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Offline Surly1

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Fukushima Residents Return Despite Radiation
« Reply #3630 on: January 17, 2019, 06:14:39 AM »
Fukushima Residents Return Despite Radiation
Eight years after the nuclear meltdown, wary citizens are moving back to contaminated homesteads—some not by choice



Hiroshi Ueki moved far from the damaged Fukushima power plant and vowed to never return. He now grows grapes in a different region of Japan. Credit: Jane Braxton Little


Hiroshi Ueki moved far from the damaged Fukushima power plant and vowed to never return. He now grows grapes in a different region of Japan. Credit: Jane Braxton Little

When the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began spewing radioactive particles after it was clobbered by a tsunami in March 2011Kaori Sakuma fled. She bundled her infant and toddler into a car and left her husband and family in Koriyama, 44 miles west of the ruptured facility. “The truth is, I ran away,” she says. Confronting gas shortages and snarled roads, she transported her children 560 miles away to Hokkaido, about as far as she could get.

Radiation from the fuming plant spread over tile-roofed towns and rice paddies across an area the size of Connecticut. The meltdown 150 miles north of Tokyo drove more than 200,000 people out of the region. Most believed they were fleeing for their lives. Now, almost eight years after the accident, the government has lifted most evacuation orders. Nearly 122,000 people have been allowed to return to communities where weeds have overtaken parking lots. Most are elderly, relieved to be resuming their lives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is determined to end all evacuations by 2020, when Japan will host the Olympic Summer Games. The events will include baseball and softball competitions in Fukushima City, a mere 55 miles from the ruined reactors.

Around 35,000 other citizens still wait to return, but they and many others throughout northeastern Japan worry all of this is too soon. Radiation, which is generally linked to cancer, in some places continues to measure at least 5 millisieverts (mSv) a year beyond natural background radiation, five times the added level Japan had recommended for the general public prior to the incident. In certain spots radioactivity is as high as 20 mSv, the maximum exposure recommended by international safety experts for nuclear power workers.

In its haste to address the emergency, two months after the accident the Japanese government raised the allowable exposure from 1 mSv annually, an international benchmark, to 20 mSv. Evacuees now fear Abe’s determination to put the Daiichi accident behind the nation is jeopardizing public health, especially among children, who are more susceptible. Lifting most evacuations has also ended subsidies for evacuees, forcing many to return despite lingering questions.

Kaori Sakuma, from Koriyama, evacuated her two young sons more than 500 miles from the Fukushima accident. She reluctantly brought them back after the government raised the allowable radiation limits for communities, but she does not trust the government's radiation readings. Credit: Jane Braxton Little

As more people inside and outside the country absorb the radiation data, Japanese officials are confronting a collapse of public confidence. Before the accident residents in Japan (and the U.S.) were living with background radiation that averaged 3.1 mSv a year,most of it emanating naturally from the ground and space. In Japan and the U.S. many residents experience an additional 3.1 mSv annually, due mostly to medical testing. But the anxiety of Fukushima residents facing even higher levels is palpable. If the government is going to fully restore lives and livelihoods, it needs to regain their trust, says nuclear engineer Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor at Nagasaki University and former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. That, he says, should include respecting international safety standards for radiation and lowering the allowable level at least to 5 mSv, although he acknowledges “even 5 mSv is too high for children.”

RUNNING AWAY FROM RADIOACTIVITY

The tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 offshore Tohoku earthquake slammed a 40-foot wall of seawater onto Japan’s northeastern coast. The whole event killed more than 15,000 people. The water surge at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Daiichi plant led to meltdowns at three reactors.

Government officials ordered evacuations in areas called “difficult to return” zones, where radiation was above 50 mSv, enough to cause skin cancer. They quickly added areas between 20 and 50 mSv, then those below 20 mSv. Evacuations continued for months as Japan struggled to find housing for a large population exposed to radioactive iodine 131, cesium 134 and cesium 137. In May 2012 officials reported relocating 164,865 people. Another 26,600 people living outside the evacuation zones left voluntarily, according to Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based organization opposed to the nuclear industry.

The evacuations did not go well. Evacuees, many elderly and frail, were moved repeatedly without any plans in place, says Jan Beyea, a physicist with Consulting in the Public Interest who worked on a 2014 U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report about the accident. Disrupted medical care and the trauma of moving were fatal to nearly 2,000 people, according to the World Nuclear Association. Many of those who survived reportedly suffer from alcoholism and clinical depression.

As radiation levels declined, the government began allowing evacuees home—one town at a time. By May 2013, coastal communities such as Minamisoma, 25 miles north of Daiichi, were reopening ramen shops, and trains resumed their scheduled runs despite a dearth of customers.

Shuzo Sasaki, 56, was one of the first evacuees to return to neighboring Odaka, a quiet seaside village. The long-time employee of Fukushima Prefecture (prefectures are equivalent to states) directs Real Fukushima, a government-sponsored organization providing tours as communities rebuild. In Odaka, where radiation plumes streamed overhead but dropped relatively few radioactive atoms on the ground, levels have stabilized at 1.26 mSv per year, well within the safe range. Today a few rice paddies are productive, with round bales of rice straw drying in the sun. Most, however, are vacant. The market for Fukushima rice is poor, even from farms where contaminated soil has been removed. Some paddies sport solar panels. Many are no longer farmed, instead covered with some of the 16 million bags of contaminated soil removed from other sites.

Less than a quarter of Odaka’s 12,800 residentshave returned. Most are over 60, says Sasaki, who wears a starched white shirt and dark blue suit. Some people have found new lives elsewhere; many are afraid to return. “Young people with families—they don’t believe the government radiation measurements,” he says.

Concern about children is one of the most controversial issues. When officials raised the allowable level of radiation to 20 mSv, including in schools, it was under the guise of giving people a measure of normalcy. But the May 2011decision became a flash point for opponents of the government’s handling of the accident. They were furious children would be subjected to the maximum radiation allowed for nuclear workers, spending day after day in buildings that increased their cancer risk to one in 200 people.

Sakuma was one of those who returned to Koriyama, from her outpost in Hokkaido. She did not want her young children to touch contaminated soil or water along their walk to school, so she carried them both on her small back. “We all want our kids to play in the dirt and pick flowers but I was afraid. We all were,” says Sakuma, now 46.

Bags of radioactive soil, scraped from certain rice farms, are stored on other farmland. Credit: Jane Braxton Little

LACK OF PUBLIC TRUST

In the year after the accident Koriyama was one of 12 communities where the ongoing radiation rate measured between 3 and 5 mSv above background, but the town had not been evacuated. Today’s levels have stabilized at 1.5 mSv, but doubts remain. Skeptical of the government’s readings, Shigeru Otake, 49, takes his own. A slim man who wears a Dollar Store rope belt to give him “strength like a samurai,” he says he has measured radiation spikes at 15 mSv in Koriyama, where his family has lived for generations. Sakuma walks her sons, now eight and 10 years old, to school past a government monitoring post that she claims reads six times lower than her own dosimeter does.

Misgivings about government assurances of safety drove Hiroshi Ueki, 48, to move his family to Nagano Prefecture, where he is now growing “the best grapes in the world.” His parents stayed behind in Fukushima Prefecture. Ueki says he will never move back. “The prime minister says the accident is over but I won’t ever feel safe until the Daiichi plant itself is finally shut down. That will take 100 years.”

In spite of these concerns, Japan has continued to showcase repatriation as a barometer of progress toward recovery. By April 2017, the government had lifted all evacuations except for the most contaminated places closest to Daiichi. That decision also ended rent-free housing provided to people who were forced to leave as well as to some 26,600 people like Ueki who vacated voluntarily. Left without the $10,000 monthly subsidy provided by Tokyo Electric Company, some people have been forced to return home despite their safety concerns. They have no other economic options, says Hajime Matsukubo, general manager of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. Some 16,000 people who refuse to return have been financially abandoned, according to the center.

It is unclear if such fear is justified. The danger to people chronically exposed to low levels of radiation is the subject of ongoing scientific debate. “It’s not a bright line where we can say this dose rate is going to kill you,” says Kathryn Higley, a nuclear science professor at Oregon State University.

Scientists generally agree on a few basics: The risks of getting leukemia or other cancers are higher for children than adults, and the risks for everyone increase significantly with exposure above 100 mSv annually. Various national agencies have set 20 mSv per year as a maximum for occupational exposure. Public exposure should be no more than 1 mSv per year above background levels, according to the International Commission for Radiological Protection. That raises questions about Japan’s 2011 emergency declaration of 20 mSv per year as the allowable exposure. Five years after the 1986 explosions at Chernobyl, Ukrainian officials lowered the allowable level to 5 mSv per year. Japanese officials note there have been no reported deaths from radiation exposure.

The public perception is that the Daiichi nuclear accident continues to pose health risks and, significantly, nuclear power is not safe. More than 80 percent of the Japanese public wants to phase it out, according to an October 2018 study by Suzuki, the former Japan Atomic Energy commissioner. He calls the erosion of public trust “the most unfortunate impact of the accident.”

