FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- Two teams of researchers have reported implanting human brain organoids into the brains of lab rats and mice.
- Autonomous trucks don’t need driver’s cabs; so they don’t look like any trucks you’ve ever seen.
- Uber has partnered with NASA to develop an on-demand electric aircraft taxi service.
- A growing number of designers are using a set of open-source, easy-to-build tools to recycle plastic and manufacture new plastic products.
by John L. Petersen
YES, I’LL HELP KEEP FUTUREDITION COMING!
I really think it is important that you have access to the information that we publish in FUTUREdition. Providing a unique window onto the most extraordinary period of change in history is our mission. That’s why we cover all of the unusual – but significant – happenings that we do.
Our objective is to touch a little on most of the likely shapers of the emerging new world . . . so that none of us are greatly surprised by what actually transpires. We’re trying to illuminate the path ahead to help you be able to anticipate what is inbound.
Right now, for example, I’m trying to finish up a solar electric system on our roof and put in place a vertical farming operation because I believe that the climate will change to being colder within the next 3-4 years. If you’ve been closely following FE over the last couple of years, then you know about the mini-ice age that many international indicators now point toward. There will likely be problems with agriculture and energy, they say.
There’s also a really good chance that we’re the first ones who told you about the former government officials who stood up in October and said that UFO’s are real . . . and that they’re starting a new initiative to make sure that secrets the government has been keeping will get public exposure.
Some of these things are controversial. But if they turn out to be what they look like they might, then the whole planet changes. And because you read about it in FUTUREdition, you will not be surprised.
FUTUREdition is pretty much a labor of love. I don’t get anything for my time, but I have to pay my dedicated associates who help with the editing and computer coding. And there are the costs for the service that sends out each issue twice a month.
It all totals up to about $15,000 a year and that’s why every holiday season we give our subscribers the opportunity to help support this work and offset these expenses.
Consider this. Do you think an issue of FE is worth a cup of coffee? If that sounded fair, then by Starbucks pricing, at least, you’d be saying that you receive about $72 of value during the year from what we send you with no obligation.
I’m not asking you to send a gift of $72 (unless you want to, of course), but how about consider making a tax-deductible contribution of $49? That would be less than a latte . . . and a great help to keeping FE coming your way.
Maybe you would like to give $100 or $500. Every year, some of our readers do that and more. They think this effort to illuminate the path ahead is particularly valuable and they get information from us that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
There are a lot of wonderful people who are doing amazing work to make this a better world . . . who are certainly also trying to get your attention at this time of year. I hope that you’ll help those that you think are doing a good job.
And I hope that you’ll include us in that group – so that we can continue to send FUTUREdition your way in 2018. I can promise you one thing: It’s going to be an extraordinarily interesting year. And we’ll do our best to make sure that you’ll have a front-row seat.
You can contribute $49 – or anything you’d like – by clicking here.
Thank you so very much.
My warmest holiday wishes,
John L. Petersen
Braden, Petersen in Berkeley Springs
Gregg Braden will be with us at Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 20th of January. Interest is very high for this event – almost 100 registrations already. Gregg has a new book out and this presentation is completely new. I heard it in New Mexico a couple of months ago. Very powerful!
And I’m happy to announce that Lee Carroll and Kryon will be returning in April and Bruce Lipton is scheduled in September. Robert David Steele will provide his world-changing ideas in February, so it’s going to be a really great 2018.
On December 9th, I’ll be giving a talk on the big picture of global change and the emergence of the new human – the divergence of two big evolutionary tracks. On one hand there are the explosive advances in nanotech, government surveillance, bio tech, 3D manufacturing (and the loss of upwards of 80% of current jobs!), and the implosion of present global systems (financial, geopolitical, et.al.), and on the other, there is the rise of awakened individuals who are literally becoming a new version of the species, with new levels of consciousness and capabilities . . . who will be the core community of the emergent new world.
It’s a great, new picture that you’ll find interesting and helpful.
Let me tell you about it:
John L. Petersen: Upcoming Talks in Berkeley Springs 2017-2018
Register at www.TransitionTalks.org
Mary Rodwell Interviews Available
Our October TransitionTalk presenter, Mary Rodwell, from Australia, gave a very provocative talk about her more than 3000 therapy sessions with individuals who had had direct interaction with other dimensional entities who communicated rather specifically about what was happening to the human race and some of what we could anticipate in the near future. Here are her two PostScript interviews.
We're looking forward to having Jim McCarty from The Law of One books with us this weekend.
You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think – (Mother Jones – Nov./Dec., 2017)
Far from slowing down, progress in artificial intelligence is now outstripping even the wildest hopes of the most dedicated AI cheerleaders. Unfortunately, for those of us worried about robots taking away our jobs, these advances mean that mass unemployment is a lot closer than we feared—so close, in fact, that it may be starting already. But you’d never know that from the virtual silence about solutions in policy and political circles. When robots become as smart and capable as human beings, there will be nothing left for people to do because machines will be both stronger and smarter than humans. Even if AI creates lots of new jobs, it’s of no consequence. No matter what job you name, robots will be able to do it. They will manufacture themselves, program themselves, repair themselves, and manage themselves. If you don’t appreciate this, then you don’t appreciate what’s barreling toward us. In addition to doing our jobs at least as well as we do them, intelligent robots will be cheaper, faster, and far more reliable than humans. And they can work 168 hours a week, not just 40. No capitalist in her right mind would continue to employ humans. They’re expensive, they show up late, they complain whenever something changes, and they spend half their time gossiping. Let’s face it: We humans make lousy laborers. (Editor’s note: If you only have time for one article in this entire issue of FUTUREdition, read this one. There are a few other “robot” articles in this issue of FE, but they just provide examples supporting what this article says. The big take-away: “The transition to a workless future is the biggest challenge by far that progressive politics—not to mention all of humanity—faces. And yet it’s barely on our radar.” But read the whole article.)
