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Did you know that the word “transhuman” literally means “beyond human”? All over the world, scientists and intellectuals are joining the transhumanism movement. Those that adhere to this philosophy believe that the time has come for us to use technology to take control of our own evolution. By doing so, they believe that we can give ourselves superhuman powers and radically extend our lifespans. Right now, the most popular movie in America is “Avengers: Age of Ultron“, and in recent years we have watched films about “mutants” and “superheroes” become some of Hollywood’s biggest moneymakers. But transhumanists believe that we will soon be able to literally turn ourselves into such superheroes as technology continues to increase at an exponential rate. And once we have superhuman powers and superhuman intelligence, they are convinced that we will eradicate all sickness, disease, poverty and war. Many of them actually believe that we will be able to achieve immortality and establish a utopia on Earth just a few decades from now. In other words, we won’t need a “God” because we will have become our own gods.
At the core of the transhumanist movement is an unshakable faith in the inevitable technological progress of humanity. Yes, there are some transhumanists that have doubts, but for most transhumanists the solution to all of our problems is more technology. If you are not familiar with transhumanism, the following is a really good definition that I recently came across…
Transhumanism is a cultural and intellectual movement promoting the aim of transforming the human condition fundamentally by developing – and making available – technologies to enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capabilities. Transhumanist thinking studies the potential benefits and hazards of emerging technologies that could overcome basic human limitations. It also addresses ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. Some transhumanists predict that human beings may eventually transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities that they justify a state of being known as ‘posthuman’.
Transhumanists want to help humans live much longer, and they also want to dramatically increase the quality of those lives. Ultimately, most transhumanists are fully convinced that they will be able to defeat death altogether. The following is a short excerpt from an ExtremeTech article…
One of the core concepts in transhumanist thinking is life extension: Through genetic engineering, nanotech, cloning, and other emerging technologies, eternal life may soon be possible. Likewise, transhumanists are interested in the ever-increasing number of technologies that can boost our physical, intellectual, and psychological capabilities beyond what humans are naturally capable of (thus the term transhuman). Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), for example, which speeds up reaction times and learning speed by running a very weak electric current through your brain, has already been used by the US military to train snipers. On the more extreme side, transhumanism deals with the concepts of mind uploading (to a computer), and what happens when we finally craft a computer with greater-than-human intelligence (the technological singularity).
So would you like to live forever armed with superhuman powers?
The most famous transhumanist in the world, Ray Kurzweil, actually believes that he is going to be able to do that. But first he has to stay alive long enough for the technologies that he believes are coming to be developed. So Kurzweil takes 150 supplements a day in an attempt to keep his body in peak condition…
The youthful 65-year-old currently takes 150 supplements a day, which he argues is the first bridge.
The idea is to build enough bridges to ensure the body holds out long enough for life-lengthening technology to come into its own.
He has likened the biology of the body to computer software and believes we are all ‘out of date’.
Kurzweil is absolutely convinced that if he can just stretch his life out long enough that technologies that will enable him to achieve immortality are right around the corner. In fact, in a piece that he wrote for CNN he expressed his belief that our medical technologies will be “a million times more powerful” than they are today just two decades from now…
Health and medicine is now an information technology and is therefore subject to what I call the “law of accelerating returns,” which is a doubling of capability (for the same cost) about each year that applies to any information technology.
As a result, technologies to reprogram the “software” that underlie human biology are already a thousand times more powerful than they were when the genome project was completed in 2003, and will again be a thousand times more powerful than they are today in a decade, and a million times more powerful in two decades.
So will he be right?
We will just have to wait and see.
For a long time, many in the transhumanist movement (including Kurzweil) have been pointing to a time period between 2030 and 2050 during which they believe something remarkable will happen. They believe that during that time period something known as “the singularity” will occur. As technology increases at an exponential rate, they believe that artificial intelligence will begin to greatly surpass human intelligence at some point, and that humanity will merge with this new super intelligence. Once that happens, they believe that the world will change in ways that we cannot even comprehend today…
Kurzweil and his followers believe that a crucial turning point will be reached around the year 2030, when information technology achieves ‘genuine’ intelligence, at the same time as biotechnology enables a seamless union between us and this super-smart new technological environment. Ultimately the human-machine mind will become free to roam a universe of its own creation, uploading itself at will on to a “suitably powerful computational substrate”. We will become essentially god-like in our powers.
Does that sound good to you, or does it sound frightening?
Other transhumanists are not quite as optimistic as Kurzweil and his followers. Just consider what Max Tegmark, the author of Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, had to say about what life will be like after “the singularity”…
After this, life on Earth would never be the same. Whoever or whatever controls this technology would rapidly become the world’s wealthiest and most powerful, outsmarting all financial markets, out-inventing and out-patenting all human researchers, and out-manipulating all human leaders. Even if we humans nominally merge with such machines, we might have no guarantees whatsoever about the ultimate outcome, making it feel less like a merger and more like a hostile corporate takeover.
Even some of the most prominent scientists in the world are skeptical of what an ultra-powerful artificial intelligence would mean for the future of humanity. The following is an excerpt from an article co-authored by Stephen Hawking…
Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organized in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains. An explosive transition is possible, although it may play out differently than in the movie: as Irving Good realized in 1965, machines with superhuman intelligence could repeatedly improve their design even further, triggering what Vernor Vinge called a “singularity” and Johnny Depp’s movie character calls “transcendence.” One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.
But despite these reservations from many in the scientific community, many transhumanists are pushing ahead as hard as they can. Many of them are absolutely convinced that what they are doing will bring a new golden age to this planet. Just consider the words of transhumanist Zoltan Istvan…
Despite this, people continue to worry that technology and science that make our species more transhuman will be used to create a deeper divide in society for the haves and have-nots. Those worries are unfounded. A close examination of the issues show that transhumanist technology and science liberates us, brings us better health, and has improved the living standards of all people around the world. If you value liberty, equality and progress, it makes sense to embrace the coming age of transhumanism.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
And there are even some transhumanists that couch their hopes and dreams for the future in religious terminology. For example, transhumanist Mark Pesce is fully convinced that transhumanism will allow ordinary humans “to become as gods”…
“Men die, planets die, even stars die. We know all this. Because we know it, we seek something more—a transcendence of transience, translation to incorruptible form. An escape if you will, a stop to the wheel. We seek, therefore, to bless ourselves with perfect knowledge and perfect will; To become as gods, take the universe in hand, and transform it in our image—for our own delight. As it is on Earth, so it shall be in the heavens. The inevitable result of incredible improbability, the arrow of evolution is lipping us into the transhuman – an apotheosis to reason, salvation – attained by good works.”
That is some pretty strong stuff.
So what do you think about all of this? Please feel free to join the discussion by leaving a comment below…
GMO Biotech Companies and Compliant Politicians: Infiltrating India Using Baseless Claims and Deception
“Motivated by greed with a complete disregard for food safety and biodiversity.” Why Food Sovereignty...
Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer et al.: Through Political Cooptation and Corruption, the GMO Biotech Sector...
The proposal to hand back some decision powers to member states of the European Union regarding GMO approvals is currently being discussed (1). It will be voted on by member states on 12 June. According to Corporate Europe Observatory, biotech firms regard it as an opportunity to break the stalemate and finally get their GM crops growing in
“This is all about getting more GM crops into the ground more quickly. Collective decision making hasn’t allowed GM crops to be grown widely in the EU because the majority of EU countries don’t want them.”
“If member states back down from highlighting the environmental harms of RoundUp Ready GM crops, these could be fast-tracked into the ground in some parts of
Europe… We need to be improving the GM risk assessments not facilitating contamination of food, feed and seed in the European market with GM crops that nobody wants.”
“The idea of individual countries being able to ban GM sounds appealing, but sadly it won’t work. Pollen and seed don’t respect national boundaries any more than they give way on a roundabout, and experience shows that once the GM genie is out there we cannot put it back in the bottle. The costs can be huge.”
“GM supporters, including our own Environment Minister Owen Paterson, are throwing away the whole concept of a common market to further their own support for a technology that raises far more questions than it answers. Their refusal to first put in place a reasonable, clear liability regime to protect the food system and the environment speaks volumes.”
“Ministries, least of all ‘promoting’ Ministries, should not have the authority to allow the novel technology of GMOs into Indian agriculture bypassing authentic democratic processes. Those processes require the widest possible and transparent consultation… After all, it is every woman, man and child, and our animals, an entire nation that will quite literally have to eat the outcome of a GM policy that delivers up our agriculture to it: if a GMO is unsafe, it will remain irreversibly unsafe. And it will remain in the environment and that is another dimension of impact.” (17)
Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – The first country to defy the ‘War on Drugs’ by legalizing marijuana is Uruguay. It was described as a revolutionary act against the prohibition of a plant that is used by millions worldwide under the former Marxist guerilla and political prisoner who is now the President of Uruguay Jose Mujica. Seems like the Mujica government is allowing Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont among others to operate in Uruguay and harvest marijuana through their GMO-based seeds. Details of how the new marijuana laws will operate by monitoring the population through a database that would collect fingerprints and other parts of your body to assure you are using government controlled “Genetically Modified Marijuana”.
Last December the Associated Press reported on Uruguay’s decision to move forward to experiment on legalized marijuana to undermine illegal drug trafficking and crime in an article titled ‘From Seed to Smoke, Uruguay Testing Legalized Pot.’ The report stated what the Mujica government’s intentions were concerning the legalization of marijuana:
President Jose Mujica’s goal is to drive drug traffickers out of the dope business and reduce consumption by creating a safe, legal and transparent environment in which the state closely monitors every aspect of marijuana use, from seed to smoke. That means designing and maintaining an industry that is small, contained and profitable. Congress only approved Mujica’s grand “experiment” in broad strokes.
