FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT--
- Chicago has the most extensive video surveillance network in the U.S., with more than 32,000 cameras.
- Playing certain types of video games could have beneficial effects on grey matter in the hippocampus and slow cognitive decline among the elderly.
- China plans to put a solar farm in space by 2025.
- The economic thinker who most influenced the Green New Deal is Alexander Hamilton.
by John L. Petersen
Dream Detective Who Notified US Government About 9/11 Two Weeks Before The Event Coming to TransitionTalks
There’s only one person in the world who started dreaming about the 9/11 attack six months before it happened . . . and notified the US embassy in London of the impending disaster two weeks before that fateful day.
The Americans didn’t listen, but they should have. For Christopher Robinson was the man that British Intelligence and Scotland Yard depended on to dream about the future and notify them of upcoming IRA bombing plans. They depended on Chris because he never missed telling them when and where an upcoming attack would take place. He has anticipated plane crashes days before the event, found deceased crime victims, found missing persons that the police couldn’t locate (and told me in the morning, with extraordinary accuracy, what was going to happen in that afternoon)!
Chris’s amazing ability to dream about the future in terms that can be reliably translated into people, times, places and activities has been the subject of books, major university scientific studies, films, articles, TV shows and just about all forms of media.
He has taught many people how to dream about the future and, through his advanced intuitive capabilities, helped thousands to understand how to deal with seemingly impossible personal situations. He is also a healer, having on numerous occasions led people with supposedly terminal conditions to eliminate those issues and return to a healthy life.
There is no one in the world that has the fascinating background (undercover police work, etc.), coupled with the amazing personal gifts that Chris does and he’s coming from London especially to be with us to tell his story, explain his dreaming technique, demonstrate his healing modality and tell us what he thinks is on the horizon, in one very memorable Saturday afternoon on April 27th in Berkeley Springs.
As an added bonus, Chris will be available for personal consultations on Sunday the 28th. You can find complete information at www.transitiontalks.org.
Here’s a video about Chris that will give you a taste of this extraordinary man.
Come to Berkeley Springs on Saturday, the 27th of April to hear Christopher Robinson and stay around for the reception afterwards to meet him personally. Get the complete details at TransitionTalks.org.
How Do You Know What’s True?
Eighteen years ago I wrote a book review for a scientific journal about the fascinating book, The Missing Times: News Media Complicity In the UFO Cover-up. I stumbled onto it again the other day and found it particularly timely. You may find it of interest.
A couple of months ago there were some new findings in science that repealed a physical law that I had been taught was universal in engineering school. It was the way reality always worked. That event was a reminder that all of the things that we take for granted in science are only temporary assumptions about how physical reality works-always subject to new discoveries and theories that will surely come in the future. That is, unless we think that in some area we have struck immutable truth and there is nothing more possible to learn about a particular subject. (Some scientists act that way, but I don't think humanity has yet "arrived.")
Our understanding of reality may be conditional in science, but we bet on it in the short run, assuming that what we believe is true. It's great to believe we know what we think we know. It provides stability, sanity, authority, employment and even uninterrupted sleep at night. If everything (or even a significant portion) of what we are told by others is suspect, well, then it starts to be like the Matrix, or the Soviet Union in the early 80s, where nobody believed the media, rumors carried the day, and everyone had so lost faith in the government that they became expert at reading between the lines, three levels deep, to try to figure out what really was happening at any distance greater than one's personal line-of-sight. Very socially corrosive.
Fortunately, that isn't the case in the U.S. Here, an independent press balances the government's penchant for secrecy and, on balance, Americans have a pretty good idea of what is going on. Right?
Well, if you believe Terry Hansen, the answer is: it depends. It depends on whether the government really wants you to know about something or not. If not, there is a longstanding sweetheart relationship with the media in this country that conspires to only report the government story.
Farfetched? Another crazy conspiracy theory? You should read this book. (read more . . .)
Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers |
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
Chicago’s Vast Camera Network Helped Solve Jussie Smollett Case – (Associated Press – February 22, 2019)
Chicago has the most extensive video surveillance network in the U.S., with access to more than 32,000 cameras mounted on buildings, poles, train tunnels and buses — and even in businesses and private residences whose owners agree to opt into the system full-time. What’s more, authorities can track someone by linking those cameras at a sophisticated emergency command center, police stations, or even from tablets in officers’ squad cars. Police used this network to track down two brothers who later claimed they were paid by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett to stage an attack on him, the latest example of the city’s high-tech approach to public safety. Officers said they reviewed video from more than four dozen cameras to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, determining where they lived and who they were before arresting them a little more than two weeks later. The search went beyond surveillance cameras to include other electronic records. Detectives also reviewed in-car taxi videos, telephone logs, ride-share records and credit card records, according to a summary of the case released by prosecutors. (Editor’s note: As Scot McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, told a group of reporters in 1999. “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”)
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
How the Brain Creates a Timeline of the Past – (Quanta – February 12, 2019)
The brain can’t directly encode the passage of time, but recent work hints at a workaround for putting timestamps on memories of events. Theoretical and experimental studies are piecing together how the brain creates a temporal context for ordering memories — a kind of trailing timeline that gets blurrier for events receding into the past. “Color or shape perception, that’s much more obvious,” said Masamichi Hayashi, a cognitive neuroscientist at Osaka University in Japan. “But time is such an elusive property.” To encode that, the brain has to do something less direct. Since the discovery of neurons dubbed “time cells” in 2008, researchers had seen detailed, confirming evidence of only half of the theoretical mathematics involved in describing how the human brain tracks time. The other half, the intermediate representation of time, remained entirely theoretical – until last summer.