Sheep Learned to Recognize Photos of Obama and Other Celebrities, Neuroscientists Say – (Washington Post – November 7, 2017)
Sheep are about as capable of recognizing faces as monkeys or humans, University of Cambridge researchers reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The Cambridge flock, eight female Welsh Mountain sheep, successfully learned the faces of four celebrities in a recent experiment: Obama, British newscaster Fiona Bruce and actors Emma Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal. “Sheep are capable of sophisticated decision making,” said study author Jenny Morton, a neurobiologist at the University of Cambridge. Morton, who studies Huntington’s disease, uses them as a stand-in for humans, in part because “sheep have large brains with humanlike anatomy.” Sheep join the small group of animals shown to recognize human faces, including monkeys, dogs and horses. Horses, according to a study published in 2016, can also identify emotion in human facial expressions. People with Huntington’s disease struggle to recognize facial emotion, Morton said. “Although I didn’t think sheep could recognize emotion, it made me think about face recognition as a complex brain process.” (Editor’s note: If horses can identify humans’ emotions, isn’t it possible, even probable, that they also have their own inner experience of emotions? Most horse owners would say so. We accuse each other of anthropomorphizing – but what if the real fault is not that we are projecting our human abilities onto other species but rather that we are blind to the cognitive functioning, abilities, and the interior lives of the species all around us?)
Scientists Find Key to Unwanted Thoughts – (BBC News – November 3, 2017)
Scientists have identified a chemical in the brain's "memory" region that allows us to suppress unwanted thoughts. The discovery may help explain why some people can't shift persistent intrusive thoughts - a common symptom of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and schizophrenia. Researchers say controlling our thoughts is "fundamental to wellbeing". Gaba is the brain's main "inhibitory" neurotransmitter. That means, when it's released by one nerve cell it suppresses the activities of other cells to which it is connected. They found people who had the highest concentrations of Gaba in their brain's hippocampus (or memory hub) were best at blocking unwanted thoughts or memories. "What's exciting about this is that now we're getting very specific," said Professor Michael Anderson, from the University of Cambridge, who conducted the study. Anderson believes the findings could offer a new approach to treating these disorders. "Most of the focus has been on improving functioning of the prefrontal cortex," he said. "Our study suggests that if you could improve Gaba activity within the hippocampus, this may help people to stop unwanted and intrusive thoughts."
Fitbit Trackers To Be Used in One of NIH’s Largest Research Programs – (San Francisco Chronicle – November 7, 2017)
Fitbit Inc. has been selected to provide wristband activity trackers for one of the National Institutes of Health’s largest-ever research programs — an ambitious effort to recruit and collect health data from 1 million people in the United States. The NIH initiative, called “All of Us,” was created in 2015 to help researchers better understand how people’s genes, lifestyle and environment influence their overall health, an approach to medical treatment often called precision medicine. The program will collect genetic information from participants and use wearable devices to track health-related metrics including heart rate and sleep patterns. Fitbit is the first device maker to be selected for the program, which is the NIH’s first pilot project with wearables, and will initially provide 10,000 wristbands. Enrollment began in May and about 8,000 people have volunteered to participate so far, said Dr. Steven Steinhubl of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, one of several research institutions helping to lead the program. Researchers hope to track participants for at least a decade. Unlike many medical studies, the data collected from the participants will be shared with them — though what format the information comes in, and what participants choose to do with it, remain to be seen.
Your Next Therapist Might Be a Chatbot – (Fast Company – October 13, 2017)
Recently, a group of University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon University researchers worked with soldiers who just returned from a year abroad in Afghanistan. As many soldiers who’ve seen combat suffer from PTSD, returning troops generally fill out a written test–what’s essentially just a symptom checklist called the Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA). In the past, research has found that soldiers, knowing that PTSD can affect their own military careers, will share less on a PDHA test they know will be seen, and more on an anonymous version. Anonymity helps people share. So in turn, researchers built a 3D therapy bot. She’s essentially a psychologist rendered in video-game graphics, with brown hair, a soft, slight smile, and a racially ambiguous face. Her garments are a simple a cardigan sweater and slacks. In the study, she talked to a soldier via a TV screen and offered more and more probing questions. The conversation would begin with questions like, “Where are you from?” move to PTSD assessments like, “Do you have trouble sleeping at night,” and finish with phrases that would boost the soldier’s mood before he left: “Tell me what you’re most proud of.” Along the way, crucially, the virtual psychologist nodded and asked generic follow-ups like, “Can you tell me more about that?” Complex? Probably not at all, at least not compared to the linguistic skills of Google Now or Alexa. However, it was effective. Researchers found that, across a couple of studies, soldiers revealed more PTSD symptoms to the anonymous therapy bot than they did even to the anonymous written survey. Amazingly, researchers are finding similar results across similar studies. In fact, another bit of research found that people actually disclosed more in text chats with bots than real people. So assuming bots continue to prove their worth in critical settings, maybe it is worth considering how they could be designed into the mental health system at large. Because, if you think about it, a self-help robot could be there for you in all the times a psychologist couldn’t. Much like a good friend, you could communicate with it through a continuum of media. It could be texted, or called, or Facetimed at any hour of the night, never too tired to lend an ear, never too booked to take an appointment, and hopefully, never too expensive to stop someone from getting help who really needs it.