The fine print must strike a delicate balance on issues including what strength to allow for marijuana, what price to charge, who can farm it, how to crack down on illegal growers, how to persuade users to buy from the state instead of a dealer, and how to monitor use without being seen as Big Brother. If the rules are too lenient, or too strict, the whole project could fail
The report also quoted Uruguayan Senator Lucia Topolansk (President Mujica’s wife) when she said that “the state would provide cloned seeds whose plants can be traced.” It should not surprise anyone, especially those who understand what corporations such as Monsanto are trying to achieve on a global scale. Mainstream media outlet CNBC reported in 2010 that “most large agribusiness producers and distributors wouldn’t comment on any marijuana cultivation plans while it’s still largely illegal.” Now, Uruguay is fair game since they passed legislation to legalize marijuana. Although they did say that “seed and agri-chemical maker Monsanto isn’t focused on it, says spokesman Darren Wallis, adding that even if that changed tomorrow, development of a mass-scale crop takes time.” Yes, it does take time to produce. CNBC also did say that “other big food and agricultural firms would not comment, saying the proposition was too hypothetical or inappropriate given the largely illegal current status of the drug.” Well, it is not hypothetical anymore since Uruguay passed laws to legalize marijuana cultivation and use. It is now a reality for biotech corporations to move forward with genetic manipulation of the crop because now they have an incentive to dominate the marijuana industry starting with Uruguay. An interesting analysis by www.cannabisculture.com titled ‘Manipulating Marijuana: Monsanto and Syngenta Invest in RNA Interference Technology’ by Tracy Giesz-Ramsay on Monsanto and Syngenta’s investments in RNA Interference (RNAi) technology and what it means for the production of Marijuana in the future. Giesz-Ramsey wrote the following:
Having been cultivated and used ceremonially, recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years, cannabis – despite prohibitive laws surrounding the non-medicinal use of the plant – is undoubtedly on the radar of big agribusiness.
These companies would certainly turn a profit from developing a patentable transgenic seed for sole distribution if the use of cannabis were to become legal. It would be easy for these companies to create a monopoly over the industry by abusing their ties with federal regulators. This has all been a point of much debate within the cannabis community for many years.
With this in mind, it’s fair to say that one of the only positives of marijuana prohibition, with the art of breeding, growing and distributing cannabis heavily underground for most of its commercial history, the Big 6 seed and chemical companies have not been able to dominate the industry with their patented technologies.
The trouble: things may change soon. Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, Dow and DuPont have, until recently, largely focused their energy on monopolizing the food industry, but some have developed a keen interest in this still-illegal plant as well.
The biggest concern with cannabis and GM control now remains. While they gain a monopoly over medical marijuana, the challenge of governments who continue to wage the ostensible “War on Drugs” is being taken on by some of the Big 6. Monsanto and Syngenta are currently investing millions of dollars into a new GM technology called RNA interference.
RNAi, as it’s also known, is a method where the RNA – which is the code from a plant or animal’s DNA that tells its proteins how to organize in order to create, say, what colour the plant will be – is interfered with. In RNAi, double-stranded RNA is inserted so that this original code is obstructed; so that the pigmentation instructions don’t make it to the proteins
As we already know about Monsanto’s GMO seeds, they are genetically modified plants that are resistant to chemical herbicides such as “Round-Up.” The herbicides kill other plants, allowing genetically altered plants to resist the herbicide and be planted closer together than traditional crops normally used by farmers. It apparently allows farmers to gain more from crop production on their farmland than ever before. The seeds are known as “Round-Up Ready.” Farmers are required to purchase the GMO-laced seeds every season once they agree to use the product. Uruguay is falling into a danger zone when it comes to planting GMO seeds in the agricultural-rich country. It can affect natural food crops in the long-run as Monsanto and other agri-businesses would eventually expand into other areas of food production.
With Uruguay’s decision to allow multi-national biotech corporations to operate on its lands, it also opens the door to a police state monitoring its citizens who will use “cloned” marijuana as reported by RT news earlier this month in a report titled “Uruguay rolls out marijuana legal sale details.” It described Uruguay’s methods:
Police will be able to carry out on-the-spot checks to make sure drivers are not under the influence while behind the wheel. Companies and trade unions will also be permitted to carry out random checks to make sure employees are not stoned, particularly while undergoing risky or dangerous work.
The strains of the drug will also be limited to five, which will be allowed a maximum THC level of 15 percent. Each bag of marijuana will be barcoded and radio-frequency tagged, which will allow authorities to determine its origin and legality.
People who buy pot in pharmacies will be identified by fingerprint readers to preserve their anonymity, but their consumption of the drug will be tracked on a government database.
This will allow police to test for illegal weed when they come across it, and arrest anyone possessing marijuana without the proper tracers
Uruguay’s control over all facets of the new marijuana industry with a national database does seem “Orwellian” as it borders on fascism for the fear that legalizing marijuana can lead to higher drug use among the population. It is understandable, but imposing a police state to control drug-use and crime is not an answer to the war on drugs. However, not collecting taxes on marijuana is a good start. Uruguay has also approved a law that will exempt marijuana producers and sales of the crop from taxes that would undermine marijuana illegally imported from other countries such as Paraguay. Reuters reported on Uruguay’s tax policy regarding the issue of legalized marijuana when it said that “The principal objective is not tax collection. Everything has to be geared toward undercutting the black market,” said Felix Abadi, a contractor who is developing Uruguay’s marijuana tax structure. “So we have to make sure the price is low.” Which is true in a sense, since a high risk of incarceration increases the price of marijuana. Uruguay’s new law will also issue licenses to farmers to produce cannabis according to Reuters “Uruguay will auction up to six licenses to produce cannabis legally in the next weeks. The government is also considering growing marijuana on a plot of land controlled by the military to avoid illegal trafficking of the crop.”
Mujica met with US President Barack Obama earlier this month after his government released the details of the new marijuana law to discuss stronger relations between both countries. Obama welcomed President Mujica when he said:
President Mujica personally has extraordinary credibility when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights given his strong values and personal history, and is a leader on these issues throughout the hemisphere. And we share an interest in strengthening further the people-to-people bonds between our two countries, particularly around the issues of science, technology and education
Uruguayan President Mujica’s response:
We have been looking toward everywhere, but towards ourselves a bit also. And from the humbleness of my little Uruguay, my people, who are there amongst an enormous area of fertile and much water, come here to seek out knowledge and research in all groups of the biological sciences, particularly in land that require local research, because the continent must produce much food for the world. And besides, this is the most advanced country in the world for biological sciences, but we don’t want to merely send students out because they get married — and the American corporations pay more money, so we lose these qualified people. We have to bring teachers so then can come, but we need to make arrangements so that they can continue to contribute to Social Security here. Wisdom must be looked for there where it is
President Mujica has called for ‘normalized relations’ between Cuba and the US to end the embargo and has supported South American leaders such as Bolivian President Evo Morales during the time when the US and EU forced Morales’s plane to land in Vienna to search for NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. “We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America” according to the Guardian. In many ways President Mujica is a revolutionary against Western imperialism. But allowing GMO crops in Uruguay is a step in the wrong direction although he probably does believe that allowing GMO’s would actually feed the world. Maybe he is misinformed, which I do believe is the case, after all he believes that smoking marijuana is an “addiction.” However, I do believe he does mean well. President Mujica should reconsider using any form of Genetic Modified crops that is dangerous to humans no matter what he thinks about marijuana use. Hopefully he will create a committee to re-evaluate proven research on the effects of GMO’s. Biotech Corporations just want to exploit Uruguay’s lands as an experiment. Let’s hope the Mujica government will make a U-turn away from corporate dominance.
“We are forced to conclude that the decision to withdraw our paper was based on unscientific double standards applied by the editor. These double standards can only be explained by pressure from the GMO and agrochemical industry to force acceptance of GMOs and Roundup. The most flagrant illustration is the appointment of Richard Goodman, a former Monsanto employee, onto the FCT editorial board, soon after the publication of the NK603 study. Worse, this pro-industry bias also affects regulatory authorities, such as EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which gives favourable opinions on risky products based on mediocre studies commissioned by the companies wishing to commercialize the products, as well as systematically dismissing the findings of independent scientists which cast doubt on their safety.”
“The GMO debate is far from being over, as some GMO proponents claim. Instead the evidence of risk and actual harm from GM foods and crops to health and the environment has grown in the two years since we brought out the first edition. The good news is that GMOs are not needed to feed the world. The report shows that there are far better ways of ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply.”
1) The report debunks the claims by pro-GMO lobbyists that 1,700 studies show GM foods are as safe. The studies show nothing of the sort. Many of them not only show evidence of risk, but the review also excludes or glosses over important scientific controversies over GMO safety issues. (See page102 of the new report.)
2) A review purportedly showing that GM foods are safe on the basis of long-term animal studies actually shows evidence of risk and uses unscientific double standards to reach a conclusion that is not justified by the data. (p. 161)
3) A laboratory study in human cells shows that very low levels of glyphosate (the main chemical ingredient of Roundup herbicide, which most GM crops are engineered to tolerate) mimicked the hormone estrogen and stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells. The level of glyphosate that had this effect was below the level allowed in drinking water in
Europe and far below the level allowed in the . It was also below the level found in GM glyphosate-tolerant soy, which is imported into USA Europe for animal feed and human food. If confirmed in animal studies, this finding would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate. (p. 221)
4) Séralini’s study is far stronger and more detailed than many industry studies that are accepted as proof of safety for GMOs. The European Food Safety Authority had to reject the study in order to protect its own previous opinions on this and other GMOs, for reasons explained in the report. The findings of this study, if confirmed, would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate and Roundup. (pp. 94, 147)
“There is evidence that Roundup, even at the low levels permitted in food and drinking water, could lead to serious effects on health over time, such as liver and kidney toxicity. Based on this evidence, it appears that the levels of exposure currently held as safe by regulators around the world are questionable.”
