There are probably more people in China who speak English as a second language than there are Americans who speak it as their first. (A fifth of Americans speak a language other than English in their own homes.)
A report commissioned by the Department of Defense has now ranked the top threats posed by the rapidly advancing field of "synthetic biology".
In the London Underground, train robberies fell 33%, verbal assaults on staff drop 25%, and vandalism decrease 37% after just 18 months of classical music.
An IBM artificial intelligence system came very close to beating two humans in a debating competition, judged by an audience of humans.
PUNCTUATIONS by John L. Petersen
Bruce Lipton, Ph.D. coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks
Join us September 15-16 in Berkeley Springs
NYT best-selling author Dr. Bruce Lipton is coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 15th and 16th of September. It will be an event that should not be missed.
One of the most insightful and exciting communicators in the world about the previously unknown role the brain and consciousness play in producing health and wellbeing, Lipton will be giving a full two-day long series of presentations on how you can change your future by changing your mind.
The venue is relatively small, so only 200 fortunate individuals will participate in this relatively intimate affair. The interest in Dr. Lipton’s presentations is so great that already one-fifth of the available tickets have been spoken for.
I was with Bruce two weeks ago in British Colombia and he was very much looking forward to being with us. Here’s a quick report.
For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with Dr. Lipton’s work, this short taste highlights some of his groundbreaking ideas.
This is a special opportunity that seldom is available in small, resort communities like Berkeley Springs, so we are very much looking forward to having Bruce with us.
You can get complete information on this event at TransitionTalks.org.. There is complete information on local lodging and restaurants at the site as well.
Do come and be with us if you can. It will be a weekend that will not be forgotten.
PostScript Interview with Dennis McKenna
In May, Transition Talks featured Dr. Dennis McKenna, a pioneer in hallucinogenic plants. For those who missed his talk, check out these video interviews:
Can English Remain the World's Favorite Language? – (BBC News – May 23, 2018)
Which country boasts the most English speakers, or people learning to speak English? The answer is China. According to a study published by Cambridge University Press, up to 350 million people there have at least some knowledge of English - and at least another 100 million in India. There are probably more people in China who speak English as a second language than there are Americans who speak it as their first. (A fifth of Americans speak a language other than English in their own homes.) But for how much longer will English qualify as the "world's favorite language"? English is the world's favourite lingua franca - the language people are most likely to turn to when they don't share a first language. Imagine, for example, a Chinese speaker who speaks no French in conversation with a French speaker who speaks no Chinese. The chances are that they would use English. Five years ago, perhaps. But not any more. Thanks to advances in computer translation and voice-recognition technology, they can each speak their own language, and hear what their interlocutor is saying, machine-translated in real time. So English's days as the world's top global language may be numbered. To put it at its most dramatic: the computers are coming, and they are winning.
Researchers Find Last of Universe's Missing Ordinary Matter – (PhysOrg – June 20, 2018)
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have helped to find the last reservoir of ordinary matter hiding in the universe. Ordinary matter, or "baryons," make up all physical objects in existence, from stars to the cores of black holes. But until now, astrophysicists had only been able to locate about two-thirds of the matter that theorists predict was created by the Big Bang. In the new research, an international team pinned down the missing third, finding it in the space between galaxies. That lost matter exists as filaments of oxygen gas at temperatures of around 1 million degrees Celsius, said CU Boulder's Michael Shull, a co-author of the study. Researchers have a good idea of where to find most of the ordinary matter in the universe—not to be confused with dark matter, which scientists have yet to locate: About 10% sits in galaxies, and close to 60% is in the diffuse clouds of gas that lie between galaxies. In 2012, Shull and his colleagues predicted that the missing 30% of baryons were likely in a web-like pattern in space called the warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM). Charles Danforth, a research associate in APS, contributed to those findings and is a co-author of the new study. He suspects that galaxies and quasars blew that gas out into deep space over billions of years. Shull added that the researchers will need to confirm their findings by pointing satellites at more bright quasars.
The Mysterious ‘Jumping Gene’ That Appears 500,000 Times in Human DNA – (Atlantic – June 21, 2018)
For years, Miguel Ramalho-Santos tried to convince researchers in his lab to study a segment of DNA he personally thought was quite extraordinary: LINE1. It’s repeated half a million times in the human genome, making up nearly a fifth of the DNA in every cell. But nobody in his lab wanted to study it. It might have had something to do with LINE1’s reputation. “People have called it junk DNA,” says Ramalho-Santos. “People have called it genomic parasites.” LINE1, like other transposons (or “jumping genes”), has the unusual ability to copy and insert itself in random places in the genome. Geneticists tend to pay attention when LINE1 inserts itself in a bad place, causing cancer or genetic disorders like hemophilia. But Ramalho-Santos suspected there was more to LINE1 because it is especially active inside developing embryos, which suggests that the segment actually plays a key role in coordinating the development of cells in an embryo. But eventually experiments started to pay off. Crucially, Ramalho-Santos and postdoc Michelle Percharde figured out how to turn LINE1 off in mouse embryos. When the team neutralized LINE1 RNA, the embryos got stuck in the two-cell stage, right after a fertilized egg has first split. Without LINE1, embryos essentially stopped developing. LINE1’s ability to copy itself, however, seems to have nothing to do with its role in embryonic development. The next step is to study LINE1 in human cells, where it makes up 17% of the genome.
Could Herpes Viruses Play a Role in Alzheimer's? New Study Backs Theory – (Live Sciene – June 21, 2018)
Alzheimer's disease affects millions of people around the world, but what ultimately causes the debilitating dementia remains unknown. One controversial theory, however, holds that the disease might be the result of a virus, or multiple viruses, infecting the brain. Now, a new study offers more evidence to bolster this theory. In the study, published in the journal Neuron, researchers found that the brains of deceased people with Alzheimer's disease had higher levels of viruses than the brains of deceased people without Alzheimer's. Specifically, the Alzheimer's brains had up to twice as much of two common strains of herpes viruses than the non-Alzheimer's brains. The theory that viruses or other pathogens could play a role in the development of Alzheimer's "is actually a pretty old idea," said lead study author Dr. Benjamin Readhead, an assistant research professor at Arizona State University and adjunct faculty member at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Readhead and his team didn't set out to look for possible viruses; rather, at first they were trying to find brain networks that existing drugs could be repurposed to target as potential treatments for the disease. In the new study, two different strains of the herpes virus stood out: herpes 6A and herpes 7. "The thing to say about these viruses is that they're very, very common," Readhead said. (Nearly everyone carries these herpes strains in their bodies because they are infected with them in infancy. However, the strains don't typically cause problems other than rashes in young children.) In fact, the researchers detected the presence of these viruses in about 40 to 50% of the brain tissues examined in the study. But the Alzheimer's brain samples had many more copies of these viruses than those without, he said. Because viruses were found in both Alzheimer's brain tissue and non-Alzheimer's brain tissue, the researchers can't "simply say that infection with these viruses causes Alzheimer's disease," Readhead said. "Still, the viruses may play a role: They could be part of the cause, or they could also just serve to accelerate the disease. Or maybe they don't play a role at all, and just happen to be along for the ride, he added.
