Wednesday, February 29, 2012

extend and pretend coming to an end...,



Washingtonsblog | You have to admire the resourcefulness of the vested interests in disguising disaster and pretending that time will alleviate the consequences of their insatiable greed, blatant criminality and foolish risk taking. Extending bad loans and pretending they will be repaid does not create the cash flow necessary to actually pay the interest and principal on the debt. The chart below reveals the truth of what happened between 2005 and 2008 in the commercial real estate market. There was an epic feeding frenzy of overbuilding shopping centers, malls, office space, industrial space and apartments. During the sane 1980’s and 1990’s, commercial real estate loan issuance stayed consistently in the $500 billion to $700 billion range. The internet boom led to a surge to $1.1 trillion in 2000, with the resultant pullback to $900 billion by 2004. But thanks to easy Al and helicopter Ben, the bubble was re-inflated with easy money and zero regulatory oversight. Commercial real estate loan issuance skyrocketed to $1.6 trillion per year by 2008. Bankers sure have a knack for doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing at the exact wrong time. They doled out a couple trillion of loans to delusional developers at peak prices just prior to a historic financial cataclysm.

The difference between bad retail mortgage loans and bad commercial loans is about 25 years. Commercial real estate loans usually have five to seven year maturities. This meant that an avalanche of loans began maturing in 2010 and will not peak until 2013. With $1.2 trillion of loans coming due between 2010 and 2013, disaster for the Wall Street Too Big To Fail banks awaited if the properties were valued honestly. A perfect storm of declining property values and plunging cash flows for developers should have resulted in enormous losses for Wall Street banks and their shareholders, resulting in executives losing not only their obscene bonuses but even their jobs. Imagine the horror for the .01%.

The fact is that commercial property prices are currently 42% below the 2007 – 2008 peak. The slight increase in the national index is solely due to strong demand for apartments, as millions of Americans have been kicked out of their homes by Wall Street bankers using fraudulent loan documentation to foreclose on them. The national index has recently resumed its fall. Industrial and retail properties are leading the descent in prices according to Moodys. The master plan of extend and pretend was implemented in 2009 and three years later commercial real estate prices are 10% lower, after the official end of the recession.

Part one of the “extend and pretend” plan has failed. Part two anticipated escalating developer cash flows as the economy recuperated, Americans resumed spending like drunken sailors and retailers began to rake in profits at record levels again. Reality has interfered with their desperate last ditch gamble. Office vacancies remain at 17.3%, close to 20 year highs, as 12.3 million square feet of new space came to market in 2011. Vacancies are higher today than they were at the end of the recession in December 2009. The recovery in cash flow has failed to materialize for commercial developers. Strip mall vacancies at 11% remain stuck at 20 year highs. Regional mall vacancies at 9.2% linger near all-time highs. Vacancies remain elevated, with no sign of decreasing. Despite these figures, an additional 4.9 million square feet of new retail space was opened in 2011. The folly of this continued expansion will be revealed as bricks and mortar retailers are forced to close thousands of stores in the next five years.

It is clear the plan put into place three years ago has failed. Extending and pretending doesn’t service the debt. Only cash flow can service debt.

the military proposals were an overreach...,



NewAmerican | Lawmakers in the Wyoming House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday for the second time to explore how the state might respond to a possible “doomsday” scenario such as the economic or political collapse of America. Some of the potential responses to be considered include the issuance of an alternative currency in the event of a dollar meltdown or how the state might deal with a “constitutional crisis.”

If the legislation becomes law, a special task force would be formed consisting of state Representatives, state Senators, and several key members of the executive branch, including the Wyoming National Guard. The commission would be charged with considering various scenarios and preparing a report on its findings and recommendations by December of this year.

Among the hypothetical developments cited in the legislation to be considered by the panel are the potential effects of "the rapid decline of the United States dollar and the ability to quickly provide an alternative currency." A situation in which the federal government crumbles would also be examined.

Other scenarios to be considered include a potential “constitutional crisis” and disruptions in food or energy distribution. An amendment to the bill that was later removed even called for the task force to examine “conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.”

The original sponsor of the bill, Republican State Rep. David Miller, told the Casper Star-Tribune that such catastrophic scenarios are unlikely to strike America anytime soon. But with Washington D.C.’s out-of-control budget deficits and a national debt that is now officially larger than the nation’s GDP and growing — not to mention the unfunded liabilities estimated in the hundreds of trillions — the situation could turn ugly very rapidly.

“Things happen quickly sometimes — look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” Rep. Miller told the newspaper. “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.”

As protests continue to grow across America and wealthy individuals flee the nation in increasing numbers, the trend is ominous, Miller explained. Meanwhile, economic and social problems could keep growing to the point where they spiral out of control. And Wyoming needs to be ready just in case, he said.

HuffPo | Wyoming lawmakers on Tuesday voted down the state's "Doomsday Bill," which among other things, called for the state to explore buying an aircraft carrier, creating its own currency and starting a military draft for its own army.

The Wyoming House of Representatives voted 30-27 against the bill during a session Tuesday; 31 votes are needed to pass the bill. It already was stripped Monday of provisions for the aircraft carrier and draft. State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) said lawmakers did not debate the bill before the vote.

"There was no discussion on it today," Zwonitzer told The Huffington Post Tuesday afternoon. "It went up and we voted."

The bill originally was pushed as a study of the state's homeland security and its approach to emergencies. The bill included a study of how the state would handle running out of food or a collapse of the nation's economic system. Zwonitzer said that he was in favor of the bill.

"It was $15,000 for a study to see how Wyoming would handle an emergency, if we were prepared for a crisis," he said. "It was an innocuous study to prepare for a crisis."

Zwonitzer said the proposals for the state to look into purchasing an aircraft carrier, buying fighter jets, creating a military, launching a draft and creating a currency were added early in the process in order to defeat the bill. He said state lawmakers were surprised by the national media attention, which they aren't used to, following the insertion of the aircraft carrier proposal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

rich more likely to lie, cheat, and break the law...,

ScienceMag | Observers of human nature have long puzzled over the possibility of an ethical class divide. On the one hand, people with fewer resources and dimmer prospects might be expected to do whatever's necessary to get ahead. On the other, wealthy types may be more focused on themselves, because money, independence, and freedom can insulate people from the plight of others. They may also be less generous: Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.

To see whether dishonesty varies with social class, psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues devised a series of tests, working with groups of 100 to 200 Berkeley undergraduates or adults recruited online. Subjects completed a standard gauge of their social status, placing an X on one of 10 rungs of a ladder representing their income, education, and how much respect their jobs might command compared with other Americans.

The team's findings suggest that privilege promotes dishonesty. For example, upper-class subjects were more likely to cheat. After five apparently random rolls of a computerized die for a chance to win an online gift certificate, three times as many upper-class players reported totals higher than 12—even though, unbeknownst to them, the game was rigged so that 12 was the highest possible score.

When participants were manipulated into thinking of themselves as belonging to a higher class than they did, the poorer ones, too, began to behave unethically. In one test, subjects were asked to compare themselves with people at the top or the bottom of the social scale (Donald Trump or a homeless person, for example.) They were then permitted to take candies from a jar ostensibly meant for a group of children in a nearby lab. Subjects whose role-playing raised their status in their own eyes took twice as many candies as those who compared themselves to "The Donald," the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In another test, participants were asked to list several benefits of greed; they were given the example that greed can help further one's professional goals, then asked to come up with three additional benefits. Again, lower-class subjects whose attitudes toward greed had been nudged in this way became just as likely as their wealthier counterparts to sympathize with dishonest behavior (taking home office supplies, laying off employees while increasing their own bonuses, overcharging customers to drive up profits).

plentyofassclownerytogoaround...,



TheAtlantic | On June 2, 2009, Anya Alfano of Stratfor, which describes itself as a private "global intelligence company," sent an email to a colleague requesting some global intelligence on a certain trans-national civilian group on behalf of a powerful international client. That email has now been released to the world, along with five million others like it, by global transparency group Wikileaks, thus revealing Stratfor's shadowy scheme.