Exposure to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Meta-Analysis and Supporting Evidence – (Science Direct – February 10, 2019)
Taken from the abstract of the research article: Recent evaluations of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) by various regional, national, and international agencies have engendered controversy. We investigated whether there was an association between high cumulative exposures to GBHs and increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in humans. We conducted a new meta-analysis that included the most recent update of the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) cohort published in 2018 along with five case-control studies. Using the highest exposure groups when available in each study, we report the overall meta-relative risk (meta-RR) of NHL in GBH-exposed individuals was increased by 41% (meta-RR = 1.41, 95% CI, confidence interval: 1.13–1.75). For comparison, we also performed a secondary meta-analysis using high-exposure groups with the earlier AHS (2005), and we determined a meta-RR for NHL of 1.45 (95% CI: 1.11–1.91), which was higher than the meta-RRs reported previously. Overall, in accordance with evidence from experimental animal and mechanistic studies, our current meta-analysis of human epidemiological studies suggests a compelling link between exposures to glyphosate-based herbicides and increased risk for cancer. (Editor’s note: In other words, the people working in the fields manually spraying GBHs have a 41% higher chance of being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Your chances presumably rise with your – inevitable – degree of exposure.)
A Cell-killing Strategy to Slow Aging Passed Its First Test This Year – (Technology Review – February 13, 2019)
James Kirkland, a Mayo Clinic professor, helped lead the trial, which was carried out in clinics in Texas and at Wake Forest University starting in 2016. Patients took two pills that Kirkland and his colleagues believed could selectively get rid of aged cells: the leukemia drug dasatinib and a supplement called quercetin. It is early days for drugs meant to slow aging, and some breathed a sigh of relief that patients in this first-of-a-kind study didn't suffer serious side-effects from the drugs. This was a pilot trial—not even in the first phase of a three-part sequence of trials needed to win approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. So, officially, it showed nothing about aging at all. All 14 patients suffered from a fatal, hard-to-treat lung condition called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which explains why they were willing to participate in the experiment. The doctors found that nine doses of the two pills over three weeks did seem to improve patients’ ability to walk a bit farther in the same amount of time, and several other measures of well-being. In idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, senescent cells build up in the lungs. In previous tests on mice, a combination of dasatinib and quercetin, which is a plant pigment, had been shown to eliminate such cells and extend the time the animals remained healthy (although it didn’t make them live longer). Musi says he and Kirkland and their collaborators have begun a trial in 15 more lung patients, and the team at Mayo is testing the drug combination in 20 patients with chronic kidney disease. “If we see effectiveness signals and don’t encounter really bad side effects, we’ll try to get to people with less and less life-threatening conditions,” Kirkland says. “If everything goes right.”
In the Future, Senior Citizens Will Play Video Games All Day – (Medium – January 31,2019)
Like television before it, there’s a contentious debate over the association between violent video game play and aggression. Gaming can also be habit-forming, and the World Health Organization now — controversially — recognizes “gaming disorder” as a real-world affliction. These attention-grabbing associations, however, belie a different side of games, one that enhances lives and could even help treat some of the more devastating symptoms of age. In 2015, Gregory West, an associate professor at the University of Montreal, started posting flyers around campus for a series of psychological studies. Participants would be questioned, screened, and then receive an MRI to study the levels of grey matter in various regions of their brain. Then, they would be paid $9 an hour play Super Mario 64 for two to four hours a day, three times a week, for a total of 90 hours each. West and his co-authors’ hypothesis, building from a slightly more limited German study in 2014, was that certain types of games could have effects on grey matter in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that stores spatial memory — the sense of direction that lets us navigate the world. It’s also one of the first regions to show damage from diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, whose first symptoms are often disorientation and short-term memory loss. What they found was that people in the groups that played Super Mario 64, in both studies, had an increase in grey matter in their hippocampus. The results, West was careful to point out, don’t mean that Super Mario 64 is a cure for Alzheimer’s but rather that there’s a realistic chance that playing games that test our spatial memory could help preserve or even restore grey matter in healthy adults as they age, helping cut down their risks of neurological decay later in life, something he calls a “cognitive intervention.” “At this point, we simply have a proof of concept,” West said. “We don’t really have the data to show that this is the case yet.” Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Neuroscape’s founder and executive director, said that he sees interactive experiences like closed-loop, adaptable video games as a way to change our brains for the better without relying on molecular-based therapies like drugs. Experiential treatments, he said, are ideally preventative care rather than cures but, if applied correctly as we age, could drastically increase our quality of life. (Editor’s note: We particularly recommend this article.)
Shark DNA Could Help Cure Cancer and Age-related Illnesses in Humans – (BBC News – February 19, 2019)
The first map of great white sharks' DNA has revealed "mutations" that protect the animals against cancer and other illnesses. The great white's ability to repair its own DNA has evolved in ways ours hasn't. The research was carried out by a team of scientists at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Unstable genes in humans are what make us vulnerable to aged-related diseases such as cancer. Because sharks have been around and at the top of their game for so long, they have evolved so their DNA can repair itself and is more tolerant to damage. Great white sharks have been patrolling the seas for at least 16 million years and at their biggest, can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh as much as three tons. Shark DNA is one-and-a-half times bigger than human DNA, meaning there are things coded into the animals that, at the moment, humans can't do. And scientists hope to unlock those secrets and use them to treat the problems that DNA is already solving in sharks. They believe sharks could also help wound-healing and blood-clotting, because of their ability to recover quickly from serious injuries.
DNA Gets a New — and Bigger — Genetic Alphabet – (New York Times – February 21, 2019)
In 1985, the chemist Steven A. Benner sat down with some colleagues and a notebook and sketched out a way to expand the alphabet of DNA. He has been trying to make those sketches real ever since. Now, Dr. Benner and a team of scientists reported success: in a paper, published in Science, they said they have in effect doubled the genetic alphabet. Natural DNA is spelled out with four different letters known as bases — A, C, G and T. Dr. Benner and his colleagues have built DNA with eight bases — four natural, and four unnatural. They named their new system Hachimoji DNA (hachi is Japanese for eight, moji for letter). Crafting the four new bases that don't exist in nature was a chemical tour-de-force. They fit neatly into DNA’s double helix, and enzymes can read them as easily as natural bases, in order to make molecules. Hachimoji DNA could have many applications, including a far more durable way to store digital data that could last for centuries. It also raises a profound question about the nature of life elsewhere in the universe, offering the possibility that the four-base DNA we are familiar with may not be the only chemistry that could support life.
