Volume 16, Number 23 - 12/15/13 Twitter  Facebook  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • The oldest DNA evidence yet found of humans’ biological history is about 400,000 years old.

  • Scientists have discovered that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate "languages": one that describes how proteins are made, while the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled.

  • By 2017, the global volume of discarded refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors and other electronic waste will weigh almost as much as 200 Empire State Buildings.

  • Solar power and wind power usage have grown 267% and 538%, respectively, in the United States in less than a decade.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Help Us Keep FUTUREdition Coming to You

Each year during this holiday season we appeal to you to help support this free e-newsletter that you are reading. The truth is that without your help we would not be able to publish FE. As I’ve mentioned before, it costs something more than $15,000 a year (not counting any of my time) to gather up, organize and get it out to you twice month.

Throughout the year I receive a great number of positive comments from FE readers recounting why they value the unique articles and perspectives that they find here. Most say something like they don’t know where else they could go to get the broad coverage of many different – and important – trends and events, all of which have the potential of significantly influencing our lives in the coming months and years. And, “How in the world do you collect so many interesting articles each issue? It must take you all month just to gather them up.”

For me, FE is an extraordinary resource for taking the temperature of the unprecedented change that is happening on this planet. I try to select items that are out on the leading edge of change . . . and I particularly look for those things that won’t show up in the mainstream media. I’m interested in things that are provocative and encourage us all to think more broadly, becoming open to possibilities that we have never before experienced. Our ability to navigate the change that is on the horizon will largely be determined by the new ideas – the innovation – that we, as a species, are able to come up with for dealing with the unfamiliar new terrain spread as far as we can see.

You’ll have to admit that there are a lot of new and novel ideas in each edition of FE that help to push you into thinking about things in a different way than you have in the past.

I think it’s clear that familiar legacy systems like politics, foreign affairs, climate, energy, and the financial system (to name a few) are all imploding. They are not structurally able to deal with the magnitude and rate of change that we are experiencing.

The situation will only become exacerbated as the underlying exponential compounding moves us rapidly into situations for which there are no precedents. Even more reason to be aware, as soon as possible, of what might be headed this way. That’s our goal here – anticipating the emergence of a new era – and I hope that you will support us this holiday season.

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Not everyone will want to, or be able to contribute, so you may choose to be even more generous to help us cover the direct costs. Every year some readers send along $100 or even $500. A couple of years ago one very generous friend clicked on the link and sent $5,000 – which was really wonderfully appreciated.

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Warm holiday wishes.


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, who died last week at age 95, was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as President of South Africa from 1994-1999. One of the rather unique characteristics of Mandela was his integrity and the relative transparency between what he apparently thought and what he said.

Having been in prison for 27 years, Mandela didn’t “come up through the system” of politics that most national leaders do . . . and he didn’t have the baggage that comes from those origins. Most politicians have enemies and friends and obligations accumulated over the years of playing in the space and are therefore tentative and restrained in their actions – always testing which way the wind is blowing. Not so with Mandela. In a sense he had the ability to act as he believed – encouraged, of course, by very broad-based public support.


CommonDreams.org summarized his life thus:

During the 1950's, while working as an anti-apartheid lawyer, Mandela was repeatedly arrested for 'seditious activities' and 'treason.' In 1963 he was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison before an international lobbying campaign finally won his release in 1990.

In 1994, Mandela was elected President and formed a Government of National Unity in an attempt to defuse ethnic tensions. As President, he established a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses and to uncover the truth about crimes of the South African government, using amnesty as a mechanism.

Nelson Mandela was a powerful and inspirational leader who eloquently and forcefully spoke truth to power.


Here are some of his more “unvarnished” quotes.

After the NSA

There are quite a few people who are going after the NSA in response to their broad-based collection of information on almost everything Americans do. There are new bills being introduced in Congress, a federal judge that has ruled that the NSA American dragnet is likely unconstitutional . . . and then there is Nullify NSA.

Nullify NSA is interesting. It is a grassroots movement (started, I believe, by a mostly libertarian group) to get states to withhold needed things, like utilities, from NSA installations, thereby effectively shutting them down. Crazy idea? Well, it has some rather compelling Constitutional support. As they say:

This is based on the undisputed legal doctrine of "anti-commandeering." The federal government has no power to require states to help the feds carry out federal acts or programs in any way.

The Supreme Court affirmed this in these cases: 1842
Prigg, 1997 Printz, 2002 New York, and 2012 Sebelius.

James Madison, writing in Federalist #46, said that states had "powerful means" to oppose either unconstitutional or "unpopular" federal programs. Included was a "refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union."

Now, think about that for a minute. If a state shut off the electricity or cooling water to a big NSA data center (and then passed a law that said that any company that tried to provide services in place of the state boycott would lose the ability to do business in the state in perpetuity), it would be pretty hard for the feds to get the data center running again.

Now the Nullify guys want to do this against ObamaCare and some other initiatives that I tend to like, but the concept behind this all is pretty brilliant. I suppose the Feds would attempt to retaliate if someone shut off their water, but suddenly, the states would be serious players in the game.

You can read more about it at: www.Offnow.org

Book Recommendations

Thought I’d pass along some book suggestions in case you’re looking for a good read or a good holiday gift. You can click on any of the book covers to get straight to Amazon.

Not by Fire but by Ice: Discover What Killed the Dinosaurs... and Why it Could Soon Kill Us – Robert W. Felix

Now this is a fascinating book. In very compelling and extremely well researched terms, Robert Felix builds the case that earth’s magnetic field reversals, which happen regularly (we are experiencing the beginning of one now), have engendered the most significant climate shifts throughout the history of this planet. These giant transitions, which eliminated dinosaurs and mastodons in separate historical extinction events, were characterized by a great number of undersea and terrestrial volcanoes, which warmed the oceans and cooled the atmosphere and produced a great deal of airborne moisture which fell as snow.

Like 160-some feet of snow a day . . . for months and months. You wonder why the dinosaurs disappeared all at once? Well, they couldn’t ski – or get out of the amazing snow storms that ultimately built up the glaciers. This is interesting stuff.

Felix says it’s going to happen again sometime soon (and I just saw the report that confirmed that the magnetosphere has decreased 15% in the last 150 years). When it does we’ll get more very cold weather. Florida will still be warm, but the northern latitudes will be downright chilly.

Check it out.

One Mind: How Our Individual Mind is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters – Larry Dossey, M.D.

