Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Close Tie Between Energy Consumption, Employment, and Recession

ourfiniteworld | Since 1982, the number of people employed in the United States has tended to move in a similar pattern to the amount of energy consumed. When one increases (or decreases), the other tends to increase (or decrease). In numerical terms, R2 = .98.

I have written recently about the close long-term relationship between energy consumption and economic growth. We know that economic growth is tied to job creation, so it stands to reason that energy consumption would be tied to job growth1. But I will have to admit that I was surprised by the closeness of the relationship for the period shown.

This close relationship is concerning, because if it holds in the future, it suggests that it will be very difficult to reduce energy consumption without a lot of unemployment. It also would seem to suggest that a shortage of energy supplies (as reflected by high prices) can lead to unemployment.

I tried to consolidate a number of employment-related issues into one post, so in this post I also show that employment is shifting to Asia and other less developed countries, as energy costs (and total costs) are lower there. I also show that the US appears to have reached “peak employment” as a percentage of population in 2000, likely as a result of this shift in employment to Asia. The Kyoto Protocol may indirectly have helped enable a shift in production to Asia, through its emphasis on local production of carbon dioxide, without considering the indirect impact on world markets2.

unless you're poor, in which case education is everything...,

NYTimes | How different would the nation’s politics be if either party, or at least the Democrats, added the concept of economic exploitation to its repertoire?

Not only would doing so risk inflaming the issue of race, but it would put at risk existing sources of campaign finance on which both parties are dependent. The finance-insurance-real estate sector is the single largest source of cash for the Democratic Party, $46.3 million in the current election cycle, and for the Republican Party too, at $67.7 million.

This dependence on moneyed interests effectively precludes exploitation as a theme for either major party to develop. These sources of campaign cash would dry up if they became the target of policies or positions they found threatening.

Even as polarization poses more sharply defined choices to the voter, pressing issues remain off limits. Poverty and hunger have been dropped from the agenda. The range of policy and electoral choices remains confined to what fits comfortably into a world of muted ethical concern, a world in which moral relativism has permeated society not so much from the bottom up, as from the top down.

The unshackling of moneyed interests — in the name of first amendment rights — from restraints on campaign contributions has, in fact, constrained the free speech of the disadvantaged. It empowers those whose goal is to hinder consumer-protection legislation, to forestall more progressive tax rates and to quash populist insurgencies.

This skewing of the odds in favor of the rich comes at a time when the Democratic Party is already inhibited by accusations that it likes to foment “class warfare” and to play “the race card.” The result has been a relentless shift of the political center from left to right. The two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have pursued agendas well within this limited terrain. There is little reason to believe that Obama, if he wins in November, will feel empowered to push out much further into territory the Democrats have virtually abandoned. Fist tap Chauncy de Vega.

why it's never mattered that america's schools lag behind other countries

techcrunch | It’s easier to know what doesn’t work than what does. We know schooling can’t broadly impact innovation much, because we can track learning step-by-step through the life of a student. Tracking the countless variables that go into creating an innovation superpower is more daunting. But, we can make a few educated guesses.

Most importantly, the innovators at the helm of an economy come from the top quarter of students. While the United States has a dismal track-record of inequality, we treat our brightest minds quite well. The “average test scores are mostly irrelevant as a measure of economic potential,” write Hal Salzman & Lindsay Lowell in the prestigious journal, Nature, “To produce leading-edge technology, one could argue that it is the numbers of high-performing students that is most important in the global economy.”

The United States, they find, has among the highest percentage of top-performing students in the world. Whether the abundance of smart students is a product of U.S. culture, an artifact of the genetic lottery, or some unknown factor hidden in our education system is anyone’s guess.

We do know where some of our best talent comes from: other countries. In some ways, the United States steals its way to economic superiority: it rangles the world’s brightest minds to immigrate. The U.S. holds roughly 17% of the world’s International students, compared to 2nd-place Britain (~12%) and far more than education powerhouses, Korea, Switzerland, and Sweden (all below 5%).