Tiny Human Brain Organoids Implanted into Rodents, Triggering Ethical Concerns – (Stat News – November 6, 2017)
Minuscule blobs of human brain tissue have come a long way in the four years since scientists in Vienna discovered how to create them from stem cells. The most advanced of these human brain organoids — no bigger than a lentil and, until now, existing only in test tubes — pulse with the kind of electrical activity that animates actual brains. They give birth to new neurons, much like full-blown brains. And they develop the six layers of the human cortex, the region responsible for thought, speech, judgment, and other advanced cognitive functions. These micro quasi-brains are revolutionizing research on human brain development and diseases from Alzheimer’s to Zika, but the headlong rush to grow the most realistic, most highly developed brain organoids has thrown researchers into uncharted ethical waters. Like virtually all experts in the field, neuroscientist Hongjun Song of the University of Pennsylvania doesn’t “believe an organoid in a dish can think,” he said, “but it’s an issue we need to discuss.” Those discussions have become more urgent. At a neuroscience meeting, two teams of researchers have reported implanting human brain organoids into the brains of lab rats and mice, raising the prospect that the organized, functional human tissue could develop further within a rodent. Separately, another lab has confirmed that it has connected human brain organoids to blood vessels, the first step toward giving them a blood supply. That is necessary if the organoids are to grow bigger, probably the only way they can mimic fully grown brains and show how disorders such as autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia unfold. But “vascularization” of cerebral organoids also raises such troubling ethical concerns that, previously, the lab paused its efforts to even try it. Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, noted: “The science is advancing so rapidly, the ethics can’t keep up.” Neither can regulation: Although the National Institutes of Health has a moratorium on funding research that puts human stem cells into the early embryos of vertebrates, there is no such ban on implanting human organoids, and virtually no one outside the labs conducting organoid research has enough of an idea about what’s going on to, say, call for a commission to study what should and should not be allowed.
Protection without a Vaccine – (New York Times – March 9, 2015)
A team of scientists has announced what could prove to be an enormous step forward in the fight against H.I.V. Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections. But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis. Dr. Farzan and other scientists are increasingly hopeful that this technique may be able to provide long-term protection against diseases for which vaccines have failed. The first human trial based on this strategy — called immunoprophylaxis by gene transfer, or I.G.T. — is underway, and several new ones are planned. “It could revolutionize the way we immunize against public health threats in the future,” said Dr. Gary J. Nabel, the chief scientific officer of Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company that produces a wide range of vaccines. Whether I.G.T. will succeed is still an open question. Researchers still need to gauge its safety and effectiveness in humans. And the prospect of genetically engineering people to resist infectious diseases may raise concerns among patients. (Editor’s note: Although this article is about a year and half old, we are including it because, as with the CRISPR technologies, gene editing is at the leading edge of medical interventions.)
Let's All Calm Down and Make Sense of That Antarctic Mantle Plume – (Gizmodo – November 8, 2017)
Three decades ago, scientists began to study the possibility that there was a plume of hot rock coming up from the mantle, heating parts of Western Antarctica. Back in September, researchers published results of a model showing how such a plume might affect the Antarctic ice sheet. And just recently the sensationalized headlines started to appear. “I was interested because my first impression was that it’s surprising,” said Hélène Seroussi, scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There’s this feature under the ice and we still have ice present there. It was interesting to reconcile these two things that were contradictory in the first place.” Seroussi and her group then tried to build a model of what would happen if a mantle plume did exist there and see what such a plume’s effects on the ice sheet and heating in the ice might be. This model, aided by observations from a NASA satellite, helped explain the amount of heat such a plume might add. It could even melt several centimeters of ice right above, and explain some of the heat creating Antarctica’s hidden lakes and rivers. The researchers published the model in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. The plume would have been there for around fifty million years, and the ice sheet would have formed atop it. It likely affected the way ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age. But it’s not really something to worry about. “It’s been there forever, it will remain there for a really long time,” said Seroussi. But no one has actually measured a plume. There’s just a new model to help explain a hypothesis. But, uh, the model is cool.
EPA Registers the Wolbachia ZAP Strain in Live Male Asian Tiger Mosquitoes – (EPA – November 7, 2017)
EPA registered a new mosquito biopesticide – ZAP Males® - that can reduce local populations of the type of mosquito (Aedes albopictus, or Asian Tiger Mosquitoes) that can spread numerous diseases of significant human health concern, including the Zika virus. ZAP Males® are live male mosquitoes that are infected with the ZAP strain, a particular strain of the Wolbachia bacterium. Infected males mate with females, which then produce offspring that do not survive. (Male mosquitoes do not bite people.) With continued releases of the ZAP Males®, local Aedes albopictus populations decrease. Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in most insect species. This time-limited registration allows MosquitoMate, Inc. to sell the Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes for five years in the District of Columbia and the following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia. Before the ZAP Males® can be used in each of those jurisdictions, it must be registered in the state or district.