Sakuma, the Koriyama mother, is using the Daiichi accident as a lesson in radical civic involvement. She intends to keep her sons in Koriyama despite radiation concerns. “I want them to grow up here so they can learn what the government does. I want them to tell other people about how it is to live with radiation,” she says. “This accident is not over.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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If America Stopped Destroying the World, the Bad Guys Might Win
« Reply #3631 on: January 17, 2019, 06:27:57 AM »
If America Stopped Destroying the World, the Bad Guys Might Win

Secretary of State Mike Pompeotold reporters on Saturday that the government under Venezuela’s recently re-inaugurated president Nicolas Maduro is “illegitimate”, and that “the United States will work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country.”

Pompeo’s remarks, which were echoed by Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, are interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is because Venezuela’s presidential election in May of last year (which incidentally was found to have been perfectly legitimate by the international Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America) was actively and aggressively meddled in by the US and its allies. The second is that while the US government is openly broadcasting its intention to keep interfering in Venezuela’s political system, it continues to scream bloody murder about alleged Russian interference in its own democratic process two years ago.

What is the difference between the behavior of the United States, which remains far and away the single worst offender in foreign election meddling on the planet, and what Russia is accused of having done in 2016? According to a comment made by former CIA Director James Woolsey last year, it’s that the US interferes in foreign democracies “for a very good cause.”

And that’s really the only argument that empire loyalists have going for them on this subject. The US is different because the US has moral authority. It’s okay for the US to continue to interfere in the political affairs of foreign nations while it would be an unforgivable and outrageous “act of war” for a nation like Russia to do the exact same thing, because the US is countering the interests of the Bad Guys while Russia is countering the interests of the Good Guys. Who decided who the Good Guys and Bad Guys are in this argument? The US.

This “What we do is good because we’re the Good Guys” faith-based doctrine was regurgitated with full-throated zealotry in a recent speech given by Pompeo in Cairo, in which he cited “America’s innate goodness” in making the absolutely ridiculous claim that “America is a force for good in the Middle East” which has been “absent too much” from the region previously. America’s nonstop deadly interventionism in the Middle East is “good”, because America is “innately good”.

America’s constant military interventionism, election interference and other nastiness are painted as Good Things done by Good Guys to fight the Bad Guys. The argument, when you boil it right down, is that if America wasn’t constantly starting wars, invading sovereign nations, staging coups, sponsoring proxy conflicts, arming terrorists, bombing civilians, torturing people, implementing starvation sanctions on impoverished populations, pointing nuclear weapons everywhere, spying on us all with a globe-spanning Orwellian surveillance network, interfering in foreign elections, and patrolling the skies with flying death robots, the Bad Guys might win.

Sort of makes you wonder who the Bad Guys really are, huh?

The theme of Good Guys fighting Bad Guys resonates with a population that has been raised for generations on Hollywood films featuring a handsome action hero emerging victorious after a ninety-minute struggle and karate kicking an ugly villain off a cliff before kissing the pretty girl, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the reality we actually live in. Our world is dominated by extremely powerful people who are motivated not out of interest in good or evil but a drive toward power and profit which is completely disinterested in morality of any kind, and the empires they build for themselves have their foundations on the backs of ordinary people who are just trying to get by. The majority of those extremely powerful people either live in the United States or have formed alliances with US power structures, and all their agendas in Asia, South America, the Middle East and elsewhere have nothing to do with “protecting democracy” or being a “force of good”, and everything to do with amassing more power.

Even among those who recognize that the US-centralized empire isn’t a shining beacon of virtue in our world, the notion remains prevalent that if American power ceases to be a unipolar dominator then someone worse will take over the world. This fear-based mindset ultimately underlies all establishment manipulation and all educated support for it: the idea that someone needs to rule and dominate the world to prevent someone else from doing the same. But what are the fruits of this mindset? A corporatist Orwellian dystopia hurtling toward climate collapse if nuclear war doesn’t kill us all first.

We can’t keep doing this. We literally can’t; we’ll evolve beyond this fear-based dominator paradigm or we’ll all perish beneath its feet very soon. We are now in a position where our irrational fear of being invaded by China has pushed us to the brink of extinction, so it isn’t even a gamble to step off that train and try something else instead.

It is entirely possible that the US is capable of functioning like a normal nation and simply defending its own shores and sustaining itself without interfering in world affairs. It is entirely possible that the threat everyone imagines of some foreign power stepping in as the unipolar dominator should America vacate that role is the product of fearful imaginings with no bearing on reality and a fundamental misunderstanding of humanity. It is entirely possible that we are capable of creating a world where nobody dominates anybody, and no iron-fisted world leader of any kind is needed. Either way, the train we’re on is headed for a brick wall, so we’ve now got nothing to lose by stepping off.


Read this then ask yourself, who's going to volunteer to fight the next war? Trump's 28 per cent? Because you know they will foment it rather than take their foot off the accelerator.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

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Re: If America Stopped Destroying the World, the Bad Guys Might Win
« Reply #3632 on: January 17, 2019, 08:40:24 AM »
If America Stopped Destroying the World, the Bad Guys Might Win

Secretary of State Mike Pompeotold reporters on Saturday that the government under Venezuela’s recently re-inaugurated president Nicolas Maduro is “illegitimate”, and that “the United States will work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country.”

Pompeo’s remarks, which were echoed by Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, are interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is because Venezuela’s presidential election in May of last year (which incidentally was found to have been perfectly legitimate by the international Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America) was actively and aggressively meddled in by the US and its allies. The second is that while the US government is openly broadcasting its intention to keep interfering in Venezuela’s political system, it continues to scream bloody murder about alleged Russian interference in its own democratic process two years ago.

What is the difference between the behavior of the United States, which remains far and away the single worst offender in foreign election meddling on the planet, and what Russia is accused of having done in 2016? According to a comment made by former CIA Director James Woolsey last year, it’s that the US interferes in foreign democracies “for a very good cause.”

And that’s really the only argument that empire loyalists have going for them on this subject. The US is different because the US has moral authority. It’s okay for the US to continue to interfere in the political affairs of foreign nations while it would be an unforgivable and outrageous “act of war” for a nation like Russia to do the exact same thing, because the US is countering the interests of the Bad Guys while Russia is countering the interests of the Good Guys. Who decided who the Good Guys and Bad Guys are in this argument? The US.

This “What we do is good because we’re the Good Guys” faith-based doctrine was regurgitated with full-throated zealotry in a recent speech given by Pompeo in Cairo, in which he cited “America’s innate goodness” in making the absolutely ridiculous claim that “America is a force for good in the Middle East” which has been “absent too much” from the region previously. America’s nonstop deadly interventionism in the Middle East is “good”, because America is “innately good”.

America’s constant military interventionism, election interference and other nastiness are painted as Good Things done by Good Guys to fight the Bad Guys. The argument, when you boil it right down, is that if America wasn’t constantly starting wars, invading sovereign nations, staging coups, sponsoring proxy conflicts, arming terrorists, bombing civilians, torturing people, implementing starvation sanctions on impoverished populations, pointing nuclear weapons everywhere, spying on us all with a globe-spanning Orwellian surveillance network, interfering in foreign elections, and patrolling the skies with flying death robots, the Bad Guys might win.

Sort of makes you wonder who the Bad Guys really are, huh?

The theme of Good Guys fighting Bad Guys resonates with a population that has been raised for generations on Hollywood films featuring a handsome action hero emerging victorious after a ninety-minute struggle and karate kicking an ugly villain off a cliff before kissing the pretty girl, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the reality we actually live in. Our world is dominated by extremely powerful people who are motivated not out of interest in good or evil but a drive toward power and profit which is completely disinterested in morality of any kind, and the empires they build for themselves have their foundations on the backs of ordinary people who are just trying to get by. The majority of those extremely powerful people either live in the United States or have formed alliances with US power structures, and all their agendas in Asia, South America, the Middle East and elsewhere have nothing to do with “protecting democracy” or being a “force of good”, and everything to do with amassing more power.

Even among those who recognize that the US-centralized empire isn’t a shining beacon of virtue in our world, the notion remains prevalent that if American power ceases to be a unipolar dominator then someone worse will take over the world. This fear-based mindset ultimately underlies all establishment manipulation and all educated support for it: the idea that someone needs to rule and dominate the world to prevent someone else from doing the same. But what are the fruits of this mindset? A corporatist Orwellian dystopia hurtling toward climate collapse if nuclear war doesn’t kill us all first.

We can’t keep doing this. We literally can’t; we’ll evolve beyond this fear-based dominator paradigm or we’ll all perish beneath its feet very soon. We are now in a position where our irrational fear of being invaded by China has pushed us to the brink of extinction, so it isn’t even a gamble to step off that train and try something else instead.

It is entirely possible that the US is capable of functioning like a normal nation and simply defending its own shores and sustaining itself without interfering in world affairs. It is entirely possible that the threat everyone imagines of some foreign power stepping in as the unipolar dominator should America vacate that role is the product of fearful imaginings with no bearing on reality and a fundamental misunderstanding of humanity. It is entirely possible that we are capable of creating a world where nobody dominates anybody, and no iron-fisted world leader of any kind is needed. Either way, the train we’re on is headed for a brick wall, so we’ve now got nothing to lose by stepping off.


Read this then ask yourself, who's going to volunteer to fight the next war? Trump's 28 per cent? Because you know they will foment it rather than take their foot off the accelerator.

Truth is the first casualty of war, even economic wars, which is the real story. The old tired lie about the US promoting global democracy..who does that fool? Apparently some people. Idiots believe anything they're told. I use that shibboleth to identify neo-liberlism in action. It helps me keep up with which liars are currently making policy.