A quarter of CEOs in technology and science are foreign born and 76 percent hold key positions in engineering, technology, and management, according to Stanford researcher and TechCrunch contributor, Vivek Wadhwa.

“More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. were founded by immigrants or their children, and these firms alone employ over 10 million individuals. Some of our country’s most iconic brands – including IBM, Google, and Apple – were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. And nearly half of the top 50 venture-backed companies in the U.S. had at least one immigrant founder,” wrote Aol founder Steve Case (Aol is the parent company of TechCrunch).

And, our brightest native and immigrant minds are greeted with extraordinary research and economic opportunity. After World War II, the United States emerged as an economic superpower. Massive investment poured into universities and scientific research, which became the genesis for the Internet, itself.

While it’s difficult to speculate why the U.S. persists as a titan of innovation, we need not be scared into trying to be like other countries. America has been at the top in spite of a lack-luster education system. Fist tap Dale.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Are Now One Year Away From Global Riots, Complex Systems Theorists Say

motherboard | What’s the number one reason we riot? The plausible, justifiable motivations of trampled-upon humanfolk to fight back are many—poverty, oppression, disenfranchisement, etc—but the big one is more primal than any of the above. It’s hunger, plain and simple. If there’s a single factor that reliably sparks social unrest, it’s food becoming too scarce or too expensive. So argues a group of complex systems theorists in Cambridge, and it makes sense.

In a 2011 paper, researchers at the Complex Systems Institute unveiled a model that accurately explained why the waves of unrest that swept the world in 2008 and 2011 crashed when they did. The number one determinant was soaring food prices. Their model identified a precise threshold for global food prices that, if breached, would lead to worldwide unrest.

The MIT Technology Review explains how CSI’s model works: “The evidence comes from two sources. The first is data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. The second is the date of riots around the world, whatever their cause.”

Pretty simple. Black dots are the food prices, red lines are the riots. In other words, whenever the UN’s food price index, which measures the monthly change in the price of a basket of food commodities, climbs above 210, the conditions ripen for social unrest around the world. CSI doesn’t claim that any breach of 210 immediately leads to riots, obviously; just that the probability that riots will erupt grows much greater. For billions of people around the world, food comprises up to 80% of routine expenses (for rich-world people like you and I, it’s like 15%). When prices jump, people can’t afford anything else; or even food itself. And if you can’t eat—or worse, your family can’t eat—you fight.

But how accurate is the model? An anecdote the researchers outline in the report offers us an idea. They write that “on December 13, 2010, we submitted a government report analyzing the repercussions of the global financial crises, and directly identifying the risk of social unrest and political instability due to food prices.” Four days later, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire as an act of protest in Tunisia. And we all know what happened after that.

Today, the food price index is hovering around 213, where it has stayed for months—just beyond the tip of the identified threshold. Low corn yield in the U.S., the world’s most important producer, has helped keep prices high.

“Recent droughts in the mid-western United States threaten to cause global catastrophe,” Yaneer Bar-Yam, one of the authors of the report, recently told Al Jazeera. “When people are unable to feed themselves and their families, widespread social disruption occurs. We are on the verge of another crisis, the third in five years, and likely to be the worst yet, capable of causing new food riots and turmoil on a par with the Arab Spring.”

china and japan heading toward war....,

theaustralian | CHINA and other Asian countries could end up at war over territorial disputes if governments keep up their "provocative behaviour", US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.

Speaking to reporters before arriving in Tokyo on a trip to Asia, Mr Panetta appealed for restraint amid mounting tensions over territorial rights in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

"I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict," Mr Panetta said, when asked about a clash between Japan and China.

"And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding."

The Pentagon chief's trip coincides with an escalating row between Asia's two largest economies over an archipelago in the East China Sea administered by Tokyo under the name Senkaku and claimed by China under the name Diaoyu.
FREE 28 Day Trial last Chance

Tensions have steadily mounted since pro-Beijing activists were arrested and deported after landing on one of the islands in August. Japanese nationalists then followed, raising their flag on the same island days later.

