Friday, August 31, 2012

along with arctic ice, the rich world's smugness will melt...,

guardian | I have no idea what is coming to Europe and North America this winter and next summer, in the wake of the record ice melt, but it's unlikely to be pleasant. Please note that this record represents a loss of about 30% of Arctic sea ice, against the long-term average. When that climbs to 50% or 70% or 90%, the impacts are likely to be worse.

Our governments do nothing. Having abandoned any pretence of responding to the environmental crisis during the Earth summit in June, now they stare stupidly as the ice on which we stand dissolves. Nothing – or worse than nothing. Their one unequivocal response to the melting has been to facilitate the capture of the oil and fish it exposes.

The companies that caused this disaster are scrambling to profit from it. On Sunday Shell requested an extension to its exploratory drilling period in the Chukchi Sea, off the north-west coast of Alaska. This would push its operations hard against the moment when the ice re-forms and any spills they cause are locked in. The Russian oil company Gazprom is using the great melt to try to drill in the Pechora Sea, north-east of Murmansk. After turning its Arctic lands in the Komi republic into the Niger delta of the north (repeated oil spills are left unremediated in the tundra), Russia wants to extend this industry into one of the world's most fragile ecosystems, where ice, storms and darkness make decontamination almost impossible.

As I write, activists from Greenpeace, whom I regard as heroes, are chained to Gazprom's supply vessel, preventing the rig from operating. These people are stepping in where all governments have failed. David Cameron, who still claims to lead the greenest government ever, is no longer hugging huskies. In June he struck an agreement with the Norwegian prime minister "to enable sustainable development of Arctic energy". Sustainable development, of course, means drilling for oil.

Is this how our children will see it: that we destroyed the benign conditions that made our world of wonders possible, and then used the opportunity to amplify the damage? All of us, of course, can claim to have acted with other aims in mind, or not to have acted at all, as the other immediacies of life seemed more important. But – unless we respond at last – the results follow as surely as if we had sought to engineer them.

Stupidity, greed, passivity? Just as comparisons evaporate, so do these words. The ice, that solid platform on which, we now discover, so much rested, melts into air. Our pretensions to peace, prosperity and progress are likely to follow. "And like the baseless fabric of this vision, / The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, / The solemn temples, the great globe itself, / Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve."

alaska fitna do a little "prepping"

BusinessWeek | Alaska is known for pioneering, self-reliant residents who are accustomed to remote locations and harsh weather. Despite that, Gov. Sean Parnell worries a major earthquake or volcanic eruption could leave the state's 720,000 residents stranded and cut off from food and supply lines. His answer: Build giant warehouses full of emergency food and supplies, just in case.

For some in the lower 48, it may seem like an extreme step. But Parnell says this is just Alaska.

In many ways, the state is no different than the rest of America. Most people buy their groceries at stores, and rely on a central grid for power and heat. But, unlike the rest of the lower 48, help isn't a few miles away. When a fall storm cut off Nome from its final fuel supply last winter, a Russian tanker spent weeks breaking through thick ice to reach the remote town.

Weather isn't the only thing that can wreak havoc in Alaska, where small planes are a preferred mode of transportation and the drive from Seattle to Juneau requires a ferry ride and 38 hours in a car. The state's worst natural disaster was in 1964, when a magnitude-9.2 earthquake and resulting tsunami killed 131 people and disrupted electrical systems, water mains and communication lines in Anchorage and other cities.

"We have a different motivation to do this, because help is a long ways away," said John Madden, Alaska's emergency management director.

The state plans two food stockpiles in or near Fairbanks and Anchorage, two cities that also have military bases. Construction on the two storage facilities will begin this fall, and the first food deliveries are targeted for December. The goal is to have enough food to feed 40,000 people for up to a week, including three days of ready-to-eat meals and four days of bulk food that can be prepared and cooked for large groups. To put that number into perspective, Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, has about 295,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Juneau, its third largest, about 31,000.

It's not unusual for states that routinely experience hurricanes or other large-scale disasters to have supplies like water, ready-to-eat meals, cots and blankets. But Alaska is interested in stocking food with at least a five-year shelf life that meets the nutrition, health and cultural requirements of the state's unique demographics. That means, as part of the effort, trying to incorporate cultural foods like salmon for Alaska Natives as well as foods that would be more common in urban areas, state emergency management spokesman Jeremy Zidek said.

An estimated 90 percent of commodities entering Alaska are delivered through the Port of Anchorage. Air service is also a critical link to the outside world and generally the only way to reach many rural communities. A volcanic blast emitting a large amount of smoke and ash could disrupt supply lines by air and water for an extended period, Madden said, and an earthquake could knock out airport runways or ports. Those are just some of the disasters that might require emergency supplies.

Parnell has made disaster readiness a priority of his administration. His spokeswoman said he has experienced firsthand the devastation of natural disasters, including heavy flooding that knocked some buildings off foundations in Eagle in 2009, when he was lieutenant governor, and the Joplin, Mo., tornado last year. Parnell and his wife visited Joplin with members of the relief organization Samaritan's Purse.

Madden said Alaska's readiness is better than it once was and it continues to improve.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

are manchurian candidates possible?

the intentional production of a crimogenic environment

neweconomicperspectives | Restoring the pre-1993 underwriting rules would impose no cost on honest lenders and would greatly reduce fraud and make it much easier to prove fraud when it occurred. The rule we adopted in 1984 restricting S&L growth rates doomed the accounting control frauds that we were not able to close because we had no funds. The rule targeted an accounting control fraud’s Achilles’ heel – the need to grow rapidly or collapse. The lack of a rule requiring Fannie, Freddie, the investment banks, and mortgage bankers to file criminal referrals was a major barrier to prosecuting.

The regulatory “black holes” exploited by fraudulent mortgage bankers created a superb criminogenic environment. The GAAP and international accounting rules of credit default swaps (CDS) and international accounting rules for allowances for loan and lease losses (ALLL) are open invitations for accounting control fraud.

The broader point is that without superb criminal referrals by the financial regulators and the “detailing” of dozens of bank examiners to the FBI it is impossible for the FBI to investigate effectively an epidemic of elite accounting control fraud. By 2006, there were over two million fraudulent liar’s loans being made annually. Long does not understand that the financial regulators are the “cops on the beat.” The NYC police department does not deal with elite financial crimes. The FBI white-collar crime staff is so tiny (fewer than two agents per U.S. industry) that it cannot walk a beat. The FBI only come and investigates in response to effective criminal referrals. Banks will virtually never make a criminal referral against their CEOs. One cannot combat such a fraud epidemic by having the FBI investigate the criminal referrals that the FDIC-insured banks make against individual borrowers.

