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FE Archive Volume 18, Number 7

Volume 18, Number 7 - 4/15/15 Twitter  Facebook  JLP Blog  

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT--
  • The Ocean Cleanup is a startup with technology to clean the oceans of plastic – backed by scientists and engineers who say it's plans are indeed a feasible and viable.

  • A drone startup has developed reforestation technology enabling it to plant 10 trees/minute – about a billion a year.

  • The future of driving (and automobile ownership) in one provocative chart.

  • The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined.


PUNCTUATIONS
by John L. Petersen

Gregg Braden and Joe Dispenza coming to Berkeley Springs

Two of the most provocative and insightful thinkers, writers and speakers about the leading edge of the global and personal shift that is reconfiguring the world are coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks on the 8th and 9th of May. Templeton Prize nominee Gregg Braden (www.greggbraden.com) and NYT best-selling author, Dr. Joe Dispenza (www.drjoedispenza.com) will be together in an extraordinary, Friday night and all day Saturday event that clearly could change your life.

Individually, both of these extraordinary communicators have helped thousands of people understand how they could better engage the present and prepare for the future. Together, they present an opportunity for personal enlightenment that shouldn’t be missed.


Gregg Braden

Dr. Joe Dispenza
Last year Gregg filled the Star Theatre for a wonderful three-hour event that finally spilled out onto the sidewalk. This year, with both Gregg and Dr. Joe with us we’re moving to the high school auditorium, the largest room in the county. We expect a sell-out, so if you can come, make your reservations as soon as possible.

Come for the weekend and experience small-town West Virginia. It’s almost heaven!

You can get complete information at www.transitiontalks.org. Come be with us!

INEQUALITY

In January, upon the opening of the World Economic Forum, held each year in Davos, Switzerland, OXFAM issued a report highlighting the growing economic disparity on this planet. In their piece Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world, “Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: "It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world's population – that's three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus."

Read the complete article.

This extreme inequality does not continue unabated. In a TED talk that has been seen by over a million people, Nick Hanauer talks about the likely implications.

Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming

Nick Hanauer is a rich guy, an unrepentant capitalist — and he has something to say to his fellow plutocrats: Wake up! Growing inequality is about to push our societies into conditions resembling pre-revolutionary France. Hear his argument about why a dramatic increase in minimum wage could grow the middle class, deliver economic prosperity ... and prevent a revolution.

Watch the Hanauer’s TED talk.

So, Hanauer, who lives in Seattle says that we all have got really big problems if we don’t do something about this inequity. Interestingly, the early indicators of a positive response to the situation are also showing up in that Washington city. Here’s a guy who got the memo and is doing something about it.

Seattle business owner sets $70,000 per year minimum wage for employees, paper reports

The owner of a Seattle credit card payment processing firm has decided to raise the base salary for all his employees to $70,000 per year after reading an article on how income can impact happiness, the New York Times reports.

The report says Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, surprised his 120-person staff Monday (April 13) with the news of the pay increases, which will occur over the next three years.

The report says Price plans to reduce his own salary by $1 million to $70,000 and use the majority of the company's $2.2 million in profit this year to pay for the raises.

Price told the Times he has been contemplating income equality in America for years and seen his own employees struggle financially even with pay well above the federal minimum wage.

Price decided to raise pay after reading research from Nobel prize-winning psychologists that found "emotion well-being" rises with income, but only to a point, around $70,000 per year, the report says.


Read the full New York Times report.

Then, the mayor of Seattle (what do they put in the coffee up there?), got the minimum wage for the whole city increased to $15, with everybody involved (including business), signing on.

$15 Minimum Wage

A growing number of cities, including Seattle, are examining the costs and benefits of implementing citywide minimum wage laws. Citywide minimum wage laws offer local governments a powerful tool for helping low-income workers and families in their communities. Such measures also have significant impact on businesses and how they operate.

Shortly after taking office, Mayor Murray formed the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (IIAC) to address a cornerstone priority of an opportunity agenda: a meaningful increase in the compensation for Seattle workers. The committee, which represented broad and diverse perspectives, was charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the city of Seattle.

On May 1, 2014, Mayor Murray announced that the committee — comprised of representatives from labor, business, and non-profits — had reached agreement on those recommendations.


- See more here.

Now that’s pretty interesting.

If you want to read something inspiring, read Mayor Ed Murray’s vision for Seattle. It’s almost exciting!

Ah, but you say, when you raise the wage you will just put more people out of work. That’s the conventional wisdom held by many people. Well, that turns out to be true – if you count losing three tenths of one percent of jobs when you raise the national minimum wage up to $10.10/hr. For 95% of the people involved, and for the economy in general, it’s a definite net plus.

If you pay people more money, they spend more, the economy grows, more jobs are produced and more taxes are paid. Kind of makes sense. Here’s a nice summary.

What Really Happens When You Raise The Minimum Wage

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report on Tuesday on the impacts of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and $9 an hour. It found that a $10.10 minimum wage, implemented by 2016, would mean higher earnings for 16.5 million workers, resulting in $31 billion more in higher earnings. It would also lift nearly 1 million people out of poverty.

But it also found that an increase would reduce jobs slightly. “Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent,” it projects. That figure takes into account what it says would be a decrease in jobs for low-wage workers as well as an increase of “a few tens of thousands of jobs” for others thanks to higher demand. “Once the increases and decreases in income for all workers are taken into account, overall real income would rise by $2 billion,” it says. The vast majority of people impacted, over 95 percent, will be impacted positively.


Read more.

So think about this all for a minute: the better you make it for the largest number of people, the better it is for everyone. Not particularly rocket science, but that seems to be a concept that is foreign to most of those folks who might be on the pointy end of those pitchforks.

There’s a vector – a trajectory – here. In the face of evolving technology that every reasonable analyst predicts will dramatically erode the number of jobs in this world, the natural question would certainly be, what are we going to do with all of the people who won’t have jobs?

Maybe the answer is, you pay them. You give them a living wage (perhaps just because they are humans and you believe that everyone should be minimally sustained so that there isn’t a run on pitchforks), and everything – literally everything – works better.

Alan Nasser has made a run at this general idea from a provocative perspective. This is a very thoughtful piece.