Piccadilly Circus Billboard Uses Recognition Technology to Deliver Targeted Adverts – (Dezeen – November 10, 2017)
A new digital billboard in London's Piccadilly Circus uses recognition technology to display targeted advertisements based on the make of passing cars, and the gender and age of pedestrians. The screen wraps around the facades of buildings overlooking the popular tourist destination, and replaces six separate screens that previously formed the advertisement display. Built-in cameras concealed within the screen can track the make, model and colour of passing cars to deliver targeted adverts, said Landsec, the company that owns the billboard named Piccadilly Lights. Brands are able to pre-programme specific adverts to play when particular cars drive past, and adapt to the age or gender of passersby. The cameras and an algorithm register visual cues – for instance, hair length and height – to make assumptions on the demographics of the area. For example, if the algorithm detects a higher proportion of women in the area it could display promotions for womenswear.
Google Ditched Autopilot Driving Feature after Test User Napped Behind Wheel – (Reuters – October 31, 2017)
Alphabet Inc’s self-driving car unit has stopped developing features that required drivers to take control in dangerous situations, its chief executive said, as autopilot reliance left users prone to distractions and ill-prepared to maneuver. The decision followed experiments of the technology in Silicon Valley that showed test users napping, putting on makeup and fiddling with their phones as the vehicles traveled up to 56 mph. “What we found was pretty scary,” sai John Krafcik, the head of Waymo during a media tour of a Waymo testing facility. “It’s hard to take over because they have lost contextual awareness.” Krafcik said the company determined a system that asked drivers to jump in at the sound of an alert was unsafe after seeing videos from inside self-driving cars during tests. The company decided to focus solely on technology that didn’t require human intervention a couple of days after the napping incident, said Krafcik, who joined as CEO in 2015. It has also since argued against allowing “handoffs” between automated driving systems and people. “Our technology takes care of all of the driving, allowing passengers to stay passengers,” the company said in report this month. The two drive controls provided to passengers in Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans are buttons for starting a ride and asking the vehicles to pull over at their next chance. (Editor’s note: The vehicle a button to tell the vehicle to pull over at the next rest stop, not just at the next chance to pull over.)
Driving the Future Forward – (Yanko Design – October 17, 2017)
The past month has seen the release of a range of fascinating autonomous vehicles, but none of them are more excitable as the GM Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (Surus) Autonomous Truck. So as the name would suggest, this truck doesn’t require a driver thanks to the autonomous functionality, so in-turn, the Surus also doesn’t need a cabin. Surus uses two electrical drive units, transforming this into a four-wheel drive truck. Using GM’s Generation 2 Hydrogen Fuel Cell System, Surus boasts a capability of running more than 400 miles of range. The Hydrogen Fuel Cell System is where Surus gets the ‘silent’ part from. The benefits of hydrotec include a silent and odor-free operation. The ‘platform’ as it’s being called, has a vast amount of applications ranging from cargo delivery, commercial freight with an emphasis on disaster relief. Check out the photos – the Surus doesn’t look like you expect a truck to look. Surus has been released as somewhat of a snippet to show what GM holds in store for the future – having made plans to introduce 20 all-electric passenger vehicles by 2023.
The Ships That Could Change the Seas Forever – (BBC News – September 18, 2017)
Transporting cargo across the oceans is vital in a global economy - yet ships sully our already polluted planet. Some of the design solutions to fix that sound straight from science fiction. Finnish energy and technology firm Wärtsilä believes that smarter ships of the future will allow ship owners to more efficiently control the movements of their vessels, reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions. It’s an ambitious idea to tackle a grand challenge of the 21st Century, in which we are simultaneously more inextricably interlinked in global trade, but also face climate change that could change weather patterns, sea levels and seriously affect the journey of goods moving from A to B. What’s more? Those ships could be captain-free, and could one day be controlled from many miles away not by humans, but by computers. In other words, first “drone ships”, and then autonomous ships. A big driver for updating the world’s ships is the war on pollution. In fact, just 15 of the largest vessels produce the same amount of sulphur emissions as all the planet’s cars put together. But large companies are also, of course, looking for ways of maximizing their profits.
Uber and NASA to Launch Flying Taxi Service by 2020 – (Dezeen – November 10, 2017)
Uber has partnered with NASA to develop an on-demand electric aircraft taxi service, which is scheduled to begin flights in Los Angeles in three years time. Speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Uber's head of product Jeff Holden announced that the taxi app had signed a contract with NASA to develop low-flying aircrafts for urban environments. The partnership, signed under NASA's Space Act Agreement, will enable Uber to develop an on-demand, app-based flying taxi service – named UberAIR. It will begin tests in Los Angeles in 2020, and subsequently Dallas, Fort Worth and Frisco. UberAIR forms part of the ride-sharing apps' Elevate initiative, which would see cars replaced with electric aircrafts that are capable of taking off and landing vertically as a quicker and more environmentally friendly way to travel. The planes, known as Vertical Take-off and Landing aircrafts (VTOLs), will carry up to four passengers and will also allow users to share rides.