This is another piece by the Canadian, JC Collins. It's addressing Syria, but the real narrative (as opposed to the Big Lies) is the same. This guy gets it way better than these journalists.




The Great War for Eurasia

September 1, 2018Economics, FREEPOM, Geopolitical10 Comments

Originally published on April 9, 2017.

Nothing you have been told is true.

The 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles which President Trump fired at Syria on April 6, 2017, has left most supporters either surprised or confused. In some cases both. The rampant propaganda which has bookended this event is even more unbelievable than that which accompanied the media onslaught in the lead up to the Iraq invasion of 2003.

The emotional illogic contagion which spreads when we are fighting “for the children” is the most effective of the propaganda tactics. It taps into our deepest and most human characteristic. The need to protect our children and those who are innocent is something which no one could argue with, lest they are labeled a monster.

The alleged sarin gas attack on the Syrian people by President Bashar al-Assad fits this profile and brings back memories of Iraqi soldiers taking Kuwait babies out of incubators and throwing them on the floor. These fabricated events manufacture the required support to rally mass populations behind a cause and war which they otherwise may not agree with. Humans are emotion based and can be conditioned with relative ease on most issues.

The complex nature of world events and challenges would require intense explanations and a broad knowledge base to understand. This is not to suggest that people do not deserve the truth and that a high percentage of the population could not comprehend and manage a working understanding of how the world functions. It simply acknowledges the factual data of the intelligence bell curve within demographics and the disproportionate ability of people to process and transfer information and knowledge with any consistent level of accuracy.

The truths around the developing events in Syria are about so much more than sarin gas and innocent children. The gas attack itself is in serious question as Assad had zero motive to commit such an attack. Previous accusations of Assad gassing his own people turned out to be fabrications and propaganda, or the acts of the Western-supported rebels and terrorist organizations operating in the country for the purpose of removing Russian ally Assad from power.

That is the real truth which is spoken of in rushed speech and is seldom focused on. But what is the reason for wanting to remove Assad? This is where the propaganda loops back around and the scripting states that Assad is another evil leader who murders his own people and needs to be taken out. But this is far from the truth.

Further understanding of this developing war will require a deeper comprehension of the economics and geopolitics which are functioning behind the headlines.

First, Syria has the misfortune of being geographically located on the hinge point we call the Middle East. This hinge exists as a bridge between Europe and Asia, with Central Asia filling out the remaining land area. Together all belong to the Eurasian continent.

Some basic facts about Eurasia draw quick to focus on the importance of the region. It has 70% of the world's population. It holds 75% of the worlds energy resources. It produces 70% of the worlds gross domestic product. These metrics are important contributors to what is unfolding on the world stage.

The Anglo-American establishment has dominated the world for subsequent centuries. This has been possible predominantly through the broad use of national currencies on the international level.

First, there was the British pound which was used across a large percentage of the world. The East India Trading Company was one of the major commerce platforms which supported and encouraged the use of the pound through Asia and elsewhere. Between the two world wars, the American dollar incrementally replaced the British pound as the accepted and primary international reserve currency used to balance global trade.

This transition from the pound to the dollar was made official at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944 as the allied nations, along with China, agreed to use the USD as the international reserve asset. The history of the dollar since then spans across decades of American exportation of culture and monetary inflation.

Nations were forced into acquiring vast amounts of USD denominated assets in their foreign exchange reserve accounts in order to balance their trade with the rest of the world. This dollar demand caused extreme imbalances in the international monetary system as other countries had to manage exchange rate arrangements with the dollar which forced them to devalue their own domestic currencies in order to continue accumulating USD.

The emerging markets in Central Asia and Asia were hard hit with these imbalances but did manage to capitalize on the companies which were now leaving America to set up shop in other nations. The imbalance in currency valuations had a profound effect on the cost of American exports. Other nations who were devaluing their currency to maintain the dollar system could no longer afford to purchase American imports as the costs were too high. This forced an ever-increasing amount of US manufacturers to flee to the emerging nations where labor was cheaper and their products could be exported at rates that would turn hefty profits.

It was inevitable that the dollar supply would expand to such a large extent that the basic principles of supply and demand would take hold. Though the demand was there, the supply was growing faster and faster with each passing year. It got to the point where some nations, such as France under President de Gaulle, were openly discussing the ability of the US monetary authorities to continue maintaining the peg to gold which had been established during the Bretton Woods agreement. This was when President Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 and the rate of dollar inflation increased dramatically.

It was during this phase of the international dollars timeline that the United States made agreements with energy-producing nations to ensure that all energy sales were completed using the dollar. The creation of OPEC and the American relationship with Saudi Arabia strengthened at this point and continued into the modern era. The terrorism and modern problems in the Middle East developed throughout this phase and have escalated into the problems we are experiencing now.

The role of the dollar in the international monetary system, and the dependence it created with other nations gave America, and to a larger extent - the Anglo-American Establishment, disproportionate power, and influence. This unipolar American world was one where economic sanctions could be placed on disagreeable nations without a moment's hesitation. The expansion of the dollar supply afforded the US the ability to grow its military to the largest in the world, which served to give it even more power and influence.

The economic and geopolitical importance of Eurasia continued to grow during this time period of dollar dominance. The deepening imbalances began to manifest as major financial and economic challenges. One of the first was the Asian Currency Crisis of 1997 and 1998. The problems continued to grow further and eventually brought the world to the brink of the financial crisis of 2008. It was from that period that the emerging nations of Eurasia began to openly discuss restructuring the international monetary system to more accurately reflect the economic realities.

The job losses in American continued to escalate and the only option was to find a way for the USD to devalue and become more aligned with the currencies of its largest trading partners. But how to devalue the dollar when so many nations held so much of it in their foreign exchange reserve accounts? This was the big challenge which needed to be addressed.
Outside of economics, the United States had much bigger problems. Its ability to manipulate and control the world through the role and use of the dollar would be seriously reduced under any multi-currency framework which would develop and be implemented for the purpose of correcting the imbalances.

Considering the large presence of Eurasia, the United States would need to develop a different strategy to maintain power and influence on the world stage. With Eurasia having 70% of the world's population, 75% of all energy resources, and 70% of GDP, America would be left with marginal access to resources and limited ability to manage dollar liquidity and maintain access to capital markets.

Based on this understanding of world events we can observe that the Anglo-American establishment has been developing a strategy for decades to address the challenges which are coming. This strategy has taken the form of the Nato buildup on Russia’s border and the Western-backed coup which ousted the democratically elected President in Ukraine.

This is important as Russia has aligned its economic and geopolitical goals with China and the development of the New Silk Road which is meant to harness the resources and natural trade routes within Eurasia. A Eurasian Union would dominate the world through its sheer size and percentage of the world’s population, resources, and GDP. This amounts to a clear and present danger to the Anglo-American establishment.

Explaining all of the above on the nightly news would be impossible, which is why the growing influence of alternative sources of information is becoming more important. People are beginning to understand that the simplified script we are presented is misleading and leaves out much of the truth. But how do you emotionally process scenes of children being gassed as propaganda if you don’t have a working understanding of just what is, in fact, taking place behind the headlines?

Even with the endless alternative sources so many misinterpret the facts and are unable to process and transfer information and knowledge with any consistent level of accuracy, as stated at the beginning of this article. There are numerous reasons for this.

First and foremost. we are given little factual information from which we can form opinions and present a working thesis on world events. The small amount of real information which does come forth is so scarce and scattered that the pieces are tossed about and some obvious connections are missed. At times the truth is so obvious and in our faces that we cannot see it.

These truths are not hidden for the most part. They are just not openly discussed. Most researchers and reporters could find the pieces with some effort and strategic sleuthing. But it would appear to be easier to just reduce all truths down into simplified talking points which reach us on the emotional level where the mass populations can be manipulated and conditioned to go along with what those in the know feel is best for our civilization.

The Anglo-American strategy in Eurasia is broad and complex. It stretches from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and over to the Koreas and the South China Sea. The access to resources and trade routes is the ultimate objective. Left with only 30% of the world's population, 25% of energy resources, and 30% of world GDP, those in the West, and the remaining allies around the world are in a challenging position.

Preventing the formation of a Eurasian Union alongside a waning USD influence is a balancing act which could potentially have severe consequences.

Which brings us back to Syria and Bashar al-Assad.

Europe, which contrary to what you were taught in school is not a continent but a peninsula on the Eurasian continent is dependent upon Russia and the larger continent for a supply of natural gas. In the new multi-currency and multilateral world which is emerging those who control the natural gas route into Europe will have a large influence over the European nations.

These nations have been traditional allies and partners with the Anglo-American establishment. The relationships which have been built over centuries are now threatened. This, more than any other reason, is why the BREXIT vote happened. Pending the failure of the larger Anglo-American strategy to control a percentage of the Eurasian game and the natural gas trade routes into Europe, the Anglo part of Anglo-American needed an exit strategy so it could stay aligned with its natural partner America.

The Russian natural gas routes into Europe were put into disarray with the problems in Ukraine. Putin has been making deals all around to develop alternative methods of pumping natural gas into Europe. Other possible routes include a pipeline deal with Turkey which would bypass Ukraine and send natural gas underneath the Black Sea and through Turkey up into Europe.

