Friday, September 30, 2011

fit'na do this on monday - any thoughts, suggestions?

Video - brainzooming building the gigabit city

brainzooming | The area’s most avid internet users and innovators will convene with business, education and civic leaders to brainstorm ways to capitalize on Google’s bestowment of ultra-high speed fiber internet network upon Kansas City.

After Google announced last spring that Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri are the two initial cities to benefit from “internet access more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today,” the task falls to the community to determine the best ways this technological gift should be used.

In response, the Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC) will host “Building the Gigabit City: Brainstorming a Google Fiber Roadmap” October 3rd at the Kansas City (MO) Public Library Central Branch, one of the event’s major sponsors.

SMCKC member Mike Brown, founder of The Brainzooming Group, will lead the invitation-only, daylong work session. Brown volunteered to fully donate the company’s innovation services and the Brainzooming Methodology to the session that will bring together more than 50 individuals from SMCKC as well as the broader community—a combination of visionary entrepreneurs, developers, business leaders and creators.

A public presentation of preliminary results from the Gigabit City session and a call for public input will be conducted from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch Helzberg Auditorium at 14 W. 10th Street in Kansas City, MO.

google green the big picture

do moods on twitter follow biorhythms?

NYTimes | However grumpy people are when they wake up, and whether they stumble to their feet in Madrid, Mexico City or Minnetonka, Minn., they tend to brighten by breakfast time and feel their moods taper gradually to a low in the late afternoon, before rallying again near bedtime, a large-scale study of posts on the social media site Twitter found.

Drawing on messages posted by more than two million people in 84 countries, researchers discovered that the emotional tone of people’s messages followed a similar pattern not only through the day but also through the week and the changing seasons. The new analysis suggests that our moods are driven in part by a shared underlying biological rhythm that transcends culture and environment.

The report, by sociologists at Cornell University and appearing in the journal Science, is the first cross-cultural study of daily mood rhythms in the average person using such text analysis. Previous studies have also mined the mountains of data pouring into social media sites, chat rooms, blogs and elsewhere on the Internet, but looked at collective moods over broader periods of time, in different time zones or during holidays.

“There’s just a torrent of new digital data coming into the field, and it’s transforming the social sciences, creating new lenses to look at all sorts of behaviors,” said Peter Sheridan Dodds, a researcher at the University of Vermont who was not involved in the new research. He called the new study “very exciting, because it complements previous findings” and expands on what is known about how mood fluctuates.

He and other outside researchers also cautioned that drawing on Twitter had its hazards, like any other attempt to monitor the fleeting internal states labeled as moods. For starters, Twitter users are computer-savvy, skew young and affluent, and post for a variety of reasons.

“Tweets may tell us more about what the tweeter thinks the follower wants to hear than about what the tweeter is actually feeling,” said Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, in an e-mail. “In short, tweets are not a simple reflection of a person’s current affective state and should not be taken at face value.”

The study’s authors, Scott A. Golder and Michael W. Macy, acknowledge such limitations and worked to correct for them. In the study, they collected up to 400 messages from each of 2.4 million Twitter users writing in English, posted from February 2008 through January 2010.

They analyzed the text of each message, using a standard computer program that associates certain words, like “awesome” and “agree,” with positive moods and others, like “annoy” and “afraid,” with negative ones. They included so-called emoticons, the face symbols like “:)” that punctuate digital missives.

The researchers gained access to the messages through Twitter, using an interface that allows scientists as well as software developers to work with the data.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ironies abound in the media reaction to the English riots that erupted between August 6-10.

Media Lens | It was widely reported that two young men acting independently - Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22 – had been sentenced to four years in prison for trying to incite riots via Facebook in the Manchester area. This ‘despite both being of previous good character’, and despite the fact that their Facebook entries - viewed by a few hundred people – failed to generate a single rioter. Farcically, the only people waiting for Blackshaw at his gathering point were the police.

The four-year jail sentences were harsh indeed, as the Guardian noted:

‘If the two Cheshire men had left home and actually taken part in a riot, it is likely they would have been charged with violent disorder. The average sentence passed on the 372 people convicted of violent disorder in 2010 was just over 18 months. The 1,434 people convicted of public order offences last year got, on average, two months inside.

‘Normally, to qualify for a four-year sentence, a convict would have to kidnap somebody (average sentence 47 months in 2010), kill someone while drink driving (45 months), or carry out a sexual assault (48 months).’
Clearly, judges felt that even failed attempts to incite disruption via social media were worse than actual participation in the riots.

Writing in the Daily Mail, columnist Melanie Phillips located the cause of the riots in ‘fatherless boys who are consumed by an existential rage and desperate emotional need, and who take out the damage done to them by lashing out from infancy at everyone around them’.

This vicious behaviour is fostered by ‘a world without any boundaries or rules. A world of emotional and physical chaos. A world where a child responds to the slightest setback or disagreement by resorting to violence.’

And who can doubt that compassion and restraint in the face of disagreement offer the best hopes for a peaceful world? The 11th century Buddhist poet Ksemendra recalled the wise counsel offered to one enraged king:
'Lord, do not talk like this. If you return anger for anger, anger increases. If you give hate in return for hatred, you will never be rid of your enemies. Would you put out a fire by covering it with wood? It will always rekindle... If you meditate on tolerance to overcome anger, all will become your friends.' (Leaves of the Heaven Tree, Dharma Publishing, 1997, p.333)
Earlier this month, Phillips commented on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks:
‘The real problem with the US and UK reaction to 9/11 was that they did not follow through… we should have gone on to deal with Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi as well.’
Did she mean ‘deal with’ their concerns and grievances in a just and even-handed way? Should the US and UK have recognised their own wrongdoing, their own responsibility for generating hatred? In clarification, Phillips quoted herself from September 2002:
‘The US hopes that sorting Saddam will deliver to these other states the simple message: unless you desist from terror, you're next.’
A world ‘without any boundaries or rules’, in other words, where unilaterally ‘resorting to violence’ and 'lashing out' is the natural response.

Journalists like Phillips, who use national media platforms like the Daily Mail (circulation 2 million) to agitate for war at a time when the decision lies in the balance, are typically garlanded with awards, not sent to the slammer.  After two years spent cold-selling Blair’s war on Iraq, David Aaronovitch, then of the Guardian, won the What the Papers Say Columnist of The Year Award for 2003. In the same year, following a similar pro-war performance, the Independent’s Johann Hari was made Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards (to his credit, Hari has since recanted his support for the Iraq war). Phillips was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1996.