Can a Cheap and Widely Available TB Vaccine Help Diabetics? – (NBC News – June 21, 2018)
There’s more evidence that a vaccine used to fight tuberculosis for 100 years might help people with diabetes. Researchers said that a few diabetics who got the vaccine had much better control of their blood sugar after eight years than people who did not get it. It’s a small study and many experts are skeptical about it. But if the results hold up in more people over time, it could point to a cheap and easy way to help keep people with type-1 diabetes healthy. The team at Massachusetts General Hospital has been testing the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, used to prevent tuberculosis and to treat some forms of bladder cancer. Tests in animals had indicated that it might help fight the immune system mistakes that cause type-1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes. It’s caused when the body mistakenly destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, forcing patients to carefully monitor their blood sugar for life and to inject insulin as needed. It takes three years for the vaccine's benefits to kick in, and people need two doses, a month apart, to benefit, the team found. But after that, the patients did not receive any more extra treatment. The vaccine does not cause the damaged pancreatic cells to regenerate. Instead, it appears to change the way the body metabolizes sugar. And it appears to do so safely. “BCG treatment does not carry the risk of hypoglycemia as is the case for intense insulin therapy,” the researchers wrote.
She Drank Live Viruses for Two Weeks. It worked. – (Dallas News – June 21 2018)
The viruses are called bacteriophages, or phages for short. Similar to probiotics, they permeate our guts and nasal passages and exist everywhere in nature, including in the soil and in drinking water. They are bacteria’s natural enemies. As parasites, they invade bacterial cells and use their machinery to replicate, destroying bacteria in the process. Before penicillin was developed in the 1940s, doctors used phages to treat infections like strep throat and appendicitis. Antibiotics, when they arrived, proved more potent, and phage therapy died out in the West. Now, as bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, interest in phage therapy has grown. While case studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that phages can be safe and effective, the treatment has not passed rigorous clinical trials in the United States. For that reason, the therapy has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The University of California San Diego announced the opening of the first phage therapy center in North America. The Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics will conduct clinical trials of phage therapy and help provide phages on an emergency basis to patients for whom other treatment options have run out. Experts at UC San Diego say it’s time to determine whether phages can be a useful weapon in the war against superbugs. “Phage therapy has long deserved this chance to be evaluated,” said Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at UCSD and co-director of the new phage therapy center. “We want to answer once and for all if it’s something that deserves to get scaled up.”
Shampoo Bars – (Facebook – June 9, 2018)
Shampoo doesn’t have to come in a bottle: check out this video of shampoo bars. Instead, it could come “naked” – no packaging, just a bar of shampoo – and replace the 552 million shampoo bottles we throw out annually. Where can you buy shampoo bars and conditioner bars? The ones in the video probably came from a company in Akron, Ohio called BeachBabeBodyGoods, available online through Etsy. But an online search for “shampoo bars” will bring up dozens of vendors. However, that somewhat defeats the point: sure, you won’t get a plastic bottle, but you will get packaging, some of which is likely to be plastic. So see if your local health food store carries shampoo bars and take one home in your own reusable bag.
Upcoming Research Will Buck the Consensus and Show Antarctica Is Still Gaining Ice – (YellowhammerNews – June 16, 2018)
Is Antarctica melting or is it gaining ice? A recent paper claims Antarctica’s net ice loss has dramatically increased in recent years, but forthcoming research will challenge that claim. NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally first challenged the “consensus” on Antarctica in 2015 when he published a paper showing ice sheet growth in eastern Antarctica outweighed the losses in the western ice sheet. Zwally will again challenge the prevailing narrative of how global warming is affecting the South Pole. Zwally said his new study will show, once again, the eastern Antarctic ice sheet is gaining enough ice to offset losses in the west. Much like in 2015, Zwally’s upcoming study will run up against the so-called “consensus,” including a paper published by a team of 80 scientists in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The paper estimates that Antarctic is losing, on net, more than 200 gigatons of ice a year, adding 0.02 inches to annual sea level rise. “Basically, we agree about West Antarctica,” Zwally said. “East Antarctica is still gaining mass. That’s where we disagree.”
How Do Predictions Stack Up 30 Years After The First Global Warming Warning? - (OilPrice.com - June 22, 2018)
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first public warning that global warming had started, and climate scientists are assessing the accuracy of the predictions of the NASA scientist who first sounded the alarm. Pat Michaels and Ryan Maue, the director and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute's Center for the Study of Science, respectively, discussed in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal this week the three scenarios that NASA scientist James Hansen developed in 1988 for the future global carbon dioxide emissions. In Scenario A-'business as usual'-the prediction was that the earth would warm by 1 degree Celsius by 2018. Scenario B, which Hansen considered the "most plausible", predicted lower emissions, rising at the same rate today as they did in 1988 and predicted that the warming would be 0.7 degree Celsius by 2018. In Scenario C-considered "highly unlikely" by Hansen-the projection was that emissions would flat-line after 2000. According to Michaels and Maue's piece in the Wall Street Journal, the scenario closest to today's reality is Scenario C. "On the 30th anniversary of Mr. Hansen's galvanizing testimony, it's time to acknowledge that the rapid warming he predicted isn't happening," Michaels and Maue write. "Climate researchers and policy makers should adopt the more modest forecasts that are consistent with observed temperatures. That would be a lukewarm policy, consistent with a lukewarming planet." But other climate scientists concur that Hansen "got it right," according to Yale Climate Connections. The world has followed "Scenario B", according to the scientist who first warned about global warming. We are "smack on it" it, Hansen said. (Editor's note: The 30-year data retrospective has been reported on by numerous news sources. We chose to feature the report in an e-periodical that is "pro oil"
(so presumably not biased in favor of global warming) and that offered both the Cato Institute opinion and that of Hansen, the original researcher, looking back at his own research. For a far more detailed analysis of the data, see "30 years after Hansen's testimony".
