Wednesday, October 26, 2011

from bolton's lips to cain's ear...,

Video - John Bolton breaks it all down in plain english that everybody can understand

towards a world war III scenario

Globalresearch | The war on Libya is an integral part of the broader military agenda in the Middle East and Central Asia which until recently consisted of three distinct areas of conflict: Afghanistan and Pakistan (the AfPak War), Iraq, Palestine.

These four war theaters are interrelated. They are part of a broader region of conflict, which extends from North Africa and the Middle East, engulfing a large part of the Mediterranean basin, to China's Western frontier with Afghanistan, and Northern Pakistan.

The Battle for Oil

More than 60 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves lie in Muslim lands. “The Battle for Oil” waged by the US-NATO-Israel military alliance requires the demonization of the inhabitants of those countries which possess these vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

Iran possesses ten percent of global oil and gas reserves. The US is the first and foremost military and nuclear power in the world, but it possesses less than two percent of global oil and gas reserves.

The US-led war in the broader Middle East Central Asian region consists in gaining control over more than sixty percent of the world’s reserves of oil and natural gas. The Anglo-American oil giants also seek to gain control over oil and gas pipeline routes out of the region.

Demonization is applied to an enemy which possesses three-quarters of the world’s oil reserves. “Axis of evil”, “rogue states”, “failed nations”, “Islamic terrorists”: demonization and vilification are the ideological pillars of America’s “war on terror”. They serve as a casus belli for waging the battle for oil.

The Battle for Oil requires the demonization of those who possess the oil. The enemy is characterized as evil, with a view to justifying military action including the mass killing of civilians. The Middle East Central Asian region is heavily militarized. The oil fields are encircled by NATO war ships stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean (as part of a UN “peacekeeping” operation), US Carrier Strike Groups and Destroyer Squadrons in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea deployed as part of the “war on terrorism”.

The ultimate objective, combining military action, covert intelligence operations and war propaganda, is to break down the national fabric and transform sovereign countries into open economic territories, where natural resources can be plundered and confiscated under “free market” supervision. This control also extends to strategic oil and gas pipeline corridors (e.g. Afghanistan).

Demonization is a psy-op, used to sway public opinion and build a consensus in favor of war. Psychological warfare is directly sponsored by the Pentagon and the US intelligence apparatus. It is not limited to assassinating or executing the rulers of Muslim countries; it extends to entire populations. It also targets Muslims in Western Europe and North America. It purports to break national consciousness and the ability to resist the invader. It denigrates Islam. It creates social divisions. It is intended to divide national societies and ultimately trigger “civil war”.

Is a World War III Scenario Unfolding?

The US and its NATO allies are preparing to launch a nuclear war directed against both Iran and North Korea with devastating consequences. This military adventure in the real sense of the word threatens the future of humanity. While one can conceptualize the loss of life and destruction resulting from present-day wars including Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to fully comprehend the devastation which might result from a Third World War, using “new technologies” and advanced weapons, until it occurs and becomes a reality.

The international community has endorsed nuclear war in the name of world peace. “Making the world safer” is the justification for launching a military operation which could potentially result in a nuclear holocaust.

It is not Iran and North Korea which are a threat to global security but the United States of America and Israel.

Humanity is at a dangerous crossroads. War preparations to attack Iran are in an advanced state of readiness. Hi-tech weapons systems including nuclear warheads are fully deployed.

This military adventure has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board since the mid-1990s: first Iraq, then Iran, according to a declassified 1995 US Central Command document.

Escalation is part of the military agenda. While Iran is the next target together with Syria and Lebanon, this strategic military deployment also threatens North Korea, China and Russia.

the great game

Countercurrents | While the Tea Partiers and the liberals squabble over important domestic issues, America’s corporate and military titans, at the expense of America’s workers and taxpayers and with the blessing of Congress and the President, are creating China’s economic miracle. The military, at a cost of over $1 trillion, has paved the way for China to acquire and the U.S. to lose access to vast mineral and petroleum resources. The oil industry, with U.S. government assistance, is building a safe haven in East Asia from the imminent crash of oil everywhere else, by cornering the entire supply. And foreign investment, largely American, is giving China on average nearly one million new jobs a month while American unemployment soars.

This is a four-part series. Part One discusses why and how the oil industry could create a safe haven from its own collapse, and why it might choose China for the project. Part Two discusses how East Asia became "the right market" for the world’s remaining oil reserves, endangering everyone else. Part Three discusses how the US military has turned Afghanistan and Iraq into China’s good buddies. Part Four takes a broader view of what has happened and what if anything can be done about it. Enjoy.

Part I of IV - Thinking About The War

Also Read

Part II The US and Europe Aren’t "the Right Markets."
Does "Big Oil" have the resources to carry out your plan?

Part III Our Hand-Picked Governments in Afghanistan and Iraq Snub Us and Befriend China

Part IV What’s Really Going on Here?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 reasons occupy wall st. is bound to fail...,

Video - Brett Arends on why occupy Wall St. will fail.

MarketWatch | The public has every reason to be angry at what’s going on in this country, and every reason to protest. But will the Occupy Wall Street movement succeed in changing anything? Don’t count on it.

Here are five reasons I think these protests are doomed to fail.

1. They are in the wrong place.
Why are they down in Lower Manhattan? Do they think that’s where the power — and the money — really is? Folks: When people talk about “Wall Street,” it’s just a figure of speech.

Even in the days of J.P. Morgan Sr., the real action didn’t take place in the company offices at 60 Wall St. It took place in the old man’s library. Uptown.
Occupy Wall Street won't work

The public has every reason to be angry at what's going on in this country, and every reason to protest. But will the Occupy Wall Street movement succeed in changing anything? Don't count on it, Brett Arends says. Photo: AP.

These days the real movers and shakers aren’t anywhere near Zuccotti Park. They’re out in places like Greenwich, Conn., home of the hedge-fund honchos.

I called the town offices there to see if they’d had any protests.

“Oh, no,” said the polite young man who answered the phone, his tone somewhat surprised. “There’s been nothing like that here.”

It’s hopeless.

If these people were on the ball, they’d at least be moving down south to “Occupy Palm Beach” for the winter.