Not just an Utopian dream: Less work, higher wages, better economy
Alan Nasser
Global Research
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 07:47 UTC



"A spectre is haunting the treasuries and central banks of the West - the spectre of secular stagnation. What if there is no sustainable recovery of the economic slump of 2008-2013? What if the sources of economic growth have dried up - not temporarily, but permanently?" - preeminent Keynes scholar and economic historian Robert Skidelsky, "Secular Stagnation and the Road to Full Investment," Social Europe Journal, May 22, 2014

Both Karl Marx and J.M. Keynes concluded that the trajectory of capitalist development placed a radically emancipatory possibility on the political-economic agenda. For the first time in modern history work time could be dramatically reduced with no reduction in our standard of living. In fact, if living standards are measured not merely by money wages but also by increased leisure, i.e. increased time available to develop and exercise our broad range of gratifying capabilities, the reduction in work time would elevate our standard of living to a degree hitherto unimaginable.

In what follows we'll see that less work with higher wages is at this historical juncture not merely economically possible, but desirable as the only practical alternative to the secular stagnation grimly forecast with much flurry by such luminaries as Paul Krugman, Larry Summers and Robert J. Gordon, and by the IMF in its April 2014 World Economic Outlook. Both Marx and Keynes saw their prescriptions as not merely a "better idea," but as the alternative to severe ongoing crisis, understood as dramatic reductions in real production, employment and wages.

The stakes are very high; even the mainstream it pricking up its ears. Krugman recently referred to "a growing consensus among economists that much of the damage to the economy is permanent, that we'll never get back to our old path of growth." ("Does He Pass the Test?, The New York Review, July 10, 2014)

The secular stagnation portended is defined by Krugman as "a persistent state in which a depressed economy is the norm, with episodes of full employment few and far between." ("A Permanent Slump?" The New York Times, November 17, 2013) Austerity hell forever.

There is an alternative, and the only one that is capable of addressing a situation in which profits and economic growth can no longer be achieved by investing in real production and hiring workers. An overripe, industrially saturated economy can be made into one that can deliver on capitalism's false promises. All workers can be employed, but for far fewer hours, and a just living wage can be provided to all. This is the arrangement recommended by Marx and Keynes. Keynes the Enlightenment liberal imagined that this could be accomplished by rational persuasion within the framework of a democratic capitalist economy. Marx knew better. Capitalism's property relations, along with its insatiable drive for increased profits, are incompatible with the desired prescription.

Marx understood that a genuinely free society, with both political and economic democracy, would come about only if capitalist power was overcome by mass mobilization. But he was no historical determinist. There was no guarantee that a workers' movement aiming to replace capitalism with a workers' democracy, democratic socialism, would materialize. It is the responsibility of the Left to contribute, through education and organization/mobilization, to the emergence of such a movement.

In case this does not happen, the alternative is a persistent state of political-economic crisis featuring declining living standards and the withering away of such democracy as exists in a social order dominated by owners of Big Wealth. The alternatives were identified by Rosa Luxemburg: socialism or barbarism.

Continue . . . .






THINK LINKS



INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Would You Wear a Tracker to Get an Insurance Discount? – (CNN – April 8, 2015)
For the first time in the United States, a life insurance company is offering a discount -- if you're willing to let it track your health, location and body. Now, life insurance company John Hancock is offering deal if you'll wear one: 15% off in some cases (maximum value: about $91/year). John Hancock is partnering with Vitality, which many people probably know as one of those work-related wellness programs. The optional program is available in 30 states. If you sign up for this, John Hancock will send you a free Fitbit monitor. That's a tiny, pill-shaped device that some people wear in sleek-looking bracelets to track how far they walk/run, the calories burned, and the quality of sleep. That means the insurance company would know exactly when a customer does a sit-up, how far she runs -- or when she's skipped the gym for a few days. The program works like other "customer rewards" programs at restaurants and retailers. Your actions earn points that place you in one of three levels -- silver, gold or platinum. Points can also qualify customers for discounts at Hyatt hotels, Royal Caribbean cruises, Whole Foods grocery stores, and REI outdoor gear stores. It's the insurance industry's way of trying to incentivize people into buying life insurance. But there are immediate privacy implications. CNNMoney has just asked John Hancock where the data will be kept, and whether it will be sold to other companies. The company has not provided an immediate reply.



NEW REALITIES

Animals May Be Able to Predict Earthquakes 3 Weeks in Advance – (Time – April 3, 2015)
By examining footage from motion-sensor cameras in Peru’s Yanachaga National Park, scientists found that animal activity declined significantly in the month before a major 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, according to a study published in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth. During the three weeks before the earthquake, the cameras recorded about a third as many animal sightings as usual, and in the five to seven days before the quake, the cameras recorded no animals at all. The researchers think that animals may be more sensitive to positive ions in the air that build up when rocks in the earth’s surface are stressed leading up to an earthquake, which may cause them to flee. This is not the first time researchers have noted this phenomenon—scientists in China and Japan have been studying it for a while, noting that lab rats have a harder time sleeping ahead of an earthquake.



GENETICS/HEALTH TECHNOLOGY/BIOTECHNOLOGY

Dementia Halted in Mice Brains – (BBC News – April 15, 2015)
The team at Duke University, in the US, showed immune cells which start attacking nutrients in the brain may be a trigger for the disease. They say their findings could open up new avenues of research for a field that has not developed a single drug to slow the progression of the disease. Experts said the findings offered new hope of a treatment. The researchers indentified microglia - normally the first line of defense against infection in the brain - as major players in the development of dementia. They found some microglia changed to become exceptionally adept at breaking down a component of protein, an amino acid called arginine, in the early stages of the disease. As arginine levels plummeted, the immune cells appeared to dampened the immune system in the brain. In mouse experiments, a chemical was used to block the enzymes that break down arginine. They showed fewer of the characteristics of dementia such as damaged proteins collecting in the brain and the animals performed better in memory tests. One of the researchers, Dr Matthew Kan, said: "All of this suggests to us that if you can block this local process of amino acid deprivation, then you can protect the mouse from Alzheimer's disease. However, the findings do not suggest that arginine supplements could combat dementia as the boosted levels would still be broken down. But, surprisingly, research also shows that Being Overweight Reduces Dementia Risk. Underweight people had a 39% greater risk of dementia compared with being a healthy weight. But those who were overweight had an 18% reduction in dementia - and the figure was 24% for the obese. So far, researchers have no explanation for the protective effect.

