Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the geopolitics of world war three...,


scgnews |  The U.S. dollar is a unique currency. In fact its current design and its relationship to geopolitics is unlike any other in history. Though it has been the world reserve currency since 194 this is not what makes it unique. Many currencies have held the reserve status off and on over the centuries, but what makes the dollar unique is the fact that since the early 1970s it has been, with a few notable exceptions, the only currency used to buy and sell oil on the global market. 

Prior to 1971 the U.S. dollar was bound to the gold standard, at least officially. According to the IMF, by 1966, foreign central banks held $14 billion U.S. dollars, however the United States had only $3.2 billion in gold allocated to cover foreign holdings.

Translation: the Federal Reserve was printing more money than it could actually back.
The result was rampant inflation and a general flight from the dollar.

In 1971 in what later came to be called the "Nixon Shock" President Nixon removed the dollar from the gold standard completely. 

At this point the dollar became a pure debt based currency. With debt based currencies money is literally loaned into existence.

Approximately 70% of the money in circulation is created by ordinary banks which are allowed to loan out more than they actually have in their accounts.

The rest is created by the Federal Reserve which loans money that they don't have, mostly to government.

Kind of like writing hot checks, except it's legal, for banks. This practice which is referred to as fractional reserve banking is supposedly regulated by the Federal Reserve, an institution which just happens to be owned and controlled by a conglomerate of banks, and no agency or branch of government regulates the Federal Reserve.

Now to make things even more interesting these fractional reserve loans have interest attached, but the money to pay that interest doesn't exist in the system. As a result there is always more total debt than there is money in circulation, and in order to stay afloat the economy must grow perpetually.
This is obviously not sustainable.

Now you might be wondering how the dollar has maintained such a dominant position on the world stage for over forty years if it's really little more than an elaborate ponzi scheme.
Well this is where the dollar meets geopolitics.

In 1973 under the shadow of the artificial OPEC oil crisis, the Nixon administration began secret negotiations with the government of Saudi Arabia to establish what came to be referred to as the petrodollar recycling system. Under the arrangement the Saudis would only sell their oil in U.S. dollars, and would invest the majority of their excess oil profits into U.S. banks and Capital markets. The IMF would then use this money to facilitate loans to oil importers who were having difficulties covering the increase in oil prices. The payments and interest on these loans would of course be denominated in U.S. dollars.

This agreement was formalized in the "The U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation" put together by Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1974.
Another document released by the Congressional Research Service reveals that these negotiations had an edge to them, as U.S. officials were openly discussing the feasibility of seizing oil fields in Saudi Arabia militarily.

In the United States, the oil shocks produced inflation, new concern about foreign investment from oil producing countries, and open speculation about the advisability and feasibility of militarily seizing oil fields in Saudi Arabia or other countries. In the wake of the embargo, both Saudi and U.S. officials worked to re-anchor the bilateral relationship on the basis of shared opposition to Communism, renewed military cooperation, and through economic initiatives that promoted the recycling of Saudi petrodollars to the United States via Saudi investment in infrastructure, industrial expansion, and U.S. securities.

The system was expanded to include the rest of OPEC by 1975.

Though presented as buffer to the recessionary effects of rising oil prices, this arrangement had a hidden side effect. It removed the traditional restraints on U.S. monetary policy.
The Federal Reserve was now free to increase the money supply at will. The ever increasing demand for oil would would prevent a flight from the dollar, while distributing the inflationary consequences across the entire planet.

The dollar went from being a gold back currency to a oil backed currency. It also became America's primary export.

Did you ever wonder how the U.S. economy has been able to stay afloat while running multibillion dollar trade deficits for decades?

Did you ever wonder how it is that the U.S. holds such a disproportionate amount of the worlds wealth when 70% of the U.S. economy is consumer based? 

In the modern era, fossil fuels make the world go round. They have become integrated into every aspect of civilization: agriculture, transportation, plastics, heating, defense and medicine, and demand just keeps growing and growing. 

As long as the world needs oil, and as long as oil is only sold in U.S. dollars, there will be a demand for dollars, and that demand is what gives the dollar its value.

For the United States this is a great deal. Dollars go out, either as paper or digits in a computer system, and real tangible products and services come in. However for the rest of the world, it's a very sneaky form of exploitation.

Having global trade predominately in dollars also provides the Washington with a powerful financial weapon through sanctions. This is due to the fact that most large scale dollar transactions are forced to pass through the U.S. 

This petrodollar system stood unchallenged until September of 2000 when Saddam Hussein announced his decision to switch Iraq's oil sales off of the dollar to Euros. This was a direct attack on the dollar, and easily the most important geopolitical event of the year, but only one article in the western media even mentioned it.

the dollar's 70-year dominance is coming to an end


telegraph |  In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War. 

The US was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British Empire several decades earlier. America was also on course to be among the victors of “Europe’s conflict”, even though its economy was largely unscathed by war. As such, Bretton Woods was US-dominated and produced a settlement largely on US terms.
Seventy years ago this week, that fateful summit ended. Its close marked the moment the dollar’s unquestionable supremacy was secured. Since then, global commerce has been conducted largely in dollars and leading economies have held the greenback as their primary reserve currency.
The same system remains intact today, with the lion’s share of commercial settlements worldwide still clearing the US banking system – even if the parties involved have nothing to do with the States.
The dollar’s hegemony continues to be cemented, meanwhile, by the operations of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Founded at Bretton Woods, they’re both Washington based, of course, and controlled by America, despite some Francophone window-dressing.

The advantages this system bestows on the US are enormous. “Reserve currency status” generates huge demand for dollars from governments and companies around the world, as they’re needed for reserves and trade. This has allowed successive American administrations to spend far more, year-in year-out, than is raised in tax and export revenue.

By the early Seventies, US economic dominance was so assured that even after President Nixon reneged on the dollar’s previously unshakeable convertibility into gold, amounting to a massive default, dollar demand kept growing.