Samsung’s Latest TV Camouflages Itself When You’re Not Using It – (Fast Company – March 9, 2018)
The worst part of buying a big television is no longer the price. It’s that you have this 65-inch black box hanging on the wall in your living room, like a black hole leaching away your own good taste. Now, Samsung has designed what could be the perfect solution–by giving your TV its own invisibility cloak. The company’s new line of 4K QLED televisions feature an Ambient Mode that lets them blend right into your wall. How? After you hang the TV, you take a photo of the TV of your wall. Then the TV creates its chameleonic screensaver. As a result, the TV more or less turns invisible, with only its tiny bezel standing between you and Marie Kondo nirvana. Over the past few years, Samsung has attacked the footprint of its own TVs with a singular obsession. After teaming up with Yves Béhar, the company released the Frame in 2017. Instead of hiding the TV, it transformed it into a literally framed piece of art, which you could load up with a selection of artists on demand. Then this year, it debuted the Wall, a 146-inch display that actually featured fake bookcases and vases (presumably so that you might be willing to buy a TV that literally required a wall of your house and cost the equivalent of a car). In person, the Frame doesn’t fool anyone. The Wall didn’t even look good in staged photographs. How well will these new QLED TVs really blend in with drywall or wood grain? Almost surely not as well as you’d hope. But the core design stunt here is actually quite sound. And the displays will only get better at juggling intricacies of ambient light and color temperatures.
Voices of Millions of UK Taxpayers Stored by HMRC – (BBC News – June 25, 2018)
Big Brother Watch says Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC – UK equivalent of IRS) Voice ID system has collected 5.1 million audio signatures and accuses the department of creating "biometric ID cards by the back door". The Voice ID scheme, which was launched last year, asks callers to repeat the phrase "my voice is my password" in order to register. Once this task is complete, they can use the phrase to confirm their identity when managing their taxes. HMRC says the data is held securely and emphasizes that callers can choose not to use Voice ID. But Big Brother Watch said taxpayers were being "railroaded into a mass ID scheme", because they were not given the choice to opt out. "These voice IDs could allow ordinary citizens to be identified by government agencies across other areas of their private lives," said Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch. She also called on HMRC to "delete the five million voiceprints they've taken in this shady scheme". In response, an HMRC spokesperson said the Voice ID system was "very popular with customers". The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force across the European Union last month, requires organizations to obtain explicit consent before they use biometric data to identify someone, including voice recordings.
Okawa City Launches Line of Miniature Cat Furniture – (Spoon & Tamago – October 18, 2017)
Okawa City in Fukuoka prefecture is known as one of Japan’s furniture capitals. The city is home to Okawa Kagu, a consortium of over a dozen artisans that are steeped in the craft of furniture, tatami and lattice making. Using their exact same skill set that goes into any piece of furniture, Okawa Kagu has produced a line a high quality, miniature furniture for cats. One problem that cat furniture has always had was that it was ugly; cheaply produced eyesores that made you want to cover them up. But Okawa Kagu’s cat furniture is produced with the same caliber that goes into any other piece. In fact, they’re really just miniature versions of actual pieces the furniture makers have designed. The cat sofa was designed and produced by Hiromatsu Furniture. The cat bed was designed and produced by Tateno Mokuzai. If you’re interested in any of these pieces you can contact the respective furniture companies directly via their websites. Includes 1 minute video clip with narration in Japanese, perfectly comprehensible even if you don’t understand a single word. (Editor’s note: We loved the cat-sized nightstand with “lamp” and the cat-sized coffee table with tea cup in front of the sofa. Obviously, in some places, cats rule.)
Dutch City to Become First in the World to Build Habitable 3D Printed Houses to Cut Costs and Make up for a Shortage of Bricklayers – (Daily Mail – June 6, 2018)
The Eindhoven University of Technology team, led by researcher Theo Salet, was also behind the world's first 3D-printed reinforced, pre-stressed concrete bridge, built in late 2017 (see bridge here). The first house is expected to completed in 2019 and will be a three-bedroom bungalow. It will be followed by four multi-level homes on the site in Meerhoven, a region of Eindhoven located west of the city center, near the city's airport. The first and smallest of the houses which will be put on the rental market in Eindhoven has already attracted applications from 20 interested families. The city of Eindhoven, which is also home to the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven, is hoping to position itself as a specialist for concrete 3D printing. Mr Salet said: '3D-printing of concrete is a potential game changer in the building industry. 'Besides the ability to construct almost any shape, it also enables architects to design very fine concrete structures.' 'Another important advantage is sustainability, as much less concrete is needed and hence much less cement, which reduces the CO2 emissions originating from cement production.' Rudy van Gurp, a manager at the firm, which is working in collaboration on the project with the Eindhoven University of Technology, believes 3D printed homes will become mainstream in the next five years. He said: 'I think by then about 5% of homes will be made using a 3D printer. In the Netherlands we have a shortage of bricklayers and people who work outside and so it offers a solution to that. 'It will eventually be cheaper than the traditional methods. Bricklaying is becoming more and more expensive. Alongside, bricks and the use of timber, this will be a third way, which will look like stucc0 houses, which people like.' Article includes 3 minute video in Dutch with subtitles. (Editor’s note: “Habitable houses” have already been printed from concrete – or at least planned – in El Salvador, China, and elsewhere. However, the Dutch ones may be the first to be able to conform to conventional western building codes.)
Bitcoin Estimated to Use Half a Percent of the World's Electric Energy by End of 2018 - (EurekAlert – May 16, 2018)
Bitcoin's burgeoning electricity demands have attracted almost as much attention as the cryptocurrency's wildly fluctuating value. But estimating exactly how much electricity the Bitcoin network uses, necessary for understanding its impact and implementing policy, remains a challenge. In the first rigorously peer-reviewed article quantifying Bitcoin's energy requirements, appearing in the journal Joule, financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries uses a new methodology to pinpoint where Bitcoin's electric energy consumption is headed and how soon it might get there. His estimates, based in economics, put the minimum current usage of the Bitcoin network at 2.55 gigawatts, which means it uses almost as much electricity as Ireland. A single transaction uses as much electricity as an average household in the Netherlands uses in a month. By the end of this year, he predicts the network could be using as much as 7.7 gigawatts--as much as Austria and half of a percent of the world's total consumption. Bitcoin is dependent on computers that time-stamp transactions into an ongoing chain to prevent duplicate spending of coins. Computers in the network perform calculations continuously, competing for the chance, once every ten minutes, to be appointed to create the next block of transactions in the chain. The user of the computer that wins is awarded 12.5 new coins--a process known as "mining" Bitcoin. But all the time, even the users that don't win are expending computing power. "You are generating numbers the whole time and the machines you're using for that use electricity. But if you want to get a bigger slice of the pie, you need to increase your computing power. So there's a big incentive for people to increase how much they're spending on electricity and on machines," de Vries says. It's figuring out when that incentive stops paying off that is at the heart of de Vries's estimation method.