Nobody writes better or more eloquently about the ephemeral nature of the context in which we live than Larry Dossey. Using science and stories he has described the nature of dreams, prayer, distant healing, self-healing and premonitions (among others) in ten previous books. Now he tackles the big subject – the nature of universal consciousness – in One Mind. Well, he at least talks about the human relationship to the ultimate consciousness and that’s a big, expanding thing.

Larry is a very readable writer, which is why his books typically land on the New York Times best seller list. The cover blurb asks you to, “Imagine a united consciousness, an awareness of which all of our minds are a part . . . and a potential way out of the division, greed, and destruction that threatens to engulf our world.” You can see it is about big, serious subjects, horizon-expanding issues but it is quite approachable. I’m half-way through it and enjoying every page.

You will like this book.

Trusting The Currents – Lynnda Pollio

My friend Lynnda Pollio has be laboring over this story for a long time. She says: “My life as a busy New Yorker abruptly changed when I unexpectedly heard the mystical, elderly voice of Addie Mae Aubrey, a Southern, African American woman. Her first words, ‘It’s not what happened to me that matters,’ began a spirited remembering of her teenage years in the late 1930s rural south and the hard learned wisdom Addie Mae asked me to share. As women from different times and different places, together we embarked on an uncommon journey that changed everything we would both become.

Narrated by Addie Mae Aubrey, Trusting the Currents is a spiritual story of self-discovery—of faith, courage, forgiveness, and the uneasy search for one’s place in life.

My wife Diane is the novel reader in our family, so I gave Trusting The Currents to her to read first. She said: The book is a heart-felt coming of age story of an African American woman who grew up in the rural south. Lynnda and Addie Mae, two women from different times and places, embark on an uncommon journey. Addie Mae had several strong women who loved and guided her in learning life’s lessons. Her beloved high school teacher told her “Words are cathedrals for ideas, Addie Mae. Each time we open a book, we enter a door to a sacred space where fresh truths are born. Reading changes what we are into who we might be, opening shuttered minds and warming even the coldest hearts. It frees our true promise like butterflies experiencing life for the first time outside the dark unknowin’ of their cocoon.”

Lynnda is a good writer. Some young woman would very much appreciate receiving this in her stocking.

EARTH: An Alien Enterprise – The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-up in Human History – Timothy Good

Every few years, UFO authority and author, Tim Good comes across the Atlantic from London and he and I have lunch in Washington. It’s always an interesting conversation, as Tim is clearly one of the best researchers about strange flying things and alien encounters in the business and has a very broad understanding of all of the convoluted ins and outs of this multidimensional space. I always look forward to his books, not just because he seems to find a way to mention me in them, but because of the scholarly work that he does. I always learn something from the case studies and photographs and drawing made by the subjects of his reports.

The UFO landscape is littered with stories and pictures and Tim includes important ones in this book, but as Jonathan Caplan writes in his foreword: We cannot, of course, though, accept these accounts at face value. In the world we inhabit, all is often not what it seems, so how much more so in the world of ufology where our reference points, let along our vocabulary, are wholly inadequate?

Tim is a very good researcher who compellingly deals with these inadequacies and makes the case that something important is going on that is being kept from us by our governments. He writes serious books about a serious subject, so if you (or someone you know) would like to have a very good overview about the unusual – but increasingly common – happenings in the sky (and on the ground), try this book.

E-Squared: Nine Do-it-Yourself energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality -- Pam Grout

You may have heard about this book as it was a #1 on the New York Times Bestselling list . . . but I hadn’t. A friend gave it to me and I was so moved that I bought 20 copies and gave them away.

Essentially, E2 is a primer for manifesting – a series of simple exercises that will show you, in very practical terms, how your mental images and processes turn into tangible experiences. If you sequentially do what she describes, you will be led deeper and deeper into the space where you understand how to change your mind . . . and change your life.

Rather powerful stuff. Highly recommended.

A Primer for Ascension: Lessons Learned on the Path of Enlightenment – Pierre Richard Dubois

Here’s another primer by a very adept author. Pierre Dubois is a New York City teacher and healer who brings an advanced collection of personal capabilities along with extensive experience and wisdom to his understanding about the path and processes leading to the emergence of a new human.

This is practical stuff – unconditional self-love, removing fears, psychic self-defense, manifesting, habits and addictions, balancing masculine and feminine, love, intimacy and sexuality, authenticity, etc. A very helpful overview of the big pieces between here and where we all need to go.

The Djinn Connection: The Hidden Links Between Djinn, Shadow People, ETs, Nephilim, Archons, Reptilians and other Entities -- Rosemary Ellen Guiley

This book shook my paradigm. Rosemary Guiley gave a presentation here in Berkeley Springs last month about inter-dimensional portals . . . and things associated with that phenomena. It was a fascinating look at an area that I really didn’t know much about. I mean, I didn’t even know what a djinn was, (let alone know that the “d” is silent).

Her talk made very clear that there is a whole other-dimensional world out there that I had left to sorcerers, exorcists and people like Rosemary. This woman has written more than 50 books about all things paranormal – she lives in that space – and certainly knows more about it all than anyone else I know. More than that, she has her feet on the ground and is constantly trying to understand how this stuff works.

I had a couple of absolutely fascinating dinner conversations with her while she was here and over pasta she chided me for not having read the djinn book that she had given me four months earlier. So, I read the book. My mind and understanding of reality was blown away.

I don’t want to live in this space – it’s too weird for me – but I can see that not knowing something about these things leaves one playing with a partial deck of cards . . . there’s more to the game than you know, and you don’t begin to understand why some big things happen that otherwise you, and almost everyone else, thinks they understand.

If you can handle it, this is an extraordinary reading experience.

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible – Charles Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein is one of the brightest and most sophisticated cartographers we have of the transition that is driving us into the emergent new world. What sets him aside from others who take a stab at mapping the potential path ahead is his multidimensional approach to analysis and divination. With one foot firmly planted in conventional attempts to describe our physical experience, he tip-toes down the fence between the solid mainstream and the now reemerging, rather ephemeral notion that essentially says that nothing is as it appears – it is all energy and spirit and consciousness.

Charles calls the “oneness” of Larry Dossey’s One Mind interbeing and systematically builds the case for seeing the world in these terms. But he also begins to paint a picture of how we might live within this rather different, new paradigm.

“Let’s get real here,” he says. “If everything has consciousness, then what we had believed possible, practical, and realistic is far too limiting. We are on the cusp of an epochal breakthrough, coming into touch with the mind of nature. What can we achieve when we are in harmony with it?”