“The GMO industry is built on myths. What is the motivation behind the deception? Money. GM crops and foods are easy to patent and are an important tool in the global consolidation of the seed and food industry into the hands of a few big companies. We all have to eat, so selling patented GM seed and the chemicals they are grown with is a lucrative business model. GMO Myths and Truths offers a one-stop resource for the public, campaigners, policy-makers, and scientists opposing the GMO industry’s attempts to control our food supply and shut down scientific and public debate.”
British Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson is a staunch supporter of the GM sector (1). Despite criticisms of him being an industry puppet (2) and content to ignore the devastating, deleterious health, environmental, social and agricultural impacts of GMOs (3), both he and other officials like the EU’s chief science advisor Anne Glover (4) have been more than happy to act as mouthpieces for the GM sector by making false statements and claims about the benefits and safety of GMOs that fly in the face of scientific findings.
Civil servants hosted a meeting with industry leaders in June 2013 to decide how to present the government’s agri-tech strategy. Officials at the Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) department even emailed the ABC asking for advice on how to promote the policy. Poulter writes that one BIS official asked for “any ideas you may have that will showcase agri-tech – as you are aware it will need to be eye-catching but reflect the main themes of the strategy.”
“The evidence strongly suggests the Government is colluding with the GM industry to manipulate the media, undermine access to GM-free-fed meat and dairy products and plot the return of GM crops to Britain. The public have a right to know what is going on behind closed doors… Ministers who should be protecting our environment have put Monsanto and Syngenta in the driving seat of policy on GM crops and foods.”
Can genetically modified (GM) food crops be kept out of
Open field planting and the release of GM organisms into the environment are part of a deliberate ploy to contaminate non-GM crops and eventually render the GM/non-GM debate obsolete. This is not a wild claim: one only has to look at the widespread contamination of wheat and rice in the
A recent report (5) that appeared in The Australian newspaper notes that most Australian farmers grow GM-free food. The current non-binding recommendation guidelines for managing GM canola cultivation in
Does Oakland Really Need a High-Tech ‘Domain Awareness Center’? Evidence Suggests Surveillance Doesn’t Do...
By James F. Tracy
This story originally appeared here and at Global Research in July 2012. It was recently selected by an international panel of evaluators as Story Number 14 in Project Censored’s Top 25 Most Under-Reported Stories for 2012-2013. The article is featured in the new volume Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times (Seven Stories Press, 2013).
Electromagnetic pollution is one of the greatest threats to human health today. Over the past several years this public health menace has only intensified with the rollout of “smart meters” that replace standard analog meters on residences and businesses throughout the nation and world.
Wireless Technology and the Accelerated Toxification of America
As a multitude of hazardous wireless technologies are deployed in homes, schools and workplaces, government officials and industry representatives continue to insist on their safety despite growing evidence to the contrary. A major health crisis looms that is only hastened through the extensive deployment of “smart grid” technology.
In October 2009 at Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) solar energy station President Barack Obama announced that $3.4 billion of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act would be devoted to the country’s “smart energy grid” transition. Matching funds from the energy industry brought the total national Smart Grid investment to $8 billion. FPL was given $200 million of federal money to install 2.5 million “smart meters” on homes and businesses throughout the state.
By now many residents in the United States and Canada have the smart meters installed on their dwellings. Each of these meters is equipped with an electronic cellular transmitter that uses powerful bursts of electromagnetic radiofrequency (RF) radiation to communicate with nearby meters that together form an interlocking network transferring detailed information on residents’ electrical usage back to the utility every few minutes or less. Such information can easily be used to determine individual patterns of behavior based on power consumption.
The smart grid technology is being sold to the public as a way to “empower” individual energy consumers by allowing them to access information on their energy usage so that they may eventually save money by programming “smart” (i.e, wireless enabled) home appliances and equipment that will coordinate their operability with the smart meter to run when electrical rates are lowest. In other words, a broader plan behind smart grid technology involves a tiered rate system for electricity consumption that will be set by the utility to which customers will have no choice but to conform.
Because of power companies’ stealth rollout of smart meters a large majority of the public still remains unaware of the dangers they pose to human health. This remains the case even though states such as Maine have adopted an “opt out” provision for their citizens. The devices have not been safety-tested by Underwriters Laboratory and thus lack the UL approval customary for most electronics. Further, power customers are typically told by their utilities that the smart meter only communicates with the power company “a few times per day” to transmit information on individual household energy usage. However, when individuals obtained the necessary equipment to do their own testing they found the meters were emitting bursts of RF radiation throughout the home far more intense than a cell phone call every minute or less.
America’s Telecom-friendly Policy for RF Exposure
A growing body of medical studies is now linking cumulative RF exposure to DNA disruption, cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and autoimmune diseases. Smart meters significantly contribute to an environment already polluted by RF radiation through the pervasive stationing of cellular telephone towers in or around public spaces and consumers’ habitual use of wireless technologies. In the 2000 Salzburg Resolution European scientists recommended the maximum RF exposure for humans to be no more than one tenth of a microwatt per square centimeter. In the United States RF exposure limits are 1,000 microwatts per centimeter, with no limits for long term exposure. Such lax standards have been determined by outdated science and the legal and regulatory maneuvering of the powerful telecommunications and wireless industries.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ceased studying the health effects of radiofrequency radiation when the Senate Appropriations Committee cut the department’s funding and forbade it from further research into the area. Thereafter RF limits were codified as mere “guidelines” based on the EPA’s tentative findings and are to this day administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
These weakly enforced standards are predicated on the alleged “thermal effect” of RF. In other words, if the energy emitted from a wireless antenna or device is not powerful enough to heat the skin or flesh then no danger is posed to human health. This reasoning is routinely put forward by utilities installing smart meters on residences, telecom companies locating cellular transmission towers in populated areas, and now school districts across the US allowing the installation of cell towers on school campuses.
The FCC’s authority to impose this standard was further reinforced with the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act that included a provision lobbied for by the telecom industry preventing state and local governments from evaluating potential environmental and health effects when locating cell towers “so long as ‘such facilities comply with the FCC’s regulations concerning such emissions.’”
In 2001 an alliance of scientists and engineers with the backing of the Communications Workers of America filed a federal lawsuit hoping the Supreme Court would reconsider the FCC’s obsolete exposure guidelines and the Telecom Act’s overreach into state and local jurisdiction. The high court refused to hear the case. When the same group asked the FCC to reexamine its guidelines in light of current scientific studies the request was rebuffed. Today in all probability millions are suffering from a variety of immediate and long-term health effects from relentless EMF and RF exposure that under the thermal effect rationale remain unrecognized or discounted by the telecom industry and regulatory authorities alike.
Take Back Your Power, an important new documentary on the relationship between electro-pollution and its health and privacy-related consequences, was released in September 2013. The film constitutes must-see viewing for those concerned over the immediate and long term dangers posed to human health and freedom by “smart meters” and similar silent weapons.-JFT
Growing Evidence of Health Risks From RF Exposure
The main health concern with electromagnetic radiation emitted by smart meters and other wireless technologies is that EMF and RF cause a breakdown in the communication between cells in the body, interrupting DNA repair and weakening tissue and organ function. These are the findings of Dr. George Carlo, who oversaw a comprehensive research group commissioned by the cell phone industry in the mid-1990s.
When Carlo’s research began to reveal how there were indeed serious health concerns with wireless technology, the industry sought to bury the results and discredit Carlo. Yet Carlo’s research has since been upheld in a wealth of subsequent studies and has continuing relevance given the ubiquity of wireless apparatuses and the even more powerful smart meters. “One thing all these conditions have in common is a disruption, to varying degrees, of intercellular communication,” Carlo observes. “When we were growing up, TV antennas were on top of our houses and such waves were up in the sky. Cell phones and Wi-Fi have brought those things down to the street, integrated them into the environment, and that’s absolutely new.”
In 2007 the BioInitiative Working Group, a worldwide body of scientists and public health experts, released a 650-page document with over 2000 studies linking RF and EMF exposure to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, DNA damage, immune system dysfunction, cellular damage and tissue reduction.
In May 2011 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer categorized “radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless cellphone use.”
In November 2011 the Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), a national organization of medical and osteopathic physicians, called on California’s Public Utilities Commission to issue a moratorium on the continued installation of smart meters in residences and schools “based on a scientific assessment of the current available literature.” “[E]xisting FCC guidelines for RF safety that have been used to justify installations of smart meters,” the panel wrote,
only look at thermal tissue damage and are obsolete, since many modern studies show metabolic and genomic damage from RF and ELF exposure below the level of intensity which heats tissues … More modern literature shows medically and biologically significant effects of RF and ELF at lower energy densities. These effects accumulate over time, which is an important consideration given the chronic nature of exposure from “smart meters.”
In April 2012 the AAEM issued a formal position paper on the health effects of RF and EMF exposure based on a literature review of the most recent research. The organization pointed to how government and industry arguments alleging the doubtful nature of the science on non-thermal effects of RF were not defensible in light of the newest studies. “Genetic damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, cognitive effects, protein and peptide damage, kidney damage, and developmental effects have all been reported in the peer‐reviewed scientific literature,” AAEM concluded.
The rollout of smart meters proceeds alongside increased installation of wireless technology and cell phone towers in and around schools in the US. In 2010 Professor Magda Havas conducted a study of schools in 50 US state capitols and Washington DC to determine students’ potential exposure to nearby cell towers. A total 6,140 schools serving 2.3 million students were surveyed using the antennasearch.com database. Of these, 13% of the schools serving 299,000 students have a cell tower within a quarter mile of school grounds, and another 50% of the schools where 1,145,000 attend have a tower within a 0.6 mile radius. The installation of wireless networks and now smart meters on and around school properties further increases students’ RF exposure.