The other pipeline in development is the Iran-Iraq-Syria line which would run through all three of those nations, across the Mediterranean, and up into Europe. It is this pipeline which is the contributing factor in the Wests demands to have Russian-allied Bashar al-Assad removed from power and replaced with a leader aligned with the Anglo-American establishment.

There is another alternative line which starts in Qatar, runs through Saudi Arabia and Jordan, before smacking into the same problem with Syria as the Iranian line.

Now let's consider a short timeline of events to give some perspective to what we are discussing.

On Friday, March 31, 2017, the American administration made multiple statements about the removal from power of Bashar al-Assad as no longer being a priority or demand from the West. This was heralded by Russia and Trump supporters as being a positive move towards peace and Trump living up to his campaign promises.

On Monday, April 3, 2017, the Energy Ministers from the nations of Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy formally agreed to work together on a 2000 km natural gas pipeline which would originate in the huge off-shore Israel gas fields which were recently discovered. This field contains over 900 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas. The line is estimated to cost 6 billion euros and would not be complete until sometime between 2020 and 2025.

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the alleged sarin gas attack took place. The Anglo-American establishment was quick to make the conclusion that Assad attacked and murdered his own people. This conclusion was made without any investigation or proof provided to other nations or the UN.

On Thursday, April 6, 2017, Trump ordered the 59 Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Syria. It is being reported in Russian media that this strike was coordinated with a rebel attack on Syrian forces. These rebels consisted of mercenaries and terrorist groups, such as ISIS and al-Nusra, all of whom are being supported by the Anglo-American establishment in order to achieve their objective of removing Assad and replacing him with one of their own.

The confusion comes in when we consider that Trump ran on a campaign platform of not getting involved in Middle Eastern wars and promised to take out ISIS. Both of these promises were contradictory in nature because how would you take out ISIS without getting involved in another war in the Middle East. Not to mention that ISIS is a creation of the West, to begin with.

The domestic platform of Trump is fully aligned with the larger international monetary changes which are taking place. These changes will cause a fundamental shift in American culture and economics, as the dollar devalues and exports increase. This is the job creation Trump promised.

Though it appears he has strayed from his promises on Syria and the Middle East, he should do good if he keeps his domestic promises. It is probable that upon taking office the task of achieving the domestic goal of making America great again was met with the larger challenges of ensuring that America had access to trade routes and maintained viable trading partners and markets for those new exports.

It could even be considered conclusive that President Trump realized if he didn’t get involved in the Middle East and take out Assad, which would break that specific campaign promise, he would not be able to deliver on his domestic promises. Break one promise so he wouldn’t fail at both.

Very few men can escape the art of compromise.

In a larger context, there remains the threat of North Korea, which has provided America with a convenient excuse to maintain a military presence in the South. Whatever the outcome of this situation we can expect that America will keep some form of presence and influence over the region.

If North Korea remains as is America will as well. If the North has to be taken out the vacuum will be filled with a western friendly leadership or it will be reunited with the South, serving the same purpose.

The risk with this, as in the South China Sea, is that China will implement its own strategy and move to take control of North Korea before it falls into American hands. The spillover across the region will be frightening as both superpowers position for a long drawn out semi-cold war where clear trade lines are drawn.

Everywhere there is geopolitical tension and the threat of war involving the Anglo-American establishment is an area surrounding Eurasia. The Anglo-American establishment has spent decades quietly encircling the continent and preparing for a time when it would have to go to war to ensure that the Western quality of life would remain. No doubt the banking and corporate interests themselves in the West have a huge stack in this and perhaps the mass populations are just caught up in the windstorm.

But we are now entering the phase of the worlds multilateral transformation where a heightened state of war readiness is taking hold. Where we go from this point will depend on the willingness of those involved to maintain peace and work together on the deals and agreements which will pave the road of tomorrow.

There is no doubt that the Anglo-America establishment has positioned themselves well for this negotiation and potential conflict. There is still the risk and expectation that the international banking interests are more aligned with the objectives of Russia and China. This would suggest that the Anglo-American establishment may be forced to make more concessions than they are prepared too. The alternative would be war with 70% of the world.

That is a battle which no one would win. - JC

https://philosophyofmetrics.com/the-great-war-for-eurasia/
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3633 on: January 17, 2019, 12:17:29 PM »
Quote from: Eddie
The old tired lie about the US promoting global democracy..who does that fool? Apparently some people. Idiots believe anything they're told. I use that shibboleth to identify neo-liberlism in action. It helps me keep up with which liars are currently making policy.

The vast, vast majority of people in this country. It's not enough that the dollar's role as reserve currency is backed by the nuclear arsenal. We have to believe in our virtueThe hyper militarization of all aspects of our culture, with sports as a prime example, goes to show the overweening need of the military industrial complex to keep selling the role of the military to the people of this country again and again and again, lest anybody form troublesome questions as to where all the fucking money is going.

Before 9/11, giant flags and flyovers were reserved for the Super Bowl. Today, they are commonplace. Even the players wear camouflage jerseys. The military is omnipresent. And it’s by design.







To me, this marketing effort is all of a piece with the normalization of military gear in police departments, and the fetishization of all things military in American life. We do this, and in another generation people no longer remember it was any other way.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2019, 12:28:58 PM by Surly1 »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3634 on: January 17, 2019, 01:11:42 PM »
Quote
The Great War for Eurasia

This Collins article is excellent and well worth a read. His analysis of the eurasian geopolitics reminds me of Pepe Escobar. His description of the
Russian effort to get gas pipelines into Europe fairly mirrors Pepe's analysis of "Pipelineistan."

In this country one of the reasons utility companies are ramrodding pipelines through national forests and under residential areas is to service export of LNG to Europe, although none of the perps will admit it since the truth is not in them.

Collins is a great find. Good stuff.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3635 on: January 17, 2019, 03:10:41 PM »
I see now he copyrights everything  and doesn't give permission to repost.  I didin't see that until just now. I won't post anything else for that reason, but I'll probably link to some of his other stuff. He is pretty astute. Not sure who he really is at all.
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Trump Directed His Attorney To Lie To Congress
« Reply #3636 on: January 18, 2019, 04:14:57 AM »
Trump Directed His Attorney To Lie To Congress--
President Trump personally directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.




Headshot of Jason Leopold

Jason Leopold

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Headshot of Anthony Cormier

Anthony Cormier

BuzzFeed News Reporter

Posted on January 17, 2019, at 10:11 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

But Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.

On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

BuzzFeed News first reported last year that Cohen and an associate, Felix Sater, had continued working on Trump Tower Moscow through June 2016. Sater communicated with Russian bankers, developers, and officials connected to the Kremlin. That revelation was confirmed in Mueller’s filings against Cohen in court last November.

Attorneys close to the administration helped Cohen prepare his testimony and draft his statement to the Senate panel, the sources said. The sources did not say who the attorneys were or whether they were part of the White House counsel’s staff, and did not present evidence that the lawyers knew the statements would be false.

An attorney for Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel who reportedly gave about 30 hours of testimony to the special counsel, told BuzzFeed News: “Don McGahn had no involvement with or knowledge of Michael Cohen’s testimony. Nor was he aware of anyone in the White House Counsel’s Office who did.”

Former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II in the lobby of Trump Tower in 2016. His attorney told BuzzFeed News that McGahn “had no involvement with or knowledge of Michael Cohen’s testimony. Nor was he aware of anyone in the White House Counsel’s Office who did.”
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II in the lobby of Trump Tower in 2016. His attorney told BuzzFeed News that McGahn “had no involvement with or knowledge of Michael Cohen’s testimony. Nor was he aware of anyone in the White House Counsel’s Office who did.”

After Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the matter, Mueller’s team filed a memo in court saying he had offered them “credible” and “useful” information over the course of seven interviews. The special counsel wrote that Cohen had provided details about his contacts with “persons connected to the White House” in 2017 and 2018 and about how he had prepared his statements to Congress.

The White House did not return detailed messages seeking comment, nor did an attorney for Donald Trump Jr. or the Trump Organization.

A spokesperson for the Office of Special Counsel declined to comment.

Cohen also declined comment — but the law enforcement sources familiar with his testimony to the special counsel said he had confirmed that Trump directed him to lie to Congress, and also that he had provided details of his conversations about the project with the president and Ivanka and Donald Jr.

Those three members of the Trump family have distanced themselves from the Moscow project, saying that they had little knowledge of the negotiations. But a picture of their deep involvement is now emerging, as FBI agents and prosecutors pore over witness interviews and internal documents from Cohen and other Trump Organization officials and executives.

Trump was even made aware that Cohen was speaking to Russian government officials about the deal. The lawyer at one point spoke to a Kremlin aide as he sought support for the tower.

Trump also encouraged Cohen to plan a trip to Russia during the campaign, where the candidate could meet face-to-face with Putin.

BuzzFeed News has previously reported that text messages and emails show Sater — a real estate developer, convicted stock swindler, and longtime asset for US government intelligence agencies — worked furiously to arrange a trip for Cohen to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he was supposed to meet with top Russian bankers and government officials. Cohen told Sater that to advance the deal, Trump himself would also go to Russia, after the Republican National Convention in July 2016.

Felix Sater, who worked with Michael Cohen to get Trump Tower Moscow built, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2018.
Melissa Lyttle / Melissa Lyttle for BuzzFeed News

Felix Sater, who worked with Michael Cohen to get Trump Tower Moscow built, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2018.