On Tuesday, Japan announced it had nationalised three of the islands in the chain, triggering protests in China. Tokyo already owns another and leases the fifth.

The uninhabited islands are in important sea lanes and the seabed nearby is thought to harbour valuable mineral resources.

Sometimes violent demonstrations have been held in China near diplomatic missions in the days since Tokyo's announcement, although there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

Hong Kong broadcaster Cable TV showed footage of clashes on Sunday in Shenzhen between riot police and demonstrators, with some holding a banner calling for a "bloodbath" in Tokyo. Fist tap Dale.

china crash 2012: here's why it's finally happening..,

BusinessInsider | For decades, experts have been predicting a crash in China.

They warned that the centrally planned, export-dependent economy, could not sustain itself year after year.

But through multiple crises, China has motored along, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the process.

But things appear to be different this time. Corporate profits are tanking, and the Shanghai Composite is at the same levels it was during the depths of the 2008-2009 crash. A hard landing has hit the corporate sector.

And many are questioning whether policymakers are really in control of the slowdown this time, or if the economy is in fact heading for a hard landing i.e. four straight quarters of below five percent growth.

Click here to see the story of the crash >

Monday, September 17, 2012

NBC "shaping" the occupy movement story...,

NBCNews | Occupy Wall Street took center stage last fall, galvanizing thousands of people across the country to protest against the abuses of what they called the “one percent.”

But one year after the movement began, it has been reduced to a shadow of its former self: Occupy’s makeshift camps have been shuttered, its membership has dwindled amid internal squabbling and what critics called a lack of direction and goals, and its hopes for social change so far have been unrealized.

Amid this backdrop, Occupy protesters have organized a sit-down protest around the New York Stock Exchange in Wall Street on Monday, their one-year anniversary, hoping to regain some momentum.

“Why are we going back to Wall Street? Because the one percent wants it all and they’re not giving any of them up without a struggle. Economic conditions are roughly as bad as they were a year ago and for many, many people they’re precarious,” said Bill Dobbs, of the Occupy Wall Street public relations team.

As Occupy struggled to find its footing after being booted out of its camps, the New York flagship, in particular, wrangled with internal conflicts over financial transparency, leadership and tactics.

Jon Reiner, a laid-off New York marketing executive who traveled to many Occupy camps last fall, is disheartened the movement didn't engage in electoral politics.

“I think there’s an opportunity that it has missed,” said the middle-aged husband and father of two. “I’m still meeting people my own age who are still being laid off. … so the issue has the same prominence in terms of its impact on people’s lives, and I think that the movement shouldn’t be quiet about any of this, and one way not to be quiet in an election cycle is to get yourself in the face of the … candidates."

“I still identify myself with the movement,” he added, “but I don’t feel like I have necessarily an outlet for my activism.”

Another point of contention was whether the movement should embrace violent tactics.

“These big arguments took up a lot of time and energy for months over whether the tactics should remain strictly nonviolent,” said Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University who wrote a book on Occupy. “ … the turning inward of energy was not constructive."

ABC "shaping" the occupy movement story...,

ABCNews | A protest in New York City's financial district is planned for Monday to mark the 1-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a movement against corporate greed that spawned tent cities of protesters around the globe and became a rallying point for the "99 percent".

Twenty-five people were arrested for disorderly conduct on Saturday at the beginning of three days of festivities planned to re-energize the movement, which fell into disarray after countless arrests, in-fighting and an eviction from Zuccotti Park last November.

"This weekend we will mark the occasion of our anniversary by once again showing the powers that be that we see what they are doing, and that soon enough the whole world will again as well," said a message on the Occupy website.

The scene was celebratory today as members enjoyed a concert in Foley Square and attended workshops on civil disobedience in preparation for Monday's march.