He argues for a different point of entry into life – a mind shift: “In this book, I am calling for a kind of naiveté, which ironically enough is one of the main criticisms of my work. Maybe I should embrace that epithet, and call for even more of it. To be naïve is to trust in the goodness of others when there is scant evidence of it, or to trust something might happen when you don’t know how it could.”

This is a somewhat softer book than Eisenstein’s previous treatises on The Ascent of Humanity, and Sacred Economics. I liked it a lot and appreciate the work that authors like Gregg Braden, Larry Dossey and he are doing to illuminate the way into the uncharted new space of the future.



THINK LINKS



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Could the Government Erase Everything Snowden Exposed? – (Mother Jones – December 3, 2013)
What if Edward Snowden was made to disappear? No, not some future CIA rendition effort or a who-killed-Snowden conspiracy theory of a disappearance, but a more ominous kind. What if everything a whistleblower had ever exposed could simply be made to go away? What if every National Security Agency (NSA) document Snowden released, every interview he gave, every documented trace of a national security state careening out of control could be made to disappear in real-time? What if the very posting of such revelations could be turned into a fruitless, record-less endeavor? As we edge toward a fully digital world, such things may soon be possible, not in science fiction but in our world—and at the push of a button. In fact, the earliest prototypes of a new kind of "disappearance" are already being tested. Increasingly, most of us now get our news, books, music, TV, movies, and communications of every sort electronically. And in that digital world, a certain kind of "simplification" is being explored. The Chinese, Iranians, and others are, for instance, already implementing web-filtering strategies to block access to sites and online material of which their governments don't approve. The US government similarly (if somewhat fruitlessly) blocks its employees from viewing Wikileaks and Edward Snowden material on their work computers—though not of course at home. Yet. Great Britain, however, will soon take a significant step toward deciding what a private citizen can see on the web even while at home. Before the end of the year, almost all Internet users there will be "opted-in" to a system designed to filter out pornography. By default, the controls will also block access to "violent material," "extremist and terrorist related content," "anorexia and eating disorder websites," and "suicide related websites." In addition, the new settings will censor sites mentioning alcohol or smoking. The filter will also block "esoteric material," though a UK-based rights group says the government has yet to make clear what that category will include.



NEW REALITIES

Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins – (New York Times – December 4, 2013)
Scientists have found the oldest DNA evidence yet of humans’ biological history. But instead of clarifying human evolution, the finding is adding new mysteries. The DNA comes from a fossil about 400,000 years old, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years. The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But the DNA analysis tells a different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains found in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the DNA was found. The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years.

Invisibility Cloak Demoed at TED2013 – (Boing Boing – February 26, 2013)
Here is a short video clip of Baile Zhang's "invisibility cloak," which was demoed at TED2013. Zhang is an assistant professor of physics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, His “invisibility cloak” looks roughly like a tiny clear plastic box just a few inches high. Nevertheless, the cloak's ability to conceal an object so that both the cloak and the object become invisible is remarkable. Zhang placed the cloak over a bright pink Post-it note and voila! The pink paper disappeared. And the cloak itself wasn't really visible in the first place.



GENETICS/ HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/ BIOTECHNOLOGY

Black Silicon Slices and Dices Bacteria – (GizMag – November 27, 2013)
Originally discovered by accident in the 1980s, black silicon is silicon with a surface that has been modified to feature nanoscale spike structures which give the material very low reflectivity. Researchers have now found that these spikes can also destroy a wide range of bacteria, potentially paving the way for a new generation of antibacterial surfaces. Surface structures similar to black silicon can be found in nature. Earlier this year, researchers at the Swinburne Institute of Technology in Australia led by Professor Elena Ivanova and Professor Russell Crawford found that the wings of the cicada Psaltoda claripennis could shred certain types of rod-shaped bacteria and the wings of the Diplacodes bipunctata or Wandering Percher dragonfly were even more deadly, killing both rod-shaped and spherical bacteria. "This structure generates a mechanical bacteria killing effect which is unrelated to the chemical composition of the surface," says Professor Crawford. The team then mimiced the surface structure of the Wandering Percher dragonfly wing in an effort to create a surface with similar bacteria-killing properties. Among the variety of bacteria the insect wing and the black silicon surfaces were able to kill were the deadly strains of the Staphylococcus aureus or golden staph bacterium.

Scientists Find Second, 'Hidden' Language in Human Genetic Code - (UPI - December 12, 2013)
U.S. geneticists say a second code hiding within DNA changes how scientists read its instructions and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease. Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed it was used exclusively to write information about proteins, but University of Washington scientists say they've discovered that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate "languages." One, long understood, describes how proteins are made, while the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long. The two parts of the genetic code apparently evolved in concert with each other. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways."

BioPen to Rewrite Orthopedic Implants Surgery – (University of Wollongong – December 4, 2013)
A handheld ‘bio pen’ developed in the labs of the University of Wollongong (UOW) will allow surgeons to design customized implants on-site and at the time of surgery. The BioPen will give surgeons greater control over where the materials are deposited while also reducing the time the patient is in surgery by delivering live cells and growth factors directly to the site of injury, accelerating the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage. The BioPen works similar to 3D printing methods by delivering cell material inside a biopolymer such as alginate, a seaweed extract, protected by a second, outer layer of gel material. The two layers of gel are combined in the pen head as it is extruded onto the bone surface and the surgeon ‘draws’ with the ink to fill in the damaged bone section. A low powered ultra-violet light source is fixed to the device that solidifies the inks during dispensing, providing protection for the embedded cells while they are built up layer-by-layer to construct a 3D scaffold in the wound site. Once the cells are ‘drawn’ onto the surgery site they will multiply, become differentiated into nerve cells, muscle cells or bone cells and will eventually turn from individual cells into a thriving community of cells in the form of a functioning a tissue, such as nerves, or a muscle.

