get started looking at this stuff, the inconsistencies are so serious that you risk getting caught up for a significant amount of time following all of the rabbit holes.

Here’s another one that is really provocative. Don’t know what I think about all of this yet, but it makes for some interesting contemplation. By the way, you’d make a mistake to assume that the technology mentioned is not possible or that the government doesn’t have it or would use it.

The Ambulance that Survived WTC1 on 9/11 = Best Evidence for Dustification and Free Energy Demo

This is the first of two parts: The interesting questions raised are: why, very near the base of a 100 story building that just crashed is there a relatively unscathed ambulance . . . and, where is all of the rubble that one would presume would exist if such a huge building collapsed . . . and, why such an extraordinary amount of dust?



Here’s the second part: Magnetometer on 9/11 Shows Exotic Weapons Evidence. Maybe you can explain the track of that hurricane. Doesn’t look natural to me.

If these articles have peaked your interest then there’s an amazing amount of corroborating information on the Internet. One place you could start is 911truth.org/.

U.S. Financial Crisis

There’s another timely subject that you should know about: the U.S. is on the teetering edge of shutting down. Really. This time it’s really serious.

Watch this segment from a webinar by financial trader Jeff Augen that was sent to me by a friend. This is rather extraordinary. You should watch it.



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

12 Strangest Sights on Google Earth – (Live Science – April 18, 2013)
With publically available satellite imagery, we can now look down on every place on earth. Some areas are intentionally out of focus due to governments’ requests but nonetheless, anyone who wishes to do so can pour over the entire face of the planet. Here's a look at 12 of the strangest items that have been spotted. From a boneyard of metal planes and mysterious structures etched into the Gobi Desert to a phantom island in the South Pacific and even an island stamped with the name of a billionaire, Google Earth brings some wacky places to light.



NEW REALITIES

"Darwin's Dilemma" -- Enigma of Evolution's Cambrian "Big Bang" Solved – (Daily Galaxy – September 12, 2013)
“Darwin’s dilemma” refers to Charles Darwin’s bafflement that the fossil record contradicted what his theory of evolution predicted. In his classic book On the Origin of Species, Darwin declared that if his theory of evolution were true “it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited… the world swarmed with living creatures.” Yet Darwin admitted that the fossil record below the Cambrian strata seemed to be bereft of such creatures. Instead “species belonging to several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks”—without any evidence of prior ancestral forms. Darwin frankly acknowledged that this lack of ancestral forms was “a valid argument” against his theory. But he hoped that time—and more research—would provide the evidence that was lacking. Some 150 years later, the documentary Darwin’s Dilemma probes how Darwin’s dilemma has been aggravated—not resolved—by the last century of fossil discoveries, starting with the strange and wonderful creatures uncovered a century ago in the Burgess shale in British Columbia, Canada. Now, a new study led by University of Adelaide researchers has estimated, for the first time, the rates of evolution during the "Cambrian explosion" when most modern animal groups appeared between 540 and 520 million years ago, resolving "Darwin's dilemma". In this study the scientists estimated that rates of both morphological and genetic evolution during the Cambrian explosion were five times faster than today - quite rapid, but perfectly consistent with Darwin's theory of evolution. (Editor’s note: Consider the implications that both morphological and genetic evolution has proceeded – and therefore, presumably, could again proceed – much faster than it does currently.)



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Can We Predict Alzheimer's a Decade Before Symptoms? – (CNN – August 18, 2013)
The Alzheimer’s disease process begins in the brain 10 to 15 years before a patient's symptoms start. And, by the time memory problems develop, 40% to 50% of a patient's brain cells have already been affected or destroyed. 1 in 8 people who are 65 and older have Alzheimer's disease, and the incidence of the disease is expected to nearly triple by 2050 as the number of older Americans grows. The cost of care at that time is expected to be more than $1 trillion a year. There are certain hallmarks of Alzheimer's, including the accumulation of sticky plaques in the brain, made up of proteins called beta amyloid. The problem is that, short of an autopsy, current technology cannot conclusively confirm the presence of the plaques. Studying cadavers, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles made an interesting observation: The amount of beta amyloid protein in the brain corresponded closely to the amount of that same protein in the retina of the eye. Based on that finding, the research team has developed a noninvasive test to check the retina for the telltale beta amyloid plaques. They're now conducting a clinical trial to see if the test can identify patients who are starting to develop Alzheimer's but don't show symptoms yet. Three other research groups mentioned briefly in the article are also approaching the issue of diagnosis, each from a different angle.