The anti-regulators controlling the banking agencies under Clinton and Bush killed the criminal referral process. Obama has failed to reestablish it. Long does not understand the meaning of her own example about Geithner’s response to learning of the Libor frauds. Geithner and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) did not use the word “fraud” in their communications with the Bank of England or their sister regulators. The FRBNY did not make a criminal referral or even alert the FBI and the Justice Department to the Libor frauds. Obama’s recently created “working group” on secondary mortgage market fraud does not even include representatives from the banking regulators. Chris Swecker, the senior FBI official who made the famous twin warnings in 2004 (there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud that would cause a financial “crisis” if it were not contained) informed the FCIC that no banking regulator ever contacted him in response to his warnings. Long’s anti-regulatory dogma would recreate the criminogenic environment and spark new fraud epidemics and lead to the three “de’s” (deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization). One cannot credibly call for jailing the crooks while pushing anti-regulatory creeds that produce fraud epidemics and make it certain that the elite crooks will not even be investigated, much less jailed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ron paul channels putney swope

theamericanconservative | After Ron Paul’s speech Sunday evening—part of his “We are the Future Rally” held at the University of Florida Sun Dome—I set out to gauge audience reaction. “He hit a lot of the same points he normally hits,” said James Smack, vice chairman of the Nevada Republican Party and a Paul stalwart. “But there was a little more passion, a little more zest…”

This was also my impression. Some observers thought that Paul would strike a conciliatory tone to ingratiate himself (or more likely, his son Sen. Rand Paul) with the GOP establishment. But as Smack noted, “there were some solid shots taken at the RNC—merited shots.” Paul accused party insiders of flouting convention rules to disenfranchise his supporters.

But this was not what stood out most about the address. Over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, Paul was at his most subversive, demonstrating precisely why the Romney campaign offered him a convention speaking slot only under the condition that they be allowed to vet his remarks. (Paul declined.)

“Let me tell you, Bradley Manning didn’t kill anybody,” the Texas congressman declared at around minute 45, speaking of a “soft spot” in his heart for whistleblowers. “Bradley Manning hasn’t caused the death of anybody. And what he has exposed—he is the equivalent of Daniel Ellsberg, who told us the truth about Vietnam!” The crowd exulted. Paul then pivoted to a spirited defense of Julian Assange, chastising the government of Sweden for truckling to alleged American demands that the Aussie be extradited to the U.S. for prosecution.

Paul’s campaign has long touted the fact that he received an outsized percentage of donations from active-duty military. I couldn’t help but speculate that his position on Bradley Manning—who after all has been charged in military court with aiding and abetting al-Qaeda—might not be popular within those ranks. I mentioned this hunch to Kaleb Hornsby, a Paul district coordinator from Augusta, Georgia and Navy veteran. “To maintain good military discipline, order should be followed,” he said. “You make certain agreements when you go into the military. As a soldier, I don’t think Manning should have done it. I wouldn’t have done it.” Even so, Hornsby regarded himself as a supporter of WikiLeaks and admitted to struggling with the issue.

“It’s outstanding leadership,” another veteran, Marcelo Munoz, said of Paul’s comments on Manning and Assange. “You serve in the military, but you don’t serve the military. Ron Paul stands for principle, and it’s outstanding. That’s why he doesn’t sound like any other candidate.” Munoz served as Paul’s 2012 Alabama state chairman. “The principle here is, the soldier saw some stuff that the U.S. shouldn’t have been doing, and he exposed it. Like Ron Paul said, he’s a whistleblower. And whistleblowers are the ones that keep the government in check.”

Among military and civilian supporters alike, Munoz’s sentiment appeared to be the prevailing one. “I think Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are heroes to the world,” said Stephen Cossett, a Libertarian Party activist from Venice, California, who claimed he had overseen the most prolific pro-Ron Paul phonebanking operation in the nation. “Bradley Manning to the United States, and Julian Assange to the world, since as Ron Paul said, he’s not an American.” Cossett was an invited “guest” of the California delegation, and that allows him entry to the convention floor—an attempt at co-optation, he suspected. I asked Cossett if he thought it unusual for a politician of Paul’s stature to be making such pronouncements.

“Maybe of Paul’s stature, but not for Paul,” he replied. “We need to speak up for this stuff. We need information, that’s how we make decisions in a democracy.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

people before parasites: iceland was right, the imf was wrong...,

thestreet | For approximately three years, our governments, the banking cabal, and the Corporate Media have assured us that they knew the appropriate approach for fixing the economies that they had previously crippled with their own mismanagement. We were told that the key was to stomp on the Little People with "austerity" in order to continue making full interest payments to the Bond Parasites -- at any/all costs.

Following three years of this continuous, uninterrupted failure, Greece has already defaulted on 75% of its debts, and its economy is totally destroyed. The UK, Spain and Italy are all plummeting downward in suicide-spirals, where the more austerity these sadistic governments inflict upon their own people the worse their debt/deficit problems get. Ireland and Portugal are nearly in the same position.

Now in what may be the greatest economic "mea culpa" in history, we have the media admitting that this government/banking/propaganda-machine troika has been wrong all along. They have been forced to acknowledge that Iceland's approach to economic triage was the correct approach right from the beginning.

What was Iceland's approach? To do the exact opposite of everything the bankers running our own economies told us to do. The bankers (naturally) told us that we needed to bail out the criminal Big Banks, at taxpayer expense (they were Too Big To Fail). Iceland gave the banksters nothing.

The bankers told us that no amount of suffering (for the Little People) was too great in order to make sure that the Bond Parasites got paid at 100 cents on the dollar. Iceland told the Bond Parasites they would get what was left over, after the people had been taken care of (by their own government).

The bankers told us that our governments could no longer afford the same education, health care and pension systems which our parents had taken for granted. Iceland told the bankers that what the country could no longer afford was to continue to be blood-sucked by the worst financial criminals in the history of our species. Now, after three-plus years of this absolute dichotomy in economic policymaking, a clear picture has emerged (despite the best efforts of the propaganda machine to hide the truth).

In typical fashion, the moment that the Corporate Media is forced to admit that it has been serially misinforming us for the past several years; the Revisionists are immediately deployed to rewrite history, as shown in this Bloomberg Businessweek excerpt:

...the island's approach to its rescue led to a "surprisingly" strong recovery, the International Monetary Fund's mission chief to the country said.

In fact, from the moment the Crash of '08 was orchestrated and our morally bankrupt governments began executing the plans of the bankers, I have written that the only rational strategy was to put People before Parasites. While I wouldn't expect national policymakers to take their cues from my writing, when I wrote out my economic prescriptions for our economies I didn't base my views on compassion, or simply "doing the right thing."

Rather, I have consistently argued that it was a matter of simple arithmetic and the most-elementary principles of economics that "the Iceland approach" was the only strategy which could possibly succeed. When Plutarch wrote 2,000 years ago "an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all Republics," he was not parroting socialist dogma (1,500 years before the birth of Socialism).