Robust ‘Spider Silk’ Matrix Guides Cardiac Tissue Regeneration – (Kurzweil AI – April 13, 2015)
Genetically engineered fibers of the protein spidroin — the construction material for spider webs — are a ideal matrix (substrate or frame) for cultivating heart tissue cells, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) researchers have found. Regenerative methods can solve the problem of transplant rejection, but it’s a challenge to find a suitable matrix to grow cells on: The material should be non-toxic, elastic, and not rejected by the body or impede cell growth. Researchers led by Professor Konstantin Agladze, who heads the Laboratory of the Biophysics of Excitable Systems at MIPT, have been cultivating tissues that contract and conduct excitation waves, from cells called cardiomyocytes. Synthetic electrospun fibers of spidroin are light, five times stronger than steel, twice more elastic than nylon, and are capable of stretching a third of their length. Which is why they are currently used as a substrate to grow implants like bones, tendons and cartilages, as well as dressings. But could they are also function for soft tissues, such as the heart? Agladze’s team seeded isolated neonatal rat cardiomyocytes on fiber matrices.  Using a microscope and fluorescent markers, the researchers monitored the growth of the cells and tested their contractibility and the ability to conduct electric impulses, which are the main features of normal cardiac tissue. Within three to five days a layer of cells formed on the substrate. They were able to contract synchronously and conduct electrical impulses just like the tissue of a living heart would. “Cardiac tissue cells successfully adhere to the substrate of recombinant spidroin,” Agladze says. “They grow forming layers and are fully functional, which means they can contract coordinately.”

Microbes Engineered to Prevent Obesity – (Technology Review – April 8, 2015)
Genetically engineered bacteria can prevent mice offered a high-fat diet from overeating. The beneficial effects of the bacteria last for about four to six weeks, suggesting that they temporarily take up residence in the gut. Researchers developed the anti-obesity therapy to test a new way of treating chronic diseases. Sean Davies, a pharmacologist at Vanderbilt University, is modifying bacteria that live in and on the body—known collectively as a person’s microbiome. The hope is that engineered microbes could secrete drugs to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, or other conditions over the long term, eliminating the need to remember to take a pill. Another benefit is that many drugs—including the one tested by the Vanderbilt group—cannot be administered orally because they wouldn’t survive digestion. Bacteria could make it easier to administer such drugs.

Wristband That Measures Rest, Activity Schedule May Help Predict Response to Antidepressants – (Science Daily – April 14, 2015)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are today's mainstay for depression treatment, but patients and their physicians may go through many months, doses, and different SSRIs as well as other antidepressants trying to get results, said Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. "You only hit a home run first at bat about one third of the time; two-thirds of the time you have failed, struck out," said McCall, an expert on depression, insomnia, and suicide. McCall's study indicates that the simple wristband may help by identifying those commonly referred to as "night owls," who appear to be the best responders to SSRIs. He is quick to note that his study sample was small -- 58 patients -- and the findings are very preliminary. "What our findings suggest is that night owls, the group most likely to be depressed, also look like the patients who are most likely to respond. The larks are more likely to need two drugs," McCall said. While there is no good data on what percentage of the population is night owls versus larks, the 58 patients in the study were about half-and-half. Those who had the latest period of rest, close to 5 a.m., were the best responders to SSRIs. The rest-activity pattern of patients may be one of the first biomarkers to emerge. "It gives us a place to start," said McCall, who is pursuing federal funding for a larger patient study.


ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES/CLIMATE

20-Year-Old Claims He Can Rid the World’s Oceans of Plastic – (Nation of Change – April 9, 2015)
One ambitious former Dutch aerospace engineering student has taken the world by storm with his innovation to clean up polluted oceans. Boyan Slat's concept, The Ocean Cleanup, is backed by scientists and engineers who say it's indeed a feasible and viable technique. Slat said his plastic-capturing concept can clean half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a decade. The design involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean currents push debris through V-shaped booms that are 100 kilometers long. The floating filters would catch all the plastic off the top three meters of water where the concentration of plastic is the highest, while allowing fish and other marine life to pass under without getting caught. Besides natural currents, the self-sufficient platform would also be powered by 162 solar panels. Traditional strategies of capturing ocean plastic usually involve vessels and nets but, as Slat’s study pointed out, “Not only would by-catch and emissions likely cancel out the good work, but also, due to the vastness of areas in which the plastics concentrate, such an operation would cost many billions of dollars, and thousands of years to complete. The Ocean Cleanup platform would be emptied of its haul every month and a half. As for what can be done with the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup team tested degraded plastic from the Hawaiian shoreline and found that it’s suitable to be turned into oil. An extremely successful crowdfunding campaign garnered support from 38,000 funders from 160 countries, and raised $2 million in 100 days. The project is currently in phase two in which a team will build a large-scale, fully operational pilot of the design near the Azores Islands within the next three to four years.

What Happens When You Demolish Two 100-Year-Old Dams – (Outside Online – February 4, 2015)
Narrated from the point of view of Washington's Elwha River, a new documentary about the largest dam removal project in U.S. history starts off on a somber tone before building toward the best possible catharsis: massive charges of dynamite demolishing a pair of meddlesome dams. Return of the River tells the story of the fight to restore the Elwha to its former glory, how the project might serve as an example for successful dam removal projects across the country—even ones mired in political discord—and how quickly the land began to restore itself. Less than two weeks after the last demolition blast, salmon returned to the upper watershed. Sediment carried downriver began nourishing an expansive beach at the mouth of the river. Native plants began to flourish in the drained lakebeds. There are now about 50 dam removal projects currently active in the country, with more slated to start in the years to come, according to American Rivers. The evolution of the Elwha isn’t a perfect template for those other projects, but it offers significance beyond its local community.