Elizabeth Holmes: The Breakthrough of Instant Diagnosis – (Wall St. Journal – September 8, 2013)
Elizabeth Holmes, a 29-year-old chemical and electrical engineer and entrepreneur, dropped out of Stanford as an undergraduate after founding a life sciences company called Theranos in 2003. Her inventions could upend the industry of laboratory testing and might change the way we detect and treat disease. The secret that hundreds of employees are now refining involves devices that automate and miniaturize more than 1,000 laboratory tests, from routine blood work to advanced genetic analyses. Theranos's processes are faster, cheaper and more accurate than the conventional methods and require only microscopic blood volumes, not vial after vial of the stuff. A Theranos technician first increases blood flow to your hand by applying a wrap similar to one of those skiing pocket warmers, then uses a fingerstick to draw a few droplets of blood from the capillaries at the end of your hand. The blood wicks into a tube in a cartridge that Ms. Holmes calls a "nanotainer," which holds microliters of a sample, or about the amount of a raindrop. The nanotainer is then run through the analyzers in a Theranos laboratory. Results are usually sent back to a physician, but a full blood work-up—metabolic and immune markers, cell count, etc.—was in the author’s inbox by the time he walked out the door. And a Theranos clinic may be coming soon to a pharmacy near you. The company is launching a partnership with Walgreens for in-store sample-collection centers, with the first one in Palo Alto and expanding throughout California and beyond. Ms. Holmes's long-term goal is to provide Theranos services "within five miles of virtually every American home." Diagnostics is one of those corners of the health markets that is more irrational the closer you look. Tests account for between 2% and 2.5% of health spending, but Ms. Holmes notes that they drive an estimated seven or eight of every 10 clinical decisions by physicians, with 6.8 billion lab tests annually in the U.S. The rest of this article suggests that Elizabeth Holmes and her company could be a true game changer.

How Smart Dust Could “Spy” on Your Brain – (Technology Review – July 16, 2013)
The real time monitoring of brain function has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. That’s largely thanks to various new technologies that can monitor the collective behavior of groups of neurons, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalopathy and positron emission tomography. Impressive though these techniques are, they all suffer from inherent limitations such as limited spatial resolution, a lack of portability and extreme invasiveness. Now, Dongjin Seo and pals at the University of California Berkeley suggest an entirely new way to study and interact with the brain. Their idea is to sprinkle electronic sensors the size of dust particles into the cortex and to interrogate them remotely using ultrasound. The ultrasound also powers this so-called neural dust. Each particle of neural dust consists of standard CMOS circuits and sensors that measure the electrical activity in neurons nearby. This is coupled to a piezoelectric material that converts ultra-high-frequency sound waves into electrical signals and vice versa. The neural dust is interrogated by another component placed beneath the scale but powered from outside the body. This generates the ultrasound that powers the neural dust and sensors that listen out for their response, rather like an RFID system. The system is also tetherless–the data is collected and stored outside the body for later analysis. However, the difficulty is in designing and building such a system and a paper recently published by the team is a theoretical study of these challenges. See also: A Detailed 3-D Atlas of a Human Brain detailing how scientists have imaged the anatomy of an entire human brain at unprecedented resolution.

Scientists Discover How the Body Can Destroy Cancerous Tumors Itself - Without the Need for Drugs – (Daily Mail – February 8, 2013)
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have identified a molecule, known as TIC10. The protein, called TRAIL (tumor-necrosis-factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand), suppresses tumor development during immune surveillance, the immune system's process of patrolling the body for cancer cells. This process is lost during cancer progression, which leads to uncontrolled growth and spread of tumors. The key benefit of using TRAIL as a way to fight cancer is that it is already part of the immune system so it is not toxic to the body like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Furthermore, the small size of TIC10 means that it can cross the blood-brain barrier, which separates the main circulatory system from the brain. This barrier can prevent cancer treatments from entering the brain, thereby hindering the action of drugs for brain tumors. 'We didn’t actually anticipate that this molecule would be able to treat brain tumors - that was a pleasant surprise,' said lead researcher Wafik El-Deiry, an oncologist at Pennsylvania State University. Another positive is that TIC10 does not just activate the TRAIL gene in cancerous cells, but also in healthy ones. This is known as the 'bystander effect' - i.e. where nearby healthy cells are also given a boost to increase the number of cancer-killing TRAIL receptors on their cell surface. Although the study was limited to mice, Dr El-Deiry is confident that a similar approach would work in humans. The success of TRAIL to trigger cancer cell death has led to ongoing clinical trials with artificially created versions, and early trials have shown that giving the protein in drug form is safe.

Israel Outlaws Water Fluoridation – (Live Science – August 9, 2013)
Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that water fluoridation in the country must end by 2014. Israel is one of the few countries that widely fluoridates, besides the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. Fluoridation is the subject of intense controversy, especially outside of the United States. Opposition to the practice, on the grounds that fluoride has adverse effects on the thyroid, brain and bones, and is an unethical form of mass-medication, appears to be growing. Israel's decision to ban fluoridation follows a vote to preclude the practice in Portland, Ore., and Wichita, Kan. It was also recently overturned in Hamilton, the fourth most populous city in New Zealand. See also: For the fourth Time Since 1956, Portland Voters Reject Fluoridation

New Malaria Vaccine Proves 100% Effective - (CNN – August 9, 2013)
U.S. researchers have reported a breakthrough in the search for a vaccine for malaria. More than three dozen volunteers received multiple, intravenous doses of a vaccine produced with a weakened form of the disease, according to scientists from the National Institutes of Health, the Navy, Army and other organizations. Though the results were promising, more extensive field testing will be required. Nevertheless, it marks the first time any vaccine trial has shown 100% success in protecting subjects from the mosquito-borne tropical disease, which sickens more than 200 million a year and killed about 660,000 in 2010. The vaccine was produced using samples of Plasmodium falciparum, the single-celled parasite that causes the disease. The samples were weakened by radiation and then frozen. Dr. William Schaffner, head of the preventive medicine department at Vanderbilt University's medical school, who was not part of the study, said previous attempts using injections into skin or muscle didn't work. Multiple, intravenous injections are "a heck of a way" to administer a vaccine, but "desperate times call for desperate measures." He added, "This is not a vaccine that's ready for travelers to the developing world anytime soon. However, from the point of view of science dealing with one of the big-three infectious causes of death around the world, it's a notable advance.”


