FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- New chip will make your GPS apps accurate down to 11.8”.
- People in two U.S. states will get $1,000 a month in a basic income trial.
- The total cost of ownership of electric and oil-fueled vehicles will reach parity in 2020 for shared-mobility fleets.
- Roughly 70% of all medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are intended for use not in human medicine, but in animal agriculture.
by John L. Petersen
Mary Rodwell coming to Berkeley Springs
October will be a special month for Transition Talks because Mary Rodwell, from Australia, is coming to talk to us about children who have very distinct memories from previous lives on other planets, flying craft, and dimensions. Mary is an extraordinary, internationally known authority on “experiencers”, those folks who have interacted with aliens, other dimensions, etc.
Let me tell you about Mary:
Here’s a link to one of Mary’s talks on YouTube. Check this out . . . and then come to see her live!
She’ll be here in Berkeley Springs on the 21st of October at 1PM at the Ice House.
Get complete information here: TransitionTalks.org
See you there!
Facebook’s Frankenstein Moment – (New York Times – September 21, 2017)
Facebook has been hit with a series of scandals that have bruised its image, enraged its critics and opened up the possibility that in its quest for global dominance, Facebook may have created something it can’t fully control. Facebook is fighting through a tangled morass of privacy, free-speech and moderation issues with governments all over the world. Congress is investigating reports that Russian operatives used targeted Facebook ads to influence the 2016 presidential election. In Myanmar, activists are accusing Facebook of censoring Rohingya Muslims, who are under attack from the country’s military. In Africa, the social network faces accusations that it helped human traffickers extort victims’ families by leaving up abusive videos. Few of these issues stem from willful malice on the company’s part. It’s not as if a Facebook engineer in Menlo Park personally greenlighted Russian propaganda, for example. But the troubles do make it clear that Facebook was simply not built to handle problems of this magnitude. It’s a technology company, not an intelligence agency or an international diplomatic corps. Its engineers are in the business of building apps and selling advertising, not determining what constitutes hate speech in Myanmar. And with two billion users, including 1.3 billion who use it every day, moving ever greater amounts of their social and political activity onto Facebook, it’s possible that the company is simply too big to understand all of the harmful ways people might use its products. “The reality is that if you’re at the helm of a machine that has two billion screaming, whiny humans, it’s basically impossible to predict each and every possible nefarious use case,” said Antonio García Martínez, author of the book Chaos Monkeys and a former Facebook advertising executive. “It’s a Whac-a-Mole problem.” See also: Mark Zuckerberg Can’t Stop You from Reading This Because The Algorithms Have Already Won.
Scientists Just Discovered the First Brainless Animal That Sleeps – (Washington Post – September 21, 2017)
Scientists still don't fully know why animals need to snooze, but research has found that sleep is a complex behavior associated with memory consolidation and REM cycles in the brain. Jellyfish are so primitive they don't even have a brain — how could they possibly share this mysterious trait? In a paper published in the journal Current Biology, Michael Abrams, Claire Bedbrook and Ravi Nath report that the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea exhibit sleeplike behavior — the first animals without a brain known to do so. The results suggest that sleep is deeply rooted in our biology, a behavior that evolved early in the history of animal life and has stuck with us ever since. Further study of jellyfish slumber might bring scientists closer to resolving what Nath called “the paradox of sleep.” If animals could evolve a way to live without sleep, surely they would have. Scientists have shown that animals as simple as the roundworm C. elegans, with a brain of just 302 neurons, need sleep to survive. Cassiopea has no brain to speak of — just a diffuse “net” of nerve cells distributed across their small, squishy bodies. These jellyfish barely even behave like animals. Instead of mouths, they suck in food through pores in their tentacles. They also get energy via a symbiotic relationship with tiny photosynthetic organisms that live inside their cells. “They're like weird plant animals,” Bedbrook said. They're also ancient: Cnidarians, the phylogenetic group that includes jellies, first arose some 700 million years ago, making them some of Earth's first animals. Understanding why jellyfish, with their simple nerve nets, need sleep could lead scientists to the function of sleep in humans. “I think it's one of the major biological questions of our time,” said Allan Pack, the director of the Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “We spend a third of a life sleeping. Why are we doing it? What's the point?”