Deer in 24 States Infected with Chronic Wasting Disease – (CNN – February 16, 2019)
Chronic wasting disease has been detected in wild deer, elk or moose in 24 states, (article gives link to map of states affected) with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning hunters to avoid handling or eating potentially infected meat. The disease affects the central nervous system and animals can show signs of drastic weight loss, lack of coordination and listlessness. It's in the same family of disease as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which the CDC describes as "a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurodegenerative disorder." The center says scientists believe the contagious disease is passed between animals through bodily fluids. In deer and other cervids, the disease has an incubation period of over a year, with some animals not showing symptoms for years after being infected, the CDC says. But the disease is always fatal. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says animals will test positive for the disease long before its clinical signs appear "and the majority of CWD positive animals that are harvested appear completely normal and healthy." The disease was first found in captive deer in Colorado in the 1960s and in wild deer in 1981.
Surprising Discovery Made About Chronic Wasting Disease – (Food Safety News – June 1, 2015)
Recent research, primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health, has opened the door to one of the reasons chronic wasting disease (CWD) is so pervasive — and actually endemic in a large swath of land in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. According to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), grass plants can bind, uptake and transport infectious prions. “With prions, nothing like that works,” said Claudio Soto, Ph.D., a UTHealth researcher and lead author of an article about the topic. Soto’s team analyzed the retention of CWD and other infectious prion proteins and their infectivity in wheat grass roots and leaves that had been incubated with prion-contaminated material. They discovered that even highly diluted amounts of the material can bind to the roots and leaves. From there, they fed the wheat grass to hamsters, which became infected with the disease. The team also found the infectious prion proteins in plants that had been exposed to urine and feces from prion-infected hamsters and deer. In addition, the team found that plants can uptake prions from contaminated soil and transport them to different parts of the plant. By doing this, the plants can act as a carrier of CWD.
Your Smart Light Can Tell Amazon and Google When You Go to Bed – (BloombergQuint – February 11, 2019)
For several years, Amazon and Google have collected data every time someone used a smart speaker to turn on a light or lock a door. Now they’re asking smart-home gadget makers such as Logitech and Hunter Fan Co. to send a continuous stream of information. In other words, after you connect a light fixture to Alexa, Amazon wants to know every time the light is turned on or off, regardless of whether you asked Alexa to toggle the switch. Televisions must report the channel they’re set to. Smart locks must keep the company apprised whether or not the front door bolt is engaged. Public guidelines published by Amazon and Google don’t appear to set limits on what the companies can do with the information they glean about how people use appliances. But some device makers are pushing back, saying automatic device updates don’t give users enough control over what data they share, or how it can be used. Ian Crowe, a senior director with Logitech International S.A., a builder of computer and home electronics accessories, noted, “We should have a good reason, and our users should agree it’s a good reason,” before sharing data. Logitech has tried to meet Amazon and Google halfway. Rather than tell smart speakers what each device connected to Logitech's Harmony remote controls were doing, Crowe says Logitech reports back with broad descriptions, specifying that a user is watching television instead of passing on information about their choice of channel, for instance. But executives at two other smart device makers, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect business relationships, say they’ve asked for concessions from Amazon and Google related to user privacy or transparency and guarantees about use of the data, but been rebuffed.
AI Predictions for 2019 from Yann LeCun, Hilary Mason, Andrew Ng, and Rumman Chowdhury – (Venture Beat – January 2, 2019)
Artificial intelligence is cast all at once as the technology that will save the world and end it. To cut through the noise and hype, here are four luminaries whose views on the right way to do AI have been informed by years of working with some of the biggest tech and industry companies on the planet. There are insights from Google Brain cofounder Andrew Ng, Cloudera general manager of ML and Fast Forward Labs founder Hilary Mason, Facebook AI Research founder Yann LeCun, and Accenture’s responsible AI global lead Dr. Rumman Chowdhury. Amid a recap of the year and predictions for the future, some said they were encouraged to be hearing fewer Terminator AI apocalypse scenarios, as more people understand what AI can and cannot do. But these experts also stressed a continued need for computer and data scientists in the field to adopt responsible ethics as they advance artificial intelligence. For example, from Dr. Rumman Chowdhury, named to BBC’s 100 Women list in 2017: “I’d like to see us digging into the difficult questions AI will raise, the ones that have no clear answer. What is the ‘right’ balance of AI- and IoT-enabled monitoring that allows for security but resists a punitive surveillance state that reinforces existing racial discrimination? How should we shape the redistribution of gains from advanced technology so we are not further increasing the divide between the haves and have-nots? What level of exposure to children allows them to be ‘AI natives’ but not manipulated or homogenized? How do we scale and automate education using AI but still enable creativity and independent thought to flourish?” (Editor’s note: If you have time to read only one article mentioned in this issue of FE, choose this one.)
