Monday, November 26, 2012

"I'll Be Back"

OK folks, I'm going offline and away for a few days but like he says, I'll be back. Meanwhile there are 21,124 posts here for your perusal and consideration. Commenting is disabled to deter those pesky live-link comment spammers. As always, please be kind to each other, we really are all we have. See you soon! - CP

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. 
Click image for larger size.
This sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole. Discovered on October 27, the position of a bright supernova is indicated in NGC 1365. Cataloged as SN2012fr, the type Ia supernova is the explosion of a white dwarf star.”

Satire: “Please Stop Talking About the Fiscal Cliff”

“Please Stop Talking About the Fiscal Cliff”
by Andy Borowitz

TOLEDO (The Borowitz Report)— “An Ohio man’s fascination with the so-called “fiscal cliff”—and his steadfast refusal to talk about anything else—has alienated everyone close to him, former friends of the man say. Harland Dorrinson, a forty-one-year-old carpet-tile salesman and self-described “fiscal-cliff nut” has turned himself into a pariah with his inexplicable interest in the most tedious conversation topic ever. “We were all like, ‘Harland, every time you talk about this, people start to lose consciousness,’” says Carol Foyler, a former friend who has cut ties with Mr. Dorrinson over his fiscal-cliff obsession. “I don’t know what effect the fiscal cliff will have in January, but if you’re stuck in a conversation with Harland the effect is you want to drown yourself.”

For his part, Mr. Dorrinson says that his ex-friends who have shown no interest in the fiscal cliff “are a bunch of losers who don’t know what they’re missing.” “I guess there are people out there who aren’t interested in whether capital-gains taxes and marginal rates will rise, or which Republicans have backed away from Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge,” he says. “But seriously, would you want to be friends with someone like that? Or, for that matter, married to one?”

If Mr. Dorrinson has a regret, it is that the fiscal-cliff issue will be resolved one way or the other by the end of the year: “I know I’m going to experience a profound feeling of loss when it’s gone. There hasn’t been anything this fascinating since the debt-ceiling debate.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Ft. Worth, Texas, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

“Daily Aspirin: Can it Make You Go Blind?”

“Daily Aspirin: Can it Make You Go Blind?”
by Nick Tate

“Aspirin has been touted as a wonder drug, with many studies showing a daily dose can lower the risks of heart disease and cancer. But new research suggests aspirin’s risks may outweigh its benefits for some seniors by posing a threat to their vision. A major European study found that daily aspirin among older people doubles the risk of an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a debilitating eye disease that is a leading cause of blindness. The link was strongest for the so-called "wet" form of AMD, and was less pronounced for the more common, less serious "dry" AMD variety, according to the study published in the journal Ophthalmology.

Although the scientists stress that more research is needed, lead researcher Dr. Paulus de Jong said the findings are a cause for concern for millions of seniors who routinely take over-the-counter aspirin for pain, inflammation, blood-clot management, and to reduce their risk of heart disease or other health conditions.

Experts say the findings throw cold water on the idea that even healthy individuals should take a daily aspirin to boost their health and longevity. “If you look at the big picture, you really have to balance the risks and benefits,” of aspirin, notes Stephanie Haridopolos, M.D., a board-certified family practitioner in Melbourne, Fla. “Should everyone be taking an aspirin for prevention [of heart disease and cancer] or not? I say ‘No,’ you really have to talk to your doctor and discuss the risks and benefits of aspirin to see what’s right for you.”

If you have wet AMD or are at risk for it, you should probably not take daily aspirin. Dr. Haridopolos adds, however, that the new study should not prompt doctors to stop recommending aspirin for patients with cardiovascular risks that may pose a greater health threat than AMD. “It’s not good to have good vision if you’re going to have a heart attack,” she notes. But doctors and patients need to weigh the options and consider individual health conditions before making a decision about aspirin. “I looked at the studies looking at wet [AMD], and aspirin is a risk for bleeding in the retina and causing loss of sight quickly,” she explains. “So my patients with wet [AMD] aren’t allowed to be on aspirin or any other [blood-thinning] anti-coagulants. But for patients with heart disease, aspirin can be [beneficial].”

AMD typically strikes seniors, impairing vision required for reading, driving, and getting around. What happens in AMD is the retinal core of the eye — called the macula — becomes exposed to leaking or bleeding because of abnormal blood vessel growth. The macula allows us to see colors and details. As we age, the macula can deteriorate. In dry AMD, the macula thins and can become tainted with debris. In the wet form, blood vessels beneath the retina may leak blood and fluids (and aspirin can cause small hemorrhages under the retina). Dr. Haridopolos explains that dry AMD accounts for about 90 percent of cases, so the wet form is rarer. “It’s a small risk,” she says. “Only 10 percent of cases are wet [AMD], and those are the ones that have the [greatest] risk from aspirin.”

To determine whether aspirin can promote AMD, Dr. de Jong and his colleagues tracked the health of nearly 4,700 European and Norwegian men and women over age 65 between 2000 and 2003. The researchers examined the patients’ blood samples, aspirin use, smoking and drinking history, stroke and heart attack records, blood pressure, and socio-demographic factors. Detailed images of each participant's eyes were also analyzed for signs of AMD. The results showed that seniors who took an aspirin every day were twice as likely to suffer late-stage wet AMD, and to a lesser degree, the onset of early dry AMD, regardless of their age, history of heart disease, and other factors that increase the predisposition to AMD. About one-third of the seniors with the wet form of the disease took a daily aspirin, compared to just 16 percent of those who did not have the condition.

The findings show that seniors who already have early or late AMD should not take aspirin, said Dr. de Jong, an emeritus professor of ophthalmic epidemiology at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam. He added that the research doesn’t warrant a change in current doctors’ recommendations that older patients coping with heart disease consider daily aspirin use, suggesting the benefits outweigh the risks. But he advised people with AMD who take aspirin to prevent heart disease — but have no prior history of cardiovascular problems or elevated risk factors — to consult their doctor on whether to continue taking the painkiller, in light of the newly discovered risks.

The problem, Haridopolos says, is many seniors may have a hard time sorting out the details of studies like Dr. de Jong’s and reconciling them with other widely reported research findings that have linked aspirin to lower heart disease and cancer risks. That’s why it’s so important for patients to talk with their doctors before they start taking aspirin. A doctor consultation can if determine aspirin is the best option or whether other prevention strategies — such as lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and improving diet and exercise habits — make more sense and pose lower risks.

“Everyone is thinking about being on aspirin as a preventive medication, but we have to be sure they have no evidence of wet [AMD] before they start on a daily preventive aspirin, especially if it’s just for prevention and they don’t have any other cardiovascular risks,” she adds."

"Lifting Pain's Veil: Bitterness"

"Lifting Pain's Veil: Bitterness"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing. It is natural to feel resentment or anger when life does not unfold as expected. We consciously or unconsciously anticipated one experience, and we grieve for the loss of it when the universe puts something else in our path. Most of the time, we work through these feelings and they pass. Occasionally, our anger and resentment do not fade and are instead transformed into bitterness. Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing and choose instead to identify with our pain. Yet as unwholesome as bitterness can be, it is also a natural element of our emotional palette. When we acknowledge that it is okay to feel bitter, we reconnect with our hurt in a constructive way and can begin the process of working through it.