The trip to St. Petersburg never took place and the plans to build Trump Tower Moscow never came to fruition. But the negotiations occupy an important place in Mueller’s investigation, as agents try to learn whether it is connected to the Kremlin’s interference campaign and whom Trump associates were in contact with to close the deal.

After Cohen pleaded guilty last November, Trump defended his continued involvement in the Moscow project during the election, telling reporters: “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

Federal agents looking into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election also tried to clarify the roles that Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. played in the Moscow tower negotiations, the sources said.

In his plea deal with Mueller’s team, Cohen acknowledged that the conversations he had about the project with Trump exceeded the three short briefings he testified that he gave the president and that he also held more extensive discussions about it with other members of the Trump family. The sources said Cohen gave Trump’s children “very detailed updates.”

An architectural rendering of the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.
Provided to BuzzFeed News

An architectural rendering of the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.

Ivanka Trump was slated to manage a spa at the tower and personally recommended an architect. She also instructed Cohen to speak with a Russian athlete who offered “synergy on a government level” to get the Moscow project off the ground, in another aspect of the deal first revealed by BuzzFeed News that later was affirmed by the special counsel’s sentencing memo. Cohen rebuffed the athlete’s proposal, which angered Ivanka Trump, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump's attorney wrote that she was only “minimally involved” in the project. “Ms. Trump did not know about this proposal until after a non-binding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, never visited the prospective project site and, even internally, was only minimally involved,” wrote Peter Mirijanian.

Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7, 2017, that he was only “peripherally aware” of the plan to build a tower in Moscow. “Most of my knowledge has been gained since as it relates to hearing about it over the last few weeks.”

The two law enforcement sources disputed this characterization and said that he and Cohen had multiple, detailed conversations on this subject during the campaign.

Cohen will testify publicly before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Feb. 7. ●

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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The BuzzFeed Scoop Is Seismic, But There's Reason to Be Skeptical
« Reply #3637 on: January 18, 2019, 11:31:38 AM »
And then there's this.

The BuzzFeed Scoop Is Seismic, But There's Reason to Be Skeptical
The sources seem to be saying something at odds with Robert Mueller's court filings.




Are you surprised that there now is a report alleging that President Donald Trump told his fixer-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump’s efforts to build a “Trump Tower” in Moscow? If so, why? Based on what you know of this president, and Cohen, and the rest of the president’s men, what about this story shocks you? BuzzFeed News’ Thursday night scoop is a bombshell, sure, but it's also the opening note of the next phase of the steady unwinding of the Trump presidency.

The news is significant in that it comes, at last, during a time when federal lawmakers can exercise meaningful oversight over Mueller’s work and Trump’s response to it. There isn’t much legal analysis necessary here. We are moving closer, instead, to whatever political conclusion will occur. If Trump actually did what the BuzzFeed story alleges, he has committed a federal crime and an impeachable offense and the only pertinent question going forward is whether there is the political will in Congress and in the Justice Department to say so.

But I’d like to offer a note of caution here. It’s worth waiting a bit to see how this story plays out before we label this the beginning of the end, or even something materially different from what we already knew. The sourcing of the BuzzFeed News story is “two law enforcement officials,” and I’m not sure how to absorb that. I would be shocked if the sources come from Mueller’s office, because the special counsel’s shop has a well-earned reputation for being leak-proof. Why would Team Mueller leak now, and over this?

Does the story mean instead that BuzzFeed’s sources are in the Justice Department or in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York? Perhaps. But that raises the questions, as all leaks do, of motivation. Who gains and who loses by this leak at this time? This is an especially relevant question since, as journalist Marcy Wheeler has pointed out, the story seems at odds with what special counsel Mueller has said in court filings. Let’s not forget that we already know that the president is technically an un-indicted co-conspirator, at least according to federal prosecutors in New York, at least according to what Cohen says.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: Attorney general nominee William P
William Barr, Trump’s attorney general nominee, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 15.
Getty ImagesThe Washington Post

It’s also important to remember, as Wheeler also says, that this isn’t the first time someone has alleged or reported that the president suborned perjury. There is evidence, for example, that Trump also encouraged (or ordered) his erstwhile National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to lie. That’s why William Barr, the attorney-general nominee, was asked about perjury and obstruction during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing this week. (Not for nothing, but Barr’s response to the question—he said, in essence, “of course it’s a crime to direct another to lie under oath”—tells you how straightforward the question is as a matter of law.)

A few things are clear today. The news makes Cohen’s upcoming appearance on Capitol Hill in February either less likely to occur (because of his continuing obligations to the special counsel) or wildly more explosive if it still occurs (because he’ll be asked to confirm or deny the perjury allegations under oath). The news also makes it easier for analysts to explain and compare what’s happening now with what happened during Watergate because now the allegations of presidential misconduct by Trump more closely match those of Nixon. And that means it will be more difficult for Trump’s congressional apologists to defend him.

So get ready for what figures to be a raucous long weekend. Get ready for scoundrel Rudy Giuliani to saturate your television over the next few days and babble his way through another existential crisis for his client. Get ready for more non-denial denials from the White House, and for stony silence from Mueller’s investigators. Get ready for more batshit crazy tweets from Trump. Get ready for more pressure on attorney-general nominee Barr to explain his “Mueller” memo. Get ready for a wave of new stories about the legal jeopardy in which Donald Trump, Jr. finds himself.

President Donald J. Trump...
Getty ImagesThe Washington Post

But none of this changes the essence of what’s happening here. The BuzzFeed News story, whether it ends up being wholly accurate or not, serves as a warning that the principals here are nearing the point at which they’ll no longer be able to control the timing of the narrative as it unfolds. That after nearly two years of parallel tracks, we are edging closer to the moment where what Mueller (and Trump) know privately intersects, at least in larger part, with what is publicly known about the crimes and the cover-up. That surely is bad news for the president, who finds himself this holiday weekend trapped literally in the White House during a government shutdown, and trapped figuratively in a web of lies slowly being unwound.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3638 on: January 19, 2019, 04:41:12 AM »
Mini-Monsters with Multiple Heads Created in the Lab

By |
Mini-Monsters with Multiple Heads Created in the Lab
A hydra with too little of a protein called Sp5 develops multiple heads.
Credit: © BRIGITTE GALLIOT, UNIGE

The tiny, immortal hydra is a freshwater animal that can regenerate an entirely new animal from just the tiniest sliver of its body. Usually, it does this perfectly: One foot, one long skinny body, and one tentacled head.

But with a single genetic tweak, researchers can create monstrous hydras that sprout fully functional heads all over their bodies — appropriate for an animal named for an ancient Greek monster that had somewhere between six and nine heads.

These many-headed hydras aren't just a trick of mad science. For the first time, researchers have figured out what keeps hydra head regeneration in check. The findings could inform everything from human developmental studies to cancer research. [The 12 Weirdest Animal Discoveries]

The hunt for an off switch

Though hydras are simple animals, regrowing body parts is no minor achievement. With each regeneration, the animal has to organize its body plan so that just one head ends up on top, and just one foot, or basal disc, sprouts on the bottom. Researchers had some of the pieces of this puzzle. They knew the gene Wnt3 is crucial for prompting the growth of the head. They also knew there must be some molecular check on Wnt3. Without that inhibition, the hydra would just grow heads all over. They also knew that a particular receptor and genetic activator, called beta-catenin/TCF, were activated by Wnt3 to start the head-growth process.

But they were missing the "off" switch. Something, they knew, had to prevent the hydra from growing head after head after head, said Brigitte Galliot, a professor of genetics and evolution at the University of Geneva.

So Galliot and her colleagues went hunting. They started with a close relative of hydras, planarians, or flatworms, which also regenerate. In the planarian genome, they found 440 genes that become less active when beta-catenin/TCF signals were blocked, giving them a starting point for the search for other genes involved in this cycle. Of those, 124 also existed in the hydra genome. [In Photos: Worm Grows Heads and Brains of Other Species]

Of those, they found only five genes that are most active at the top of the hydra's tubular body and least active at its foot, meaning they had to be specific to head growth. Among those five, they looked for genes that became increasingly active during regeneration. That left three: Wnt3, Wnt5 and a gene called Sp5.

A careful balance

The team already knew that Wnt3 and Wnt5 got the head-growing process rolling. So they focused on Sp5. They soon found that beta-catenin/TCF prompts the activity of Sp5 — but Sp5 also tamps down the beta-catenin/TCF signals by repressing Wnt3.

This might sound a little strange, but it was just what the researchers were looking for: a compound that could put the brakes on an otherwise runaway feedback loop. To check their work, they grew hydras engineered not to express the Sp5 gene.

"In 100 [percent] of these animals you get ectopic [extra] heads," Galliot told Live Science. "Which is really amazing."

What happens, Galliot and her colleagues reported today (Jan. 19) in the journal Nature Communications, is that when a hydra needs a new head, it releases Wnt3, which clings to beta-catenin/TCF, which activates a whole bunch of genes, including more Wnt3 and Sp5. Without Sp5, the Wnt3keeps the cycle going, and tons of heads pop up all over the regenerating hydra. These heads, Galliot said, are totally functional. They have a nervous system and tentacles and a working mouth.