In the Future, You Could Eat This Edible Goo You Grow in Your Kitchen – (Fast Company – November 3, 2017)
While he worked in a lab as a PhD student, growing cells from berry plants that would later be used in pharmaceuticals or cosmetic manufacturing, Finnish researcher Lauri Reuter couldn’t stop thinking about something. “I always thought, what do these things taste like?” he says. The other researchers–all from a pharmaceutical background–thought he was crazy to want to eat cell cultures. “You’re in a lab, you’re not supposed to put things in your mouth, obviously,” he says. But the berry plant cells, along with being a source of complex biomolecules needed in manufacturing, are also nutritious. Reuter kept considering the idea, driven not just by curiosity but by the realization that in a world where traditional agriculture faces multiple environmental challenges, growing plant cells in a machine could be a useful way to produce food. Now, along with other researchers at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, he’s developing a prototype of a countertop vessel that could eventually grow edible plants cells in someone’s kitchen. The small machine, called a bioreactor, would work like a Keurig coffee maker. Rather than a coffee pod, you’d insert a capsule with a small amount of plant cells that would start growing and multiplying, along with the minerals and nutrients the cells need to grow. In initial experiments, Reuter was disappointed in the taste–the berry plant cell cultures were brightly colored but had a very mild flavor. (Food technologists at the research center were pleased, since little flavor is better than a bad taste.) But through what he calls “gentle processing,” Reuter and the team were able to unlock more flavor. This process could potentially happen in the countertop machine.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Google Study Shows How Your Account is Most Likely to be Hijacked – (Engadget – November 11, 2017)
Security threats like phishing, keylogging and third-party breaches are pretty common knowledge. Google wanted to gain a better understanding of how hijackers steal passwords and other sensitive data in the wild, though, so it conducted an analysis of online black markets from March 2016 to March 2017. The result? It found that among the three, phishing poses the biggest threat to your online security. Together with credential leaks, the two represent a threat "orders of magnitude larger than keyloggers." The tech titan found 788,000 credentials that were stolen via keyloggers, 12 million stolen via phishing and 3.3 billion exposed by third-party breaches within a year of investigating black markets. A total of 12% of the exposed records it found used Gmail addresses as a username, and 7% of those accounts reused the Gmail password for other services, making them more vulnerable than the others. Among the phishing tools and keyloggers Google examined, 82% and 74%, respectively, have the capability collect IP addresses. It also found tools that can collect phone numbers, as well as devices' make and model. Hijackers can then use the info to authenticate the identities of the accounts they're stealing.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
What Happened to the JFK Records? – (Who, What, Why – October 28, 2017)
If President Donald Trump had gone golfing at Mar-A-Lago and done absolutely nothing else on October 26th, the National Archives (NARA) would have released all documents, as it was set to do. This includes 3,147 “withheld in full” records never seen, and an unknown number of redacted documents estimated at about 30,000. Intensely lobbied by federal agencies including the CIA, Trump instead authorized the withholding of well over 90% of these documents. 52 of the 3,147 withheld-in-full records were released and put online by NARA, less than 2%, and 2,839 of the redacted documents were released, which is probably less than 10% of that set. From the public metadata available for all these records, it’s clear that the most-desired records were held back. Still withheld-in-full records among the 98% of those still withheld include, for example: Still withheld-in-full records among the 98% of those still withheld include, for example: Still-withheld Church Committee interview transcripts not included in the 1990s releases, including one with none other than CIA CounterIntelligence chief James Angleton; lengthy CIA files on officers who played a role in Castro assassination plotting and/or the JFK story, including William Harvey, David Phillips, E. Howard Hunt, James O’Connell, Richard Synder, and several others; a 167-page CIA document on Valeriy Kostikov, the Soviet agent stationed in Mexico whose name was used as part of the “World War III” scenario that the Warren Commission we now know was created to push back against; and an interview the House Select Committee on Assassinations conducted with Orest Pena, the New Orleans bar owner who told the Committee that Oswald was an FBI informant and he often saw Oswald in the company of a particular FBI agent. And many, many more. See also: The Deep State’s JFK Triumph Over Trump which notes: Journalist Caitlin Johnstone hits the nail on the head in pointing out that the biggest revelation from the limited release of the JFK files is “the fact that the FBI and CIA still desperately need to keep secrets about something that happened 54 years ago.”
Facebook Farce Shows Lawmaker Deviousness, Demagoguery – (The Hill – November 4, 2017)
This op-ed piece notes that the 2016 election was the first time in history that goofy advertisements were considered an act of war. Russian political advertisements amounted to only .004 percent of the total content that Facebook users saw last year in the United States. Russian ads on Facebook were clumsy and schizophrenic, hitting multiple sides of issues, and were often laughably simplistic (such as the “Jesus and Hillary duking it out” ad shown in the article). The author continues, “Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) railed that ‘a dictator like Vladimir Putin abused flaws in our social media platforms to inject the worst kind of identity politics into the voting decisions of at least 100 million Americans.’ This presumes that Russian ads had a mysterious power to zap the minds of Facebook users who perhaps had zero resistance after viewing too many cat videos. But my experience running a few ads on Facebook for one of my books found that it was a worse investment than buying used lottery tickets from a wino on the street corner.” (Editors’ question: When have political slogans been anything other than simplistic?)
Journey of Young Africans into Violent Extremism Marked by Poverty and Deprivation – (United Nations Development Program – September 7, 2017)
Deprivation and marginalization, underpinned by weak governance, are primary forces driving young Africans into violent extremism, according to a comprehensive new study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – the first study of its kind. Based on interviews with 495 voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, the new study also found that it is often perceived state violence or abuse of power that provides the final tipping point for the decision to join an extremist group. The study reveals a picture of a frustrated individual, marginalized and neglected over the course of his life, starting in childhood. With few economic prospects or outlets for meaningful civic participation that can bring about change, and little trust in the state to either provide services or respect human rights, the study suggests, such an individual could, upon witnessing or experiencing perceived abuse of power by the state, be tipped over the edge into extremism. “This study sounds the alarm that as a region, Africa’s vulnerability to violent extremism is deepening,” said UNDP Africa Director Abdoulaye Mar Dieye.