China's Superfast Bullet Trains: What It's Like to Ride – (Business Insider – May 14, 2018)
Traveling to China can often feel like visiting the future. The cities stretch out for what seems like forever, while new skyscrapers, bridges, and futuristically designed landmarks spring up every year. Nowhere is this feeling more apparent than when you encounter China's high-speed railway network. At 15,500 miles, the country's "bullet train" is the world's largest. And it's getting larger. The China Railway Corp., the country's government-owned train operator, is getting close to finishing the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, a high-speed rail line spanning more than 80 miles. And the country's plan is to create an extended network that covers 24,000 miles and connects all cities with a population greater than 500,000. Currently, there are over 100 cities in China with a population greater than 1 million, a figure projected to grow to 221 cities by 2025. The practical result of this is that you can pretty much travel in anywhere in China via high-speed rail. It's usually comparable in speed to air travel (once you factor in security lines and check-in) and far more convenient. China's fastest "G" train from Beijing to the northwestern city of Xi'an — roughly the distance between New York and Chicago — takes 4.5 hours. The author found the experience delightful, with relatively cheap tickets, painless security, comfortable seats, air-conditioned cabins, and plenty of legroom.
San Francisco Restaurants Can’t Afford Waiters. So They’re Putting Diners to Work. – (New York Times – June 25, 2018)
Souvla, a Greek restaurant with a devoted following, serves spit-fired meat two ways: in a photogenic sandwich, or on a photogenic salad, either available with a glass of Greek wine. The small menu is so appealing and the place itself so charming that you almost forget, as a diner, that you have to do much of the work of dining out yourself. You scout your own table. You fetch and fill your own water glass. And if you’d like another glass of wine, you go back to the counter. Runners will bring your order to the table, but there are no servers to wait on you, or at the two other San Francisco locations that Souvla has added — or, increasingly, at other popular restaurants that have opened in the last two year. Inside these restaurants, it’s evident that the forces making this one of the most expensive cities in America are subtly altering the economics of everything. Commercial rents have gone up. Labor costs have soared. And restaurant workers, many of them priced out by the expense of housing, have been moving away. Restaurateurs who say they can no longer find or afford servers are figuring out how to do without them. And so in this city of staggering wealth, you can eat like a gourmand, with real stemware and ceramic plates. But first you’ll have to go get your own silverware. Restaurateurs here have taken a model familiar to taquerias and fast-casual, cafeteria-style places like Chipotle Mexican Grill, and pushed it further up the fine-dining food chain. Call it fast-fine, they suggest, or fine-casual. Or counter service “in a full service environment” that includes $11 cocktails and $22 pan-roasted salmon.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Report for Defense Department Ranks Top Threats from 'Synthetic Biology' – (NPR – June 19, 2018)
New genetic tools are making it easier and cheaper to engineer viruses and bacteria, and a report commissioned by the Department of Defense has now ranked the top threats posed by the rapidly advancing field of "synthetic biology." One of the biggest concerns is the ability to recreate known viruses from scratch in the lab. That means a lab could make a deadly virus that is normally kept under lock and key, such as smallpox. "Right now, recreating pretty much any virus can be done relatively easily. It requires a certain amount of expertise and resources and knowledge," says Michael Imperiale, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan who chaired the committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to assess the state of synthetic biology and offer advice to defense officials. As an example of what's possible, Imperiale pointed to the recent and controversial creation of horsepox, a cousin of smallpox, in a Canadian laboratory. "These things can now be done," he said. Another top danger listed in the report is making existing bacteria or viruses more dangerous. That could happen, by, say, giving them antibiotic resistance or altering them so that they produce toxins or evade vaccines. And one scenario pondered by the experts is the creation of microbes that would produce harmful biochemicals in humans while living on the skin or in the gut. This possibility, the report notes, "is of high concern because its novelty challenges potential mitigation options." Public health officials might not even recognize that they were witnessing a biological attack if the dangerous material was delivered to victims in such an unusual way. All in all, the committee examined about a dozen different synthetic biology technologies that could be potentially misused. For each, they considered how likely it was to be usable as a weapon, how much expertise or resources would be needed, and how well governments would be able to recognize and manage an attack.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The End of Civil Rights – (Atlantic – June 18, 2018)
More than a year has elapsed since Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, formerly a senator from Alabama, was appointed U.S. attorney general by President Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, even as the president has agitated in public about firing his attorney general, Sessions has been the true architect of much of what people believe to be Trump’s domestic-policy agenda. As implemented in recent decisions to curtail asylum grants, ramp up immigration enforcement, and dial back criminal-justice reform and voting-rights protections, this agenda is more than just the reversal of policies enacted during the Barack Obama era, which Trump promised during his campaign. Rather, from the Black Belt in Alabama in the 1980s to the farthest reaches of the border fence today, the Sessions Doctrine is the endgame of a long legal tradition of undermining minority civil rights. Sessions has recently pushed for changes in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the immigration-court system embedded within the DOJ. He’s considering ways to force judges to process more deportation cases, changes that several experts say will undoubtedly mean that fewer people receive due process or fair hearings. The attorney general has also moved to firmly limit asylum grants, and recently announced that he could effectively eliminate the ability of immigrants who face domestic or gang violence back home to successfully apply for asylum. That decision risks sending more vulnerable women and targets of gang violence back to dangerous situations. Sessions’s immigration agenda extends well beyond his tightening grip over immigration courts and asylum boards. Even in the framework of the Justice Department’s new opioid policy, Sessions made clear he believed that so-called sanctuary cities and unverified immigrants had essentially imported the opioid problem into the U.S. In retaliation for such cities’ continued refusal to enforce strict federal immigration detentions and referrals, Sessions has fought to strip them of certain avenues of federal-grant funding. Under his guidance, the DOJ’s current top civil-rights lawyer has fought to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census, a change that many immigration advocates and researchers believe will make unverified immigrants more vulnerable to raids and reduce response rates among all immigrants, and in the process punish population centers where immigrants are heavily represented. See also the article in the Demographics/ Statistics section. Taken together, they raise the possibility that official attitudes toward immigration may be influenced by racism.