Many school districts that are strapped for cash in the face of state budget cuts are willing to ignore the abundance of scientific research on RF dangers and sign on with telecom companies to situate cell towers directly on school premises. Again, the FCC’s thermal effect rule is invoked to justify tower placement together with a disregard of the available studies.
The School District of Palm Beach County, the eleventh largest school district in the US, provides one such example. Ten of its campuses already have cell towers on their grounds while the district ponders lifting a ban established in 1997 that would allow for the positioning of even more towers. When concerned parents contacted the school district for an explanation of its wireless policies,the administration assembled a document, “Health Organization Information and Academic Research Studies Regarding the Health Effects of Cell Tower Signals.” The report carefully selected pronouncements from telecom industry funded organizations such as the American Cancer Society and out-of-date scientific studies supporting the FCC’s stance on wireless while excluding the long list of studies and literature reviews pointing to the dangers of RF and EMF radiation emitted by wireless networks and cell towers. 
The Precautionary Principle / Conclusion
Surrounded by the sizable and growing body of scientific literature pointing to the obvious dangers of wireless technology, utility companies installing smart meters on millions of homes across the US and school officials who accommodate cell towers on their grounds are performing an extreme disservice to their often vulnerable constituencies. Indeed, such actions constitute the reckless long term endangerment of public health for short term gain, sharply contrasting with more judicious decision making.
The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment & Development adopted the precautionary principle as a rule to follow in the situations utilities and school districts find themselves in today. “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” In exercising the precautionary principle, public governance and regulatory bodies should “take preventive action in the face of scientific uncertainty to prevent harm. The focus is no longer on measuring or managing harm, but preventing harm.”
Along these lines, the European Union and the Los Angeles School District have prohibited cell phone towers on school grounds until the scientific research on the human health effects of RF are conclusive. The International Association of Fire Fighters also interdicted cell towers on fire stations pending “’a study with the highest scientific merit and integrity on health effects of exposure to low-intensity [radio frequency/microwave] radiation is conducted and it is proven that such sitings are not hazardous to the health of our members.’”
Unwitting families with smart meters on their homes and children with cell towers humming outside their classrooms suggest the extent to which the energy, telecom and wireless industries have manipulated the regulatory process to greatly privilege profits over public health. Moreover, it reveals how the population suffers for want of meaningful and conclusive information on the very real dangers of RF while the telecom and wireless interests successfully cajole the media into considering one scientific study at a time.
“When you put the science together, we come to the irrefutable conclusion that there’s a major health crisis coming, probably already underway,” George Carlo cautions. “Not just cancer, but also learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and psychological and behavioral problems—all mediated by the same mechanism. That’s why we’re so worried. Time is running out.”
 Energy.gov, “President Obama Announces $3.4 Billion Investment to Spur Transition to Smart Energy Grid,” October 27, 2009, http://energy.gov/articles/president-obama-announces-34-billion-investment-spur-transition-smart-energy-grid
 Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, “Radiofrequency Radiation: The Invisible Hazards of Smart Meters,” August 19, 2011, GlobalReserach.ca, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26082
 Dr. Bill Deagle, “Smart Meters: A Call for Public Outrage,” Rense.com, August 30, 2011, http://www.rense.com/general94/smartt.htm. Some meters installed in California by Pacific Gas and Electric carry a “’switching mode power-supply’ that ‘emit sharp spikes of millisecond bursts’ around the clock and is a chief cause of ‘dirty electricity.’” See Perlingieri, “Radiofrequency Radiation: The Invisible Hazards of Smart Meters.” This author similarly measured bursts of radiation in excess of 2,000 microwatts per meter every 30 to 90 seconds during the day, and once every two-to-three minutes at night.
 Magda Havas, BRAG Antenna Ranking of Schools, 2010, http://electromagnetichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/BRAG_Schools.pdf
 Susan Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams,” San Diego Reader, May 18, 2011, http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2011/may/18/citylights2-cell-phone-tower/?page=1&
 FCC Office of Engineering and Technology, http://www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety
 Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams”; Marc Freeman, “Cell Towers Could Be Coming to More Schools,” South Florida Sun Sentinel, January 5, 2012, http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-01-05/news/fl-cell-towers-schools-palm-20120105_1_cell-towers-cellular-phone-towers-stealth-towers
 Amy Worthington, “The Radiation Poisoning of America,” GlobalResearch.ca, October 9, 2007, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7025
 Worthington, “The Radiation Poisoning of America.”
 Sue Kovach, “The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation,” Life Extension Magazine, August 2007, http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/aug2007_report_cellphone_radiation_01.htm
 Susan Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams”; Bioinitiative Report: A Rationale For a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard For Electromagnetic Fields, http://www.bioinitiative.org/freeaccess/report/index.htm.
 World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer, “IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic,” May 31, 2011, www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf; Joseph Mercola, “Be Aware: These Cell Phones Can Emit 28 Times More Radiation,” Mercola.com, June 18, 2011, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/18/finally-experts-admit-cellphones-are-a-carcinogen.aspx.
 American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “A Proposed Decision of Commissioner Peevy [Mailed 11/22/2011] Before the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California,” (pdf) January 19, 2012. www.aaemonline.org. The list of references upon which the decision is based may be accessed at http://aaemonline.org/images/referencelistemf.pdf
 American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “American Academy of Environmental Medicine Calls for Immediate Caution regarding Smart Meter Installation,” (pdf) April 12, 2012, http://www.aaemonline.org/
 Havas, BRAG Antenna Ranking of Schools, 31-38.
 Donna Goldstein, “Health Organization Information and Academic Research Studies Regarding the Health Effects of Cell Tower Signals,”Planning and Real Estate Development, Palm Beach County School District, January 30, 2012.
 Havas, BRAG Antenna Ranking of Schools, 17.
 Multinational Monitor, “Precautionary Precepts: The Power and Potential of the Precautionary Principle: An Interview with Carolyn Raffensperger,” September 2004, http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2004/09012004/september04interviewraffen.html.
 Luzzaro, “Field of Cell Phone Tower Beams.”
 Kovach, “The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation.”
See also Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, “Smart Meter Dangers: The Health Hazards of Wireless Electromagnetic Radiation Exposure,” GlobalResearchca, July 13, 2012.
The wealthy are spending more to protect themselves from all the rest of us than ever before. So why are they so concerned about the future? Do they know something that the rest of us don’t? Or do they just have the money to buy the type of security that the rest of us would [...]
If you live in the United States, you live in a high tech surveillance grid that is becoming more oppressive with each passing day. In America today, the control freaks that run things are completely obsessed with watching, tracking, monitoring and recording virtually everything that we do. If we continue on the path that [...]
By Mathieu Bessé
18 October 2013
BlackBerry, the manufacturer of BlackBerry smartphones, is slashing a further 4,500 jobs—40 percent of its now much-diminished worldwide workforce—and actively seeking a buyer.
The company, which was previously known as Research in Motion or RIM, has already announced the closure of a customer service office in Bedford, Nova Scotia that employs 350 people and the elimination of 300 jobs in Waterloo, Ontario, where the company is headquartered.
Coming weeks will see the announcement of further job cuts, since BlackBerry management vowed last month, on announcing a US $965 million loss for the second quarter of its financial year, that it will eliminate 4,500 positions by the end of 2013.
These job cuts are on top of the 5,000 layoffs that RIM announced in 2012, with the stated aim of saving $1 billion per year. From a worldwide workforce of 19,000 at the beginning of 2011, BlackBerry will be reduced to about 7,000 employees when the latest restructuring is completed.
Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a Toronto-based financial holding company, has made a US $4.7 billion cash offer to purchase BlackBerry and under a tentative-sale agreement has been granted access to the company’s books.
However, many industry observers doubt the purchase will be completed or, even if it does go through, that BlackBerry will long survive as a distinct entity.
Fairfax, which claims to be working in conjunction with an unnamed—and as of yet uncommitted—consortium, has not explained where it will find the money to pay for the purchase.
BlackBerry, for its part, is actively searching for alternate buyers. Mike Lazaridis (a former RIM co-CEO), Google, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft are all rumored to have expressed interest in buying the company.
In 2009 Fortune magazine, pointing to RIM/BlackBerry’s average annual sales growth of 77 percent over the previous three years, named the company the “fastest growing” in the world. And as recently as the beginning of 2010, it still had a 40 percent share of the US smartphone market.
But in the face of competition from Apple, Samsung and other smartphone makers, its North American market share has collapsed, including in the business and government sector, which was the original source of its dominance.
Earlier this week, BlackBerry published full-page or otherwise prominent advertisements in 30 daily newspapers in nine different countries so as to proclaim that customers can “continue to count on BlackBerry”—in other words, with a view to countering mounting fears that the company will soon disappear.
In June 2008, that is some three months before the Wall Street financial crisis, BlackBerry had a stock market capitalization of $83 billion, making it among Canada’s most valuable companies.
Now some analysts argue that BlackBerry’s most valuable asset are its patents and it is widely predicted that BlackBerry’s ultimate fate will be to be sold off piecemeal by speculators in the same way carrion is pecked apart by vultures.
The Fairfax takeover deal calls for BlackBerry to be taken private. In explaining his company’s bid, Prem Watsa, the CEO of Fairfax, claimed it “opens an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees.” Watsa then went on to spell out who would be the principal beneficiaries of a Fairfax takeover, declaring that his company is confident it will make money on the deal and “deliver immediate value to the shareholders.”
While the local newspaper, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, has tried to downplay the significance of the impending job cuts, there is little doubt they will have a major impact on the Waterloo Region, which is Canada’s tenth largest metropolitan area. Approximately a thousand workers previously employed at BlackBerry and related firms have been able to find employment in the Waterloo Region for lower wages through Communitech, a firm that helps with start-ups and networking for tech companies.