Plutarch was simply expressing the First Principle of economics; something on which all of the modern capitalist economists who followed in his footsteps have based their own theories. When modern economists produce their own jargon, such as the Marginal Propensity to Consume; it is squarely based on the wisdom of Plutarch: that an economy will always be healthier with its wealth in the hands of the poor and the Middle Class instead of being hoarded by rich misers (and gamblers).

So when the Bloomberg Revisionists attempt to convince us that Iceland's strong (and real) economic recovery was a "surprise"; this could only be true if none of our governments, none of the bankers and none of the media's precious "experts" understood the most-elementary principles of arithmetic and economics. Is this the message the media wants to convey?

"told you so" moments stacking up like hotcakes now...,

NYTimes | IN recent years, scientists have made extraordinary advances in understanding the causes of autism, now estimated to afflict 1 in 88 children. But remarkably little of this understanding has percolated into popular awareness, which often remains fixated on vaccines.

So here’s the short of it: At least a subset of autism — perhaps one-third, and very likely more — looks like a type of inflammatory disease. And it begins in the womb.

It starts with what scientists call immune dysregulation. Ideally, your immune system should operate like an enlightened action hero, meting out inflammation precisely, accurately and with deadly force when necessary, but then quickly returning to a Zen-like calm. Doing so requires an optimal balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory muscle.

In autistic individuals, the immune system fails at this balancing act. Inflammatory signals dominate. Anti-inflammatory ones are inadequate. A state of chronic activation prevails. And the more skewed toward inflammation, the more acute the autistic symptoms.

Nowhere are the consequences of this dysregulation more evident than in the autistic brain. Spidery cells that help maintain neurons — called astroglia and microglia — are enlarged from chronic activation. Pro-inflammatory signaling molecules abound. Genes involved in inflammation are switched on.

These findings are important for many reasons, but perhaps the most noteworthy is that they provide evidence of an abnormal, continuing biological process. That means that there is finally a therapeutic target for a disorder defined by behavioral criteria like social impairments, difficulty communicating and repetitive behaviors.

But how to address it, and where to begin? That question has led scientists to the womb. A population-wide study from Denmark spanning two decades of births indicates that infection during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in the child. Hospitalization for a viral infection, like the flu, during the first trimester of pregnancy triples the odds. Bacterial infection, including of the urinary tract, during the second trimester increases chances by 40 percent.

The lesson here isn’t necessarily that viruses and bacteria directly damage the fetus. Rather, the mother’s attempt to repel invaders — her inflammatory response — seems at fault. Research by Paul Patterson, an expert in neuroimmunity at Caltech, demonstrates this important principle. Inflaming pregnant mice artificially — without a living infective agent — prompts behavioral problems in the young. In this model, autism results from collateral damage. It’s an unintended consequence of self-defense during pregnancy.

Yet to blame infections for the autism epidemic is folly. First, in the broadest sense, the epidemiology doesn’t jibe. Leo Kanner first described infantile autism in 1943. Diagnoses have increased tenfold, although a careful assessment suggests that the true increase in incidences is less than half that. But in that same period, viral and bacterial infections have generally declined. By many measures, we’re more infection-free than ever before in human history.

Better clues to the causes of the autism phenomenon come from parallel “epidemics.” The prevalence of inflammatory diseases in general has increased significantly in the past 60 years. As a group, they include asthma, now estimated to affect 1 in 10 children — at least double the prevalence of 1980 — and autoimmune disorders, which afflict 1 in 20.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

the dead end of higher education as a means to prosperity in america...,

aljazeera | It is 2011 and I'm sitting in the Palais des Congres in Montreal, watching anthropologists talk about structural inequality.

The American Anthropological Association meeting is held annually to showcase research from around the world, and like thousands of other anthropologists, I am paying to play: $650 for airfare, $400 for three nights in a "student" hotel, $70 for membership, and $94 for admission. The latter two fees are student rates. If I were an unemployed or underemployed scholar, the rates would double.

The theme of this year's meeting is "Traces, Tidemarks and Legacies." According to the explanation on the American Anthropological Association website, we live in a time when "the meaning and location of differences, both intellectually and morally, have been rearranged". As the conference progresses, I begin to see what they mean. I am listening to the speaker bemoan the exploitative practices of the neoliberal model when a friend of mine taps me on the shoulder.
"I spent almost my entire salary to be here," she says.

My friend is an adjunct. She has a PhD in anthropology and teaches at a university, where she is paid $2100 per course. While she is a professor, she is not a Professor. She is, like 67 per cent of American university faculty, a part-time employee on a contract that may or may not be renewed each semester. She receives no benefits or health care.

According to the Adjunct Project, a crowdsourced website revealing adjunct wages - data which universities have long kept under wraps - her salary is about average. If she taught five classes a year, a typical full-time faculty course load, she would make $10,500, well below the poverty line. Some adjuncts make more. I have one friend who was offered $5000 per course, but he turned it down and requested less so that his children would still qualify for food stamps.

Why is my friend, a smart woman with no money, spending nearly $2000 to attend a conference she cannot afford? She is looking for a way out. In America, academic hiring is rigid and seasonal. Each discipline has a conference, usually held in the fall, where interviews take place. These interviews can be announced days or even hours in advance, so most people book beforehand, often to receive no interviews at all.

The American Anthropological Association tends to hold its meetings in America's most expensive cities, although they do have one stipulation: "AAA staff responsible for negotiating and administering annual meeting contracts shall show preference to locales with living wage ordinances." This rule does not apply, unfortunately, to those in attendance.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

the monkeywrench wars

archdruidreport | Among science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s many gifts was a mordant sense of humor, and a prime example of that gift in action was his 1951 short story Superiority. It’s the story of a space war told by the commanding general of the losing side; he is explaining to some interstellar equivalent of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal how his forces managed to lose.

The question is of some interest, as the space fleets and resources of the losing side were far superior to those of the victors. So, however, was their technology. "However" is the operative word, for each brilliantly innovative wonder weapon fielded by their scientists turned out to have disastrous downsides when put into service, while the winning side simply kept on churning out unimaginative space battleships using old but proven technology. By the time the losing side realized that it should have done the same thing, it was so far behind that only a new round of wonder weapons seemed to offer any hope of victory—and a little more of that same logic finished them off.