Scientists Convert Human Stem Cells into Functional Lung Cells – (GizMag - December 6, 2013)
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have transformed human stem cells into functional lung cells, paving the way for ultimately creating bioengineered lungs using the patient's own cells. Besides being able to generate lung tissue for transplants, these cells could also be used to study lung development and potentially find more advanced treatments for lung diseases. While scientists have been able to successfully transform human stem cells into different types of cells such as nerve, retina and blood cells, creating working lung and airway cells has proven to be a challenge. "When an embryo develops, it first makes three layers of cells: ectoderm, which will become the skin and nervous system; mesoderm, which will become the heart, muscle, connective tissues, blood vessels, blood and kidney; and endoderm, which will become the intestine, liver, pancreas, stomach, esophagus, thyroid, thymus parathyroids, and lung," study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck said. "The endoderm forms last which is probably one reason it is harder to specify from stem cells." This latest discovery identifies some new factors that allow human stem cells to complete their transformation into functional lung epithelial cells – these are the cells that cover the lung's surface. There are at least seven broad types of lung and airway lining cells which scientists will now be able to create, having functions ranging from maintaining the lung alveoli (small air sacs at the ends of airways that absorb oxygen from the air) to others that repair damage and injuries. Snoeck's current breakthrough will eventually open the way he says, to make "bioengineered lungs," that have little chance of rejection after transplantation, as they are made of the patient's own cells.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

Arab World Sinks Deeper into Water Crisis – (Inter Press Service – December 1, 2013)
The Arab world is widely perceived as blessed with an embarrassment of riches: an abundance of oil (Saudi Arabia), one of the world’s highest per capita incomes (Qatar), and home to the world’s tallest luxury building (United Arab Emirates). But it lacks one of the most finite resources necessary for human survival: water. The average Arab citizen has eight times less access to renewable water than the average global citizen. U.N.Development Programme (UNDP) recently released a study, “Water Governance in the Arab Region: Managing Scarcity and Securing the Future.” The report warns that water scarcity in the region is fast reaching “alarming levels, with dire consequences to human development”. The region accounts for 5% of the world’s more than seven billion people, and 10% of its area, but accounts for less than 1% of global water resources. Over 87% of the region’s terrain is desert and 14 of the world’s 20 most water-stressed countries are in this region. Desertification is a sweeping problem in countries such as Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. The greatest culprits are unsustainable agricultural practices. Threatened by future scarcities, several Arab countries, including the UAE, have expanded their use of non-conventional water resources including desalination; treated wastewater; rainwater harvesting; cloud seeding; and irrigation drainage water.

The Case for Waterless Urinals – (Washington Post – December 3, 2013)
As 2050 nears, the likelihood increases that water will be “potentially used as a weapon, where one state denies access to another,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official. According to one study, 1.7 billion people already rely on aquifers that are rapidly being depleted. Waterless urinals offer an economical way to help the problem. The average water-free urinal in an office building might save about 25,000 gallons a year. There’s no cost from hooking them up to a water system. And water-free urinals have no moving parts that can break. With a waterless urinal such as Falcon’s, which carries the Sloan brand name, urine passes through an oil-filled filter. The scented oil acts as a barrier to keep smells from the drain out of the restroom. Over time the oil drains out, and the cartridge needs to be replaced after 7,000 uses, which will prevent unwanted smells. The only routine maintenance needed is spraying and wiping the urinal clean. Waterless urinals have found a foothold in China because hygienic-concerned users prefer not to touch urinals. In the United States waterless urinals are most popular in the Southwest. Falcon, a major manufacturer, has seen its international business grow, especially in the Middle East (see article above). While its sales used to be split 80-20 between the United States and abroad, the ratio is now an even 50-50.

Transgene Escape: GMOs Spreading Uncontrollably around the World – (SottNet –December 2, 2013)
Testbiotech, a nonprofit biotech research organization, recently released a report on the spread of genetically altered plants. The organization says GMOs are spreading throughout the world without any controls in place to stop them. In the U.S., Canada, Central America, Japan, China, Australia, and Europe, genetically modified organisms are spreading into the food system. This is happening with corn, rice, cotton, flaxseed, bentgrass, and poplar trees, according to the Testbiotech report. The article includes links to other news articles documenting three examples of GMO contamination involving wheat, flax, and rice. Apart from commercial cultivation and experimental field trials, losses from the import and transport of viable grains for food and feed production are a source of uncontrolled dispersal. The consequences cannot be reliably predicted, and from the cases documented in the overview it is evident that no prediction can be made on how these plants will behave in the long-term or interact with biodiversity. See also: Hawaii’s Big Island Bans Biotech Companies, GMO Crops.

Schoolchildren Ordered Indoors as Air Pollution Cloaks Shanghai – Guardian – December 6, 2013)
Shanghai authorities ordered schoolchildren indoors and halted all construction on Friday as China's financial hub suffered one its worst bouts of air pollution, bringing visibility down to a few dozen meters and obscuring the city's spectacular skyline. The financial district was shrouded in a yellow haze and noticeably fewer people walked the city's streets. Vehicle traffic was thinner, as authorities pulled 30% of government vehicles from the roads. They also banned fireworks and stopped all public sporting events. See China Daily photo of indoors(!) smog. The concentration of PM 2.5 particles, which pose the greatest risk to human health, reached 602.5 micrograms per cubic meter Friday afternoon. The U.N. caps the safety limit at 25 micrograms. The smog had been building all week. Shanghai’s marathon had taken place at the beginning of the week to “severely polluted” air quality, likely harming participants’ lungs. By Friday, December 6, all public sporting events had been canceled.

Rapid Climate Changes in the Younger Dryas, But with a 120 Year Time Lag – (What’s Up with That? – December 4, 2013)
Regional climate changes can be very rapid. A German-British team of geoscientists reports that such a rapid climate change occurred in different regions with a time difference of 120 years. Investigation in the west German Eifel region and in southern Norway demonstrated that at the end of the last glaciation about 12,240 years before present climate became warmer, rapid warming occurred first in the Eifel region and 120 years later in southern Norway. Nonetheless, the warming was equally rapid in both regions. But how did the researcher revealed such a accurate time marking? “12,140 years ago a major eruption of the Katla volcano occurred on Iceland” explains Achim Brauer. The ash of the Katla volcanic eruption was deposited at the same time in the Eifel and in Norway. The sediments of the Eifel lake depict the rapid warming 100 years before the volcanic ash, while it is seen in the southern Norwegian lake sediment 20 years after the volcanic eruption. The same warming, but with a 120 difference in timing between the about 1200 km distant locations? Achim Brauer: “We can explain this difference with the shift of hemispheric wind systems. Climate changed in both regions was very rapid, but the polar front, (the atmospheric boundary layer between cold polar air and the warmer air of the mid-latitudes), required more than 100 years to retreat from its glacial position at about the location of the Eifel at 50° N to its southern Norwegian position at 62° N.” Hence, the study provides evidence for a rapid change that slowly moved northwards. The result of this study has some implications on the understanding of both past and future climate change. The assumption of an everywhere and always synchronously changing climate must be questioned and climate models have to better consider such regional aspects.