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Decade of Drought Threatens West – (Wall St. Journal – August 16, 2013)
After more than a decade into a drought that has plagued the Southwest, for the first time, federal officials plan a sharp cut in the amount of Colorado River water that flows 360 miles from Lake Powell into Lake Mead. In the year starting Oct. 1, officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Friday, that supply will drop by nearly 10%—roughly equivalent to the annual water usage of about 700,000 families. The cut will translate into a reduction in hydroelectric power generation in some areas served by the reservoir—Nevada, Arizona and California—and brings the reservoir level close to a federal declaration of a water shortage. Such a declaration would mean that Nevada and Arizona would face having their water allocations cut. The cutback is being ordered as part of a 2007 state-federal agreement designed, in part, to keep the levels of the two reservoirs balanced so they can be operated in tandem, maintaining more storage overall. It will be the first reduction since completion in 1963 of the Glen Canyon Dam that formed Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona. The effect on Lake Mead will be a drop in water level of eight feet, which will come on top of receding water levels that already have totaled about 100 feet since the drought took hold in 2000. Water levels at Lake Mead now stand at an elevation of 1105 feet. The new cutback will bring the level perilously close to a federal trigger point of 1075 feet—the measure at which the Interior Department would declare a water shortage. Mr. Fulp said in an interview that there is a 50% chance such a shortage would be declared in 2016; a probability he added has been increased this year as the drought has intensified. The reduction will result in an 8% decrease in electricity production at Glen Canyon Dam, requiring a federal power agency to spend about $10 million to buy electricity on the open market to meet customer demands, said Lisa Iams, a Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman in Salt Lake City.

Water District to Consumers: Cut Usage by at Least 50% Or Else – (Salt Lake Tribune – August 18, 2013)
Residents being served by one Utah water district are being told to drop their usage by at least 50% until October. Consumers affected by the order are those served by the Pine View Water Systems, which is comprised of the Ogden River Water Users Association, the South Ogden Conservation District and the Weber-Box Elder Conservation District. If the cuts don’t happen, the water system says it will be out of water by mid-September. Consumers are asked to cut back watering for the rest of August to once every five days and in September to once a week. Wasteful watering, or failure to comply with the regulations, will result in the loss of water service for the remainder of the water season and a $500 charge to re-establish service next year, the water system warned.

The End of Snow: A Warming Planet Dooms Skiing – (Nation of Change – September 4, 2013)
In Oregon at Mount Hood, the average elevation of the snowline is 1,200 to 1,400 feet higher now than it was in the 1950s. Some of the iconic mountain’s dozen glaciers have shrunk 60% and Palmer Glacier, the only year-round ski site in the U.S., is melting away. Mt Hood’s story is the new normal. Data from multiple sources, including NASA, show the snowpack in America's Northwest falling 50 – 70%. “Spring arrives in Tahoe two and a half weeks earlier now than in 1961, and in vaunted cradles of skiing like the Alps, climatologists estimate that two-thirds of the ski resorts are in danger of closing by 2100. By this century’s end, if present trends continue, the average temperature in Alaska will rise between 8-13 degrees Fahrenheit, Washington and Oregon ski seasons will be reduced by 80%, and snowpack losses across the American West will vary from 25 – 100%. Present snowmaking costs eat up about 50% of the ski industry’s energy bill, adding to the acceleration of natural snow’s demise. But the High Tetons of Idaho and Wyoming and give skiers a ray of hope. The Tetons “have fared relatively well recently, and sit in a sweet spot that the latest NOAA models say might stay relatively snowy over the next 70 years.”

Coastal Antarctic Study Identifies Large Acidic Change – (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies – August 12, 2013)
A unique comparison of coastal water monitoring near Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica has shown significant changes in ocean chemistry over the past 16 years. The study shows a marked and somewhat unexpected increase in the acidity of the seawater in the region. The study reveals that the ocean's natural variability in seawater pH has exacerbated the change observed. However part of the change is consistent with that expected from increased carbon emissions resulting from human activities. Lead author of the study, Nick Roden, an Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and CSIRO PhD candidate, spent 2010 in Antarctica collecting the seawater samples, work that continued an observational program initiated in 1994. The seawater samples were collected for analysis by drilling through 1.5 meters of sea-ice. 'The surprise was that the change in acidity was so large, indicating that natural and human induced changes have combined to amplify ocean acidity in this region,' said Mr Roden. As the ocean absorbs atmospheric CO2 it lowers the pH of the waters, a process known as ocean acidification. Scientists are monitoring coastal waters globally to understand the interplay between natural and anthropogenic changes. 'Because this ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification, the combination of such changes are concerning, as it may accelerate the impacts that ocean acidification will have on this environment.' See also: New Scientist article, Ocean Acidity Increasing at Rate Not Seen in Last 300 Million Years And see: Acidifying Oceans Will Heat the Planet