Who is Afraid of the Iranian Bomb?- (Gush-Shalom – November 4, 2017)
This article, by an Israeli blogger, views some of the major tensions in the Middle East today through the lens of an Israeli observer. Grounded in the 20th century history of the region, it’s a more nuanced view that is often offered in the western press. Nearing the conclusion of the article, he writes: What about the mad ayatollahs obtaining atomic bombs and annihilating us? Well, I am not afraid. Even if Iran obtains nuclear bombs, I shall sleep well. Why, for God's (or Allah's) sake? Because Israel is well provided with nuclear weapons and a second-strike capability. Since the nuclear bomb was invented, no nuclear-armed country has ever been attacked. Attacking a nuclear-armed country simply means suicide. Even the mighty USA does not dare to attack little North Korea, whose endeavor to obtain a nuclear strike force is far from irrational. So I shall sleep soundly even if Iran goes nuclear. Though perhaps with one eye half open.” That’s the article’s end point, but we recommend reading it in order to understand how the author arrived at there.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Rising Rents Are Pushing More Tenants Past the Breaking Point – (Bloomberg – October 26, 2017)
In a recent survey by an apartment-listing service, nearly one in five respondents reports struggling to make the monthly payments. While big landlords seem to be succeeding at finding tenants who can keep up, the survey, by Apartment List, suggests escalating housing costs may be straining renters’ resources. Eighteen percent of respondents couldn’t pay the full rent due in at least one of the past three months, according to the poll of 40,000 renters. Of those who have registered for the listing site this year, 3.3 percent said they had been evicted in the past, up from 2.8 percent in 2015. Among households earning up to $30,000 a year, 27.5% failed to pay the rent in full in at least one of the past three months. Among those earning $30,000 to $60,000, it was 14.8%. Even of those making more than $60,000 a year, it was 8.8%. Eviction rates were higher in metropolitan areas hit hard by the U.S. foreclosure crisis. They were lower in high-cost coastal regions, where strong job markets give landlords a more affluent pool of renters to choose from. The share of households considered rent-burdened--meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on debt--ticked down in 2015 but is still historically high. Forty-one percent of renters, meanwhile, said it was hard to find affordable housing near their jobs, according to data from an August survey published by Freddie Mac.
How to Hire Fake Friends and Family – (Atlantic – November 7, 2017)
Money may not be able to buy love, but in Japan, it can certainly buy the appearance of love—and appearance, as the dapper Ishii Yuichi insists, is everything. As a man whose business involves becoming other people, Yuichi would know. The handsome and charming 36-year-old is on call to be your best friend, your husband, your father, or even a mourner at your funeral. His 8-year-old company, Family Romance, provides professional actors to fill any role in the personal lives of clients. With a burgeoning staff of 800 or so actors, ranging from infants to the elderly, the organization prides itself on being able to provide a surrogate for almost any conceivable situation. Yuichi believes that Family Romance helps people cope with unbearable absences or perceived deficiencies in their lives. In an increasingly isolated and entitled society, the CEO predicts the exponential growth of his business and others like it, as à la carte human interaction becomes the new norm. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article for reasons having something to do with both the differences and sameness of “real” and “virtual”.)
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
What Happens If China Makes First Contact? – (Atlantic – December, 2017)
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (seti) is often derided as a kind of religious mysticism, even within the scientific community. Nearly a quarter century ago, the United States Congress defunded America’s seti program with a budget amendment proposed by Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada, who said he hoped it would “be the end of Martian-hunting season at the taxpayer’s expense.” That’s one reason it is China, and not the United States, that has built the first world-class radio observatory with seti as a core scientific goal. Even without federal funding in the United States, seti is now in the midst of a global renaissance. Today’s telescopes have brought the distant stars nearer, and in their orbits we can see planets. The next generation of observatories is now clicking on, and with them we will zoom into these planets’ atmospheres. China has learned the hard way that spectacular scientific achievements confer prestige upon nations. The “Celestial Kingdom” looked on from the sidelines as Russia flung the first satellite and human being into space, and then again when American astronauts spiked the Stars and Stripes into the lunar crust. China has largely focused on the applied sciences. It built the world’s fastest supercomputer, spent heavily on medical research, and planted a “great green wall” of forests in its northwest as a last-ditch effort to halt the Gobi Desert’s spread. Now China is bringing its immense resources to bear on the fundamental sciences. The country plans to build an atom smasher that will conjure thousands of “god particles” out of the ether, in the same time it took cern’s Large Hadron Collider to strain out a handful. It is also eyeing Mars. In the technopoetic idiom of the 21st century, nothing would symbolize China’s rise like a high-definition shot of a Chinese astronaut setting foot on the red planet. Nothing except, perhaps, first contact. That’s also why China plans to one day put a radio observatory on the dark side of the moon, a place more technologically silent than anywhere on Earth.
NASA's Astronaut Twins Study Shows How Spaceflight Changes Gene Expression – (Space – October 26, 2017)
The changes spaceflight induces in astronauts are much more than skin deep. Space travel strongly affects the way genes are expressed, or turned on and off, preliminary results from NASA's "Twins Study" have revealed. "With this study, we've seen thousands and thousands of genes change how they are turned on and turned off," said Twins Study principal investigator Chris Mason, who's based at Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University's medical school. "This happens as soon as an astronaut gets into space, and some of the activity persists temporarily upon return to Earth." "This study represents one of the most comprehensive views of human biology," Mason said. "It really sets the bedrock for understanding molecular risks for space travel as well as ways to potentially protect and fix those genetic changes." Spaceflight also causes changes to astronauts' bodies on the macro level, including muscle atrophy, decreased bone density and visual deterioration. Scientists have long known about such effects, and astronauts already take measures to mitigate some of them. For example, vigorous exercise is a part of every crewmember's daily routine aboard the ISS, as a way to combat bone and muscle wasting.