The nature of bitterness is rooted in the fact that the pain we feel provides us with a rationale. We may feel that we deserve to embrace our bitterness to its full extent. And to be bitter is, in essence, to cut ourselves off from all that is positive, hardening our hearts and vowing never to let go of our hurt. But just as bitter feelings can be self-defeating, so too can the release of bitterness be life-affirming in a way that few other emotional experiences are. When we decide that we no longer want to be bitter, we are reborn into a world filled with delight and fulfillment unlike any we knew while in the clutches of bitterness. The veil it cast over our lives is lifted, letting light and warmth touch our souls.

Divesting yourself of bitter feelings can be as simple as truly forgiving and moving on. Even when your bitterness has no concrete object, you can forgive situations too. Healing pain can be challenging but may be easier if you remind yourself that you are the only entity truly affected by your emotional state. In time, you will discover that letting go of your bitterness frees you to initiate the healing process and allows you to once again celebrate the possibility of the more wonderful life you deserve."
“Controversial Conditions: Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder”

"How It Really Is"

History: "The Pilgrims Should Have Been Thankful for a Spirochete"

"The Pilgrims Should Have Been Thankful for a Spirochete"
By Madeleine Johnson

"Rat urine. As we feasted on succulent turkey, moist stuffing, and glistening cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, the furthest thing from our minds was probably rat urine. Yet it’s quite possible that America as we know it would not exist without rat urine and leptospirosis, the disease it spreads. The disease conveniently cleared coastal New England of Native Americans just prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival and later killed the helpful Squanto. It still lurks among us, underdiagnosed, an emerging menace.

In the winter of 1620, the Mayflower happened to dock at an abandoned village. It had been known in the local Wampanoag language as Patuxet. Pilgrims rejoiced; the land “hath been planted with corn three or four years ago, and there is a very sweet brook runs under the hillside.” In fact, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain had observed what would become Plymouth harbor 15 years earlier and drew a map of native homes surrounded by fields of corn.

Where had all the people gone? As the Pilgrims thanked God for their luck, they were unaware that the previous tenants had died of a gruesome infectious disease. In the spring of 1621, the Pilgrims finally met their surviving neighbors. If the colonists thought God was good for guiding them to pretilled land and a sweet brook, they were even more thankful when the first Native American strolled into their midst, smiling and saying in English, “Welcome!” According to Pilgrim-era writings, he told them straight away that the previous villagers “died of an extraordinary plague.” A few days later, Tisquantum arrived. Called Squanto by Pilgrims, he was born in Patuxet, abducted by Englishman Thomas Hunt in 1614, and missed out on the epidemic that killed his entire village. During his years in captivity, he’d learned English, and he was now attached to a nearby branch of the Wampanoag.

The Pilgrim leader William Bradford was already aware of the death toll from “Indean fever.” His scouts had ventured inland and noted “sculs and bones were found in many places lying still above ground, where their houses and dwellings had been; a very sad spectackle to behould.” It’s estimated as many as nine out of 10* coastal Indians were killed in the epidemic between 1616 and 1619. What killed so many people so quickly? The symptoms were a yellowing of the skin, pain and cramping, and profuse bleeding, especially from the nose. A recent analysis concludes the culprit was a disease called leptospirosis, caused by leptospira bacteria. Spread by rat urine.

Leptospirosis is what’s known as a zoonotic disease. The bacterium lives in animal hosts and is transmitted between animals and to people via urine in fresh water. Its favorite host is the black rat, Rattus rattus (the rat so nice they named it twice), a nonnative species that was inadvertently transported to North America on explorers’ ships. For unknown reasons, it’s the only animal whose kidney can sustain continuous leptospira infections. The tubules of an infected rat’s kidney are lousy with bacteria and excrete hundreds of thousands in every drop of urine (10 million leptospira per milliliter, according to one study). Meanwhile, just 10 bacteria, injected into the abdomen, will send a laboratory hamster to violently hemorrhagic death within days. Leptospira is in a family of spiral-shaped bacteria called spirochetes, along with the bugs that cause syphilis and Lyme disease.

Leptospira is shaped like a thin corkscrew, but at corkscrew width it’d be more than 4 feet long. Under the microscope, the bacteria look like delicate ramen or living handlebar mustaches. Holding one end rigid like a rudder, they spin the other like a motor to move. They are single cells with no brain, per se, but they quest about sniffing out food, such as blood. The more virulent the strain, the more the bacteria are drawn to blood cells. They metabolize iron to survive and secrete an enzyme enabling them to smash open a red blood cell and slurp up the sweet, sweet iron within.

Leptospira swim faster in higher viscosity; they are built to tunnel through organs and cell membranes in order to evade the immune system. With their unique shape and motility, they can pass straight through a cell, like a corkscrew through a candied sweet potato. If immune cells are able to catch and smash one, that is when the trouble starts. A robust immune response can actually be detrimental because the more leptospira get blown to smithereens, the more bacteria bits are floating about to activate the immune system. This may be one reason why leptospirosis is most fatal to otherwise healthy men.

Like Pilgrims in the New World, leptospira must first penetrate the host. Invisible in water, the bacterium enters the eyes, the nose, or scrapes in the skin. Then it disseminates, looking to colonize the kidney. Humans are a dead end; our kidneys aren’t the right environment for them to set up and multiply. Like colonies at Jamestown, Roanoke, and Popham, the bacteria get ambushed or die of starvation, and the infection is usually cleared within a month if it isn’t fatal.

According to the hypothesis, infected ship rats landed in the New World and excreted leptospira, infecting raccoons, mink, and muskrats whose urine further contaminated any standing fresh water. It is unclear why this particular infectious disease should afflict Native Americans and not subsequent European colonists. Prior exposure does not necessarily result in immunity because there are a number of different infectious strains.

A clue might lie in the way these different cultures interacted with natural environments. The Wampanoag gathered sharp-edged clams, skinned pelts from beaver and deer, canoed through streams, and were much fonder of bathing than were Europeans of that era. And they likely spent time hand-picking wild cranberries from bogs on Cape Cod. Wampanoag have long had seasonal feasts of thanksgiving, one of which celebrates the cranberry harvest. There is some evidence that cranberries were also used medicinally—raw, ground into a poultice, and applied to open wounds. Although modern research suggests that cranberries can be a potent antimicrobial, that might not have been enough to slay the spirochete. The more leptospira that initially invade the bloodstream (possibly via direct contact with berries), the more likely the disease is to be fatal.

Leptospirosis' nonspecific presentation (fever, aches, “flu-like symptoms”) makes it challenging to diagnose. Outbreaks are possible any time water treatment is compromised or there is increased exposure to rat urine—such as during flooding. It made the short list of diseases we might expect if subway rats surfaced post-Sandy. Thankfully, they did not. Although there are fewer than five reported cases of leptospirosis annually in New York City, last year a 49-year-old construction worker came into Staten Island University Hospital with full-blown leptospirosis. His doctor recalls the man was in very bad shape: his calves cramping, his fever soaring, his eyes red with blood, and his organs rapidly failing. The patient survived and later recollected that he had come in contact with rat urine on a job site.

Travelers can bring leptospirosis home from tropical countries, and it may become more common as climate change brings warmer weather and more dramatic flooding. Leptospirosis cuts down healthy men in urban slums of Brazil and Thailand, where open sewers attract rats and flooding brings contaminated water up to people’s doorsteps. It affects affluent nature-lovers as well. In September, a group of Belgian boy scouts came down with it after messing with a muskrat on the banks of the Semois River. When not infecting rats or humans, the disease cycles through wild and domestic animals, causing spontaneous abortion in pigs and horses and recently killing off sea lions in Oregon.