According to Anya Alfano's email, Stratfor's target was PETA, the animal rights group, and its client Coca-Cola. Their top secret mission was to find out "How many PETA supporters are there in Canada?" and other tantalizing global secrets that could only be secured through such top-secret means as calling PETA's press office or Googling it. Alfano concluded her chilling email, "I need all the information our talented interns can dig up by COB tomorrow."

Shortly before the release, Wikileaks told the world to prepare for "extraordinary news." In announcing today's release, Wikileaks describes Stratfor as "a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations." The group's announcement says that the released emails "show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods" and calls the company "a money-making scheme of questionable legality." It adds, "The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients."

Maybe what these emails actually reveal is how a Texas-based corporate research firm can get a little carried away in marketing itself as a for-hire CIA and end up fooling some over-eager hackers into believing it's true.

The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. As a former recipient of their "INTEL REPORTS" (I assume someone at Stratfor signed me up for a trial subscription, which appeared in my inbox unsolicited), what I found was typically some combination of publicly available information and bland "analysis" that had already appeared in the previous day's New York Times. A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive. As of 2001, a Stratfor subscription could cost up to $40,000 per year.

It's true that Stratfor employs on-the-ground researchers. They are not spies. On today's Wikileaks release, one Middle East-based NGO worker noted on Twitter that when she met Stratfor's man in Cairo, he spoke no Arabic, had never been to Egypt before, and had to ask her for directions to Tahrir Square. Stratfor also sometimes pays "sources" for information. Wikileaks calls this "secret cash bribes," hints that this might violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and demands "political oversight."

For comparison's sake, The Atlantic often sends our agents into such dangerous locales as Iran or Syria. We call these men and women "reporters." Much like Statfor's agents, they collect intelligence, some of it secret, and then relay it back to us so that we may pass it on to our clients, whom we call "subscribers." Also like Stratfor, The Atlantic sometimes issues "secret cash bribes" to on-the-ground sources, whom we call "freelance writers." We also prefer to keep their cash bribes ("writer's fees") secret, and sometimes these sources are even anonymous.

douchenozzlesprayswherethesundoesntshine



newswire | Wikileaks is making public about 5 million emails of Stratfor (a private company that makes money out of selling strategic intelligence). In the global economy, knowledge of coming political events help companies make money out of futures. As trading in futures becomes important for bonds, stocks, currency and even food and raw materials, so does the value of information. So what was earlier the exclusive preserve of governments is now becoming an industry, with Stratfor a new animal in this global security zoo. Along with Blackwater, renamed as Xe Services and now once again name changed to Academi, Stratfor is seeking to get into the larger security market.

Stratfor did not stop with only providing information to its clients. From the treasure trove of its emails, it is clear that it also did what all intelligence agencies do. It was also monitoring activists who were fighting for the rights of the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, for Dow Chemicals. . At a price, its services were available – from collecting dirt on opponents of its clients to “fixing” them if required. A private dirty tricks agency.

Wikileaks itself was a target of Stratfor. There are more than 4,000 emails detailing the efforts of the US agencies and Stratfor in attacking Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

The emails makes it clear that Stratfor was also closely tied up with CIA and Mossad. Both must have found the veneer of “independent analysis” that Stratfor provided as very useful in shaping the public discourse. As Stratfor also gave out free backgrounders on critical issues, a host of people (including me) find it useful as basic information. It is widely used by journalists and analysts all over the world, despite its pro-American stand. What stands out – from a preliminary analysis by Wikileaks – is how close it was to the agencies of the US Government. Wikileaks states,

Stratfor claims that it operates "without ideology, agenda or national bias", yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.

What is even more disturbing in the Stratfor emails, is how it was modelling itself on the ethics or the lack of it of the intelligence agencies. George Friedman , the head of Stratfor tells Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla in an email on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez, "[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control... This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase."

When the Anonymous break-in had occurred in December last year , Stratfor had claimed that the list of private clients that had been made public was not of clients for whom it provided intelligence services. Friedman, the Stratfor head had stated.

Contrary to this assertion the disclosure was merely a list of some of the members that have purchased our publications and does not comprise a list of individuals or entities that have a relationship with Stratfor beyond their purchase of our subscription-based publications.

It is now clear from the emails that this was deliberate misinformation – Stratfor did have private clients for whom they did considerably more than just supply publications. The size of the payments as visible from its invoices is to the tune of half a million in some cases, easily making these the most expensive publications in history!

douchebagleakinglikeasieve...,



Transcript:

I'm George Friedman, founder and CEO of Stratfor.

As most of you know, in December thieves hacked into Stratfor data systems and stole a large number of company emails, as well as private information of Stratfor subscribers and friends. Today Wikileaks is publishing the emails that were stolen in December. This is a deplorable, unfortunate -- and illegal -- breach of privacy.

Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies. Some may be authentic. We will not validate either, nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questions about them.

The disclosure of these emails does not mean that there has been another hack of Stratfor's computer and data systems. Those systems, which we have rebuilt with enhanced security measures, remain secure and protected.

The release of these emails is, however, a direct attack on Stratfor. This is another attempt to silence and intimidate the company, and one we reject. As you can see, emails sent to many people about my resignation were clearly forged.

We do not know what else has been manufactured. Stratfor will not be silenced, and we will continue to publish the geopolitical analysis our friends and subscribers have come to rely on.

As we have said before, Stratfor has worked to build good sources in many countries around the world, as any publisher of geopolitical analysis would do.

We are proud of the relationships we have built, which help our analysts better understand the issues in many of these countries through the eyes of people who live there.

We have developed these relationships with individuals and partnerships with local media in a straightforward manner, and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.

Stratfor is not a government organization, nor is it affiliated with any government. The emails are private property. Like all private emails, they were written casually, with no expectation that anyone other than the sender and recipient would ever see them. And clearly, as with my supposed resignation letter, some of the emails may be fabricated or altered.

Stratfor understands that this hack and the fallout from it have created serious difficulties for our subscribers, friends and employees. We again apologize for this incident, and we deeply appreciate the loyalty that has been shown to Stratfor since last year's hack.

We want to assure everyone that Stratfor is recovering from the hack. We will continue to do what we do best: produce and publish independent analysis of international affairs. And we will be back in full operation in the coming weeks. We look forward to continuing to serve you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

secret people...,

If we think of Cordoba and Baghdad as magnetic poles we can see that the whole of Europe lay in the field which they subtended. Within this field much might yet be achieved. Within it, a required, foreordained rise in the specific gravity of human nature could still perhaps be contrived. Humanitarianism, science, art, techniques for man's individual as well as collective development might be induced.

A wholly new basis of human life was called for, utterly beyond the imagining of the men of AD 1000, and beyond the imagining of billions in AD 2012. Step by step, trend by trend, man and his institutions would be impelled or restrained along the preordained road. Over and over again, man would wander off the path and be guided back, or would step off the road, only to be halted and compelled to retrace his missteps and return to the road.

Institutions once regarded as fundamental verities of human experience would fall to the wayside, or be destroyed if necessary. Monarchy yielded to different modes of governance, the concept of the kingdom, yielded to that of the nation, and in turn, to that of the corporation. Man would be offered a glimpse of an expanding universe and his mind which could formerly only measure in leagues, would come to wrestle with light-years.