When Sp5 is in the picture, as it is in nature, it binds to Wnt3, keeping that activator from finding and binding to beta-catenin/TCF. In the absence of Wnt3, beta-catenin/TCF stops sending out "make a head!" messages, and only one head grows.

The process, Galliot said, is all about the balance between activation and repression. And that's where things get interesting. It turns out that Wnt3isn't just in flatworms and hydras and other simple, regenerating animals. It's also in mammals, including humans. The gene appears to affect embryonic development, which means that understanding its function could help scientists understand what controls early human development. Wnt3 is also a crucial driver of some sorts of cancer, Galliot said. It might be that Sp5 manipulation could halt the proliferation of such cancers, she said.

That kind of medical research is still far in the future, but the hydra's tentacle-studded heads point the way, Galliot said.

"What we learn from simple organisms like this tell us what kind of test we can do in mammals to understand better," she said. "It gives us a direction."

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Glaciers in the Americas Are Melting Faster
« Reply #3639 on: January 19, 2019, 04:49:53 AM »
Glaciers in the Americas Are Melting Faster
Mountain glaciers are an important source of freshwater for wildlife and human communities


Glaciers in the Americas Are Melting Faster
HPS-12 Glacier. Credit: Joshua Stevens NASA Earth Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey

Glaciers in the snowy mountains of western Canada are melting faster than they were a decade ago, according to scientists.

New research suggests that ice loss in the southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia is happening at nearly five times the rate it was in the early 2000s.

Overall, glaciers in western North America—not including Alaska—have lost about 117 billion tons of ice since 2000; they are currently losing about 12 billion tons a year.

The vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica get the most global attention when it comes to melting glaciers, largely because of their immense potential to contribute to sea-level rise. Greenland is currently the biggest loser, pouring nearly 300 billion tons of ice into the ocean each year, by recent estimates. But Antarctica is a rising concern—research published this week finds that the Antarctic ice sheet is losing about 250 billion tons of ice annually, and the melt rate seems to be accelerating (Climatewire, Jan. 15).

Still, Greenland and Antarctica aren’t the only important frozen places on Earth. Glaciers exist in many regions, from the Americas to the Swiss Alps to the Himalayas. Scientists are finding that many of these glaciers are also melting and retreating, likely in response to rising temperatures.

And while most of them aren’t likely to make much of a dent in global sea-level rise—in part because many mountain glaciers don’t empty into the oceans—these losses are still important. Many are a critical source of fresh water, helping to feed the streams and rivers that wildlife and human communities depend on.

As the glaciers shrink, experts worry that these water supplies could begin to dry up. So keeping close tabs on melt rates, and the factors that influence them, can help communities plan for the future.

This week, two studies took a closer look at glaciers in North and South America. The first, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, focuses on the mountains of western North America—excluding Alaska, where many studies have already been conducted, but including glaciers in British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Taken as a whole, satellite imagery suggests, the region has been losing substantially more ice from 2009 to the present—about four times as much—than in the previous decade. That’s mainly because of the high losses in Canada’s Coast Mountains, which are home to a majority of western North America’s glaciers. Farther south in the Pacific Northwest, however, the researchers actually found that some places were seeing less intensive melt rates now than in the previous decade.

The reasons for the differences may be linked to a shift in atmospheric patterns and weather conditions, the scientists suggest. In the latter decade, the researchers noted a change in the position of the jetstream, a major air current in the Northern Hemisphere.

This shift brought changes in wind patterns over western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, as well as changes in regional temperatures and precipitation patterns. Some areas, particularly those farther south, became wetter, while other areas farther north became warmer and drier and began to melt faster. The researchers suggest that these changes, on top of the background warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, may help account for the significantly higher melt rates in parts of Canada in the past decade.

“I think there would need to be more work done on whether this positional change in the jetstream is natural variability or caused by [anthropogenic] climate change,” said lead study author Brian Menounos of the University of Northern British Columbia.

That said, the researchers suggest that future climate change could make some of these effects worse.

Previous modeling studies suggested that severe climate change might continue to alter wind patterns over the mountains of western North America, causing some winds to become weaker. It’s similar to the changes the researchers observed over the last decade, which they believe contributed to the accelerated ice loss in Canada. That’s on top of the baseline increases in melting expected to occur as temperatures continue to rise.

Meanwhile, a second study published this week in Nature Climate Change confirmed that Patagonia, a region that includes parts of southern Chile and Argentina, is losing more ice than any other area in South America. The new estimates, also based on satellite imagery, suggest that the northern and southern Patagonian ice fields—covering about 6,500 square miles, the largest expanse of ice in the Southern Hemisphere besides Antarctica—are losing around 17 billion tons of ice each year.

Altogether, the study suggests glaciers in South America are losing about 20 billion tons of ice annually. The new estimates anticipate lower rates of ice loss in some parts of the continent than previous studies, particularly around the tropics, but more or less agree with the high melt rates observed in Patagonia.

As the new study points out, air temperatures in that region of the world are on the rise, contributing to “enhanced melt conditions,” although the Patagonian ice fields seem to be responding more strongly than other glaciers in the general area.

Previous research has also suggested that ice loss in Patagonia may be accelerating in recent years and that glaciers there may be retreating at some of the fastest rates in the world. Unlike mountain glaciers found in more inland regions of the world, its melting ice can run off into the ocean and have some effect on sea-level rise. Right now, the melting may be contributing around one-twentieth of a millimeter of sea-level rise each year, or around 2 percent of the current rate of global sea-level rise.

As temperatures continue to rise around the world, glaciers in North and South America aren’t the only ones at risk. Scientists have documented shrinking ice on every continent, frequently in places where human communities rely on them for water.

Continued monitoring is critical to helping these communities understand and prepare for the changes that are already happening—and for helping them make predictions about the future, Menounos noted.

“One of the keys to improving models to forecast the future fate of glaciers depends quite heavily on having good observational data to validate how these models behave—in much the same way that a global climate model is evaluated on how well it does to predict the trend of temperature or precipitation in a given decade,” he said in an interview. “So observations are absolutely essential.”

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at [url=http://www.eenews.net]www.eenews.net[/url].

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The BuzzFeed Scoop Is Seismic, But There's Reason to Be Skeptical
« Reply #3640 on: January 19, 2019, 05:09:50 AM »
And then there's this.
 and for stony silence from Mueller’s investigators.

Except that there is not stony silence. Seems Buzzfeed might be making it up??https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/2019/01/18/b9c40d34-1b85-11e9-8813-cb9dec761e73_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_buzzfeed-810pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans
So, back to waiting for the actual report.
AJ
Nullis in Verba

Offline Surly1

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Re: The BuzzFeed Scoop Is Seismic, But There's Reason to Be Skeptical
« Reply #3641 on: January 19, 2019, 05:31:15 AM »
And then there's this.
 and for stony silence from Mueller’s investigators.

Except that there is not stony silence. Seems Buzzfeed might be making it up??https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/2019/01/18/b9c40d34-1b85-11e9-8813-cb9dec761e73_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_buzzfeed-810pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans
So, back to waiting for the actual report.
AJ

Posted this morning: I told anyone bothering to listen yesterday that I had doubts about this story because of Jason Leopold, who'd rushed to print before in stories about Enron and Rove.

In a rare move, Mueller’s office denies BuzzFeed report that Trump told Cohen to lie about Moscow project
http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php/topic,3282.msg168465.html#msg168465
« Last Edit: January 19, 2019, 05:57:21 AM by Surly1 »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Car dealerships put in a lot of work to not sell you an electric car
« Reply #3642 on: January 20, 2019, 04:18:21 AM »
Car dealerships put in a lot of work to not sell you an electric car
Try to buy one of the few electric cars on the market from the big car companies and you’ll find that they really don’t want to do it.


Car dealerships put in a lot of work to not sell you an electric car
[Source Image: Chevrolet]
BY JEREMY DEATON

Head to a Ford dealership and ask about an F-150. You will be shown its features, invited on a test drive, and treated to a carefully practiced sales pitch detailing the truck’s strength, power, and durability. Ask about an electric car, and you might have a very different experience.
Experts and advocates have consistently found dealers and manufacturers putting as little effort as possible into selling electric cars.

In 2016, the Sierra Club sent volunteers to more than 300 dealerships around the country to record their experience shopping for an electric vehicle. The results were dismaying, to say the least. More than 1 in 5 Ford and Chevy dealers had failed to charge an EV so it could be taken for a test drive. Only around half of salespeople explained how to fuel a plug-in vehicle, and only a third discussed the tax credits available to buyers. “The dealership had no idea about the state and federal tax credits,” said a volunteer in California. “They said it was the policy of the company to not talk about tax incentives because they were not tax experts.”

Many volunteers described dealers who were woefully incompetent or, in some cases, openly hostile to EVs. “Senior sales staff had no idea what the battery electric vehicles’ range was. He called it a go-cart,” said a volunteer in New York. “There were no EVs in stock, and [the dealer] stated that he has no interest in ever selling an electric vehicle,” said another in Maine. “I couldn’t do a test drive because the key was lost. I was encouraged to purchase a non-electric vehicle instead,” said another in Connecticut. If dealers are reluctant to sell EVs, that has an impact on consumers. Studiesshow that drivers are more likely to buy an electric car after they take one for a spin.