Snow Closes Roads in Israel, Is a Source of Wonder in Egypt – (Los Angeles Times – December 13, 2013)
Earlier this week, nearly three feet of snow closed roads in and out of Jerusalem, which is set in high hills, and thousands in and around the city were left without power. Israeli soldiers and police rescued  hundreds trapped in their cars by snow and ice. In the West Bank, the branches of olive trees groaned under the weight of snow. In Israel, where the storm was described as the heaviest December snowfall since 1953, thick clouds temporarily closed Ben-Gurion International Airport, causing the diversion of two international flights to Cyprus. In Cairo, where local news reports said the last recorded snowfall was more than 100 years ago, children in outlying districts capered in white-covered streets, and adults marveled at the sight, tweeting pictures of snow-dusted parks and squares. In other parts of the city, rain and hail rocketed down. See also: Snow Falling in Australia in Summer, in the Australian Alps. Snow is not a freak event in southern Australia in the warmer months. A small dusting usually appears on the higher parts of the Australian Alps at least once each summer, but this is considerably more than usual.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

World’s E-waste to Grow 33% by 2017 – (Live Science – December 15, 2013)
By 2017, the global volume of discarded refrigerators, TVs, cellphones, computers, monitors and other electronic waste will weigh almost as much as 200 Empire State Buildings, a new report predicts. The forecast, based on data gathered by United Nations organizations, governments, and nongovernment and science organizations in a partnership known as the "Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative," predicts e-waste generation will swell by a third in the next five years, led by the United States and China. The StEP Initiative created a map of the world's e-waste, which is available online. The world produced nearly 54 million tons of used electrical and electronic products last year. That's an average of about 43 lbs., or the weight of eight bricks, for each of the 7 billion people on Earth. The StEP Initiative forecasts that by 2017, the world will produce about 33 percent more e-waste, or 72 million tons (65 million metric tons). That amount weighs about 11 times as much as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

3D-printed Lingerie Hits the Catwalk – (GizMag – November 25, 2013)
A collaboration between Victoria's Secret and Swarovski has seen 3D-printed lingerie hit the catwalk in New York. Architect Bradley Rothenberg was invited to help realize the one-of-a-kind design and 3D printing specialist Shapeways provided the technical know-how. The result is a sparkling, snowflake-inspired corset that provided one of the highlights during this year's Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Utilizing laser-sintered polyamide, which is a nylon coated in Swarovski crystals, the team were able to create an eye-catching snowflake-like material that was then printed by Shapeways. The process involved generating an algorithm that could produce the interlocking 3D snowflake structure. Rothenberg and his team then generated several "fabric swatches" which allowed them to test the flexibility and usability of the fabric, before producing the first set of prototypes that were matched to a 3D scan of the model, Lindsay Ellingson. Article includes link to 12 photos. See also: A 3D Printer for Under US$200. And see: 3D Printer Creates Multi-colored Plastic Items. (Editor’s note: Unfortunately neither of these printers will work for lingerie.)

Low-cost, Open-source 3D Printer Looks Beyond Plastic – (GizMag – December 3, 2013)
With 3D printers dropping below the US$200 mark, the home 3D printing revolution appears to be getting into full swing, which is great ... if you want to make things out of plastic. Unfortunately, the price of commercial metal 3D printers means the ability to print metal objects has remained out of reach of most people. That could be set to change with a team from Michigan Technical University building a 3D metal printer for under $1,500. The 3D printer was created by Joshua Pearce, an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and his team from parts including a small commercial MIG welder and an open-source microcontroller. It forms complex geometric shapes by laying down thin layers of steel, but Pearce admits the printer is still a work in progress, with a sprocket the most intricate piece the printer has produced so far. That's where the open-source nature of the device comes in. Pearce and his team have made everything required to build the printer, including detailed plans, software and firmware, freely available. "Similar to the incredible churn in innovation witnessed with open-sourcing of the first RepRap plastic 3D printers, I anticipate rapid progress when the maker community gets their hands on it," says Pearce. "Within a month, somebody will make one that’s better than ours, I guarantee it."

App Turns Smartphones into 3D Scanners – (GizMag – December 5, 2013)
Most of us have gotten used to smartphones replacing devices such as cameras and music players. Soon, however, they might be taking over the duties of something that is itself an emerging technology – the 3D scanner. Researchers at ETH Zurich have created an app that allows an ordinary smartphone to capture and display three-dimensional models of real-world objects, for subsequent finessing or even 3D printing. The app reportedly works in both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions, including the low light often found in museums. Users simply point the phone's camera at the desired object, then move the phone around the subject as needed, in order to capture it from a variety of angles. The app uses the phone's inertial sensors to detect when and by how much it's moving, and automatically snaps images accordingly. All of the calculations take place on the spot, using the phone's GPU (graphics processing unit). Users can then view the digital model from a variety of angles, and go back to get additional shots of any parts of the subject that they missed. Not only are images captured, but the actual size of the subject is also recorded – definitely a handy feature, if the user plans on 3D-printing a copy. Article includes informative video clip of the app in use.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

Size Matters: Gizmag's Top 10 Tiny Homes - (GizMag - November 17, 2013)
Big may be beautiful to some, but in a world of dwindling space and resources, it makes far more sense to downsize one's home whenever possible. Gizmag doffs its cap to 10 recent architectural examples of utilizing space to its utmost potential, from tiny micro-homes on wheels that resemble large sheds, to slightly larger brick-and-mortar houses sporting ingeniously flexible interior layouts. One thing they all have in common though, is an distinct effort to make the most of what space is available. The brief description of each house includes a link to an article on that specific house accompanied by numerous photographs of it.

Is This the Home and Office of 2023? – (BBC News – December 13, 2013)
Interesting video clip. The BBC's North America technology correspondent Richard Taylor went to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the company has created a home and office of the future. Giant 82in (208cm) TV screens, computers that can see and more flexible working thanks to a new generation of PCs - that's one vision of the future being presented by Microsoft.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Electricity Harvested from Passing Vehicles - (Alpha-Galileo - November 29, 2013)
Using this technology, it may be possible to use the passing of vehicles to illuminate city streets. Mexican entrepreneurs have developed a system capable of using the vehicular flow to generate electric energy. “This technology provides sustainable energy and could be implemented at low prices, since it’s a complement of already existing infrastructure: the concrete of streets and avenues”, according to developer Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández. He added that at a global level there are no records of similar projects, with exception of an English patent. However there piezoelectric floors are used which are too expensive for developing countries. The energy generation system uses a ramp-step (fabricated from a polymeric material similar to the ones used in the manufacture of tires) that rises five centimeters above the level of the street. Upon the impact of a vehicle, this ramp exerts pressure over a bellows. The bellows then expels the air ultimately into a tank where it is compressed and relaunched to an electricity generating turbine. The accumulation of electric energy is proportional to the flow of cars over the ramp; however, in places with low vehicular flow, several ramp-steps could be placed to multiply the impact of every individual vehicle. (Editor's comment: Think of it as a technique for generating the energy to power a street light every time a car goes over a nearby speed bump.)