So America doesn’t worry about balance of payments crises, as it can pay for imports in dollars the Federal Reserve can just print. And Washington keeps spending willy-nilly, as the world buys ever more Treasuries on the strength of regulatory imperative and the vast liquidity and size of the market for US sovereign debt.

It is this “exorbitant privilege” – as French statesman Valéry Giscard d’Estaing once sourly observed – that has been the bedrock of America’s post-war hegemony. It is the status of the dollar, above all, that’s allowed Washington to get its way, putting the financial squeeze on recalcitrant countries via the IMF while funding foreign wars. To understand politics and power it pays to follow the money. And for the past 70 years, the dollar has ruled the roost.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

a biohazard mask and suit in the heat and humidity of equatorial west africa is literal hell-on-earth


whitehouse |  As the President has stated, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the humanitarian crisis there is a top national security priority for the United States.  In order to contain and combat it, we are partnering with the United Nations and other international partners to help the Governments of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal respond just as we fortify our defenses at home. Every outbreak of Ebola over the past 40 years has been contained, and we are confident that this one can—and will be—as well.

Our strategy is predicated on four key goals:
  • Controlling the epidemic at its source in West Africa;
  • Mitigating second-order impacts, including blunting the economic, social, and political tolls in the region;
  • Engaging and coordinating with a broader global audience; and,
  • Fortifying global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond.
The United States has applied a whole-of-government response to the epidemic, which we launched shortly after the first cases were reported in March. As part of this, we have dedicated additional resources across the federal government to address the crisis, committing more than $175 million to date. We continue to work with Congress to provide additional resources through appropriations and reprogramming efforts in order to be responsive to evolving resource needs on the ground.  Just as the outbreak has worsened, our response will be commensurate with the challenge.

New Resources to Confront a Growing Challenge
The United States will leverage the unique capabilities of the U.S. military and broader uniformed services to help bring the epidemic under control. These efforts will entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support.
  • U.S. Africa Command will set up a Joint Force Command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to provide regional command and control support to U.S. military activities and facilitate coordination with U.S. government and international relief efforts. A general from U.S. Army Africa, the Army component of U.S. Africa Command, will lead this effort, which will involve an estimated 3,000 U.S. forces.

patience..., vast land and resources coming soon in an equatorial region near you


wired |  The Ebola epidemic in Africa has continued to expand since I last wrote about it, and as of a week ago, has accounted for more than 4,200 cases and 2,200 deaths in five countries: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. That is extraordinary: Since the virus was discovered, no Ebola outbreak’s toll has risen above several hundred cases. This now truly is a type of epidemic that the world has never seen before. In light of that, several articles were published recently that are very worth reading.

The most arresting is a piece published last week in the journal Eurosurveillance, which is the peer-reviewed publication of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (the EU’s Stockholm-based version of the US CDC). The piece is an attempt to assess mathematically how the epidemic is growing, by using case reports to determine the “reproductive number.” (Note for non-epidemiology geeks: The basic reproductive number — usually shorted to R0 or “R-nought” — expresses how many cases of disease are likely to be caused by any one infected person. An R0 of less than 1 means an outbreak will die out; an R0 of more than 1 means an outbreak can be expected to increase. If you saw the movie Contagion, this is what Kate Winslet stood up and wrote on a whiteboard early in the film.)

The Eurosurveillance paper, by two researchers from the University of Tokyo and Arizona State University, attempts to derive what the reproductive rate has been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. (Note for actual epidemiology geeks: The calculation is for the effective reproductive number, pegged to a point in time, hence actually Rt.) They come up with an R of at least 1, and in some cases 2; that is, at certain points, sick persons have caused disease in two others.
You can see how that could quickly get out of hand, and in fact, that is what the researchers predict. Here is their stop-you-in-your-tracks assessment:
In a worst-case hypothetical scenario, should the outbreak continue with recent trends, the case burden could gain an additional 77,181 to 277,124 cases by the end of 2014.
That is a jaw-dropping number.

is this the real issue at the heart of the scottish independence vote?


euanmearns |  On 18th September 2014 (in a few days time), Scotland will vote on the following question:
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Answer YES and the vote is for independence, answer NO and the vote is to stay with The United Kingdom. Energy has not figured at the top of the debating issues that have been dominated by currency union, the economy and disaffection with Westminster. The future of North Sea oil has been on the second tier but periodically gets thrust into the limelight, normally on the back of sensational headlines about the future. Part of the current reality is that Aberdeen is in the early stage of cyclical recession, brought about by declining production and soaring costs now exacerbated by Brent sliding below $100/ barrel. Redundancies have already begun. In this post I want to examine three issues that have been in the news 1) future exploration potential 2) offshore fracking and 3) remaining reserves.

gasbaggery a little bit closer to the bullseye...,


NYTimes |  The economic risks are so glaring that even Paul Krugman and I agree it’s a terrible idea. What currency will Scotland use? The pound? The euro? No one knows. What share of North Sea oil revenues will go to Edinburgh? What about Scotland’s share of Britain’s enormous national debt?

Is this going to be one of those divorces in which one partner claims all the assets and offers the other partner only the liabilities? Whatever the S.N.P. may say, a yes vote on Thursday would have grave economic consequences, and not just for Scotland. Investment has already stalled. Big companies based in Scotland, notably the pensions giant Standard Life, have warned of relocating to England. Jobs would definitely be lost. The recent steep decline in the pound shows that the financial world hates the whole idea.
Yet the economic arguments against independence seem not to be working — and may even be backfiring. I think I know why. Telling a Scot, “You can’t do this — if you do, terrible things will happen to you,” has been a losing negotiating strategy since time immemorial. If you went into a Glasgow pub tonight and said to the average Glaswegian, “If you down that beer, you’ll get your head kicked in,” he would react by draining his glass to the dregs and telling the barman, “Same again.”

So what kind of appeal can be made to stop the Anglo-Scottish divorce? The answer may be an appeal to Scotland’s long history of cosmopolitanism.