Analysis of Titanium in Ancient Rocks Creates Upheaval in History of Early Earth – (PhysOrg – September 22, 2017)
A new study led by UChicago geochemists rearranges the picture of the early Earth by tracing the path of metallic element titanium through the Earth's crust across time. The research, published in Science, suggests significant tectonic action was already taking place 3.5 billion years ago—about half a billion years earlier than currently thought. The crust was once made of uniformly dark, magnesium- and iron-rich mafic minerals. But today the crust looks very different between land and ocean: The crust on land is now a lighter-colored felsic, rich in silicon and aluminum. The point at which these two diverged is important, since the composition of minerals affects the flow of nutrients available to the fledgling life struggling to survive on Earth. "This question has been discussed since geologists first started thinking about rocks," said lead author Nicolas Dauphas, head of the Origins Laboratory in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the Enrico Fermi Institute. "This result is a surprise and certainly an upheaval in that discussion." "Our results can also be used to track the average composition of the continental crust through time, allowing us to investigate the supply of nutrients to the oceans going back 3.5 billion years ago," said Nicolas Greber, the first author of the paper. The question about nutrients is important for our understanding of the circumstances around a mysterious but crucial turning point called the great oxygenation event. This is when oxygen started to emerge as an important constituent of Earth's atmosphere, wreaking a massive change on the planet—and making it possible for multi-celled beings to evolve.
Archaeologists Discover How the Great Pyramid of Giza Was Built – (Daily Mail – September 23, 2017)
It has for centuries been one of the world’s greatest enigmas: how a Bronze Age society with little in the way of technology created Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza – the oldest and only survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Now archaeologists have discovered fascinating proof that shows how the Egyptians transported 2½-ton blocks of limestone and granite from 500 miles away to build the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu in about 2,600 BC. At 481ft tall, it is the biggest of all the pyramids and was, until the Middle Ages, the largest man-made structure on Earth. Now the discovery of an ancient papyrus, a ceremonial boat and an ingenious system of waterworks have shed light on the infrastructure created by the builders. The detailed archaeological material shows that thousands of skilled workers transported 170,000 tons of limestone along the Nile in wooden boats held together by ropes, through a specially constructed system of canals to an inland port just yards from the base of the pyramid. A scroll of ancient papyrus has also been found in the seaport Wadi Al-Jarf which has given a new insight into the role boats played in the pyramid’s construction. Written by Merer, an overseer in charge of a team of 40 elite workmen, it is the only first-hand account of the construction of the Great Pyramid, and describes in detail how limestone casing stones were shipped downstream from Tura to Giza.
AI Can Detect Alzheimer's 10 Years Before Symptoms Show Up – (Engadget – September 17, 2017)
Various researchers around the globe are developing ways to detect Alzheimer's as early as possible. After all, early detection gives people the power seek treatment that can slow down the condition's effects, as well as enough time to get their legal and financial affairs in order. A team of researchers from the University of Bari in Italy believe the answer lies in artificial intelligence. They developed an algorithm that can spot tiny structural changes in the brain caused by the disease a decade before symptoms even appear. They trained their AI by feeding it 67 MRI scans -- 38 from Alzheimer's patients and 29 from healthy controls. After training was done, they tested the algorithm by having it process brain scans from 148 subjects. Out of the total number, 48 were scans of people with the disease, while 48 were scans of people who suffered from mild cognitive impairment and eventually developed full-blown Alzheimer's. The AI was able to diagnose Alzheimer's 86% of the time. More importantly, it was able to detect mild cognitive impairment 84% of the time, making it a potentially effective tool for early diagnosis.
Owls Hold Secret to Ageless Ears – (BBC News – September 20, 2017)
Georg Klump of the University of Oldenburg, Germany, a researcher on the study, said owls keep their hearing into very old age. "Birds can repair their ears like (humans) can repair a wound," he said. "Humans cannot re-grow the sensory cells of the ears but birds can do this." It appears that humans lost these regenerative abilities at some point in evolution. Like all mammals, people commonly suffer from hearing loss in old age. By the age of 65, humans can expect to lose more than 30 dB in sensitivity at high frequencies. Understanding more about the "ageless ears" of barn owls could help develop new treatments for human hearing problems. Commenting on the study, Dr. Stefan Heller of Stanford University School of Medicine, said work was underway to investigate differences between birds and mammals. "To truly utilize this knowledge, we need to conduct comparative studies of birds and mammals that aim to find the differences in regenerative capacity, a topic that is actively pursued by a number of laboratories worldwide," he said.
The Shorter Your Sleep, the Shorter Your Life: The New Sleep Science – (Guardian – September 24, 2017)
Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours). In case you’re wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero. In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. “First, we electrified the night,” Walker says. “Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.” But Walker believes, too, that in the developed world sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame. “We have stigmatized sleep with the label of laziness. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. (Editor’s note: This article contains some surprising information.)
DNA Surgery on Embryos Removes Disease – (BBC News – September 28, 2017)
Precise "chemical surgery" has been performed on human embryos to remove disease in a world first, Chinese researchers have told the BBC. The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion "letters" of our genetic code. They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia. The embryos were not implanted. The team says the approach may one day treat a range of inherited diseases. Base editing alters the fundamental building blocks of DNA: the four bases adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. All the instructions for building and running the human body are encoded in combinations of those four bases. The potentially life-threatening blood disorder beta-thalassemia is caused by a change to a single base in the genetic code - known as a point mutation. The team in China edited it back.