Solar to Be As Inexpensive As Natural Gas by 2025 – (SmartPlanet – December 2, 2013)
Unsubsidized solar power could become cost competitive with natural gas in about a decade – due to the proliferation of inexpensive natural gas, a report says. It sounds like a paradox, but that’s a conclusion of Lux Research, a spin-off of the venture capital firm Lux Capital. The report is sunny on solar power’s future, because the proliferation of inexpensive natural gas could serve as a bridge fuel that makes a ramp up of renewables possible without requiring major infrastructure improvements. Lux says that solar will reach price parity with natural gas turbines by 2025. Renewable energy consumption is already surging. Solar power and wind power usage have grown 267% and 538%, respectively, in the United States in less than a decade. The same transition is happening worldwide: the International Energy said that renewables would account for a quarter of world energy production by 2016. But don’t expect an entirely seamless transition to renewables like solar power. Lux Research's report noted: “Turmoil is imminent because standalone solar will not yet be competitive when subsidies start expiring in markets like China, the U.S. and Japan.


AGRICULTURE/FOOD

India Creates Organic Seed Bank in Response to Suicide GMO Seeds, Farmers’ Debt – (Nation of Change – December 2, 2013)
Across 17 states in India, organic seed collecting activists are creating an organic seed bank, called Navdanya, and a learning center called Bija Vidyapeeth (meaning “school of the seed”) that teaches the importance of biodiversity, conservation of the earth’s resources and organic farming methods. India is not the only country looking at inventive ways of saving organic seeds and keeping them available to the public at large. Community-run seed libraries are now coming into vogue as people realize the need for maintaining biodiversity and food sovereignty.  The Berkeley Ecology Center and the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) are as close to the traditional library model as you can get and are fiscally sponsored by volunteers. Seeds are provided free to members who are asked only to grow the seeds they take and return some of the new crop’s seeds to the library when they are harvested. In this manner, seeds are returned for yet another patron to "borrow" the following growing season.

The Truth about Pork and How America Feeds Itself – (Business Week – December 5, 2013)
Each working day, at the Hormel Foods plant in Fremont, Neb., more than 10,500 hogs are slaughtered—their carcasses butchered into parts and marketed as Cure 81 hams or Black Label bacon, the scraps collected and ground up to make Little Sizzlers breakfast sausages and Hormel’s signature product, Spam. That’s 1,300 hogs per hour, a 33% jump in the last decade. What few people, even at the Fremont plant, appreciate is that its remarkable production increases stem from a special program piloted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1997. The program cut the number of Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors on the processing line from seven to four and permitted participating companies to accelerate line speeds in five pork-processing plants, among them the Hormel plant. But if packers have been delighted by the increased output, workers’ rights advocates say that runaway production increases have also jeopardized safety, particularly repetitive stress injuries and cuts and amputations, which affect meatpacking workers at alarming rates. Equally troubling, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General has raised concerns that faster line speeds compromise food safety. In May, the OIG released a report finding enforcement of protocols at the five pilot plants were so lax that between 2008 and 2011 three ranked among the top 10 violators of food safety requirements. As recently as last year, inspectors at the five test plants found hog carcasses bound for processing with lesions from tuberculosis, septic arthritis (with bloody fluid pouring from joints), and fecal smears. All the pigs with these conditions are roughly four months old. (Editor’s note: This is not a wild-eyed exposé from some alternative media source; it’s from Business Week and it’s detailed.)



SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

5 Places You May Not Know the US Military Operates – (Nation of Change – December 15, 2013)
President Obama has just sent Congress his biannual report on just where he’s deployed U.S. military personnel without their direct approval, including several locations that might surprise most casual observers. The president is required under the War Powers Act of 1973 to detail to Congress any ongoing activities occurring without a declaration of war from the legislature. In the five page letter, Obama described several highly reported military operations taken over the last few months, including a daring raid into Somalia and the capture of a suspected terrorist in Libya. Alongside these feats and descriptions of the progress in Afghanistan, several lesser-known engagements are detailed, where hundreds of U.S. forces are currently stationed. Here are five of them: Jordan, Niger, Kosovo, central Africa, and Egypt. Details in the article.

Mind Reading, Cyborgs, and Fusion: What DARPA Wants Young Scientists to Work On – (Fast Company – December 11, 2013)
Want a glimpse into the future of science? Every year, DARPA gives out young faculty awards aimed at recruiting the “rising star” researchers in academia to devote their brains to the military’s technological needs. “The long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on DoD and National Security issues,” this year's grant program announcement reads. The agency doesn’t want these young geniuses to work on just anything, though. DARPA is seeking applications in 18 topic areas, offering some insight into the agency’s priorities and interests. Here are a couple of topics that looked particularly intriguing: The “Neurobiological Mechanisms of Social Media Processing” topic area seeks researchers to investigate how the use of social media tools affects people’s underlying thoughts and behaviors, such as their levels of empathy and social cognition. The “Next Generation Neural Sensing for Brain-Machine Interfaces” topic area seeks new, non-invasive techniques for sensing the neural firing activities from “large numbers of single neurons simultaneously” in awake, behaving subjects. They state they are not looking for variations on the MRI method so common today.



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

Hollywood without the Happy Ending – (Nation of Change – December 6, 2013)
As recent revelations have made clear, the CIA’s moves couldn’t have been more far-fetched or be more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail. The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.” Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence. (Editor’s note: this article is well researched and contains numerous click-through links to support its content.)