Gold and Other Valuable Metals May Be Harvested from Sewage - (GizMag - March 24, 2015)
Scientists are looking into taking solid waste and harvesting its trace amounts of metals such as gold, silver and platinum. Doing so could ultimately reduce the need for mining and decrease the amount of metals entering the environment, while also turning sewage into a source of revenue. According to lead scientist Kathleen Smith of the US Geological Survey, metal nanoparticles from sources such as detergents, hair care products and antimicrobial clothing enter the waste stream in wash water, and end up getting combined with fecal matter at wastewater treatment plants. After the treatment process is complete, approximately 50% of the resulting biosolids are used as fertilizer, while the other half are put in landfills or incinerated (in the US, at least). The presence of metals in the biosolids is one of the reasons that a greater amount of them can't become fertilizer. To retrieve those metals, Smith and her team are considering utilizing chemicals that would cause the metals to leach out of the biosolids. The same type of chemicals are currently used in the mining industry for extracting metals from rock. In order to evaluate the economic feasibility of the system, the researchers have used a scanning electron microscope to analyze biosolid samples from small towns, rural communities and big cities. According to Smith, they found gold "at the level of a minimal mineral deposit" – in mining terms, this means that it might be financially worthwhile to extract.

This Drone Startup Has an Ambitious (Crazy) Plan to Plant 1 Billion Trees a Year – (Fast Company – April 3, 2015)
The world burns or cuts down about 26 billion trees a year. It replants about 15 billion. You can see the shortfall. At the moment, we're not planting trees quickly enough to combat deforestation—a problem with big implications for climate change. That's why Lauren Fletcher wants to automate the process with drone technology. His startup, BioCarbon Engineering, plans to seed up to 1 billion trees a year, all without ever setting foot on the ground. First of all, BioCarbon's drone flies above an area, mapping its level of forestation and reporting back on the potential for restoration. Then, the aerial vehicle swoops to 2 to 3 meters above ground and fires out a seed pod at sufficient velocity to penetrate the soil surface. The seeds themselves are pregerminated and covered in a nutritious hydrogel, giving them a higher chance of success. Fletcher doesn't say the method is better than hand planting, just cheaper. He estimates the drone can plant at a rate of 10 seeds per minute. With two operators manning multiple drones, he reckons it would be possible to plant up 36,000 trees in a day. In all, UAV-seeding could be about 15% of the cost of traditional methods, he says. BioCarbon Engineering hopes to have a fully working product by the end of this summer. An engineer, Fletcher spent 20 years at NASA before setting up the new company. He's now based in Oxford, England, with colleagues in several countries. He plans to work with forestry companies, nonprofits, and governments around the world.

‘Warm Blob’ in Pacific Ocean Linked to Weird Weather across the U.S. – (Univ. of Washington – April 9, 2015)
The one common element in recent weather has been oddness. The West Coast has been warm and parched; the East Coast has been cold and snowed under. Fish are swimming into new waters, and hungry seals are washing up on California beaches. A long-lived patch of warm water off the West Coast, about 2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, is part of what’s wreaking much of this mayhem, according to two University of Washington research papers. “In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year,” said Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean. Ten months later, the blob is still off our shores, now squished up against the coast and extending about 1,000 miles offshore from Mexico up through Alaska, with water about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal. Bond says all the models point to it continuing through the end of this year. The new study explores the blob’s origins. It finds that it relates to a persistent high-pressure ridge that caused a calmer ocean during the past two winters, so less heat was lost to cold air above. The warmer temperatures we see now aren’t due to more heating, but less winter cooling.



COMMUNICATIONS/COMPUTING

Researchers Use Electrodes for “Human Cruise Control” – (Technology Review – April 14, 2015)
Sure, you can get directions by looking at a map on your phone or listening to turn-by-turn navigation. But what if you could just walk from point A to point B in a new place without having to look at a device or even think about whether you’re on the right course? A group of researchers from three German universities is working on just that. In a study, they electrically stimulated a leg muscle to nudge subjects to turn left or right along twisty routes in a park. The researchers placed electrodes on participants’ sartorius muscles, which run diagonally across the thighs. These connected to a commercially available electrical muscle stimulation device and a Bluetooth-equipped control board that were worn at the waist. First, researchers blindfolded participants and used the system to navigate them indoors to learn about controlling walking with electrical muscle stimulation. After that, the experiment went outside. Max Pfeiffer, a coauthor of the paper and graduate student at the University of Hannover, says the idea is to eliminate the distraction of having to constantly pay attention to your phone while finding your way. If the researchers can figure out how to make the technology reliable enough and get people comfortable using it, it could also be helpful for exercise workouts or guiding emergency responders in situations where they can’t see well.

Inventor of Antivirus Software: The Government Is Planting Malicious Software On Your Phone – (Washingtons Blog – April 14, 2015)
John McAfee invented commercial antivirus software. He may be a controversial and eccentric figure … but the man knows his technology. Earlier this month, McAfee told security expert Paul Asadoorian that encryption is dead.  Specifically, he said: Every city in the country has 1 to 3 Stingray spy devices … Bigger cities like New York probably have 200 or 300. When you buy a Stingray, Harris Corporation makes you sign a contract keeping your Stingray secret (background here). Stingray pushes automatic “updates” – really malicious software – onto your phone as soon as you come into range. The software – written by the largest software company in the world – allows people to turn on your phone, microphone and camera, and read everything you do and see everything on your screen. Encryption doesn’t matter in a world where anyone can plant software on your phone and see what you’re seeing.  Protecting transmission of information from one device to the other doesn’t matter anymore … they can see what you see on your device. There are many intrusions other than Stingray. For example, everyone has a mobile phone or mobile device which has at least 10 apps which have permission to access camera and microphone. Bank of America’s online banking app requires you to accept microphones and cameras. McAfee called Bank of America and asked why they require microphones and cameras. They replied that – if you emptied all of the money in your account and said “it wasn’t me”, they could check, and then say: Well, it certainly looks like you. And it certainly sounds like you. In order to do that, B of A’s app keeps your microphone and camera on for a half hour after you’ve finished your banking. The actual interview can be accessed here. See also: Police Contract with Spy Tool Maker Prohibits Talking About Device’s Use.