The great Scottish philosopher David Hume was contemptuous of what he called the “vulgar motive of national antipathy.” “I am a Citizen of the World,” he wrote in 1764. Hume’s account of the consequences of union with England could scarcely have been more positive: “Public liberty, with internal peace and order, has flourished almost without interruption.” His only complaint was the tendency of the English to treat “with Hatred our just Pretensions to surpass and to govern them.” (At the time, the English had not quite got used to Scottish prime ministers, of which there have been 11, by my count.)

Petty nationalism is just un-Scottish. And today’s Scots should remember the apposite warning of their countryman the economist Adam Smith about politicians who promise “some plausible plan of reformation” in order “to new-model the constitution,” mainly for “their own aggrandizement.” All over Continental Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, nationalism was what ambitious hacks espoused to advance themselves. Scotland was the exception. May it stay that way.

inane gasbaggery about scotland...,


stratfor |  Scottish independence would transform British history. All of the attempts at minimizing its significance miss the point. It would mean that the British island would be divided into two nation-states, and however warm the feelings now, they were not warm in the past nor can we be sure that they will be warm in the future. England will be vulnerable in ways that it hasn't been for three centuries. And Scotland will have to determine its future. The tough part of national self-determination is the need to make decisions and live with them.

This is not an argument for or against Scottish nationhood. It is simply drawing attention to the enormous power of nationalism in Europe in particular, and in countries colonized by Europeans. Even Scotland remembers what it once was, and many -- perhaps a majority and perhaps a large minority -- long for its return. But the idea that Scotland recalls its past and wants to resurrect it is a stunning testimony less to Scottish history than to the Enlightenment's turning national rights into a moral imperative that cannot be suppressed.

More important, perhaps, is that although Yugoslavia and the Soviet collapse were not seen as precedents for the rest of Europe, Scotland would be seen that way. No one can deny that Britain is an entity of singular importance. If that can melt away, what is certain? At a time when the European Union's economic crisis is intense, challenging European institutions and principles, the dissolution of the British union would legitimize national claims that have been buried for decades.

But then we have to remember that Scotland was buried in Britain for centuries and has resurrected itself. This raises the question of how confident any of us can be that national claims buried for only decades are settled. I have no idea how the Scottish will vote. What strikes me as overwhelmingly important is that the future of Britain is now on the table, and there is a serious possibility that it will cease to be in the way it was. Nationalism has a tendency to move to its logical conclusion, so I put little stock in the moderate assurances of the Scottish nationalists. Nor do I find the arguments against secession based on tax receipts or banks' movements compelling. For centuries, nationalism has trumped economic issues. The model of economic man may be an ideal to some, but it is empirically false. People are interested in economic well-being, but not at the exclusion of all else. In this case, it does not clearly outweigh the right of the Scottish nation to national-self determination.

I think that however the vote goes, unless the nationalists are surprised by an overwhelming defeat, the genie is out of the bottle, and not merely in Britain. The referendum will re-legitimize questions that have caused much strife throughout the European continent for centuries, including the 31-year war of the 20th century that left 80 million dead.

Monday, September 15, 2014

will scotland imitate iceland and free itself from the vampire squid?


medialens |  Craig Murray was scathing about the leaders of the main Westminster political parties, and their last-ditch desperate trip to Scotland last Wednesday to 'save the Union':
'Cameron, Miliband and Clegg. Just typing the names is depressing. As part of their long matured and carefully prepared campaign plan (founded 9 September 2014) they are coming together to Scotland tomorrow to campaign. In a brilliant twist, they will all come on the same day but not appear together. This will prevent the public from noticing that they all represent precisely the same interests.'
Murray nailed what is at stake when he said that the 'three amigos' 'offer no actual policy choice to voters', and he gave a list showing how tightly they march together:
'They all support austerity budgets
They all support benefit cuts
They all support tuition fees
They all support Trident missiles
They all support continued NHS privatisation
They all support bank bail-outs
They all support detention without trial for "terrorist suspects"
They all support more bombings in Iraq
They all oppose rail nationalisation'
In short:
'The areas on which the three amigos differ are infinitesimal and contrived. They actually represent the same paymasters and vested interests.'
These 'paymasters and vested interests' are surely trembling with fear at the power now residing in the hands of voters in Scotland. As George Monbiot observes:
'A yes vote in Scotland would unleash the most dangerous thing of all - hope.'
He expands:
'If Scotland becomes independent, it will be despite the efforts of almost the entire UK establishment. It will be because social media has defeated the corporate media. It will be a victory for citizens over the Westminster machine, for shoes over helicopters. It will show that a sufficiently inspiring idea can cut through bribes and blackmail, through threats and fear-mongering. That hope, marginalised at first, can spread across a nation, defying all attempts to suppress it.'
Whatever happens on Thursday, skewed media performance on Scottish independence - in particular, from the BBC - has helped huge numbers of people see ever more clearly the deep bias in corporate news media.

9/11 inaugurated a police state in the "land of the free"


PCR |  The tragedy of September 11, 2001, goes far beyond the deaths of those who died in the towers and the deaths of firefighters and first responders who succumbed to illnesses caused by inhalation of toxic dust. For thirteen years a new generation of Americans has been born into the 9/11 myth that has been used to create the American warfare/police state. 

The corrupt Bush and Obama regimes used 9/11 to kill, maim, dispossess and displace millions of Muslims in seven countries, none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11. 

A generation of Americans has been born into distain and distrust of Muslims.

A generation of Americans has been born into a police state in which privacy and constitutional protections no longer exist.

A generation of Americans has been born into continuous warfare while needs of citizens go unmet.

A generation of Americans has been born into a society in which truth is replaced with the endless repetition of falsehoods.

According to the official story, on September 11, 2001, the vaunted National Security State of the World’s Only Superpower was defeated by a few young Saudi Arabians armed only with box cutters. The American National Security State proved to be totally helpless and was dealt the greatest humiliation ever inflicted on any country claiming to be a power.

That day no aspect of the National Security State worked. Everything failed.