Washington, D.C.: The Psychopath Capital of America -- (Politico -- June 23, 2018)
Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University, recently published a working paper in which he ranked each of the states by the predominance of psychopaths. To psychologists, a "psychopath" isn't necessarily a Norman Bates or Patrick Bateman lurking with an ax in the shadows; it's a person with a particular collection of antisocial traits, including a powerful sense of spite and an inability to consider the welfare of others. Murphy realized it might be possible to plot them on a map of America when he came across a forthcoming paper from psychologists at the University of Georgia and Purdue University that projects those antisocial traits onto the "Big Five" personality traits-openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism-which had already been mapped geographically. By combining those studies, he could get a rough idea of which areas have the most psychopathic personalities. The winner? Washington in a walk. In fact, the capital scored higher on Murphy's scale than the next two runners-up combined. There's one big structural reason: There tend to be more psychopathic personalities in denser areas, and the District of Columbia is denser than even the densest state, so it makes sense that it would top the list. But even when you correct the rankings for density, Murphy says, Washington still ranks first. This, Murphy hypothesizes, is because psychopaths are attracted to the kinds of jobs Washington offers-jobs that reward raw ambition, a relentless single-mindedness and, let's admit it, the willingness to step over a few bodies along the way. Not all Murphy's colleagues buy his analysis. Josh Miller, a University of Georgia psychologist whose work Murphy used to map psychopathic traits onto the already-existing map of those across the country, points out that Murphy's measurement of "psychopathic" traits includes some positive ones, like low neuroticism and high extraversion. Still, Murphy notes that other work supports his broad conclusions. Washington is awfully rich in the kinds of jobs rated "disproportionately psychopathic" by the psychologist Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.
World to Refugees: Go to Hell – (Nation of Change – June 21, 2018)
The world is experiencing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Today, thousands of refugees face grave harm if they return to their countries of origin. And yet the United States, Turkey, Israel, China, and others blithely return these refugees as part of a worldwide crackdown on “illegal” immigration. as the international community marks World Refugee Day, 22.5 million people have fled their countries to seek refuge elsewhere. In 2016, a mere 189,000 were resettled. That’s less than 1%. It’s as if the entire population of Taiwan were uprooted and forced to find a new country, but only a single neighborhood from the capital city managed to find safe harbor. Here are four examples from around the world of how governments continue to turn away refugees.
China to Make RFID Chips Mandatory in Cars So the Government Can Track Citizens on the Road – (GizModo – June 13, 2108)
China is the world’s largest automotive market, selling nearly 30 million vehicles each year. By requiring the radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to be fixed to the windshields of vehicles, the country can rapidly add new information about citizens as the new, tracker-equipped cars make their way onto the roads. The system will begin rolling out on July 1st of this year. Compliance will be optional for the first year but will become mandatory for new vehicles starting in 2019. The system will mark a sizable expansion of China’s already massive surveillance state, which the government seems intent on monitoring every aspect of its citizens’ lives. The nation’s law enforcement agencies have already littered cities with surveillance cameras in both private and public spaces and intend to combine them into a single network, called “Sharp Eyes,” that will be linked to facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence capable of tracking and surviving individuals. RFID chips in cars aren’t particularly new, nor do they have to be despotic; they are commonly used in fleet commercial vehicles and for automated payment at toll roads in the US and elsewhere. Chinese officials swear the system is intended to improve public safety and lessen traffic congestion but plenty of people have their doubts. The system won’t give the government an up-to-the-second location of citizens, but it will be able to provide China’s Ministry of Public Security with regular updates as people pass roads and stops equipped with reading devices. That information—which will include the license plate number, car make, model, and color—will be transferred to the agency, which they can use as they see fit.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
WHO to Classify 'Gaming Disorder' as Mental Health Condition – (CNN – June 18, 2018)
Watching as a video game ensnares their child, many a parent has grumbled about "digital heroin," likening the flashing images to one of the world's most addictive substances. Now, they may have backup: The World Health Organization is set to announce "gaming disorder" as a new mental health condition to be included in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, set to release Monday. "I'm not creating a precedent," said Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, which proposed the new diagnosis to WHO's decision-making body, the World Health Assembly. Instead, he said, WHO has followed "the trends, the developments, which have taken place in populations and in the professional field." However, not all psychologists agree that gaming disorder is worthy of inclusion in the International Classification of Diseases, known as the ICD. Poznyak said the expectation is that the classification of gaming disorder means health professionals and systems will be more "alerted to the existence of this condition" while boosting the possibility that "people who suffer from these conditions can get appropriate help." He said there are three major diagnostic features or characteristics of gaming disorder. Overall, the main characteristics are "very similar" to the diagnostic features of substance use disorders and gambling disorder, he said. For a diagnosis to be made, the negative pattern of behavior must last at least 12 months: "It cannot be just an episode of few hours or few days," Poznyak said. "Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder," Poznyak said, adding that the overall prevalence of this condition is "very low." And see also: Here’s why experts are skeptical of the ‘gaming disorder’ diagnosis.
Bach at the Burger King – (LA Review of Books – May 17, 2018)
At the corner of 8th and Market in San Francisco, by a shuttered subway escalator outside a Burger King, an unusual soundtrack plays. A beige speaker, mounted atop a tall window, blasts Baroque harpsichord at deafening volumes. The music never stops. Night and day, Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi rain down from Burger King rooftops onto empty streets. Empty streets, however, are the target audience for this concert. The playlist has been selected to repel sidewalk listeners — specifically, the mid-Market homeless who once congregated outside the restaurant doors that served as a neighborhood hub for the indigent. Outside the BART escalator, an encampment of grocery carts, sleeping bags, and plastic tarmacs had evolved into a sidewalk shantytown attracting throngs of squatters and street denizens. The inspiration for the Burger King plan came from the London Underground. In 2005, the metro system started playing orchestral soundtracks in 65 tube stations as part of a scheme to deter “anti-social” behavior, after the surprising success of a 2003 pilot program. The pilot’s remarkable results — seeing train robberies fall 33%, verbal assaults on staff drop 25%, and vandalism decrease 37% after just 18 months of classical music — caught the eye of the global law-enforcement community. Thus, an international phenomenon was born. Since then, weaponized classical music has spread throughout England and the world: police units across the planet now deploy the string quartet as the latest addition to their crime-fighting arsenal, recruiting Officer Johann Sebastian as the newest member of the force. Today, deterrence through classical music is de rigueur for American transit systems. Transportation hubs from coast to coast play classical music for protective purposes. Baroque music seems to make the most potent repellant. Public administrators seldom speculate on the underlying reasons why the music is so effective but often tout the results with a certain pugnacious pride. As a Cleveland official explained, “There’s something about Baroque music that macho wannabe-gangster types hate.” Take your delinquency elsewhere could be the subtext under every tune in the classical crime-fighting movement. It is crucial to remember that the tactic does not aim to stop or even necessarily reduce crime — but to relocate it. “[B]usiness and government leaders,” Lily Hirsch observes in Music in American Crime Prevention and Punishment, “are seizing on classical music not as a positive moralizing force, but as a marker of space.” In a strange mutation, classical music devolves from a “universal language of mankind” reminding all people of their common humanity into a sonic border fence protecting privileged areas from common crowds, telling the plebes in auditory code that “you’re not welcome here.” Weaponized classical music is just the next step in the commodification of the genre. Decades of cultural conditioning have trained the public to identify the symphony as sonic shorthand for social status — and, by extension, exclusion from that status. (Editor’s note: We recommend this article which goes quite a bit further in looking at the effects of commoditizing classical music.)