2. They don’t have an agenda.
And they can’t have one. Talk about a herd of cats. Occupy Boston is a camp of about 100 tents, and on a brief walk through I noticed posters, placards and stickers for 9/11 “truthers,” anarcho-communists, “Jewish Labor,” “stop the marijuana laws,” “stop the U.S. war against Islam” and so on. Some quasi-Buddhists had set up a “sacred space,” and were burning incense. Elsewhere, a sign denounced a new school project out in the suburbs.

Tough to rope all this into a 10-point plan. Or a 100-point plan. Sorry, but it’s reminding me of the days watching the old University Left crowd — right down to the weird sweaters and vegan cooking.

In Boston, one man sat on a deck chair with a sign that simply declared, “Financial markets always make bubbles and crashes.” What’s that, the Hyman Minsky Front? For all I know, he was an investment manager on a lunch break. Famed Boston investor Jeremy Grantham, who’s been making the same point about bubbles and crashes for years, has his offices about 100 yards away.

You want to group these people into an agenda? How?

3. The weather’s turning.
It’s been unseasonably warm and dry out there till recently. Now the rain’s arriving. Wait until the temperature drops and the frosts move in.

According to, the average lows drop to 42 degrees for the month of November and 32 in December. Good luck with that. How’s that tent working out?

These protesters made a couple of big blunders.

The first is that they started protesting over the summer, leaving themselves just a couple of months till the weather turns. They should have started in the spring.

They’ve been lucky so far, but it won’t last. Read more on MarketWatch’s Occupy Wall Street blog.

The second is that they made it an outside camping event. I still don’t understand it. You can hold a protest march at any time. People can show up, protest and then go home for a hot meal, a shower and a good night’s sleep in their own bed. Net result: Lots of people can take part. But how many people can — or want to — camp out in downtown Manhattan for three months?

Especially after Halloween.

When the cold and rain really come in force, a lot of these people are going home. Then the opponents of Occupy Wall Street will declare victory.

4. Money talks.
Actually, these days money shouts, and it will drown out whatever anyone else says. The 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections by anybody, anytime — including, of course, any corporation.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there are now 156 super political action committees that have taken advantage of the ruling. Political operative Mark McKinnon told me last week that he expects them to raise about $1 billion, mostly anonymously. McKinnon, who helped run the Bush-Cheney campaigns of 2000 and 2004, called the amount of corporate spending today “absolutely pornographic.”

And no industry spends like Wall Street. The finance sector is the biggest source of campaign contributions, year after year. Politicians suck up to the banks for the same reason Willie Sutton once robbed them: That’s where the money is.

In 2008 bankers gave half a billion dollars to political campaigns — up from $350 million in 2004.

And they are so outraged even by the toothless Dodd-Frank regulations that they have shifted the majority of their contributions to the Republicans. If they can’t stand Dodd-Frank, what’s the chance they would tolerate real reform?

We’re still a year away from the next elections, and they’ve already handed over $97 million in (disclosed) political contributions. That includes $5 million so far to Mitt Romney and $2.5 million to Barack Obama. How tough do you think politicians are likely to be on Wall Street?

No matter how much anger these protesters channel, the golden rule will prevail: Those that have the gold will make the rules.

5. We’ll forget about it.
Sure, people are paying attention to Occupy Wall Street now. But just wait till something interesting happens on the Kardashians. Or there’s a bust-up on America’s Top Pastry Chef. Or some child pretends to get trapped on a balloon.

OWS will go as stale as last month’s bread. Look! Over there! Monkeys running amok in Ohio!

Many optimists believe the new media world of the Internet and Facebook and Twitter puts more power in the hands of “the people.” I think instead we’ve sleep-walked into a nightmare world of mass attention-deficit disorder and easy distraction.

banking blockades apparently work

Video - Wikileaks has decided to stop publishing secrets for free and will instead focus on raising capital.

Slate | WikiLeaks co-founded Julian Assange announced Monday that the anti-secrecy organization is suspending its publishing operations due to a cash shortage. Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard, Western Union, and Paypal stopped serving WikiLeaks last year after it began publishing thousands of classified U.S. State Department cables. The move has deprived the organization of about 95 percent of its revenues, Assange said at a press conference in London, according to the Guardian.

"If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the new year," he added, according to the New York Times.

For now, Assange said, the organization will focus on fundraising. He criticized the financial institutions' blockade as "arbitrary and unlawful," adding, "The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency."

Big newspapers such as the Times and the Guardian cooperated with WikiLeaks in releasing secret documents last year. But the organization has been increasingly isolated since it decided in September to release its entire cache of some 250,000 cables, unredacted, revealing the names of whistleblowers and confidential government sources.

how corporate interests attack science

energyskeptic | I would read Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt. How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming” first for an overview of how commercial interests manipulate the political process to prevent regulation and receive outrageous amounts of public money.

Then I’d read this book to learn the specifics of the attack. This book also has an easy-to-understand explanation of the research that led them to their conclusions (about the hockey stick graph, made famous by Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”), and why the attacks of other scientists were bogus and not published by good peer-reviewed journals.

The details of the right-wing attack on science in this book make you really feel the pain and suffering inflicted on scientists like Bradley. Fighting the attack takes up so much of their time they can’t continue to do research, no doubt another reason to go after them.

The main reason the “hockey stick” teams research was attacked was to reduce the credibility of the 2007 IPCC report.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry when politicians bought by special interests, such as Senator Inhofe, invite a science fiction writer to testify about climate change. Michal Crichton has a background in medicine, and as Bradley puts it “I really don’t follow the logic. If I had a medical problem, I wouldn’t want to be treated by a climatologist. So what possesses a doctor (an M.D., that is) to feel qualified to sound off about climate science is beyond me. As a fully paid-up climatologist of many years’ standing, I know there is an immense amount about climate science that I don’t know. The idea of weighing in on an entirely different field strikes me as presumptuous at best and foolish at worst”.

Yet Bradley falls prey to the same problem when he hopes that green technology will save us from burning fossil fuels – this simply isn’t a solution. The best books to understand why fossil fuels are not replaceable are Hayden’s “Solar Fraud. Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World” and Trainer’s “Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain a Consumer Society”.