How Zika Became So Dangerous for Babies – (NPR – September 28, 2017)
Scientists have started to unravel a key mystery about the Zika virus. And the findings are almost unbelievable. The study, published in the journal Science, demonstrates how an obscure virus may have transformed into a global threat almost overnight. For decades, Zika had been a relatively innocuous disease. Since its discovery in 1947, the mosquito-borne virus had been circulating around Africa and Asia, almost undetected. It caused only a mild illness — a fever, a rash and joint pain. About 80 percent of people had no symptoms at all. And outbreaks tended to be small. Now researchers in Beijing have evidence that a single mutation — just one change in the virus's genes — dramatically increases Zika's ability to damage fetal neurons and leads to more severe cases of microcephaly in mice, the team reports. In the new study, Cheng-Feng Qin and his colleagues at the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology analyzed different versions of Zika: three modern strains isolated from people in 2015 and 2016 and one older strain isolated in 2010. To figure out what makes the modern strains so deadly, the researchers sequenced the viruses' genomes and identified a handful of mutations that have cropped up in the virus over the past few years. They then added these mutations — one by one — to the older strain to see if the mutations alter the virus's toxicity. One mutation stood out from the rest. The mutation boosted the older strain's ability to kill fetal neurons and cause microcephaly. The inverse was also true: Removing the mutation from the modern strain reduced its toxicity. "In my naive perception, I thought the virus would have needed a combination of different mutations to start causing this severe form of microcephaly," Muotri says. "Finding a single mutation is sufficient is unexpected — and a bit scary."
Ice Core Samples Prove CO2 Levels Lag Behind Temperature Increases – (Armstrong Economics – September 25, 2017)
We have data going back 800,000 years that was gathered from drilling core samples from deep underneath the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Detailed information on air temperature and CO2 levels disproves that a rise in CO2 will cause a rise in temperature. The core samples from EPICA Dome C ice core on the Antarctic Plateau establish that temperature rises first and CO2 level follow in a lagging manner. All of this was well before human kind (see “Ice Core Data Help Solve a Global Warming Mystery” in Scientific American). So is it the chicken or the egg? Which comes first?
Researchers Are Turning Optical Data into Readable Soundwaves – (Phys Org – September 18, 2017)
Researchers at the University of Sydney have dramatically slowed digital information carried as light waves by transferring the data into sound waves in an integrated circuit, or microchip. It is the first time this has been achieved. Transferring information from the optical to acoustic domain and back again inside a chip is critical for the development of photonic integrated circuits: microchips that use light instead of electrons to manage data. These chips are being developed for use in telecommunications, optical fibre networks and cloud computing data centers where traditional electronic devices are susceptible to electromagnetic interference, produce too much heat or use too much energy. "The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain," said Dr Birgit Stiller, research fellow at the University of Sydney and supervisor of the project. "It is like the difference between thunder and lightning," she said. This delay allows for the data to be briefly stored and managed inside the chip for processing, retrieval and further transmission as light waves. Light is an excellent carrier of information and is useful for taking data over long distances between continents through fiber-optic cables. But this speed advantage can become a nuisance when information is being processed in computers and telecommunication systems.
Broadcom's Newest Chip Will Make Your GPS Apps More Accurate Than Ever – (New Atlas – September 25, 2017)
By next year your new smartphone or wearable should be able to get a much better lock on where you are, thanks to a new location-tracking chip from Broadcom, which promises to fix your device's location down to 30 centimeters (11.8 in) – even with interference from surrounding buildings. The increased accuracy is down to both the design of Broadcom's new BCM47755 chip and upgraded satellite systems broadcasting a more accurate signal termed L5. The chip detects both the standard L1 signals in use today and the newer L5 signals to get a better fix on where you are, with enough accuracy to tell which lane of a highway you're in. As well as improved lane guidance to save you from heading miles in the wrong direction when using your phone's sat nav, the new bit of silicon could make it much easier for you to get picked up via a taxi-hailing app in a dense urban environment, Broadcom suggests. It's the difference between being accurate to within 16 ft with current technology, and being accurate to 11.8 inches.