Politicians do even better, of course. Last month, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Tony Blair, now the Middle East Quartet’s Special Envoy, was to receive an award ‘to express Israel’s appreciation for his efforts toward Middle East peace'. A decision worthy of a different kind of Orwell Prize. Meanwhile, Channel 4 reports:
‘Since resigning in June 2007 Tony Blair has financially enriched himself more than any ex-Prime Minister ever. Reporter Peter Oborne reveals some of the sources of his new-found wealth, much of which comes from the Middle East.’ 

the rat race for prestige

The Atlantic | Stephen Joel Trachtenberg understands the prestige war from the inside. When he became president of George Washington University in 1988, tuition was $14,000 -- below average for a private, four-year university, as Washington Monthly reported. When he left in 2007, tuition had skyrocketed to $39,000. During that time, undergraduate applications tripled, the endowment quintupled to $1 billion, SAT scores jumped by 200 points, and the university created five new schools. This essay is adapted from an interview with The Atlantic.

You can buy a pair of jeans at Wal-Mart for $29 and one from Ralph Lauren for $98. While both cover your backside, one comes with a label of status that appeals to some and not to others. Customers -- and lets not forget that students are customers of academic services -- like choices and they usually make selections based on more than one factor, price being only one.

When my son checked into his freshman dorm, there were no lights in his room - nothing on the ceiling, walls or desk. There were two outlets: if you wanted light, Yale required you to bring your own lamp. I thought this took the parable of Plato's Cave a bit too far.

Applicants to GW look for more than overhead lights: they want living and dining choices, places to study and swim, comfortable desks and chairs, and tennis and basketball courts. Yes, they are looking for great professors but they want more than classroom life. The only way to provide more books in the library, more theaters for performances, laboratories for experiments, coffee shops for study breaks is to have the dollars to build and maintain all these things - and dollars come from tuition.

At the same time as the demand for quality services increased, so too did the cost for basic utilities: electricity, water, security, oil, insurance, personnel health and other employee benefits have all risen over the past 40 years.

The only way to buy more books and build more labs is more money. And the money come from tuition. The top 50 universities are not a monolithic list. They can probably be divided into two parts: the top 15 and the next 35. Within the first group, there is little difference of quality - it is all cream with nuances of flavorings. For the next group - numbers 16-50, there is cream, buttermilk, latte, and lots of special tastes. There is also jockeying for position. The top ten always get a mention by the general press. Sometimes, the next 5 or 10 are in a paragraph lower down the column. No question that number 35 wants to move up.

Tuitions rise because costs rise. As the payroll grows, tuition goes up. As the expense of goods and services used by the institution inflate, or become more extended and expanded, tuition goes up. Universities really do get better faculty by providing better compensation and benefits. Professors, it turns out, are economic men and women: Prestige tends to be indexed to quality and quality tends to be measured by the attributes of an institution: the laboratories, libraries, studios, playing fields, recreational and residential facilities; the services for counseling. When one talks about a top 50 university, one is talking about both perception and reality. These are in significant measure indexed to the size of endowment, the fundraising and the tuition income available to the school to provide what the students seek.

the rise of the adult student

The Atlantic | The quintessential American college student leaves home at 18 to live on a college campus for four years. We've historically defined "nontraditional" students as those over the age of twenty-four, those enrolled part time, and those who are financially independent. But today, the "typical" student is the exception.

There are currently 17.6 million undergraduates enrolled in American higher education. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that just fifteen percent of them attend four-year colleges and live on campus. Forty-three percent of them attend two-year institutions. Thirty-seven percent of undergraduates are enrolled part-time and thirty-two percent work full-time. Of those students enrolled in four-year institutions, just thirty-six percent actually graduate in four years.

The most significant shift is probably the massive growth in the adult student population in higher education. Thirty-eight percent of those enrolled in higher education are over the age of 25 and one-fourth are over the age of 30. The share of all students who are over age 25 is projected to increase another twenty-three percent by 2019.

The demands for degrees reflect this changed population. Slightly over half of today's students are seeking a "subbacalaureate" credential (i.e. a certificate, credential, or associate's degree). In 2008-09, postsecondary institutions conferred 806,000 certificates and 787,000 associate's degrees, or a total of about 1.59 million, as compared to 1.6 million bachelor's degrees. In 2008, more than half a million students were enrolled in a health sciences certificate program, making it the largest certificate program area. Another 173,000 students sought a certificate in manufacturing, construction, repair, and transportation. While public discourse often focuses on four-year degrees, these other credentials matter, a lot.

There are plenty of good jobs that don't require a four-year degree. After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that two-thirds of the labor force has less than a four-year degree, including nearly half of those in professional occupations and one-third of those in management roles. It pays for workers to earn these credentials; according to the BLS, that workers with an associate's degree earned $141 more per week, on average, than those whose highest degree is a high school diploma.

But subbacalaureate programs continue to be regarded as marginal in the press and the higher education mainstream. Universities turn their nose up at them. Policies and norms remain oriented towards "traditional" students. Rankings, awards, and honors go to institutions with great sports teams, prize-winning researchers, or elite student bodies--never to those that are helping nontraditional students master new skills and so that they can reenter the workforce, get promoted, or change careers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

why you should root for colleges to go online

The Atlantic | In early August, Apollo Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, made an acquisition that is small compared to the billion-dollar deals common to high-tech industries. Apollo paid less than $100 million to acquire Carnegie Learning, a provider of computer-based math tutorials. Such technology acquisitions are rare in higher education, to say the least. Yet this seemingly small deal is a signal of disruptive revolution in higher education.

Carnegie Learning is the creation of computer and cognitive scientists from Carnegie Mellon University. Their math tutorials draw from cutting-edge research about the way students learn and what motivates them to succeed academically. These scientists have created adaptive computer tutorials that meet students at their individual level of understanding and help them advance via the kinds of exercises they personally find most engaging and effective. The personalization and sophistication is hard for even an expert human tutor to match. It is a powerful, affordable adjunct to classroom instruction, as manifest by Carnegie Learner's user base of more than 600,000 secondary students in over 3,000 schools nationwide.