Some of the scary rate-of-change statistics in the book:
  • Climate hasn’t changed this much in at least the last 850,000 years
  • When we burn fossil fuels like coal and oil, we’re releasing carbon dioxide thousands of times faster than it took to form coal and oil deposits.
  • Carbon dioxide levels have risen 40% in just the past 250 years
  • Never have greenhouse gases tripled within a few centuries, and we’re destroying the plants that could help to sequester CO2.

hazard of confidence: the illusion of validity

NYTimes | Many decades ago I spent what seemed like a great deal of time under a scorching sun, watching groups of sweaty soldiers as they solved a problem. I was doing my national service in the Israeli Army at the time. I had completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, and after a year as an infantry officer, I was assigned to the army’s Psychology Branch, where one of my occasional duties was to help evaluate candidates for officer training. We used methods that were developed by the British Army in World War II.

One test, called the leaderless group challenge, was conducted on an obstacle field. Eight candidates, strangers to one another, with all insignia of rank removed and only numbered tags to identify them, were instructed to lift a long log from the ground and haul it to a wall about six feet high. There, they were told that the entire group had to get to the other side of the wall without the log touching either the ground or the wall, and without anyone touching the wall. If any of these things happened, they were to acknowledge it and start again.

A common solution was for several men to reach the other side by crawling along the log as the other men held it up at an angle, like a giant fishing rod. Then one man would climb onto another’s shoulder and tip the log to the far side. The last two men would then have to jump up at the log, now suspended from the other side by those who had made it over, shinny their way along its length and then leap down safely once they crossed the wall. Failure was common at this point, which required starting over.

As a colleague and I monitored the exercise, we made note of who took charge, who tried to lead but was rebuffed, how much each soldier contributed to the group effort. We saw who seemed to be stubborn, submissive, arrogant, patient, hot-tempered, persistent or a quitter. We sometimes saw competitive spite when someone whose idea had been rejected by the group no longer worked very hard. And we saw reactions to crisis: who berated a comrade whose mistake caused the whole group to fail, who stepped forward to lead when the exhausted team had to start over. Under the stress of the event, we felt, each man’s true nature revealed itself in sharp relief.

After watching the candidates go through several such tests, we had to summarize our impressions of the soldiers’ leadership abilities with a grade and determine who would be eligible for officer training. We spent some time discussing each case and reviewing our impressions. The task was not difficult, because we had already seen each of these soldiers’ leadership skills. Some of the men looked like strong leaders, others seemed like wimps or arrogant fools, others mediocre but not hopeless. Quite a few appeared to be so weak that we ruled them out as officer candidates. When our multiple observations of each candidate converged on a coherent picture, we were completely confident in our evaluations and believed that what we saw pointed directly to the future. The soldier who took over when the group was in trouble and led the team over the wall was a leader at that moment. The obvious best guess about how he would do in training, or in combat, was that he would be as effective as he had been at the wall. Any other prediction seemed inconsistent with what we saw.

Because our impressions of how well each soldier performed were generally coherent and clear, our formal predictions were just as definite. We rarely experienced doubt or conflicting impressions. We were quite willing to declare: “This one will never make it,” “That fellow is rather mediocre, but should do O.K.” or “He will be a star.” We felt no need to question our forecasts, moderate them or equivocate. If challenged, however, we were fully prepared to admit, “But of course anything could happen.”

We were willing to make that admission because, as it turned out, despite our certainty about the potential of individual candidates, our forecasts were largely useless. The evidence was overwhelming. Every few months we had a feedback session in which we could compare our evaluations of future cadets with the judgments of their commanders at the officer-training school. The story was always the same: our ability to predict performance at the school was negligible. Our forecasts were better than blind guesses, but not by much.

We were downcast for a while after receiving the discouraging news. But this was the army. Useful or not, there was a routine to be followed, and there were orders to be obeyed. Another batch of candidates would arrive the next day. We took them to the obstacle field, we faced them with the wall, they lifted the log and within a few minutes we saw their true natures revealed, as clearly as ever. The dismal truth about the quality of our predictions had no effect whatsoever on how we evaluated new candidates and very little effect on the confidence we had in our judgments and predictions.

I thought that what was happening to us was remarkable. The statistical evidence of our failure should have shaken our confidence in our judgments of particular candidates, but it did not. It should also have caused us to moderate our predictions, but it did not. We knew as a general fact that our predictions were little better than random guesses, but we continued to feel and act as if each particular prediction was valid. I was reminded of visual illusions, which remain compelling even when you know that what you see is false. I was so struck by the analogy that I coined a term for our experience: the illusion of validity.

I had discovered my first cognitive fallacy.

Decades later, I can see many of the central themes of my thinking about judgment in that old experience. One of these themes is that people who face a difficult question often answer an easier one instead, without realizing it. We were required to predict a soldier’s performance in officer training and in combat, but we did so by evaluating his behavior over one hour in an artificial situation. This was a perfect instance of a general rule that I call WYSIATI, “What you see is all there is.” We had made up a story from the little we knew but had no way to allow for what we did not know about the individual’s future, which was almost everything that would actually matter. When you know as little as we did, you should not make extreme predictions like “He will be a star.” The stars we saw on the obstacle field were most likely accidental flickers, in which a coincidence of random events — like who was near the wall — largely determined who became a leader. Other events — some of them also random — would determine later success in training and combat.

You may be surprised by our failure: it is natural to expect the same leadership ability to manifest itself in various situations. But the exaggerated expectation of consistency is a common error. We are prone to think that the world is more regular and predictable than it really is, because our memory automatically and continuously maintains a story about what is going on, and because the rules of memory tend to make that story as coherent as possible and to suppress alternatives. Fast thinking is not prone to doubt.

The confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. The bias toward coherence favors overconfidence. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true.

I coined the term “illusion of validity” because the confidence we had in judgments about individual soldiers was not affected by a statistical fact we knew to be true — that our predictions were unrelated to the truth. This is not an isolated observation. When a compelling impression of a particular event clashes with general knowledge, the impression commonly prevails. And this goes for you, too. The confidence you will experience in your future judgments will not be diminished by what you just read, even if you believe every word. Fist tap Arnach.

who you are..,

NYTimes | Before Kahneman and Tversky, people who thought about social problems and human behavior tended to assume that we are mostly rational agents. They assumed that people have control over the most important parts of their own thinking. They assumed that people are basically sensible utility-maximizers and that when they depart from reason it’s because some passion like fear or love has distorted their judgment.