While leptospirosis is referred to as a “neglected tropical disease,” Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says it is really a disease of poverty. It is neglected because the people who catch it are marginalized and ignored. In the United States, notable cases have occurred in the inner city in Detroit and Baltimore. Tokyo researchers recently captured rats and compared the leptospira strains they carried to those infecting 16 city residents over five years. Seventeen percent of the rats had lepto, and the people who had lepto worked or lived in conditions that exposed them to rat urine.

Symptoms of leptospirosis have changed over time. While nosebleed was originally a hallmark, extremely bloodshot eyes is now considered the disease’s signature. Severe hemorrhaging in the lungs is also seen more frequently, such as in a 1995 outbreak in Nicaragua in which 15 patients died after coughing up copious amounts of blood. In rare cases, leptospira can enter the brain and cause aseptic meningitis. The bacteria are too busy burrowing into tissue to be present in cerebrospinal fluid.

Squanto learned English in London in the early 1600s yet, remarkably, did not contract any deadly disease there. He didn't become ill until a few years after he returned to his devastated, Pilgrim-occupied homeland on a Pilgrim-led trip to trade with a tribe on Cape Cod. He died “bleeding much at the nose,” according to Bradford.

So, did lepto kill Squanto? Did he wade through the wrong slimy puddle on Cape Cod and die as his village had a few years before?

There are other theories about this epidemic, and experts in modern leptospirosis think the death rate at Patuxet is a tad too high to jibe with the disease they see. It would have to have been an extremely virulent strain, or an extremely high exposure rate, to add up to 90 percent fatality. Although free-living, nonpathogenic bacteria from the same family as leptospira survive in Cape Cod and likely can outlast a New England winter, it’s not the ideal condition for the deadly forms of lepto. And while there were certainly black rats at Jamestown and other pre-Colonial sites, it is unknown if there were any in Patuxet.

Native Americans told the Pilgrims there was an epidemic, but some prominent archaeologists and historians aren’t sure such a mass death occurred. With the soil acidity of the Cape Cod region, skeletal remains dissolve quickly, so finding the truth may be impossible. Lepto leaves no marks on bone. Dental pulp would be needed to get lepto DNA, requiring breaking open teeth from ancestral remains. Paleomicrobiologists are at the ready, but there are no samples.

While experts have an academic discussion, many modern Wampanoag have no doubt that the 1616-1619 epidemic was real. Robert Charlebois, a Canadian Abenaki Indian who works at Plimoth Plantation 2 miles down the road from Plymouth Rock, is well aware of the leptospirosis hypothesis. He is certain it is true. Moccasins are water permeable, he says, and being in touch with the land and nature exposed the Wampanoag in ways that Pilgrims, with their thick-soled boots, would not have encountered.

There are 5.1 million American Indians today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They have almost double the poverty rate of the rest of the nation; sewers and solid waste removal are still lacking on some American Indian reservations, and thousands of families do not have safe drinking water. Nobody knows the rate of leptospirosis on reservations today.

Or the rate in the United States overall, for that matter. The illness has not been “reportable” since 1994, meaning doctors aren’t required to notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they have a lepto-positive patient. In 1994, there were 38 confirmed cases nationwide, and in the preceding years it afflicted only 0.02 percent of the population, so it was deleted from the list of notifiable diseases. Some states continue to require reporting to their health departments; there were 74 cases in Michigan in 2011, for example.

However, experts believe low rates are due to underdiagnosis. With a mild case, a patient might not go to the doctor. Scientists are developing better tests, but those currently available are clunky and take weeks. Unless patients are very sick and have the telltale sign of bloodshot eyes, they might not be tested or get lifesaving treatment in time. The CDC is one of many public health agencies that suspect lepto rates will be going up in the future. At the request of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (PDF), in 2013 the CDC will again require doctors to report every case they see.

Last Saturday, in the Wampanoag tent at the Plymouth Thanksgiving festivities, some tribe members were dressed in historically accurate clothing. They weren’t “in costume” in the same way as the Pilgrim recreationists who were playing at their roles. The sweet brook still flowed nearby; the smell of wood fire and sound of muskets filled the air.

Outside the tent, Darius Coombs, in traditional dress, greeted festivalgoers. With a smile, a man asked him, “So what are you supposed to be?” In some ways the Wampanoag are recreating themselves from records (including reclaiming their language) and struggling to preserve and maintain their culture, but they’re also growing, changing, and ready to share. “I am Wampanoag,” Darius asserted. Awareness of the epidemic that killed his ancestors is important to him."
* I read an article about this, that disease brought to the continent by the white immigrants swept west from the coast, eventually killing 90% of the estimated 60,000,000 original inhabitants. Considering the considerable grief the "Indians" were able to inflict upon the invaders, with only 10% of their original population, I wonder how things might have gone if the whites had faced instead tribes at 100% full strength? I imagine this would be a somewhat different country today... - CP

The Economy: "Climate of Fraud, Negligence, Incompetence and JP Morgan"

"Climate of Fraud, Negligence, Incompetence and JP Morgan"
By Greg Hunter’s

"I was thinking about titling this post “Fire Jamie Dimon.” I changed my mind because this article is much, much bigger than Mr. Dimon. This is really an article about the current climate of fraud, negligence and incompetence that is accepted as the new normal. Dimon and JP Morgan Chase are just the larger-than-life faces of the profound problems that are not getting fixed.  JP Morgan is the nation’s biggest bank; so, for the sake of simplicity, I just want to use JP Morgan and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, to illustrate what is really stopping the economy from getting better. This is the 8,000 pound elephant in the room that nobody wants to even acknowledge.

Look no further than this past year. There are big examples that come to mind that should have brought some criminal charges against bank personnel, or at least been grounds to fire Mr. Dimon.  Most recently, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse paid nearly $417 million (combined) to settle civil fraud charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Reuters recently reported, “JPMorgan will pay $296.9 million, while Credit Suisse will pay $120 million in a separate case, with the money going to harmed investors, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said. Both settlements addressed alleged negligence or other wrongdoing in the packaging and sale of risky residential mortgage-backed securities...” Of course, both JP Morgan and Credit Suisse didn’t admit guilt, and no individuals were charged criminally. The Reuters story went on to say, “On a conference call with reporters, Robert Khuzami (SEC enforcement chief) said it is hard to bring cases against individuals over ‘structured’ financial transactions because different people work on different aspects, making it hard to pin blame.” (Click here for the complete Reuters story.) It was the same story in 2011. According to Reuters, “JPMorgan had in June 2011 agreed to pay $153.6 million to settle a separate SEC fraud case over its sale of mortgage securities to investors, also without admitting wrongdoing.”  Anybody see a pattern here for JP Morgan or government prosecutors?

Hey, you know what else makes it “hard to pin blame”?  Lots of cash donated to both parties by banks like JP Morgan.  So much cash that the boss will come down hard on prosecutors who bring charges. One thousand financial elites were successfully prosecuted in the wake of the S&L crisis 20 years ago. It was 70 times smaller than the 2008 financial meltdown that was caused by greedy bankers. The “$296.9 million” paid by JP Morgan didn’t even come with an apology, let alone criminal charges for individuals. This certainly didn’t fix anything, but it did let bankers and Jamie Dimon off the hook–once again. Is this the business plan that Jamie Dimon condones?