SHELTER/ARCHITECTURE

India Builds First 'Smart' City as Urban Population Swells – (News Daily – April 15, 2015)
India’s push to accommodate a booming urban population and attract investment rests in large part with dozens of “smart” cities like the one being built on the dusty banks of the Sabarmati river in western India. So far, it boasts modern underground infrastructure, two office blocks and not much else. The plan, however, is for a meticulously planned metropolis complete with gleaming towers, drinking water on tap, automated waste collection and a dedicated power supply – luxuries to many Indians. With an urban population set to rise by more than 400 million people to 814 million by 2050, India faces the kind of mass urbanization only seen before in China, and many of its biggest cities are already bursting at the seams. Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), as the smart city is called, will double up as a financial hub, with tax and other breaks to lure banks, brokerages and other businesses. A bird’s eye view from atop one of the two office buildings on the 886-acre GIFT site shows little sign yet of the 9 billion rupees spent on the first phase. But the sandy plain hides infrastructure including an underground tunnel for utilities, a first in India.



ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

New Kind of ‘Tandem’ Solar Cell Developed – (KurzweilAI – March 26, 2015)
Researchers at MIT and Stanford University have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say. The new cell uses a layer of silicon — which forms the basis for most of today’s solar panels — but adds a semi-transparent layer of a material called perovskite (a calcium titanium oxide mineral, which can absorb higher-energy particles of light. Unlike an earlier “tandem” solar cell reported by members of the same team earlier this year — in which the two layers were physically stacked, but each had its own separate electrical connections — the new version has both layers connected together as a single device that needs only one control circuit. Now the team is focusing on increasing the power efficiency — the percentage of sunlight’s energy that gets converted to electricity — that is possible from the combined cell. In this initial version, the efficiency is 13.7%, but the researchers say they have identified low-cost ways of improving this to about 30% — a substantial improvement over today’s commercial silicon-based solar cells — and they say this technology could ultimately achieve a power efficiency of more than 35%..

Japanese Researchers Make Strides in Wireless Energy Transmission – (Daily Times Gazette – March 16, 2015)
Roughly 110 years ago, Tesla was able to transmit power without the use of wires and dreamed that he could utilize that technology to power the world. Currently, Japanese researchers have conducted a successful experiment on wireless transmission with microwave technology and in just decades from now, they may turn Tesla’s dream into a reality. The scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) were able to transmit 1.8 kilowatts of power throughout the air with laser accuracy to a wireless receiver with a distance of 180 feet away from the source. The 1.8 kilowatts of power was the highest recorded transmission through microwaves. A spokesman from JAXA stated that the experiment’s success opens a door to new possibilities in the field of energy transfer. One day, we would be able to tap unlimited solar energy out in space and use that energy to power the Earth. The idea is that a solar satellites complete with sunlight-gathering panels and antennas will be set up 22, 300 miles away from our planet. The satellite will then transmit the stored solar energy to use in the form of microwaves. The International Space Station already has satellites that gather solar energy, but the power is only limited to them in outer space. The challenge now is figuring out ways to assemble and deliver the huge structures into outer space and how to maintain it once it’s out there.

Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables – (Bloomberg – April 14, 2015)
The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. And there's no going back. The shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels, according to an analysis presented at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York. The shift will continue to accelerate, and by 2030 more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added. The price of wind and solar power continues to plummet, and is now on par or cheaper than grid electricity in many areas of the world. Solar, the newest major source of energy in the mix, makes up less than 1% of the electricity market today but will be the world’s biggest single source by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. See also: Texas city opts for 100% renewable energy – to save cash, not the planet.


TRANSPORTATION

The Skinny on Delphi's Autonomous Road Trip across the United States – (Autoblog – April 8, 2015)
The car, an unassuming Audi SQ5 nicknamed Roadrunner, had been well-tested. Back in January, a few inebriated pedestrians fell flat in front of the car during a demonstration in Las Vegas. It was the quintessential worst-case scenario, and the car admirably hit the brakes. Trust in the technology had already been established. The main reason Delphi set out on the cross-country venture with a team of six certified drivers and two support vehicles was to capture reams of data. What better way to do that than dusting off the classic American road trip and dragging it into the 21st century? They did exactly that, capturing three terabytes worth of data across 3,400 miles and 15 states. Autonomous systems controlled the driving for more than 98% of the trip, with engineers manning the controls for on-and-off ramps and as a precautionary measure in construction zones. Every time they touched the controls, others in the car logged notations. Each of the four cars in Delphi's global autonomous fleet contain six long-range radars, four short-range radars, three vision-based cameras, six lidar sensors and one localization systems. They're brought together and processed in a multi-domain controller. the software algorithms that cull information from 20 sensors aboard the autonomous vehicle and, within milliseconds, synthesize them into driving decisions. Article includes video clips from the drive and interesting details.

The Future of Driving, in One Provocative Chart – (Huffington Post – April 8, 2015)
In the future, only rich people will own cars and only robots will drive them. That’s the takeaway from a new research note from Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas. Like Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, he predicts that improvements in self-driving technology will eventually lead to bans on human driving on most roads. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, which have already been widely adopted in major urban centers, have paved the way for cities, and eventually suburbs, to adopt mega-fleets of public vehicles that will taxi passengers around. This will dramatically lower the cost per ride to about 25 cents per mile, which is roughly one-tenth of what a traditional taxi costs, Jonas said. He provides no clear timeline for when this might occur. By contrast, wealthy people -- at least in the near-term -- will own self-driving vehicles, a fact on which Mercedes-Benz and Tesla seem to be banking. Again, Jonas provides no clear timeline. But an increasing number of luxury carmakers are already adding autonomous features to their vehicles. In October, Tesla's Musk estimated that fully driverless cars will be on the road by 2023. (Editor’s note: Whether Morgan Stanley’s Jonas is correct or not, the chart is worth taking in – but we doubt that guys are going to give up trucks any time soon.)