It’s been suggested by more than one wit that life imitates art far more often than art imitates life. The United States military these days seems intent on becoming a poster child for that proposal. Industrial design classes at MIT used to hand out copies of "Superiority" as required reading; unfortunately that useful habit has not been copied by the Pentagon, and as a result, the US armed forces are bristling with brilliantly innovative wonder weapons that don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

The much-ballyhooed Predator drone is one good example among many. For those who don’t follow military technology, it’s a remote-controlled plane designed to fly at rooftop level, equipped with a TV camera and missiles. The operator, sitting in an air-conditioned office building in Nevada, can control it anywhere on Earth via satellite uplink, seek out suspected terrorists, and vaporize them. Does it work? Well, it’s vaporized quite a few people; the Obama administration is even more drone-happy than its feckless predecessor, and has been sending swarms of drones around various corners of the Middle East to fire missiles at a great many suspected terrorists.

You’ll notice that this has done little to stabilize the puppet governments we’ve got in the Middle East these days, and even less to decrease the rate at which American soldiers are getting shot and blown up in Afghanistan. There’s a reason for that. The targets for drone attacks have to be selected by ordinary intelligence methods—terrorists don’t go around with little homing beacons on them, you know—and ordinary intelligence methods have a relatively low signal-to-noise ratio. As a result, a lot of wedding parties and ordinary households get vaporized on the suspicion that there might be a terrorist hiding in there somewhere. Since tribal custom in large parts of the Middle East makes blood vengeance on the murderers of one’s family members an imperative duty, and there are all these American soldiers conveniently stationed in Afghanistan—well, you can do the math for yourself.

Thus the Predator drone isn’t a war-fighting technology, it’s a war-losing technology, pursued with ever-increasing desperation by a military and political establishment that has no idea what to do but can’t bear the thought of doing nothing.

photoleaks london popo plan to ambush wikileaks founder

Telegraph | A policeman has accidentally revealed a secret plan to seize Julian Assange “under all circumstances” if he steps outside the Ecuadorian embassy, in an embarrassment for Scotland Yard.

The uniformed Met officer was pictured holding a clipboard detailing possible ways the WikiLeaks founder could try to escape from the building he has been holed up in for the past two months.

His target, who is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged rape and sexual assault, is currently safe on diplomatic territory. He has been given political asylum by the Latin American country, on the grounds that he faces persecution in the USA over his whistle-blowing website, but faces arrest the second he steps outside because he has breached his bail conditions.

The policeman’s handwritten tactical brief, captured by a Press Association photographer as he stood outside the Knightsbridge embassy on Friday afternoon, discloses the “summary of current position re Assange”. It stated: “Action required – Assange to be arrested under all circumstances.”

The notes said should the maverick Australian should be taken even if he emerges in a vehicle, under diplomatic immunity or in a diplomatic bag, which may involve “risk to life”. There had been speculation that he could be smuggled out of the building in a parcel or given a post in the United Nations by Ecuador in an attempt to evade arrest.

The operational guidance, marked “restricted”, also warned of the “possibility of distraction”, suggesting that the Yard fears Mr Assange’s supporters could try to create a commotion outside the embassy, providing cover under which he could flee.

Further details of the notes, which were obscured by the officer holding them, appeared to relate to the “everyday business” of the embassy and the possible need for “additional support” from an unknown agency known as SS10. Scotland Yard said it did not know what this referred to.

The last few sentences referred to SO20, the counter-terrorism command, and included the words "welfare" and "standards".

A separate page carried by the uniformed officer, who was chatting to a colleague, showed an “event diary” including codes and phone numbers.

The blunder by the policeman, captured by a Press Association photographer on Friday afternoon, has echoes of the downfall of Britain’s senior counter-terrorism officer in 2009.

Friday, August 24, 2012

surprise: media routinely misrepresents neuroscience research to further ideological agendas

Neurobonkers | A paper published today in the journal Neuron describes how the mainstream media (specifically the Daily Telegraph, Times, Daily Mail, Sun, Mirror and the Guardian) have tackled the topic of neuroscience over the past decade. The paper is a damning indictment of how the press use neuroscience as a tool with which to “portray themselves as dispassionate” whilst preaching their trademark prejudices. The paper describes how the Telegraph used research to wrongly “assert that productive female participation in both the labor market and family life is neurobiologically impossible”, while the Daily Mail miscellaneously linked “women to irrationality” (amongst countless other crimes) and the Times absurdly squealed “are gays dopamine junkies?”. The paper lists a labyrinth of logical fallacies which the media use to misrepresent neuroscience, repeatedly highlighting a tendency for:

“overextensions of research, with implications drawn far outside the original research context. This overextrapolation of research was not limited to idle speculation but sometimes extended to calls for concrete applications.”

The paper assessed the contents of nearly 3,000 articles involving neuroscience over the past decade to see which topics came up most. It’s not hard to see how the data is skewed by the media’s recent obsessions such as fish oil and narcotics. I’ve tossed the figures in to Manyeyes to make the information a little easier to digest:

the bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for julian assange...,

Guardian | In 2008 – two years before the release of the "collateral murder" video, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and the diplomatic cables – the Pentagon prepared a secret report which proclaimed WikiLeaks to be an enemy of the state and plotted ways to destroy its credibility and reputation. But in a stroke of amazing luck, Pentagon operatives never needed to do any of that, because the establishment media in the US and Britain harbor at least as much intense personal loathing for the group's founder as the US government does, and eagerly took the lead in targeting him. Many people like to posit the US national security state and western media outlets as adversarial forces, but here – as is so often the case – they have so harmoniously joined in common cause.

Whatever else is true, establishment media outlets show unlimited personal animus toward the person who, as a panel of judges put it when they awarded him the the 2011 Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism, "has given the public more scoops than most journalists can imagine." Similarly, when the Australian version of the Pulitzers – the Walkley Foundation – awarded its highest distinction (for "Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism") to WikiLeaks in 2011, it cited the group's "courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency," and observed: "So many eagerly took advantage of the secret cables to create more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime."

When it comes to the American media, I've long noted this revealing paradox. The person who (along with whomever is the heroic leaker) enabled "more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime" – and who was quickly branded an enemy by the Pentagon and a terrorist by high U.S. officials – is the most hated figure among establishment journalists, even though they are ostensibly devoted to precisely these values of transparency and exposing serious government wrongdoing. (This transparency was imposed not only on the US and its allies, but also some of the most oppressive regimes in the Arab world).

But the contempt is far more intense, and bizarrely personal, from the British press, much of which behaves with staggering levels of mutually-reinforcing vindictiveness and groupthink when it's time to scorn an outsider like Assange. On Tuesday, Guardian columnist Seumas Milne wrote a superb analysis of British media coverage of Assange, and observed that "the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting." Milne noted that to the British press, Assange "is nothing but a 'monstrous narcissist', a bail-jumping 'sex pest' and an exhibitionist maniac" – venom spewed at someone "who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything."