Remember the $2 billion “London Whale” trading loss Mr. Dimon apologized for back in May just before shareholders approved a $23 million pay package for him? That $2 billion loss turned into more than $6 billion. That’s triple the original amount Dimon himself announced! He missed by more than $4 billion!  Did he mean to mislead or is he just incompetent? Was Dimon negligent as a CEO for allowing these kinds of losses?  Now, JP Morgan is suing its own former employees involved in the scandal, and JP Morgan will not comment on the lawsuit. A recent New York Times story reported, “Since announcing the problem in May, JPMorgan has worked to reassure skittish investors. The bank has broadly reshuffled its management ranks and united some of its business operations.” (Click here for the complete NYT story.)  Shouldn’t Mr. Dimon be “reshuffled”? I mean, just before a big payday, he told shareholders the loss would be $2 billion when, months later, it turned into more than $6 billion. Why didn’t Dimon know about this? Where was his supervision? This is one of the nation’s top bankers, and he doesn’t know if a loss is $2 billion or $6 billion?

What about the LIBOR (London Inter-bank Offered Rate) interest rate rigging scandal that erupted earlier this year?  Once again, JP Morgan is involved. I wrote about this back in July and said, “The Libor interest rate rigging scandal is being called the biggest financial fraud in history.  Libor is a key interest rate that is used globally to set as much as $800 trillion in transactions.  It is used to set interest rates for things such as credit cards, student loans, mortgages, corporate bonds and hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives.” (Click here for the complete post.)  In August, the Huffington Post reported, “Pretty much everybody in the world with subpoena power has hit JPMorgan Chase with requests for information in the Libor-rigging scandal. JPMorgan also said it was the subject of a large and growing number of lawsuits coming out of the Libor mess. State and local governments, for example, are suing banks for keeping Libor too low, hurting the value of interest-rate swaps they bought to protect against rising rates.” (Click here for the complete Huffington Post story.) Again, Dimon does not know what is going on in his own bank, or is this part of the business model that he condones?

All the above mentioned stories happened in just the last year or so. The thing they all have in common is that Jamie Dimon was and still is–in charge. When the captain of a ship keeps running aground and the ship owners keep patching the hull, when is it more practical to replace the captain? Hasn’t Dimon run the bank aground on several occasions? Aren’t the other banking executives crashing their boats into the rocks?  Don’t get me wrong, I think Mr. Dimon should be fired, but that’s not going to happen.  The mainstream media will not criticize Dimon or any the CEO of a big bank despite their dismal track records. If any reporter did, I think they would be fired.  The public accepts this behavior, and our own government officials enable the fraud, negligence and incompetence to go unprosecuted and unpunished in the banking industry. The economy will never truly recover against this kind of financial backdrop.”

"Planet Earth Under Chemical Attack from ChemTrails"

"Planet Earth Under Chemical Attack from ChemTrails"
by Patrick Lynch

"For almost two decades now the planet has been in the grip of a chemical and biological attack from the air. These weapons of mass destruction can actually be seen and there is a mountain of evidence that these methods of weaponry actually exist.

The chemical trails, the aerial spraying by unmarked aircraft, are so horrendous on certain days the sky resembles a ‘noughts and crosses’ board. The relevant ‘authorities’ that one might expect to deal with any external threats to a sovereign country’s airspace have had the exact science sent to them and most evidence has been passed to them. Yet the public’s concerns are uniformly met with silence, denial, ridicule and worse.

The environment, the people of the planet, every country is being sprayed with such abandon, such wanton destruction, that even the soil’s pH level is changing and plant life is dying off. After heavy spraying, flu-like symptoms that persist, respiratory problems, fatigue, cramps, and even fibres poking through people skin are reported, worldwide. In the case of the fibres an exact match between what the Chemtrails contain and the fibres taken from Morgellon’s sufferers has been found. Read more here. And just for the record, condensation trails, also known as ‘con-trails’, are water vapour that turn to ice in certain conditions (just as your breath does on a cold day). Contrails disperse after about 30 seconds, tops.

“Chemtrails” are chemical trails. They do not need certain conditions to cover the sky. They hang around and form banks of cloud, often for hours, because they are laden with three main materials – aluminium oxide, barium, and strontium. From my own research many other materials such as arsenic, titanium and thorium have been found to be present in samples. Just as the declassified documents of the Dorset Biological Trials state (bacteria, and e-coli in the case of Dorset), molds, fungus, bacteria and even red blood cells have been identified from the Chemtrail fall out and in the blood samples of sufferers.

So what can one expect from government representatives, the military, mainstream news and even long established ‘Green groups’ when genuine concerns are raised and in thousands of cases even outright panic is voiced? People who’s very lives are in mortal danger and are rightly extremely outraged, angered and dumbfounded that this is allowed to go on while their children play outside in such an overtly toxic environment, what reply do they get, what help? None. More silence, more denial, more ridicule and worse, as is evidenced in this example from Greenpeace. Christopher Monkton states (a well known global warming debunker), Greenpeace was successfully infiltrated after only one year of it’s inception. One of it’s founders, Patrick Moore, felt the trend was serious enough that he had to leave the charity.

Greenpeace claimed: "We cannot pass comment on a political party in that way, but I am sorry – we have yet to see any strong evidence that there is any campaign to mass inoculate the general populace using contrails and the like. If the governments wanted to mass inoculate then they would do far better putting into the water systems for example – as they do with fluoride. Thanks for the update I will pass it to the media team but honestly just because the Cyprus Green Party say is a go, doesn’t mean it is – always look at something from all sides before buying into it. there are sensible and rational if not pleasant reasons for the contrails etc. that we see in our skies. Cyprus may not be urban but it has a lot of flights to and from and over it for example all of which will be on the increase in recent years all of which produce their own contrails."

Geoengineering: The scientists proposing spraying the skies with particulates of metals to reflect the sun ray’s and combat global warming call it geoengineering. Many speak of placing mirrors in space for this purpose too and of course dumping huge amounts of iron into the ocean termed ocean acidification, also in the name of saving the planet. One thing the Geoengineers do agree on however is that it’s not happening yet and it’s still under discussion even though it’s been going on, across the planet, yes, every country, since around 1996. Of course, this is the real climate denial. Yet global warming alarmists (heavily funded by many U.N. linked groups), are happy to tag anyone who challenges the scam of global warming with a monstrous allusion to the genocides and call them ‘climate deniers’.

Premiere globalist think tank Club Of Rome’s quote from the First Global Revolution 1993: ”…divided nations require common enemies to unite them, “either a real one or else one invented for the purpose.” Because of the sudden absence of traditional enemies, “new enemies must be identified.” “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

So while the public are routinely blamed for trashing the planet with their consumerism and ordered to pay through their nose with individual carbon taxes, (many big corporations are largely exempt), the scientists advocate spraying the entire sky of the planet with toxic chemical and biological materials, um, to save the planet. while it’s actually been going on for nearly twenty years. Supreme Orwellian double-think.

A House of Commons report entitled, "The Regulation of Geoengineering," from 2009, clearly detailed the ‘proposed methods’ of spraying our skies and hundreds of patents are filed for the specific methods of Solar Radiation Management. (S.R.M). Clearly a more digestible term for massive pollution. Read the full report here. No longer can The Royal Society be held in such high regard. This previously esteemed organisation is not working for the betterment of our society. In fact it’s purely psychopathic structure and it’s twisted Utopian ideals for the betterment of ‘their’ society is to be held accountable as it’s their yardstick that blazes a trail of destruction across our planet, quite literally.