Saudi Women Seize New Business Opportunities – (Arab News – October 31, 2017)
With a 130% increase in the number of women employed by the private sector in Saudi Arabia over the past four years, the Kingdom’s workforce is undergoing a transformation aimed at ushering in a new economic era. Almost 40% of the startups launched in 2016 were owned by women — an indication of the social and economic evolution that is underway as the Kingdom pursues ambitious aims outlined in its Vision 2030. Speaking to Arab News, the governor of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, Ghassan Al-Sulaiman pinpointed startups as a particular focus for development. With plans to boost the proportion of women in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, Saudi Arabia’s once-sidelined female population is being harnessed to facilitate this growth. At a recent job fair attended by 43,000 women and hosted by Saudi women’s recruitment agency Glowork, more than 86 local and international organizations gathered seeking to source female talent for their KSA operations. “Saudi females represent a talented, well-educated pool of labor. Today, more Saudi women than men are attaining university degrees,” said David Hunt, founder of Dubai-based company Lynwood Consulting. “The educational reforms have produced a new generation of women with a high degree of training, education and knowledge who are assuming their rightful place in society.”
Across the Middle East, women outnumber men in universities but countries are largely failing to utilize their female talent pools with women’s participation in the workforce across the region among the lowest in the world, according to Reuters. The upshot is a failure to fully reap the so-called “demographic dividend” that would fuel economic growth, as well as a drag on programs aimed at empowering women in order to fulfill the economic agenda set by government. Currently, just 1.9 million of the 13.1 million women in Saudi Arabia participate in the workforce, giving it the largest gender imbalance in labor force participation among G-20 countries, according to the “G-20 Saudi Arabia Labour Market Report 2016.”
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
These DIY Machines Let Anyone Recycle Plastic into New Products – (Fast Company – October 30, 2017)
In a workshop in downtown Chang Mai, Thailand, designers turn plastic trash–mostly plastic bags they collect from the street–into marble-like coasters and tabletops. In a maker space in Lviv, Ukraine, designers use DIY equipment hacked from old industrial parts and a shopping cart to recycle plastic trash into bowls. In Seoul, designers use a mobile plastic recycling cart for education. The majority of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year isn’t recycled, and recycling that does happen typically happens at an industrial scale in factories using equipment that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. But a growing number of designers are using a set of open-source, easy-to-build tools to recycle plastic and manufacture new plastic products on their own. “We want to make small-scale plastic recycling accessible to everyone, as this can have an exponential effect on the amount of plastic recycled–eventually reducing the demand for new virgin plastic–and educate millions of people on plastic, plastic recycling, and how to handle it before it ends up in the environment,” says Dave Hakkens, the Dutch founder of Precious Plastic, an organization that designed the machines now in use by the designers in Thailand and the Ukraine, and more than 200 others. Designers around the world began using the machines to make recycled plastic products in 2016, and the organization is now sharing new instructions for building full recycling workshops inside shipping containers. They’ve also created a new map to connect people in the DIY recycling community. A new online marketplace called Bazar sells products made with the machines, in an attempt to help more people begin to make a living by recycling plastic.
Psychology Trends Report – (American Psycholgical Association – November, 2017)
Here are the top 10 trends in psychology as compiled by the American Psychological Association. They showcase what’s on the horizon in terms of technology, research, health case, advocacy, social justice, and more. For example: “Epigenetics offers the promise of more precise treatments” and “Research zeroes in on the costs of unhealthy workplaces”.
The Woman Aiming to Get 50 Million Americans into the Worker-Owner Economy – (Yes – October 26, 2017)
In 1987, after getting a master’s degree in journalism, Marjorie Kelly founded Business Ethics magazine to showcase socially responsible corporations. But after 20 years as president and publisher, she sold the magazine. She had come to an epiphany: Encouraging individual corporations to behave better was an insufficient route to improving society. Significant change would require a shift in the ownership structure of business. Kelly’s 2012 book, Owning Our Future, lays out ways to expand democratized ownership models, including employee ownership. Through the Fifty By Fifty Network, which Kelly co-founded with Jessica Rose, she is now putting those ideas into action. Fifty By Fifty aims to increase the number of employee-owners in the United States from 10 million today to 50 million by 2050. Research shows that when employees own the company, they make higher wages, have about double the retirement savings, and are one-fourth as likely to be laid off. Their companies are more likely to be environmental stewards, and they don’t export their jobs overseas. With employee ownership, a lot of things we worry about in the economy are on their way to being solved. That’s because you no longer have absentee shareholders looking only at their returns. It’s a radically different vision of a company. Also employee ownership is the first alternative business model that’s ready to go to scale. It’s a significant, proven model. This article looks at various forms of employee ownership.
Robots to Help Stock Shelves at 50 Walmart Stores – (Atlanta Journal Constitution – October 28, 2017)
Robots will soon help stock shelves at about 50 Walmart stores. The two-foot tall robots are fitted with cameras to scan aisles and check stock, identifying missing, misplaced, mislabeled and mispriced items. The robots will give that information to employees who will fix the issues. “If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, Jeremy King said. The robots will be used in an expanded test next month in stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The robots are more productive and can scan shelves more accurately and faster than human employees, company officials reported. However, the robots will not replace workers. (Editor’s note: Of course the robots are replacing workers – someone has previously been performing the tasks that the robots are going to take on.) "Within that, we're good at doing a part of it, and we're terrible at doing a part of it. When it comes to picking the product up, the robot has no arms,” said Martin Hitch, chief business officer at Bossa Nova Robotics, the company producing the robots for Walmart. “That's a really difficult science, and it's a slow, slow science. We know that the store associates will always be better at that." (Martin Hitch is talking politically correct nonsense.)