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Internet Hackers and the Real Threat They Expose – (This Can’t Be Happening – September 4, 2013)
The cyber attack that recently brought the New York Times to its knees was a Dedicated Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. It took the Times' website off-line for a day and was one of a series of attacks on major information institutions by a hacker group called The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). The SEA appears to be a network of hackers (some of them outside Syria) who are loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and apparently ready to attack anyone who's not. Because this was the website of one of the world's most powerful and prominent newspapers, the sudden exposure of its vulnerability was daunting. Founded in 2011, the SEA has launched attacks against BBC News, the Associated Press, National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post and Human Rights Watch. It's also spammed social networking sites including President Obama's Facebook page and Oprah Winfrey's -- posting repeated pro-Assad slogans that temporarily consumed both sites. Among its most famous attacks was one this past April on the Associated Press news agency, in which tweets falsely claimed the White House had been bombed and President Barack Obama injured. The tweets were quickly countered by the White House but during the short lapse, they caused plenty of confusion, understandable jitters and a huge drop in stock market prices. (Editor’s note: Despite this article’s obvious slant, if you are a website owner, it is worth reading for its facts concerning DDOS and suggestions for ways to deal with the them.)

How US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Internet Privacy and Security – (Guardian – September 5, 2013)
US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden. The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments. The agencies, the documents reveal, have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on what they see as one of the biggest threats to their ability to access huge swathes of internet traffic – "the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet". Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with "brute force", and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves. Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software. The files, from both the NSA and GCHQ, were obtained by the Guardian. The details are being published in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica. (Editor’s note: we highly recommend the lengthy New York Times partnership article, N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web, which contains additional details.

Zeroing in on Unbreakable Computer Security – (CNN – July 29, 2013)
Dr. Nicolas Gisin is a Swiss quantum physicist and a pioneer in the exploration and manipulation of the various "quanta" of the micro world, such as individual atoms and photons. In 2001, Gisin co-founded a company called ID Quantique with the aim of converting the strange phenomena found in the quantum world into commercial applications. At that time, the quantum world was still very much a theoretical place, one more suited for the laboratory than employed for practical application. But over the last decade quantum technologies have matured such that they can offer many practical benefits, including the kind of data encryption that ID Quantique now provides to various banks and governments -- data security that is virtually impossible to breach. The idea of quantum cryptography is not new, but its deployment in real-world, non-laboratory environments is something that is just now getting underway. ID Quantique's client roster includes several governments and financial institutions whose names it is not at liberty to disclose. It also has found a market among online gaming sites who rely on ID Quantique's quantum-based random number generators to ensure their platforms cannot be gamed by other computer programs. Still there are certainly limitations; currently the distance a single photon can be beamed through optical fibers without being lost is roughly 60 miles, placing a ceiling on just how far quantum encryption can be useful. ID Quantique is working alongside American research and development outfit Battelle to develop so-called "quantum repeaters" that would basically act as relay for photon along the chain, but in the meantime it will continue to work with companies and governments who require ultra-secure exchange of information across relatively short distances with virtually zero chance of interception or theft. See also: Looming Security Crisis Could Cripple Internet which deals with the Diffie-Hellman and Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) shared encryption algorithms, which were independently developed at Stanford and MIT in the mid-1970s. Both algorithms are on the verge of being "cracked" — proven to be vulnerable to attack — by academic mathematicians.

Eavesdropping on the Whole World – (PressTV – August 26, 2013)
How do U.S. intelligence agencies eavesdrop on the whole world? The ideal place to tap trans-border telecommunications is undersea cables that carry an estimated 90% of international voice traffic. These cables date back to 1858 when they were first installed to support the international telegraph system, with the British taking the lead to wire the far reaches of its empire. Today a multi-billion dollar shipping industry continues to lay and maintain hundreds of such cables that crisscross the planet - over half a million miles of such cables are draped along the ocean floor and snaked around coastlines - to make landfall at special locations to be connected to national telecommunications systems. The original cables were made of copper but about 25 years ago, they were replaced by fiber-optic cables. The oldest undersea cable was Trans Atlantic-8 (installed in 1988 by AT&T to transmit data from Tuckerton, New Jersey to Bude, Cornwall) which transmitted data at 280 megabits per second. The latest cables like Yellow/Atlantic Crossing 2 (installed in 2000 and upgraded in 2007 by Level Three Communications from Brookhaven, New York to Bude, Cornwall) is capable of transmitting data at an astonishing 640 gigabits per second, which is roughly equal to 7.5 million simultaneous phone calls. In order to make sure that data and voice are transmitted quickly and accurately across the world even if cables break or equipment fails, cable companies break the data into separate tiny packets that are dispatched over what they call “redundant fiber optic paths” across the ocean. The packets are then reassembled on the other side, where it becomes easy to intercept the data unobtrusively.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