One patent that is typical of the hundreds viewable on the internet and in the patent offices is…
REPORT: "Stratospheric Welsbach Seeding for the Reduction of Global Warming". Bill Gates is openly funding ‘research’ into geoengineering. He of, “now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that (number of 9 billion) by perhaps 10 or 15 percent” fame.

If you sense a pattern emerging here you would be right. See eugenics. It’s the key to understanding the scientific dictatorship we are now under, globally. Something the current White House Science ‘Czar’ John P. Holdren is happy to tell you in his co-authored book Eco-Science. Also stated as saying “we don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table”.

From 2001, Air Force University, U.S.A: "Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather by 2025", clearly states an intent to use technology to control the weather and the father of weather weapons, Ben Livingstone, states that for decades aircraft have been able to start, stop and steer storms by seeding the clouds. Oxbridge is especially on board as many of their pre-notables recently spoke at the Geoengineering talks at the recent U.N. backed Planet Under Pressure conference in London.

So where are we now? After almost two decades of warning folks of, what in my opinion, is the greatest threat to humanity in history, let alone life on earth itself, how close are people to actually stopping this? When i began alerting the public to this not many knew of Chemtrails or grasped the significance of what i was telling them. That has altered dramatically. Now many more people have heard of Chemtrails, geoengineering, aerial spraying, (and i don’t mean crop spraying), call it what you will… more people than ever now understand the mortal danger they are in. So much so, that if one were to walk out after a nuclear attack they would be presented with much the same environmental toxicity as the Chemtrail materials. Many more people are beginning to see this scenario being played out in the real world every day and view it as such. That the sky is a toxic plasma and that’s the real climate change.

We should be screaming from the bell towers about this humanicide instead of being calm and measured though only through constant sharing of information can one make a decision how to proceed. Critical mass is also key though the human race is on to stop the Chemtrails before too many perish. This war on humanity has stepped up a gear and it’s up to the individual to reassert their rights to a healthy life before it’s too late.

Eye witness accounts from the last few days have fostered a wave of reports that Chem-webs, as they are commonly called, are dropping upon the Isle of Wight, southern England. In Yorkshire only a few weeks ago these phenomena were filmed covering whole areas of park in a web-like film. These are not spider’s webs. They are gone when poked with a stick. They must not, under any circumstances, be touched by hand as numerous independent studies have revealed they are polymers sprayed from aircraft and a favorite way of being the carrier for many molds, fungus and bacteria to ride on their backs. See more here. I myself witnessed the fallout, clearly visible to the naked eye, like ash from chimneys, the very same morning the Chem-webs were filmed in south Yorkshire. See video:

Also from November 14th 2012 thousands of birds are reported to be falling out of the sky ten miles off the Portsmouth coast. So anyone who sees small birds washed up in these numbers should get an independent analysis done and this would add to the evidence. This may be connected.

In the language certain globalists, the crux of the matter is that this enterprise is hidden in plain sight and the great media deception is incomplete so not perfect. While we have the internet let’s use it until we’re back to pigeons, pamphleteering and piracy. The mainstream does not yet have a grip on the independent alternative media though it is tightening it’s clammy, predatory paws. Read more about this incident here.

In this only too brief article, it is hoped that many more awaken from their chem-slumber. This writer is convinced that when enough critical mass is reached, when enough people know of Chemtrails, the aerial assault on our skies will be halted. There is no doubt in my mind that this will happen. It is imperative, once the reader has researched enough, that they add to this information battle so that a peaceful resolution can be accomplished. There has never been a more important time to act. Humanity is being made so sick that in the near future we may not be fit enough to resist. We need you help urgently in order bring this issue to the forefront of the public consciousness. Please alert as many people as you can. Humanity, as we know it, is running out of time.”
Excellent source about chemtrails:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"A Look to the Heavens"

"A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky, Messier 63 is about 25 million light-years distant in the loyal constellation Canes Venatici. Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own Milky Way. Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 sports a bright yellowish core and sweeping blue spiral arms, streaked with cosmic dust lanes and dotted with pink star forming regions. 
Click image for larger size.
This deep exposure also reveals an enormous but dim arc extending far into the halo above the brighter galactic plane. A collaboration of professional and amateur astronomers has shown the arc to be consistent with the stellar stream from a smaller satellite galaxy, tidally disrupted as it merged with M63 during the last 5 billion years. Their discovery is part of an increasing body of evidence that the growth of large spirals by cannibalizing smaller galaxies is commonplace in the nearby Universe."

Rollo May, "The Courage To Create"

"The Courage To Create"
by Rollo May

"We are living at a time when one age is dying and the new age is not yet born. We cannot doubt this as we look about us to see the radical changes in sexual mores, in marriage styles, in family structures, in education, in religion, technology, and almost every other aspect of modern life. And behind it all is the threat of the atom bomb, which recedes into the distance but never disappears. To live with sensitivity in this age of limbo indeed requires courage.

A choice confronts us. Shall we, as we feel our foundations shaking, withdraw in anxiety and panic? Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy? If we do those things, we will have surrendered our chance to participate in the forming of the future. We will have forfeited the distinctive characteristic of human beings‚ namely, to influence our evolution through our own awareness. We will have capitulated to the blind juggernaut of history and lost the chance to mold the future into a society more equitable and humane. Or shall we seize the courage necessary to preserve our sensitivity, awareness, and responsibility in the face of radical change? Shall we consciously participate, on however small the scale, in the forming of the new society?

I hope our choice will be the latter. We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man's land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.

This courage will not be the opposite of despair. We shall often be faced with despair, as indeed every sensitive person has been during the last several decades in this country. Hence Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Camus and Sartre have proclaimed that courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair. Nor is the courage required mere stubbornness. But if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.

A chief characteristic of this courage is that it requires a centeredness within our own being, without which we would feel ourselves to be a vacuum. The "emptiness" within corresponds to an apathy without; and apathy adds up, in the long run, to cowardice. That is why we must always base our commitment in the center of our own being, or else no commitment will be ultimately authentic.

Courage, furthermore, is not to be confused with rashness. What masquerades as courage may turn out to be simply a bravado used to compensate for one's unconscious fear and to prove one's machismo, like the "hot" fliers in World War II. The ultimate end of such rashness is getting one's self killed, or at least one's head battered in with a policeman's billy club‚ both of which are scarcely productive ways of exhibiting courage.

Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism. The word courage comes from the same stem as the French word coeur, meaning "heart." Thus just as one's heart, by pumping blood to one's arms, legs, and brain enables all the other physical organs to function, so courage makes possible all the psychological virtues. Without courage other values wither away into mere facsimiles of virtue.

In human beings courage is necessary to make being and becoming possible. An assertion of the self, a commitment, is essential if the self is to have any reality. This is the distinction between human beings and the rest of nature. The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions require courage. This is why Paul Tillich speaks of courage as ontological; it is essential to our being.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Burke, Virginia, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Chet Raymo, "Why Not?"

"Why Not?"
by Chet Raymo

"A few days ago reader Liz asked: "If we are all one and made out of the same material- then the things that we make are made out of the same material. But they are not animate. Why not?" At first glance, this might seem like a naive question, one that we all know the answer to. On reflection, it turns out to be terribly profound. Or should I have said, "wonderfully profound"?

Yes, everything, animate and inanimate, is made of the same stuff - the 92 naturally-occurring elements - but all of the animate things we know about are made mainly of carbon compounds - carbon in combination with with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and a smattering of other elements- the compounds we study in organic chemistry. Carbon atoms have a knack for joining up in a rich variety of ways.