At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, one year to the day the movement began, protesters plan to create "a swirl of mobile occupations of corporate lobbies and intersections" in the city's Financial District, which is home to the country's largest banks and the New York Stock Exchange.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


energybulletin | There are unprecedented and widely unappreciated dangers posed to public health, nursing, medicine and allied health professions by the ongoing global economic contraction. This is a multilayered and, frankly, emotionally difficult topic to digest. Before discussing how health systems are affected we first lay out the larger social-ecological context of modern society’s predicament. This includes a brief overview of the idea of degrowth,[i],[ii],[iii] which is a response to ecological overshoot and reaching the physical resources and ecological limits to growth, and why it must supplant growth as the cardinal metaphor of modern culture. Then we outline how the inability to perceive that the world has reached the end of growth –by mistakenly seeing the present as a Great Recession- threatens health systems.

Understanding economic contraction is not merely a cognitive process of evaluating arguments and evidence. The modern mind is ensconced in a mythology that sacralizes technological progress, mastery of nature and economic growth. These convictions make it difficult or impossible to see the unfolding socioeconomic descent as anything other than a deep economic recession that will end when the correct policy measures, stimulus, austerity or some combination, are enacted. As children and throughout adulthood we moderns learn in sublime, tacit and explicit ways that a constantly expanding economy is good, has no downside, validates our sense of self-worth, and is therefore the natural state of human affairs. (We also are socialized to believe that nature is passive and subject to the dictates of humans, meaning we can use our intelligence and technology to get out of environmental dilemmas such as peak oil and other resource depletion, climate change, overpopulation, acidification of the oceans and so on through the long list of ecological insults and damage we have wrought.)

For instance, French Premier Francois Hollande in June said, “If there is no growth then no matter what we do we will not meet our debt and deficit reduction targets. President Obama at about the same time told Charlie Rose, in an interview broadcast on CBS, that running for president is about laying out your “theory for how to grow the economy.” This year Prime Minister Steven Harper said, “… we’ve tried to focus on what we can do to sustain growth in the Canadian economy.” In short, economic growth is the quintessential policy goal of all Western governments. Imagine seeing any of these three leaders giving a speech announcing that humanity has reached the limits to growth and therefore will have to redesign the social world.

This brings us to our bedrock argument: economic expansion is thermodynamically impossible because there is no longer sufficient net energy flowing into the global economy to restart and sustain growth.[iv],[v] In support of abandoning the quest for growth ecological economist Tim Jackson points out: The global economy is almost five times the size it was half a century ago. If it continues to grow at the same rate, the economy will be 80 times that size by the year 2100.”[vi] This 80-fold increase will, of course, never happen. The two-part rhetorical question we have is, how long it will take and how much further damage will be done before this is absorbed into humanity’s collective consciousness?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

job's package is ALL in your heads I-sheeple...,

the information revolution has already bypassed the American electoral process, because that's the way the parties want it...,

Cobb | I considered the question of electronic voting. I want you to think of what Jeff Bezos has done in creating, what has been done to create Pay Pal (Elon Musk) and what has been done to create the iTunes Store. All created within the last decade or so. I've worked with credit card companies as well. So now it's my turn to ask a question. Why do you think that voting has not been done on the internet, even though banking has. The answer is because it would completely subvert the way government, press and the political parties operate their control of what the public is thinking relevant to elections and policy. The excuse made is about 'voter fraud'..

Again these are subjects that have to do with the mechanisms of voter registration, fundraising, and the contact points between party operations and the public at large. I have been inside of that process and neither party wants it changed. The information revolution has already bypassed the American electoral process, because that's the way the parties want it.

The Democrats say what their bosses want them to say. The Republicans say what their bosses want them to say. That is how the sausage is made. There are only X number of issues in the news cycle, and it's a top down process. The opinion makers decide how to frame the issue according to POLICY and you consume their vetted responses and arguments.

Right now, today, you can't tell me jack about what's going on in the Horn of Africa, because that's not in play. That's not what's on the primetime political menu. Listen, I've been nationally broadcast on NPR in case you forgot. You talk about what the market wants to hear, and the parties are the market makers. Period.

the complex social lives of animals are ultimately reliant upon their symbiotic microbial communities

msu | Bacteria in hyenas’ scent glands may be the key controllers of communication.