The Criminalization of Everyday Life – (TomDispatch – December 8, 2013)
Sometimes a single story has a way of standing in for everything you need to know.  In the case of the up-arming, up-armoring, and militarization of police forces across the country, there is such a story.  Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the Afghan War built to withstand "ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical environments.” Now, if there is a sit-in or sit-down on campus, as infamously at the University of California, Davis, during the Occupy movement, expect that the demonstrators will be treated like enemies of the state and pepper-sprayed or perhaps Tased.  And if there’s a bona fide student riot in town, the cops will now roll out an armored vehicle (as they did recently in Seattle). Along with those weapons, a mentality is migrating home from our distant wars.  It’s a sense that the U.S., too, is a “battlefield” and that, for instance, those highly militarized SWAT teams spreading to just about any community you want to mention are made up of “operators” (a “term of art” from the special operations  community) ready to deal with threats to American life. Embedding itself chillingly in our civilian world, that battlefield is proving mobile indeed.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

Ex-Shin Bet Chief: Conflict with Palestinians Riskier for Israel Than Nuclear Iran – (Haaretz – December 4, 2013)
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin has harshly criticized government policies regarding the Palestinians and stated that the ramifications of failed negotiations are far graver for Israel’s future than the Iranian nuclear program. “We need an agreement now, before we get to a point of no return, after which a two-state solution will be impossible,” Diskin said at an event commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Geneva Initiative. "I say it even though it is unpopular to do so." Diskin said, “I would like to know that our home here has clear borders, and that we’re putting the sanctity of people before the sanctity of land. I want a homeland that does not require the occupation of another people in order to maintain itself." Diskin added: “The coalition in Israel and the problems of control in the Likud are making an agreement with the Palestinians impossible. The tension between the two peoples is making it impossible to reach and implement an agreement. We must seriously include Jordan and Egypt in the negotiations with the Palestinians – it is critical for reaching an agreement.” (Access to article requires free registration.)

The CIA Involvement in the Capture of Nelson Mandela – (Democracy Now – December 13, 2013)
As the world honors Nelson Mandela, this article examines how the CIA helped the South African government track down and capture Mandela in 1962. In 1990, the Cox News Service quoted a former U.S. official saying that within hours after Mandela’s arrest a senior CIA operative named Paul Eckel admitted the agency’s involvement. Eckel was reported as having told the official, "We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They have picked him up. It is one of our greatest coups." Several news outlets have reported the actual source of the tip that led to the arrest of Mandela was a CIA official named Donald Rickard. Democracy Now! Has attempted to reach Rickard at his home in Colorado. On two occasions, a man who picked up the phone hung up when we asked to speak with Donald Rickard. The activist group RootsAction has launched a campaign to urge the CIA to open its files on Mandela and South Africa.

12 Mandela Quotations That Won't Be in the Corporate Media Obituaries – (Common Dreams – December 6, 2013)
Nelson Mandela was a powerful and inspirational leader who eloquently and forcefully spoke truth to power. As tributes are being published, the corporate media will paint a sanitized portrait of Mandela that leaves out much of who he was. One can expect to see 'safe' Mandela quotes such as "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" or "after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." But then there are the others.  For example, “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” Check out the other eleven in this article. See also: Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed that Most People Won’t Talk About.  



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Thou Shalt Not Tolerate Inequality – (Nation of Change – December 4, 2013)
No global religious figure has ever before denounced economic inequality with an assault as wide-ranging — or as accessible. What insights can we take from what Pope Francis has to say about inequality? These five jump out. First, inequality has no redeeming social value. Apologists for inequality like to argue that grand private concentrations of wealth serve as an incentive for the rest of us and supply the investments that keep economies thriving. Pope Francis, in clear language that demonstrates his command of the vernacular, blows away these claims. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Francis writes. This position, he points out, “has never been confirmed by the facts.” Fifth, social fabrics always tear in unequal societies. In relatively equal societies, where most people can afford the same things, material things in general tend not to matter that much. But in unequal societies, everything reverses. Things — and the money to buy them — become primary. “The worship of the ancient golden calf,” observes Pope Francis, “has returned in a new and ruthless guise.” Check out the article for the Pontiff’s three other points.

Tips for Jesus’ Leaves Thousands in Tips – (WLTX – December 3, 2013)
From San Francisco to Chicago, TipsforJesus is leaving large tips of up to $10,000 at restaurants. According to its Instagram page, the unnamed Good Samaritan(s) is "doing the Lord's work, one tip at time." Estimates are that TipsforJesus has left $54,000 in tips since September. It is unknown whether it's one person or many. The tips have been charged to credit cards and the receipts have been signed @TipsForJesus. The restaurants have not divulged the account holder(s) name. Speculations are that TipsforJesus is a group of individuals: "The Instagram account uses the word "we" often, and before they recently switched to a TipsForJesus stamp for the receipts, the [Instagram] username was scrawled in more than one handwriting."  Whoever they are, they don’t seem to be holier-than-thou: on one bill, a $10,000 tip was added to a nearly $3,000 total for what appeared to be mostly alcoholic drinks.



CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

"Our Holographic Universe" --Will It Prove to Be the Greatest Theory of the 21st Century? – (Daily Galaxy – December 14, 2013)
Whether we actually live in a hologram is being hotly debated, but it is now becoming clear that looking at phenomena through a holographic lens could be key to solving some of the most perplexing problems in physics. Last month, Japanese physicists presented "the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection." The universe existing as a ‘hologram’ is the theory that the three dimensions we perceive are actually just “painted” onto the cosmological horizon - the boundary of the known universe. In two papers that represent the culmination of many years’ work focused on hypothetical calculations of the energies of black holes in different universes, Yoshifumi Hyakutake and colleagues from Ibaraki University in Japan offer evidence that supports a theory suggesting that a universe as we conceive of it could actually be a hologram of another two-dimensional space --a holographic projection of another, flat version of you living on a two-dimensional "surface" at the edge of this universe. This radical model of the universe helps explain some inconsistencies between general relativity (Einstein’s theory) and quantum physics. At certain extremes (such as in the center of a black hole) Einstein's theory breaks down and the laws of quantum physics take over.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Philips Developing LED-embedded Carpets to Replace Public Signs – (GizMag – December 3, 2013)
After developing some innovative ways to add LEDs to wallpaper, and even the backside of televisions, it looks like Philips is setting its sights on lighting the floor beneath our feet as well. The company recently partnered with Desso, a high-quality carpeting producer, to create a new type of carpet embedded with LEDs that can turn any floor space into a customizable lighting array. With each LED shining through distinctly, the carpet could be programmed to display important messages, directions, or other information, much like an electronic billboard. The goal is to replace the usual signs and notices in some high-traffic indoor areas, such as airports and offices, with this light-up carpeting. Probably the most useful application envisioned is for a carpet display of guide lights in an emergency that directs people on a safe route towards the exits, much like on an airplane.