The US Air Force for the first time in its history could not get intercepter jet fighters into the air.
The National Security Council failed.

All sixteen US intelligence agencies failed as did those of America’s NATO and Israeli allies.

Air Traffic Control failed.

Airport Security failed four times at the same moment on the same day. The probability of such a failure is zero.

If such a thing had actually happened, there would have been demands from the White House, from Congress, and from the media for an investigation. Officials would have been held accountable for their failures. Heads would have rolled.

Instead, the White House resisted for one year the 9/11 families’ demands for an investigation. Finally, a collection of politicians was assembled to listen to the government’s account and to write it down. The chairman, vice chairman, and legal counsel of the 9/11 Commission have said that information was withheld from the commission, lies were told to the commission, and that the commission “was set up to fail.” The worst security failure in history resulted in not a single firing. No one was held responsible.

Washington concluded that 9/11 was possible because America lacked a police state.
The PATRIOT Act, which was awaiting the event was quickly passed by the congressional idiots. The Act established executive branch independence of law and the Constitution. The Act and follow-up measures have institutionalized a police state in “the land of the free.”

rule of law: present day robbing hoods...,


WaPo | Hain’s book calls for “turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.”

Cash seizures can be made under state or federal civil law. One of the primary ways police departments are able to seize money and share in the proceeds at the federal level is through a long-standing Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program known as Equitable Sharing. Asset forfeiture is an extraordinarily powerful law enforcement tool that allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired.

The practice has been controversial since its inception at the height of the drug war more than three decades ago, and its abuses have been the subject of journalistic exposés and congressional hearings. But unexplored until now is the role of the federal government and the private police trainers in encouraging officers to target cash on the nation’s highways since 9/11.

“Those laws were meant to take a guy out for selling $1 million in cocaine or who was trying to launder large amounts of money,” said Mark Overton, the police chief in Bal Harbour, Fla., who once oversaw a federal drug task force in South Florida. “It was never meant for a street cop to take a few thousand dollars from a driver by the side of the road.”

To examine the scope of asset forfeiture since the terror attacks, The Post analyzed a database of hundreds of thousands of seizure records at the Justice Department, reviewed hundreds of federal court cases, obtained internal records from training firms and interviewed scores of police officers, prosecutors and motorists.

The Post found:
  • There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.
  • Only a sixth of the seizures were legally challenged, in part because of the costs of legal action against the government. But in 41 percent of cases — 4,455 — where there was a challenge, the government agreed to return money. The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of those cases and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.
  • Hundreds of state and local departments and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash, despite a federal ban on the money to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets. The Post found that 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008.
  • Agencies with police known to be participating in the Black Asphalt intelligence network have seen a 32 percent jump in seizures beginning in 2005, three times the rate of other police departments. Desert Snow-trained officers reported more than $427 million in cash seizures during highway stops in just one five-year period, according to company officials. More than 25,000 police have belonged to Black Asphalt, company officials said.
  • State law enforcement officials in Iowa and Kansas prohibited the use of the Black Asphalt network because of concerns that it might not be a legal law enforcement tool. A federal prosecutor in Nebraska warned that Black Asphalt reports could violate laws governing civil liberties, the handling of sensitive law enforcement information and the disclosure of pretrial information to defendants. But officials at Justice and Homeland Security continued to use it.
Justice spokesman Peter Carr said the department had no comment on The Post’s overall findings. But he said the department has a compliance review process in place for the Equitable Sharing Program and attorneys for federal agencies must review the seizures before they are “adopted” for inclusion in the program.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

the fate of the world is linked to the fate of antarctica


forbiddenknowledgetv | The fate of the world as we know it is linked to the fate of Antarctica. 70% of all the fresh water on Earth is in Antarctica, in the form of ice.

Antarctica, a land mass that was once bathed in tropical sunshine and which housed vast forests and dinosaurs, is now the coldest continent on our planet, with record-breaking low temperatures of -93.2 degrees Celsius.

The striking footage of Antarctica's powerful winds, massive icebergs and strong sea currents coupled with graphics demonstrates how the intensification of winds in northern regions have picked up speed and led to the demise of billions of layers of ice on Antarctica's western coast.

By using satellite technology on a mission in 2002 called GRACE, scientists discovered that a massive meteor struck Earth's southern hemisphere, which may have aided in the break-up of Pangea, the ancient super-continent from which all the current continents derive.

The shift of land masses pushed Antarctica to the southern-most pole, making it the coldest, driest and windiest place on our planet.

The GRACE mission showed that Antarctica is losing ice primarily on its western coast and in the center of the continent; while the northeastern areas are actually gaining ice. A whopping 159 billion tons of ice have been lost per year from 2010 to 2013. This massive loss is due to the intense winds and temperature differentiation from the north that are pulling warmer water to the surface, eradicating large ice shelves of west Antarctica. After drilling through 500 meters of ice, warm water was detected below that is also causing deterioration of ice.

What does the breaking apart of glaciers from Antarctica mean for the rest of the planet? As the speed in which these glaciers break apart increases, the ice sheets that lie behind them will collapse. Surprisingly, the erosion of parts of the continent is not merely due to climate change; there is movement of magma 25 kilometers below the plate that is also a big part of the glacial ice destruction. This proves to be a terrifying find: how will we stop the destruction of this frozen continent if it is completely out of our control?

There is no doubt that the increased melting of Antarctic ice spells a rise in global sea levels. This is nothing new, from the viewpoint of geologic time. Throughout history, global sea levels have risen and dropped. However the rapidity of what is currently happening will doubtless have an impact on our lives.

Conspiracy theories and political arguments cannot downplay what is happening to this southernmost land mass. Glaciers will continue to fall, creating a domino effect for the layers of ice behind them, and sea levels will continue to rise. Soon, our seaport cities, such as New York City, London, Hong Kong, etc. will be at risk.

how thirsty california has become...,

latimes |  It doesn't take much to understand why California is so worried about drought. Reservoirs are ever-dwindling. Rainfall is sporadic at best. And let's not forget about the millions of gallons of precious water recently flooding the streets of Brentwood.