Kahneman and Tversky conducted experiments. They proved that actual human behavior often deviates from the old models and that the flaws are not just in the passions but in the machinery of cognition. They demonstrated that people rely on unconscious biases and rules of thumb to navigate the world, for good and ill. Many of these biases have become famous: priming, framing, loss-aversion.

Kahneman reports on some delightful recent illustrations from other researchers. Pro golfers putt more accurately from all distances when putting for par than when putting for birdie because they fear the bogie more than they desire the birdie. Israeli parole boards grant parole to about 35 percent of the prisoners they see, except when they hear a case in the hour just after mealtime. In those cases, they grant parole 65 percent of the time. Shoppers will buy many more cans of soup if you put a sign atop the display that reads “Limit 12 per customer.”

Kahneman and Tversky were not given to broad claims. But the work they and others did led to the reappreciation of several old big ideas:

We are dual process thinkers. We have two interrelated systems running in our heads. One is slow, deliberate and arduous (our conscious reasoning). The other is fast, associative, automatic and supple (our unconscious pattern recognition). There is now a complex debate over the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two systems. In popular terms, think of it as the debate between “Moneyball” (look at the data) and “Blink” (go with your intuition).

We are not blank slates. All humans seem to share similar sets of biases. There is such a thing as universal human nature. The trick is to understand the universals and how tightly or loosely they tie us down.

We are players in a game we don’t understand. Most of our own thinking is below awareness. Fifty years ago, people may have assumed we are captains of our own ships, but, in fact, our behavior is often aroused by context in ways we can’t see. Our biases frequently cause us to want the wrong things. Our perceptions and memories are slippery, especially about our own mental states. Our free will is bounded. We have much less control over ourselves than we thought.

This research yielded a different vision of human nature and a different set of debates. The work of Kahneman and Tversky was a crucial pivot point in the way we see ourselves.

They also figured out ways to navigate around our shortcomings. Kahneman champions the idea of “adversarial collaboration” — when studying something, work with people you disagree with. Tversky had a wise maxim: “Let us take what the terrain gives.” Don’t overreach. Understand what your circumstances are offering.

Many people are exploring the inner wilderness. Kahneman and Tversky are like the Lewis and Clark of the mind.

Monday, October 24, 2011

the prophet (PBUH) ridin too?

Mohammed meets the prophets Ismail, Is-hak and Lot in paradise. From the Apocalypse of Muhammad, written in 1436 in Herat, Afghanistan (now in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris).
Scribd | This paper will highlight some of primary evidence for entheogenic plant use in Islamic cults that partake of a vastly older legacy of ritual plant use. The accumulated research on entheogens and religions demands that certain traditions be reevaluated in light a continuing and coherent symbolism that enshrines holy plants as high mysteries in diverse faiths. Following thesoma/ haoma complex through Asia and Chinese Shamanism and into Persian and Islamic cults the use of entheogens meets with traditions in the ancient Middle East that shared doctrines of magic plants and cup rituals of visionary wine. The Greek, Semitic and Hermetic traditions merge with the shamanic techniques that persist in the esoteric symbolism of the Shia Muslims and Sufi as demonstrated in their holy books, art and poetry. The alchemical tradition thus emerges has having a definite entheogenic context that was cherished and protected by initiates from the profane. This speculative hypothesis rests on the collective evidence of religious traditions surrounding Islam that possessed similar rituals and reverence for plants that becomes a hidden aspect of mystical Islam.

Muhammad the Prophet Shaman
The prophet Muhammad spoke to the angelic messenger of God and underwent visionary initiatory voyages to the heavenly and infernal regions (1). He mounted the mysterious shamanic beast,al -buraaq, which means “lightning” in Arabic and which begins to draw associations with mushrooms, as they have ancient folklore links with lightning and thunder perhaps due to their sudden appearances after rains. Wasson notes thatBanat ’u’rrad , “Daughters of Thunder” are used as an expression for fungus, but an unnamed species, in the dictionary of classical Arabic in his discussion of “Lightingbolt and Mushrooms” (Wasson 1986). Though described in Islamic literature as being white and something like a donkey or a mule, the fabulous creature is curiously depicted in some examples of Islamic art as being red and white in a design consistent with Amanita muscaria mushroom, the entheogen suspected to be a major candidate for the soama/haoma and the symbolic colors of alchemy.

In the above images, Muhammad is seen riding the red and white creature, again the colors of the Amanita mushroom, in his shamanic night journeyisra' and ascension to heaven mi'raj reminiscent of the ascent of Arda Viraf who takes a narcotic and takes a visionary flight through heaven and hell (Seguy 1977). This representation of Buraq may indicate that regional cults viewed the Islamic revelation through their own shamanic traditions or that Islam retained the ritual heritages of the ancient world. These traditions would be enshrouded in the mysteries of Shia gnosis, alchemy and Sufism that spread into Europe. The other image depicts Imam Ali on a similar creature with the red and white colors and in a scene entitled “Gabriel Shows Ali’s Valor to the Prophet” from the 15th century Persian epic of Ali, the Khavaran Nameh, which shows his steed in these colors particularly in scenes of battle where it is grey in other scenes though more research is needed to fully develop these curious depictions of the changing mounts (Birjandi 2004). Another uncle of the Prophet Muhammad is Amir Hamza, whose folktales date back to the time of the Prophet and whose exploits unite Chinese, Indian Persian, Greek and Arabian cultures, also rides a similarly described winged-demon steed Ashqar Devzad (Lakhnavi and Bilgrami 2007). This series of tales involves treasures under trees and occult lore of the Prophet Khizir and Imam Ali (even before he was born) in aiding in battles and traveling to the land of thejinns for temporal and spiritual jihad for the True Faith anticipating the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.

the hidden world

Video - excerpted interview with Prof. Carl Ruck.

Amazon | A thorough investigation of European fairy tales reveals a rich and enchanting psychedelic lore.