The results, featured in the current issue of Scientific Reports, show a clear relationship between the diversity of hyena clans and the distinct microbial communities that reside in their scent glands, said Kevin Theis, the paper’s lead author and Michigan State University postdoctoral researcher.

“A critical component of every animal’s behavioral repertoire is an effective communication system,” said Theis, who co-authored the study with Kay Holekamp, MSU zoologist. “It is possible that without their bacteria, many animals couldn’t ‘say’ much at all.”

This is the first time that scientists have shown that different social groups of mammals possess different odor-producing bacterial communities. These communities produce unique chemical signatures, and the hyenas can distinguish among them by using their noses.

Past research has demonstrated important roles played by microbes in digestion and other bodily functions. It’s also widely known that most mammals use scent to signal a wide range of traits, including sex, age, reproductive status and group membership. This study details bacteria living in a mutually beneficial relationship with their hyena hosts. It also highlights the contribution of new DNA sequencing technologies showcasing the role good, symbiotic bacteria play in animal behavior.

On the grassy Kenyan plains, Theis gathered information about the bacterial types present in samples of paste, a sour-smelling secretion that hyenas deposit on grass stalks. Field samples were collected from hyenas’ scent pouches and analyzed using next-generation sequence technology back at MSU labs. The samples revealed a high degree of similarities, microbial speaking, between deposits left by members of the same clans. They also varied distinctly from paste left by hyenas from other clans.

Friday, September 14, 2012

narsty, narsty monkeys....,

plos one | Background - Sex and disgust are basic, evolutionary relevant functions that are often construed as paradoxical. In general the stimuli involved in sexual encounters are, at least out of context strongly perceived to hold high disgust qualities. Saliva, sweat, semen and body odours are among the strongest disgust elicitors. This results in the intriguing question of how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all. One possible explanation could be that sexual engagement temporarily reduces the disgust eliciting properties of particular stimuli or that sexual engagement might weaken the hesitation to actually approach these stimuli.

Methodology - Participants were healthy women (n = 90) randomly allocated to one of three groups: the sexual arousal, the non-sexual positive arousal, or the neutral control group. Film clips were used to elicit the relevant mood state. Participants engaged in 16 behavioural tasks, involving sex related (e.g., lubricate the vibrator) and non-sex related (e.g., take a sip of juice with a large insect in the cup) stimuli, to measure the impact of sexual arousal on feelings of disgust and actual avoidance behaviour.

Principal Findings - The sexual arousal group rated the sex related stimuli as less disgusting compared to the other groups. A similar tendency was evident for the non-sex disgusting stimuli. For both the sex and non-sex related behavioural tasks the sexual arousal group showed less avoidance behaviour (i.e., they conducted the highest percentage of tasks compared to the other groups).

Significance - This study has investigated how sexual arousal interplays with disgust and disgust eliciting properties in women, and has demonstrated that this relationship goes beyond subjective report by affecting the actual approach to disgusting stimuli. Hence, this could explain how we still manage to engage in pleasurable sexual activity. Moreover, these findings suggest that low sexual arousal might be a key feature in the maintenance of particular sexual dysfunctions.

birds tweet about the dead, but do they know what they're doing?

psychologytoday | "I once happened upon what seemed to be a magpie funeral service. A magpie had been hit by a car. Four of his flock mates stood around him silently and pecked gently at his body. One, then another, flew off and brought back pine needles and twigs and laid them by his body. They all stood vigil for a time, nodded their heads, and flew off."

"I also watched a red fox bury her mate after a cougar had killed him. She gently laid dirt and twigs over his body, stopped, looked to make sure he was all covered, patted down the dirt and twigs with her forepaws, stood silently for a moment, then trotted off, tail down and ears laid back against her head. After publishing my stories I got emails from people all over the world who had seen similar behavior in various birds and mammals."