More than 80% of California is in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the state's condition isn't expected to improve in the near future.

The Drought Monitor, which collects data from 50 different weather indicators, have shown an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.

Watch the 10 second snap-shot here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

why was admiral byrd dispatched to antarctica immediately after WW-II?


wikipedia |   Operation Highjump (OpHjp), officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946-1947, was a United States Navy operation organized by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr., USN (Ret), Officer in Charge, Task Force 68, and led by Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen, USN, Commanding Officer, Task Force 68. Operation Highjump commenced 26 August 1946 and ended in late February 1947. Task Force 68 included 4,700 men, 13 ships, and multiple aircraft. The primary mission of Operation Highjump was to establish the Antarctic research base Little America IV.[1][2]
Highjump’s objectives, according to the U.S. Navy report of the operation, were:[citation needed]
  1. training personnel and testing equipment in frigid conditions;
  2. consolidating and extending United States sovereignty over the largest practicable area of the Antarctic continent (This was publicly denied as a goal even before the expedition ended);
  3. determining the feasibility of establishing, maintaining and utilizing bases in the Antarctic and investigating possible base sites;
  4. developing techniques for establishing, maintaining and utilizing air bases on ice, with particular attention to later applicability of such techniques to operations in interior Greenland, where conditions are comparable to those in the Antarctic;
  5. amplifying existing stores of knowledge of hydrographic, geographic, geological, meteorological and electromagnetic propagation conditions in the area;
  6. supplementary objectives of the Nanook expedition. (The Nanook operation was a smaller equivalent conducted off eastern Greenland.)[3]

why did the nazis make moves on antarctica?


bibliotecapleyades | The connection between Antarctica and the UFO phenomenon was sealed with claims made by one Albert K. Bender who stated that he “went into the fantastic and came up with an answer and I know what the saucers are.”

Bender ran an organization called the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB) a small UFO organization based in Connecticut, USA and he also edited a publication known as the Space Review which was committed to the dissemination of news about UFOs. In truth, the organization had only a small membership and the publication circulated amongst hundreds rather than thousands, but that its members and readers valued it was in little doubt. The publication itself advocated that flying saucers were spacecraft of extraterrestrial origin.

However... in the October 1953 edition of Space Review, there were two major announcements.
The first was headed Late Bulletin and stated:
A source which the IFSB considers very reliable has informed us that the investigation of the flying saucer mystery and the solution is approaching final stages. This same source to whom we had referred data, which had come into our possession, suggested that it was not the proper method and time to publish the data in 'Space Review'.
The second announcement read “Statement of Importance":
The mystery of the flying saucers is no longer a mystery. The source is already known, but any information about this is being withheld by order from a higher source. We would like to print the full story in Space Review, but because of the nature of the information we are very sorry that we have been advised in the negative.
The statement ended in the sentence :
We advise those engaged in saucer work to please be very cautious.
These announcements were of little significance in and of themselves.
Bender’s publication was considered “fringe”, at best, even at the time... However... what gained them wider attention was the fact that immediately after publishing this October 1953 issue, Bender suspended further publication of the magazine and closed the IFSB down without any further explanation.
This is completely consistent with the “prudent” approach, shown by many who have been “gently” warned to “cease operations” by the Majestic 12 Group and other agencies involved in “keeping a lid” on any real investigation into the Unidentified Flying Object phenomenon. 


Bender might very well have known “what the flying saucers” were, at least a portion of them... but he later revealed in a local newspaper interview that he was keeping his knowledge a secret following a visit by three men who apparently confirmed he was right about his Unidentified Flying Object theory, but put him in sufficient fear to immediately close down his organization and cease publication of the journal.

It has been argued that the story of being visited by three strangers and being warned off was a front to close a publication that was losing money, however the fact that Bender had been “scared to death” and “actually couldn’t eat for a couple of days” was verified by his friends and associates. It is also widely known that such “stories” are often spread by the United States, and other governments to discredit those who might just have the truth, or at least a portion of it.

In 1963, a full decade after his visit from the three strangers, Bender was seemingly prepared to reveal more of his story in a largely unreadable book entitled Flying Saucers and the Three Men in Black. The book was scant on facts, however, it described extraterrestrial spacecraft that had bases in Antarctica.

This was apparently the truth Bender was terrorized into not revealing.
Bender also provided images of the saucers he was aware of. He produced drawings of Unidentified Flying Objects that he was aware of... not saucers, as were the common depictions of the time, but rather “flying wings” which showed three bubble-like protrusions on the underside, reminiscent of the German designed Haunebu II (which was allegedly only in the “design stage” at the end of the Second World War) alongside a cylindrical, cigar shaped object.

moore's law in material sciences will yield what is indistinguishable from magic...,

technologyreview |  A new type of material, made up of nanoscale struts crisscrossed like the struts of a tiny Eiffel Tower, is one of the strongest and lightest substances ever made.

If researchers can figure out how to make the stuff in large quantities, it could be used as a structural material for making planes and trucks, as well as in battery electrodes.

Researchers led by Caltech materials scientist Julia Greer found that by carefully designing nanoscale struts and joints, they could make ceramics, metals, and other materials that can recover after being crushed, like a sponge. The materials are very strong and light enough to float through the air like a feather. The work is published today in the journal Science.

In conventional materials, strength, weight, and density are correlated. Ceramics, for example, are strong but also heavy, so they can’t be used as structural materials where weight is critical—for example, in the bodies of cars. And when ceramics fail, they tend to fail catastrophically, shattering like glass.

But at the nanoscale the same rules do not apply. In this size range, the structural and mechanical properties of ceramics become less tied to properties such as weight, and they can be altered more precisely.