Dealers may be reluctant to sell EVs because, like most Americans, they don’t know much about them. “A lot of our salesmen are not familiar with electric vehicles themselves, and so rather than try to sell people something they don’t know or don’t feel comfortable with, they’re trying to sell them something else,” said David Greene, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee.

A 2014 study found that drivers shopping for an EV were much less satisfied with their experience than those who were shopping for a conventional car. Those shopping for a luxury car showed the greatest satisfaction–the more money the dealer believed he stood to make from a sale, the more satisfied the customer was with her shopping experience. Notably, Tesla buyers were the most satisfied of all.

EV buyers were less satisfied with the shopping experience than buyers of conventional vehicles. Those shopping for a luxury vehicle were even most satisfied, particularly those shopping for a Tesla. Source: University of California Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. [Image: courtesy of the author]

Researchers further explained that EVs need less maintenance than conventional cars, which puts a dent in the dealer’s bottom line. “I got my [BMW] i3 in April of last year, so I have had it for a year and a half, let’s say, and I’m not due for my first maintenance until January,” Greene said, explaining that because EVs generate so little money after they are sold, salespeople are less inclined to move them off the lot. “Dealerships make a very large fraction, if not most of their money from maintenance and repairs,” he said.

It’s not just dealers who are failing to sell EVs. Manufacturers spend appallingly little on marketing plug-in cars. A study commissioned by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management found that U.S. automakers are investing next to nothing on advertising electric cars such as the Ford C-Max Energi and Chevy Bolt. In 2017, manufacturers spent roughly an order of magnitude more nationally marketing SUVs and trucks, like the Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150. “Here in Tennessee, you will rarely see an electric car advertisement on television,” Greene said. “They just don’t get advertised the way other vehicles get advertised.”

Ford 2017 ad spending on the F-150 truck and plug-in Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi sedans (left), GM 2017 ad spending on the Silverado truck and plug-in Bolt and Volt sedans (right). Source: NESCAUM. [Image: courtesy of the author]

When asked about the gap in ad spending, a spokesperson for Chevy said the brand is “focusing advertising efforts in key markets and across platforms, where the conversation is most prominent.” Though, the difference in spending may also reflect the fact that big trucks and SUVs are more profitable for automakers.

“[Trucks and SUVs] are selling to less price-sensitive consumers,” Greene said. “So it’s possible to get a higher profit.” The economics of EVs are different. “When you are in the compact or subcompact passenger car segment–unless it is a luxury vehicle–you are generally facing very price-sensitive consumers,” Greene said. “This makes it difficult to get extra profit.”

Technological advancements will yield cheaper batteries, making EVs more cost-competitive, and thus, more profitable for manufacturers. To really drive the price of electric vehicles, however, automakers will simply need to produce more of them. “That is one major factor in bringing down the cost– scale and learning by doing,” Greene said. “The more you sell, the cheaper the vehicles get, and that’s a big deal for electric vehicles.”

But if car companies won’t market plug-in cars, sales will continue to lag. Authors of a recent report on consumer attitudes toward EVs wrote, “Electric vehicles are an emerging technology that has not reached beyond the ‘innovator’ and ‘early adopter’ consumer categories in most markets. The marketing of a new and different technology presents challenges, and the right messaging can be enormously helpful in increasing public acceptance.”

EVs are in a phase of adoption known as “the chasm,” a gulf separating early adopters from the majority of consumers. This is the most treacherous period in the life of a new technology, and it determines its success or failure. Some technologies, like the smartphone, make it through this period unscathed. Others, like the Segway, slip into the gap, never to be heard from again. To make it across the chasm, EVs will need to reach beyond their core market of high-earning technophiles and start winning over soccer moms and NASCAR dads.

Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve. Moore argued that there was a chasm separating the early adopters of a new technology and the later converts and that companies would need to work hard to cross this chasm. Some experts have argued that electric vehicles are stuck in this chasm. Source: Craig Chelius. [Image: courtesy of the author]

“The American car market is fairly conservative,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director at Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “People know this is a new technology, and one of the hurdles to adoption is, ‘Oh my gosh, how different is this than what I’m used to?'”

To help EVs cross the chasm, researchers have called for educating salespeople and the public about electric cars, as well as sponsoring events where drivers can test drive an EV. In addition, they say that policymakers should extend tax breaks that make it cheaper to buy an electric car. For now, automakers, dealers and consumers are stuck in a loop. Virtually no one is selling or buying EVs, despite the fact that they are safer, cleaner, and cheaper over the course of their lives than most conventional vehicles. Policymakers can break that loop.

“Government should always be in the business of incentivizing the thing that is the most healthy for its constituents,” Sifuentes said. “Clearly this is one of those cases.”


Jeremy Deaton writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow him @deaton_jeremy.

This article is part of a series about barriers to the widespread adoption of electric cars.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Orwell v Huxley: whose dystopia are we living in today?
« Reply #3643 on: January 21, 2019, 05:44:52 AM »
Orwell v Huxley: whose dystopia are we living in today?

John Lanchester on how Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four capture the age of Facebook and Trump




The modern world looks to many like a dystopia — a version of “the darkest timeline”, to borrow a term from the American sitcom Community. Whose dystopia, though? Which writer best imagined this moment of turmoil and dysfunction? The greatest contributions to the tradition of dystopian fiction are two defining masterpieces from the 20th century, both of them bestsellers at the time and ever since: Aldous Huxley’s 1932 Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1949 Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The two dystopias have many details in common. Both writers saw a future shaped by weapons of mass destruction — biological and chemical weapons in Huxley’s case, nuclear war in Orwell’s. They agreed about the danger of permanent social stratification, with humanity divided into categories determined by biological engineering and psychological conditioning (Huxley) or traditional class combined with totalitarian loyalty systems (Orwell). Both men imagined future societies completely obsessed with sex, though in diametrically opposite ways: state-enforced repression and celibacy in the case of Orwell; deliberate, narcotising promiscuity in the case of Huxley.


 Both men thought the future would be dominated by America. Both men thought that future governments would spend a lot of effort permanently trying to incite economic consumption — not that either man thought of anything as wildly fantastical as quantitative easing. Both began their books with a short sentence designed to signal a world which was familiar but also disconcertingly futuristic: “A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories,” begins Brave New World. We are supposed to gasp with amazement at the “only”. Nineteen Eighty-Four begins: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Thirteen! The horror!

Both men were writing warnings: “the message of the book”, said Huxley, was, “This is possible: for heaven’s sake be careful about it.” In his vision, humanity was facing a future world tranquilised by pleasure and drugs and the voluntary distractions of “civilised infantilisation”. For Orwell, humanity was facing a permanent state of war and totalitarian mind-control, summed up by the image of “a boot stamping on a human face, for ever”. For all the overlap, though, they are usually seen as contradictory, conflicting versions of the future.

George Orwell, the author of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ © Bettmann Archive

The difference between the two dystopias is rooted in one of imaginative literature’s central distinctions. Many writers of speculative fiction — a term preferred over science fiction by Margaret Atwood, among others — like to stress that their work is a vision of the present, magnified and intensified. “The future is here,” William Gibson has said, “it’s just unevenly distributed.” Atwood made it a rule in writing The Handmaid’s Tale that she “would not put any events into the book that had not already happened . . . nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities.” Orwell did create some technological innovations for his future world, but in essence his Nineteen Eighty-Four is a deep look into the heart of already existing totalitarian societies. Some of the details may be from the straitened world of the 1940s — the novel is pervaded by the smell of boiled cabbage — but the story goes far past that into the depths of the human heart and the totalitarian project to reshape it.


 No one could have been better placed than Orwell to see into this present and project it into the future. His life-long involvement with leftwing ideas was both theoretical — nuances of perspectives from the Independent Labour party to the union movement through anarchism, Trotskyism and Stalinism — and directly lived. It was characteristic of him that when he went to the Spanish civil war to write about it, he found himself unable to stand back and report, but instead, once he saw the reality of what was happening, immediately joined the Trotskyist militia to fight the fascists. The utter ruthlessness with which the Soviet-backed faction suppressed the other groups on the republican side, their willingness to lie and murder their own allies, gave Orwell the impetus and insight to write his great novel about totalitarianism.


 It is because of that, in this difficult historic moment, that the Orwell vs Huxley contest might seem to have been concluded in Orwell’s favour. I was recently on a plane just after the start of the school holidays, and in the course of wandering up and down the aisle, noticed the startling fact that three different young people were reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, in three different languages (English, Italian, Portuguese). Not bad for a 70-year-old book. The Orwell estate has always been well run, attentive to the business of keeping his reputation in public view — that was one of the inspirations behind the creation of the annual Orwell prizes for political writing. You could even say that Sonia Orwell, who married him on his deathbed, was being attentive to his reputation in taking his pseudonym as a surname, given that his family knew him as Eric Blair. (This point was made to me by a relative of Orwell’s, someone who thrillingly-to-me knew him as Eric.)