The Oasis of Aboukir Green Wall – (Dazeen – September 8, 2013)
L'Oasis D'Aboukir (the Oasis of Aboukir) is a 25-meter-high green wall by botanist and researcher Patrick Blanc, which covers a building facade in the second arrondissement of Paris. Blanc, the inventor of living walls, has covered the side of a Parisian block with 7,600 plants. The wall features plants from 237 different species and appears to grow up the facade in diagonal waves. It covers the previously raw concrete facade on the corner of Aboukir Street and Petits Carreaux street. See the photos and slide show in the article, including “before” and “after”. A five story wall that was decidedly unsightly is now gorgeous.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

3.1 GW of Fossil Fuel Power Plants To Be Shut Down in Germany — No Longer Competitive – (Clean Technica – August 18, 2013)
RWE, a German energy company, has announced in their latest report that they plan to take 3.1 GW of fossil fuel generating capacity off the market. The reason they give for that is that wholesale electricity prices are way down in Germany as a consequence of more renewable energy sources in the mix. They would be losing money if they needed to sell at these low prices. They don’t, since most of their business is fulfilling contracts from the past couple of years, which still have higher prices, but that effect will be gone soon. Prices have gone down from the mid term average of around EUR 55 a MWh to less than EUR 40. They estimate the minimum price necessary for gas generation as EUR 70, for coal as EUR 60, for lignite as EUR 45, and even for nuclear power after the plants have already paid back their investment as EUR 40, including a tax on nuclear fuel. With prices below EUR 40 on the wholesale markets, operators like RWE may want to mothball their nuclear capacity even before they are required to do so by the 2011 law on the nuclear phase-out. If RWE can’t even run fossil fuel power plants that have paid back their investment already at these low wholesale market prices, it follows that it doesn’t make any sense to start building new fossil fuel capacity now. Any new plant would need to earn back its capital cost, which is now impossible.

New Junction Between Stacked Solar Cells Can Handle Max Energy of 70,000 Suns – (Kurzweil AI – September 10, 2013)
Stacked solar cells consist of  several solar cells that are stacked on top of one another. Stacked cells are currently the most efficient cells on the market, converting up to 45 percent of the solar energy they absorb into electricity. But to be effective, solar cell designers need to ensure the connecting junctions between these stacked cells do not absorb any of the solar energy and do not siphon off the voltage the cells produce — effectively wasting that energy as heat. North Carolina State University researchers have come up with a new technique for improving the connections between stacked solar cells, which should improve the overall efficiency of solar energy devices and reduce the cost of solar energy production, the researchers say. The new connections can allow these cells to operate at theoretical solar concentrations of 70,000 “suns” worth of energy without losing much voltage as “wasted energy” or heat. (In practice, a maximum of about 5,000 suns is available with available concentrating lenses.)


AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Crop Pests Moving Polewards Threaten Global Food Security – (Nation of Change – September 4, 2013)
A fungus is heading your way. The caterpillars are on the march. So are viruses and any number of insects and nematode worms. Since 1960 they have been shifting north (in the northern hemisphere) and south (in the southern hemisphere) at an average speed of three kilometers a year as the world warms, according to researchers at Exeter University in the UK. Sandra Gurr and colleagues reported in Nature Climate Change that they looked at more than 26,000 observations of 612 well-known crop pests and had access to observations made much earlier, including the first record of fungus attack on oilseed rape in the UK in 1822. losses to crop pests are a quiet disaster now: they routinely destroy between 10% and 16% of all crops—a lost harvest that would otherwise feed more than eight percent of the planet’s people. The spread of pests towards the poles is certainly helped by human activity and they believe the most effective agency is international freight transport. But global warming is making it a little easier every year for the pests to find a comfortable home and easy pickings in previously unsuitable regions. Rice blast fungus has now reached 80 countries, has had a dramatic effect on agricultural economies and on local ecosystems, and—ominously—has evolved to develop a taste for wheat. Wheat blast is now a big problem in Brazil.

UN Report: One-third of World’s Food Wasted Annually – (UN News Centre – September 11, 2013)
The waste of some 1.3 billion tons of food each year is causing economic losses of $750 billion and significant damage to the environment, according to a United Nations report. The report, Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity. One of the key findings of the report is that food that is produced but not eaten each year guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28% of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted. The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) José Graziano da Silva, noted, “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day.” The report points out specific features of food waste according to regions. For example, cereal waste – particularly that of rice – is a big problem in Asia, with major impacts on carbon emissions and water and land use. Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, while large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialized Asia, Europe, and South and South East Asia translates into a large carbon footprint for that sector. Excluding Latin America, high-income regions are responsible for about 67% of all meat waste.

6 Mind-Boggling Facts about Farms in China – (Mother Jones – August 21, 2013)
In the process of emerging as the globe's manufacturing center, China has severely damaged its land and water resources, compromising its ability to increase food production even as its economy thunders along, its population grows (albeit slowly), and its people gain wealth, move up the food chain, and demand ever-more meat. This article present 6 statistics that, taken together, have some very serious implications. For example: China's farmland is shrinking.  Between 1997 and 2008, China saw 6.2% of its farmland engulfed by what the government calls "planned ecological cropland conversion". China has just 0.09 hectares of arable land per capita—less than half of the global average and a quarter of the average for OECD member countries. (The United States has six times the arable land per capita as China.) Approximately one fifth of China's land is polluted. China considers the details of its soil problems state secrets.