“For ceramics, smaller is tougher,” says Greer, who was named one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2008 for her work on nanoscale mechanics. This means that nanoscale trusses made from ceramic materials can be both very light—unsurprising, since they are mostly air—and extremely strong.

portable power supply in the species future



nanowerk |  Aligned carbon nanotube/graphene sandwiches for high-rate lithium-sulfur batteries 

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Sp2-bonded carbon nanomaterials – such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene – have attracted enormous research interest over the past decades. Due to their superior intrinsic physical properties, such as mechanical strength, electrical and thermal conductivity, these nanocarbons find numerous applications in areas such as catalysis, energy storage or nanocomposites. In addition to these intrinsic physical properties, what makes these materials so attractive are their tunable chemical characters, such as functional groups, doping, and surface modification.

However, the demonstration of their intrinsic physical properties and performances in as-fabricated materials and practical devices has been suffering from the self-aggregation and re-stacking of nanocarbon materials due to strong van der Waals interactions. This prevents the full utilization of the active sites for catalytic reactions.

Researchers consider the rational combination of CNTs and graphene into three-dimensional (3D) hybrids an effective route to amplify the inherent physical properties at the macroscale. From post-treatment methods to in situ growth, various strategies have been explored to fabricate such CNTs/graphene hybrids. Most of these approaches, though, still require barrier layers, which hinders the full demonstration of the excellent properties of these hybrid materials.

By in situ nitrogen doping and structural hybridization of carbon nanotubes and graphene, a team from Tsinghua University, led by professors Qiang Zhang and Fei Wei, have now successfully fabricated nitrogen-doped aligned carbon nanotube/graphene (N-ACNT/G) sandwiches. In this work, aligned CNTs and graphene layers were anchored to each other, constructing a sandwich-like hierarchical architecture with efficient 3D electron transfer pathways and ion diffusion channels.

the main ingredient in our species material future


physorg | A new route to making graphene has been discovered that could make the 21st century's wonder material easier to ramp up to industrial scale. Graphene—a tightly bound single layer of carbon atoms with super strength and the ability to conduct heat and electricity better than any other known material—has potential industrial uses that include flexible electronic displays, high-speed computing, stronger wind-turbine blades, and more-efficient solar cells, to name just a few under development. 

In the decade since Nobel laureates Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim proved the remarkable electronic and mechanical properties of graphene, researchers have been hard at work to develop methods of producing pristine samples of the material on a scale with industrial potential. Now, a team of Penn State scientists has discovered a route to making single-layer graphene that has been overlooked for more than 150 years.

"There are lots of layered materials similar to graphene with interesting properties, but until now we didn't know how to chemically pull the solids apart to make single sheets without damaging the layers," said Thomas E. Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Physics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State. In a paper first published online on Sept. 9 in the journal Nature Chemistry, Mallouk and colleagues at Penn State and the Research Center for Exotic Nanocarbons at Shinshu University, Japan, describe a method called intercalation, in which guest molecules or ions are inserted between the carbon layers of graphite to pull the single sheets apart.

The intercalation of graphite was achieved in 1841, but always with a strong oxidizing or reducing agent that damaged the desirable properties of the material. One of the most widely used methods to intercalate graphite by oxidation was developed in 1999 by Nina Kovtyukhova, a research associate in Mallouk's lab.

While studying other layered materials, Mallouk asked Kovtyukhova to use her method, which requires a strong and a mixture of acids, to open up single layers of solid boron nitride, a compound with a structure similar to graphite. To their surprise, she was able to get all of the layers to open up. In subsequent control experiments, Kovtyukhova tried leaving out various agents and found that the oxidizing agent wasn't necessary for the reaction to take place.

Mallouk asked her to try a similar experiment without the oxidizing agent on graphite, but aware of the extensive literature saying that the oxidizing agent was required, Kovtyukhova balked.
"I kept asking her to try it and she kept saying no," Mallouk said. "Finally, we made a bet, and to make it interesting I gave her odds. If the reaction didn't work I would owe her $100, and if it did she would owe me $10. I have the ten dollar bill on my wall with a nice Post-it note from Nina complimenting my chemical intuition."

Mallouk believes the results of this new understanding of intercalation in boron nitride and could apply to many other layered materials of interest to researchers in the Penn State Center for Two-Dimensional and Layered Materials who are investigating what are referred to as "Materials Beyond Graphene." The next step for Mallouk and colleagues will be to figure out how to speed the reaction up in order to scale up production.

Friday, September 12, 2014

the main ingredient that goes into making these humans the way they are....,


newmodel |  Suggestion must be studied separately from hypnotism.

Hypnotism and suggestion are constantly confused; the place therefore which they occupy in life is quite undetermined.

In reality, suggestion is the fundamental fact. Hypnotism might not exist in our life, nothing would be altered by this, but suggestion is one of the chief factors both in individual and in social life. If there were no suggestion, men's lives would have an entirely different form, thousands of the phenomena of the life surrounding us would be quite impossible.

Suggestion can be conscious and unconscious, intentional and unintentional. The sphere of conscious and intentional suggestion is extremely small in comparison with the sphere of unconscious and unintentional suggestion.

Man's suggestibility, i.e. his capacity to submit to surrounding suggestions, can be different. A man can be entirely dependent on suggestions, have nothing in himself but the results of suggestions and submit to all sufficiently strong suggestions, however contradictory they may be; or he can show some resistance to suggestions, at least yield to suggestions only of certain definite kinds and repel others. But resistance to suggestion even of such a kind is a very rare phenomenon. Ordinarily a man is wholly dependent on suggestions; and his whole inner make-up (and also his outer make-up) is entirely created and conditioned by prevailing suggestions.

From earliest childhood, from the moment of first conscious reception of external impressions, a man falls under the action of suggestions, intentional and unintentional. In this case certain feelings, rules, principles and habits are suggested to him intentionally; and the ways of acting, thinking and feeling against these rules, principles and habits are suggested unintentionally.

This latter suggestion acts owing to the tendency to imitation which everyone possesses. People say one thing and do another. A child listens to one thing and imitates another.

The capacity for imitation in children and also in grown-up people greatly increases their suggestibility.