Some of Apollo's potential uses of this software are immediately apparent. It will prove a boon to the hundreds of thousands of University of Phoenix students who take math courses in almost all of its programs of study. Also, the underlying learning and computer science technology are likely to be applied to math-related courses, such as those in economics, finance, and accounting that the University of Phoenix offers its undergraduate business and MBA students.

Then there are the strategic marketing possibilities. The secondary school students who have come to value and rely on Carnegie Learning's math tutorials are future college students. They might not think now of the University of Phoenix for college. But Sony discovered something interesting about the teenagers who bought its inexpensive pocket-size transistor radios and Walkman cassette tape players: they grew up to be faithful consumers of its larger stereos and television sets. Initially, Magnavox and RCA didn't worry about the low-profit-margin products for kids. In hindsight, they should have. Fist tap Bob.

exhausting our year's supply of earth resources

Fist tap Nana.

Monday, September 26, 2011

no surprise there's a very strong correlation...,

Medicalxpress | Intuition may lead people toward a belief in the divine and help explain why some people have more faith in God than others, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

In a series of studies, researchers at Harvard University found that people with a more intuitive thinking style tend to have stronger beliefs in God than those with a more reflective style. Intuitive thinking means going with one's first instinct and reaching decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes. Reflective thinking involves the questioning of first instinct and consideration of other possibilities, thus allowing for counterintuitive decisions.

"We wanted to explain variations in belief in God in terms of more basic cognitive processes," researcher Amitai Shenhav said. "Some say we believe in God because our intuitions about how and why things happen lead us to see a divine purpose behind ordinary events that don't have obvious human causes. This led us to ask whether the strength of an individual's beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts."

The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The study from the Harvard University Psychology Department was conducted by Shenhav, a doctoral student; post-doctoral fellow David Rand, PhD; and associate professor Joshua Greene, PhD.

In the first part of the study, 882 U.S. adults, with a mean age of 33 and consisting of 64 percent women, completed online surveys about their belief in God before taking a cognitive reflection test. The test had three math problems with incorrect answers that seemed intuitive. For example, one question stated: "A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?" The automatic or intuitive answer is 10 cents, but the correct answer is 5 cents. Participants who had more incorrect answers showed a greater reliance on intuition than reflection in their thinking style.

harvest a few long-pig and see if that deters the crop-theft problem...,

Boston | William Anderson, like a growing number of urban farmers in Boston, doted on his small plot near Codman Square over the summer, sowing seeds, watering regularly, clearing weeds, and watching with pride as the sprouts slowly blossomed into turnips, bell peppers, and other hearty vegetables.

Then, as he prepared to harvest the broad leaves of his collard greens, he was dismayed to discover about 15 of his plants decapitated, all the tasty leaves pilfered.

“It was just depressing to see,’’ said Anderson, 69, who planned to share the fruits of his labor with friends. “I was hurt. I had nursed them, watched them grow, and someone took advantage.’’

It is an increasingly familiar lament across the city, where there are some 3,500 plots in about 150 community gardens. With everything from cucumbers to watermelons ripening in the open, the gardens are something like a supermarket without doors, effectively free for the picking.

“It’s a problem that has worsened with the economy,’’ said Paul Sutton, coordinator for open space and director of urban wilds at the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees five community gardens. “I hear about people picking tomatoes and squash in the middle of the night. It happens all the time.’’

Theft from urban gardens peaks at this time of year, as the fruit and vegetables reach their final stages, sizable prizes waiting to be harvested before the first frost.

Veteran urban gardeners learn what not to plant and how to veil what they do grow. Valerie Burns - president of the Boston Natural Areas Network, a nonprofit that oversees more community gardens than any other organization in the city - has found that the bounty of mature eggplants and butternut squash are like bait for vegetable thieves.

After hers were swiped at a garden along the Southwest Corridor, she stopped planting them.

“You have to be philosophical about it if you garden in the city,’’ she said, noting that a fellow urban farmer found six cabbages for sale at a bodega that he suspected were stolen from his plot. “You just have to hope that it’s going to be food for someone who might really need it.’’

Betsy Johnson, president of the South End/Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust and a board member of the American Community Gardening Association, said the bigger the fruit or vegetable, the more likely it is to be stolen. She said pumpkins and beefy tomatoes are more enticing than spinach or Swiss chard.

Her organization issues tips to urban gardeners that include avoiding growing the more tempting vegetables and fruits at the edge of gardens and veiling them in the thicker foliage of less popular plants. She and others counsel gardeners to harvest as soon as possible.

“It’s a fact of life, but if it was so serious a problem, community gardens would have died out a long time ago,’’ Johnson said. “Instead, they are thriving.’’

beans, bullets, band-aids, and bibles...,

Video - Strange bird scrying portents in Led Zep titles and lyrics.

Survivalblog | As preppers we have all heard of the Three B’s those would be beans, bullets and Band-Aids. An alliteration for food, protection/sufficiency and medical supplies. We should know their importance and for the most part practice it as part of our lifestyle. In our home we utilize a fourth B, the Bible. Let me explain why we feel the Bible is just that important.

I am a bi-vocational pastor serving in the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. In case you don’t understand the meaning of bi-vocational I support my wife and I with a full time job while I pastor a full time church. Small rural churches utilize this type of pastorate very successfully. There is a stereo-type that is inappropriately applied to bi-vocational pastors, one that questions their qualifications. I have earned degrees in electrical/electronics technology and hold an earned Doctorate of Theology from an accredited seminary.

Why did I go through that seemingly self centered introduction? I feel it is important for you to know a little about me considering the subject I am writing about. “Faith when the world falls apart” you see it is easy for you and I to talk about our Christian beliefs when things are going well, but, when the world comes unraveled faster than a cheap sweater, our faith is subject to do the same. Just like you, I get up early, go to work every day, come home and take care of my homestead and family, plus I have the responsibility of pastor to a small group of Southern Baptists at a local church. In addition to this my wife and I are preppers.