This Microplastic Biodegrades Instead of Sitting around for Hundreds of Years – (Fast Company – January 28, 2019)
When you’re picturing the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, you might imagine water filled with plastic water bottles or straws. But another source of plastic in water is clothing: A fleece jacket, for example, can shed hundreds of thousands of tiny fibers every time it’s washed. Those synthetic fibers often make their way through drains and wastewater plants into waterways, where fish can eat them. PrimaLoft, the company known for making microfiber insulation that fills jackets made by brands like L.L. Bean, has spent the last five years working on an alternative. Its new insulation is still synthetic–made from 100% recycled polyester–but if the material ends up in a landfill, unlike other plastic, it will biodegrade relatively quickly. The same is true if the material ends up in the ocean. The technology is proprietary, but essentially the company has added a food source for microorganisms present in landfills or water to the polyester. “The microorganisms are attracted to the material and they feed off it, and as they feed off it, they’re eating the food we’re giving them, but they’re also degrading the polyester at the same time,” says Joyce. In landfill tests, the materials reached near complete biodegradation in around a year, and significantly biodegraded in a marine environment. That’s not a complete solution–if the material ends up in the ocean, a fish might still eat it as it waits to biodegrade. But it’s a step above standard plastic. “The material is not going to be sitting there for thousands of years building up on the ocean floor,” he says. (The material only degrades under certain conditions, so a jacket filled with it will be durable for years.)
China Wants to Put a Solar Farm in Space by 2025 – (Engadget – February 18, 2019)
Scientists have long hypothesized that gathering the sun's energy from space would be a lot more effective. And now China says it's going to be the first to do exactly that, announcing plans to build an interstellar power station that will orbit the Earth at 36,000 kilometers. According to China's state-backed Science and Technology Daily, Chinese scientists plan to build and launch small power stations into the stratosphere between 2021 and 2025, upgrading to a megawatt-level station in 2030 and a gigawatt-level facility high above the earth before 2050. Without atmospheric interference or night-time loss of sunlight, these space-based solar farms could provide an inexhaustible source of clean energy. The China Academy of Space Technology Corporation claims such a set-up could "reliably supply energy 99% of the time, at six-times the intensity" of solar installations on earth. China's proposal suggests converting solar energy into electricity in space, before beaming back to Earth using a microwave or laser and feeding into the grid via a ground receiving system. There are, of course, numerous challenges associated with this sci-fi-sounding plan. Such a power station would weigh a considerable amount -- around 1,000 tons -- so getting the gear into orbit will be difficult. Researchers are therefore considering whether the station could be constructed in space using robots and 3D printing. The effects of microwave radiation on the atmosphere will also need to be studied. But it's clearly not beyond the realms of possibility.
Rail Regains Momentum in the Gulf States – (Railway Age – January 29, 2019)
The Middle East is on the cusp of large-scale rail expansion, and unlike previous attempts, many socio-economic and political factors are combining to create a sustainable ecosystem for investment. Currently, 6,294 route-kilometers is under construction across the region, accounting for more than $105 billion of investment, with an estimated 8,338 route-km set to be constructed by 2035. The most prominent countries in the Middle East are the Arab Gulf States, which with the exception of Iraq, make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The region’s most ambitious project, the Gulf Railway, is a proposed line that will connect all GCC member states, totaling 2,177 km, and is estimated to cost up to $250 billion. Each of the states will be responsible for implementing their own portion, with the largest sections in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Saudi Arabia. In Abu Dhabi, there are currently seven metro (rapid transit) and light rail projects under construction. Abu Dhabi is planning to develop a 131-km metro network, which includes underground sections totaling 18 km. In Saudi Arabia, the first section of Riyadh’s metro system is expected to open this year. The network will comprise six driverless lines totaling 176 km with 85 stations.
Some Foods Really Are Linked with a Higher Rate of Death, Study Finds – (Science Alert – February 13, 2019)
Food is full of chemicals. After all, everything is chemicals. But modern 'ultraprocessed' food is something else again – and new research suggests it could be more harmful than we suspect. A massive new study by scientists in France examining the dietary intake of over 44,000 French adults found that consumption of ultraprocessed foods – including mass-produced snacks, sugary drinks, and ready-made meals – was associated with a higher risk of mortality. Consumption of ultraprocessed foods – which also include highly processed breads, plus confectioneries and processed meats – is known to be problematic, having already been tied to higher risk of things like obesity, hypertension, and cancer. Up until now, though, nobody had separately assessed whether eating ultraprocessed foods also made you more likely to die. In the studied cohort, however, it did. Over a period of over seven years, a 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed food consumption was linked with a 14% higher risk of all-cause mortality. The research team is eager to emphasize that the study was only observational, so a causative effect cannot be shown. Ultraprocessed foods are consumed disproportionately more by individuals with lower incomes or education levels, and those who live alone, according to epidemiologist Nita Forouhi from the University of Cambridge, who wasn't part of the study. "A vital take-away message is that consumption of highly processed foods reflects social inequalities," Forouhi says. "Such foods are attractive because they tend to be cheaper, are highly palatable due to high sugar, salt and saturated fat content, are widely available, highly marketed, ready-to-eat, and their use-by-dates are lengthy, so they last longer."
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Russia’s Kalashnikov Unveils Kamikaze Drone – (Defense News – February 18, 2019)
Over the past few years, Russia’s most famous gun manufacturer Kalashnikov has been busy diversifying its product portfolio to include things such as patrol boats and light reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles. Recently the company unveiled its newest offering: a kind of kamikaze drone known as KUB. But you wouldn’t know that from the English-language press release, in which KUB was introduced simply as a “high-precision unmanned attack complex...designed for defeating remote ground targets.” Kalashnikov says the drone — which boasts a payload of 3 kilograms and a flight time of 30 minutes at 80 to 130 kilometers per hour — is silent, covertly launched. Kalashnikov, like many Russian defense companies, is a subsidiary of Rostec — a massive defense and high-technology holding company. Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov was quoted as saying KUB delivers a warhead to the target “whether the target is concealed or not, both at low and high altitudes.” KUB is, in fact, a suicide drone that detonates itself when in range of the target. With a payload of 3 kilograms, it is probably something akin to a flying grenade.