Indeed, the personalized nature of this contempt from self-styled sober journalists often borders on the creepy (when it's not wildly transgressing that border). Former New York Times' executive editor Bill Keller infamously quoted an email from a Times reporter claiming that Assange wore "filthy white socks that collapsed around his ankles" and "smelled as if he hadn't bathed in days." On the very same day WikiLeaks released over 400,000 classified documents showing genuinely horrific facts about massive civilian deaths in the Iraq war and US complicity in torture by Iraqi forces, the New York Times front-paged an article purporting to diagnose Assange with a variety of psychological afflictions and concealed, malicious motives, based on its own pop-psychology observations and those of Assange's enemies ("erratic and imperious behavior", "a nearly delusional grandeur", "he is not in his right mind", "pursuing a vendetta against the United States").

A columnist for the Independent, Joan Smith, recently watched Assange's interview of Ecuadorean president Rafeal Correa and offered up this wisdom: "He's put on weight, his face is puffy and he didn't bother to shave before his interview with Correa." And perhaps most psychologically twisted of all: a team of New York Times reporters and editors last week, in its lead article about Ecuador's decision to grant asylum, decided it would be appropriate to include a quote from one of Assange's most dedicated enemies claiming that when the WikiLeaks founder was a visitor in his apartment, he "refused to flush the toilet during his entire stay" (faced with a barrage of mockery and disgust over their reporting on Assange's alleged toilet habits, the NYT sheepishly deleted that passage without comment).

It is difficult to think of anyone this side of Saddam Hussein who triggers this level of personalized, deeply ingrained hatred from establishment journalists. Few who spew this vitriol would dare speak with the type of personalized scorn toward, say, George Bush or Tony Blair – who actually launched an aggressive war that resulted in the deaths of at least 100,000 innocent people and kidnapped people from around the globe with no due process and sent them to be tortured. The reaction Assange inspires among establishment media figures is really sui generis.

It is vital to note, as was just demonstrated, that this media contempt long pre-dates, and exists wholly independent of, the controversy surrounding the sex assault allegations in Sweden, and certainly long pre-dates his seeking of asylum from Ecuador. Indeed, given that he has not been convicted of anything, to assume Assange's guilt would be reprehensible – every bit as reprehensible as concluding that the allegations are a CIA ruse or that the complainants' allegations should be dismissed as frivolous or inherently untrustworthy.

It would be genuinely nice to think that the same British government that refused to extradite the mass rapist Augusto Pinochet has suddenly developed a devoted passion for ensuring that alleged sex assault offenders are brought to justice – just as it would be nice to believe that the sudden interest in denouncing Ecuador's press freedom record was driven by some newly discovered and authentic concern in the west for civil liberties protections in South America. But as Milne put it last night with great understatement: "such posturing looks increasingly specious."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

how the american university was killed in five easy steps

junctrebellion | A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report on the defunding of public education by saying, “In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”

In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are now movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.

To explain my perspective here, I need to go back in time. Let’s go back to post World War II, 1950s when the GI bill, and the affordability – and sometimes free access – to universities created an upsurge of college students across the country. This surge continued through the ’60s, when universities were the very heart of intense public discourse, passionate learning, and vocal citizen involvement in the issues of the times. It was during this time, too, when colleges had a thriving professoriate, and when students were given access to a variety of subject areas, and the possibility of broad learning. The Liberal Arts stood at the center of a college education, and students were exposed to philosophy, anthropology, literature, history, sociology, world religions, foreign languages and cultures. Of course, something else happened, beginning in the late fifties into the sixties — the uprisings and growing numbers of citizens taking part in popular dissent — against the Vietnam War, against racism, against destruction of the environment in a growing corporatized culture, against misogyny, against homophobia. Where did much of that revolt incubate? Where did large numbers of well-educated, intellectual, and vocal people congregate? On college campuses. Who didn’t like the outcome of the 60s? The corporations, the war-mongers, those in our society who would keep us divided based on our race, our gender, our sexual orientation.

I suspect that, given the opportunity, those groups would have liked nothing more than to shut down the universities. Destroy them outright. But a country claiming to have democratic values can’t just shut down its universities. That would reveal something about that country which would not support the image they are determined to portray – that of a country of freedom, justice, opportunity for all. So, how do you kill the universities of the country without showing your hand? As a child growing up during the Cold War, I was taught that the communist countries in the first half of the 20th Century put their scholars, intellectuals and artists into prison camps, called “re-education camps”. What I’ve come to realize as an adult is that American corporatism despises those same individuals as much as we were told communism did. But instead of doing anything so obvious as throwing them into prison, here those same people are thrown into dire poverty. The outcome is the same. Desperate poverty controls and ultimately breaks people as effectively as prison…..and some research says that it works even MORE powerfully.

So: here is the recipe for killing universities, and you tell ME if what I’m describing isn’t exactly what is at the root of all the problems of our country’s system of higher education. (Because what I’m saying has more recently been applied to K-12 public education as well.)

new online journal: review of capitalism as power

recasp | The framework of ‘capital as power’ offers a radical alternative to both liberal and Marxist political economies. In this framework, capital is viewed not as a productive economic entity, but as the central power institution of capitalist society at large, while capitalism as a whole is seen not as mode of production and consumption, but as a mode of power.

The purpose of RECASP is to critically theorize, historicize and empirically research capital as power and capitalism as a conflictual mode of power. The area of inquiry is wide open, and we welcome big-picture contributions as well more focused research. Broader studies may seek to address questions such as the following:
  • How does power bear on accumulation, and how does it get capitalized?
  • What are the historical roots of capital as power, and how do these roots alter the way we understand the origins of capitalism?
  • What are the ideological and theoretical underpinnings of the capitalist mode of power?
  • How has capitalization evolved and mutated?
  • What are the qualitative forms of power in capitalism, and how do they compare to those that characterized earlier modes of power?
  • How does capitalism convert qualities into quantities?
  • What are the limits of capitalized power?
  • How is capitalized power resisted and opposed, and can it be reformed or overthrown?
  • Can these questions be addressed by mainstream and heterodox theories of capitalism – and if so, how do their answers differ from those offered by the theory of capital as power?

We are also interested in concrete areas of inquiry related to these broader questions. Suggested topics include:

  • Finance as the capitalist architecture of power
  • War and accumulation – the capitalization of systemic violence
  • Capitalist power and labour – from proletarianization and wages to productivity and organization
  • The techniques of capitalist power, the power of capitalist techniques
  • International and regional conflicts and the capitalization of power
  • Capitalist and democratic accounting, including the history of discounting and its possible alternatives
  • Power and price formation – from local to global markets
  • The psychology of capitalist power
  • The state as a locus of capitalization – from taxes and the law to ideology and violence
  • Crises of capitalist power
  • Capitalized power and nature – from genetic engineering, to energy, to the biosphere
  • Comparative modes of power: ancient and feudal, communist and fascist, capitalist and beyond
  • Capital as power versus ‘primitive accumulation’ – dispossession, co-option and genocide
  • The power dimensions of ‘immaterial’ capitalism – from leisure and fear to knowledge and ideology
  • Alternative visions for a de-capitalized society
In the interests of advancing open knowledge, all of our articles are available for free online.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

don't lose sight of why the u.s. is out to get julian assange...,

Guardian | Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history, you might imagine there would be at least some residual concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business. But the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.