Some see the pastor as a wimpy little man who is sickly, who preaches three times a week and is never heard from until he is called upon to do a wedding, funeral, baptism or similar activity. Unfortunately this all some people see of their pastor, but the pastorate is much more. It is about people. Likewise the Bible is about people and their faith in God along with His willingness to answer their prayers. Faith is arguably the most powerful force on the face of the earth. People put their faith in many things, each other, equipment, stores, weapons just to name a few. I want challenge you to think about these things a little differently, think of them as instruments of faith. If you are a person of faith (in God) then you know He can use anything or anyone to meet the needs of His people. For faith to be effective it must be understood and to understand it we need our Bible. Ideally a concordance and good Bible dictionary would make a wonderful trio but if you have a good study Bible handy and are willing to use it God can and will work miracles through it. As you read through my article think about the Bible as your fourth B.

We do approach prepping from a biblical world view, believing that at some time in the future the Lord will rapture the born again believers (the Church), removing us from the Great Tribulation spoken of in the book of Revelation. Furthermore we understand the Bible to teach prepping from both the old and new testaments. For example the book of Proverbs tells us in chapter 30 there are four things upon the earth that are little but extremely wise; the ant, the spider, the locust and the conies (small fury animals that live in the rocks of Sinai). Each of these are used to represent an aspect of prepping; the ants are not strong but they prepare their food in the summer when it is abundant, the conies make their homes in strong fortified places, the locusts have no leader but they work in groups to accomplish their work and survive and the spider is able to defend itself and establish itself in any area.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

the profit-seeking parasites must always fail you...,

those two tapeworms on top gotta go, gotta go, gotta go....,
WSJ | The crowd-sourced, wikinomic cloud is the new, new thing that all management consultants are now telling their clients to embrace. Yet the cloud is not a new thing at all. It has been the source of human invention all along. Human technological advancement depends not on individual intelligence but on collective idea sharing, and it has done so for tens of thousands of years. Human progress waxes and wanes according to how much people connect and exchange.

When the Mediterranean was socially networked by the trading ships of Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs or Venetians, culture and prosperity advanced. When the network collapsed because of pirates at the end of the second millennium B.C., or in the Dark Ages, or in the 16th century under the Barbary and Ottoman corsairs, culture and prosperity stagnated. When Ming China, or Shogun Japan, or Nehru's India, or Albania or North Korea turned inward and cut themselves off from the world, the consequence was relative, even absolute decline.

Knowledge is dispersed and shared. Friedrich Hayek was the first to point out, in his famous 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society," that central planning cannot work because it is trying to substitute an individual all-knowing intelligence for a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.

So dispersed is knowledge, that, as Leonard Reed famously observed in his 1958 essay "I, Pencil," nobody on the planet knows how to make a pencil. The knowledge is dispersed among many thousands of graphite miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, ferrule designers, salesmen and so on. This is true of everything that I use in my everyday life, from my laptop to my shirt to my city. Nobody knows how to make it or to run it. Only the cloud knows.

One of the things I have tried to do in my book "The Rational Optimist" is to take this insight as far back into the past as I can—to try to understand when it first began to be true. When did human beings start to use collective rather than individual intelligence?

In doing so, I find that the entire field of anthropology and archaeology needs Hayek badly. Their debates about what made human beings successful, and what caused the explosive take-off of human culture in the past 100,000 years, simply never include the insight of dispersed knowledge. They are still looking for a miracle gene, or change in brain organization, that explains, like a deus ex machina, the human revolution. They are still looking inside human heads rather than between them.

obsession with profit and control is the source of the error...,

NYTimes | Greg Lindsay is a visiting scholar at the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University and the co-author of “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.”

THE Southwest is famously fertile territory for ghost towns. They didn’t start out depopulated, of course — which is what makes the latest addition to their rolls so strange. Starting next year, Pegasus Holdings, a Washington-based technology company, will build a medium-size town on 20 square miles of New Mexico desert, populated entirely by robots.

Scheduled to open in 2014, the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation, as the town is officially known, will come complete with roads, buildings, water lines and power grids, enough to support 35,000 people — even though no one will ever live there. It will be a life-size laboratory for companies, universities and government agencies to test smart power grids, cyber security and intelligent traffic and surveillance systems — technologies commonly lumped together under the heading of “smart cities.”

The only humans present will be several hundred engineers and programmers huddled underground in a Disneyland-like warren of control rooms. They’ll be playing SimCity for real.

Since at least the 1960s, when New York’s Jane Jacobs took on the autocratic city planner Robert Moses, it’s been an article of faith that cities are immune to precisely this kind of objective, computation-driven analysis. Much like the weather, Ms. Jacobs said, cities are astoundingly complex systems, governed by feedback loops that are broadly understood yet impossible to replicate.

But Pegasus and others insist there’s now another way — that, armed with enough data and computing muscle, we can translate cities’ complexity into algorithms. Sensors automatically do the measuring for us, while software makes the complexity manageable.

“We think that sensor development has gotten to the point now where you can replicate human behavior,” said Robert H. Brumley, the managing director and co-founder of Pegasus. These days, he and others believe, even the unpredictable “human factor” is, given enough computing power, predictable. “You can build randomness in.”

Mr. Brumley isn’t alone in his faith that software can do a better job of replicating human behavior than the humans themselves. A start-up named Living PlanIT is busy building a smart city from scratch in Portugal, run by an “urban operating system” in which efficiency is all that matters: buildings are ruthlessly junked at the first signs of obsolescence, their architectural quality being beside the point.

To the folks at Living PlanIT and Pegasus, such programs are worth it because they let planners avoid the messiness of politics and human error. But that’s precisely why they are likely to fail. Fist tap Nana.


Video - Urbanized - A documentary about the design of cities

Urbanized is currently screening at film festivals and special events in North America and Europe, ticket info here: More international events will be announced soon.

Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified) returns with the final documentary in his design film trilogy. Urbanized focuses on the design of cities, and features some of the world's foremost architects, planners, policymakers, and thinkers, including Sir Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Jan Gehl, Oscar Niemeyer, Amanda Burden, Enrique Peñalosa, Yung Ho Chang, Alejandro Aravena, Eduardo Paes, Rahul Mehrotra, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Ricky Burdett, James Corner, Michael Sorkin, Bruce Katz, Candy Chang, Edgar Pieterse, and many more, including extraordinary citizens who have changed their cities.
Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? And how does the design of our cities affect our lives? By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects in dozens of cities around the world, from massive infrastructure initiatives to temporary interventions, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities. Fist tap Dale.

does being on "the pipe" enhance cognition?

Video - wanker whining about call of duty hacks

Nature | Research showing that action video games have a beneficial effect on cognitive function is seriously flawed, according to a review published this week in Frontiers in Psychology1.