This Levi’s Jacket with a Smart Sleeve Is Finally Going on Sale for $350 – (The Verge – September 25, 2017)
More than a year after it was announced and two years after we first saw a demonstration of touch-sensitive fabric, the Levi’s jacket with a smart sleeve is finally going on sale. I’ve been wearing this Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket for a few days now and it’s very nice — it fits well and looks great. And by swiping or tapping the fabric on the left cuff, I have been able to control my smartphone. Whether those things add up to a $350 value — the price of this jacket — is entirely a different question. It’s targeted at people who commute by bike, and I think the only people beyond that target market are going to be a few techies and people who just really like jean jackets. It works with both Android and iPhone, by the way. A standard Levi’s trucker jacket costs $148, though Levi’s has been quick to point out that designer denim jackets can run well over $400. I’m no fashion critic, but I can tell you I’m impressed with the fit and look of this one. Project Jacquard, as it’s called, is named after a loom, and the core idea is both simple and complicated: make fabric touch-sensitive, like the screen on your phone. It’s achieved through yet more simple ideas which turn out to have been devilishly complicated to execute. Basically, Google and Levi’s had to figure out how to integrate capacitive threads with a copper core into the actual manufacturing process for a denim jacket. Then use a tiny little Bluetooth dongle that attaches to a button to communicate to your phone. But it took a lot of design work to make that happen, because the jacket needed to feel like a jacket. The result is a thing you can actually put in the washing machine and dryer without ruining the circuitry inside.
MoMA's Items: Is Fashion Modern? Exhibition Delves into History of Iconic Apparel - (Dezeen - September 29, 2017)
New York's Museum of Modern Art is opening its first fashion-only show in over 70 years, telling the stories of the garments and accessories that form the foundation of how we dress today. Items: Is Fashion Modern? fills the entire sixth floor of the museum, and includes 111 typologies each selected for its importance over the last 100 years. From berets to bandannas, and burkas to bikinis, together they reveal the changes in how we have presented ourselves over the past century, both as individuals and collectives. "Like other forms of design, fashion exists within a complex system that involves politics and economics as much as it involves style, technology and culture," said the curators. "The exhibition examines this complex system using each item as a lens." Among the themes examined are gender, uniform, power, materials and messages. The way that sports apparel has infiltrated daily attire, opinions towards how much – or little – the body should be covered, and connotations brought forth by luxury items are among topics explored.
General Motors Going 100% Green at Ohio, Indiana Plants – (Cleveland.com – September 20, 2017)
The four General Motors plants in Ohio, including the Lordstown plant that assembles the Chevrolet Cruze, and three plants in Indiana will be supplied with 100 percent green electricity by the end of 2018. GM has signed two long-term contracts to buy electricity from two soon-to-be-built wind farms in Ohio and Illinois. All of the power from the Ohio farm, rated at 100 megawatts, or 1 million watts, will go to GM facilities. One hundred megawatts of the 185-megawatt Illinois wind farm will go to GM. The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the Ohio wind farm in late 2013, before the Republican majority in the Ohio General Assembly put the brakes on wind development in the state in 2014 by limiting the distance a wind turbine could be from the fields of property owners not participating in the wind farm. No developers have proposed new wind farms since the property set-back change was made. Senate Bill 188, introduced in the middle of a wind farm under construction by Sen. Cliff Hite, (R-Findlay), would reduce that distance and, say wind industry proponents, usher in a wind farm building boom. Some of the House Republicans are opposed to the legislation, which Hite describes as a compromise. GM's corporate sustainability goal is to power all of its plants around the world with electricity generated by renewable technologies by 2050, she said. The two new power purchase agreements take the company to 20% of that goal.
Could Evaporating Water Be the Next Big Thing in Renewable Energy? – (Gizmodo – September 26, 2017)
Each day, our Sun pours its energy down onto the Earth’s surface, turning vast expanses of open water into vapor. New research shows the surprising degree to which this clean and renewable process could be used to produce electricity—enough, perhaps, to meet 70% of US energy needs. But before this energy solution makes it to prime time, we’ll need to know a lot more about its potential environmental effects. Open bodies of water across the continental United States—excluding the Great Lakes—have the potential to produce 325 gigawatts of power each year through natural evaporation, according to new research published in Nature Communications. That’s about 87% of the electric power produced by all the world’s nuclear power plants combined. At the same time, the new research also suggests that water evaporation farms, though still hypothetical, could provide power densities three times greater than wind power, and significantly reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. The study marks a “first stab” at this potential new power source, but many questions remain—including any negative effects this technology might have.
Charting the Changes Electric Cars Will Bring – (Gas2 – September 18, 2017)
The electric car revolution continues to gain momentum, just as autonomous features are becoming mainstream. But while potential job losses due to autonomy are a strong focus, the multitude of impacts electrification will have on road transportation aren’t as clearly stated. Let’s assume a reasonable transition period of roughly 40 years to get to the point where electric cars were pretty much the only cars being sold. Internal combustion cars won’t disappear overnight, after all. The article goes on to list and discuss both primary and secondary impacts – and even a few tertiary impacts. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for the depths of its insights into what will inevitably change – and its analysis of the automotive industry winners and losers, particularly the German and Japanese manufacturers.)