AGRICULTURE/FOOD

Silicon Valley Meets America's Salad Bowl to Create the Farm of the Future - (Fast Company - March 16, 2015)
Silicon Valley has a lot to offer the growing number of farmers who rely on high-tech solutions. But while Palo Alto and California's Central Valley, the place where much of the country's produce is grown, are just a few hours' drive from one another, the cultural gap is incalculable. If farmers and tech entrepreneurs can find common ground, our food supply will benefit. Ashwin Madgavkar, the founder of a startup called Ceres Imaging that uses aerial photography and spectral imaging to keep track of water stress and nutrient content in crops, has mostly figured out how to navigate that cultural gap. But it took some time. Agriculture is a huge industry in the U.S., and precision agriculture — the practice of using sensors, software, analytics, and drones to micro-manage crops — is a growing part of it, with a market size estimated to be up to $2 billion (and rising fast). Patrick Dosier, an agronomist and mentor in the RoyseLaw AgTech incubator, thinks he can bring farmers and entrepreneurs together with that age-old Silicon Valley ritual, the hackathon. But when farmers hear the word "hack," says Dosier, they're likely to think of things like the Sony Pictures hacking incident, or the Home Depot security breach. "That's why we call it Apps for Ag rather than something like Ag Hack."

Swimming Pool Becomes Backyard Farm – (Yes – March 16, 2015)
When Dennis and Danielle McClung bought their ‘60s-era home in 2009, they hatched an eccentric but modest plan to make the best of that decrepit, way-past-its-prime pool. Two days after they moved in, Dennis McClung erected his first in-pool greenhouse, intended to provide food for their young family. He had recently quit his job as a Home Depot department manager; his wife was a nurse. “I convinced my wife of my crazy plan, and she went with it,” he says. “We really wanted to live a more sustainable, self-sufficient life, and we thought this was good idea. ” Today their backyard is a mini-ecosystem—McClung calls it a “closed-loop food-producing urban greenhouse”—and their home is headquarters for the Garden Pool nonprofit organization. Its official aim: sustainable food production, research, and education. At night the chickens roost above the pool’s deep-end rainwater pond so their droppings contribute to an aquaponics habitat for tilapia fish. The McClung’s natural water filtration system uses duckweed and solar energy; their organic greenhouse plants are rooted hydroponically, without soil. Pond snails, which probably hitchhiked in on the duckweed, provide calcium for the egg-laying chickens and help manage a pond-sludge problem. (Editor’s note: Repurposing your dry swimming pool may be an idea whose time has come in drought-stricken areas. Also, you will need to scroll down through some other short, strung-together articles to find this one.)

Cow Milk Without the Cow Is Coming to Change Food Forever – (Wired – April 15, 2015)
A group of bio-hackers who meet in the Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, CA each Monday night to work on a project that sounds like a contradiction in terms: They’re trying to make cow’s milk cheese without the cow. Using mail-order DNA, they’re tricking yeast cells into producing a substance that’s molecularly identical to milk. And if successful, they’ll turn this milk into cheese. Real cheese. But vegan cheese. Real vegan cheese. That’s the name of the project: Real Vegan Cheese. These hackers want cheese that tastes like the real thing, but they don’t want it coming from an animal. Abandoning real cheese is one of the hardest sacrifices vegans must make, says one member of the group, Benjamin Rupert, a chemist by training and a vegan for the past decade. With Real Vegan Cheese, they won’t have to. “What we’re making is identical to the animal protein,” he says. “You’re not giving anything up, really.”



TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE

Why The U.S. Won’t Let the U.N. Look Inside Its Prisons – (Daily Beast – March 16, 2015)
In 2010, Juan Mendez was appointed Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Degrading and Inhumane Treatment by the United Nations. His mandate is wide in size and scope—to expose and document torture wherever it exists on the planet today. Since the beginning of his mandate Mendez has made criticizing the overuse of solitary confinement a priority. In 2011, he issued a report stating that 22 or 23 hours a day alone in a prison cell for more than 15 days at a time can cause permanent, lasting psychological damage and can constitute torture. This problem, he emphasized, is particularly severe in the U.S., where prisoners are routinely held under such conditions for months, years and even decades at a time. Many have never committed a violent crime. Fast forward five years. The U.S. government has yet to grant Mendez access to a single isolation pod in any U.S. prison. The clock is ticking. Mendez has a mere twenty months left of his term, and he has yet been able to substantiate his reports with a first-hand investigation. Then suddenly, last December, Mendez was allowed access to California’s Pelican Bay State Prison—a facility known for keeping inmates in isolation indefinitely in its Security Housing Unit (SHU). This visit did not come about through the official channels Mendez had long been appealing to, however. Instead, he found a way in to one of the most notorious prisons in the country through a kind of “backdoor”.



GLOBAL RELATIONS

US “War on Drugs” Ruined Mexico Even Worse Than It Did Afghanistan – (Tom Dispatch – March 23, 2015)
Like the Islamic State, the power of the Mexican drug cartels has increased as the result of disastrous policies born in the U.S.A. There are other parallels between IS and groups like Mexico’s Zetas and its Sinaloa cartel. Just as the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya fertilized the field for IS, another U.S. war, the so-called War on Drugs, opened new horizons for the drug cartels. Just as Washington has worked hand-in-hand with and also behind the backs of corrupt rulers in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, so it has done with the Mexican government. Both kinds of war have resulted in blowback — violent consequences felt in our own cities, whether at the finish line of the Boston Marathon or in communities of color across the country. In Mexico, the U.S. military is directly involved in the War on Drugs. In this country, that “war” has provided the pretext for the militarization of local police forces and increased routine surveillance of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. And just as both the national security state and the right wing have used the specter of IS to create an atmosphere of panic and hysteria in this country, so both have used the drug cartels’ grotesque theater of violence to justify their demonization of immigrants from Latin America and the massive militarization of America’s borderlands. This is just a small part of what the “war on drugs” has achieved in the U.S.; what it has achieved in Mexico is even more disturbing. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article for its detailed reporting and its ability to “connect the dots”.)