Within the past millenium, the specific gravity of human soul-stuff would be required to increase by an amount greater than had been achieved in all the previous eras of recorded human history. Within the force-field that was molding him, man would understand very little of this process, cooperate with one another very little, and with the process itself, hardly at all.

From within the viewpoint of his own present moment in any of the unfolding centuries, static men would see only change without pattern, quixotic ebb and flow, disruption, chaos, order lost, and order seemingly restored - over, and over again. Sacred standards would be cast down, and strange, seemingly arbitrary, and often as not incomprehensible new standards created.

From the present moment of his own temporal embedding, all would seem the whim of chance and accident, all without purpose or meaning. Yet from the present moment of human intelligence capable of containing the whole of human history as a single perception, all would seem structured, purposeful, law-conforming, and deliberate - almost - but never quite - inevitable.

If not quite inevitable then certainly necessary, for a great event lay ahead in man's temporal future. It existed already in eternity and was required to be actualized and normalized in time. The event toward which we have been impelled is the mutation which will yield a new organ of perception, an organ of liminal perception latent in some, alchemically activated in others, but here-to-date only intermittently active in a few exceptional individuals. What is inevitable is that man one day inherit it as part of his normal total experience, or else the experiment that is man will be terminated.

Many promising races of pre-men have been exterminated in the course of human existence. Many promising races of men have been exterminated in the course of the current historical era due to their inability to come to terms with intellect. What is expected of those who will inherit the future is an unmanageable and incomprehensible experience for most living today.

An organ of perception and experience giving rise to access to the four-dimensional world, will be as disastrous for intellect-based modern man, as the rise and normalization of western intellect has proven to be for many peoples during the span of the past millenium. A certain minimum cognitive standard and specific psychic gravity is required before such a radical new modality can be risked. Preparation for this was begun 1000 years ago as a deliberate operation.

The first steps involved a certain social tolerance, an expansion of intellect, and a degree of instinctual humanitarianism - which had to be established before Work on switching the new modality of consciousness could be enjoined in earnest. The presence and purpose of those who do this Work is mostly obscured from the view of the men and women on whom the operation is conducted. Exactly like the work of a farmer is mostly obscured from the comprehension and understanding of his flocks....,

the function of dreaming in the cycles of cognition

biogeneticstructuralism | In summary then, biogenetic structural theory holds (with Roffwarg et al. 1966, Robson 1988, and others) that the function of dreaming is essentially developmental. We have seen that the primary task of the higher brain centers is to construct a cognized environment from the nascent, neurognostic structures of the pre- and perinatal nervous system. The cognized environment is a vast system of models pertaining to the "real world," or operational environment, including him or herself as an organism. These models may be entrained to conscious network to produce our moment-by-moment flow of experience. The models mediating experience operate within the field of associations entrained in the dialogue between the prefrontal intentional processes and the sensorial processes, and become routinized in organization (form creodes) within cyclically recurring patterns of entrainment. These gross and recurring patterns of entrainment are recognized by their recurrent attributes, and are usually cognized as rucurrent by the individual, generally during enculturation by his or her society, and are experienced as phases of consciousness. Because our species has evolved as a diurnal primate phases of consciousness tend to take on a daily, or circadian rhythm of recurrence that alternates between those specialized to encounter and cognize events in the outer operational environment (we call these "being awake" in our culture) and those specialized to establish a transformative, reorganizational and homeomorphogenic interaction between models and other somatic processes (we call this "being asleep" in our culture).

Although the biological functions of sleep are manifold (Hobson 1988), the function of dreaming itself may be seen as the symbolic fulfilment or evocation within the sensorium of transformative processes occurring in the main outside the bounds of conscious network. The feedback relations (homeomorphogenesis) between the symbolic play of dreaming and extra-sensorial somatic processes is potentially a reciprocal one. But just how passive or active conscious network will be in intending the sensorial play will vary from dream to dream, from individual to individual, and from society to society.

The extent of awareness within dream phases varies enormously, and is the single most important variable in determining both (1) understanding in and of the dream, (2) and the locus of control of dream content. If awareness is hypointentional (weak involvement of prefrontal processes in conscious network), then the locus of control of dream experiences will lay with somatic processes largely outside the boundaries of conscious network. On the other extreme, if awareness is intentional (within the "normal" range of waking involvement of prefrontal processes in the conscious network mediating dreaming), then control of the dream experience may (but not necessarily) shift to conscious network. And, of course, entrainments mediating dreaming may range on a continuum of prefrontal involvement between these extremes.

In other words, hypointentional entrainment in a dream phase will produce little awareness, and the content may be relatively dull, unclear, confusing, perhaps producing little cross-phase influence or memory in a subsequent phase of consciousness. Increased intentionality will tend to produce the opposite experience, characterized by vividness of sensory content, active awareness of theme and continuity, lucidity (i.e., awareness of dreaming while within the dream), comprehension of meaning and perhaps active involvement of the "dream ego" in controlling the the dream content. Hyperintentionality (intense involvement of prefrontal processes) during dreaming may, for example, lead to the portalling experience (MacDonald, Cove, Laughlin and McManus 1989) in which intense concentration upon some element of a scene produces a "doorway" that "opens up" into an entirely different scene, a very common experience among meditators and dream yogis. Under hyperintentional entrainment, the dream ego ceases to be a passive point of view in the dream and becomes an active, questing locus of control (see Hillman 1987, LaBerge 1981) that may facilitate the capacity for advanced exploration of one's own unconscious processes (Malamud 1979).

The role of culture is enormous in preparing the individual to participate in and interpret experiences in multiple phases of consciousness (see e.g., Eggan 1955 on the Hopi). We have suggested that cultures may lie on a continuum from those tending to produce a monophasic orientation toward alternative phases to those that encourage transcendental exploration via alternative phases. Materialistic cultures tend to enculturate monophasic egos; that is, self-concepts informed primarily from memories accrued during waking phases of consciousness. Even when dream phases are not ignored as a source of experience, dreams are considered more like symbolic puzzles that must be decoded in terms comprehensible to the waking ego, than as experiences that are meaningful in their own right (James Hillman 1979). By contrast, more spiritually inclined cultures tend to enculturate polyphasic egos; i.e., those characterized by self-concepts informed from a variety of alternative phases of consciousness, including dream phases. In cultures that have developed advanced dream exploration as a means of verifying and vivifying their cosmology, experiences in the dream phase are meaningful to a polyphasic ego from within the dream itself, and may not require later interpretation in the waking phase for comprehension and integration into the ego complex.

to be black at stuyvesant high...,

NYTimes | LIKE a city unto itself, Stuyvesant High School, in Lower Manhattan, is broken into neighborhoods, official and otherwise. The math department is on the 4th of its 10 floors; biology is on the 7th. Seniors congregate by the curved mint wall off the second-floor atrium, next to lockers that are such prime real estate that students trade them for $100 or more. Sophomores are relegated to the sixth floor.

In Stuyvesant slang, the hangouts are known as “bars.” Some years ago, the black students took over the radiators outside the fifth-floor cafeteria, and the place soon came to be known as the “chocolate bar,” lending it an air of legitimacy in the school’s labyrinth of cliques and turfs.

It did not last long. This year, Asian freshmen displaced the black students in a strength-in-numbers coup in which whispers of indignation were the sole expression of resistance. There was no point arguing, said Rudi-Ann Miller, a 17-year-old senior who came to New York from Jamaica and likes to style her hair in a bun, slick and straight, like the ballerina she once dreamed of becoming.