URME Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetic – (URME website, no date)
People have been hiding from surveillance since the beginning of networked cameras. Unfortunately wearing a ski mask in public makes you a pretty easy target. It’s fairly easy to track on camera, and even if the camera doesn't see you, EVERYONE else will. In response, URME Surveillance has developed a state of the art identity replacement tech in the Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetic. The basic gist is that rather than hide from cameras, simply give them a face other than your own to track without drawing attention to yourself in a crowd. In other words, when you’re out in the world doing whatever you are doing, all your actions, which are being recorded are documented as the actions of someone other than yourself, freeing you from any threat of surveillance. The URME Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetic demonstrates the latest in 3D printing technology. Made from a pigmented hard resin, this mask is both a 3D scan of artist Leo Selvaggio's face, as well as photo realistic rendering of his features, such as skin tone, texture and hair. This technology is made possible by the folks over at ThatsMyFace.com. Their products have been seen on CNN, MSNBC, Gizmodo, The Big Bang Theory, and now on URME Surveillance. The face belongs to artist Leo Selvaggio and founder of URME Surveillance. As an artist Leo has been interested in identity and how it can be thought of as data: highly manipulable, editable, and corruptible. In 2013 he applied this idea to surveillance, using his own identity as a guinea pig and realized its applications for the larger public. Cost of mask: $200. (Editor’s note: The mask is better as a concept than as an item. For example, you can’t speak while wearing it. But it’s an effective artist’s statement concerning the ever more present video surveillance.) See also:
How to Hack Your Face to Dodge the Rise of Facial Recognition Tech.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy – (Atlantic – February 19, 2019)
The economic thinker who most influenced the Green New Deal isn’t Marx or Lenin. No, if you want to understand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s bid to remake the economy to fight climate change, you need to read Hamilton. Yes, Alexander Hamilton. Long before he was associated with theatrical hip-hop, former Treasury Secretary Hamilton called for policies that sound familiar to us today. Like Representative Ocasio-Cortez, he wanted massive federal spending on new infrastructure. Like Donald Trump, he believed that very high tariffs can nurture American manufacturing. And like Elizabeth Warren, he was willing to bend the Constitution to reform the financial system. Hamilton is the father of American industrial policy: the set of laws and regulations that say the federal government can guide economic growth without micromanaging it. And the Green New Deal, for all its socialist regalia, only makes sense in light of his capitalistic work. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal is not only a set of progressive nice-to-haves, nor is it a full-on assault on capitalism. The Green New Deal has a coherent economic philosophy and a compelling theory of change—and pundits don’t have to like them to bother understanding them. This article goes on to explain. (Editor’s note: If you’ve wondered what this Green New Deal is, and wondered if it has any respected economic credentials, this article is informative.)
Criminalizing Criticism of Israel: An assault on the First Amendment – (Communities Digital News – January 22, 2019)
The last Congress saw an introduction of legislation that would, in effect, criminalize criticism of Israel was brought to the floor. The New York Times characterized the legislation, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act as “Clearly part of a widening effort to silence one side of the debate. That is not in the interests of Israel, the United States or their shared democratic values.” The proposal’s chief sponsors were Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH). Republican Party’s chief financial supporter, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, AIPAC, and some Evangelical groups also support the legislation. The legislation failed to win passage last year. It is being re-introduced again in the current Congress. Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a statement declaring that, “While we do not support the BDS (boycott, disinvestment, sanctions) movement, we remain resolved to our constitutional oath to defend the right of every American to express their views peacefully without penalty or actual punishment by the government.” As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) pointed out, an intrinsic part of our history: “It was founded amidst a boycott of English tea. Abolitionists boycotted slave goods. Rosa Parks led the boycott against segregated busing. The bus boycott lasted for 382 days in 1955 and 1956. Thousands of black men and women boycotted the Montgomery, Alabama bus system to end segregation. The law shouldn’t be used to shut down protests or boycotts no matter what the dispute involved. The First Amendment is not about speech you like and speech you don’t like.”
Chinese and Iranian Hackers Renew Their Attacks on U.S. Companies – (New York Times – February 18, 2019)
Businesses and government agencies in the United States have been targeted in aggressive attacks by Iranian and Chinese hackers who security experts believe have been energized by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year and his trade conflicts with China. Chinese cyberespionage cooled four years ago after President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China reached a landmark deal to stop hacks meant to steal trade secrets. But the 2015 agreement appears to have been unofficially canceled amid the continuing trade tension between the United States and China, the intelligence officials and private security researchers said. Chinese hacks have returned to earlier levels, although they are now stealthier and more sophisticated. Federal agencies and private companies are back to where they were five years ago: battling increasingly sophisticated, government-affiliated hackers from China and Iran — in addition to fighting constant efforts out of Russia — who hope to steal trade and military secrets and sow mayhem. And it appears the hackers substantially improved their skills during the lull. Chinese security experts said attacks that once would have been conducted by hackers in China’s People’s Liberation Army are now being run by China’s Ministry of State Security. “The fingerprint of Chinese operations today is much different,” said Priscilla Moriuchi, who once ran the National Security Agency’s East Asia and Pacific cyber threats division. “These groups care about attribution. They don’t want to get caught.”
Attacking Iran – (ntz Review – February 26)
Observers of developments in the Middle East have long taken it as a given that the United States and Israel are seeking for an excuse to attack Iran. The recently terminated conference in Warsaw had that objective, which was clearly expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it failed to rally European and Middle Eastern states to support the cause. On the contrary, there was strong sentiment coming from Europe in particular that normalizing relations with Iran within the context of the 2015 multi party nuclear agreement is the preferred way to go both to avoid a major war and to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. However, there are foundations in Washington, all closely linked to Israel and its lobby in the U.S., that are wholly dedicated to making the case for war against Iran. What may be the new Iran policy was recently outlined in a Washington Times article, “Exclusive: Iran-al Qaeda alliance May Provide Legal Rationale for U.S. military strikes.” It is based on the premise that war with Iran is desirable for the United States and, acting behind the scenes, Israel, so it is therefore necessary to come up with an excuse to start it. As the threat of terrorism is always a good tactic to convince the American public that something must be done, that is what the article tries to do and it is particularly discouraging to read as it appears to reflect opinion in the White House.