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Whistleblower: CIA Lost 400 SAMs to Enemy at Benghazi – (Whiteout Press – August 14, 2013)
Attorney Joe DiGenova, a former US Attorney and current lawyer for a Benghazi whistleblower, has confirmed that the CIA believes that, among terror groups who now possess at least some of the stolen missiles, some are in the possession of Al Qaeda. Officials are afraid airliners across the globe are in danger of being shot down. DiGenova has also confirmed that his clients don’t have personal knowledge of whether or not the 400 missing surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were taken from the US Embassy annex in Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 attack. But they are confirming the ‘before’ and ‘after’. Notably, that the US Benghazi annex was being used as the transfer point for secret arms shipments from the Obama administration to the Syrian rebels. They also confirm that 400 SAMs from that covert CIA-administered arms program using the Benghazi annex were in fact stolen and are believed to have already been split up and distributed to Islamic terror groups such as Al Qaeda. In early August, CNN confirmed that the CIA is literally terrorizing its own agents in an attempt to keep them from ever talking about what really happened in Benghazi, Libya that night. CNN went on to report, “Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency's missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency's workings. The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress. It is being described as pure intimidation.” CNN concluded its special report by publicly suggesting that the Benghazi attack had something to do with the fact that the Obama White House had been secretly sending surface-to-air missiles to Syrian rebels in a covert attempt to tip the scales in that nation’s civil war. See also: the CNN report.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

The Pivot to Africa – (Nation of Change – September 6, 2013)
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands.  And that’s just the ABCs of the situation.  Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.  From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work.  Base construction, security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network, all undeniable evidence of expansion -- except at U.S. Africa Command. To hear AFRICOM tell it, U.S. military involvement on the continent ranges from the miniscule to the microscopic.  The command is adamant that it has only a single “military base” in all of Africa: Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. from the Middle East to South America, the Pentagon is increasingly engaged in shadowy operations whose details emerge piecemeal and are rarely examined in a comprehensive way.  Nowhere is this truer than in Africa.  To the media and the American people, officials insist the U.S. military is engaged in small-scale, innocuous operations there.  Out of public earshot, officers running America’s secret wars say: “Africa is the battlefield of tomorrow, today.” If the proverbial picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a map worth? Take, for instance, the one created by TomDispatch that documents U.S. military outposts, construction, security cooperation, and deployments in Africa.  U.S. Africa Command recognizes 54 countries on the continent. An investigation by TomDispatch has found recent U.S. military involvement with no fewer than 49 African nations. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this lengthy article for its comprehensive and very detailed reporting.)



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

China’s Rich, Yearning to Breathe Free – (Nation of Change – September 7, 2013)
Thousands of Chinese are fleeing to the United States. We are not talking about impoverished peasants hiding in cargo containers. We're talking about millionaires flying first class and buying condos in the choicest ZIP codes. A big reason for this relocation, real estate agents say, is a desire for America's clean air, as opposed to China's suffocating smog. Welcome to the new world of environmental immigration. How bad is the pollution in China? A recent study published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found that Chinese living in their country's heavily industrial north die on average five years earlier than those living in the south. Reliance on coal-fired heating and factories is largely to blame. About a quarter of recent buyers for Boston's top luxury condos have been foreign investors, especially from China and other parts of Asia. A local entrepreneur, Patty Chen, runs a soup-to-nuts relocation service, American Asia Business Tour Group-Boston, helping out with immigration visas, real estate services, and advice on schools and neighborhoods. Manhattan has experienced a similar rush of Chinese buyers. Michael Chen at the brokerage firm Bond New York cites their preference for New York's fresh air and "better family and work/life balance."

DC Considers Mandatory 24-Hour Waiting Period for Tattoos, Body Modification – (Highlight Press – September 9, 2013)
Tattoo parlors and the like are already required by law to refuse their services to anyone that’s clearly under the influence of drink or drugs, or simply not in a sound frame of mind at the time of their request. Nevertheless, hundreds are tattooed every day after making spur-of-the-moment decisions they immediately wish they could go back on. Well, it’s looking like these episodes could be all-but wiped out in DC at least, as it’s been suggested that a mandatory 24-hour waiting time be introduced before anyone is allowed to get tattooed, pierced or have all manner of weird and wonderful things done to their bodies. The proposal has split the industry with equal numbers both supporting and slating the idea. On the side of the authorities, many are in full agreement that if you’re planning to decorate your body with something that will be with you for the rest of your life, 24-hours isn’t really a long time to wait. They argue that there are far too many complaints and threats of legal action received every day from disgruntled parties, who really have nobody else to blame for the decisions they make. Critics insist that the bill is representative of a nanny-state gone too far and is nothing but detrimental to the industry. They state that, by the same logic, a person should also have to wait the same 24-hour cooling off period before going in to have their hair dyed, their head shaved or their car tuned. (Editor’s note: What “logic” ? Hair grows out – but the photo accompanying this article offers some fairly compelling evidence to support the 24-hour waiting period.)