In this academic masterpiece, Professor Carl Ruck and his band of sleuthers (Prof. José Gonzalez, Dr. Blaise Staples and Mark Hoffman) uncover the facts regarding whether or not entheogenic drug use was prominent throughout European fairytales, legends and folklore, teasing out the intricate clues in their most thorough investigation on this topic to date.

By comparing these ancient stories and untangling the threads that seem unrelated in their weaves, we come to see that the mysteries of the entheogenic rites were not lost to the Europeans, and that European folklore is rich with evidence that should make anyone who cares to investigate the many thorough citations a believer without a doubt.

In 1968 Gordon Wasson published Soma in which he argued that the Hindu Soma of the Rig Vedas was the Amanita muscaria or fly-agaric mushroom. Wasson opted to argue in this and subsequent publications that he could find no evidence of mushroom use in European ancestry. As he states on page 176: "I shall begin by saying where in Europe's past I have not found the cult of the sacred mushroom." He then goes on to discuss witchcraft, the druids and berserkers.

But from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to the werewolves and the mysteries of lycanthropy, to vampires, to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, to the berserkers and many others, by following the threads of these stories Ruck and crew find shamanic stories embedded throughout European folklore stemming from Druidic, Mithraic, Manichaean and Catharic histories, right into modern-day Christianity.

This book is a linguistic, as much as historical and mythological investigation of religious and folkloric themes. It's a deep and powerful book. It's one of those books I would happily read several times over to discover what previous reads missed.

As someone who has read many, if not most, of their citations, I can attest to the thoroughness of their investigation. I am genuinely impressed by the quality of this presentation - the eloquence of which they lay on the late Dr. Staples. But it is clear that in this book they've all gone out of their way to present a thorough and well argued masterpiece.

Charting new territory

The Hidden World as a title does not refer to the theme of occult secret societies and mystery schools (like Eleusis) and the suppression of pagan rites in the Pharmacratic Inquisition, but to the hidden world of the fairies, the gnomes and dwarves - the hidden world that lies just beyond our normal senses. It is important that people understand this while reading this book. I should make clear that the book does discuss those themes. However, it is important to understand the proper context of the hidden world on which the authors are focused.

This book should be recognized as one of the best pieces on entheogenic scholarship to date. It is by far, in my opinion, the authors' best work. The writing pose, the depth of the study, the quality and originality of research all weigh heavily in my evaluation; and I'm not one who has shied away from being critical of these authors in the past.

Weaknesses in the book, two of which should have been properly addressed by the publisher but were not, include: A) lack of illustrations. It is grueling to have to look up the illustrations one by one (even if I already had many of them). This book was clearly written with the intention of illustrations being included, but for some reason, their publisher did not include them. For the price of the book, the publisher could have easily done so. Thankfully the included DVD contains wonderful illustrations for the section Heretical Visionary Sacraments (chapter 2). B) There is no standard bibliography, which I find a great hindrance to researching their citations. You have to go to the footnotes of each page to find the citation there, rather than a simple bibliography at the back of the book. C) Lastly, this book discusses at length the many stories of Amanita muscaria and the shamanic tradition of urine consumption. But it should be noted that other mushrooms (psilocybe), and other entheogens, can also be recycled. A more encompassing investigation with this inclusion might yield some fantastic information and is something that deserves focus.

mushrooms myth and mithras

Citylights | Anthropological evidence has long suggested that psychedelic plants have played important roles in indigenous communities for thousands of years, but most scholarship does not address their larger sphere of influence on western culture.

In their groundbreaking new book, Mushrooms, Myths & Mithras, classics scholar Carl Ruck and friends reveal compelling evidence suggesting that psychedelic mushroom use was equally influential in early Europe, where it was central to initiation ceremonies for the Roman elite.

Through art and archeology, we discover that Nero was the first Emperor to be initiated by secret "magical dinners," and that most of his successors embraced the ritual and its sacramental use of the psychedelic mushroom as a source of spiritual transcendence. The secret religion was officially banned after Roman Conversion, but aspects of its practices were assimilated or co-opted by Christianity, and have influenced many subsequent secret societies, including the Freemasons. Mushrooms, Myths & Mithras is a fascinating historical exploration of a powerful force kept hidden behind the scenes for thousands of years.

Praise for Mushrooms, Myths & Mithras:
"This is real renaissance scholarship. Mushrooms, Myths & Mithras is a brilliant and exciting synthesis of data gleaned from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, botany, linguistics, astronomy, archaeology, art history, pharmacology and classical literature. The history of recreational drug use it distills from the material and literary sources is both captivating and compelling. It effortlessly straddles the modern academic divide between the sciences and the arts. The authors' multidisciplinary approach sets a higher standard for research in the humanities." —D. C.A. Hillman, author of The Chemical Muse

drug culture, ecstasy and philosophy in ancient greece

Video - excerpted interview with Michael Rinella. | Dr. Rinella, what significance, what weight did the Greeks of the Classical Period attach to intoxication?

Let us consider the question of significance or awareness first. It surprises me that there are many analysts who believe that intoxication was not a condition subjected to a constant, regular, and on-going ethical inquiry in ancient Greece, simply because ancient thought lacked, to give one example, something like our contemporary theory of addiction. In other words they argue that the ancient Greeks had no “drug problem” and were in a sense oblivious about drugs. Well of course that is true if by “drug problem” you are thinking of the specific set of responses to recreational drug use in play since roughly the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. But if you consider Greek thought on intoxication in its own terms you’ll find a discourse as rich and complex as the ancient discussion of food and sex.

And the emphasis?

The question of weight or emphasis is equally important. In contemporary market economies non-productive drug use has been problematized as a disease condition to be subjected to a juridical intervention by a criminal justice system, a medico-therapeutic intervention by a drug-abuse system, or both because these systems tend to operate in loose conjunction or alliance with one another (each having a normalizing role within late-capitalist society). In ancient Greece intoxication was problematized largely on aesthetic grounds. At least until Plato, who was considerably more sophisticated than his peers in terms of understanding human psychology.

What were the parameters of an aesthetic appraisal of intoxication? And what did Plato change?