Bait-and-Switch Sanctioning of Iran – (National Interest – April 8, 2015)
Given the casual and automatic manner in which references to Iran supposedly sowing mayhem all over the region are routinely worked into almost any discussion of policy toward Iran, it perhaps is too much to expect many people to stop and study the flaws. Perhaps we should just remind people who make those casual references that if Iran really were bent on causing all that mayhem, that is all the more reason to support an agreement to assure that the marauder does not get a nuclear weapon. A particular variant of the Iran-as-marauder argument that has featured prominently in the most recent efforts to kill the nuclear agreement is the notion that granting Iran relief from some of the sanctions to which it currently is subjected would give Iran more resources for more trouble-making in the region, and this would mean Iran would in fact cause more trouble. This assumes that any extra funds in the Iranian bank account would go into whatever foreign activities the anti-agreement people want us to think of as trouble-making, rather than toward meeting the demands and high expectations of the Iranian public for domestic improvement. That assumption does not square with what Iranian leaders know their political future depends upon; they fully realize that the crowds that greeted Foreign Minister Zarif upon returning from the negotiations in Lausanne expect that improvement in their way of life at home; people in the crowds were not cheering Zarif because they believe there will be more money for foreign adventurism.



LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES

Scientists Can Predict Your City's Obesity Rate by Analyzing Its Sewage – (Mother Jones – March 31, 2015)
Researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee collected raw sewage samples from the intakes of municipal wastewater treatment plants in 71 cities around the country. Their results, published in mBio, the American Society for Microbiology's open-access journal, showed that the microbial content of that sewage predicted each city's relative obesity with 81% to 89% accuracy. The finding actually isn't all that surprising, says lead author Ryan Newton, a visiting professor at UWM's School of Freshwater Sciences. Other studies have shown that bacterial imbalances in your intestines can lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes. Newton's study, however, is the first to demonstrate that those microbial differences also play out across entire populations, even after our poop gets flushed, mixed together, and sent through miles of pipes. The UWM study was enabled by computing advances that have allowed scientists to rapidly sequence microbial populations and look for patterns in the results. Other researchers are using similar techniques to look for correlations between gut bacteria and a wide range of health conditions. Scientists hope other data derived from sewage could help predict epidemics and track public health trends. And just as important, sequencing sewage could eliminate the thorny problem of doing public health surveys. Unlike people, your poop can't lie about what you had to eat.

The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things – (Fast Company – March 30, 2015)
Most people are in the pursuit of happiness. But one of the biggest questions is how to allocate our money, which is (for most of us) a limited resource. There's a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong. "One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation," says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. "We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them." How adaptation affects happiness, for instance, was measured in a study that asked people to self-report their happiness with major material and experiential purchases. Initially, their happiness with those purchases was ranked about the same. But over time, people's satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up. So rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, Gilovich suggests you'll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling


CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE

More Than 60 School Children Witness Non-Human Beings and a Large Craft Landing – (Collective Evolution – April 8, 2015)
One of the most astonishing UFO witness cases comes from a supposed encounter with over sixty schoolchildren in the town of Ruwa, Zimbabwe, on September 16, 1994. The children claim to have seen multiple hovering objects that resembled what we would describe as spaceships. The schoolchildren were playing outside at recess when they all said they saw a large craft, and multiple small crafts land in a nearby field. Not only that, they said they saw multiple “beings” that they described as non-human. The remarkable thing about this story is that all of the children told the exact same story, precisely, as if what had happened really did occur; they were being completely sincere about their experience. Also the children’s drawings of what they saw were also extremely consistent with one another. Video footage (embedded and accessible through links) includes footage from some of the children 20 years later speaking about their experience. They were able to communicate clearly and maturely about what happened, years after the event occurred.

STATISTICS/DEMOGRAPHICS

Nobel-winning Doctors' Group: 1.3+ Million People Killed in U.S. 'War on Terror' – (Digital Journal – March 25, 2015)
The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival have released a report titled "Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the 'War on Terror." The study examined direct and indirect deaths caused by more than a decade of US-led war in three countries, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but did not include deaths in other countries attacked by American and allied military forces, including Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria. The study noted that while the United States closely monitors casualty figures for allied troops—4,804 coalition deaths in Iraq; 3,485 in Afghanistan, the number of civilians and enemy combatants killed by US and allied forces is "officially ignored." The IPPNW investigation, which scoured the results of individual studies and data published by United Nations organizations, government agencies and non-governmental organizations, concluded the ongoing war "has, directly or indirectly, killed around 1 million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan." "The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware," the study's authors write. "And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries... could also be in excess of 2 million." The study also cites other efforts to obtain an accurate casualty count from the US-led wars.



NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES

Budgee: The Adorable Robot That Hauls Your Stuff – (SmartHome – January 6, 2015)
Meet Budgee, he's just under four feet tall, has a pair of light-up eyes, weighs in at under 20 pounds, zips around at up to 2.4 miles per hour, and can carry up to 50 pounds. Budgee's prime directive is simple: carry your groceries, shopping bags, or luggage in the friendliest and most polite manner possible. Operating Budgee is easy: Simply load up his basket with stuff, activate the handheld remote, and you're good to go. Budgee will follow you around, stop if someone crosses his path, and speed up if you pick up the pace. Budgee even recognizes when he's about to collide with an obstacle or fall off a cliff. Budgee's battery lasts up to 10 hours and recharges in about three. He’s operated from an app on your smartphone.