The Flying Drones That Can Scan Packages Night and Day – (BBC News – October 27, 2017)
Flying drones and robots now patrol distribution warehouses - they've become workhorses of the e-commerce era online that retailers can't do without. It is driving down costs but it is also putting people out of work: what price progress? For example, retail giant Walmart's smallest warehouse, for example, is larger than 17 football fields put together. And these automated drones are now doing the jobs humans - on foot, or operating fork-lift trucks and mechanical lifts - used to do: and they're doing them more cheaply and more accurately. "Every year companies lose billions of dollars due to misplaced items and faulty inventory records in their warehouses," says Fadel Adib, an assistant professor of media, arts and sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Two drones can do the work of 100 humans over the same time period, according to supply chain specialist, Argon Consulting. This means they can do several tours of a warehouse - even at night - compare results, identify discrepancies, and build up a much more accurate picture much more quickly. Drone makers claim scanning accuracy of close to 100%. Matt Yearling, chief executive of Pinc, one of the firms offering such aerial robots, says they can save warehousing and logistics companies millions of dollars. Pinc's drones use hydrogen fuel cells, enabling them to fly for up to two hours - four times as long as some battery-powered drones. The $2.3tn e-commerce industry is huge and growing, but almost 75% of e-commerce companies employ no more than four people. So it is no coincidence that in the US some 89,000 shop workers were laid off between October and April this year. Forrester estimates that automation technologies, including artificial intelligence, will replace 17% of US jobs by 2027. And growth in new types of employment will not be enough to compensate.
The Time When America Stopped Being Great – (BBC News – November 3, 2017)
History is never neat nor linear. Decades do not automatically have personalities, but it is possible to divide the period since 1984 into two distinct phases. The final 16 years of the 20th Century was a time of American hegemony. The first 16 years of the 21st Century has proven to be a period of dysfunction, discontent, disillusionment and decline. The America of today in many ways reflects the dissonance between the two. This essay was written by a British journalist who, from a young age, was smitten by “Westerns, cop shows, superhero comic strips, and movies such as West Side Story and Grease” – but who was also able to view the arc of American history as few of us can (or do) because we’ve been living within it. Putting it another way, this article traces American history from Reagan to Trump. It’s a thoughtful article – not one with an agenda but one that simply holds up a mirror so that one can see oneself. It’s worth your time to read it.
New Brain Technologies Pose Threats to Privacy and Autonomy That Are All Too Real, Experts Warn – (Stat News – November 8, 2017)
With Elon Musk aiming to build brain implants so people can communicate telepathically, fMRIs already (approximately) reading minds, under-the-radar companies working on computer chips to control brain activity that generates intentions, and technologies promising to boost brain performance like Bradley Cooper’s in “Limitless,” it might seem like neuroscience has become neurofiction. But the advances, and the threats they pose, are all too real, experts warned on Wednesday. In an essay in Nature, 27 neuroscientists, physicians, ethicists, and artificial intelligence experts argue that these and other powerful “neurotechnologies,” originally conceived to help people who are paralyzed or have other neurological disorders, could “exacerbate social inequalities and offer corporations, hackers, governments or anyone else new ways to exploit and manipulate people.” Some of the most ambitious, and possibly threatening, neurotech might never arrive, of course. If so, it won’t be for lack of trying. Musk isn’t the only zillionaire sinking money into the field. Furthest along are technologies to sense and decipher brain waves (this pattern means the person is thinking of a car, this pattern means she’s thinking of a hamburger). Called “reading” the brain, it could soon be possible through helmets and other noninvasive, even remote devices. Eavesdropping on thoughts is only the beginning of the alarming possibilities. Researchers are going beyond reading the brain to “writing” it, or activating neurons with an external device in a way that alters circuits, controls thought, and even implants memories. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for instance, launched a project this year to develop a wireless device that monitors brain activity using 1 million electrodes. That could decipher brain signals that move different parts of the body, then play them back so that paralyzed people could move again. “But the ultimate goal is to build an integrated circuit chip that you could implant into the brain and ‘write’ activity into it,” said Dr. Rafael Yuste of Columbia University, a neuroscientist who co-authored the essay referred to above.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
'Fats' Putin over the Top of 'Blueberry Hill' with Piano Solo – (You Tube – December 11, 2010)
Video of Vladimir Putin playing the piano and singing "Blueberry Hill" at a charity fundraiser. Definitely over the top. And just in case in you need a chaser after watching that YouTube clip – here’s Fats Domino doing his classic rendition of this 1940s tune.
JUST FOR FUN
Weaving the Bridge at Q’eswachaka – (YouTube – February 28, 2016)
It takes a village – actually two of them. Every year, local communities on either side of the Apurimac River Canyon in Peru use traditional Inca engineering techniques to rebuild the Q'eswachaka Bridge. The old bridge is taken down and the new bridge is built in only three days. The bridge has been rebuilt in this same location continually since the time of the Inca. This video is narrated by John Ochsendorf, professor of civil engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A FINAL QUOTE
Ray Dalio, American investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist, tells clients: "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed."
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Crystal HartDiane Petersen, Todd Pierce, 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.
Edited by John L. Petersen