Numerous studies published over the past decade have found that training on fast-paced video games such as Medal of Honor and Grand Theft Auto that require a wide focus and quick responses has broad 'transfer effects' that enhance other cognitive functions, such as visual attention. Some of the studies have been highly cited and widely publicized: one, by cognitive scientists Daphne Bavelier and Shawn Green of the University of Rochester in New York, published in Nature in 20032, has been cited more than 650 times, and was widely reported by the media as showing that video games boost visual skills.

But, say the authors of the review, that paper and the vast majority of other such studies contain basic methodological flaws and do not meet the gold standard of a properly conducted clinical trial.

"Our main focus was recent work specifically examining the effects of modern action games on college-aged participants," says Walter Boot, a psychologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and lead author of the review. "To our knowledge, we've captured all of these papers in our review, and all of the literature suffers from the limitations we discuss."

Video - a shooter where you can flip gravity

the limits of design...,

Video - Dialogue with the Architect

Saturday, September 24, 2011

25 signs of a horrific global water crisis...,

Video - the coming global water crisis

economicollapseblog | Every single day, we are getting closer to a horrific global water crisis. This world was blessed with an awesome amount of fresh water, but because of our foolishness it is rapidly disappearing. Rivers, lakes and major underground aquifers all over the globe are drying up, and many of the fresh water sources that we still have available are so incredibly polluted that we simply cannot use them anymore. Without fresh water, we simply cannot function. Just imagine what would happen if the water got cut off in your house and you were not able to go out and buy any. Just think about it. How long would you be able to last? Well, as sources of fresh water all over the globe dry up, we are seeing drought conditions spread. We are starting to see massive "dust storms" in areas where we have never seem them before. Every single year, most of the major deserts around the world are getting bigger and the amount of usable agricultural land in most areas is becoming smaller. Whether you are aware of this or not, the truth is that we are rapidly approaching a breaking point.

If dramatic changes are not made soon, in the years ahead water shortages are going to force large groups of people to move to new areas. As the global water crisis intensifies, there will be political conflicts and potentially even wars over water. We like to think of ourselves as being so "advanced", but the reality is that we have not figured out how to live without water. When the water dries up in an area, most of the people are going to have to leave.

And yes, it will even happen in the United States too. For example, once Lake Mead dries up there is simply no way that so many people are going to be able to live in and around Las Vegas.

Right now, most of us take for granted that we will always have access to an unlimited amount of clean water.

But when you take a hard look at the data, it quickly becomes clear that everything that we have always taken for granted about water is about to dramatically change.

That following are 25 signs that a horrific global water crisis is coming. The first 12 facts are about the United States, and the last 13 are about the rest of the world.... Fist tap Big Don.

how energy drains water supplies

NYTimes | The worst single-year drought in the recorded history of Texas has caused cotton crops to wither and ranchers to sell off cattle. It may also hurt power plants, which need vast amounts of water to cool their equipment.

“We will be very concerned” if it does not rain by spring, said Kent Saathoff, an official with the Texas electric grid operator.

The worries in Texas bear out what an increasingly vocal group of researchers has been warning in recent years: that planners must pay more attention to how much water is needed in energy production.

“Water and energy are really linked,” said Henrik Larsen, a water policy expert with the DHI Group, a research and consulting firm based in Denmark. “If you save water, you save energy, and vice-versa.”

Experts call this the “water-energy nexus.” It takes huge quantities of water to produce electricity from a plant powered by nuclear energy or fossil fuels, and it also takes lots of energy to pump and process the water that irrigates fields and supplies cities.

In the United States, 4 percent of all fresh water is consumed in the energy sector, and 3 percent of all electricity used daily goes toward water and wastewater pumping, distribution, and treatment, according to Mike Hightower, a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories.

A big problem, experts say, is that water is often taken for granted.

“We simply don’t value water in the same way that we value energy,” said Mr. Larsen of DHI. He noted that whereas barrels of oil get shipped around the globe, nobody wants to ship water in the same way.

With needs for both water and energy growing worldwide and climate change threatening to roil rainfall patterns, the issue could grow more pressing.

Given the scarcity of water resources, stronger regional cooperation will be important in making sure power plants are located in the best places, according to Jakob Granit, director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, which has been trying to promote such cooperation among countries in southern Africa.

“We are not very mature on this type of cross-sector analysis,” Mr. Granit said.

The water needs of power plants are actually greater than the raw consumption numbers suggest. According to Mr. Hightower, more than 50 percent of the water withdrawn every day from rivers and lakes in the United States goes toward energy production.

Power plants discharge almost all of that water back into rivers or ponds after it has helped cool the plant (which explains the difference between 4 percent consumption and 50 percent withdrawals).

However, this means that in times of drought, when rivers or reservoirs are drying up, power plants may have trouble finding enough water, even if they end up discharging most of it.

“You don’t just pick these things up and move them,” Mr. Hightower said, referring to power plants.

The water the plants discharge is also warmer and can affect the environment downstream, Mr. Hightower said.

The water-saving technologies in power plants are improving, and there is a trend toward cooling systems in which more water is recycled, said Mr. Larsen of DHI. The potential for improvements is large: A recent paper by University of Texas academics in the journal Environmental Research Letters reports that changing the cooling technologies used by power plants in 11 Texas river basins could reduce the water they divert each year by an amount equivalent to the annual water use of at least 1.3 million people.

Hydroelectric facilities — which account for about 16 percent of global electricity production — are also vulnerable to drought, of course.

Power plants are not the only reason energy production depends on water. Extracting oil and natural gas from the ground with hydraulic fracturing techniques requires prodigious amounts of water. Fist tap Nana.

big pie in the big sky by-and-by...,

IEEE | We don’t need nuclear power, coal, or biofuels. We can get 100 percent of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS) power. And we can do it today—efficiently, reliably, safely, sustainably, and economically.