“The Asian kids, they’re just everywhere,” she said.

When the bell rings and the school’s 3,295 students spill out of classrooms into the maze of hallways, escalators and stairs like ants in a farm, blacks stand out because they are so rare. Rudi was one of 64 black students four years ago when she entered Stuyvesant, long considered New York City’s flagship public school. She is now one of 40.

Asians, on the other hand, make up 72.5 percent of Stuyvesant’s student body (they are 13.7 percent of the city’s overall public school population), a staggering increase from 1970, when they were 6 percent of Stuyvesant students, according to state enrollment statistics. Back then, white students made up 79 percent of Stuyvesant’s enrollment; this year, they are 24 percent, and 14.9 percent systemwide.

Hispanic students are 40.3 percent of the system. Currently, they make up 2.4 percent of Stuyvesant’s enrollment, while blacks, who make up 32 percent of the city’s public school students, are 1.2 percent.

New York City has eight specialized high schools whose admission is based entirely on the results of an entrance exam, a meritocratic system that does not consider race or ethnicity. The top score on the exam is 800. In recent years, the cutoff for Stuyvesant has been around 560; Rudi scored 594.

Earning a spot at Stuyvesant is unquestionably a badge of honor, sort of a secret knock to an exclusive club. As high school admissions decisions are revealed across the city in the coming week, many people are concerned that it is a club that black students — and, to a similar extent, Latinos — have an increasingly hard time cracking.

No one claims that the disparity is caused by overt discrimination. But in a school that is devised to attract the best of the best, parents and educators alike find the demographics troubling. It has become a question of perception as to who belongs.

The school’s parent coordinator, Harvey Blumm, said that when he visited middle schools whose enrollments were overwhelmingly black and Latino, it was not uncommon to find students who had never heard about the specialized high school exam; or to meet students who had signed up for the exam, but had never thought of taking a practice test or prep course — something common among white and Asian students; or to have guidance counselors tell him that Stuyvesant “isn’t for our kids.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

let your life be a friction to stop the machine...,


projected piigs pillage: 3233.5 tons of gold to be confiscated by insolvent european banks

zerohedge | While hardly discussed broadly in the mainstream media, the top news of the past 24 hours without doubt is that in addition to losing its fiscal sovereignty, and numerous other things, the Greek population is about to lose its gold in a perfectly legitimate fashion, following amendments to the country's constitution by unelected banker technocrats, who will make it legal for Greek creditors - read insolvent European banks - to plunder the Greek gold which at last check amounts to 111.6 tonnes according to the WGC. And so we come full circle to what the ultimate goal of banker intervention in the European periphery is - nothing short of full gold confiscation. So just how much gold will be pillaged by the banker oligarchy (it is amusing how many websites believe said gold is sacrosanct by regional national banks, and thus the EUR is such a stronger currency as it has all this 'gold backing' - hint: it doesn't, as all the gold is about to be transferred to non-extradition countries)? As the World Gold Council shows in its latest update, between all the PIIGS, who will with 100% certainty suffer the same fate as Greece (which has shown that unlike during World War 2, it is perfectly willing to turn over and do nothing) there is 3234 tonnes of gold to be plundered. And likely more as further constitutional amendments will likely make the confiscation of private gold the next big step. how much does this amount to? At today's prices this is just shy of $185 billion. Of course by the time the market grasps what is going on the spot price of the yellow metal will be far, far higher. Or, potentially far, far lower and totally fixed as the open gold market is eventually done away with entirely in a reversion to FDR gold confiscation and price fixing days.

InformationClearinghouse | Predatory bankers make serial killers look good by comparison. Their business model creates crises to facilitate grand theft, financial terrorism, and debt entrapment.

They steal all material wealth and then some. They systematically rob investors and strip mine economies for self-enrichment.

They demand they get paid first. They hold nations hostage to assure it. They turn crises into catastrophes.

They leave mass impoverishment, high unemployment, neo-serfdom, and human wreckage in their wake.

Their Federal Reserve/ECB/IMF/World Bank/political class lackeys do their bidding.

They're more dangerous than standing armies. They wage war by other means. They cause "demographic shrinkage, shortened life spans, emigration and capital flight," explains Michael Hudson.

They're a malignancy ravaging societies and humanity. Greece is the epicenter of what's metastasizing globally. The latest bailout deal highlights out-of-control pillage.

On February 20, New York Times writer Stephen Castle headlined, "Europe Agrees on New Bailout to Help Greece Avoid Default," saying:

On Tuesday morning, Luxembourg president/Euro Group head Jean-Claude Juncker announced:

"We have reached a far-reaching agreement on Greece's new program and private-sector involvement. The new program provides a comprehensive blueprint for putting the public finances and the economy of Greece back on a sustainable footing."

In fact, it assures human misery and economic destruction, not restoration. It's a deal only bankers can love. It demands Greece reduce its debt from 160% to about 120% of GDP by 2020, but how incurring more debt achieves it wasn't explained.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

this shock will rend the veil between the worlds as certainly as the veil was rent in the temple

UnknownCountry | It's worth asking what might happen if our visitors suddenly appear openly in our midst. For reasons that I detail in Solving the Communion Enigma, I consider this extremely unlikely, but not impossible. So, what if it did happen, what would it be like?

First, forget the fantasy that it would involve some sort of diplomatic mission from another planet. Our visitors are not like us. They will not be sending an ambassador or discussing hyperspace drives with Stephen Hawking. They are more different from us, almost, than it is possible to imagine.

My chief concern is that we may not just be behind them in terms of our knowledge and spiritual evolution, but that we may be organically incapable of seeing the world clearly enough to engage with them in any meaningful way. By comparison, while a chimpanzee can become used to human presence, as Jane Goodall has demonstrated, absolutely nothing you can say or do can ever explain even the simplest human artifact to one of these creatures. They will never read books, understand automobiles, know history, know science. They will never understand the greater world that they inhabit, nor the ways in which it threatens them, nor the ways in which they are dependent on it.

Let me assure you: we are in exactly the same position with our visitors. And they do not all have our best interests at heart, no more than everybody in Africa has the best interests of chimpanzees at heart. It should not be forgotten that there are butcher shops in London and Paris where bush meat is sold, albeit illegally, as a delicacy. I can assure you, as well, that there are things that are done with some of us that are as deletarious and incomprehensible to us as the notion that he might end up cooked over a gas ring in Montparnasse or Wapping would be to a chimp.

Those are hard words, I know, but also true ones, and true as well is that there are Jane Goodalls out there, and they have a notion that we will be able to evolve into higher realms, or they would not be here seeking communion with us. The extraordinary intimacy of our relationship with them simply would not be as it is if they did not know for certain that, on some level, we have the potential to be their equals.

They are already here. They are already among us. The world is filled with them and has been for generations. We filter our reality, though, just as the chimps do. A chimp can see a house or a car or a glorious painting and, quite simply, never integrate it into his reality. He simply does not see what is really there. That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, though, only that he cannot apprehend its existence.

the fictional nature of human meanings

Horizons | Man’s answers to the problem of his existence are in large measure fictional. His notions of time, space, power, the character of his dialogue with nature, his venture with his fellow men, his primary heroism - all these are embedded in a network of codified meanings and perceptions that are in large part arbitrary and fictional. This begins early in childhood … In the symbolic world limitations are overcome. Here the child can grow to “enormous size” as the child / individual identifies with giants, gods, heroes of myth, and legend, or historical figures of a particular culture … The ego, or self, becomes indistinguishable from the cultural worldview because the worldview protects the ego against anxiety. The ego now feels warm … the mind flies out of the limits of the puny body and soars into a world of timeless beauty, meaning and justice

This is already a shocking conclusion to symbolic animals who pride themselves on living in a real world of intense experience … But can it all be a fiction, a mirage, “a tissue spun in happy hours” as James put it? Ludwig von Bertalanffy wrote [1955] that evolution would soon have weeded man out, if his cultural categories of space, time, causality, etc. were entirely deceptive. Anthropology has taught us that when a culture comes up against reality on critical points of its perceptions and proves them fictional, then that culture is eliminated by what we would call “natural selection”

is this an accurate appraisal?