This is a man, after all, who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything. But as far as the bulk of the press is concerned, Assange is nothing but a "monstrous narcissist", a bail-jumping "sex pest" and an exhibitionist maniac. After Ecuador granted him political asylum and Assange delivered a "tirade" from its London embassy's balcony, fire was turned on the country's progressive president, Rafael Correa, ludicrously branded a corrupt "dictator" with an "iron grip" on a benighted land.

The ostensible reason for this venom is of course Assange's attempt to resist extradition to Sweden (and onward extradition to the US) over sexual assault allegations – including from newspapers whose record on covering rape and violence against women is shaky, to put it politely. But as the row over his embassy refuge has escalated into a major diplomatic stand-off, with the whole of South America piling in behind Ecuador, such posturing looks increasingly specious.

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

To get a grip on what is actually going on, rewind to WikiLeaks' explosive release of secret US military reports and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables two years ago. They disgorged devastating evidence of US war crimes and collusion with death squads in Iraq on an industrial scale, the machinations and lies of America's wars and allies, its illegal US spying on UN officials – as well as a compendium of official corruption and deceit across the world.

WikiLeaks provided fuel for the Arab uprisings. It didn't just deliver information for citizens to hold governments everywhere to account, but crucially opened up the exercise of US global power to democratic scrutiny. Not surprisingly, the US government made clear it regarded WikiLeaks as a serious threat to its interests from the start, denouncing the release of confidential US cables as a "criminal act".

anti-Occupy Internet surveillance system...,

RT | How do you make matters worse for an elusive intelligence company that has been forced to scramble for explanations about their ownership of an intricate, widespread surveillance program? Just ask Cubic, whose troubles only begin with TrapWire.

Days after the international intelligence gathering surveillance system called TrapWire was unraveled by RT, an ongoing investigation into any and all entities with ties to the technology has unturned an ever-increasing toll of creepy truths. In only the latest installment of the quickly snowballing TrapWire saga, a company that shares several of the same board members as the secret spy system has been linked to a program called Tartan, which aims to track down alleged anarchists by specifically singling out Occupy Wall Street protesters and the publically funded media — all with the aid of federal agents.

Tartan, a product of the Ntrepid Corporation, “exposes and quantifies key influencers and hidden connections in social networks using mathematical algorithms for objective, un-biased output,” its website claims. “Our analysts, mathematicians and computer scientists are continually exploring new quantification, mining and visualization techniques in order to better analyze social networks.” In order to prove as such, their official website links to the executive summary of a case study dated this year that examines social network connections among so-called anarchists, supposedly locating hidden ties within an underground movement that was anchored on political activists and even the Public Broadcasting Station [.pdf].

“Tartan was used to reveal a hidden network of relationships among anarchist leaders of seemingly unrelated movements,” the website claims. “The study exposed the affiliations within this network that facilitate the viral spread of violent and illegal tactics to the broader protest movement in the United States.”

Tartan is advertised on their site as a must-have application for the national security sector, politicians and federal law enforcement, and makes a case by claiming that “an amorphous network of anarchist and protest groups,” made up of Occupy Oakland, PBS, Citizen Radio, Crimethinc and others, relies on “influential leaders,” “modern technology” and “illegal tactics” to spread a message of anarchy across America.

“The organizers of Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC have built Occupy networks through online communication with anarchists actively participating in the movements’ founding,” the executive summary reads. On the chart that accompanies their claim, the group lists several political activism groups and broadcast networks within a ring of alleged anarchy, which also includes an unnamed FBI informant.

Although emails uncovered in a hack last year waged at Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, suggested that Occupy groups had been under private surveillance, the latest discovery of publically available information implies that the extent to which the monitoring of political activists on American soil occurred may have extended what was previously imagined.

Things don’t end there, though. While the TrapWire tale is still only just beginning, the Ntrepid Corporation made headlines last year after it was discovered by the Guardian that the company was orchestrating an “online persona management” program, a clever propaganda mill that was touted as a means “to influence regional and international audiences to achieve U.S. Central Command strategic objectives,” according, at least, to the Inspector General of the US Defense Department [.pdf]. The investigation eventually revealed that the US Central Command awarded Ntrepid $2.76 million worth of taxpayer dollars to create phony Internet “sock puppets” to propagate US support. Fist tap Arnach.

trapwire could be illegal

io9 | Last week, whistleblower site Wikileaks posted some internal company documents about a high-tech surveillance system called Trapwire, which is used by governments and private companies to identify "suspicious" or "terrorist" behavior. Subsequently, Wikileaks was brought down by a concerted DDOS attack, and conspiracy theories mushroomed online about the Trapwire system, which was said to include foolproof facial recognition software (it doesn't) and to siphon private surveillance camera footage to intelligence agents (this is whatTrapwire claims that its eponymous product does). Much has also been made of the many former CIA agents and officials who work at Trapwire and its former parent company Abraxas.

Conspiracy theories aside, there are a lot of shady aspects to Trapwire. And one of the shadiest is its dubious legal status. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court could mean that using Trapwire to track people is illegal without a search warrant.

US v. Jones

At issue is a case called US v. Jones, decided by the Supreme Court earlier this year, in which police had secretly put a GPS device on a suspect's car and tracked it for nearly a month without a warrant. As a result, they convicted the suspect of dealing drugs. But the Court decided that the use of a GPS in this case was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which is designed to protect people from unreasonable, privacy-invading searches. How could tracking this man's car in public really be a violation of privacy? After all, many people saw him driving around.

Several members of the Court found that the problem was that the officers were going beyond simply seeing the car in public. They were tracking its every move for a month, and then analyzing all that data for patterns they never would have seen if they simply spotted the car as it drove by. This act tipped the police officers' acts from reasonable to unreasonable under the law. One of the barometers the Court uses to measure whether an act invades privacy is to compare it to what would have been possible at the time the Constitution was framed, over 200 years ago. Concurring with the US v. Jones decision, Justice Alioto wrote, memorably:

Is it possible to imagine a case in which a constable secreted himself somewhere in a coach and remained there for a period of time in order to monitor the movements of the coach's owner? . . . The Court suggests that something like this might have occurred in 1791, but this would have required either a gigantic coach, a very tiny constable, or both-not to mention a constable with incredible fortitude and patience
In other words, the kind of public monitoring referred to in the Fourth Amendment does not include monitoring people's every move and analyzing it using surveillance technology.