I wrote these words in an essay I published in Yes! Magazine and I've written many essays about grief and funeral rituals in nonhuman animals (animals; see also).

Here's a story I received in response to my observations of the magpie funeral.

"I have a farm in Bolton, UK and we were overrun with Magpies. The reaction from the magpies [to the corpse of another magpie] in the vicinity was akin to a scene from the film 'The Birds', as they surrounded the lifeless bird and tried to reawaken it with their beaks. When they reached the conclusion that it was indeed dead, there was an outpouring of loud cackling noises which reached quite a crescendo (there were around 20 of them); this was echoed by a similar sympathetic chorus from a nearby wood and within a minute, from all surrounding areas giving the impression that hundreds of magpies were being told of the death and simultaneously expressing their grief. It was quite unnerving and I remained within the safe confines of a barn until all was over."

Are squawking jays really holding a funeral service?

There's a lot of interest in grief in animals and yesterday I learned about a research paper published in the prestigious journal Animal Behaviour titled "Western scrub-jay funerals: cacophonous aggregations in response to dead conspecifics" by Teresa Inglesias and her colleagues at the University of California in Davis. The abstract and some other information about this paper can be found here. The last sentence of the abstract reads, "Our results show that without witnessing the struggle and manner of death, the sight of a dead conspecific is used as public information and that this information is actively shared with conspecifics and used to reduce exposure to risk." It's interesting that the response to a dead jay was the same as that observed in response to a model of a predator, in this case a stuffed great horned owl. (Conspecifics are members of the same species.)

What caught my eye about this essay is the use of the word "funeral" in the title. Most professional journals would never allow the use of this supposedly "anthropomorphic" word and those that might wouldn't unless it was bracketed in scare quotes as "funerals".

scrub jays react to their dead...,

UCDavis | Western scrub jays summon others to screech over the body of a dead jay, according to new research from the University of California, Davis. The birds’ cacophonous “funerals” can last for up to half an hour.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that other animals, including elephants, chimpanzees and birds in the crow family, react to dead of their species, said Teresa Iglesias, the UC Davis graduate student who carried out the work. But few experimental studies have explored this behavior.

The new research by Iglesias and her colleagues appears in the Aug. 27 issue of the journal Animal Behaviour.

Western scrub jays live in breeding pairs and are not particularly social birds.

“They’re really territorial and not at all friendly with other scrub-jays,” Iglesias said.

Working in the backyards of homes in Davis, Calif., Iglesias set up feeding tables to encourage visits from the jays. Then she videotaped their behavior when she placed a dead jay on the ground. She compared these reactions with the birds’ behavior when confronted with a dead jay that had been stuffed and mounted on a perch, a stuffed horned owl, and wood painted to represent jay feathers.

On encountering a dead jay, prostrate on the ground, jays flew into a tree and began a series of loud, screeching calls that attracted other jays. The summoned birds perched on trees and fences around the body and joined in the calling. These cacophonous gatherings could last from a few seconds to as long as 30 minutes.

Jays formed similar cacophonous gatherings in response to a mounted owl, but ignored painted wood. When confronted with a mounted jay, the birds swooped in on it as if it were an intruder.

Jays typically gathered within seconds of the first bird calling, Iglesias said. If they did not, the first jay would often fly higher into a tree, apparently to call more widely.

“It looked like they were actively trying to attract attention,” she said. Fist tap Dale.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

the old ways...,

theviewfromhell | Human technology, like organisms themselves, evolved gradually along with human populations to solve problems posed by different environments. Successful technologies solved problems relating to nutrition, group cohesion, securing territory, and surviving the elements, among many others.

It is unlikely that the humans who used and gradually changed technologies throughout the ages were aware of all of the functions of their cultural package - any more than we are aware of all of the functions of our cultural package today. A cultural package would reproduce itself by working well enough to be passed down to another generation of humans. Conservatism among simple societies prevented dangerous innovations from destroying the carefully evolved cultural package, but rare successful innovations would occasionally become part of the cultural package.