We can get to this WWS world by simply building a lot of new systems for the production, transmission, and use of energy. One scenario that Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and I developed, projecting to 2030, includes:

  • 3.8 million wind turbines, 5 megawatts each, supplying 50 percent of the projected total global power demand
  • 49 000 solar thermal power plants, 300 MW each, supplying 20 percent
  • 40 000 solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants supplying 14 percent
  • 1.7 billion rooftop PV systems, 3 kilowatts each, supplying 6 percent
  • 5350 geothermal power plants, 100 MW each, supplying 4 percent
  • 900 hydroelectric power plants, 1300 MW each, of which 70 percent are already in place, supplying 4 percent
  • 720 000 ocean-wave devices, 0.75 MW each, supplying 1 percent
  • 490 000 tidal turbines, 1 MW each, supplying 1 percent.
We also need to greatly expand the transmission infrastructure in order to create the large supergrids that will span many regions and often several countries and even continents. And we need to expand production of battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, ships that run on hydrogen fuel cell and battery combinations, liquefied hydrogen aircraft, air- and ground-source heat pumps, electric resistance heating, and hydrogen for high-temperature processes.

To make a WWS world work, we also need to reduce demand. Reducing demand by improving the efficiency of devices that use power, or substituting low-energy activities and technologies for high-energy ones—for example, telecommuting instead of driving—directly reduces the pressure to produce energy.

Because a massive deployment of WWS technologies requires an upgraded and expanded transmission grid and the smart integration of the grid with battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles—using both types of these vehicles for distributed electricity storage—governments need to carefully fund, plan, and manage a long-term, large-scale restructuring of the electricity transmission and distribution system. In much of the world, we’ll need international cooperation in planning and building supergrids that span across multiple countries, because many individual countries just aren’t big enough to permit enough geographic dispersion of generators to mitigate local variability in wind and solar intensity. The Desertec project proposes a supergrid to link Europe and North Africa, and 10 northern European countries are beginning to plan a North Sea supergrid for offshore wind power. Africa, Asia and Southeast Asia, Australia/Tasmania, China, the Middle East, North America, South America, and Russia will need supergrids as well.

Although this is an enormous undertaking, it does not need to be done overnight, and there are plenty of examples in recent history of successful large-scale infrastructure, industrial, and engineering projects. Fist tap Arnach.

Friday, September 23, 2011

much too expensive, but at least a token step in the right direction...,

Video - Energy efficient home-building decathalon

USAToday | The California house looks like a pillow but has an iPad app to control window shades and 3-D cameras to adjust lighting based on movement inside.

The University of Maryland's "WaterShed" has a waterfall designed to control humidity, and Purdue University's "InHome" has a self-watering biowall with vertically arranged plants.

For New Zealand's vacation-style house, or "Kiwi bach," students sheared sheep and "stuffed (wool) in the walls" for insulation, says team member Nick Officer.

Welcome to the 2011 Solar Decathlon, a showcase of state-of-the-art green building by 19 of the world's most innovative academic teams. The biennial competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, opens to the public today for two weeks in Washington's West Potomac Park, near the National Mall.

The teams — 15 from the USA and one each from Canada, China, Belgium and New Zealand — are vying to see who built the most stylish, efficient and affordable solar-powered house.

Their prototypes, which the students designed and built during a two-year period, then reassembled within a week at the decathlon site, reflect rapid changes in technology.

Unlike the first decathlon in 2002 or even the last one in 2009, almost all of the houses now have smart meters or automation devices that track energy use in real time, plus triple-pane windows and LED (light emitting diode) fixtures.

"The shift has been pretty dramatic," says Fred Maxik, chief technology officer of Lighting Science Group, an LED manufacturer that donated lights to six of the homes. "Today, (LEDs) are ubiquitous."

The solar devices themselves have improved. They include a canopy of 42 bi-facial solar panels collecting sunlight from above and reflected light from below for Appalachian State University's house, and a rounded rooftop system for the University of Calgary entry.

Perhaps the biggest change this year is cost. DOE is emphasizing affordability and will subtract points for houses that cost more than $250,000. Each team accepted into the competition is given $100,000 in grants as start-up funding. DOE estimates each house's final price tag, based on a list of parts.

"It brings parity to the contest," says Richard King, decathlon director. "We don't want people buying it." In 2009, Team Germany won with an ultra-modern, cube-like house that King says cost about $800,000.

WW-III will have its own little gratifications...,

LATimes | Reporting from Beijing — At a glance, it is clear this is no run-of-the-mill farm: A 6-foot spiked fence hems the meticulously planted vegetables and security guards control a cantilevered gate that glides open only to select cars.

"It is for officials only. They produce organic vegetables, peppers, onions, beans, cauliflowers, but they don't sell to the public," said Li Xiuqin, 68, a lifelong Shunyi village resident who lives directly across the street from the farm but has never been inside. "Ordinary people can't go in there."

Until May, a sign inside the gate identified the property as the Beijing Customs Administration Vegetable Base and Country Club. The placard was removed after a Chinese reporter sneaked inside and published a story about the farm producing organic food so clean the cucumbers could be eaten directly from the vine.

Elsewhere in the world, this might be something to boast about. Not in China. Organic gardening here is a hush-hush affair in which the cleanest, safest products are largely channeled to the rich and politically connected.

Many of the nation's best food companies don't promote or advertise. They don't want the public to know that their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes. The general public, meanwhile, dines on foods that are increasingly tainted or less than healthful — meats laced with steroids, fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine, which allows watered-down milk to pass protein-content tests.

"The officials don't really care what the common people eat because they and their family are getting a special supply of food," said Gao Zhiyong, who worked for a state-run food company and wrote a book on the subject.

In China, the tegong, or special supply, is a holdover from the early years of Communist rule, when danwei, work units of state-owned enterprises, raised their own food and allocated it based on rank. "The leaders wanted to make sure they had enough to eat and that nobody poisoned their food," said Gao.

In the 1950s, Soviet advisors helped the Chinese set up a food procurement department under the security apparatus to supply and inspect food for the leadership, according to a biography of Mao Tse-tung written by his personal physician. Lower levels of officialdom were divided into 25 gradations of rank that determined the quantity and quality of rations.

In modern-day China, it is the degradation of the environment and a limited supply of healthful food that is fueling the parallel food system for the elite.

"We flash forward 50 years and we see the only elements of China society getting food that is reliable, safe and free of contaminants are those cadres who have access to the special food supply," said Phelim Kine of the Hong Kong office of Human Rights Watch.

predictable and richly deserved...,

Wired | Navigation-and-emergency-services company OnStar is notifying its six million account holders that it will keep a complete accounting of the speed and location of OnStar-equipped vehicles, even for drivers who discontinue monthly service.