Manufacturing companies, traditionally major employers in this part of southwestern Ontario, have also been decimated, cutting thousands of jobs since the middle of the last decade, and especially since 2008. Major layoffs and closures include the shuttering of the Schneider’s meat packing plant, which eliminated 1,400 jobs, the closure of an A.O. Smith water-heater plant in Fergus that employed 300, and the layoff of 230 workers at Knape & Vogt (formerly Waterloo Furniture).
BlackBerry was until recently the great success of Canada’s high-tech sector. It helped pioneer smartphones and was unique among telecommunications companies in providing secure, encrypted messaging systems.
BlackBerry’s rise served as a counterpoint to the demise of Nortel (formerly Northern Telcom), which unraveled in the years following the collapse of the DotCom boom. Nortel, which once employed more than 90,000 workers worldwide, filed for bankruptcy in 2009, leaving plant closures, mass layoffs and gutted pensions in its wake.
BlackBerry’s sudden reversal of fortune has caused considerable angst in Canadian business and political circles. But the fate of the workers and the Waterloo region hardly matter in all this. The loss of shareholder value and of a strategic position in a key industry are what trouble Canada’s elite.
“As a Canadian, I would like to see a solution that gives me profitability and a viable company,” said Leo de Bever, the CEO of Alberta Investment Management Corporation. “But so far that hasn’t been happening.”
The Conservative government has rejected calls for it to provide direct assistance to BlackBerry, but has said any purchase by a foreign-based transnational would be subject to review on “national security” grounds.
On the pages of Canada’s corporate-owned dailies, various capitalist ideologues have dismissed the impact of BlackBerry’s fall as the inevitable product of “creative destruction.” They celebrate a socially destructive process whereby a tiny elite enriches itself at the expense of workers in Canada and all over the world—at the expense of the BlackBerry programmers, support staff and other workers who are now being thrown onto the street; and at the expense of the workers who make rival smartphones in the factories of Foxconn, where working conditions are so terrible that the company has had to install safety nets so as to prevent suicides.
Meanwhile, Fairfax Financial Holdings, which, as the holder of $18.5 billion in credit default swaps in the US sub-prime market in 2008, benefited directly from the bailout of the financial aristocracy by the US and Canadian governments, stands to reap handsome profits from organizing a further downsizing and more likely the outright asset-stripping of BlackBerry.
Should the U.S. government be trying to figure out how to use technology to change the beliefs of “religious extremists”? Before you answer yes to that question, perhaps you should consider whether or not the U.S. government considers you to be a “religious extremist”. After all, as I have documented previously, conservatives, libertarians, Tea [...]
Should the U.S. government be trying to figure out how to use technology to change the beliefs of “religious extremists”? Before you answer yes to that question, perhaps you should consider whether or not the U.S. government considers you to be a “religious extremist”. After all, as I have documented previously, conservatives, libertarians, Tea Party activists and evangelical Christians are all considered to be “extremists” in various U.S. government documents. So if we open up Pandora’s Box and say that it is okay for the government to use technology to wipe away the religious beliefs of some “extremists”, what would stop them from using that same technology on you someday? The truth is that this kind of technology should never be used on anyone, and it is very disturbing that the government seems so determined to develop it.
We would probably know very little about the development of this technology if a whistleblower had not recently come forward. The following is a YouTube video in which investigative reporter Ben Swann interviews this whistleblower and explains what the U.S. government is actually trying to do…
That video should chill you to the core.
And apparently this kind of technology already exists. It is called “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation” and it can reportedly alter your most cherished beliefs. The following is a short excerpt from Ben Swann’s interview with the whistleblower that worked on this project…
Ben: Phase III is fairly interesting. I noticed in the documentation it says lets not talk too much about this because who knows if we’ll ever get there. But when you do read what Phase III is it is a little surprising, it’s called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This is not something that’s science fiction, it’s not something they’ve cooked up. This is a real technique that’s already been used in the past, correct?
Whistleblower: Yes, it started out in the psychiatry field when people were depressed and when you’re depressed certain parts of your brain are not functioning correctly. So they created this technology, which is basically a big magnet, and you put it on their brain and it turns off that part of the brain that’s bad or wrong and it would help them with their depression for several weeks to a month and they’d go back and do it again. So this technology has been around for ten or fifteen years.
Ben: So it’s very high tech propaganda, what we’re talking about.
Whistleblower: High tech and validated propaganda, yes. So if they’re able to turn off a part of the brain and get rid of that master narrative that will make you not believe in a particular statement, they would have validated this propaganda. So if they turn off portion X, they know that the propaganda is going to work and the individual is going to believe whatever is being told to them.
Once the U.S. government starts using this technology on people, will there be any limit on who they can use it on?
As Ben Swann noted, the label “extremist” can be applied to almost any kind of religious belief…
After all, aren’t extremist Muslims dangerous? Extremist Christians? See the problem with the question is who gets to define extremist? Who decides if religious beliefs are inherently dangerous?
And if we believe that government should have the power to control how the extremist thinks… wouldn’t they have the authority to decide how and what we all think?
Don’t be tempted to think that this can’t happen. Just this week Fox News reported that the American Family Association, a very mainstream evangelical Christian organization, was classified as “a domestic hate group” during a U.S. Army briefing…
Several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops were told last week that the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.
The briefing was held at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and listed the AFA alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam.
And this is hardly an isolated incident. In a previous article entitled “72 Types Of Americans That Are Considered ‘Potential Terrorists’ In Official Government Documents“, I listed a whole bunch of different types of Christians that are considered to be “extremists” in U.S. government documents.
And this attitude of animosity toward Christians is manifesting itself in a multitude of ways all over the country. In fact, according to the new Religious Hostility Survey, the number of incidents of hostility toward Christians in the United States is growing at a very frightening pace…
Hostility against Christian Americans is growing at an alarming rate, according to a new survey from the Family Research Council and Liberty Institute.
The Liberty Institute’s Jeff Mateer noted that while last year’s survey was based on 600 cases, “this survey that we’re releasing right now is almost 1,200. So we’ve almost doubled in just one year.”
One such case involved college student named Audrey Jarvis, who was asked twice to remove her cross, or at least hide it, at a student orientation.
“My supervisor came up to me out of nowhere and asked me to remove my cross necklace because he thought it would be offensive to incoming freshmen,” she recalled.
Will we eventually get to the point where evangelical Christianity is looked down upon so much in this nation that it is considered acceptable for the government to use technology to wipe away the religious beliefs of “extremist” Christians?
Once upon a time, it would have been insane to even suggest such a thing. But now the technology is being developed and mainstream evangelical Christians are being labeled as “extremists” and “potential terrorists” in official U.S. government documents.
It is frightening to think about where all of this might end up.
So what do you think about all of this? Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…
GMOs and the Destruction of Indian Agriculture: Government in Collusion with the Biotech Conglomerates
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Israel’s “New Army” Will Use “Technological Advantages” Including More Drones in Future Middle East...
A computer systems hiccup has left the Mars rover Curiosity out of action after the probe detected the first chemical evidence of possible alien life. The rover was sidelined earlier this month following a first bout of technical troubles.
Scientists had previously said that operations would be resumed on Monday after a problem with the Rover’s computer memory caused the mission to be put on hold two weeks ago.
However, the latest technical upset that arose on Sunday forced engineers to extend the unexpected break in the mission.
"This is not something that is rare or even uncommon," John Grotzinger, lead scientist at the California Institute of Technology assured press at a news conference during the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. He added that the setback is likely to delay the latest science results from the rover for the next couple of days.
The latest hiccup occurred during an information transmission to Earth on Sunday night.
The problems have arisen at a crucial time in the rover’s mission, just after the mission uncovered the first ever telltale signs that there was once life on the red planet.
Chemical analysis of a sample obtained by NASA’s curiosity last month revealed traces of a benevolent environment capable of supporting life. The analysis also unearthed a life-sustaining chemical footprint comprised of sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and simple carbon.
The rover’s camera and Russian-manufactured probe are currently located in Mars’ Yellowknife Bay region, where more evidence of water has been discovered than anywhere else on the planet.
"I see the difference between Yellowknife and the area which is just before Yellowknife ... showing the different distribution of water. This is a significant variation," Maksim Litvak of the Space Research Institute in Moscow told reporters.
The rover mission, which was extended indefinitely in December of last year, seeks to ascertain whether Mars’ Gale Crater was able to support microbial life at some point in its history. The groundbreaking discoveries made by NASA’s mission are expected to pave the way for possible habitability studies during future exploration missions.
“We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it,” said Grotzinger.
Technology reshapes the landscape of our emotional lives, but is it offering us the lives we want to lead?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/jayfish
February 19, 2013 |
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The following is an excerpt from Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.
Online connections were first conceived as a substitute for face-to-face contact, when the latter was for some reason impractical: Don’t have time to make a phone call? Shoot off a text message. But very quickly, the text message became the connection of choice. We discovered the network—the world of connectivity—to be uniquely suited to the overworked and overscheduled life it makes possible. And now we look to the network to defend us against loneliness even as we use it to control the intensity of our connections. Technology makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will.
A few years ago at a dinner party in Paris, I met Ellen, an ambitious, elegant young woman in her early thirties, thrilled to be working at her dream job in advertising. Once a week, she would call her grandmother in Philadelphia using Skype, an Internet service that functions as a telephone with a Web camera. Before Skype, Ellen’s calls to her grandmother were costly and brief. With Skype, the calls are free and give the compelling sense that the other person is present—Skype is an almost real-time video link. Ellen could now call more frequently: “Twice a week and I stay on the call for an hour,” she told me. It should have been rewarding; instead, when I met her, Ellen was unhappy. She knew that her grandmother was unaware that Skype allows surreptitious multitasking. Her grandmother could see Ellen’s face on the screen but not her hands. Ellen admitted to me, “I do my email during the calls. I’m not really paying attention to our conversation.”