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Space Junk Removal Test Begins as ISS Deploys RemoveDEBRIS – (NASA – June 20, 2018)
The RemoveDEBRIS satellite was deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, marking the business end of the mission that will test – for the first time – new technology aimed at capturing and deorbiting space junk. The mission, which has received funding from the European Union, will see the satellite demonstrate techniques for capturing and deorbiting debris from low Earth orbit. The spacecraft features three Airbus technologies to perform Active Debris Removal (ADR): a net and a harpoon to capture debris, and also a Vision Based Navigation (VBN) system to develop rendezvous techniques in orbit with space debris. “We have spent many years developing innovative active debris removal systems to be at the forefront of tackling this growing problem of space debris and to contribute to the UNs’ Sustainable Development Goals for our future generations,” noted Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Airbus Space Systems. The satellite will perform tests of its various catch-and-deorbit technologies: the net will be deployed in October this year, followed by the VBN test in late December and then the harpoon in February 2019. The experiments will all be carried out below the orbit of the ISS.
The Future of the Universe Is Dark, But Aliens Could Harness Stars to Light the Way – (Outer Places – June 20, 2018)
The universe has been around for about 13.7 billion years, but looking farther down the road, things start to get pretty bleak. In 100 billion years, dark energy will have caused the universe to expand so much that we may not be able to see other galaxies. At the same time, stars beyond the Local Group (a group of 54 galaxies that includes the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy) will have become so far away that we won't be able to observe or reach them. This inexorable increase in distance on a cosmic scale has prompted the Senior Scientist and Head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at Fermilab, Dan Hooper, to propose that advanced civilizations (human or otherwise) would be forced to start collecting stars and pulling them closer to their Galactic Center in order to survive. The reasoning goes that advanced (potentially interstellar) civilizations would need huge amounts of energy to keep themselves afloat. Even a resource-rich planet probably would conceivably have trouble sustaining its population's energy needs for over a million years, not to mention the fact that ruthlessly exploiting a planet's resources might result in extinction in the end game. With this in mind, the creation of Dyson spheres or something similar would probably be the ultimate solution to fulfilling a massive civilization's needs: by enclosing stars in megastructures that can absorb 100% of the energy radiated by a star and funneling it somewhere else, a civilization would have huge amounts of power at its disposal. We're talking about an unfathomable amount of energy here—the likes of which humanity has never seen. As Hopper points out in the paper, the amount of power an advanced alien civilization could harvest with enough sophisticated technology at its disposal is truly mind-boggling. Hooper's study outlines which stars would be most valuable for this purpose and even gives some potential signs astronomers can look for that would signal that an alien civilization is already doing this, but it doesn't seem to offer a mechanism for moving the stars around.
How U.S. Demographics Are Changing: America Got Less White, Older, and More Urban Last Year – (Fortune – June 2, 2018)
The nation’s over/under age demarcation line rose to 38.0 years, according to 2017 estimates released today from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2000, the median age was 37.2 years. “Baby boomers, and millennials alike, are responsible for this trend in increased aging,” said Molly Cromwell, a demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. “Boomers continue to age and are slowly outnumbering children as the birth rate has declined steadily over the last decade.” By 2035, Americans age 65 and older are forecast to outnumber kids for the first time. America is becoming more diverse by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic whites are shrinking in population, while all other race and ethnic groups grew between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017. Non-Hispanic white alone population decreased .02% to 197.8 million. The non-Hispanic white alone population is projected to continue aging and decline in terms of size. The Hispanic population increased 2.1% to 58.9 million, and made up 18.1% of the nation’s total population in 2017. The gain was primarily due to natural increases (the difference between births and deaths), not net migration. The Asian population, the fastest-growing racial group in the nation, increased 3.1% to 22.2 million. Their increase is primarily due to net migration. For more details see “America’s white population shrinks for the first time as nation ages”. Demographers say the decline in the white population has been coming for decades, as Americans decide to have children at later ages and as the baby-boom generation moves toward retirement. Today, there are fewer white women in prime childbearing years as a share of the overall population than ever before, and more minorities in childbearing years than ever before.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
A Galactic Test to Clarify the Existence of Dark Matter – (PhysOrg – June 26, 2018)
Researchers at the University of Bonn and the University of California at Irvine used sophisticated computer simulations to devise a test that could answer a burning question in astrophysics: does dark matter actually exist? Or does Newton's gravitational law need to be modified? The new study, published in the Physical Review Letters, shows that the answer is hidden in the motion of the stars within small satellite galaxies swirling around the Milky Way. "We have now simulated, for the first time, the radial acceleration relation of dwarf galaxies on the assumption that dark matter exists," explains Prof. Dr. Cristiano Porciani of the Argelander Institute for Astronomy at the University of Bonn. "It turned out that they behave as scaled-down versions of larger galaxies." But what if there is no dark matter and instead gravity works differently than Newton thought? "In this case, the RAR of dwarf galaxies depends strongly on the distance to their parent galaxy, while this does not happen if dark matter exists," explains researcher Emilio Romano-Díaz. This difference makes the satellites a powerful probe for testing whether dark matter really exists. The Gaia spacecraft, which was launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2013, could provide an answer. It was designed to study the stars in the Milky Way and its satellite galaxies in unprecedented detail and has collected a large amount of data. However, it will probably take years to analyze the data. "Individual measurements are not enough to test the small differences we have found in our simulations," explains doctoral student Enrico Garaldi. "But repeatedly examining the same stars improves the measurements every time. Sooner or later, it should be possible to determine whether the dwarf galaxies behave as in a universe with dark matter—or not."