The central idea within the symposia of the elite was to drink well, and wisely. And by “drink well” they meant becoming intoxicated. If you met this goal your peers considered you properly aristocratic, refined, and a truly attractive human being. The ancient Greek poets speak of this constantly. To allow the mind to be completely unseated by a substance such as wine was considered boorish, ugly, and unattractive for several reasons. On the one hand it was considered unmanly; it made the warrior emotional and feminine. On another it led to hubristic behavior, something that was, in a culture heavily based on honor and shame rather than responsibility and guilt, about as taboo as you could get. The ugly side of intoxication was seen as a primary cause of discord in the social body politic, what the Greeks called stasis. In the politically charged atmosphere following the end of the Peloponnesian War and the trial and execution of Socrates Plato comes along and introduces a new way to think about social discord. For instance in the Republic he uses the term stasiazonta, or “stasis within” and this allows him to begin to question the value of intoxicated states from a new perspective.

Was the most common choice of intoxication at that time, wine, comparable with our wine today?

No, it really wasn’t, and this is a continuing source of misunderstanding. Ancient wine was frequently combined with other substances, including what we would today call “recreational drugs.” The surviving textual record offers ample proof of this but, as classicist Carl A. P. Ruck and a handful of others discovered, purely textual evidence was easy to dismiss or, worse, simply ignore. Now, however, the latest techniques of archeological analysis have confirmed the presence of other intoxicants in Greek wine, to the point it is simply incontrovertible. I’m thinking specifically of anthropologist Patrick E. McGovern’s works, like Ancient Wine.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

who's not a salesman?

Video - Salesman by Albert Maysles

Sales IS the epitome of the psychopathology of American Capitalism. Salesmen capitalize on weaknesses due to human cognitive errors to dishonorably extract consumer's creative value (their hard-earned money). Bosses capitalize on salesmen by using same manipulative techniques on employees to extract most of their time and creativity. Sales bosses do absolutely nothing creative and yet extract most of the productive value of consumers and their employees. Dale.
Why do you impart (negative) morality to sales? I see sales itself, as inherently amoral. Surely you are not against consciously influencing the decisions of other people? Or consciously influencing yourself? MLK, Gandhi, Steve Jobs --and of course Hitler, David Duke, Bill Gates :). Whether I'm selling crack or a fitness regime, myself as a social success, a palatable worldview and coping strategy, or really killer solar panels, the goal is always to influence the behavior or worldview of others. DD.

the basic truth of the great-many-versus-very-few protest narrative

RollingStone | Anyway, if you listen to the whole Rush segment, you can hear frustration and croaking, bullfroggish anxiety in his voice at the fact of so many different politicians capitulating, at least verbally, to OWS. He’s sensing that politicians are seeing danger in the “99%” concept, and he's expressing dismay that everyone from Mitt Romney to Barack Obama is now trying hard to position himself as not being in the 1%.

This isn't evidence that mainstream politicians are caving to the movement, of course, but what it does show is that those same politicians are endorsing OWS rhetoric, and by extension tacitly admitting the basic truth of the great-many-versus-very-few protest narrative.

Rush chalks this up to a media deception, a mirage of TV images and “media-Democrat-industrial complex” manipulations designed to con the country into believing in the existence of a mass movement.

The reality, of course, is that people like Rush, Romney and Obama are all becoming cognizant of the deep frustrations that exist across the political spectrum and are growing desperate to prevent the powder keg from blowing completely – hence the intense effort to describe OWS as a top-down manipulation.

Of course the notion that this is all a media fabrication is ludicrous. Dylan Ratigan didn’t invent four million people in foreclosure, he didn’t invent ten trillion dollars in bailouts, and he didn’t invent Wall Street’s $160 billion bonus pool the year after the crash of its own creation.

People out there do not need media figures to tell them how fucked things are, or how pissed they should be that the same bankers who caused the crash are now enjoying state-supported bonuses in the billions, while everyone else gets squeezed. As someone who has been covering this stuff for three years, I can say with confidence that people across the country don’t need a push to be angry. They’re already there, and have been there for years. Rush should go hang out outside a foreclosure court in his home state of Florida for a few hours, if he wants to see where the rising heat under these protests is coming from.

Anyway, the hysterical responses from the Rushes of the world are just more signs that these protests are working. I never thought I’d see it, but some of the dukes and earls high up in America’s Great Tower of Bullshit are starting to blink a little bit. They seem genuinely freaked out that OWS doesn’t have leaders or a single set of demands, which in addition to being very encouraging is quite funny.

frame yourself before others frame you?

Video - Bill Maher New Rules on Occupy Wall Street

truthout | I was asked weeks ago by some in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to make suggestions for how to frame the movement. I have hesitated so far because I think the movement should be framing itself. It's a general principle: Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you - the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends. I have so far hesitated to offer suggestions. But the movement appears to be maturing and entering a critical time when small framing errors could have large negative consequences. So, I thought it might be helpful to accept the invitation and start a discussion of how the movement might think about framing itself.

About framing: It's normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All words in all languages are defined in terms of frame circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act.

In politics, frames are part of competing moral systems that are used in political discourse and in charting political action. In short, framing is a moral enterprise: it says what the character of a movement is. All politics is moral. Political figures and movements always make policy recommendations claiming they are the right things to do. No political figure ever says do what I say because it's wrong! Or because it doesn't matter! Some moral principles or other lie behind every political policy agenda.

Two Moral Framing Systems in Politics
Conservatives have figured out their moral basis and you see it on Wall Street: It includes: The primacy of self-interest. Individual responsibility, but not social responsibility. Hierarchical authority based on wealth or other forms of power. A moral hierarchy of who is "deserving," defined by success. And the highest principle is the primacy of this moral system itself, which goes beyond Wall Street and the economy to other arenas: family life, social life, religion, foreign policy and especially government. Conservative "democracy" is seen as a system of governance and elections that fits this model.

Though OWS concerns go well beyond financial issues, your target is right: the application of these principles in Wall Street is central, since that is where the money comes from for elections, for media and for right-wing policy-making institutions of all sorts on all issues.