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
What’s Driving Political Violence in America? – (Greater Good – November 7, 2018)
While political terrorism is still quite rare in the United States, there’s no question that seemingly isolated acts are part of a larger pattern. Against a backdrop of rising political and social polarization, the Anti-Defamation League has reported a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the 2016 election. Studies of FBI data show that hate crimes—violence against people or property because of group membership—have risen during the past few years. In California alone, hate crimes have jumped 44% since 2015. How many Americans endorse these acts? Earlier this year, political scientists Lilliana Mason and Nathan Kalmoe presented a paper at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting, titled “Lethal Mass Partisanship.” With data from two different national surveys, they found that 24% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats believe that it is occasionally acceptable to send threatening messages to public officials. Fifteen percent of Republicans and 20% of Democrats agree that the country would be better if large numbers of opposing partisans in the public today “just died,” which the authors call a “shockingly brutal sentiment.” Nine percent of both Democrats and Republicans agree that violence would be acceptable if their opponents won the 2020 presidential election. So, what drives some people to go beyond partisan disagreement and consciously embrace political violence? Do our violent words lead to violent actions? What can we do to prevent more violence? While the association between political rhetoric and violence is not perfectly understood, researchers are starting to map the social and psychological forces that seem to be driving pugnaciousness between groups of Americans. We know that political violence can spread, like an illness. The article explores five factors that make infection more likely. See also this article from the BBC News: Alabama Newspaper Editor Calls on KKK to Lynch Democrats.
Millions of Americans Cross the U.S.-Mexico Border for Health Care: The Health Care Crisis Many Aren’t Talking About – (Nation of Change – February 20, 2019)
While everyone is talking about the border crossing of Latin and Central Americans coming to the United States in an attempt to seek asylum, the real story at America’s southern border is about the millions of Americans going to Mexico for affordable health care. At a checkpoint in Yuma, Arizona, around 6,000 Americans cross into Los Algodones, Mexico daily for health care reasons – predominantly dental care. Los Algodones is not only known for its affordable dental care – 350 dentists work right outside downtown, but also for its vision care and low-cost prescription drugs. With 74 million Americans without dental insurance, according to statistics from the National Association of Dental Plans, almost a quarter of the U.S. population lacks dental coverage. Nicknamed the “Molar City,” Los Algondones provides dental savings to many Americans. On average, it costs patients two-thirds less than in the U.S. and some have come to save close to 80% on certain procedures. This cost savings is achievable because of the inexpensive labor and real estate in Mexico, malpractice insurance isn’t mandatory there like it is in the U.S. and there is less student debt for graduating dentists because of government subsidies. “When we go out of school, we have to pay the government, but we do it by one year of free service, and that’s it,” Miguel Ibarreche, head of the Sani Dental Group’s diagnostic department, said.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Year in Space Put US Astronaut's Disease Defenses on Alert – (Yahoo – February 15, 2019)
Nearly a year in space put astronaut Scott Kelly's immune system on high alert and changed the activity of some of his genes compared to his Earth-bound identical twin, researchers have found. Scientists don't know if the changes were good or bad but results from a unique NASA twins study are raising new questions for doctors as the space agency aims to send people to Mars. Tests of the genetic doubles gave scientists a never-before opportunity to track details of human biology, such as how an astronaut's genes turn on and off in space differently than at home. "I've never felt completely normal in space," the now-retired Kelly said in an email to The Associated Press, citing the usual congestion from shifting fluid, headaches and difficulty concentrating from extra carbon dioxide, and digestive complaints from microgravity. But this study was a unique dive into the molecular level, with former astronaut Mark Kelly, Scott's twin, on the ground for comparison.
'River of Stars' Streaming Through the Milky Way Was Hiding in Plain Sight for 1 Billion Years – (Live Science – February 19, 2019)
One billion years ago, a cluster of stars formed in our galaxy. Since then, that cluster has whipped four long circles around the edge of the Milky Way. In that time, the Milky Way's gravity has stretched that cluster out from a blob into a long stellar stream. Right now, the stars are passing relatively close to Earth, just about 330 light-years away. And scientists say that river of stars could help determine the mass of the entire Milky Way. Astronomers have seen these stars before, mixed in with lots of stars all around them. But until now, they didn't realize the stars were part of a group. The river, which is 1,300 light-years long and 160 light-years wide, winds through the Milky Way's vast, dense star field. But 3D-mapping data from Gaia, a European Space Agency spacecraft, showed that the stars in the stream moved together at roughly the same speed and in the same direction. Scientists suspect that star clusters, like the one that eventually became this stellar stream can reveal how galaxies get their stars. But in a big, heavy galaxy like the Milky Way, those clusters usually end up shredded, with gravity pulling individual stars in different directions. This stream is big enough though, and heavy enough, that it's remained intact (albeit stretched) in the billion years it has circled the galactic center. And there may be more stars in the stream than those found in the initial Gaia data.