Given this interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, it's very possible that the government's warrantless use of Trapwire would also be deemed an invasion of privacy.

trapwire: it's not the surveillance, it's the sleeze...,

wired | Ever since WikiLeaks began releasing a series of documents about the surveillance system Trapwire, there’s been a panicked outcry over this supposedly all-seeing, revolutionary spy network. In fact, there are any number of companies that say they comb through video feeds or suspicious activity reports in largely the same way that Trapwire claims to do. What’s truly extraordinary about Trapwire was how it was marketed by the private intelligence firm Stratfor, whose internal e-mails WikiLeaks exposed.

The documents show Stratfor being less than straight with its clients, using temporary jobs in government to set up Trapwire contracts, and calling it all a “wet dream.” In their e-mails, executives at Stratfor may have been hyping up a surveillance technology. But what they really did was provide reconnaissance on the $25 billion world of intelligence-for-hire that’s ordinarily hidden from public view. In this case, the sunlight isn’t particularly flattering.

‘Once Fred is the #2 dude in the Texas Department of Public Safety, he is going get $1,500,000 to install TrapWire.’

On Nov. 4, 2009, Fred Burton, the vice president of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, co-wrote an essay on emerging terrorist threats and the means to stop them. Particularly impressive, Burton wrote, was a new software tool called Trapwire, which works “with camera systems to help detect patterns of preoperational surveillance … to help cut through the fog of noise and activity and draw attention to potential threats.”

The essay was typical of the trend analyses, news summaries, and hot tips that Strator provides every day to its customers in government and in industry. For these services, Burton’s clients pay his firm handsomely; a single Stratfor enterprise license costs more than $20,000 (.pdf). These customers rely on Burton and his team to provide the latest word from flashpoints worldwide — and to explain what this torrent of information all means. They count on Stratfor to help make sense of the world.

What his customers reading that November 2009 essay may not have realized was that Burton was also marketing them a product. On Aug. 17 of that year, Stratfor and Trapwire signed a contract (.pdf) giving Burton’s company an 8 percent referral fee for any business they send Trapwire’s way. The essay was partially a sales pitch — a fact that Burton neglected to mention.

After the November 2009 essay, Burton told a fellow Stratfor executive: “I plugged TrapWire in our weekly [report] that has gone out to thousands…. Hopefully, it would generate some business.”

That’s a breach of trust and possibly worse, says Matthew Aid, author of Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror. “It’s a conflict of interest.”

“If I was one of Stratfor’s business clientele or government clientele, I’d be a little alarmed or a little confused or both,” adds Aid, a former executive at the private intelligence firm Kroll Associates. ”If you don’t tell the people who are paying for your products caveat emptor [buyer beware] … that’s constructive fraud, to use a legal term.”

Trapwire did not immediately respond to e-mail and telephone inquiries from Danger Room. Stratfor declined to comment.

move along, move along, nothing to see over here....,

Gawker | The internet has been freaking out all weekend over an ominously-titled surveillance program called "TrapWire," after it showed up in some leaked Wikileaks emails. If you've listened to the hype, you might think TrapWire was an evil omniscient spy robot that runs off the fumes of our burning Constitution. But What is TrapWire, really? Here is your guide:

So what is TrapWire, some sort of government spying program?
TrapWire is a surveillance system sold by a Virginia-based firm of the same name, which is meant to thwart terrorist attacks before they happen. TrapWire works by collecting data from thousands of security cameras and reports of suspicious activity from security teams at potential terrorist targets (known as "high value targets") and analyzing them for patterns that indicate planning of a terrorist attack. (Or other criminal activity.) It's used by some government agencies to safeguard their buildings, but it's not a government project.

So TrapWire is basically a data-mining company?
Yeah. Like any data-mining operation, they're trying to automate the search for meaningful patterns in huge databases that would be missed by someone just combing through it manually. But instead of the data being the purchases of Target customers, it's suspicious people or vehicles spotted near potential terrorist targets. TrapWire also assembles a big database of suspicious reports from all its clients, which can then be used to cross-reference threats among different facilities.

But TrapWire is super-secret, right? That's why everyone's freaking out?
TrapWire isn't secret at all. A 2006 patent application lays the whole thing out in detail. (It also offers the single best explanation of what TrapWire does.) And TrapWire's website offers a helpful description of how TrapWire ideally works:
Through the systematic capture of... pre-attack indicators, terrorist or criminal surveillance and pre-attack planning operations can be identified — and appropriate law enforcement counter measures employed ahead of the attack.
TrapWire has many government and private clients, including government buildings, military installations, casinos, and hotels. The VP of security firm Stratfor claimed that "TrapWire is in place at every [high value target] in NYC, DC, Vegas, London, Ottawa and LA," in an email leaked by Wikileaks.

If TrapWire has existed publicly since 2006, why is everyone talking about it all of a sudden?
TrapWire turned up in a bunch of emails leaked recently by Wikileaks. If you remember, Wikileaks has been slowly publishing a cache of five million emails that Anonymous hackers stole from the private security firm Stratfor. Last week, they released some that revealed Stratfor had a partnership with TrapWire, where they both agreed to promote each other's products to clients and in turn shared commissions if anything came out of the deal. The emails also included some discussion of TrapWire's capabilities.

Since geeks take everything contained in a Wikileaks release as a "revelation"—even if it's already well-known—the emails have been breathlessly pumped up as the revelation of some super-secret "mass surveillance program" that "monitors your every move."

anonymous message to the uk (free assange)

Fist tap Dale.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

700 terabytes of data stored in one gram of dna

Information Storage in DNA from Wyss Institute on Vimeo.

harvard | Using next-generation sequencing technology and a novel strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest data size previously achieved in DNA, a Harvard geneticist encodes his book in life’s language.

Although George Church’s next book doesn’t hit the shelves until Oct. 2, it has already passed an enviable benchmark: 70 billion copies—roughly triple the sum of the top 100 books of all time. And they fit on your thumbnail.

That’s because Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and a founding core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University, and his team encoded the book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, in DNA, which they then read and copied.

Biology’s databank, DNA has long tantalized researchers with its potential as a storage medium: fantastically dense, stable, energy efficient and proven to work over a timespan of some 3.5 billion years. While not the first project to demonstrate the potential of DNA storage, Church’s team married next-generation sequencing technology with a novel strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest amount of data previously stored in DNA.

The team reports its results in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Science.