Low-frequency Sound-based Fire Extinguisher Puts Out Flames – (RT – March 28, 2015)
Two engineering students from George Mason University are using the unique power of sound to put out flames – and they’re hoping the technology will become powerful enough to help extinguish forest fires. The sound-based fire extinguisher they recently demoed uses low-frequency sound waves to take out flames. In a video posted on YouTube, students Viet Tran and Seth Robertson demonstrated their booming new device. "Eventually, I'd like to see this applied to swarm robotics, where it'd be attached to a drone, and that would be applied to forest fires or even building fires where you wouldn't want to sacrifice human life," said Tran. Tran and Robertson began with the idea that sound waves can cause a physical impact on objects. If sound waves could be used to come between whatever's burning and oxygen - which fuels the fire - the students believed the flames themselves would go out. Initial experiments with high-frequency sound waves didn't yield many results, but low-frequency waves (30-60 Hertz) actually worked. Still, it's unclear just how effective the concept could be when it comes to putting out large fires. The current design does not feature a coolant, so it's possible that once the sound waves halt the fire, a still-hot object could reignite. With a preliminary patent in hand, though, the two are determined to explore the possibilities.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Take a Reverse Tour of the Global Gadget Supply Chain with These Stunning Photos – (Fast Company – April 13, 2015)
For three weeks last summer, the "nomadic design studio" Unknown Fields took a reverse tour of the global supply chain, riding a massive cargo ship from Vietnam to a shipyard in Shanghai, visiting a Christmas decoration factory in China, and exploring a mine in inner Mongolia. Together with a group of filmmakers, journalists, scientists, and artists, they documented each step of the journey of a typical tech gadget made in China. The filmmakers wanted to tell their story in reverse—an "unmaking of" a smartphone from sea to source, from "final gleaming object of desire" all the way to the "refineries and toxic waste dumps where their ingredients are forged" and the spaces in between. The scale of each part of the supply chain amazed the designers. Yiwu, the world's largest wholesale market, is a store that's as big as a city. "Suburbs are organized around the goods they sell—an area of fake flowers, inflatable toys, or novelty sunglasses," says Liam Young. "The scale of this market was just unimaginable. It is the landscape where every object that ends up in a 99 cent store or discount shop is first traded. Every single one of us has an object in our homes that has passed through this city at one point." China's shipyards were similarly massive. Seven of the 10 busiest ports in the world are in China, and they move some 95% of the world's goods. The trip ended at a giant radioactive lake in Mongolia, filled with toxic sludge pumped in from surrounding chemical refineries. "An advertiser's description of our technologies is based on lightness and thinness," says Unknown Fields co-founder Liam Young. "Terms like 'the cloud,' or Macbook 'Air' imply that our gadgets are just ephemeral objects. In reality, our technologies are actually geological artifacts that are carved out of the Earth.” Article includes photos and a time-lapse video clip of shipping container transport and processing.

PROVOCATIVE IDEAS

Psychedelic Drugs ‘Safe as Riding a Bike or Playing Soccer’ – (Newsweek – April 1, 2015)
Psychedelic drugs like MDMA and magic mushrooms are as safe as riding a bike or playing soccer, and bans against them are “inconsistent with human rights”, according to the authors of a letter published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal. The letter, written by Boston-born Teri Krebs, research fellow within the Department of Neuroscience at the Norway University of Science and Technology and her Norwegian husband Pål-Ørjan Johansen, stresses that national and international policies must respect the rights of individuals who chose to use psychedelics as a spiritual, personal development, or cultural activity. “Although psychedelics can induce temporary confusion and emotional turmoil, hospitalizations and serious injuries are extremely rare. Overall psychedelics are not particularly dangerous when compared with other common activities,” says Krebs. The pair have set up a non-profit organisation, EmmaSofia, which aims to expand access to quality-controlled MDMA (ecstasy) and psychedelics and to promote human rights for psychedelic users. EmmaSofia has launched a crowdfunding scheme to raise $30,000 to build a foundation for their long term efforts to legalise the drugs which they believe can be used to treat addictions to substances like heroin, tobacco and alcohol and to help people suffering from diseases like Parkinson’s. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul McLaren, who is based at Priory Hayes Grove Hospital near Bromley, Kent (in the UK), said, “Just because a drug has powerful psychological effects does not mean that those effects are inevitably therapeutic, and it should be subjected to the rigorous testing systems which are in place - as would be the case for novel pharmacological agents.” But as Johansen points out: “Over 30 million U.S. adults have tried psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of health problems.”

In Brazil, Some Prison Inmates Get Therapy With Hallucinogenic Tea – (New York Times – March 28, 2015)
The provision of a hallucinogen to inmates on short furloughs in the middle of the rain forest reflects a continuing quest for ways to ease pressure on Brazil’s prison system. The country’s inmate population has doubled since the start of the century to more than 550,000, straining underfunded prisons rife with human rights violations and violent uprisings complete with beheadings. One of the bloodiest prison revolts in recent decades took place in the nearby city of Porto Velho, in 2002, when at least 27 inmates were killed at the Urso Branco prison. Around the same time, Acuda, a pioneering prisoners’ rights group in Porto Velho, began offering inmates therapy sessions in yoga, meditation and Reiki, a healing method directing energy from the practitioner’s hands to a recipient’s body. Two years ago, the volunteer therapists at Acuda had a new idea: Why not give the inmates ayahuasca as well? The Amazonian brew, which is generally made by blending and boiling a vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) with a leaf (Psychotria viridis), is growing in popularity in Brazil, the United States and other countries. The supervisors at Acuda obtain a judge’s permission to take about 15 prisoners once a month to the temple ceremony. Luiz Marques, 57, an economist who founded Acuda, said the organization hoped to reduce recidivism, but he emphasized that a more immediate goal was “expanding the consciousness” of prisoners about right and wrong.

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

124-year-old Patent Shows Correct Way to Hang Your Toilet Roll – (Straits Times – March 21, 2015)
Patents have changed a great deal in 124 years. In 1871, Seth Wheeler patented the idea for perforated “wrapping paper” (i.e. toilet tissue). Here is a copy of his complete patent. His company, the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company, then re-patented it, this time in roll form, in 1891 so as to reduce wastage. In the second patent, his drawing clearly shows that the roll of paper should be mounted so as to hang to the front. Now you know.



JUST FOR FUN

Watch a Mesmerizing Animation of NASA Satellites – (Wired – March 9, 2015)
NASA’s Earth-observing satellites get the dubious honor of staring at us all day. Now, this video of the fleet zipping around the planet is just mesmerizing enough to make us want to do the same. Roughly 400 miles overhead in low-Earth orbit, these 18 spacecraft are constantly taking pictures and collecting data about Earth, from its climate and oceans to its deserts and forests. They circle the planet once every hour and a half, totaling about eight orbits in the 12 hours elapsed in the animation. Look closer and you’ll notice that most of these flyers orbit Earth in the north-south direction—that’s called a polar orbit. It’s one of the most useful orbits for exploring a planet, moon, or any other planet-like body, because it lets the satellite see the entire surface while the planet rotates below.



A FINAL QUOTE--

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.-- John Wayne



A special thanks to: Larry Dossey, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Sergio Lub, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along - thanks.
johnp@arlingtoninstitute.org




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Edited by John L. Petersen
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Publication Date:
04/15/2015