How Electric Cars Can Create the Biggest Disruption Since the iPhone – (Bloomberg – September 21, 2017)
This article looks at the same question as the one above – but from the perspective of combining three different technologies: electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and on-demand transportation. It’s been 10 years since Apple Inc. unleashed a surge of innovation that upended the mobile phone industry. Electric cars, with a little help from ride-hailing and self-driving technology, could be about to pull the same trick on Big Oil. As Elon Musk’s Tesla and established automakers like General Motors Co. are striving to make their electric cars desirable consumer products, companies like Uber and Lyft Inc. are turning transport into an on-demand service and Waymo is testing fully autonomous vehicles on the streets of California and Arizona. Combine all three, for example through an Alphabet investment in Lyft, and you have a new model of transport as a service that would be a cheap compelling alternative to traditional car ownership, according to RethinkX, a think tank that analyzes technology-driven disruption. One key advantage of electric cars is the lack of mechanical complexity, which makes them more suitable for the heavy use allowed by driverless technology. After disassembling General Motors’s Chevrolet Bolt, UBS Group AG concluded it required almost no maintenance, with the electric motor having just three moving parts compared with 133 in a four-cylinder internal combustion engine. The total cost of ownership of electric and oil-fueled vehicles will reach parity in 2020 for shared-mobility fleets, five years earlier than for individually-owned vehicles, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. (Editor’s note: The primary motor will require very little maintenance, but brakes, tires, shocks, struts, little motors that move the windows and sun roof, etc. will still drive you into the repair shop.)
EasyJet Puts Its Weight Behind Plans for Electric Planes – (BBC News – September 27, 2017)
EasyJet is backing plans to develop commercial passenger aircraft powered by electric batteries instead of conventional aero engines. The airline wants the proposed planes to fly passengers on its short-haul routes, possibly within 10-20 years. The prototype is going to be developed by a new US firm called Wright Electric, which has already built a two-seat battery-powered plane. The new, larger plane would have a range of 335 miles, the companies said. EasyJet said this meant it would be able to cover popular routes such as London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of EasyJet, said she was now confident that such a plane, possibly carrying 220 passengers, would eventually fly.
This Isn’t Just Another Urban Farm—It’s a Food Bank – (Yes Magazine – September 26, 2017))
In Pima County, Arizona, which includes Tucson, one person in seven is food insecure—slightly above the national average. Food banks, including the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, have been starting gardens and farms where they teach people to grow their own food. These are local, small-scale initiatives that teach “food literacy”—nutrition, cooking, budgeting, grocery shopping and gardening—to communities that suffer from food insecurity or simply a lack of fresh produce. This is a common concern, and food banks across the U.S. are increasingly taking on added responsibilities of not just providing food to low-income communities, but also addressing health issues associated with food insecurity, such as malnutrition and diet-related illness like high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. Las Milpitas—a name chosen by the community which means “little fields” or “little gardens” in Spanish—is a few miles from the food bank’s primary distribution and services center. The farm is in a primarily Latino neighborhood on Tucson’s west side, and closely connected to two nearby mobile home communities. It’s also a four-mile drive from the nearest grocery store. On one part of the six-acre farm, three full-time paid staff members grow produce that later gets included in hot prepared meals for food bank clients or is sold to sustain the farm at the food bank’s SNAP- and WIC-eligible local farm stands. But the heart of Las Milpitas is everything set aside for free use by the community, says Elena Ortiz, Las Milpitas’ Farm Engagement Manager and Advocacy Coordinator. There are around 60 individually-assigned plots, a shared community plot, a greenhouse, a composting toilet, and an adobe oven.
Almost Half of Fast-food Chains Get an F When It Comes to Limiting Antibiotics in Meat – (Fast Company – September 29, 2017)
A new report authored by the Consumers Union, U.S. PIRG, NRDC, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and the Food Animals Concerns Trust, looks at the use of antibiotic-free meat in the food industry. The use of antibiotics in the meat industry has been linked to the rise of so-called superbugs and antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, which kill at least 23,000 people annually. According to the report, “some 70% of all medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are intended for use not in human medicine, but in animal agriculture.” Fourteen out of 25 companies, representing two-thirds of industry revenue, had taken some steps to limit antibiotics in their supply chain. However, most of that progress has been made in chicken farming, with few companies making any progress in reducing the use of antibiotics in their pork and beef supplies, save for Chipotle and Panera. Following those two highest ranked restaurants, Subway earned a B+ followed by Chick-Fil-A with a solid B, and Taco Bell and KFC each scoring a B-. Interestingly, Starbucks scored lower (D+) than McDonald’s (C+) or Wendy’s (C), although the company has pledged to serve only antibiotic-free poultry by 2020.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers on ‘A Duty to Warn – (Moyers – September 14, 2017)
There will not be a book published this fall (release date October 3rd) more urgent, important, or controversial than The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the work of 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts to assess President Trump’s mental health. They had come together last March at a conference at Yale University to wrestle with two questions. One was on countless minds across the country: “What’s wrong with him?” The second was directed to their own code of ethics: “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn” if they conclude the president to be dangerously unfit? As mental health professionals, these men and women respect the long-standing “Goldwater rule” which inhibits them from diagnosing public figures whom they have not personally examined. At the same time, as explained by Dr. Bandy X Lee, who teaches law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, the rule does not have a countervailing rule that directs what to do when the risk of harm from remaining silent outweighs the damage that could result from speaking about a public figure — “which in this case, could even be the greatest possible harm.” It is an old and difficult moral issue that requires a great exertion of conscience. Their decision: “We respect the rule, we deem it subordinate to the single most important principle that guides our professional conduct: that we hold our responsibility to human life and well-being as paramount.” Hence, this profound, illuminating and discomforting book undertaken as “a duty to warn.” The remainder of the article is an interview Moyers did with renowned psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton.