Telegraph | I watched the terrible events which took place in Japan on March 11 last year with an appalled fascination. The first truly epic natural disaster to be recorded and beamed into a billion homes in real time produced dreadful images which will be seared into my memory forever.

Most terrible of all, was the black wave, a tide of death which we saw apparently creeping over the landscape like a flood of treacle. Looking more closely, this feature of the tsunami was revealed to be an illusion. The sight of cars pushed this way and that away, doing

U–turns on the highways bisecting this workaday landscape of open fields, scrappy industrial estates and boatyards was the giveaway. These waves were sweeping away everything in their path and sluicing whole villages and towns into the Pacific This was no tide of treacle; it was a wall of destruction travelling at 40 or 50mph.

Hundreds, thousands of people were being killed before my eyes, some in the most horrible way. And on that first day, like all journalists, I began writing about the disaster much as I had written about the 2004 earthquake and tsunamis which had devastated the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

But then something odd happened. When it became clear the waves had struck a nuclear power plant, Fukushima Dai-ichi, 100 or so miles north of Tokyo, it was almost as if the great disaster we had witnessed had been erased from view. Suddenly, all the reports concentrated on the possibility of a reactor meltdown, the overheating fuel rods, and the design flaws in this ancient plant.

I too found the nuclear angle compelling. The forces of nature meet human hubris and the terror of the unchained atom. There was human drama, the whiff of cover-ups, institutional incompetence, heroism (the famous Fukushima 50), and pretty soon an international angle as “deadly clouds of radiation” formed (which turned out to be nothing of the sort).

Soon we journalists became versed in the terminology of nuclear disaster – sieverts and millisieverts, the difference between pressurised and boiling water reactors, the half-lives of various isotopes of caesium and iodine.

It was at this point, at around day three, that I realised that something had gone seriously wrong with the reporting of the biggest natural disaster to hit a major industrialised nation for a century. We had forgotten the real victims, the 20,000-and-counting Japanese people killed, in favour of a nuclear scare story.

Friday, February 24, 2012

the enigmatic membrane

TheScientist | Cells live longer than their internal components. To keep their cytoplasm clear of excess or damaged organelles, as well as invading pathogens, or to feed themselves in time of nutrient deprivation, cells degrade these unwanted or potentially harmful structures, and produce needed food and fuel, using a process they have honed over millions of years. Known as autophagy, this catabolic process involves the selection and the sequestration of the targeted structures into unique transport vesicles called autophagosomes, which then deliver the contents to lysosomes where they are degraded by lytic enzymes. This conserved eukaryotic pathway plays a central role in a multitude of physiological processes, including programmed cell death, development, and differentiation. In addition, it plays a protective role against aging, tumorigenesis, neurodegeneration, and infection. Given all this, it is not surprising that an impairment of autophagy is correlated with various severe pathologies, including cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, neuro- and myodegenerative disorders, and malignancies.

Despite significant advances over the last 20 years in the understanding of how this process works and what purposes it serves, there is a lingering question—how are autophagosomes formed? More specifically, where do their not one, but two lipid bilayers come from? Autophagosomes are not pre-built organelles that become active upon the induction of autophagy; they are made from scratch each time a cell needs to degrade one or more of its contents. And they are giant vesicles, with an average diameter of approximately 700–800 nanometers, which can further expand to accommodate large structures such as cellular organelles and bacteria, and which are made in large quantities under autophagy-inducing conditions. As a result, progression of autophagy requires a ready supply of lipids. This aspect of the process has intrigued researchers since the discovery of autophagy in the 1950s and ’60s. Understanding the biogenesis of autophagosomes will provide information about how cells generate new compartments in response to internal and external cues, and will thus lead to a clearer conception of cell homeostasis.

Intrinsic to the question of the autophagosome’s origin is the source of the lipids required to build the double-membrane vesicle and the way this supply is delivered. One major difficulty in addressing this question has been that autophagosomes contain no marker proteins that definitively link them to any known subcellular organelle, making it difficult to unveil their origins. Indeed, autophagosomes are distinct from all other organelles in the cell, both in structure and in protein composition. Recent advances in microscopic techniques and biochemical approaches have stimulated a series of studies investigating this issue, but the results are contradictory, at least at first glance, with different groups identifying evidence for contributions from the cell’s plasma membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, and Golgi complex. From which of these organelles is the autophagosome derived, or could it be all of the above? The answer to this question is a prerequisite for understanding and manipulating the mechanism of autophagy. In turn, this knowledge is essential to the development of therapies or drugs that target this pathway to treat or even cure diseases in which autophagy is blocked or impaired.

leaky guts cause disease...,

ScienceDaily | It appears that the hormone receptor guanylyl cyclase C (GC-C) -- a previously identified tumor suppressor that exists in the intestinal tract -- plays a key role in strengthening the body's intestinal barrier, which helps separate the gut world from the rest of the body, and possibly keeps cancer at bay. Without the receptor, that barrier weakens.

A team led by Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Jefferson and director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center, discovered in a pre-clinical study that silencing GC-C in mice compromised the integrity of the intestinal barrier. It allowed inflammation to occur and cancer-causing agents to seep out into the body, damaging DNA and forming cancer outside the intestine, including in the liver, lung and lymph nodes.

Conversely, stimulating GC-C in intestines in mice strengthened the intestinal barrier opposing these pathological changes.

A weakened intestinal barrier has been linked to many diseases, like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and food allergies, but this study provides fresh evidence that GC-C plays a role in the integrity of the intestine. Strengthening it, the team says, could potentially protect people against inflammation and cancer in the rest of the body.

"If the intestinal barrier breaks down, it becomes a portal for stuff in the outside world to leak into the inside world," said Dr. Waldman. "When these worlds collide, it can cause many diseases, like inflammation and cancer."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

we the web kids..,

TheAtlantic | We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not 'surf' and the internet to us is not a 'place' or 'virtual space'. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildnungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind.

Brought up on the Web we think differently. The ability to find information is to us something as basic as the ability to find a railway station or a post office in an unknown city is to you. When we want to know something - the first symptoms of chickenpox, the reasons behind the sinking of 'Estonia', or whether the water bill is not suspiciously high - we take measures with the certainty of a driver in a SatNav-equipped car. We know that we are going to find the information we need in a lot of places, we know how to get to those places, we know how to assess their credibility. We have learned to accept that instead of one answer we find many different ones, and out of these we can abstract the most likely version, disregarding the ones which do not seem credible. We select, we filter, we remember, and we are ready to swap the learned information for a new, better one, when it comes along.

To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds. Similarly, we do not have to be experts in everything, because we know where to find people who specialise in what we ourselves do not know, and whom we can trust. People who will share their expertise with us not for profit, but because of our shared belief that information exists in motion, that it wants to be free, that we all benefit from the exchange of information. Every day: studying, working, solving everyday issues, pursuing interests. We know how to compete and we like to do it, but our competition, our desire to be different, is built on knowledge, on the ability to interpret and process information, and not on monopolising it.

google reality augmentation

NYTimes | It wasn’t so long ago that legions of people began walking the streets, talking to themselves.