But all things made of carbon compounds are not animate. The petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries produce gobs of carbon-based products that are not alive, including paints and explosives.

Of course, some things we make are animate. Babies. Gardens. And we use animate matter to make inanimate things. Bread. Yogurt. Antibiotics. It is probably only a matter of time before researchers make animate matter from inanimate stuff- life in a test-tube (but then, since researchers were involved, you can say this is also life making life). And we have made some rather remarkable life simulations in computers. But none of this answers Liz's question.

Life makes life, that's part of its definition. But what is it? The biologist Lynn Margulis with her son Dorian Sagan tried to answer the question in their book What Is Life? They give a terrific scientific accounting of what we know, but when it comes down to answering Liz's question they are reduced to such definitions as: "a material process, sifting and surfing over matter like a strange, slow wave"; "the watery, membrane-bound encapsulation of spacetime"; "a planetary exuberance"; "existence's celebration." None of which get us any closer to the heart of the mystery.

Biologists have long ago given up the idea of a "vital spirit" or "spark of life," which really added no more to our understanding than the gushy exuberances of Margulis and Sagan. We have every reason to believe that "the spark of life" is matter and energy- in effect, a self-perpetuating, self-catalyzing chemical reaction. But we don't know how the reaction got started and why it sustains itself as it does.

This we do know: It is going on in every one of the trillions of cells of my body even as I write - each cell a ceaseless hive of activity, each cell a tiny crucible containing a smidgen of that ongoing chemical reaction that has animated the surface of the planet for four billion years, and maybe animates the universe.

"How It Really Is"

Psychology: "Combating Emotional Vampires"

"Combating Emotional Vampires"
by Dr. Judith Orloff

"Relationships are always an energy exchange. To stay feeling our best, we must ask ourselves: Who gives us energy? Who saps it? It's important to be surrounded by supportive, heart-centered people who make us feel safe and secure. It's equally important to pinpoint the emotional vampires, who, whether they intend to or not, leech our energy.

To protect your sensitivity, it's imperative to name and combat these emotional vampires. They're everywhere: coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. In Energy Psychiatry I've treated a revolving door of patients who've been hard-hit by drainers--truly a mental health epidemic that conventional medicine doesn't see. I'm horrified by how many of these "emotionally walking wounded" (ordinarily perceptive, intelligent individuals) have become resigned to chronic anxiety or depression. Why the blind spot? Most of us haven't been educated about draining people or how to emancipate ourselves from their clutches, requisite social skills for everyone desiring freedom. Emotional draining is a touchy subject. We don't know how to tactfully address our needs without alienating others. The result: We get tongue-tied, or destructively passive. We ignore the SOS from our gut that screams, "Beware!" Or, quaking in our boots, we're so afraid of the faux pas of appearing "impolite" that we become martyrs in lieu of being respectfully assertive. We don't speak out because we don't want to be seen as "difficult" or uncaring.

Vampires do more than drain our physical energy. The super-malignant ones can make you believe you're an unworthy, unlovable wretch who doesn't deserve better. The subtler species inflict damage that's more of a slow burn. Smaller digs here and there can make you feel bad about yourself such as, "Dear, I see you've put on a few pounds" or "It's not lady-like to interrupt." In a flash, they've zapped you by prodding areas of shaky self-worth.

This is my credo for vampires: Their antics are unacceptable; you must develop a successful plan for coping with them. I deeply believe in the merciful message of "The Lord's Prayer" to "forgive people their trespasses," but I'm also a proponent of preventing the unconscious or mean-spirited from trespassing against us. Taking a stand against draining people is a form of self-care and canny communication that you must practice to give your freedom legs.

What turns someone into an emotional vampire? First, a psychological reason: children often reflexively mimic their parents' most unflattering traits. A self-absorbed father can turn you into a self-absorbed son. Early modeling has impact. Studies of Holocaust survivors reveal that many became abusive parents themselves. The second explanation involves subtle energy. I've observed that childhood trauma- mistreatment, loss, parental alcoholism, illness- can weaken a person's energy field. This energy leakage may condition those with such early wounds to draw on the vitality of others to compensate; it's not something most are aware of. Nevertheless, the effects can be extreme. Visualize an octopus-like tendril extending from their energy field and glomming onto yours. Your intuition may register this as sadness, anger, fatigue, or a cloying, squirrelly feeling. The degree of mood change or physical reaction may vary. A vampire's effects can stun like a sonic blast or make you slowly wilt. But it's the rare drainer that sets out to purposely enervate you. The majority act unconsciously, oblivious to being an emotional drain.

Let me tell you the secret of how a vampire operates so you can outsmart one. A vampire goes in for the kill by stirring up your emotions. Pushing your buttons throws you off center, which renders you easier to drain. Of all the emotional types, empaths are often the most devastated. However, certain emotional states increase everyone's vulnerability. I myself am most susceptible to emotional vampires when I feel desperate, tired, or disempowered. Here are some others:

* Low self-esteem.
* Depression.
* A victim mentality.
* Fear of asserting yourself.
* Addiction to people-pleasing.

When encountering emotional vampires, see what you can learn too. It's your choice. You can simply feel tortured, resentful, and impotent. Or, as I try to do, ask yourself, "How can this interchange help me grow?" Every nanosecond of life, good, bad, or indifferent, is a chance to become emotionally freer, enlarge the heart. If we're to have any hope of breaking war-mongering patterns, we must each play a part. As freedom fighters, strive to view vampires as opportunities to enlist your highest self and not be a sucker for negativity. Then you'll leave smelling like a rose, even with Major-League Draculas."
The above is an excerpt from the "Combating Emotional Vampires" on-line course. If you would like to take the entire course, click here:
"How To Frustrate A Vampire"
by cryominute

"Jung believed that the vampire image could be understood as an expression of what he termed the “shadow,” those aspects of the self that the conscious ego was unable to recognize. Some aspects of the shadow were positive. But usually the shadow contained repressed wishes, anti-social impulses, morally questionable motives, childish fantasies of a grandiose nature, and other traits felt to be shameful.

Defenses against emotional vampires:

• Develop healthy boundaries for yourself.
• Never give them personal information– respond to their questions with your own questions.
• Keep yourself focused upon your own positive creativity. “Idle hands are the vampires workshop.”
• Never engage with these people. Remain aloof.
• “Cut off their head”– since they live in their heads, having no heart connection, this is the source of their power. Example: Questioning their intelligence
• Stay conscious! These people are stopped in their tracks by the Light of Consciousness. Show them what they are. Respond that you are feeling drained by them.
• Go for the heart! Example: When you feel drained by a person, a class or a speaker, just get up and walk away. This is staying conscious."

"Is Virtual Collective Consciousness the Future?"

"Is Virtual Collective Consciousness the Future?"
by Yousri Marzouki

"Britlin Losee was a breakthrough for Whitacre's musical creative mind, not only through her dazzling admiration to the artist but most important through her deeply intimate and spontaneous endeavor. Her sensational YouTube video message is a load of emotional cues. This young girl inspired what is now referred to as Eric Whitacre's virtual choir. The hundreds of vocalists who responded to Whitacre's online appeal had to follow his "silent" directing gestures and provide their own tinge to the performance. Thus, the psychological phenomena underlying such amazing virtual collective action are worthy to be addressed. I hypothesized the following: in order to achieve this kind of performance, the vocalists must call upon something called by psychologists: the affective theory of mind (AToM). I have tried to provide in this article a brief psychological account of the virtual choir phenomenon through the lens of this recent concept.
The affective theory of mind in a nutshell: Imagine that you just started a serious conversation about a serious matter with a friend and 30 seconds later this friend looked at her/his watch without saying anything at all. At that particular moment, you'll find it really hard to not feel yourself boring, or to resist the temptation of changing the subject. These nonverbal cues helped you figure out others' perspectives regardless of any explicit discourse that can occur between you and other people. This capacity to infer others' intentions, desires, beliefs and many cognitive states of mind is called the theory of mind. The latter aims to anticipate (re)actions and to pull off a meaning from what appears to be a behavioral randomness in our environment. When it comes to the affect, this theory of mind becomes the AToM and will summon beyond cognitive mechanisms other psychological entity such as empathy.