Over the past several thousand years, civilization has independently occurred many times. The complexities of civilization have repeatedly added a snowballing load of cultural innovations to human groups, usually resulting in a population explosion and subsequent crash. We are currently likely near a population peak resulting from the greatest innovation snowball the world has ever known.

The cultural packages that were stable at past times did not evolve to maximize human happiness, but rather, like organisms, to maximize their own reproductive capabilities. A small band of happy foragers could expect to be overwhelmed by a cranky but fecund settlement of farmers; hence, in this example, the farmer cultural package would be reproduced more successfully than the forager package. That said, humans themselves evolved in the presence of past successful stable cultural packages (just as we evolved in the presence of prey species and parasites). Cultural packages that were stable for centuries appear to have done a decent job of providing humans with a sense of meaning and a decent level of wellbeing.

Should we go back to the old ways? This is both impossible and undesirable. The further back in time we go, the lower the population density norms evolved to support. It is unlikely that the world's present population could be supported in foraging tribes or even simple farming societies. Not only that, but the evolved cultural packages have largely been interrupted; even if we wanted to instantiate them, we would have a hard time finding out exactly what they were.

Given the search function that past humans used to "find" their cultural packages, it is likely that the cultural packages are local maxima for cultural reproductive success. They are hard-won solutions to complex problems, worked out in the computer of time and human lives; but they are not absolute maxima of anything, and they are not necessarily even local maxima of human wellbeing. Even if we were to go back in time to a pre-civilized society, it is not clear that maintaining existing traditions would be the best way to maximize human wellbeing. It is likely that there are many dimensions along which we could increase human wellbeing at the expense of environment-specific cultural reproduceability.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

why didn't CNN air its own documentary about the Bahrain chapter of the arab spring?

Guardian | In late March 2011, as the Arab Spring was spreading, CNN sent a four-person crew to Bahrain to produce a one-hour documentary on the use of internet technologies and social media by democracy activists in the region. Featuring on-air investigative correspondent Amber Lyon, the CNN team had a very eventful eight-day stay in that small, US-backed kingdom.

By the time the CNN crew arrived, many of the sources who had agreed to speak to them were either in hiding or had disappeared. Regime opponents whom they interviewed suffered recriminations, as did ordinary citizens who worked with them as fixers. Leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was charged with crimes shortly after speaking to the CNN team. A doctor who gave the crew a tour of his village and arranged meetings with government opponents, Saeed Ayyad, had his house burned to the ground shortly after. Their local fixer was fired ten days after working with them.

The CNN crew itself was violently detained by regime agents in front of Rajab's house. As they described it after returning to the US, "20 heavily-armed men", whose faces were "covered with black ski masks", "jumped from military vehicles", and then "pointed machine guns at" the journalists, forcing them to the ground. The regime's security forces seized their cameras and deleted their photos and video footage, and then detained and interrogated them for the next six hours.

Lyon's experience both shocked and emboldened her. The morning after her detention, newspapers in Bahrain prominently featured articles about the incident containing what she said were "outright fabrications" from the government. "It made clear just how willing the regime is to lie," she told me in a phone interview last week.

But she also resolved to expose just how abusive and thuggish the regime had become in attempting to snuff out the burgeoning democracy movement, along with any negative coverage of the government.

"I realized there was a correlation between the amount of media attention activists receive and the regime's ability to harm them, so I felt an obligation to show the world what our sources, who risked their lives to talk to us, were facing."

CNN's total cost for the documentary, ultimately titled "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring", was in excess of $100,000, an unusually high amount for a one-hour program of this type. The portion Lyon and her team produced on Bahrain ended up as a 13-minute segment in the documentary. That segment, which as of now is available on YouTube, is a hard-hitting and unflinching piece of reporting that depicts the regime in a very negative light.