On closer inspection, many of them turned out to be wearing tiny earpieces that connected wirelessly to their smartphones.

What’s next? Perhaps throngs of people in thick-framed sunglasses lurching down the streets, cocking and twisting their heads like extras in a zombie movie.

That’s because later this year, Google is expected to start selling eyeglasses that will project information, entertainment and, this being a Google product, advertisements onto the lenses. The glasses are not being designed to be worn constantly — although Google engineers expect some users will wear them a lot — but will be more like smartphones, used when needed, with the lenses serving as a kind of see-through computer monitor.

“It will look very strange to onlookers when people are wearing these glasses,” said William Brinkman, graduate director of the computer science and software engineering department at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. “You obviously won’t see what they can from the behind the glasses. As a result, you will see bizarre body language as people duck or dodge around virtual things.”

Mr. Brinkman, whose work focuses on augmented reality or the projection of a layer of information over physical objects, said his students had experimented on their own with virtual games and obstacle courses. “It looks really weird to outsiders when you watch people navigate these spaces,” he said.

They have not seen the Google glasses. Few people have, because they are being built in the Google X offices, a secretive laboratory near Google’s main Mountain View, Calif., campus where engineers and scientists are also working on robots and space elevators.

The glasses will use the same Android software that powers Android smartphones and tablets. Like smartphones and tablets, the glasses will be equipped with GPS and motion sensors. They will also contain a camera and audio inputs and outputs.

Several people who have seen the glasses, but who are not allowed to speak publicly about them, said that the location information was a major feature of the glasses. Through the built-in camera on the glasses, Google will be able to stream images to its rack computers and return augmented reality information to the person wearing them. For instance, a person looking at a landmark could see detailed historical information and comments about it left by friends. If facial recognition software becomes accurate enough, the glasses could remind a wearer of when and how he met the vaguely familiar person standing in front of him at a party. They might also be used for virtual reality games that use the real world as the playground.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

more human than human



TheAtlantic | If we can engineer a soldier who can resist torture, would it still be wrong to torture this person with the usual methods? Starvation and sleep deprivation won't affect a super-soldier who doesn't need to sleep or eat. Beatings and electric shocks won't break someone who can't feel pain or fear like we do. This isn't a comic-book story, but plausible scenarios based on actual military projects today.

In the next generation, our warfighters may be able to eat grass, communicate telepathically,resist stress, climb walls like a lizard, and much more. Impossible? We only need to look at nature for proofs of concept. For instance, dolphins don't sleep (or they'd drown); Alaskan sled-dogs can run for days without rest or food; bats navigate with echolocation; and goats will eat pretty much anything. Find out how they work, and maybe we can replicate that in humans.

As you might expect, there are serious moral and legal risks to consider on this path. Last week in the UK, The Royal Society released its report " Neuroscience, Conflict and Security." This timely report worried about risks posed by cognitive enhancements to military personnel, as well as whether new nonlethal tactics, such as directed energy weapons, could violate either the Biological or Chemical Weapons Conventions.

While an excellent start, the report doesn't go far enough, as I have been explaining to the US intelligence community , National Research Council, DARPA, and other organizations internationally. The impact of neural and physical human enhancements is more far-reaching than that, such as to the question of torturing the enhanced. Other issues, as described below, pose real challenges to military policies and broader society.

playing god?



Adam Rutherford meets a new creature created by American scientists, the spider-goat. It is part goat, part spider, and its milk can be used to create artificial spider's web. It is part of a new field of research, synthetic biology, with a radical aim: to break down nature into spare parts so that we can rebuild it however we please. This technology is already being used to make bio-diesel to power cars. Other researchers are looking at how we might, one day, control human emotions by sending 'biological machines' into our brains.

did cooking make you human?



We are the only species on earth that cooks its food and we are also the cleverest species on the planet. The question is: do we cook because we're clever and imaginative, or are we clever and imaginative because our ancestors discovered cooking? Horizon examines the evidence that our ancestors' changing diet and their mastery of fire prompted anatomical and neurological changes that resulted in taking us out of the trees and into the kitchen. The question is do we cook because we are clever and imaginative, or are we clever and imaginative because our ancestors discovered cooking?

Homo Habilis had a bigger brain (50% bigger) than his forebear, Australopithecus. Was this down to his diet? In Did Cooking Make Us Human?, a clutch of determined scientists set out to discover the extent to which diet played a role in the evolution of the human brain, using a variety of mildly alarming gadgets. Professor Peter Ungar has a contraption he calls the Bitemaster Two, a mechanical chewing machine he has fitted out with genuine Australopithecine gnashers. For the first time in three million years they were set to work on a carrot with success. On raw meat they performed less well, unlike the teeth from a later human ancestor.

Australopithecines didn't eat animals, skulls with fang holes show that it was the other way round. At some point in our evolutionary history it's clear that we developed a taste for animal flesh, but it's not altogether obvious when, or why. Hunting is tricky, risky, time consuming and exhausting, and there is little evidence that Homo habilis, for example, was any good at it. In search of answers Professor Travis Pickering went to meet Namibian Bushmen to get a feel for the hunter gatherer lifestyle. Although it's not glamorous work it takes the Bushmen four hours in 40 degree heat to dig a porcupine out of its hole they left one in no doubt as to its importance. "I don't particularly like eating porcupine," said one of the Bushmen shyly "but meat is meat."

The programme's most interesting contention was that cooking led directly to our bigger human brains. "Cooking is huge," said Professor Richard Rangham. "I think it's the biggest increase in the quality of diet in the whole of the history of life." No one is sure when our ancestors first became chefs estimates range from two million to 800,000 years ago and the fossil record hasn't been much help so far. They've found charred animal bones (evidence of hunting prey with fire) and butchered animal bones (evidence of meat eating) but no charred and butchered bones yet. The advantages of a cooked diet are, from an evolutionary point of view, you absorb more calories while expending less energy, and can make do with a smaller, less elaborate gut.

Taser's latest weapon: tiny cameras and the cloud

NYTimes | Yesterday, Taser will announced a camera, a half-ounce unit about the size of a cigar stub that clips on to a collar or sunglasses of an officer and can record two hours of video during a shift. The information is transferred by a docking station to a local machine, and eventually stored in a cloud-computing system that uses Taser’s online evidence management system.

Taser, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has had its share of controversies over its electric-shock guns, which Rick Smith, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, says are used by 17,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States.

Although it is sold as a nonlethal weapon, the device’s safety has been repeatedly questioned. The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the company’s safety claims in 2005 and 2006, and while it took no action against Taser, the company’s shares fell 78 percent in 2005 as sales declined. Law enforcement agencies with tight budgets also slowed their orders.

Fears about the safety of Tasers remain, despite company claims they are safer than nightsticks or guns. The 2007 “Don’t Tase Me Bro” video of a student receiving shocks at a political event was seen six million times on YouTube, keeping concerns high. Last spring, a team of cardiologists at the University of California, San Francisco, said Taser-related safety research may be biased because of ties with the company, something Taser denies.

Mr. Smith, who has had himself shocked in public with versions of his product seven times just to allay fears, said, “You have to lead from the front.”

But the camera system, called Axon, is one way to defuse the controversies. Taser already has some 55,000 minicameras mounted on Tasers. But the camera is only triggered when the gun is drawn. It could do the same for police shootings. The video, however, would not capture the events leading up to that point and provides no context that might justify the weapon’s use.

“One big reason to have these is defensive,” Mr. Smith said. “Police spend $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year paying off complaints about brutality. Plus, people plead out when there is video.” Sergeant Davis says Mr. Berry’s widow later claimed her husband was holding a cellphone, not a gun, but the video exonerated the officer.