Ellen’s multitasking removed her to another place. She felt her grandmother was talking to someone who was not really there. During their Skype conversations, Ellen and her grandmother were more connected than they had ever been before, but at the same time, each was alone. Ellen felt guilty and confused: she knew that her grandmother was happy, even if their intimacy was now, for Ellen, another task among multitasks.
I have often observed this distinctive confusion: these days, whether you are online or not, it is easy for people to end up unsure if they are closer together or further apart. I remember my own sense of disorientation the first time I realized that I was “alone together.” I had traveled an exhausting thirty-six hours to attend a conference on advanced robotic technology held in central Japan. The packed grand ballroom was Wi-Fi enabled: the speaker was using the Web for his presentation, laptops were open throughout the audience, fingers were flying, and there was a sense of great concentration and intensity. But not many in the audience were attending to the speaker. Most people seemed to be doing their email, downloading files, and surfing the Net. The man next to me was searching for a New Yorker cartoon to illustrate his upcoming presentation. Every once in a while, audience members gave the speaker some attention, lowering their laptop screens in a kind of curtsy, a gesture of courtesy.
Outside, in the hallways, the people milling around me were looking past me to virtual others. They were on their laptops and their phones, connecting to colleagues at the conference going on around them and to others around the globe. There but not there. Of course, clusters of people chatted with each other, making dinner plans, “networking” in that old sense of the word, the one that implies having a coffee or sharing a meal. But at this conference, it was clear that what people mostly want from public space is to be alone with their personal networks. It is good to come together physically, but it is more important to stay tethered to our devices. I thought of how Sigmund Freud considered the power of communities both to shape and to subvert us, and a psychoanalytic pun came to mind: “connectivity and its discontents.”
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali (C) arrives for a meeting with representatives of Tunisia's main political parties in Carthage, outside Tunis on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali says his plan to resolve the political crisis gripping the country through the formation of a new government of technocrats has failed.
On Monday, Jebali said Tunisia's main political parties had been unable to form a cabinet of technocrats to address the national crisis that began after the assassination of a prominent opposition politician, Reuters reported.
"The initiative of a cabinet of technocrats did not receive full political consensus and failed… but work is continuing with all parties in order to form a government which has the agreement of most of the political parties," Jebali told reporters at a press conference following the meeting in Carthage, outside Tunis.
He did not say whether he would resign but said that he would meet with President Moncef Marzouki on Tuesday to discuss the next steps.
The crisis began after leftist opposition leader Shokri Belaid was fatally shot outside his home in the capital on February 6.
Belaid's assassination triggered violent demonstrations across the country, with the headquarters of the ruling Ennahda party being attacked in more than a dozen cities.
Opposition groups have accused Ennahda of being behind the assassination. However, the party’s leader, Rashid al-Ghannouchi, condemned the deadly assault and rejected the allegation.
Last week the euro was the weakest of the major currencies and the recently beaten up sterling and yen were the strongest. A similar pattern was also evident in the dollar-bloc. The New Zealand dollar had been the strongest and last week had was the weakest, with the Canadian dollar faring somewhat better. The Australian dollar has been trending lower, but staged a potentially important reversal before the weekend.
The key issue facing market participants this week is whether the price action represents a correction to the recent trend or a reversal or the start of a new trend. After reviewing the technical condition of the market, we continue to conclude the price action is corrective in nature, but the price action, especially in the second half of the week, warns that the correction may be extended in the coming days.
Given the divergent price trends, it may be helpful to drill down and review the specific technical condition of few of the currency pairs.
Euro: We had anticipated the pullback toward $1.34, but the poor close before the weekend, which includes two successive closes below the 20-day moving average for the first time in three months, indicates additional near-term losses are likely. A break of $1.3350, which held on Friday, could spur a move toward $1.3220-$1.3270. Trend line support and retracement objectives are cluttered in that area. However, we recognize that a convincing break of $1.32 would open the door for another two cent slide. A move back above the $1.3400-50 would improve the technical tone and suggest the correction is over.
Yen: Comments by Japan's Finance Minister toning down the bearish rhetoric ahead of the G20 meeting, suggesting that pace of the yen's descent was too rapid, and the setback in the euro, fueling corrective pressures from the cross. After Aso's comments, the dollar appears to have carved out a triangle pattern intersecting near JPY92.50 and JPY92.90. If this is a continuation pattern, a move toward JPY91.80-JPY92.00 would be targeted. On the other hand, a move above JPY93.00-20 would stabilize the tone and suggest a near-term consolidative tone.
Sterling: Sterling has been pounded this year. It is the second worst performer against the dollar after the Japanese yen. It made new lows at the start of the week, but these losses were not confirmed by the RSI, leaving a bullish divergence in its wake. This set the technical stage for the recovery in the second half of the week. The advance ahead of the weekend saw sterling flirt with its 20-day moving average for the first time in nearly a month. The MACDs are also trying to turn higher, but the $1.5850-$1.5900 offer formidable resistance. Against the euro, sterling staged its biggest advance in since late Oct 2011. The euro had peaked at the start of the month near GBP0.8720 and the GBP0.8400 area represents a 50% retracement of this year's gain. A move toward there would be consistent with our expectation for additional, albeit modest, extension of what we see as corrective forces. However, a convincing break of GBP0.8400 could signal a deeper retracement toward GBP0.8325 initially.
Canadian dollar: An upside reversal of the US dollar was seen on Thursday and follow through buying was seen before the weekend. The greenback firmed to test a technical objective near CAD1.0040. If corrective forces continue to be felt in the coming days, the US dollar will likely test the last high near CAD1.01 and potential toward CAD1.0140. Owing perhaps to a disappoint Canadian jobs report before the weekend, the euro held above Thursday's low near CAD1.3340. Initial resistance is pegged near CAD1.3450, but it may require a move through CAD1.3480 to signal the end of the brief though sharp correction.
Australian dollar: The Australian dollar, like sterling, posted strong gains ahead of the weekend. From a technical point of view, the Australian dollar looks to among the strongest of the currencies we reviewed. Against the dollar, it staged an impressive reversal on Friday: after falling to new lows for the move (3 1/2 month lows), it then rallied above the previous day's high. To confirm the recovery, the Aussie needs to overcome nearby resistance in the $1.0360-80 area, which in turn would project toward $1.0460. The Aussie had fallen to its lowest level against the New Zealand dollar since H2 2010 early last week, but reversed at midweek. The key level to monitor on the upside is NZD1.24. A move above there would confirm a low of some import is in place and would suggest initial recovery gains toward NZD1.25. The Australian dollar's recovery against the Canadian dollar is generating even more positive technical signals. Since Jan 24, the Aussie lost almost 3% against the Canadian dollar, but the key reversal before the weekend was impressive. Initially, we look for a move toward CAD1.0430-50 and then possibly CAD1.0550.
Dollar-Index: Although the Dollar-Index (DXY) failed to make a new high before the weekend, holding just below the high set on Thursday near 80.28, the settlement was near the high of the day and the technical tone remains constructive. The key area to watch is near 80.50. It corresponds to where the downtrend line drawn off the mid-Nov high near 81.50 and the Jan 4 high just below 80.90. It also corresponds to a retracement objective of the losses from that mid-Nov high.
Turning to our review of the speculative positioning in the futures market we share the following observations.
First, although implied volatility in the euro and yen rose during the CFTC's reporting period, the position adjusting was minimal. Of the seven currencies we reviewed, there was no gross long or short position that changed by more than 10k contracts. Most gross positions were adjusted by less than 5k contracts. Substantial price moves were seen after the reporting period ended at the same time there was a decline in implied volatility.
Second, the speculative interest in the yen is not as simple as it may appear. Since mid-December, the net speculative short yen position only increased in one CFTC reporting period. In the latest report, it slipped again, owing to bottom picking Third, the net long sterling position is at its lowest level in more than two months.
Fourth, the net long Canadian dollar position has been culled. It has been halved since the end of January. Fifth, the net long speculative positioning in the Australian dollar and Mexican peso are little changed despite the price gyrations.
|week ending Feb 5||Commitment of Traders|
|(spec position in 000's
|Net||Prior Week||Gross Long||Change||Gross Short||Change|
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Britain’s ambitious plans to store all government data on the so-called G-Cloud have led to warningsfrom the European Union that security will be compromised now that U.S. intelligence agencies have the legal right to survey all data held on U.S. owned Cloud services.
At least four U.S. companies are involved in the U.K. government’s G-Cloud project which Whitehall hopes will slash costs and “deliver fundamental changes in the way the public sector procures and operates.”
Eventually, it is hoped the G-Cloud will hold the bulk of State data in addition to that of schools, charities, the BBC and police, even the Bank of England.
While the recent amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have received scant attention in the British Press, there are a few Members of Parliament so concerned that they want Britain to think about ending all intelligence cooperation with the U.S.
“The Americans have got to remember who their allies are and who their enemies are,” Conservative MP David Davis told The Independent, warning of “a whole cascade of constitutional and privacy concerns for ordinary British people”.
Cloud storage is increasingly popular in the U.K. where around 35 per cent of businesses and an unknown number of private users employ some form of remote storage from U.S. based companies like Apple, Amazon and Google. The government wants to see even greater use of Cloud storage across all sectors in what it describes as a robust “public cloud first policy.”
The FISA amendments now give the CIA and NSA the right to access all this data not just in Britain or Europe, but anywhere in the world. U.S. citizens are excused this intrusion by the Fourth Amendment, but everybody else is included.
In the case of Britain, by putting all government data online – including health and criminal records – every facet of peoples’ lives will be open to scrutiny by intelligence analysts across the Atlantic.
Many warn that this will also lead to activists, journalists, politicians, Muslims and others being specifically targeted without the need to justify national security.