Instead of Traditional Aid, This Nonprofit Argues That We Should Give Work to the Developing World – (Fast Company – September 26, 2017)
“We now know, through a lot of scientific study, that the only thing that really works long term to reduce extreme poverty directly is by giving poor people cash,” says Leila Janah. When the recipients can make their own choices to invest in their homes, or savings, or buy food, studies have found that their incomes increase and their children are less likely to go hungry, and those effects can last. But in a new book called Give Work, Samasource’s founder, Janah, talks about the growth of her decade-old nonprofit–and why she thinks that the model of bringing work to people living in extreme poverty is more effective than traditional aid that typically flows from one government or agency to another government or bureaucratic organization. Over the last six decades, tens of billions of dollars of international aid has been sent to Africa. While the extreme poverty rate in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped, 41% of people in the region still live on less than $1.25 a day. In Liberia, for example, where nearly two-thirds of the country’s gross national income in 2015 came from aid–$1.1 billion–more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. The organization says it has helped roughly 35,000 people triple their family incomes from $2 a day to $8 a day or more.
Can a War of Words Become a World of War? – (Bill Moyers – September 26, 2017)
This article is an interview Bill Moyers did with Andrew Bacevich, who graduated from West Point and served in Vietnam, earned his doctorate in diplomatic history from Princeton University, taught history and international relations at Boston University, and has written several acclaimed books, including the best-selling Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War. Bracevich: “Part of the thing we have to keep in mind is — and I expect this is true with regard to North Korea, and I know it’s true with regard to the United States — is that a leader speaks to multiple audiences. Any sophisticated politician appreciates that and tries to frame a statement so that it will be understood and presumably [be] correctly perceived by multiple audiences. But these two guys seem to not understand that political requirement. To some degree, I think Trump mostly speaks to himself. He says things in a way that somehow satisfies his own sense of who he imagines himself to be as a leader. He certainly doesn’t take into account the fact that American allies as well as adversaries are taking in his every word and trying to interpret them.” (Editor’s note: We recommend this article.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
You Don't Usually Hear This Word at a Rally – (CNN – September 27, 2017)
So, yeah, no joke, that word -- love -- came up in a conversation with Hawk Newsome, who represents Black Lives Matter of Greater New York. "We're on the verge of a civil war," he told me. "At some point, we're going to have to talk to the other side." And realize, he added, sometimes the situation calls for "words, for love, for compassion, as opposed to words of anger and fists of fury." He realized that smack in the middle of hundreds of pro-Trumpers at the Mother of All Rallies event last Saturday in Washington, DC. As Newsome and his fellow activists waded through the mostly white crowd, ready to do battle, something totally radical happened. A Trump supporter, speaking from a makeshift stage, invited him to speak.
"We're going to give you two minutes of our platform to put your message out," the Trump supporter told Newsome. "Whether they disagree or agree with your message is irrelevant. It's the fact you have a right to have the message." "It was the last thing I expected," Newsome told me. "Would Black Lives Matter have done the same?" I asked. "I can't say that we would have," Newsome said. "This was a first-time occurrence. It was hostile before we were invited on that stage. We were ready to stand and fight for what we believe." But, when he took the stage and started shouting his beliefs and found that some in the crowd actually listened, that word popped into his head -- love. When Newsome ended his impromptu speech by shouting, "If we really want to make America great, we do it together," the crowd went wild.
America’s Huge Problem with Opioid Prescribing, in One Quote – (Vox – September 18, 2017)
The biggest misconception is that the US is normal in how it handles prescription opioids. So let’s compare ourselves to another country. Japan, for example. Older population than us; you would think more aches and pains. Universal access to health care, so more opportunities to prescribe. You have to double the amount of opioids Japan consumes five times to come close to the US. (Editor’s note: How do the population sizes compare?) So how did the US become the world’s top prescriber of opioid painkillers? There are several reasons. First, there were the pharmaceutical companies. Wanting to make as much money as possible, these companies marketed their drugs as safe and effective for treating pain. Then there were doctors. On one hand, doctors were under a lot of pressure from advocacy groups (some pharma-backed), medical associations, and government agencies to treat pain more seriously. On the other hand, doctors faced increasing pressure to see and treat patients quickly and efficiently. And then there are the insurers. See: Amid Opioid Crisis, Insurers Restrict Pricey, Less Addictive Painkillers.