In Taser’s cloud evidence system, which resides on Amazon.com’s cloud storage service, the videos can be tagged and labeled for record-keeping. The software has editing capabilities to protect the identities of some people captured on the video, like victims of child sex crimes or undercover officers. The video cannot be deleted while in the camera, though an officer can choose when to turn his camera on and off, something Mr. Smith does not think will happen often during confrontations because the videos could help clear law-abiding officers.

“When people know they are on camera, they act like better citizens,” said Hadi Partovi, an Internet entrepreneur who is on Taser’s board.

That goes for law enforcement officers, too, said Mr. Smith. “We have more cameras on cops than anyone else.”

Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the speech, privacy and technology project at the American Civil Liberties Union, was enthusiastic about the prospect of body cameras on law officers.

“We don’t want the government watching the people when there is no reason, but we do support the people watching the government,” he said. “There are concerns about police editing or deleting files, but overall the cost and benefits make it worthwhile.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

wikileaks postscript: the u.s. government is more secretive than ever...,

NYTimes | The publication of so many confidences and indiscretions did not bring U.S. foreign policy to a halt. But it did, at least temporarily, complicate the lives of U.S. diplomats. American officials say that foreign counterparts are sometimes more squeamish about speaking candidly, and that it is harder to recruit and retain informants around the world.

As raw material for journalists, the cache of secrets has had a phenomenal afterlife. It’s been 10 months since The Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and the other partners in this project filed their last major extracts from the files. And still, literally every day, stories based on the trove appear somewhere in the world, either because local news organizations are catching up with morsels of scandal that did not attract major newsrooms, or because new events cast the cables in a more interesting light. Notably, State Department dispatches reporting on the dissolute lifestyles of Mideast autocrats provided a little extra kindling for the bonfires of the Arab Spring.

But the idea that this was the opening of a floodgate has proved exactly wrong. In the immediate aftermath of the breach, several news organizations (including this one) considered creating secure online drop-boxes for would-be leakers, imagining that new digital Deep Throats would arise. But it now seems clear that the WikiLeaks breach was one of a kind — and that even lesser leaks are harder than ever to come by.

Steven Aftergood, who monitors secrecy issues for the Federation of American Scientists, said that since WikiLeaks the government has elevated the “insider threat” as a priority, and tightened access to classified material. Nudged by an irate Congress, the intelligence agencies are at work on an electronic auditing program that would make illicit transfer of secrets much more difficult and make tracking the leaker much easier.

“A lot of attention has been focused on WikiLeaks and its colorful proprietors,” Aftergood told me. “But the real action, it turns out, is not at the publisher level; it’s at the source level. And there aren’t a lot of sources as prolific or as reckless as Bradley Manning allegedly was.”

For good reason. The Obama administration has been much more aggressive than its predecessors in pursuing and punishing leakers. The latest case, the arrest last month of John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. terrorist-hunter accused of telling journalists the names of colleagues who participated in the waterboarding of Qaeda suspects, is symptomatic of the crackdown. It is this administration’s sixth criminal case against an official for confiding to the media, more than all previous presidents combined. The message is chilling for those entrusted with keeping legitimate secrets and for whistleblowers or officials who want the public to understand how our national security is or is not protected.

Here’s the paradox the documentaries have overlooked so far: The most palpable legacy of the WikiLeaks campaign for transparency is that the U.S. government is more secretive than ever.

dead and alive: belief in contradictory conspiracy theories

sagepub | Conspiracy theories can form a monological belief system: A self-sustaining worldview comprised of a network of mutually supportive beliefs. The present research shows that even mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively correlated in endorsement. In Study 1 (n = 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered. In Study 2 (n = 102), the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive. Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up (Study 2). The monological nature of conspiracy belief appears to be driven not by conspiracy theories directly supporting one another but by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general.

why were the trillions in fake bonds held in chicago fed crates?



zerohedge | While there is precious little in terms of detail coming out of the latest and literally greatest "fake" bond story in history, the BBC has been kind enough to release the pictures of the boxes that the supposedly fake bonds were contained in. While we reserve judgment on the authenticity of the bonds, what we wonder is whether the boxes were also fake. Because while we can understand why someone would counterfeit the Treasury paper itself, what we don't get is why someone would go the extra effort to also create a "fake" compartment in which to store it. In this case a compartment that is property of the "CHICAGO FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM." Perhaps Fed uberdove and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans will be kind enough to explain why Versailles Treaty Chicago Fed crates are floating around in Europe (and filled with $6 trillion in supposedly fake bearer bonds)?

What is also interesting is that a simple google search for Mother Box Treaty of Versailles yields the following:

Transferring rights over Mother Box Treaty of Versailles 1934-Illinois Bank

We transfer rights over Mother Box Treaty of Versailles 1934-Illinois Bank having the next status:
1. Has been verified by the authorities, being legal, certain and real existence.-
2. With SKR in an Reputable Security House in an European Country .-
3. History of mother box and baby boxes (13 ) certified by a public notary.-
4. Print amount in the front of Mother Box includes:
M.B. Control...G7777xxxxxxxxxxxx
Serial
Sec Code
Public Debt NÂș
Total Face Value: Three Trillions
5. Inside 13 baby boxes closed, with certificates, numbers, size and height.-
6. 13 JPG Images (In High Definition) Front, Up, Down, Right, Left, Inside, each with notary seal and sign.-

Transfer rights under conditions as follows:
1. Deal only with direct interested with Bank POF (Proof of Funds) in hands (Non negotiable point).
2. No broker chains or pretenders in the middle.
3. Verification when buyer wants and wish face to face.
4. Meeting with the owner without problem, ever in the European Country.
5. We are able and open mind about any reasonable offer.
6. We not send images, numbers of information in advance.
7. First step for any interested person: LOI and Passport.
8. Second step: We reply with the same.
9. Third Step: Both parties disclose addresses, phone numbers, mails and skype (Owners don´t speak english)
10. Operation is clear: after all previous steps is Box against Money.

Monday, February 20, 2012

proof of the u.s. greater depression

eftdailynews | It has become increasingly difficult to engage in credible economic analysis, especially with respect to the U.S. economy. The problem: ever more limited sources of uncorrupted data, while the farcical “official statistics” have long since been totally divorced from the real world.

Fortunately we have been presented with some raw, uncorrupted data which demonstrates in conclusive terms that the U.S. economy is literally shriveling before our eyes: a 21st century economy with plummeting energy consumption, and even a declining use of electricity.

As I was sifting through all of Bloomberg’s propaganda on the latest U.S. trade numbers (and trying to latch onto a few facts), I came across one very peculiar passage:

American companies also bought more consumer household items, automobiles and parts, and crude oil from overseas.

Exports increased 0.7 percent to $178.8 billion, boosted by record sales of petroleum to buyers overseas. That caused the trade gap excluding petroleum to widen even more than the deficit overall

The great U.S. economy, the largest oil-glutton in the history of humanity (by several multiples) is now a “net energy exporter”. How can this be possible? The U.S. economy has contracted so severely (already) that the only way that U.S. refineries can sell all the petroleum products they produce is to sell them to the growing economies of “emerging market” nations.

Reflecting the broad-based collapse of the U.S. economy, these refineries are now exporting all categories of petroleum products: diesel, jet fuel, and even gasoline are now being exported in large quantities, month-after-month by U.S. refineries. Recall that it was only four, short years ago that many American politicians were alarmed by the crisis of the “lack of U.S. refining capacity”. No new refineries have been constructed in the U.S. in more than 30 years, and at that time those refineries were straining to meet the demand of solely the U.S. domestic market. With that domestic market collapsing, these refineries are now straining to find enough foreign buyers to unload all of their inventories.