The alternative view of democracy is progressive: Democracy starts with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly on that sense of care, taking responsibility both for oneself and for one's family, community, country, people in general and the planet. The role of government is to protect and empower all citizens equally via The Public: public infrastructure, laws and enforcement, health, education, scientific research, protection, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, and on and on. Nobody makes it one their own. If you got wealthy, you depended on The Public and you have a responsibility to contribute significantly to The Public so that others can benefit in the future. Moreover, the wealthy depend on those who work and who deserve a fair return for their contribution to our national life. Corporations exist to make life better for most people. Their reason for existing is as public as it is private.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

how to spot a liar

Video - Pam Myer How to spot a liar.

TED | Okay, now I don't want to alarm anybody in this room, but it's just come to my attention that the person to your right is a liar. (Laughter) Also, the person to your left is a liar. Also the person sitting in your very seats is a liar. We're all liars. What I'm going to do today is I'm going to show you what the research says about why we're all liars, how you can become a liespotter and why you might want to go the extra mile and go from liespotting to truth seeking, and ultimately to trust building.

Now speaking of trust, ever since I wrote this book, "Liespotting," no one wants to meet me in person anymore, no, no, no, no, no. They say, "It's okay, we'll email you." (Laughter) I can't even get a coffee date at Starbucks. My husband's like, "Honey, deception? Maybe you could have focused on cooking. How about French cooking?"

So before I get started, what I'm going to do is I'm going to clarify my goal for you, which is not to teach a game of Gotcha. Liespotters aren't those nitpicky kids, those kids in the back of the room that are shouting, "Gotcha! Gotcha! Your eyebrow twitched. You flared your nostril. I watch that TV show 'Lie To Me.' I know you're lying." No, liespotters are armed with scientific knowledge of how to spot deception. They use it to get to the truth, and they do what mature leaders do everyday; they have difficult conversations with difficult people, sometimes during very difficult times. And they start up that path by accepting a core proposition, and that proposition is the following: Lying is a cooperative act. Think about it, a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie.

So I know it may sound like tough love, but look, if at some point you got lied to, it's because you agreed to get lied to. Truth number one about lying: Lying's a cooperative act. Now not all lies are harmful. Sometimes we're willing participants in deception for the sake of social dignity, maybe to keep a secret that should be kept secret, secret. We say, "Nice song." "Honey, you don't look fat in that, no." Or we say, favorite of the digiratti, "You know, I just fished that email out of my spam folder. So sorry."

But there are times when we are unwilling participants in deception. And that can have dramatic costs for us. Last year saw 997 billion dollars in corporate fraud alone in the United States. That's an eyelash under a trillion dollars. That's seven percent of revenues. Deception can cost billions. Think Enron, Madoff, the mortgage crisis. Or in the case of double agents and traitors, like Robert Hanssen or Aldrich Ames, lies can betray our country, they can compromise our security, they can undermine democracy, they can cause the deaths of those that defend us.

Deception is actually serious business. This con man, Henry Oberlander, he was such an effective con man British authorities say he could have undermined the entire banking system of the Western world. And you can't find this guy on Google; you can't find him anywhere. He was interviewed once, and he said the following. He said, "Look, I've got one rule." And this was Henry's rule, he said, "Look, everyone is willing to give you something. They're ready to give you something for whatever it is they're hungry for." And that's the crux of it. If you don't want to be deceived, you have to know, what is it that you're hungry for? And we all kind of hate to admit it. We wish we were better husbands, better wives, smarter, more powerful, taller, richer -- the list goes on. Lying is an attempt to bridge that gap, to connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we're really like. And boy are we willing to fill in those gaps in our lives with lies. Fist tap Arnach.

the pattern behind self-deception

Video - Michael Shermer explains the pattern behind self-deception.

TED | So since I was here last in '06, we discovered that global climate change is turning out to be a pretty serious issue, so we covered that fairly extensively in Skeptic magazine. We investigate all kinds of scientific and quasi-scientific controversies, but it turns out we don't have to worry about any of this because the world's going to end in 2012.

Another update: You will recall I introduced you guys to the Quadro Tracker. It's like a water dowsing device. It's just a hollow piece of plastic with an antenna that swivels around. And you walk around, and it points to things. Like if you're looking for marijuana in students' lockers, it'll point right to somebody. Oh, sorry. (Laughter) This particular one that was given to me finds golf balls, especially if you're at a golf course and you check under enough bushes. Well, under the category of "What's the harm of silly stuff like this?" this device, the ADE 651, was sold to the Iraqi government for 40,000 dollars apiece. It's just like this one, completely worthless, in which it allegedly worked by "electrostatic magnetic ion attraction," which translates to "pseudoscientific baloney" -- would be the nice word -- in which you string together a bunch of words that sound good, but it does absolutely nothing. In this case, at trespass points, allowing people to go through because your little tracker device said they were okay, actually cost lives. So there is a danger to pseudoscience, in believing in this sort of thing.

So what I want to talk about today is belief. I want to believe, and you do too. And in fact, I think my thesis here is that belief is the natural state of things. It is the default option. We just believe. We believe all sorts of things. Belief is natural; disbelief, skepticism, science, is not natural. It's more difficult. It's uncomfortable to not believe things. So like Fox Mulder on "X-Files," who wants to believe in UFOs? Well, we all do, and the reason for that is because we have a belief engine in our brains. Essentially, we are pattern-seeking primates. We connect the dots: A is connected to B; B is connected to C. And sometimes A really is connected to B, and that's called association learning.

We find patterns, we make those connections, whether it's Pavlov's dog here associating the sound of the bell with the food, and then he salivates to the sound of the bell, or whether it's a Skinnerian rat, in which he's having an association between his behavior and a reward for it, and therefore he repeats the behavior. In fact, what Skinner discovered is that, if you put a pigeon in a box like this, and he has to press one of these two keys, and he tries to figure out what the pattern is, and you give him a little reward in the hopper box there -- if you just randomly assign rewards such that there is no pattern, they will figure out any kind of pattern. And whatever they were doing just before they got the reward, they repeat that particular pattern. Sometimes it was even spinning around twice counterclockwise, once clockwise and peck the key twice. And that's called superstition, and that, I'm afraid, we will always have with us.