A List of the DIA's Secret UFO Study Projects has been Revealed – (Unknown Country – February 4, 2019)
The US Office of Information Services has released a Defense Intelligence Agency report addressed to the Senate Committee on Armed Services that lists the titles of more than three dozen research papers funded by the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the secret UFO program run by the Pentagon between 2007 and 2012. The titles outlined in this newly-revealed report offer tantalizing clues into the cutting-edge aerospace concepts that AATIP was investigating, including warp-drive, invisibility cloaks, zero-point energy, and faster-than-light communications. The report was released under a Freedom of Information Act Request made by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. Addressed to both former Senator John McCain, then Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and ranking committee member Senator Jack Reed, the report contains "a list of all products produced under the AATIP contract for DIA to publish," according to the letter itself, dated Jan 9, 2018. One must bear in mind that it is unlikely that many of the more esoteric concepts alluded to in these titles have advanced beyond the theoretical, at least as far as their respective authors are concerned; indeed, if any of these ideas have been advanced to the point where they're in practical use, they're unlikely to be documented in reports of such a low classification level. Despite the government's official denial of the existence of the UFO phenomenon, this list of study titles illustrates the lengths that at least one project within the DIA, namely the AATIP program, needed to go to try to understand the science behind what made the anomalous objects that were being reported tick, concepts that would otherwise simply have been dismissed as belonging to the fanciful realm of science fiction. Article includes list of titles with links to most of the original documents.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Scientists Have Found a Way to Translate Brainwaves into Speech with Unprecedented Clarity (Good News Network – February 1, 2019)
Neuroengineers at Columbia University have created a system that translates thought into intelligible, recognizable speech. By monitoring someone’s brain activity, the technology can reconstruct the words a person hears with unprecedented clarity. This breakthrough, which harnesses the power of speech synthesizers and artificial intelligence, could lead to new ways for computers to communicate directly with the brain. It also lays the groundwork for helping people who cannot speak, such as those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or recovering from stroke, regain their ability to communicate with the outside world. Dr. Mesgarani and his team, including the paper’s first author Hassan Akbari, turned to a vocoder, a computer algorithm that can synthesize speech after being trained on recordings of people talking. “This is the same technology used by Amazon Echo and Apple Siri to give verbal responses to our questions,” said Dr. Mesgarani, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering. Researchers engaged epilepsy patients already undergoing brain surgery to listen to sentences spoken by different people, while we measured patterns of brain activity,” said Dr. Mesgarani. “These neural patterns trained the vocoder.” The article includes a link to a scholarly publication of the research.
DARPA Wants to Solve Science’s Reproducibility Crisis With AI – (Wired – February 15, 2019)
Say this much for the “reproducibility crisis” in science: It’s poorly timed. At the same instant that a significant chunk of elected and appointed policymakers seem to disbelieve the science behind global warming, and a significant chunk of parents seem to disbelieve the science behind vaccines … a bunch of actual scientists come along and point out that vast swaths of the social sciences don’t stand up to scrutiny. They don’t replicate—which is to say, if someone else does the same experiment, they get different (often contradictory) results. Researchers are trying to fix the problem. They’re encouraging more sharing of data sets and urging each other to preregister their hypotheses—declaring what they intend to find and how they intend to find it. The idea is to cut down on the statistical shenanigans and memory-holing of negative results that got the field into this mess. No more collecting a giant blob of data and then combing through it for a publishable outcome, a practice known as “HARKing”—hypothesizing after results are known. To the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s mad-science wing, the problem demands an obvious solution: Robots. (DARPA’s precise term is “machine partners” but they mean AI – algorithms enabling advanced data processing – not machines with some measure of mobility). A DARPA program called Systematizing Confidence in Open Research and Evidence—yes, SCORE—aims to assign a “credibility score” to research findings in the social and behavioral sciences, a set of related fields to which the reproducibility crisis has been particularly unkind. DARPA has awarded $7.6 million to the Center for Open Science, a nonprofit organization that’s leading the charge for reproducibility.
CERN Plans New Particle Accelerator Four Times Bigger Than Large Hadron Collider – (ABC – January 15, 2019)
Scientists behind the world's largest atom smasher have laid out a nearly $40 billion vision to build a new one about four times larger under the Swiss-French border, in the hopes of unlocking even more secrets of the universe. Officials at CERN hope to build a "Future Circular Collider" (FCC) in a circular tunnel stretching 100 kilometers near Geneva that could start operating in 2040 and take over from the existing 27km Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It's already been more than 10 years since the Large Hadron Collider was completed and first turned on. In that time it has conducted many experiments and made important discoveries — including its best-known work of helping confirm the new subatomic Higgs boson in 2012. CERN says it is announcing the ambitious FCC project now, despite the LHC still enjoying successes, because the large scale and timeframe of the project mean the window for planning for the future is narrow. A timeframe of 20 years to design, construct and begin operating a new collider is "appropriate", CERN said on its website. For comparison, the LHC began operation in 2008 but was first conceived in the 1980s.
Amazon Will Pay $0 in Taxes on $11,200,000,000 in Profit for 2018 – (Yahoo – February 16, 2019)
According to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Amazon will pay nothing in federal income taxes for the second year in a row. Thanks to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Amazon’s federal tax responsibility is 21% (down from 35% in previous years). But with the help of tax breaks, according to corporate filings, Amazon won’t be paying a dime to Uncle Sam despite posting more than $11.2 billion in profits in 2018. How is that possible? “It’s hard to know exactly what they’re doing,” said Steve Wamhoff, ITEP’s Director of Federal Tax Policy. “In their public documents they don’t lay out their tax strategy. So it’s unclear exactly which breaks [the company is taking advantage of]. They vaguely say tax credits.” The president had promised his new tax law would end special interest breaks and close loopholes, but it’s clear that isn’t the case, says Wamhoff. “This is another situation where the rhetoric from President Trump is completely divorced from what he does and what his policies do,” explained Wamhoff.
Once Hailed as Unhackable, Blockchains Are Now Getting Hacked – (Technology Review – February 19, 2019)
Early last month, the security team at Coinbase noticed something strange going on in Ethereum Classic, one of the cryptocurrencies people can buy and sell using Coinbase’s popular exchange platform. Its blockchain, the history of all its transactions, was under attack. An attacker had somehow gained control of more than half of the network’s computing power and was using it to rewrite the transaction history. That made it possible to spend the same cryptocurrency more than once—known as “double spends.” The attacker was spotted pulling this off to the tune of $1.1 million. Coinbase claims that no currency was actually stolen from any of its accounts. But a second popular exchange, Gate.io, has admitted it wasn’t so lucky, losing around $200,000 to the attacker (who, strangely, returned half of it days later). Just a year ago, this nightmare scenario was mostly theoretical. These are not just opportunistic lone attackers, either. Sophisticated cybercrime organizations are now doing it too: analytics firm Chainalysis recently said that just two groups, both of which are apparently still active, may have stolen a combined $1 billion from exchanges. We’ve long known that just as blockchains have unique security features, they have unique vulnerabilities. Marketing slogans and headlines that called the technology “unhackable” were dead wrong. That’s been understood, at least in theory, since Bitcoin emerged a decade ago. But in the past year, amidst a Cambrian explosion of new cryptocurrency projects, we’ve started to see what this means in practice—and what these inherent weaknesses could mean for the future of blockchains and digital assets.