Tin-based Stanene Could Conduct Electricity with 100% Efficiency – (GizMag – December 1, 2013)
A team of theoretical physicists from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University is predicting that stanene, a single layer of tin atoms laid out in a two-dimensional structure, could conduct electricity with 100% efficiency at room temperature. If the findings are confirmed, they could pave the way for building computer chips that are faster, consume less power, and won't heat up nearly as much. Stanene is an example of a topological insulator, a class of materials that conduct electricity only on their outside edges or surfaces. When topological insulators are just one atom thick, their edges conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency, forcing electrons to move in defined lanes, without resistance. If stanene is all they claim it is, it would be a significant discovery because it would be the first topological insulator that is able to function at room temperature. What's more, according to the team, when fluorine atoms are added into the atomic structures, the material could conduct electricity with perfect efficiency at temperatures as high as 100° C (210° F). As with graphene, the main challenge in manufacturing such a material and testing its properties lies in producing sheets that are only a single atom thick. But if scientists can get past this hurdle, then its applications could be very exciting.



ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Campers Help Amazon Keep Up with Holiday Rush – (Post and Courier – December 14, 2013)
They're dubbed the "CamperForce" by the world's largest online retailer. During the holiday season, hundreds of RVers are assigned packing, sorting and collection duties at Amazon warehouses in Kentucky, Kansas and Nevada - roles meant to keep orders flowing during the yuletide rush. Swarms of workers take up temporary residence in campgrounds. For many, it's another short-term stint on a nonstop journey. It's a lifestyle and mindset for retirees, empty nesters and younger parents who shuck traditions of home and work to roam from campsite to campsite, job to job. Since 2010, Amazon has been recruiting an armada of RVers for its distribution centers in Campbellsville, Ky., Coffeyville, Kan., and Fernley, Nevada - places with modest populations where the company has to cast a wider net to bring in enough temporary workers to fill its needs. The stints last about three months, and the hours on the job tend to grow longer as Christmas nears. On its peak day in 2012 - Nov. 26 - Amazon customers ordered more than 26.5 million items worldwide, or 306 items per second. Many transient workers land temporary jobs at resorts, campgrounds, theme parks and state and national parks. The workers and employers looking to hire them can go online to match up.


PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Bottled Water Leaches Chemicals into Your Body – (Nation of Change – December 2, 2013)
Several companies have stopped using BPA in plastic production due to consumer outrage, but just because a plastic container says it is “BPA Free” doesn’t mean it’s free of potentially harmful chemicals. Researchers from the Goethe University Frankfort tested 18 different bottled water products in an effort to look for endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. They found far more than expected, identifying 24,520 different chemicals in their testing. After isolating the chemicals and determining their impact on the body, the researchers narrowed down those with anti-estrogenic properties to one: DEHF or di(2-ethylhexyl) fumarate. This finding was of major concern. Out of the 18 different bottled water products, 13 had “significant” anti-estrogenic activity, and 16 out of 18 inhibited the body’s androgen receptors by 90%. In other words, the bottled water was capable of wrecking havoc on the human body. Read the original study, “Identification of Putative Steroid Receptor Antagonists in Bottled Water: Combining Bioassays and High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry”.

Drug Addiction: The Complex Truth – (BBC News – September 10, 2013)
Many studies have shown rats and monkeys will neglect food and drink in favour of pressing levers to obtain morphine (the lab form of heroin). With the right experimental set up, some rats will self-administer drugs until they die. At first glance it looks like a simple case of the laboratory animals losing control of their actions to the drugs they need. It's easy to see in this a frightening scientific fable about the power of these drugs to rob us of our free will. But there is more to the real scientific story, even if it isn't widely talked about. The results of a set of little-known experiments carried out more than 30 years ago paint a very different picture, and illustrate how easy it is for neuroscience to be twisted to pander to popular anxieties. The vital missing evidence is a series of studies carried out in the late 1970s in what has become known as "Rat Park". Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander, at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, suspected that the preference of rats to morphine over water in previous experiments might be affected by their housing conditions. To test his hypothesis, Alexander built Rat Park, a 95 square foot housing colony, 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. There were 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, balls and wheels for play, and enough space for mating and raising litters. The results of the experiment appeared to support his hypothesis. Rats who had been forced to consume morphine hydrochloride for 57 consecutive days were brought to Rat Park and given a choice between plain tap water and water laced with morphine. For the most part, they chose the plain water. "Nothing that we tried," Alexander wrote, "... produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment."



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

14 Habits of Highly Miserable People – (AlterNet – November 18, 2013)
Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. But not everyone! Misery, in fact, may even be an art form, and the satisfaction some people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. So if you aspire to make yourself miserable, what are the best, most proven techniques for doing it? Let’s exclude some obvious ways, like doing drugs, committing crimes, gambling, and beating up your spouse or neighbor. Subtler strategies, ones that won’t lead anyone to suspect that you’re acting deliberately, can be highly effective. But you need to pretend that you want to be happy, like everybody else, or people won’t take your misery seriously. After detailing three significant benefits that can accrue from misery, the author goes on to a list of 14 habits guaranteed to sabotage happiness. (Editor’s note: This half-serious, half-hilarious article is brilliantly written. Enjoy it – unless you’d rather use to hone your misery skills.)



JUST FOR FUN

Anthony Howe’s Kinetic Wind Sculptures – (Creators Project – October 16, 2013)
Anthony Howe is an Eastsound, WA-based painter and sculpture artist. He creates kinetic wind sculptures that are initially designed in 3D software. "I was bored with everything being static in my visual world," Howe said. He believes sculptures don't have to be stoic designs that are lifeless. Howe creates art that lives and moves with nature, and his metal cut-outs give the impression of dancing, real-world screensavers. In the video clip, the artist walks the viewer through his workflow process. His pieces go from 3D models that he designs on his desktop to CAD designs made through Rhinoceros 3D. These designs are then laser cut using a plasma cutter before he meticulously crafts the structures using traditional metal working processes.

Into the Atmosphere / Timelapse – (YouTube – December 11, 2013)
"Into The Atmosphere" is photographer Michael Shainblum's tribute to the state of California and its stunning deserts, mountains and coastlines captured over the course of a year and brought to life using over 12,000 photos.



A FINAL QUOTE--

Nothing, of course, begins at the time you think it did. - Lillian Hellman



A special thanks to: Thomas Bergin, Bernard Calil, Kevin Foley, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Kyle Pickford, Bobbie Rohn, 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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