Too Much Stuff in Your Life? 7 Ways to Turn it Around – (Yes – September 5, 2013)
From sharing to repairing, here is inspiration if you need to lighten your load. For example: Share it. At the height of the Great Depression, the manager of a Los Angeles dime store caught two small boys pocketing toys their families couldn’t afford. The Probation Department staff assigned to the boys' case responded by opening the county's first Toy Loan Center in a garage in Southwest L.A. In recent years, the Toy Loan Program's popularity has grown quickly alongside unemployment, with the number of centers in Los Angeles County more than doubling over the past decade. The program still operates like it did more than 75 years ago, though. Each week, children at 45 centers throughout the county check out their favorite toy on an honor system. For every 20 weeks of good toy care and on-time returns, children earn a wish-list toy to keep. If a kid gets bored with a toy, it goes back on the shelf for the next borrower. It's a library for toys, without the late fees.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

France, Chile Build Trans-Atlantic Bridge – (Herald Tribune – July 15, 2013)
The French and Chilean governments have formally agreed to collaborate on UFO/UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena) research. Representatives from GEIPAN and CEFAA, the agencies charged with collecting UFO data for France and Chile, respectively, recently met for the first time at a conference in Greensboro, N.C., and discovered a wealth of common ground in their approach to the phenomena. Among the talent Chile brings to bear on the mystery is Dr. Luis Barrera, for whom asteroid 19395 Barrera is named, and University of Chile astronomy director Dr. Jose Maria Maza, responsible for the discoveries of numerous supernovae, quasars and galaxies. In her 2010 bestseller, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record, Leslie Kean laid out a plan for a modest office, staffed by no more than three people, who could officially liaison with myriad civilian and defense agencies to investigate the most promising cases and review compelling cold-case files. In 2012, at an unpublicized meeting hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank in Washington, Kean shared a related briefing paper prepared for a 35-member, invitation-only audience. CAP founder John Podesta, President Clinton’s erstwhile chief of staff, went public about that meeting in May. He told the New York Times such a project “would selectively investigate mysterious skyward sightings and seek to understand them by applying scientific method.” He called attendees “interesting, credible people who had observed aerial phenomena that were unexplained and worthy of additional followup. Going back and looking at declassifying whatever government documents exist,” he added, “is a smart thing to do.”

Hubble Telescope Spots Azure Blue Planet Where It Rains Glass – (CNN – July 14, 2013)
Astronomers have found a deep azure blue planet orbiting a star 63 light years away -- the first time they've been able to determine the actual color of a planet outside our solar system, according to NASA and the European Space Agency. The planet, known as HD 189733b, is a gas giant with a daytime temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit where it possibly rains liquid glass sideways amid 4,500 mph winds, NASA says. The blue color comes not from the reflection of an ocean, as on Earth, "but rather a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere containing high clouds laced with silicate particles," NASA says. "Silicates condensing in the heat could form very small drops of glass that scatter blue light more than red light."



DEMOGRAPHICS

A Stunning 60% of All Home Purchases Are "Cash Only" - A 200% Jump in Five Years – (Zero Hedge – August 15, 2013)
Remember when housing was the primary aspirational asset for a still existent US middle class, to be purchased with some equity down by your average 30 year-old hoping to start a family in his or her brand new home, and, as the name implies, aspire to reach the American dream? That is no longer the case, at least not for about 90% of Americans. Before the great crisis only 20% of home purchases were "all cash", since then the number has soared threefold, and currently the estimated percentage of cash transactions (both by count and amount) has hit a record 60%. In other words, less than half of all home purchases are debt-funded, and thus less than half of all home purchases are actually representative of what middle-class America is doing. The surprisingly large cash-share of purchases helps to explain why home sales have jumped over the past two years despite more muted increases in broad measures of new mortgage activity, such as the MBA’s mortgage application index. There’s no exact way to know who is responsible for all of these cash purchases, though they presumably include some combination of investors, foreign buyers who would not be able to qualify for a home loan (for example, wealthy Chinese “yearning to breathe free” – see article above), and wealthy homeowners that don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a mortgage before closing on a sale – and don’t have to. The author’s personal thoughts: just like the stock market has been levitating on zero volume and virtually no broad distribution, so the entire housing market appears to have morphed into a "flip that house" investment vehicle used by the usual suspects who piggyback on cash flows deriving from alternative cheap credit-funded investments and translate their profits into real-estate investments.

The Geography of Unintended Pregnancy – (Huffington Post – September 11, 2013)
About half of the of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unplanned, according to a new state-level analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. The unintended pregnancy rate is a standout in the industrialized world, and has remained nearly flat since the 1980s despite advances in birth control technology and availability. Women with incomes at or below the federal poverty line are five times more likely than those at the highest income levels to become pregnant by accident — and unintended pregnancies have become increasingly clustered among the poor in recent years. Most of the births resulting from unplanned pregnancies are publicly funded, and they aren't cheap. As family planning budgets are slashed across the nation, unintended pregnancy remains the main reason for abortion, a procedure three in 10 American women have by age 45.


NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Bitcoin Recognized by Germany as 'Private Money' – (CNBC – August 19, 2013)
Virtual currency bitcoin has been recognized by the German Finance Ministry as a "unit of account", meaning it is can be used for tax and trading purposes in the country. Bitcoin is not classified as e-money or a foreign currency, the Finance Ministry said in a statement, but is rather a financial instrument under German banking rules. It is more akin to "private money" that can be used in "multilateral clearing circles", the Ministry said. "We should have competition in the production of money. I have long been a proponent of Friedrich August von Hayek scheme to denationalize money. Bitcoins are a first step in this direction," said Frank Schaeffler, a member of the German parliament's Finance Committee, who has pushed for legal classification of bitcoins. Bitcoin is a virtual currency that allows users to exchange online credits for goods and services. While there is no central bank that issues them, bitcoins can be created online by using a computer to complete difficult tasks, a process known as mining. Currently one bitcoin is worth just over $119. Schaeffler said the new ruling showed German authorities were preparing regulations on how to tax bitcoin transactions. According to German newspaper Die Welt, the government has stated that the legal classification of bitcoin means that commercial profits that stem from using the currency may be taxable. See also CNBC article, Bitcoin Gets the FBI, Homeland Treatment.

Where is Dick Fuld Now? Finding Lehman Brothers Last CEO – (Business Week – September 12, 2013)
Five years after the fall, Lehman Brothers no longer evokes the intense public anger it did in the weeks after the crash, when Fuld was hauled before Congress and made to answer for the firm’s demise. “If you haven’t discovered your role,” Republican Representative John Mica of Florida told him, “you’re the villain.” Most of the company’s top executives have found lucrative jobs elsewhere on Wall Street. Fuld is an exception. If you wondered what happened to some of the high-flying bankers directly involved in the 2008 near-collapse of the financial system, here are some interesting details regarding one of the most high-profile ones. The short answer is: Fuld will never be socially rehabilitated from his pariah status and he is slowly but inexorably becoming impoverished in the quicksand of never-ending litigation. The long answer is worth reading, if only to understand better what, why, and how some things happen.



PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Sick Oregon Man Robs Bank for One Dollar to Get Health Care in Jail – (Nation of Change – September 1, 2013)
On a recent morning, 50-year-old Tim Alsip walked into a Portland-area Bank of America and calmly handed the teller a note: “This is a hold up. Give me a dollar.” Alsip then took his single dollar bill and sat quietly in the lobby, waiting for police to arrive. According to The Oregonian, he has a history of mental illness, addiction, and dental problems that seem to have gone untreated. Sacrificing his freedom was the price Alsip felt he had to pay to receive medical care. Alsip was currently homeless and had no past criminal record in the state. He was arrested without incident and charged with second-degree robbery. Bail was set at $250,000. Sadly, Alsip’s story is not a one-off event, as poor, desperate individuals who are unable to afford proper care commit pseudo-crimes because they feel that prison health care is their only option. A North Carolina man in 2011, a New York man in 2012, and an Alabama man in 2013 all committed small thefts with the sole intent of getting arrested and hopefully being able to get well again behind bars.



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

CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran – (Foreign Policy – August 26, 2013)
A generation ago, America's military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen. In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent. The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq's favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration's long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. Until very recently, the CIA documents on which these disclosures are based sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. (Editor’s note: Other material, also in recently declassified documents, finally led the CIA admit to organizing the 1953 coup in Iran that toppled Prime Minister Mossadegh and his government, although some of the information was leaked to the New York Times in 2000. ) 

London Surgeons Help 'Children of Agent Orange' – (BBC News – September 9, 2013)
Speaking of chemical warfare: The Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago, but the casualties continue as birth defects plague the country and Da Nang in central Vietnam is thought to have the highest level of congenital deformity in the world. There are claims that thousands of children continue to be born with horrific facial deformities due to the 20 million gallons of Agent Orange chemical sprayed by the United States. The Vietnamese call the disfigured youngsters 'the children of Agent Orange'. Ten of London’s plastic surgeons have gone there for two years in a row now and work pro bono to repair, or at least improve, as many little faces as they can. Dioxin, the active ingredient in Agent Orange, is genotoxic, which means it is passed from one generation to the next. Most of the details are in the video clip rather than the text.



JUST FOR FUN

The Top Secret Drum Corps – (Top Secret Drum Corps website – July, 2013)
Just when you wondered if all the most serious Top Secrets hadn’t already been exposed, here’s one more: the Top Secret Drum Corps. In the video clip, the narrator notes that their performance is designed around the idea of the digital age. (Editor’s note: Apart from the projected backdrops, that statement seems a tad far-fetched. But so what?) On the other hand, if you’d like to step back in time - just a bit, mind you – try this one: The Dutch Army Bicycle Band. No kidding!



A FINAL QUOTE--

Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror. - Herb Brody, editor for Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science



A special thanks to: Bruce Anderson, Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Michael Ostrolenk, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Kermit Weeks 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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