The dual character of suggestions gradually develops duality in man himself. From very early years he learns to remember that he must show the feelings and thoughts demanded of him at the given moment and never show what he really thinks and feels. This habit becomes his second nature. As time passes, he begins, also through imitation, to trust alike the two opposite sides in himself which have developed under the influence of opposite suggestions. But their contradictions do not trouble him, first because he can never see them together, and second because the capacity not to be troubled by these contradictions is suggested to him because nobody ever is troubled.

Home-education, the family, elder brothers and sisters, parents, relatives, servants, friends, school, games, reading, the theatre, newspapers, conversations, further education, work, women (or men), fashion, art, music, the cinema, sport, the jargon accepted in his circle, the accepted wit, obligatory amusements, obligatory tastes and obligatory taboos—all these and many other things are the source of new and ever new suggestions. All these suggestions are invariably dual, i.e. they create simultaneously what must be shown and what must be hidden.

It is impossible even to imagine a man free from suggestions, who really thinks, feels and acts as he himself can think, feel and act. In his beliefs, in his views, in his convictions, in his ideas, in his feelings, in his tastes, in what he likes, in what he dislikes, in every movement and in every thought, a man is bound by a thousand suggestions, to which he submits, even without noticing them, suggesting to himself that it is he himself who thinks in this way and feels in this way.

This submission to external influences so far permeates the whole life of a man, and his suggestibility is so great, that his ordinary, normal state can be called semi-hypnotic.

And we know very well that at certain moments and in certain situations a man's suggestibility can increase still more and he can reach complete loss of any independent decision or choice whatever. This is particularly clearly seen in the psychology of a crowd, in mass movements of various kinds, in religious, revolutionary, patriotic or panic moods, when the seeming independence of the individual man completely disappears.

All this taken together constitutes one side of the " life of suggestion " in a man. The other side lies in himself and consists, first, in the submission of his so-called " conscious ", i.e. intellectual-emotional functions to influences and suggestions coming from the so-called " unconscious " (i.e. unperceived by the mind) voices of the body, the countless obscure consciousnesses of the inner organs and inner lives; and second, in the submission of all these inner lives to the completely unconscious and unintentional suggestions of the reason and the emotions.

The first, i.e. the submission of the intellectual-emotional functions to the instinctive, has been more elaborated in psychological literature, though the greater part of what is written on these subjects must be taken very cautiously. The second, i.e. the submission of the inner functions to the unconscious influences of the nerve/brain apparatus, has been very little studied. Meanwhile, this last side offers enormous interest from the point of view of the understanding of suggestion and suggestibility in general.

humans ARE in the middle of a huge evolutionary transition..,


BI |   Mankind is undergoing a major evolutionary transition comparable to the shifts from prosimians to monkeys, monkeys to apes, and apes to humans, according to Cadell Last, a doctoral student in evolutionary anthropology and researcher at the Global Brain Institute.

Human life expectancy has already increased from about 45 at the start of the 20th century to 80 today. Because of advancements in technology, which will affect natural selection, Last suggests life expectancy could increase to 120 as early as 2050 — a concept known as radical life extension.

In addition to longer lives, humans will likely delay the timing of biological reproduction and reduce the number of offspring too, according to Last. Taken together, these changes could signify a new type of human, more focused on culture than biology.

Last makes his case in a paper from the most recent issue of Current Aging Science. Citing other futurists like Ray Kurzweil and Francis Heylighen, Last theorizes about human interaction with technology, relying on observations of past primate evolution and biology.

sgt. connolly is as different from overseer principe as chalk is different from cheese...,

start at 5:48

bbcnews |  Monkeys at the top and bottom of the social pecking order have physically different brains, research has found.

A particular network of brain areas was bigger in dominant animals, while other regions were bigger in subordinates.

The study suggests that primate brains, including ours, can be specialised for life at either end of the hierarchy.

The differences might reflect inherited tendencies toward leading or following, or the brain adapting to an animal's role in life - or a little of both.

Neuroscientists made the discovery, which appears in the journal Plos Biology, by comparing brain scans from 25 macaque monkeys that were already "on file" as part of ongoing research at the University of Oxford.

"We were also looking at learning and memory and decision-making, and the changes that are going on in your brain when you're doing those things," explained Dr MaryAnn Noonan, the study's first author. 

The decision to look at the animals' social status produced an unexpectedly clear result, Dr Noonan said. 

"It was surprising. All our monkeys were of different ages and different genders - but with fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) you can control for all of that. And we were consistently seeing these same networks coming out."

The monkeys live in groups of up to five, so the team identified their social status by watching their behaviour, then compared it to different aspects of the brain data.

In monkeys at the top of their social group, three particular bits of the brain tended to be larger (specifically the amygdala, the hypothalamus and the raphe nucleus). In subordinate monkeys, the tendency was for a different cluster of regions to be bigger (all within the striatum).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

rule of law: evil not so banal


medicalxpress |  What prompts ordinary people to commit acts of evil? The question has been debated by philosophers, moralists, historians and scientists for centuries.

One idea that carries much weight today is this: you, me—almost anyone—is capable of carrying out atrocities if ordered to do so. 

Commanded by an authoritarian figure, and wishing to conform, we could bulldoze homes, burn books, separate parents from children or even slaughter them, and our much-prized conscience would not as much as flicker. 

Called the "banality of evil," the theory has been proffered as an explanation for why ordinary, educated Germans took part in the Jewish genocide of World War II.

Now psychologists, having reviewed an opinion-shaping experiment carried out more than 50 years ago, are calling for a rethink.

"The more we read and the more data we collect, the less evidence we find to support the banality of evil idea, the notion that participants are simply 'thoughtless' or 'mindless' zombies who don't know what they're doing and just go along for the sake of it," said Alex Haslam, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.

"Our sense is that some form of identification, and hence choice, generally underpins all tyrannical behaviour."

Their detective work focused on legendary experiments conducted in 1961 by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram.

Volunteers, told they were taking part in an experiment on learning, were led to believe they were administering an electric shock to a man, dubbed the "learner" who had to memorise pairs of words.