In his book "Rediscovering Empathy", Stueber (2006) distinguished two basic forms of empathy: basic vs. reenactive empathy. The first corresponds to an inherent imitation mechanism that makes us spontaneously recognize the others as minded creatures and, for that matter, being similar to us. The second, which is way more effortful than the first, involves the use of our conscious cognitive capacities to imitate others' thoughts because we already know that they are able to think like us. Unlike basic empathy, reenactive empathy has an epistemic role as long as it allows us to acquire knowledge about other people. Many neuroscientists consider the mirror neuron system- that is active both when one person executes an action or observes this same action performed by another person- as the neural correlates of empathy.

Seen from this perspective, we can assume that Eric Whitacre solicited the individual reenactive empathy of each virtual vocalist. However, the resulting collective performance is what makes Whitacre's virtual choir another interesting example of a virtual collective behavior. Indeed, I have suggested with Oullier in a previous article a general framework that we called the Virtual Collective Consciousness (VCC) as an attempt to describe such online collective actions. Drafted on the Durkheimian idea of collective consciousness, the VCC refers to ideals and attitudes shared by various individuals belonging to the same cyberspace. Before reaching a momentum of complexity, each collective behavior starts by a spark that triggers a chain of events leading to a crystallized stance of a tremendous amount of interactions otherwise called an emergent global pattern. This spark was without a doubt Britlin Losee's video that stimulated Whitacre's reenactive empathy, then the artist did about the same with each virtual vocalist until the final cut of the choir revealed an amazing collective summation of all these individual empathies.

In one of his many interviews about the virtual choir, Eric Whitacre (2010) said: "It was all about connecting and about somehow connecting with all these people all over the world and these individuals alone together". In saying that, Whitacre as a visionary artist, joins the ideas of Watts (2007), a visionary social scientist who mentioned that: "Social phenomena involve the interactions of large (but still finite) numbers of heterogeneous entities, the behaviours of which unfold over time and manifest themselves on multiple scales." In fact, the big changes caused by the Web 2.0 mass communication tools were very successful in fostering new perceptions and promoting new standards of collective consciousness about our world. In this regard, the virtual choir can be remembered as a genuine example of a virtual collective empathy. It looks like we are witnessing a paradigm shift from the old Shakespearian credo about existence to an updated one that fits the bill for today's societies. This new credo can be simply stated as follows: "connected or not connected, that is the question".

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.”

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

The Economy: “Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged”

“Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged”
by Paul Buchheit

"1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs. According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor withayou via flickr

2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us. In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.

3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans. The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that’s $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places. Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.

4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession. After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes. U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They’ve passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers’ payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it’s 22 cents.

5. Just TEN Americans made a total of FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS in one year. That’s enough to pay the salaries of over a million nurses or teachers or emergency responders. That’s enough, according to 2008 estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN’s World Food Program, to feed the 870 million people in the world who are lacking sufficient food. For the free-market advocates who say “they’ve earned it”: Point #1 above makes it clear how the wealthy make their money.

6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit. Another stat that required a double-check. Based on research by the Tax Policy Center, tax deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes), which largely benefit the rich, are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion. Other sources have estimated that about two-thirds of the annual $850 billion in tax expenditures goes to the top quintile of taxpayers.

7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH. The Insight Center for Community Economic Development reported that median wealth for black and Hispanic women is a little over $100. That’s much less than one percent of the median wealth for single white women ($41,500). Other studies confirm the racially-charged economic inequality in our country. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.

8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has dropped significantly over the past 15 years, serving only about a quarter of the families in poverty, and paying less than $400 per month for a family of three for housing and other necessities. Ninety percent of the available benefits go to the elderly, the disabled, or working households. Food stamp recipients get $4.30 a day.

9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984. 21- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It’s now less than $4,000. That $4,000 has to pay for student loans that average $27,200. Or, if you’re still in school, for $12,700 in credit card debt. With an unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds of almost 50%, two out of every five recent college graduates are living with their parents. But your favorite company may be hiring. Apple, which makes a profit of $420,000 per employee, can pay you about $12 per hour.

10. The American public paid about FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to bail out the banks. That’s about the same amount of money made by America’s richest 10% in one year. But we all paid for the bailout. And because of it, we lost the opportunity for jobs, mortgage relief, and educational funding.

Bonus for the super-rich: A QUADRILLION DOLLARS in securities trading nets ZERO sales tax revenue for the U.S. The world derivatives market is estimated to be worth over a quadrillion dollars (a thousand trillion). At least $200 trillion of that is in the United States. In 2011 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported a trading volume of over $1 quadrillion on 3.4 billion annual contracts. A quadrillion dollars. A sales tax of ONE-TENTH OF A PENNY on a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit. But the total sales tax was ZERO.

It’s not surprising that the very rich would like to fudge the numbers, as they have the nation.”

Greg Hunter, “Weekly News Wrap-Up 11/23/12”

“Weekly News Wrap-Up 11/23/12”
Gaza-Israel Fighting, Fiscal Cliff and Debt Ceiling to Infinity
by Greg Hunter

"A cease-fire was announced earlier this week in the Gaza-Israeli conflict. Fighting lasted longer than a week and claimed the lives of 140 Palestinians. Israel counted five dead and more than a dozen wounded. It is not the “durable outcome” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seeking, but at least the bloodshed stopped. The only question is how long will it be before the shooting starts again. This is a cease-fire, not a peace accord. There was significant destruction on both sides as Hamas was firing hundreds rockets as far as 47 miles into Israel. The rockets are supplied by Iran and are getting more and more deadly and powerful. Likewise, the Israelis inflicted heavy damage through air strikes in Gaza. Hamas agreed to a cease-fire as Israel was getting ready to invade Gaza to stop the rocket attacks. Nothing has been settled. They just stopped shooting for a while. Egypt was instrumental in arranging the cease-fire. 

The conflict has wider Middle East implications for war. Hamas is supported by Iran, and, now, Egypt is also backing Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood took control of Egypt in the last election. Many, including the FBI, think the Muslim Brotherhood supports terrorism, although the U.S. does not list it as a terrorist group. Could Egypt now be drawn into a conflict with Israel?

We are still careening towards that so-called “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and mandatory spending cuts if a deal is not reached in Congress before the end of the year. Now, Speaker of the House John Boehner says even President Obama’s health care plan should be on the table for consideration. This is the President’s signature legislation of his first term. I find it hard to believe the President, fresh off a re-election victory, is going to do much dealing on this point. Everyone thinks a deal will be reached, but who knows. The U.S. is short on cash, long on debt, and there is no real fix in sight. We might get another can kick.

Speaking of debt, this week, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said we should raise the debt ceiling to infinity. A friend of mine texted me the news along with the phrase, “We are Doomed.” Maybe that’s why billionaire investor George Soros is, once again, buying gold. 