“In other words, it is lawful in the U.S. to conduct purely political surveillance on foreigners’ data accessible in U.S. Clouds,” warns the report for the European Parliament, Fighting Cyber Crime and Protecting Privacy in the Cloud by the Centre for the Study of Conflicts, Liberty and Security.
While most of the attention has been focused on Cloud storage and the effect FISA will have on Europe, the actual wording of the amendment speaks of “remote computing services” which could literally mean anything stored on a computer other than your own.
As it is, every financial transaction passes through U.S. intelligence channels. With the new extension, no stone need remain unturned. Every time you comment on a book, join a club, or do absolutely anything that passes through a computer owned by a U.S. company, you are open to scrutiny.
The Cloud, however, comes with other concerns. There is debate as to who legally owns what if it is stored or edited in the Cloud, and you can’t even bequest your online music collection to a loved one when you die.
NSA aside, hackers can easier access data en-route to the Cloud than they can on a local area network, and the Cloud administrators might one day be compromised. The companies themselves may go bust or be taken over. They might suffer some catastrophic event or decide to amended their terms and conditions.
The European Union is being urged to add a warning to all U.S. based Cloud services, with clear wording that anything stored in the Cloud will be under direct scrutiny by Federal authorities. The report also wants to see E.U. citizens given the same rights as Americans in U.S. courts.
“A lot of people wouldn’t realize where data is stored, and hence wouldn’t expect to be subject to U.S. law,” cautions another Member of Britain’s Parliament, Julian Huppert of the Liberal Democrats.
He wants to know if the government has received any guarantee from Washington that sensitive data will not be scrutinized as foreign intelligence fodder.
“If the U.S. will not give a clear assurance about government data,” he says. “Then we will have to stop using the Cloud, as we cannot allow that to happen.”
In the wake of the hottest and driest summer in memory throughout much of North America, and Super-storm Sandy that flooded cities and ravaged large swaths of the Mid-Atlantic coast, many now recognize that the climate change isn’t just real, but that it is already at our doorstep.
As this realization continues to sink in, the political will may ripen to take more aggressive action to put a brake CO2 emissions. Already, President Obama, who had remained mostly silent on the issue during his reelection campaign, has made it clear that tackling climate change will be among his top second-term priorities.
But the fact remains that even if the entire world switched magically to 100 percent solar and other non-polluting power sources tomorrow, it’s too late to roll back some of the impacts of climate change. The current level of carbon dioxide in the air is already well beyond what scientists regard as the safe threshold. If we remain on our present course, scientists say, CO2 levels will continue to rise — sharply— for years to come.
Climatologists tell us that the climate change train has long since left the station, but perhaps it is not yet too late to prevent it from accelerating beyond our capacity to cope. There are technologies now being developed which could cut the rate of increase of greenhouse gases, even potentially return Earth’s atmosphere to preindustrial levels of CO2. Better yet, the price tag for implementing them may not be all that great — especially when compared to the mounting costs of continuing down our present course. Best of all, say two scientists who are making these astonishing claims, we don’t have to cut out fossil fuels entirely to accomplish it.
I met with Dr Klaus Lackner and Allen Wright at Columbia University’s Earth Institute where they are working on a new “carbon capture” project which involves literally sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The duo conduct their research in a room less than half the size of most high school chemistry labs, but teeming with vials, beakers, meters, gas canisters and other devices unnameable by a social science major like myself.
One of the tables held an array of cream-colored plastic doodads that looked like miniature shag rugs, scrub brushes and cylindrical Christmas ornaments. A smiling Lackner handed me an object shaped like the tuft of needles at the end of a pine branch. Only instead of needles, they were thin streamers impregnated with sodium carbonate which chemically “mops up” CO2 from the air.
What I was holding in the palm of my hand was a miniature prototype for an “artificial tree.” Real trees, as we learn in biology class, breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. The artificial tree developed by Lackner and Wright will also stand passively in the wind like a tree. But it will remove CO2 from the air faster and at far higher levels than natural photosynthesis can accomplish. The team envisions creating “forests” of these carbon-capturing trees to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The CO2 can then be released by a gentle flow of water, either to be used industrially or sequestered safely underground.
These units, Lackner says, will be roughly the size and production cost of a car, and collect about 1 ton a day of carbon from the air — the equivalent of the greenhouse gases produced by 36 motor vehicles in a day. Ten million of these artificial trees, he estimates, would sop up 12 percent of the CO2 that humans add to the atmosphere each year.
There are already methods for scrubbing carbon dioxide emitted by stationary sources like power plant smokestacks, although this technology remains expensive and little used. Power plants account for 41 percent of manmade carbon emissions, much of the rest is produced by mobile sources — cars, trucks and airplanes. Lackner’s technology is one of the first that will have the capacity to remove vehicular carbon emissions from the air.
His approach has little in common with controversial geo-engineering schemes to cool the earth, such as injecting vast quantities of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to deflect solar radiation, says Lackner. Geo-engineering, he says, “actively interferes with the dynamics of a system which you do not understand. ... It is an emergency standby which may get us through a rough decade or two, but it’s something that I’m hoping we won’t ever need to try.”
Carbon capture, by contrast, is simply cleaning up after ourselves. “We are already putting carbon dioxide into the system,” Lackner argues. “All that I am really saying is take it back.”
To environmentalists who worry that even talk of technological fixes for global warming will discourage us from the hard work of actually cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, he responds that it is indeed crucial to shift toward clean alternative energies. But we won’t get there overnight. Lackner cited the recent International Energy Agency report which says that by 2020 the US will produce more petroleum than Saudi Arabia. In the face of this impending glut of cheap oil, he said, it is unrealistic to think that we won’t use at least some of it.
“Fossil fuels are not going to go away,” Lackner told me. “When they criticize carbon capture, it is a bit like the fiscal cliff, they are basically saying we don’t want you to have a solution and we’d rather go over the cliff. They are telling me to fight the problem with one hand tied behind my back. ... We really need all of the pieces. We will certainly need technologies to compensate for the fossil fuels that we are likely to use.”
Lackner credits his daughter, Claire, with inspiring his current line of research. As an eighth grader, Claire successfully used an aquarium pump and a solution of sodium hydroxide to take carbon dioxide out of the air, winning a first prize in the science fair.
The principle is not new. Similar technologies have been used in the enclosed spaces of submarines and space shuttles to scrub the air of excess CO2. What is novel in Lackner and Wright’s approach is mainly their outsized ambition, and the knotty technological problems which implementing it globally would entail. They are still trying to find a cost-effective way to further purify the CO2 after it comes off the plastic leaves, and to securely bury the gas in underground or below the ocean floor.
Their biggest challenge, however, is not technical but economic: How to manufacture and market the artificial trees cheaply enough and in sufficient quantities to begin to make a real dent on global warming. In order for this to happen, there needs to be equal economic incentives for taking CO2 out of the atmosphere as there currently are for putting it in through the combustion of fossil fuels.
One commercial application that Kilimanjaro Energy, a San Francisco-based startup founded by the Columbia team to exploit their new technology, is already exploring selling units to greenhouse owners whose plant growth would be stimulated by high levels of CO2. But even if this succeeds, the greenhouse market would be relatively small.
For carbon capture to scale up to the point where it will be meaningful, Lackner says, government will have to step in and create viable mechanisms for paying for it. He envisions a variant on the carbon-trading idea, where energy companies would be required to purchase a “certificate of sequestration” for every ton of fossil fuel they extracted. which would pay for the equivalent in CO2remediation. “If you pump it out of the ground,” Lackner says, “you will need to take it out of the air.”
The advantage of this approach is that all green technologies like solar, wind, and carbon capture would compete on a level playing field to create carbon remediation at the lowest possible cost. The best methods would be insured a healthy profit that would fund further research and development to make them even cheaper and more efficient.
But are there ways to make carbon capture profitable that don’t depend on prior government action?
Graciela Chichilnisky thinks so. The Columbia mathematical economist was the original architect of the carbon market idea, a cornerstone of the Kyoto protocol, which became international law in 2005. She was also the lead author of the Nobel Prize winning 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I met her at the brownstone offices of Global Thermostat, a company that she helped set up with Peter Eisenberger, a physicist at Columbia who founded the Earth Institute.
Chichilnisky told me that carbon capture has to be made into a moneymaking proposition in its own right. This is possible, she says, because captured CO2 can be sold to industries for a variety of commercial uses, including most spectacularly reconversion into relatively clean-burning carbon-based fuels, either by feeding it to oil-extruding algae, or by combining it with the hydrogen from water by electrolysis to make methanol. Chichilnisky foresees the day when oil will be manufactured in gas stations rather than transported from well-to-refinery-to-consumer as it is now.
At the moment, synthesizing fuels from CO2 would be a “marginally profitable” enterprise, Chichilnisky says, but she predicts that further research and development will continue to cut costs and eventually make them fully competitive with geological extraction. Other uses like carbonating beverages, synthesizing industrial-grade formic acid, producing dry ice, and a process calledenhanced oil recovery (EOR) in which carbon dioxide is pumped into old oil wells as a solvent to scour lingering hard-to-get oil from the ground, are already up to speed.
EOR currently boosts US oil output by 10 percent a year. Chichilnisky predicts that the EOR market will rise to over $800 billion over the course of the next decade, creating a hugely enhanced demand for captured CO2. The US government estimates that state-of-the-art EOR with carbon dioxide could add 89 billion barrels of oil to the nation’s recoverable oil resources. That’s more than four times the country’s proven reserves.
With demand for CO2, even at present levels far outstripping supply, and companies willing to pay $100 a ton to get a hold of it, the business prospects for carbon capture look bright.