I call this process "patternicity" -- that is, the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise. When we do this process, we make two types of errors. A Type I error, or false positive, is believing a pattern is real when it's not. Our second type of error is a false negative. A Type II error is not believing a pattern is real when it is. So let's do a thought experiment. You are a hominid three million years ago walking on the plains of Africa. Your name is Lucy, okay? And you hear a rustle in the grass. Is it a dangerous predator, or is it just the wind? Your next decision could be the most important one of your life. Well, if you think that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator and it turns out it's just the wind, you've made an error in cognition, made a Type I error, false positive. But no harm. You just move away. You're more cautious. You're more vigilant. On the other hand, if you believe that the rustle in the grass is just the wind, and it turns out it's a dangerous predator, you're lunch. You've just won a Darwin award. You've been taken out of the gene pool. Fist tap Arnach.

beyond nature vs. nurture

The Scientist | A journalist once asked the behavioral psychologist Donald Hebb whether a person’s genes or environment mattered most to the development of personality. Hebb replied that the question was akin to asking which feature of a rectangle—length or width—made the most important contribution to its area.

The “nature vs. nurture” conundrum was reinvigorated when genes were identified as the units of heredity, containing information that directs and influences development. When the human genome was sequenced in 2001, the hope was that all such questions would be answered. In the intervening decade, it has become apparent that there are many more questions than before.

We’ve reached a point where most people are savvy enough to know that the correct response isn’t “nature” or “nurture,” but some combination of the two. Yet scientists and laymen alike still spend too much time and effort trying to quantify the relative importance of nature and nurture.

Recent advances in neuroscience make a compelling case for finally abandoning the nature vs. nurture debate to focus on understanding the mechanisms through which genes and environments are perpetually entwined throughout an individual’s lifetime. As neurobiologists who study stress, we believe that research in this area will help reframe the study of human nature.

Researchers have historically approached the study of stress from two perspectives: 1) a physiological account of the stress response, which consists of tracking the stress hormone cortisol and its effects on metabolism, immune function, and neural processes; and 2) a psychological/cognitive focus on how the perception and experience of a stressor influences the stress response. These approaches align with the nature vs. nurture debate, pitting nature, represented by the biology of cortisol responses, against nurture, in the form of external experience influencing cognitive processing. Academic researchers typically study stress by adopting one of these perspectives. However, anyone who’s been stuck in rush hour traffic or faced a looming deadline knows that the causes and consequences of stressful experiences do not adhere to these academic divides.

In the past decade, researchers have made great strides in understanding the cellular, molecular, genetic, and epigenetic processes involved in the regulation of the stress response. Surprisingly, as stress research elucidated this molecular dimension, it shed light on the powerful role of environment and experience in remodeling our molecular makeup. It became clear that the environmental effects (nurture) are modulated by genetic polymorphism and epigenetic programming of gene expression (nature) to shape development. So, as the molecular underpinnings are elucidated, the need to study the interaction between environment and our genome is highlighted, and the divide seems less relevant.

Recent advances in stress research (focused on genetic, epigenetic, and molecular events) are inverting implicit assumptions about gene/environment relationships and the nature/nurture divide. The most current data indicate that environments can be as deterministic as we once believed only genes could be, and that the genome can be as malleable as we once believed only environments could be. For example, increased expression of the glucocorticoid receptor gene in particular brain regions improves the ability to regulate a stress response. In the lab we’ve demonstrated that enhanced maternal care provided to young rats serves to permanently increase expression of this gene in brain regions that ultimately influence how the animals respond to stress. Early nurturing regulates the expression of a gene that is crucial to modulating the stress response.

The mind/body divide is disappearing, too, as we discover that mental phenomena have physical correlates, an understanding of which can help us develop new approaches for research, teaching, and policy related to stress and health. While this integrative view of stress probably seems obvious to the average thinking person, it’s taken basic scientists fifty years to reach the same conclusion. The false dichotomy of nature vs. nurture is quickly eroding, and the modern era of stress research makes a compelling case for the study of the dynamic interplay between our genomes and our experiences.

Friday, October 21, 2011

the banking cabal that runs the world

NewScientist | AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world this week, science may have confirmed the protesters' worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study's assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York's Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world's transnational corporations (TNCs).

"Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it's conspiracy theories or free-market," says James Glattfelder. "Our analysis is reality-based."

Previous studies have found that a few TNCs own large chunks of the world's economy, but they included only a limited number of companies and omitted indirect ownerships, so could not say how this affected the global economy - whether it made it more or less stable, for instance.

The Zurich team can. From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company's operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power.

The work, to be published in PloS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.

Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core's tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. "If one [company] suffers distress," says Glattfelder, "this propagates."

"It's disconcerting to see how connected things really are," agrees George Sugihara of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, a complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank. Fist tap ProfGeo.

SPLASH!!! let it go, let it go, and feel alright....,

Video - Screamin Jay Hawkins Constipation Blues

Slate | As teens get older, they may not only get wiser, but also smarter, a new study suggests. Or, well, less smart.

The study, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, found that a teen’s IQ scores can fluctuate significantly over a period of a few years. That contradicts the long-held belief that IQ scores remain essentially fixed throughout a person’s life.

The research team from University College London tested 33 teenagers in 2004, when they were between 12 and 16 years old, and again in 2008, when they were 15 to 20. They found that individual subjects’ scores rose or fell by as much as 20 points. That means a child with a score of 110, which is in the average range, could move to 130, classified as “gifted,” USA Today points out.

And MRI scans showed that the changes in scores are reflected in the teens’ brains. For those whose verbal IQ scores improved, grey matter density increased in a part of the brain activated by speech. For those whose nonverbal scores rose, grey matter changed in a brain region activated by finger movements.

To say the teens got smarter or dumber is a simplification, of course. As Science magazine points out, IQ may stand for intelligence quotient, but what it actually measures is open to debate. And the Nature study doesn’t tackle the question of what causes the changes in score.

Still, the findings may be empowering for parents and teens, said Cathy Price, senior author of the study. “People's attitude is to decide early on that this is a clever kid, and this is not a clever kid—but this suggests you can't make that assessment in the teenage years,” she told Science.

The study didn’t look at adults but left open the possibility that some variability in IQ may continue beyond the teenage years.