High-quality Carbon Nanotubes Made from Carbon Dioxide in the Air Break the Manufacturing Cost Barrier – (Kurzweil AI – May 24, 2018)
Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered a technique to cost-effectively convert carbon dioxide from the air into a type of carbon nanotubes that they say is “more valuable than any other material ever made.” Carbon nanotubes are super-materials that can be stronger than steel and more conductive than copper. So despite much research, why aren’t they used in applications ranging from batteries to tires? Answer: The price ranges from $100–200 per kilogram for the “economy class” carbon nanotubes with larger diameters and poorer properties, up to $100,000 per kilogram and above for the “first class” carbon nanotubes — ones with a single wall, the smallest diameters, and the most amazing properties, Cary Pint, PhD, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at Vanderbilt University, explained. The researchers have demonstrated a new process for creating carbon-nanotube-based material, using carbon dioxide as a feedstock input source. Using sustainable electrochemical synthesis, they achieved the smallest-diameter and most valuable CNTs ever reported in the literature for this approach. This technology has implications for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Note: Neither the article nor the embedded video clip give any further information on the actual process, which is apparently proprietary and being developed by a spin-off company called SkyNano LLC.
Amazon Has Already Begun Automating Its White-collar Jobs – (Quartz – June 14, 2018)
Algorithms have usurped Amazon’s retail decision-makers. The e-commerce company once relied on humans to predict demand of certain products, such as anticipating and ordering a glut of the season’s hottest toys ahead of the holiday season. But that the decision-making process has slowly transitioned towards automated ordering and communication with manufacturers, leaving humans in the lurch. This trend isn’t surprising at an automation-minded company like Amazon, but it’s indicative of a wider trend in analytics-based jobs: The algorithms are coming. Whether it’s insurance adjusting or product buying like Amazon’s workers, there could be software that does an increasingly better job for a lower cost than a human salary. The transition within Amazon is credited to two forces. The company launched a pilot project called “hands off the wheel” that automated demand forecasting and negotiating prices with vendors, and the rise of the Amazon Marketplace, where vendors can bypass Amazon’s buyers and sell their wares directly on the site on their own. “Computers know what to buy and when to buy, when to offer a deal and when not to,” said Neil Ackerman, a former Amazon executive who now manages the global supply chain at Johnson & Johnson. “These algorithms take in thousands of inputs and are always running smarter than any human.”
When Robots Write the Editorials, All Will Benefit – (Financial Times – June 22, 2018)
Some journalists — unenlightened ones, of course — must have felt a shudder when an IBM artificial intelligence system came very close to beating two humans in a debating competition, judged by an audience of humans. For what is an editorial, or indeed any piece of opinion writing, but taking up, in print, one half of a debate? If computer can hold up its end in an argument, then it can take a view on the great issues of the day in 600 words of clean prose. Journalists with a grasp of economics and the history of technology will greet the robot editorialists as liberators. Like former workers before them, wordsmiths will soon be liberated from a repetitive, exhausting form of work — specifically the drudgery of forming one opinion after another, day after day after day. That the debating AI system (called, with typical IBM flair, “debater”) lost narrowly to the homo sapiens is but a detail. We all know what happens when a machine becomes able to complete a given task even remotely as well as a competent human being. A few years later — the period is getting shorter all the time — the machine has transformed the primate into a quaint relic. Technological innovation has been taking jobs away for centuries. But it has always replaced them, and the replacements have, on the whole, been preferable to the ones that went before. But the new jobs are not necessarily handed to the same people who were deprived of the old ones. So what is to become of the redundant opinion writers? Someone, of course, will still have to tell the computers which fundamental principles are worth arguing for. Deciding what is valuable in human life will always be an intrinsically human activity. So here is the solution: former opinion writers could become in-house philosophers. The only drawback is that philosophy is one of the few lines of work that pays worse than journalism.
A Staggeringly Well-Funded Blowback Machine – (Lobe Log – May 19, 2018)
The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute published an estimate of the taxpayer dollars that will have gone into America’s war on terror from September 12, 2001, through fiscal year 2018. That figure: a cool $5.6 trillion (including the future costs of caring for our war vets). On average, that’s at least $23,386 per taxpayer. Keep in mind that such figures, however eye-popping, are only the dollar costs of our wars. They don’t, for instance, include the psychic costs to the Americans mangled in one way or another in those never-ending conflicts. In reality, the costs of America’s wars, still spreading in the Trump era, are incalculable. Just look at photos of the cities of Ramadi or Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa or Aleppo in Syria, Sirte in Libya, or Marawi in the southern Philippines, all in ruins in the wake of the conflicts Washington set off in the post–9/11 years, and try to put a price on them. Those views of mile upon mile of rubble, often without a building still standing untouched, should take anyone’s breath away. Some of those cities may never be fully rebuilt. America’s never-ending twenty-first-century conflicts were triggered by the decision of George W. Bush and his top officials to instantly define their response to attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center by a tiny group of jihadis as a “war”; then to proclaim it nothing short of a “Global War on Terror”; and finally to invade and occupy first Afghanistan and then Iraq, with dreams of dominating the Greater Middle East — and ultimately the planet — as no other imperial power had ever done. And here was the result of their conceptual overreach: never, it could be argued, has a great power still in its imperial prime proven quite so incapable of applying its military and political might in a way that would advance its aims. It’s a strange fact of this century that the U.S. military has been deployed across vast swaths of the planet and somehow, again and again, has found itself overmatched by underwhelming enemy forces and incapable of producing any results other than destruction and further fragmentation. The US is a nation which, though few Americans realize it, has increasingly been unmade by war — by the conflicts Washington’s war on terror triggered that have now morphed into the wars of so many and have, in the process, changed us. (Editor’s note: This essay is the introduction to Tom Engelhardt’s new book, A Nation Unmade by War. Whatever your political persuasion, Engelhardt’s observations are worth examining.)