Given these facts alone, it is utterly absurd for the U.S. government to pretend that the U.S. economy is growing. Note that the government claims that most of this growth is occurring in agriculture and manufacturing – both very energy-intensive industries. There’s no doubt that the energy-intensive agriculture sector is thriving, a result of a growing global “appetite” and Wall Street-induced shortages in most commodities. So with the large U.S. agriculture sector gobbling up more energy than ever, what does that say about the rest of the (decaying) U.S. economy?

Let us not forget that the U.S. population continues to grow. More people using much, much, less energy; and this is called a “growing economy”? Absurd. Even more absurd, this steadily growing population has been using much less electricity, going back to around 2007.

Mark Lundeen provided a very detailed analysis of the consumption of U.S. electricity in a recent commentary. It shows U.S. electrical consumption peaking in approximately 2006, and then beginning a distinct decline starting in 2007. Yes, power demand has “bounced back” somewhat from the worst of the collapse – but at levels still more than 3% lower than in 2007. Put another way, the supposed "U.S. Economic Recovery" has only resulted in roughly half of that lost demand being restored.

what EROI tells us about ROI



SmartPlanet | The relationship between ROI and EROI is actually very simple and logical. The more energy you have to invest to produce a fuel, the lower your EROI will be. The energy you invest has a cost. Therefore, the profit on the same barrel of oil will be higher when it’s produced from a high EROI source than when produced from a low EROI source.

This simple concept gets lost, however, in the complex accounting of fuels in the real world. The financial return on all unconventional fuels is distorted in one fashion or another by subsidies designed to encourage new development, debt acquired to finance the projects, and complex accounting of the investments and returns. For example, as I discussed previously, the accounting methods used in shale gas development allow operators to roll over gains and losses creatively and amortize them across older and newer wells, wet and dry wells alike. Initial development costs tend to be intermixed with long-term operational and maintenance costs, debt servicing expenses, and so on. Initial exploration costs and even production itself can be offset by tax credits. Ultimately, the profitability of production tends to resemble a picture of cash flow more than pure ROI, and the EROI of some fuels becomes very murky indeed.

Corn ethanol offers a fine example of the problem. More than $20 billion in subsidies over the past three decades have ultimately turned nearly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop into less than 10 percent of the country’s fuel needs by volume, and less than 7 percent by energy content. In 2009, the U.S. taxpayer subsidized 75 percent of the price of each gallon of gasoline replaced with ethanol. It has proven to be an expensive way to make a low-quality fuel (ethanol has about two-thirds the energy content of gasoline) which reaches its scaling limit at a fairly low level.

Careful observers who did the math on the EROI of corn ethanol knew it would run into cost and scalability limitations literally decades before legislators and investors did. With a generally accepted EROI of around 1.4 (also variously estimated between 0.8 and 1.6), it was just barely a net energy-positive fuel at best. In the pithy observation of veteran energy analyst Robert Hirsch six years ago, making ethanol from corn is a process in which a certain amount of energy in the forms of natural gas and diesel fuel are used to create an equivalent amount of energy in the form of ethanol, with the primary output being money from government subsidies (not to mention soil erosion). Such a low EROI would imply a low profit margin, thin enough to be swamped by the volatility of both corn and oil prices, as indeed it was in recent years. However, only the ROI, in the form of increased “energy independence,” was taken into consideration in the politically-motivated push for biofuels.

With the tax credit finally expiring at the end of 2011, we should now see the real costs of producing corn ethanol begin to be priced in to the cost of gasoline. Its EROI has been “hidden away in the attic like a crazy aunt,” as my friend Gregor Macdonald quipped to me this week. Without subsidies, the ROI of corn ethanol must begin to converge upon its EROI.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

poor america


china's role in a world of scarce resources..,

thesolutionsjournal | From competition among hunter-gatherers for wild game to imperialist wars over precious minerals, resource wars have been fought throughout history; today, however, the competition appears set to enter a new—and perhaps unprecedented—phase. As natural resources deplete, and as the earth’s climate becomes less stable, the world’s nations will likely compete ever more desperately for access to fossil fuels, minerals, agricultural land, and water.

Nations need increasing amounts of energy and materials to produce economic growth, but the costs of supplying new increments of energy and materials are burgeoning. In many cases, lower-quality resources with high extraction costs are all that remain. Securing access to these resources often requires military expenditures as well. Meanwhile the struggle for the control of resources is realigning political power balances throughout the world.

This game of resource “musical chairs” could well bring about conflict and privation on a scale never seen before in world history. Only a decisive policy shift toward resource conservation, climate change mitigation, and economic cooperation seems likely to produce a different outcome.

America’s Resource Geopolitics

The United States—the world’s current economic and military superpower—entered the industrial era with a nearly unparalleled endowment of natural resources that included an abundance not only of forests, water, topsoil, and minerals but also of oil, coal, and natural gas. Like all other nations, the United States has approached its processes of resource extraction using the low-hanging-fruit principle. Today its giant onshore reservoirs of conventional oil are nearly depleted, and the nation’s total oil production is down by over 40 percent from its peak in 1970—despite huge discoveries in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The country’s total coal resources are vast, but rates of extraction probably cannot be increased significantly and will likely begin to decline within the next decade or two. Unconventional hydrocarbon resources (such as natural gas liberated by the hydrofracking of shale deposits) are beginning to be commercialized, but they come with high investment costs and worrisome environmental risks. U.S. extraction rates for many minerals have been declining for years or decades, and currently the nation imports 93 percent of its antimony, 100 percent of its bauxite (for aluminum), 31 percent of its copper, 99 percent of its gallium, 100 percent of its indium, over half its lithium, and 100 percent of its rare earth minerals.1

America has much to lose from any substantial reshuffling of global alliances and resource flows. The nation’s leaders continue to play the game of geopolitics by twentieth-century rules: they are still obsessed with the Carter Doctrine and focused on petroleum as the world’s foremost resource prize (a situation largely necessitated by the country’s continuing overwhelming dependence on oil imports, due in turn to a series of short-sighted political decisions stretching back at least to the 1970s). The ongoing war in Afghanistan exemplifies U.S. inertia: most geostrategic experts agree that there is little to be gained from the conflict, but withdrawal of forces is politically unfeasible.

The United States maintains a globe-spanning network of over 750 military bases2 that formerly represented tokens of security to regimes throughout the world—but that now increasingly provoke resentment among the locals. This enormous military machine requires a vast supply system originating with American weapons manufacturers that in turn depend on a prodigious and ever-expanding torrent of funds from the U.S. Treasury. Indeed, the nation’s yawning budget deficit largely stems from its trillion-dollar-per-year, first-priority commitment to maintain its military-industrial complex.

The United States currently engages in “special operations” in 120 countries,3 using elite commando units skilled in assassination, counterterrorist raids, foreign troop training, and intelligence gathering. These teams can be deployed to support U.S. geopolitical interests in a variety of ways, including influencing elections or supporting factions within revolutions. The United States also maintains the world’s most lavishly funded ($80 billion in 2010) intelligence bureaus, the CIA and NSA, which conduct electronic and human information-gathering activities in virtually every country on the planet.4 Yet despite America’s gargantuan expenditures on intelligence gathering and high-tech weaponry, and its globe-spanning ability to project power and to influence events, its armed forces appear to be stretched to their limits, fielding around 200,000 troops and even larger numbers of support personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, where supply chains are both vulnerable and expensive to maintain.