Why Are Today's Teens Putting Off Sex, Driving, Dating and Drinking? – (Chicago Tribune – September 19, 2017)
A study published in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver's license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade. The declines appeared across race, geographic, and socioeconomic lines, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas. To be sure, more than half of teens still engage in these activities, but the majorities have slimmed considerably. Between 1976 and 1979, 86% of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63% had, the study found. During the same period, the portion who had ever earned money from working plunged from 76% to 55%. And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93% between 1976 and 1979 to 67% between 2010 and 2016. Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54% in 1991 to 41% in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics. According to an evolutionary psychology theory that a person's "life strategy" slows down or speeds up depending on his or her surroundings, exposure to a "harsh and unpredictable" environment leads to faster development, while a more resource-rich and secure environment has the opposite effect, the study said. America is shifting more toward the slower model, and the change is apparent across the socioeconomic spectrum, said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is the author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy - and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. Even in families whose parents didn't have a college education...families are smaller, and the idea that children need to be carefully nurtured has really sunk in." With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford the nonchalance of the previous generation.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Are Earthworms Tough Enough for Mars? – (Atlas Obscura – September 29, 2017)
A few years ago, Wieger Wamelink, a senior ecologist at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, became interested in a far-flung version of this question: if humans were able to provide them with water, air, and climate control, could some plant species grow on dirt from the moon? What about from Mars? He learned that NASA actually sells simulants of each, based on samples analyzed by probes or, in the case of the Moon, brought back by astronauts. So in 2013, he and his students filled a greenhouse with three sets of pots: some with lunar dirt, some with Martian dirt, and some with dirt from the Rhine river. (Wamelink deliberately chose a coarse, nutrient-poor Earthly soil, he says, to even the playing field a bit.) They planted 4,200 seeds from various useful plant species, including nitrogen-fixers such as lupin and clover, and four different crops: rye, carrots, tomatoes, and garden cress. “The Mars soil simulant was even better than the Earth control that we used,” he says. “That was maybe the biggest surprise.” But soil alone can only do so much: a sustainable off-earth farming ecosystem also involves fungi, bacteria, and pollinators such as bees and butterflies. (Wamelink is betting on bumblebees: “you can keep them in hibernation,” he says, so they’d easily survive the rocket trip.) Over the past month, he and his team have begun testing the next most important ecosystem member—earthworms—to see if they are able to hack it in relatively harsh exoplanetary dirt.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
If Some Space Trash Is Treasure, How Will We Save It? – (Fast Company – September 29, 2017)
Cultural heritage is defined as “things from the past and present, worth preserving for present and future generations.” In recent decades there has been a movement to recognize the heritage of the modern world, including the Cold War, aviation, mass manufacturing, computing, and space exploration. This includes space junk in Earth orbit. Space junk is the archaeological record of the Space Age, in which everyday life on Earth has come to depend on satellite services such as telecommunications. The junk includes spacecraft with high levels of cultural significance, such as: Vanguard 1, the oldest human object in orbit; Telstar 1, the first active telecommunications satellite; Syncom 3, the first geostationary satellite, and NigComSat 1, Nigeria’s first telecommunications satellite. In the future, these spacecraft may be the targets of orbital debris clean-up. How do we make sure that significant cultural heritage in orbit isn’t lost, without exacerbating the debris problem? Methods used on Earth include heritage listing, cultural heritage management plans, and mitigation strategies. These can also be applied in space—but some adaptations are necessary.
Superpower India to Replace China as Growth Engine – (Bloomberg – September 17, 2017)
India is poised to emerge as an economic superpower, driven in part by its young population, while China and the Asian Tigers age rapidly, according to Deloitte LLP. The number of people aged 65 and over in Asia will climb from 365 million today to more than half a billion in 2027, accounting for 60 percent of that age group globally by 2030, Deloitte said in a report. In contrast, India will drive the third great wave of Asia’s growth – following Japan and China -- with a potential workforce set to climb from 885 million to 1.08 billion people in the next 20 years and hold above that for half a century. “India will account for more than half of the increase in Asia’s workforce in the coming decade, but this isn’t just a story of more workers: these new workers will be much better trained and educated than the existing Indian workforce,’’ said Anis Chakravarty, economist at Deloitte India. ``There will be rising economic potential coming alongside that, thanks to an increased share of women in the workforce, as well as an increased ability and interest in working for longer. The consequences for businesses are huge.’’