OnStar began e-mailing customers Monday about its update to the privacy policy, which grants OnStar the right to sell that GPS-derived data in an anonymized format.

Adam Denison, a spokesman for the General Motors subsidiary, said OnStar does not currently sell customer data, but it reserves that right. He said both the new and old privacy policies allow OnStar to chronicle a vehicle’s every movement and its speed, though it’s not clear where that’s stated in the old policy.

“What’s changed [is that if] you want to cancel your OnStar service, we are going to maintain a two-way connection to your vehicle unless the customer says otherwise,” Denison said in a telephone interview.

The connection will continue, he said, to make it “easier to re-enroll” in the program, which charges plans from $19 to $29 monthly for help with navigation and emergencies. Canceling customers must opt out of the continued surveillance monitoring program, according to the privacy policy.

The privacy changes take effect in December, Denison said, adding that the policy reinforces the company’s right to sell anonymized data.

“We hear from organizations periodically requesting our information,” he said.

He said an example of how the data might be used would be for the Michigan Department of Transportation “to get a feel for traffic usage on a specific section of freeway.” The policy also allows the data to be used for marketing purposes by OnStar and vehicle manufacturers.

Collecting location and speed data via GPS might also create a treasure trove of data that could be used in criminal and civil cases. One could also imagine an eager police chief acquiring the data to issue speeding tickets en masse.

Jonathan Zdziarski, an Ohio forensics scientist, blogged about the new terms Tuesday. In a telephone interview, he said he was canceling his service and making sure he was being disconnected from OnStar’s network.

He said the new privacy policy goes too far.

“They added a bullet point allowing them to collect any data for any purpose,” he said.

8 current livestock management technologies

We talked about this just a little bit, a little while ago, but I'm always mildly gratified when authoritative others are compelled to agree;
Mashable | In 20 years our technology will reach a level of personalization that will enhance every moment of our lives. We’ll be more physically comfortable with the furniture we sit on and the products we hold; only the most relevant and personalized information from friends and family will reach us; and our movement in the digital world will be near telepathic.

I foresee several of today’s technologies as relevant to this particular vision of the future. They will evolve to not only be more powerful, but also more integrated with one other.

can anyone help me understand this in a non-conspiratorial light?

Video - 80's commercial for Primatene Mist

WebMD | The Primatene Mist inhaler is going away on Dec. 31, and prescription inhalers are the only alternative to the over-the-counter asthma drug.

Don't wait to get that prescription. The FDA warns that Primatene supplies may not last until the end of the year.

"All inhalers that might substitute require a prescription," the FDA's Andrea Leonard-Segal, MD, said at a news teleconference. "So those who use Primatene need to take action now to see a health care provider to get a replacement product." Leonard-Segal is the director of the FDA's division of nonprescription clinical evaluation.

"The clock is ticking on Primatene Mist, the only over-the-counter asthma inhaler," FDA press officer Karen Riley said at the news conference.

The problem with Primatene is that it contains chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, which deplete the Earth's ozone layer. Environmental treaties signed by the U.S. banned products that emit CFCs. Most of these products already are gone. But medicines got a special extension.

That extension has expired for Primatene. Sales must end at the end of the year. Although the manufacturer of Primatene promises to come up with a version propelled by a safer chemical, the company has not yet done so.

This means that users of Primatene, which has epinephrine as its active ingredient, must switch to drugs based on albuterol. And a prescription is needed for albuterol-based inhalers. These include Accuneb, ProAir, Proventil, Ventolin, and Vospire.

While albuterol is a safe and effective asthma drug, it is different from epinephrine.

"I think patients will feel a difference," Leonard-Segal said.

"One person may feel a certain drug works better for them, but all FDA-approved drugs work in the populations for which they are approved," Sally Seymour, MD, deputy director for safety in the FDA's division of pulmonary, allergy, and rheumatology products, said at the news conference.

One difference users may feel is the price. A replacement cartridge of Primatene Mist sells for about $18. The albuterol inhalers sell for about $45 and up. However, patients with health insurance that covers prescriptions, and those covered by Medicare and Medicaid, may actually pay less for the drugs.

The FDA is not at all clear about how many Primatene users there are. Their best estimate is that 2 million Americans purchase 4 million Primatene units each year.

Here's the FDA's advice to Primatene Mist users:
  • See a health care professional soon to get another medicine. Primatene Mist may be harder to find on store shelves even before Dec. 31, 2011.
  • Ask your health care professional to show you how to use your new inhaler or other medicine to make sure you are using it correctly and getting the right dose.
  • Follow the directions for using and cleaning your new inhaler or other medicine to make sure you get relief of your asthma symptoms.
  • If you haven’t used up your Primatene Mist by Dec. 31, it’s safe to continue using it as long as it hasn’t expired. Check the expiration date, which can be found on the product and its packaging.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

money/status IS happiness with these humans...,

Video - 60% of the time, it works every time...,

Medicalxpress | Given the choice, would you take a good-paying job with reasonable demands on your time or a high-paying job with longer work hours, permitting only six hours of sleep? Many people opt for the cash, even when they know their decision will compromise their happiness, according to a new Cornell study.

"You might think of happiness as the ultimate goal that people pursue, but actually, people think of goals like health, family happiness, social status and sense of purpose as sometimes competing with happiness," said Alex Rees-Jones, a Cornell doctoral student in the field of economics and co-author of a paper to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal American Economic Review. His co-authors include Cornell assistant professors of economics Dan Benjamin and Ori Heffetz, as well as University of Michigan professor Miles Kimball.

"We found that people make trade-offs between happiness and other things," Rees-Jones said. "For example, they explicitly told us in the free response sections that they would be happier one way, but their family would be happier if they took higher-paying options." They also said they were sometimes willing to choose a job that they thought would bring less happiness for themselves if they thought it would generate a greater sense of purpose, higher social status, a greater sense of control or a higher level of their family's happiness, Rees-Jones said.

The study asked more than 2,600 survey participants (including 633 Cornell students) to consider a variety of scenarios, including the choice between an $80,000 job with reasonable work hours and seven and a half hours of sleep each night, or a $140,000 job with long work hours and time for only six hours of sleep.

Subjects were then asked which option would make them happier.