Some companies have already begun investing in this carbon capture technology. The California-based Global Thermostat, for instance, has set up a demonstration carbon capture plant at the Stamford Research Institute in Menlo Park. The honeycomb structure that stands over 30 feet tall and captures over 2 tons of a day from power plant flue air which is pushed through it with giant fans. The system requires relatively low levels of heat to release the captured CO2 from the sorbent, which it chemically bonds with. This is a great advantage, according to Chichilnisky, because it means that the units can be located in places like power plants, aluminum smelters and other industrial facilities that produce large amounts of residual process-heat.
A power plant equipped with a carbon capture unit could potentially become “carbon negative,” she says. That is to say, it could take more than twice the carbon out of the air that it puts in using only the heat that the plant itself creates. Not only would it take the CO2 out of the flue gases in the plant’s smokestack, but it would remove the gas from the ambient air as well. “This reverses the paradigm that links fossil-fuel power production with carbon emissions,” Chichilnisky says. And because of the efficiency of the process that uses waste energy, the cost of CO2 production could be as low as $10 to $20 a ton, she estimates. (Compare this to what the big beverage manufacturers like Coca Cola and Pepsi currently pay — about $200 a ton for the fizzy gas.)
Another place where the carbon capture units might be a boon is on oilfields that employ EOR. Producing the needed CO2 in situ would eliminate the high cost of transporting the gas via pipeline.
Professor Chichilnisky prophecies that this evolving technology is primed to “turn the world economy on its head,” making cleaning the air more profitable than fouling it.
The challenge now has to do with figuring out how to ramp up carbon capture to levels where it would begin to put a brake on human-created climate change. “We will need to build thousands of such plants each one capturing millions of tons of CO2 per year,” Chichilnisky says. “We have to accelerate the technology because this is the moment of truth, possibly the moment-of-no-return if we don’t act now.”
While she sees market forces driving much of the growth of carbon capture, Chichilnisky says that it must be “enhanced, facilitated, speeded up by the carbon market” in which industries are required to pay for their carbon emissions by funding equivalent efforts dedicated to remediation. The carrot of profits from innovative carbon capture technologies together with the stick of penalties for fouling the air will convince companies that they need to clean up their act.
How long will this take? Ten to 20 years minimum, says Chichilnisky. “Our solution is not going to be here tomorrow morning,” she says. “But we expect to succeed beautifully because the carbon market is spreading, and even before you apply the carbon market, our technology is profitable, and it works. ... And all of the carbon capture technology that we are talking about is in the US. It is almost a contradiction, the US politically is resistant to change, my God, there are people who don’t even believe in evolution. But the big scientists are here, and the most advanced innovation is here. We are in the right place at the right time and we just have to make it happen.”
So much for the alleged "deficit reduction," huh? (As Atrios keeps repeating, nobody really cares about the deficit.) Bill Moyers interviews Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) about a corporate tax exemption for Amgen, the world's largest biotech company, that was included in the "fiscal cliff" deal:
A recent article in The New York Times reported on a cost-control exception provided to Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm. According to the report, the sweetheart deal — hidden in the Senate’s final “fiscal cliff” bill — will cost taxpayers half a billion dollars. Bill talks to U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) about the bi-partisan bill he recently sponsored to repeal that giveaway, and the political factors that allow such crony capitalism to occur.
“When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.”
As Dave Johnson recently pointed out, let's not call this "crony capitalism" or plain old political reality. Call it what it is. It's corruption.
Our political culture is such that coercion, threats, extortion, blackmail and payoffs are now more common than not. And it all goes back to the same thing: Money in politics. Election finance reform would fix most of the problems. We've always had corrupt politicians, but we could at least minimize their impact.
Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,
Washington D.C. is not even on the Hipster Techie mental map.
We all have inner maps that assign awareness, priority and importance to geographic features. For those who work inside the Beltway, Washington D.C. dominates their mental map of the world. Residents of Manhattan famously regard it as the center of the financial, art, fashion, etc. world.
In the hipster techie mental map, Washington D.C. doesn't exist, and New York has a small tech innovation footprint. In this world view, politics, finance and fashion are not what changes the world for the better; only tech does that.
Everyone wants to defend their city as important, if not the center of the universe, but the reality is that people who want to "make it" gravitate to the capital of their interest, be it Nashville, New York City, Hollywood, San Francisco or a regional magnet-city.
The typical hipster techie works for a start-up or fast-growing company in the social media / e-commerce / marketing mobile/web apps/software space. While these firms can be found in many cities, a great many are located in San Francisco and the S.F. Bay Area (Silicon Valley, etc.) for a variety of reasons, including a culture that celebrates innovation and understands that failure and success are two aspects of the same dynamic.
Having a start-up crash and burn is a disaster in most places; in the Bay Area, it is generally regarded as "getting your sea legs."
Three large research universities--two of the premiere public universities, University of California, Berkeley ("Cal") and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and one of the premiere private universities, Stanford-- act as incubators of start-ups which have access to seed money from a high concentration of venture capital. Two national labs provide government support of research: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
These elements spawn waves of newcomers and start-ups, most of which eventually fail or are bought up by established tech firms.
Many locales around the world have attempted to recreate the "magic" of Silicon Valley; the recipe is not that easy to duplicate. Many feel the Valley has lost its edge; as global competition increases, perhaps that can be said of every established innovation center.
Here is one approximation of the hipster techie mental map:
SFO: San Francisco International Airport
JFK: John F. Kennedy International Airport
Page Mill Road: home to many start-ups and Stanford Research Park
Not to be confused with Sand Hill Road, the concentration of venture capital (VC) firms (a.k.a. vulture capital)
See Steve Ballmer's Nightmare Is Coming True: the slow death of Microsoft
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This file photo shows Iranian scientists working on an indigenous satellite.
Iran's Aerospace Research Institute says the country will acquire the know-how to design and manufacture hi-tech space suits within the next eight years.
“Iran will acquire the know-how to design and produce space suits by the next eight years,” Head of Iran's Aerospace Research Institute Mohammed Ebrahimi said on Monday.
Ebrahimi said his organization and Iran's Shiraz University are cooperating closely with each other on the project.
The Iranian official said the production of space suits is a “high-tech” industry which is costly and requires advanced know-how.
In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in the field of aerospace.
On January 17, the director of Iran Space Agency (ISA) Hamid Fazeli said the country will soon send living animals into space aboard a bio-capsule as a prelude to sending humans into space.
Because of the biological similarities between humans and monkeys, the latter were selected for the forthcoming space mission, Fazeli said.
Fazeli further highlighted that the plan to send animals into space is part of a broader project to send human beings on space missions.
In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in the field of aerospace.
Iran launched its first indigenous satellite, Omid (Hope), in 2009. The country also sent its first bio-capsule of living creatures into space in February 2010, using the indigenous Kavoshgar-3 (Explorer-3) carrier.
Moreover, in June 2011, Iran put the 15.3-kilogram Rasad (Observation) orbiter in space. Rasad's mission was to take images of the Earth and transmit them along with telemetry information to the ground stations.
Iran also launched Navid-e Elm-o Sanat (Harbinger of Science and Industry), another indigenous satellite into orbit on February 3, 2012.
Tehran plans to launch the country's first manned mission to space by 2019.
Iran is one of the 24 founding members of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which was set up in 1959.
AFP Photo / Emmanuel Dunand
This is probably how all the libraries will look like in the future – lots of gadgets and no books. The US is about to get the first bookless public library.
The city of San Antonio is Texas is to introduce the new type of library, where there will be no books. Instead of printed copies the library will be loaning out e-readers and offering thousands of titles for the devices.
The idea behind the project is to bring the electronic reading gadgets to everyone, allowing those who cannot afford one the chance to read electronic books.
According to the San Antonio Express, the initiators of the project hope to open the first branch next fall.
“It's not a replacement for the (city) library system, it's an enhancement,” one of the men behind the idea, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is quoted by the newspaper as saying.
The idea is to launch new fully digital libraries in the areas where there are no traditional libraries. Adding the bookless electronic reading service to old libraries is still an option to be considered and most probably will be introduced as well.
The project will require at least $250,000 of investment to license the first 10,000 book titles. Other expenses, such as designing and constructing the spaces and purchasing the necessary equipment are also likely to be significant.
From Citi's head of FX strategy, Steven Englander
No coin + temporary debt ceiling extension + sequester = USD negative
There was a an out-of-left-field idea that you could mint such a coin deposit it at the Fed and have a trillion dollars to spend. It was based on a very strained reading of some old legislation. The Washington Post link shows just how strained the reading is
It really was a non-starter because it would have been risky from a legal viewpoint and financial markets would have priced in the risk that courts would have rejected it and the US would be close to default, not to mention the Fed looking rather Weimarian had they signed up for it.
The rejection of the trillion dollar coin should not put any pressure on financial markets or risk-correlated currencies on Monday
It may be viewed as political hardball by the White House, as there statement implies that they will not negotiate. WP quotes Press Secretary Carney “there are only two options to deal with the debt limit: Congress can pay its bills or they can fail to act and put the nation into default.” This is a new reading since in 2011, they were busily negotiating with Congress (which is how the sequesters and temporary debt ceiling increase came into being.)
So it is possible that we will get a technical default for a few days, but more likely that Congress will give in, vote the debt ceiling up temporarily, and let the automatic sequesters kick in.
Mounting risk of a technical default was USD positive in 2011 because it led to cutting of long-risk positions and the USD/Treasury market remained safe havens. However, it also occurred in an environemtn of slowing EM growth and intensifying euro zone soveregin risk pressure, so the USD support came from external forces as well. Given that investors are now somewhat long risk again, the position cutting is again likely to be USD positive, however, unattractive US assets were. As was the case in 2011, it is very unlikely that the Treasury will not pay its bills, although even a technical default could have very unforeseen consequences, given the multiple functions that Treasuries play in global financial markets.
The more likely scenario of sequester plus grudging debt ceiling rise is USD negative. It will put more pressure on the Fed to keep pumping liquidity into the US economy without giving any reassurance to investors that long-term fiscal issues are close to resolution.
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