Evil of Eichmann
Every time the learner made a mistake, the "teacher" was told by a stern-faced, lab-coated official to crank up the shock, starting with a mild 15 volts and climaxing at a lethal 450 volts.

The experiment was fake—the learner was an actor and the shocks never happened. The teacher could hear, but not see, the learner.

Frighteningly, in one test, nearly two-thirds of volunteers continued all the way to "lethal" voltage, even when the learner pleaded for mercy, wept or screamed in agony.

These experiments became enshrined in textbooks as an illustration of how the conscience can be put on hold under orders. 

The findings meshed with a landmark book by the writer Hannah Arendt on the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust. 

Far from the monster she had expected, Arendt found that Eichmann came across more like a petty bureaucrat, prompting her to coin the term "banality of evil" to suggest how ordinary people, by conforming, could commit atrocities.

rule of law: harsh measures grounded in repressive ideologies must end...,


commondreams |  In the face of a failed War on Drugs, a global commission composed mostly of former world leaders recommended on Tuesday that governments decriminalize and regulate the use of currently illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and psychedelics.

"The international drug regime is broken," reads the report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan; former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz; former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and former high commissioner for human rights at the UN Louise Arbour; and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, as well as the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Portugal. "[O]verwhelming evidence points to not just the failure of the regime to attain its stated goals but also the horrific unintended consequences of punitive and prohibitionist laws and policies." 

Punitive drug law enforcement has done nothing to decrease global drug use, the Commission says in "Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work" (pdf). Instead, such policies have fueled crime, maximized health risks, undermined human rights, and fostered discrimination — all while wasting tens of billions of dollars.

In place of these "harsh measures grounded in repressive ideologies," the commission recommends that world governments:
  • Shift their focus from enforcement to prevention and harm reduction;
  • Ensure equitable and affordable access to "essential medicines" like opiate-based pain medications; 
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession;
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers and couriers;
  • Look for alternatives to militarized anti-drug efforts when going after organized crime groups;
  • "Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances;"
  • Use the upcoming major review of drug policies by the UN General Assembly, scheduled for 2016, as an opportunity to open debate on true reform.
Implementing such reforms "is necessary because global drug prohibition, the dominant paradigm in the last 40 years, has not only failed in achieving its original stated objectives, which was to reduce drug consumption and improve health worldwide, but it has, in fact, generated a lot of harm, including an AIDS and hepatitis epidemic among people who use drugs and social violence and infiltration of democracies with narco-traffickers and the birth of a few narco-states in the world," commission member Michel Kazatchkine, UN Secretary General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in an interview with The World Today's Eleanor Hall.



american anthrax: why secrets, public service, and governance don't mix


ICH |  September 11, 2001, shook the United States to the core, a country that had been nearly untouchable since its democratic inception. However, immediately following this horrific tragedy, another equally as impactful 'terrorist attack' occurred when weaponized anthrax was sent to multiple Congressman and journalists through the U.S. Postal Service.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were both one-time events that happened in two prominent cities. Unlike 9/11, the Anthrax Attacks localized terrorism and spread fear to every corner of American life, where the simple act of getting your mail could prove to be fatal. Five people died as a result of breathing in the deadly anthrax spores, including postal workers and one NY Post reporter. Countless others were infected.

The Bush administration initially tried to link this 'second wave of terrorism' to al-Qaeda with zero proof. Once that talking point out-lived its usefulness, the official narrative began leaning towards Saddam Hussein and his mythological biological weapons program.

Establishment propagandists like John Mccaine and ABC news reporters intentionally spread disinformation to plant the seed in the public mind that the anthrax came from Iraq, which eventually lead to Colin Powell's infamous 2003 WMD speech at the UN. All the while, the U.S. government was fully aware that the anthrax did not come from an external source, because the strain showed tell-tale signs of being a specific anthrax strain that was weaponized and manufactured by the U.S. military.

Regardless, the idea of the Anthrax Attacks being executed by an external terrorist organization remained conventional wisdom the public was conditioned into believing in the aftermath of 9/11. Eventually, two men were accused of being the perpetrators behind the attacks, yet no charges were ever brought to either of them. The first accused individual, Steven Hatfill, ended up being rewarded a multimillion dollar settlement from the government for being wrongly accused before any evidence was presented against him. The subsequent accused individual, Bruce Ivins, allegedly committed suicide while the FBI was trying to break him into confessing.

Ultimately, the FBI asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to verify its evidence pointing to Ivins as the main suspect. Instead, the NAS concluded that the DNA in the anthrax sent in the mail was in fact not a match to the anthrax Ivins worked with. Before the National Academy of Sciences finished their independent investigation, the FBI rushed its preestablished conclusions about Ivins's guilt to the press, and the case was closed. To this day, the FBI has never commented on the many glaring contradictions in the official government narrative about the Anthrax Attacks.

100-year old ricin found in NIH lab...,


realclearscience |  The National Institutes of Health said it has uncovered a nearly century-old container of ricin and a handful of other forgotten samples of dangerous pathogens as it combs its laboratories for improperly stored hazardous materials.

The agency began an intensive investigation of all its facilities after a scientist in July found vials of smallpox dating from the 1950s, along with other contagious viruses and bacteria that had been stored and forgotten in one lab on the NIH's campus.

Friday, the NIH said in different facilities, it found small amounts of five improperly stored "select agents," pathogens that must be registered and kept only in certain highly regulated laboratories. All were found in sealed and intact containers, with no evidence that they posed a safety risk to anyone in the labs or surrounding areas, the agency said in a memo to employees. All have been destroyed.

They included a bottle of ricin, a highly poisonous toxin, found in a box with microbes dating from 1914 and thought to be 85 to 100 years old, the memo said. The bottle was labeled as originally containing 5 grams, although NIH doesn't know how much was left.

Ricin has legitimate research uses, the NIH said, but was not studied in this lab.

Also discovered were samples listing pathogens that cause botulism, plague, tularemia and a rare tropical infection called melioidosis.