In 'Our Towns,' Married Authors Crisscross America to Take a 'Fresh Look' at USA – (USA Today – May 8, 2018)
The book reference in the link above is one facet of the “whole picture”; here’s another, equally real, facet. James Fallows and Deborah Fallows, the married authors of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America believe that “Most parts of America have been doing better, in most ways, than most Americans imagine,” James Fallows argues in his half of the book’s introduction. “We wanted to take a fresh look at the country, its disappointments and its possibilities.” Fallows, a longtime national correspondent for The Atlantic, and his wife, author of the books A Mother’s Work and Dreaming in Chinese, navigate our country’s current course is literally by flying across America in their plane, a Cirrus single-engine prop. The pair drop down into 29 towns across the USA’s length and breadth, soft-landing at the local airport and fanning out to sample the local institutions, industries and attitudes. Forty two towns in four years. Absorbing. Listening. The conversational tone of what is essentially the Fallowses’ travel diary is dulled by the drone of data-speak, fact- and statistic-laden, that, while welcome in our fact-sketchy contemporary climate, makes for some arduous reading. Perhaps this is a function of the upbeat message that Our Towns is dedicated to delivering. The Fallowses mostly share municipal success story after success story, a litany of towns in renaissance, towns that have thwarted their industrial decay, reinvented their downtowns, reinvigorated their school systems and repurposed their old mills and factories. The structure, inescapably, is meandering. The authors strive to give faces to the civic leaders, educators, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, public servants, librarians, business people, city planners, artists, workers, immigrants and students they meet along their way. The good news is welcome. The bad news is a lack of dramatic tension. Any alternate narrative of dying towns still trying, or failing, to rehabilitate themselves largely gets lost. (Editor’s note: No one book can be perfectly balanced; reality is too large and too complex. So read many books.)
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
Lemonade Company to Help Pay Gov’t Fines, Licenses for Kids’ Lemonade Stands – (Steemit – June 7, 2018)
In a show of marketing brilliance, the Country Time lemonade company launched a campaign to help children who have had their lemonade stands shut down by local governments and sending cops to inform them they require permits or licenses. According to a tweet from Country Time: “Kids across the country are getting busted for operating lemonade stands without a permit. We're taking the lead to #SaveLemonadeStands by paying for kids' fines + permits this year. For every RT (retweet) this gets we’ll donate $1 (up to $500,000) to help kids next year + beyond.” The company has launched a website where children can apply to be reimbursed for fines and fees they incur while operating lemonade stands. Over Memorial Day weekend, vendors in Denver, called the police on three young brothers nearby who were operating a lemonade stand to raise money for a child’s advocacy organization. In 2015, two sisters in Texas had their stand, which they set up to save money for a Father’s Day present, shut down because they did not have a $150 permit. Further, they were in violation of the state’s regulations on sales of refrigerated beverages. Eventually, they beat the system by offering their drinks for free and taking donations. Red tape and regulations surrounding business permits and public health are present around the country. As CNBC noted in 2015: “A 7 year old in Oregon folded her stand in 2010 because of concerns from a county health official about public safety and sanitation. In order to comply with the local health codes she would have had to purchase a $120 temporary restaurant license. The fee for this type permit varies by state and town. For example, in New York, a one-year permit costs $70, but businesses must also pay $114 for a food protection course and another $25 if they're selling frozen desserts. Though Country Time’s plan to pay for permits and licenses may help children carry out their entrepreneurial dreams, the funds won’t do much to fight the increasingly excessive regulations, fines, and fees limiting innocent, voluntary exchange between consenting individuals.
Snopes Finally Exposed As CIA Operation – (YourNewsWire – May 18, 2018)
According to Wikipedia, the Mikkelsons, a California couple, created the Snopes site in 1995. By mid-2014, the couple had divorced and Barbara Mikkelson had not written for the site “in several years”. So David Mikkelson “hired employees to assist him from Snopes.com’s message board.” Barbara no longer has an ownership stake in Snopes.com. According to investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, Snopes was formed by the Central Intelligence Agency in order to spread disinformation on the internet, and stifle subversive outlets. From Madsen’s for-subscribers-only report (paywalled) of Oct. 7, 2016, Snopes.com: the latest CIA addition to Internet disinformation: Snopes’s most recent (“recent”, that is, relative to the Oct., 2016 article) “dissembling of the truth was to discount reports from Greece that Turkey has been shipping weapons disguised as furniture shipments to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and affiliated terrorist groups in North Africa and Europe. Snopes claims that because the story of a Greek Coast Guard interception of a weapons shipment south of the island of Crete dates from 2015, there is no validity to the Turkish connection to weapons shipments to ISIL terrorists. The ship transporting the weapons was the Bolivian-flagged Haddad 1, operated by Delta Sea Maritime of Turkey. The vessel had loaded twelve containers at the Egyptian port of Alexandria, a favorite weapons shipment location for the CIA. The ship, before stopping in Famagusta in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, loaded another three containers at the Turkish port of Iskenderun, the transit port for the shipment of captured weapons from Muammar Qaddafi’s arms warehouses to Syrian jihadist rebels. It was the Iskenderun transport operation that involved the late U.S. envoy to Libya Christopher Stevens; Turkish Consul General in Benghazi Ali Sait Akin; CIA director David Petraeus; and, reportedly, senior advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” (Editor’s note: As far as we can determine, there is no source that can definitively validate or invalidate any of the information above. Given the current levels of biased, intentionally misrepresented, and even factually inaccurate material in general circulation, the story above does not strain credibility – and neither does it convince. However, we see no reason that Snopes may not be a source for largely accurate analysis of “news” items – but with a relatively few number of its conclusions “directed” by government entities. “Disinformation” is indeed one of the means used by the US Department of Defense to advance its agendas. See this article from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.)
JUST FOR FUN
Mini Trucks in Japan Are Being Transformed Into Enchanting Tiny Gardens – (MyModernMet – June 7, 2018)
Every year, the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors hosts the Kei Truck Garden Contest, a quirky competition that turns tiny trucks into moveable gardens. The annual event attracts landscape artists all over the country, inviting them to pair their knack for gardening with a need for speed. Praised for its practical size and maneuverability, the miniature Kei truck fittingly has roots in Japan's construction and agriculture industries. Though typically used to transport materials to and from work sites, for this contest, the vehicle is reimagined as the foundation for these enchanting pop-up gardens. Year after year, the eye-catching entries of the contest highlight the distinctive beauty of the Japanese garden. While most participants stick to traditional design elements, like pebble paths, sliding screen doors, and tranquil water fixtures, others have a more modern and minimalist look. No matter the aesthetic approach, however, each exquisite creation proves that a flat bed can be a flower bed with a green thumb and a colorful imagination.
A FINAL QUOTE
It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations. – Walter Bagehot (1826 – 1877)
A special thanks to: Bernard Calil, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Steve McDonald, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.