In the segment, Lyon interviewed activists as they explicitly described their torture at the hands of government forces, while family members recounted their relatives' abrupt disappearances. She spoke with government officials justifying the imprisonment of activists. And the segment featured harrowing video footage of regime forces shooting unarmed demonstrators, along with the mass arrests of peaceful protesters. In sum, the early 2011 CNN segment on Bahrain presented one of the starkest reports to date of the brutal repression embraced by the US-backed regime.

On 19 June 2011 at 8pm, CNN's domestic outlet in the US aired "iRevolution" for the first and only time. The program received prestigious journalism awards, including a 2012 Gold Medal from New York Festival's Best TV and Films. Lyon, along with her segment producer Taryn Fixel, were named as finalists for the 2011 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists. A Facebook page created by Bahraini activists, entitled "Thank you Amber Lyon, CNN reporter | From people of Bahrain", received more than 8,000 "likes".

Despite these accolades, and despite the dangers their own journalists and their sources endured to produce it, CNN International (CNNi) never broadcast the documentary. Even in the face of numerous inquiries and complaints from their own employees inside CNN, it continued to refuse to broadcast the program or even provide any explanation for the decision. To date, this documentary has never aired on CNNi.

hey now, didn't we give these folks some irish spring just a minute ago too?

usatoday | Egyptian demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today and pulled down the American flag to protest a film they say is insulting to the prophet Mohammad.

Update at 2:07 p.m. ET: CNN reports that U.S. security guards fired a volley of warning shots as the crowd gathered outside the embassy walls.

CNN adds that the embassy had been expecting a demonstration and cleared all diplomatic personnel earlier from the facility.

Original post: The Associated Press reports that embassy officials say there was no staff inside at the time.

Reuters reports that protesters tried to raise a black flag carrying the slogan: "There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger."

The news agency says about 2,000 protesters have gathered outside the embassy and about 20 have scaled the walls.

The AP says the protesters were largely ultra-conservative Islamists.

Iran's FARS news agency says the film is the work of a group of "extremist" members of the Egyptian Coptic Church in the United States.

Al Ahram online says the film is reportedly being produced by U.S.-based Coptic-Christian Egyptians, including Esmat Zaklama and Morees Sadek, with the support of the Terry Jones Church in the United States.

Jones is the evangelical pastor who stirred controversy last year by threatening to burn a Quran in public.

CNN says the film in question is a Dutch production.

The AP says clips of the film available on YouTube show the prophet having sex and question his role as the messenger of God

didn't we coordinate and missle strike these folks to "freedom" just a minute ago? ag

ahram | An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound, Libyan security sources said on Wednesday.

"One American staff member has died and a number have been injured in the clashes," Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya's Supreme Security Committee, said, adding that he did not know the exact number of injured and could not say what the cause of death was.

An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday and set fire to the building, witnesses reported.

The attack happened on the same day as a similar group of hardliners waving black banners attacked the US embassy in Cairo and tore down the US flag, but it was not immediately clear if the two incidents were coordinated.

The protests came on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, when US cities were targeted by hijacked planes.

"Demonstrators attacked the US consulate in Benghazi. They fired shots in the air before entering the building," Libya's deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif Sharif, who is in charge of the country's eastern region, told AFP.

"Dozens of demonstrators attacked the consulate and set fire to it," said a Benghazi resident, who only gave his name as Omar, adding that he had seen the flames and heard shots in the vicinity.

Contacted by AFP, a US State Department official in Washington said US officials were still seeking information about the situation in Benghazi.

Asked whether the attack in Libya and the earlier demonstration against the US mission in Egypt could be connected, the official said it was unclear yet if the protests had been coordinated.

Another Libyan witness said armed men had closed the streets leading up to the consulate, among them ultra-conservative Salafists.

The Libyan incident came as thousands of Egyptian demonstrators tore down the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy in Cairo and replaced it with a black Islamic flag, similar to one adopted by several militant groups.

Nearly 3,000 demonstrators gathered at the embassy in protest over a film deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed which was produced by expatriate members of Egypt's Christian minority resident in the United States.