Is It Too Late for Nonviolent Means to Restore American Liberty? - (PaulCraigRoberts.org - February 13, 2019)
This article does not make for easy reading. It details the side of the coin that we would rather not look at. Just for starters: “There’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that [America is] the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies…" (Editor’s notes: Checking on Wikipedia, the defense spending statistic is highly questionable. China and Russia are both in the top 25 - is either of them an ally? It depends. Is US spending that much out of line with the rest of the world? Again it depends on what you count as defense spending. But let's step past that and see what else is in this article. Yes, this is an over-the-top article - with item after item, it points up much of what has become the dark side of the American reality. And every so often it's a good idea to look this stuff in the face and remember that these situations recount the actual, lived experience of Americans living in their own country. If you have been wondering why people seem to be so angry these days, this is useful information.)
A Nation of Weavers – (New York Times – February 19, 2019)
It’s not as dramatic as Pearl Harbor was, but when 47,000 Americans kill themselves every year and 72,000 more die from drug addiction, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? When the basic norms of decency, civility and truthfulness are under threat, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? Aren’t we all called at moments like these to do something extra? David Brooks, noted columnist, writes, my something extra was starting something nine months ago at the Aspen Institute called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. The first core idea was that social isolation is the problem underlying a lot of our other problems. The second idea was that this problem is being solved by people around the country, at the local level, who are building community and weaving the social fabric. How can we learn from their example and nationalize their effect? We traveled around the country and found them everywhere. We’d plop into big cities like Houston and small towns like Wilkesboro, N.C., and we’d find 25 to 100 community “Weavers” almost immediately. This is a movement that doesn’t know it’s a movement. Whether they live in red or blue America, they often use the same terms and embody the same values — deep hospitality, showing up for people and keep showing up. They are somewheres, not anywheres — firmly planted in their local community. The trait that leapt out above all others was “radical mutuality”: We are all completely equal, regardless of where society ranks us. “We don’t do things for people. We don’t do things to people. We do things with people,” said a woman who builds community for teenagers in New Orleans. The Weavers are building relationships one by one, which takes time. Relationships do not scale. So the big question is: How do we take the success the Weavers are having on the local level and make it national? This article starts to pose answers to that question.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH - articles off the beaten track which may - or may not - have predictive value.
Don’t Get Your Valentine an Internet-Connected Sex Toy – (Wired – February 14, 2019)
Yes, we know that Valentine’s Day has passed, but this advice is still worth your attention. Thanks to the burgeoning industry of teledildonics, as internet-connected sexual pleasure products are known, there’s a wealth of innovative options. Even the CES-banned Ose vibrator uses AI to provide biofeedback. But like all internet-of-things devices, smart sex toys are also incredibly vulnerable. From over-exuberant manufacturers who slurp up data to security flaws that hackers could exploit, teledildonics can be a privacy nightmare. That’s why Mozilla released a special Valentine’s Day section of its “Privacy Not Included” guide, featuring romantic gadgets like smart beds, fitness trackers, and yes, teledildonics. Mozilla picked products based on what seemed popular online, while also trying to be inclusive of all sexual orientations, genders, and physical abilities. So what makes for a cyber-safe sex toy? Mozilla considers five issues as a must-be-covered minimum in terms of security standards for connected devices. Of the 18 items that Mozilla assessed—a small fraction of what’s actually out there—half didn’t pass muster. See also: Hackers Can Turn Sex Robots into Killing Machines, Expert Warns.
JUST FOR FUN
The Wrath of Grapes: A Tale of 12 Dead Microwave Ovens and Plasma-spewing Grapes – (Ars Technica – February 18, 2019)
Don’t try this at home. DIY science enthusiasts know that, if you put a halved grape into a microwave with just a bit of skin connecting the halves, it'll produce sparks and a fiery plume of ionized gas known as a plasma. There are thousands of YouTube videos documenting the effect. But the standard explanation offered for why this occurs isn't quite right, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And its authors only needed to destroy a dozen microwaves to prove it. "Many microwaves were in fact harmed during the experiments," admitted co-author Hamza Khattak of Trent University in Canada. The usual explanation for the generation of plasmas is that grapes are so small that the irradiating microwaves become highly concentrated in the grape tissue, ripping some the molecules apart to generate charged ions (adding to the electrolytes already present in the grapes). "Previous explanations leaned on the idea that the grape was acting as an antenna and that an electrical current was being generated across the 'skin bridge' holding the two halves to a grape together," said co-author Pablo Bianucci of Concordia University in Montreal, who did the computer simulations for the study. It's that current, conventional wisdom goes, that generates the plasma. These new experiments show that's not quite right. The skin bridge isn't necessary for the effect to occur. Rather, "Our interpretation is that the plasma is generated by an electromagnetic 'hot spot' that is a purely (microwave) bulk effect," said Bianucci. "The grapes have the right refractive index and size to 'trap' microwaves, and putting two of them close together leads to the generation of this hot spot between them." Once that hot spot is created, the strong electromagnetic fields at that spot transfer energy to ions in the grape. Voilà! A fiery plasma.
A FINAL QUOTE
To predict the future, we need logic; but we also need faith and imagination, which can sometimes defy logic itself. - Arthur C Clarke
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bill Sanda, 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