Nothing, however, but nothing, could rival the sales boost provided by Donald Trump. This president embodies the insight that given a willingness to lie without compunction, norms of veracity can be abolished with extraordinary speed. It is one of the central demands of the Party, in Orwell’s book, that you “reject the evidence of your eyes and ears”. Trump put that maxim into effect on his very first day in office, with his insistence that people ignore the evidence of their senses about his Inauguration day crowds. The world is not divided up into three dominant totalitarian superstates, as in the novel, but in a time of ascendant strongmen, dictators, anti-Semites and state-sponsored liars, many of Orwell’s other prophesies have come true. Consider North Korea, an inherited communist dictatorship many of whose features — a society based on hierarchies of loyalty to the leadership — might have been directly transcribed from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un walk together during their summit in Singapore, 2018 © Reuters/Jonathan Ernst


 Wait a minute, though. Orwell was right about many things, but Huxley was right too. Huxley’s background was similar to Orwell’s — not only did they both go to Eton, Huxley went back there as a young man (and even taught Orwell French). Despite that, Huxley’s milieu was very different, scientific and philosophical rather than politically engaged. The Huxleys were scientific and liberal aristocracy: Aldous’s great-uncle was the poet laureate Matthew Arnold; his grandfather Thomas was “Darwin’s bulldog”, the first high-profile public defender of Darwin’s ideas; his brother Julian was a prominent biologist and public figure, the first director-general of Unesco, co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund. Julian was also a leading eugenicist, dedicated to the idea that science could be used to weed out inferior genetic stock for the public good.

The emotional texture of Brave New World is very different from that of Nineteen Eighty-Four; there is a playfulness, a lightness, not at all like the grim, repressed, grey-toned landscape of Orwell’s novel. The question of eugenics offers us a clue to the reason for this. Huxley was interested in eugenics, which held a fascination for many intellectuals of the left as well as of the right. He came to see it as a sinister field — correctly, since the thought that the poor have genetic traits which could and should be bred out of them is indeed one of the darkest and most dangerous ideas of the 20th century. But he had first felt the lure of the idea that modernity can improve us, that science can cure some of the pain and difficulty of being human. The fact that Huxley had been tempted by these thoughts helped him depict his ideas with a lighter, more exploratory touch than Orwell.

‘Brave New World’ author Aldous Huxley in 1958 © Philippe Halsman / Magnum Photos


 Huxley’s dystopia was the other sort of speculative fiction from Orwell’s: not a deep burrowing into the present, but a projection of existing trends into the future. He genuinely was trying to think about what the future would be, if things carried on in the direction they were headed. He was well placed to see trend lines in many of the sciences and made good guesses about where they were going. As a result, we can make a strong claim that it is he, and not Orwell, who did a better job of predicting modern life in the developed world. The revolutionary change in attitudes to sex, for instance, is not something many people foresaw in 1932, but Huxley did: the separation of sex and reproduction is complete in Brave New World, as it is near-complete in modern life.
He guessed correctly about the development of new technologies in contraception, and guessed correctly about their consequences too.

In Brave New World promiscuity is not just normal, it is actively encouraged; total frankness in all aspects of sexuality, ditto. Sex is a distraction and a source of entertainment, almost a drug. Huxley would have looked at our world of dating apps and sexualised mass entertainment — and perhaps especially shows such as Love Island and Naked Attraction — and awarded his predictions a solid A+. (Naked Attraction is a Channel Four dating show on which people choose a partner based on whether or not they like the look of their genitals. The audience sees the genitals too. When you describe this show to people, they often think they’ve misunderstood, and that you can’t mean that people stand with their faces concealed and their genitals exposed and are chosen by a prospective partner on that basis — but that’s exactly what happens. I recommend this programme to anyone who doesn’t agree that norms around sexuality have changed.) Orwell saw a future in which the state discouraged sex. In this respect he was completely wrong and Huxley was completely right.

Huxley was also more broadly right about pleasure. Orwell wrote about a world which was sensually constrained, pinched, grey — that was one of the main respects in which he was channelling the spirit of the 1940s. Huxley looked ahead, and saw a future in which life was very pleasant — lullingly, deadeningly, numbly pleasant. Undemanding pleasures and unchallenging entertainments are central to the functioning of society. Sources of distraction play a vital role. The “feelies”, the main source of mass entertainment, are all about escape from the self. “When the individual feels, society reels,” is the motto, and every effort is made to stop people from feeling strong emotion. The preferred method for this is soma, a side-effect free drug which guarantees dissociated happiness. Here, again, Huxley could look at the modern use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and sedative medications, and conclude that he had nailed it.


 One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data. He saw the information revolution coming — in the form of gigantic card-indexes, true, but he got the gist. It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World. Facebook’s mission statement “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” sounds a lot like the new world’s motto “Community, Identity, Stability”. The world in which “we haven’t any use for old things” dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that “young people are just smarter”. The meeting room whose name is Only Good News — can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s World Controller, or Sheryl Sandberg? The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that “everyone belongs to everyone else” are also common themes of the novel and the company — and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that “privacy is an outdated norm”.


 This theme, of an attack on privacy, is central to Orwell’s vision too. Thought crime is one of the most serious crimes in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is at this point that we can start to see his and Huxley’s novels not as competing visions of the future but as complementary, overlapping warnings. Our world has sex on display everywhere, entertainment to take you out of your mind whenever you want, and drugs to make you stop feeling. It also has an increasing number of strongmen leaders who rewrite history and ignore the truth, and a growing emphasis on crimes-by-thought. We don’t have an official “Two Minutes Hate”, as Orwell’s state of Oceania does, but our social media equivalents come pretty close. The idea of permanent low-level war as a new norm looks a lot like our 18-year global war on terror — in fact the GWOT would fit in nicely in Orwell’s world of acronyms and Newspeak. The idea of a society permanently stratified into inherited or genetically determined social classes maps well on to a modern world where the most unequal societies are also the ones in which people are most likely to inherit their life chances.

A globally dominant society ruled by a party and a strong leader, a society which uses every possible method of surveillance and data collection to monitor and control its citizens, a society which is also enjoying a record rise in prosperity and abundance, and using unprecedented new techniques in science and genetics — that society would look a lot like a blend of Orwell’s and Huxley’s visions. It would also look a lot like modern-day China. The developing Chinese “citizen score”, a blend of reputational and financial and socio-political metrics, used to determine access to everything from travel and education and healthcare, is such a perfect blend of dystopias that we can only credit it to a new writer, Huxwell. Some commentators on the subject have begun saying that the citizen score is being misunderstood, that it is only a Chinese attempt to develop something as all-encompassing and socially determinative as we in the fortunate west already have with credit rating agencies. They’re missing the point: that isn’t what’s good about the citizen score. It’s what’s bad about it.

Huxley and Orwell both wrote their books to try and prevent their dystopias from coming true. Their success at prophecy is also their failure — because the righter they are, the more their projects didn’t do what they were supposed to. Neither man would have thought that a reason to give up hope. Their warnings are still valid. We can still change direction. There will be life after Trump and Putin. There may even be life after Naked Attraction and Facebook. Last word to Huxley, in the foreword to his dystopia, written 20 years later: “though I remain no less sadly certain than in the past that sanity is a rather rare phenomenon, I am convinced that it can be achieved and would like to see more of it”.

John Lanchester’s new novel ‘The Wall’ is published this week by Faber

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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World's 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%, says Oxfam
« Reply #3644 on: January 21, 2019, 05:59:29 AM »
World's 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%, says Oxfam

Charity calls for 1% wealth tax, saying it would raise enough to educate every child not in school

Luxury yachts in Monaco
The Oxfam report says that between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

The growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by a report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.

In an annual wealth check released to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the development charity Oxfam said 2018 had been a year in which the rich had grown richer and the poor poorer.

It said the widening gap was hindering the fight against poverty, adding that a 1% wealth tax would raise an estimated $418bn (£325bn) a year – enough to educate every child not in school and provide healthcare that would prevent 3 million deaths.

Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.

As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 the number was 61.

Among the findings of the report were:

  • In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.

  • Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.

  • The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.

  • The poorest 10% of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.

Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Matthew Spencer, said: “The massive fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty is one of the greatest achievements of the past quarter of a century but rising inequality is jeopardising further progress.

“The way our economies are organised means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting. Women are dying for lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor.

“It doesn’t have to be this way – there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life. Governments should act to ensure that taxes raised from wealth and businesses paying their fair share are used to fund free, good-quality public services that can save and transform people’s lives.”

The report said many governments were making inequality worse by failing to invest enough in public services. It noted that about 10,000 people die for lack of healthcare and there were 262 million children not in school, often because their parents were unable to afford the fees, uniforms or textbooks.

Oxfam said governments needed to do more to fund high-quality, universal public services through tackling tax dodging and ensuring fairer taxation, including on corporations and the richest individuals’ wealth, which it said were often undertaxed.

A global wealth tax has been called for by the French economist Thomas Piketty, who has said action is needed to arrest the trend in inequality.

The World Inequality Report 2018 – co-authored by Piketty – showed that between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% of humanity only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth. By contrast, the top 1% captured 27 cents of every dollar.

Oxfam said that in addition to tackling inequality at home, developed nations currently failing to meet their overseas aid commitments could raise the missing billions needed to tackle extreme poverty in the poorest countries by increasing taxes on extreme wealth.

China’s rapid growth over the past four decades has been responsible for much of the decline in extreme poverty but Oxfam said World Bank data showed the rate of poverty reduction had halved since 2013. In sub-Saharan Africa, extreme poverty was on the increase.

Oxfam said its methodology for assessing the gap between rich and poor was based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse global wealth data book, covering the period from June 2017 to June 2018. The wealth of billionaires was calculated using the annual Forbes billionaires list published in March 2018.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

 

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