The researchers used binary code to preserve the text, images and formatting of the book. While the scale is roughly what a 5 ¼-inch floppy disk once held, the density of the bits is nearly off the charts: 5.5 petabits, or 1 million gigabits, per cubic millimeter. “The information density and scale compare favorably with other experimental storage methods from biology and physics,” said Sri Kosuri, a senior scientist at the Wyss Institute and senior author on the paper. The team also included Yuan Gao, a former Wyss postdoc who is now an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

And where some experimental media—like quantum holography—require incredibly cold temperatures and tremendous energy, DNA is stable at room temperature. “You can drop it wherever you want, in the desert or your backyard, and it will be there 400,000 years later,” Church said.

Reading and writing in DNA is slower than in other media, however, which makes it better suited for archival storage of massive amounts of data, rather than for quick retrieval or data processing. “Imagine that you had really cheap video recorders everywhere,” Church said. “Just paint walls with video recorders. And for the most part they just record and no one ever goes to them. But if something really good or really bad happens you want to go and scrape the wall and see what you got. So something that’s molecular is so much more energy efficient and compact that you can consider applications that were impossible before.”

About four grams of DNA theoretically could store the digital data humankind creates in one year.

what IS the human genome?

TheScientist | The Human Genome project sequenced “the human genome” and is widely credited with setting in motion the most exciting era of fundamental new scientific discovery since Galileo. That’s remarkable, because in important ways “the human genome” that we have labeled as such doesn’t actually exist.

Plato essentially asserted that things like chairs and dogs, which we observe in this physical world, and even concepts like virtues, are but imperfect representations or instances of some ideal that exists, but not in the material world. Such a Platonic ideal is “the human genome,” a sequence of about 3 billion nucleotides arrayed across a linear scale of position from the start of chromosome 1 to the end of the sex chromosomes. Whether it was obtained from one person or several has so far been shrouded in secrecy for bioethical reasons, but it makes no real difference. What we call the human genome sequence is really just a reference: it cannot account for all the variability that exists in the species, just like no single dog on earth, real or imagined, can fully incorporate all the variability in the characteristics of dogs.

Nor is the human genome we have a “’normal” genome. What would it mean to be “normal” for the nucleotide at position 1,234,547 on chromosome 11? All we know is that the donor(s) had no identified disease when bled for the cause, but sooner or later some disease will arise. Essentially all available whole genome sequences show potentially disease-producing variants, even including nonfunctional genes, in donors who were unaffected at the time.

but then I told you this a looooong time ago, right?

TheScientist | A usually benign strain of the gut microbe E. coli produces toxins in mice with inflammatory bowel disease, which can lead to DNA-damage and cancer in the host tissue. The results were reported last week in Science (August 16).

“They’re not exactly your flagship disease-causing bacteria,” lead researcher Christian Jobin, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Nature.

Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than the general population. But researchers thought that the main culprit was the over-active immune cells, which released DNA-damaging molecules. The new work suggests that gut microbes may also contribute to the process, as inflammation appears to change the microbial composition of the gut to favor toxin-producing E. coli strains.

Experts think that the research could lead to methods of reducing the risk of cancer by altering the microbial community, though that strategy has to be tested.

Monday, August 20, 2012

deft rendering of recent living memory history...,

I, pet goat II from Heliofant on Vimeo.

A story about the fire at the heart of suffering.
Bringing together dancers, musicians, visual artists and 3d animators, the film takes a critical look at the events of the past decade that have shaped our world.
Main softwares used: Maya, Vray, FumeFX, RealFlow
Download the wallpapers on our site.

Original soundtrack "the Stream", written and performed by Tanuki Project.

Some of the stellar artists that worked on the short:,,,,,

Animation is about half keyframe animation and half motion capture.
Motion capture recording by Lartech. Fist tap Nomad.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

speaking of the need for effective formations...,

Guardian | A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were – so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant.

Except that it turned out to be true. News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government – for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

Fast forward: after the Occupy crackdowns, I noted that odd-looking CCTVs had started to appear, attached to lampposts, in public venues in Manhattan where the small but unbowed remnants of Occupy congregated: there was one in Union Square, right in front of their encampment. I reported here on my experience of witnessing a white van marked "Indiana Energy" that was lifting workers up to the lampposts all around Union Square, and installing a type of camera. When I asked the workers what was happening – and why an Indiana company was dealing with New York City civic infrastructure, which would certainly raise questions – I was told: "I'm a contractor. Talk to ConEd."

I then noticed, some months later, that these bizarre camera/lights had been installed not only all around Union Square but also around Washington Square Park. I posted a photo I took of them, and asked: "What is this?" Commentators who had lived in China said that they were the same camera/streetlight combinations that are mounted around public places in China. These are enabled for facial recognition technology, which allows police to watch video that is tagged to individuals, in real time. When too many people congregate, they can be dispersed and intimidated simply by the risk of being identified – before dissent can coalesce. (Another of my Facebook commentators said that such lamppost cameras had been installed in Michigan, and that they barked "Obey", at pedestrians. This, too, sounded highly implausible – until this week in Richmond, British Columbia, near the Vancouver airport, when I was startled as the lamppost in the intersection started talking to me – in this case, instructing me on how to cross (as though I were blind or partially sighted).

Finally, last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use – or already uses – facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases.

And we know from industry newsletters that the US military, law enforcement, and the department of homeland security are betting heavily on facial recognition technology. As PC World notes, Facebook itself is a market leader in the technology – but military and security agencies are close behind.

h.p. lovecraft got nothing on darpa: swarms, and worms, and jellies oh my!!!

capitalcolumn | The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has released information about a new, chameleon-like soft robot that has a range of capabilities and can be produced at a very low cost. DARPA hopes the new “hiding in plain sight” robot will be used by various defense agencies for many types of missions.

Researchers led by Drs. George Whitesides and Stephen Morin at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering successfully created the robot under DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program. The robot can walk on its own, glow, carry certain liquids, and change color, apparent shape and temperature.

DARPA’s press release further explained the new soft robot’s capabilities: “What DARPA has achieved with silicone-based soft robots is development of a very low cost manufacturing method that uses silicone molds. By introducing narrow channels into the molds through which air and various types of fluids can be pumped, a robot can be made to change its color, contrast, apparent shape and temperature to blend with its environment, glow through chemiluminescence, and most importantly, achieve actuation, or movement, through pneumatic pressurization and inflation of the channels. The combination of low cost and increased capabilities means DARPA has removed one of the major obstacles to greater DoD adoption of robot technology.”

DARPA’s report on the chameleon-lik robot comes about one week after another DARPA-financed robot project was announced, the creation of a soft, autonomous robot called a “Meshworm” that resembles an Earthworm.

Gill Pratt, the DARPA program manager for M3, put the achievement in context. “DARPA is developing a suite of robots that draw inspiration from the ingenuity and efficiency of nature. For defense applications, ingenuity and efficiency are not enough—robotic systems must also be cost effective,” he said. “This novel robot is a significant advance towards achieving all three goals.”