Finally, as of last weekend, 50 banks have gone under so far this year. I find it odd that this sort of bad news is not reported in the mainstream media. Those banks didn’t go under because they were all making too much money in a good economy. Join Greg Hunter as he gives his analysis on these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”

Musical Interlude: Jason Mraz, “I Won't Give Up”

Jason Mraz, “I Won't Give Up”

Musical Interlude: Dan Fogelberg, “Nether Lands”

Dan Fogelberg, “Nether Lands”

Musical Interlude: David Gates, “Suite, Clouds & Rain”

David Gates, “Suite, Clouds & Rain”

Friday, November 23, 2012

"A Look to the Heavens"

“The universe is filled with galaxies. But to see them astronomers must look out beyond the stars of our galaxy, the Milky Way. For example, consider this colorful telescopic view of spiral galaxy NGC 6384, about 80 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus. At that distance, NGC 6384 spans an estimated 150,000 light-years, but this close-up of the galaxy's central region is about 70,000 light-years wide. 
Click image for larger size.

The sharp image shows details in the distant galaxy's blue spiral arms and yellowish core. Still, the individual stars seen in the picture are all in the close foreground, well within our own galaxy. The brighter Milky Way stars show noticeable crosses, or diffraction spikes, caused by the telescope itself.”

Chet Raymo, “Is Consciousness Incomprehensible?”

“Is Consciousness Incomprehensible?”
by Chet Raymo

"There are reasonable arguments for the incomprehensibility of human consciousness, and some of them were given here the other day in Comments. Let me offer arguments for the contrary.

First, one very important feature of consciousness has already been comprehended. We can say with a high degree of confidence that there is no ghost in the machine, that consciousness is an emergent physio-chemical property of the material brain. Whether consciousness is deterministic or involves some measure of quantum uncertainty remains to be seen, but I find Roger Penrose's argument for quantum uncertainty unconvincing. For the moment, Ockham's Razor rules.

Second, we can study emergent consciousness by observing other organisms, from sea snails to chimpanzees. That is, in principle, we can build up an understanding of human consciousness incrementally. This assumes, of course, that human consciousness differs from that of other organisms only in complexity, not kind. Again, for the moment, the Razor rules.

Third, as I mentioned here once before, a project is underway to fully map the neuronal structure of the human brain, at which point it should be possible to construct an operational electronic analog of the brain. Will such machines be conscious? Google "artificial consciousness" and you'll find arguments for both sides. At the very least we will pare away some of the incomprehensibility.

Fourth, we may already have created a "conscious" machine: the internet, which approaches the human brain in its degree of interconnected complexity. It is continuously "aware," sensitive to millions of sensory inputs- touch, vision, hearing, smell, and for all I know even taste. I can ask a question in human language or tap an icon and instantly have a response from the internet's vast memory. The internet and its myriad of input/output devices mimic enough of the aspects of human consciousness for us to be increasingly confident that consciousness is not intrinsically beyond in principle understanding.

And isn't in principle understanding all we ask of science?"

The Daily "Near You?"

Homestead, Florida, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Robert Lanza, MD, "Does Death Exist? Life Is Forever, Says Theory"

"Does Death Exist? Life Is Forever, Says Theory"
by Robert Lanza, MD

"In the cartoon, Bugs Bunny swallows nitroglycerine and gunpowder, and springs back to life even when he gets flattened by a boulder. But it's not just Bugs. Experiments suggest that life can't be destroyed either. The 'many-worlds' interpretation of quantum physics states that there are an infinite number of universes (the 'multiverse'). Everything that can possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death doesn't exist in any real sense in these scenarios since all of them exist simultaneously regardless of what happens in any of them. The 'Who am I?' feeling is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn't go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can't be created or destroyed.

Scientists think they can say where life begins and ends. We generally reject the multiple universes of Star Trek as fiction, but it turns out there is more than a morsel of scientific truth in this popular genre. According to Biocentrism, space and time aren't the hard objects we think, but rather tools our mind uses to put everything together. When bodies die, they do so not in the random billiard-ball matrix but in the inescapable-life matrix.

Consider all the days that have passed since the beginning of time. Now stack them like chairs, and seat yourself on the very top. Isn't it amazing that you just happen to be here now, perched seemingly by chance on the cutting edge of infinity? Science claims it's a big accident, a one-in-a-gazillion chance. But the mathematical possibility of being on top of infinity - of your consciousness ending - is zero.

Imagine existence like a recording. Depending on where the needle is placed you hear a certain song. This is the present; the music, before and after is the past and future. Likewise, every moment endures always. All songs exist simultaneously, although we only experience them piece by piece.

Why are the laws of nature exactly balanced for life to exist? There are over 200 parameters in the universe so exact that it strains credulity to propose they are random. These fundamental constants (like gravity) all seem to be carefully chosen, often with great precision, to allow for existence of life. Tweak any of them and you never existed. Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg agrees this fine-tuning is "far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident." Consider, too, everything else that had to happen for us to be here. There are trillions of events, such as the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs - what if its trajectory had been slightly different? The odds are astronomically against everything happening exactly right. Is it just dumb luck?

Being here is no accident. Perhaps Biocentrism is right - the past is simply the spatio-temporal logic of the observer. If the present determines the past as Stephen Hawking and others suggest, then it couldn't be any other way. In fact, scientists recently published a landmark experiment in Science showing that flipping a switch could retroactively change an event that had already happened in the past.

When I bought my house it was run down. My friend Dennis helped me fix it. He's one of nine children who grew up in a housing project and became a firefighter. When a car went through the ice on the pond, he dove in and pulled a man out of the submerged car. A few years ago he cut a limb off a tall tree. "We're supposed to be having fun," I said. "I don't want to spend the night in the emergency room." We laughed. A few seconds later the massive branch started to swing and bashed into his head like a ramming-rod. "Dennis!" I yelled as he tumbled through the air. But the only response was a terrifying thump when his body hit the ground.

There my best friend was draped over the branch like a rag doll. He had no pulse and wasn't breathing. He was air-lifted to the hospital. While the alarms were going off on Dennis' monitors, a nurse called the ICU and pleaded, "We have more LifeFlights on the way and can't handle him here." The problem was they couldn't get housekeeping to change the sheets on the empty ICU bed. Dennis laid in the corner teetering on the edge of life and death. When I told his family the doctors didn't know if he was going to make it, his 13-year-old son started to sob. It all seemed surreal. As when my sister died, I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments showing a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I knew Dennis was both alive and dead, outside of time.

When you lose a loved one, you can't imagine a happy ending. But consider: you and I, indeed the entire human species could have been wiped out like the Neanderthals a hundred times over. Whether it's flipping the switch in the Science experiment or falling out a tree, it's the 20-watts of energy that will experience the result in the multiverse. But by definition, you can't experience nonexistence (you'll always seem to be alive, now, on top of time).

After Bugs gets blown up, there's a moment when you think he's dead. But the show always continues. Likewise, according to Biocentrism, consciousness can't be extinguished in a timeless, spaceless world. That's why you're here despite the preposterous odds against it. Bottom line: you may get flattened now and then, but life can't be stamped out. Last year, Dennis' son scored a touchdown at the football game. Dennis and the other parents went wild. Remember, the silly rabbit never dies."
Robert Lanza, MD is author of over two dozen scientific books, including "Biocentrism,"
a new book that lays out his theory of everything.