The Human-Robocar War for Jobs Is Finally On – (Wired – September 29, 2017)
The long-awaited war between self-driving vehicles and the humans they would replace has begun. And the humans just won the first skirmish. The Senate has released the first version of autonomous vehicle legislation meant to clarify who exactly is in charge of robocar regulations. (The bill, like its companion passed this summer in the House, would put most of the vehicle design oversight in the hands of the federal government.) It comes a few weeks after senators circulated a draft of the rules, and contains a significant difference from the older version: The Senate deleted the original mention of commercial motor vehicles like trucks and buses. Now big vehicles are exempt from the bill—meaning that rules for self-driving trucks are still unclear. It’s a small but noteworthy loss for the burgeoning self-driving trucking industry and the innovators therein, like Uber, Tesla, and Amazon, which have all lobbied for clear national rules governing the autonomous big rigs they want to build, sell, or use. And it’s an early win for the labor unions, whose influence in Washington has taken a precipitous dive since the 1980s, and more specifically for the Teamsters, which represents almost 600,000 truck drivers nationally and had asked legislators to keep their commercial vehicles out of the discussion, at least for the time being.
Paul Horner, Fake News Purveyor Who Claimed Credit for Trump's Win, Found Dead At 38 – (NPR – September 27, 2017)
Though President Trump often derides the mainstream media as "fake news," we know now that there were people who consciously crafted false news stories during the 2016 election and passed them off as real. One of those people was Paul Horner, who made his living creating news hoaxes that often went viral. Authorities say Horner was found dead last week near Phoenix; he was 38. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office told NPR that an autopsy found no signs of foul play and that Horner's family said he had a history of abusing prescription drugs. He considered himself a political satirist. "There's a lot of humor, a lot of comedy in it," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper in December. He created fake stories for his website National Report that were likely to find a believing audience. In one fake story, The Washington Post reports, he claimed that President Barack Obama used his own money to keep open a "federally funded" Muslim culture museum during a government shutdown. Horner was delighted that Fox News reported that story as fact before they backtracked. In an interview with the Post after the 2016 election Horner said, "I think Trump is in the White House because of me." "His followers don't fact-check anything — they'll post everything, believe anything," he said. "His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist." It's difficult to gauge whether Horner was as influential as he claimed. But his stories certainly reached wide audiences, often by masquerading as coming from reputable news sources. Horner told the newspaper that he was making $10,000 a month from Google-powered ads on his websites. "I hate Trump," he said. But he targeted conservatives with his stories because he found it was more profitable.
People in Two U.S. States Will Get $1,000 a Month in a New Basic Income Trial – (Futurism – September 21, 2017)
Startup incubator Y Combinator is expanding their research into the benefits of universal basic income (UBI). In a new blog post published on the company’s website, they reveal their plans to pick 3,000 individuals from two states at random to receive a monthly cash handout. 1,000 participants will receive $1,000 per month for a period up to five years, while the other 2,000 will receive $50 per month, serving as the control group. This study will draw on lessons learned from the one-year project that Y Combinator recently carried out in Oakland. The sample size used in that experiment was too small to offer up the desired insights into UBI, but its goal was primarily to establish the proper procedure for this large-scale trial. Y Combinator hopes to find out how basic income can help people respond to economic instability and uncertainty, or perhaps even find alternatives to UBI that achieve the same purpose. The overarching goal of this trial is to advance the debate about the future of work. Silicon Valley is certainly being vocal when it comes to UBI. The likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk have shared their support for the idea, along with others.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
Geneva Toilets Flush with Cash – (Reuters – September 18, 2017)
Geneva prosecutors are investigating after toilets in a bank and three restaurants were blocked by about $100,000 in high-denomination euro banknotes. "We are not so interested in the motive but we want to be sure of the origin of the money," spokesman Vincent Derouand said, adding that neither throwing money away nor blocking a toilet was a crime. The Tribune de Geneve, which first reported the unusual deposit, said the first blockage occurred in the toilet serving the vault at UBS bank in Geneva's financial district, and three nearby bistros found their facilities bunged up with 500-euro notes a few days later. The European Central Bank said last year it had decided to discontinue the 500-euro note because of concerns that it was being used too often for illicit activities including money laundering. A UBS spokesman declined to comment.
JUST FOR FUN
Is It Art? The Rise of Made-for-Instagram Exhibits – (Wired – September 29, 2017)
New pop-up exhibits like the Museum of Ice Cream and Color Factory are ditching the traditional gallery barriers and "no photography" rules for interactive, picture perfect installations. Here is a six minute video showcasing a growing cultural response to our collective fascination with photographing ourselves: art installations designed specifically as “perfect” venues for Instragram photos of you and your friends.
A FINAL QUOTE
Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Hal Taylor, 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.
Edited by John L. Petersen