"On average, there are systematic differences between what people choose and what people think would make them happier," Rees-Jones said. "For example, people are more likely to choose the higher-income/lower-sleep job even when they don't think it will make them happier."

The authors "wanted to see if people were trying to be as happy as possible," Rees-Jones said.

After the survey, subjects were asked if they thought their responses were in error. "Only 7 percent told us that they thought they were making mistakes," Rees-Jones said. "When we asked them if they would regret any cases where they had a discrepancy between choice and well-being, 23 percent said yes. In both cases the vast majority said no, it wasn't a mistake, and no, they wouldn't regret it."

"Overall, this indicates that many are willing to pursue a course that sacrifices happiness in favor of other important goals," said Rees-Jones. "These respondents seem to indicate that maximizing happiness was not perceived to be in their own best interest. However, even if happiness is only one of many goals, it was still the strongest single predictor of choice in our data."

the invisible hand of god...,

USAToday | About one in five Americans combine a view of God as actively engaged in daily workings of the world with an economic conservative view that opposes government regulation and champions the free market as a matter of faith.

"They say the invisible hand of the free market is really God at work," says sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor Religion Survey, released today by Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

"They think the economy works because God wants it to work. It's a new religious economic idealism," with politicians "invoking God while chanting 'less government,'" he says.

"When Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann say 'God blesses us, God watches us, God helps us,' religious conservatives get the shorthand. They see 'government' as a profane object — a word that is used to signal working against God's plan for the United States. To argue against this is to argue with their religion."

Most (81%) political conservatives say there is one "ultimate truth in the world, and new economic information of cost-benefit analysis is not going to change their mind about how the economy should work," Froese says.

At the opposite pole, another one in five Americans don't see God stepping in to their daily lives and favor reducing wealth and inequality through taxation.

"So they're less likely to see God controlling the economy. Liberal economic perspectives are synonymous with the belief that there is no one 'ultimate truth,'" Froese says.

This is a distinctly American cultural finding and specific to this point in history. It was different in the past, it might be different in the future and it's different now in Western Europe, Froese says.

The survey of 1,714 U.S. adults, conducted by Gallup in fall 2010, was funded by Baylor, the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

It finds nearly three in four Americans (73%) say "I know God has a plan for me." Within this group:

nytimes a vector for yergin denialism too...,

NYTimes | Brazil has begun building its first nuclear submarine to protect its vast, new offshore oil discoveries. Colombia’s oil production is climbing so fast that it is closing in on Algeria’s and could hit Libya’s prewar levels in a few years. ExxonMobil is striking new deals in Argentina, which recently heralded its biggest oil discovery since the 1980s.
Up and down the Americas, it is a similar story: a Chinese-built rig is preparing to drill in Cuban waters; a Canadian official has suggested that unemployed Americans could move north to help fill tens of thousands of new jobs in Canada’s expanding oil sands; and one of the hemisphere’s hottest new oil pursuits is actually in the United States, at a shale formation in North Dakota’s prairie that is producing 400,000 barrels of oil a day and is part of a broader shift that could ease American dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

For the first time in decades, the emerging prize of global energy may be the Americas, where Western oil companies are refocusing their gaze in a rush to explore clusters of coveted oil fields.

“This is an historic shift that’s occurring, recalling the time before World War II when the U.S. and its neighbors in the hemisphere were the world’s main source of oil,” said Daniel Yergin, an American oil historian. “To some degree, we’re going to see a new rebalancing, with the Western Hemisphere moving back to self-sufficiency.”

The hemisphere’s oil boom is all the more remarkable given that two of its traditional energy powerhouses, Venezuela and Mexico, have largely been left out, held in check by entrenched resource nationalism. Venezuela is now considered to have bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, putting it at the top of OPEC’s rankings. If it opened up more to foreign investment, it could tip the scales further in the hemisphere’s direction.

Exactly how the Americas’ growing oil clout might rebalance energy geopolitics remains an open question. The Middle East can still influence oil prices greatly, its oil fields are generally cheaper to develop, and some countries in the region are endowed with great reserves.

Moreover, the Americas still vie for investment with other oil-rich regions, like Russia’s portion of the Arctic Ocean and West African waters. Security concerns like the abduction of oil workers could, as they have in the past, prevent Colombia from continuing to raise output. And environmental and financing questions pose persistent challenges to the rapid growth of the hemisphere’s oil production.

Still, the new oil exploits in the Americas suggest that technology may be trumping geology, especially in the region’s two largest economies, the United States and Brazil. The rock formations in Texas and North Dakota were thought to be largely fruitless propositions before contentious exploration methods involving horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — the blasting of water, chemicals and sand through rock to free oil inside, known as fracking — gained momentum.

While the contamination of water supplies by fracking is a matter of fierce environmental debate, the technology is already reversing long-declining oil production in the United States, with overall output from locations where oil is contained in shale and other rocks projected to exceed two million barrels a day by 2020, according to some estimates. The United States already produces about half of its own oil needs, so the increase could help it further peel away dependence on foreign oil.

The challenges of tapping Brazil’s new offshore fields, located beneath 6,000 feet of water and salt beds formed by the evaporation of ancient oceans, are even greater. Petrobras, which has ambitions of surpassing ExxonMobil as the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, is investing more than $200 billion to meet its goals.

“Brazil will become an oil power by the end of the decade, with production in line with that of Iran,” said Pedro Cordeiro, an energy consultant here for Bain & Company, who sees the country’s oil production climbing to 5.5 million barrels a day by 2020.

Construction backlogs could slow Brazil’s offshore expansion. But resurgent industries related to the oil boom, like shipbuilding, and strategic efforts like nuclear submarine construction to defend oil wells, underscore Brazil’s plan of using its energy resources to project global power from this hemisphere.

“No other place on the planet is seeing this kind of investment,” said Márcio Mello, a former Petrobras geologist who is now the chief executive of HRT, a new oil company based here. “This decade is our chance to rise.”

africom embraces automated remote killing in a big way...,

WaPo | The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

Featured comment:
"As for the drones, I approve of their use against terrorist or anyone else, who presents a direct and credible threat to the United States. With the drones, potential targets have to be scared half out their wits wondering when and where the next strike will come and whether they will be the target."

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

What Has Robbed The American People Of Their Outwardly Expressed Religion?

theatlantic  | Did the decline of religion cut some people off from a crucial gateway to civic engagement, or is religion just one part ...