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The Interview: Henry Kissinger | The National Interest August 22, 2015

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http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-interview-henry-kissinger-13615?page=show

Here’s the argument for banning killer robots before we’re swarmed by them – The Washington Post August 22, 2015

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/08/21/heres-the-argument-for-banning-killer-robots-before-were-swarmed-by-them/

An argument to be made about immigrant babies and citizenship August 21, 2015

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/26/AR2010032603077.html
Enacting legislation, based on this legal precedent, still wouldn’t prevent “birth tourism” abuse; where, as a example, wealthy Chinese time their tourist visa to coincide with the birth of their baby.

Corn Wars | The New Republic August 20, 2015

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http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122441/corn-wars

Good News! A Rare Caribbean Bird, Rediscovered July 28, 2015

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Originally posted on Petchary's Blog:

It’s not every day that we get good news on the conservation front in the Caribbean. But this is one of those happy occasions, coming out of the BirdsCaribbean 20th International Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica. Tomorrow will be the last day of the conference at the Knutsford Court Hotel.

So, please do share the good news, about a beautiful bird last seen on the island of Dominica in 1862!

Here is the joint press release dated July 28, 2015 from Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and BirdsCaribbean.

Adam C. Brown, Senior Biologist

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC)

abrown@epicislands.org

http://www.epicislands.org

(US) 707-845-1171

July 28, 2015

EPIC finds one of the world’s most rare seabirds active on Dominica: Details released at the 20th International Meeting of BirdsCaribbean

July 28, 2015—Roseau, Dominica/Kingston, Jamaica—A team of scientists from EPIC and Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have recorded – for the first…

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What makes mosquitoes bite certain people and not others? June 29, 2015

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Many years ago in another twin study we showed that underarm body odour as perceived by human sniffers had a genetic basis – with huge variability in how strong smells were perceived. This showed that we have gene variations controlling both the odours we perceive and the chemical odours we produce. In this way we are similar to mosquitoes because they also have big differences in which odours and chemicals attract and repel them.

Different mosquitoes prefer different parts of our bodies to others. The species Aedes Gambiae prefers the odours of our hands and feet to other bits like groins and armpits. Some animals use their body odour to keep insects away and companies have been trying to unravel what the best chemicals are.

So, the next time you get bitten by a mosquito on the ankle – don’t blame bad luck or your cheap repellent – think of the amazing evolutionary match-making processes that hooked up your special mix of genes to a particular community of microbes that feed off your skin and produce a chemical that only certain species of mosquito find irresistible.

via What makes mosquitoes bite certain people and not others? – Agenda – The World Economic Forum.

5 Reasons Why You Wont Get Rich In Cuba June 3, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Geopolitics, In The News.
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2006_08_01t121905_450x332_us_cubaPresident Barack Obama’s historic normalization talks with Cuba have brought about a lot of excitement in business circles, and hardly a day goes by without new reports of U.S. investors, lawyers and entrepreneurs flocking to the island. But I’m afraid most of them will lose their shirts there.

In a recent interview, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker told me that even though Cuba is a small economy, the Cuban people are entrepreneurial , and have a great economic potential. “It’s a beginning, you have to start. And by starting, things will evolve,” she said.

My opinion: Maybe so. But for the time being, as Florida International University business professor Jerry Haar has rightly — and only half-jokingly — commented, the most profitable businesses dealing with Cuba will be those that put together conferences and seminars on doing business in Cuba.

Obama did the right thing in starting normalization talks with Cuba’s military dictatorship, although he should be much more forthright in demanding basic freedoms on the island. But the administration should tone down its claims that the U.S.-Cuba honeymoon will lead to political and economic changes on the island, and to great business opportunities for foreign companies. It won’t, at least in the near future.

via Andres Oppenheimer: Cuba: Very big fuss over very small economy | Miami Herald Miami Herald.

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The Appeal of Dictators June 2, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Lifestyle, philosophy & politics.
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MaoCollection0242 Two-thirds of the world’s citizens live under a dictatorship, and two billion people suffer from an oppressive rule. Freedom House says 106 dictatorships or partial dictatorships persist today, accounting for 54% of the world’s nations.

Contrary to popular Western belief, however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for all places and people. Not all dictatorships end in misery, and not everyone wants to live in a democracy. “A bad democracy might be worse than a humane dictatorship,” Pinker points out.

There is no proof that the desire for freedom and democracy is an innate part of human nature, Ezrow says. As long as quality of life remains high and people are allowed to live their lives as they wish, citizens can be completely happy under a dictatorship.  “Some cultures may just prefer security and stability over freedom.”

via BBC – Future – Will dictators disappear?.

Men-Only Airline Flights May 29, 2015

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From 1953 through 1970, United offered men-only ‘Executive flights’ between New York and Chicago and between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

UnitedExecutiveServiceFlights mostly operated at 5pm in each direction between the two cities(generally six days a week excluding Saturdays). They didn’t just ban women, but children also, and flight attendants catered to these business flights with special meals and offered complimentary cigars.

One story has the airline  issuing vouchers to business men to bring their wives with them along, so they could show them how safe flying was (a serious concern back then). They discontinued the promotion because they decided to start calling the wives after the vouchers were redeemed, and a bunch of them had never set foot on a plane.

via United Men Only Executive Service from 1953 to 1970.

What our DNA and Solar System have in common (Video) May 15, 2015

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Red Bull Sales Exploding in North Korea May 15, 2015

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KoreanRedBull

Potential future North Korean canon fodder (Party Officials) are bused in to watch 4 of these guns firing 50 caliber-size bullets that pulverize the prisoner.

The ZPU-4 anti-aircraft gun allegedly used in North Korean executions. (US Army, via Human Rights in North Korea

The ZPU-4 anti-aircraft gun allegedly used in North Korean executions. (US Army, via Human Rights in North Korea

How Safe to take the Train? May 15, 2015

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How to Spot a Narcissist April 7, 2015

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Psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, Craig Malkin, who literally wrote the book on it, Rethinking Narcissism. “Narcissists are arrogant and argumentative, even the shy, quiet types (covert). They’re far more like to interrupt, glaze over when you speak, swear, post provocative pictures, and tag themselves in social media than ever use the word ‘I. “In fact,” adds Malkin, “it’s far more likely that narcissists would use the word ‘you’ because they blame people for everything and rarely take responsibility for their actions. It always about what  did. ‘I-talk’ isn’t going to help much because not all narcissists like talking about themselves anyway. The authors are right. We’re used to the expression ‘it’s always me me me’ and immediately associate it with narcissism… Nothing could be further from the truth.”

2012-06-09-a-NarcissistThe truer mark of a narcissist is absolute clarity about a situation, and an undying commitment to his or her opinion. “Look for an unwavering certainty (‘No—that’s just wrong. Here’s the truth’), name-dropping, attention grabbing gestures, breathless monologues, constant interruptions, and above all, a disagreeable, arrogant style.”

And consider this: Another recent study found that spotting a narcissist can be as easy as using the wonderfully simple “Single Item Narcissism Scale,” which asks just one question: “To what extent do you agree with this statement: ‘I am a narcissist.’” Participants rate their agreement on a scale from one to seven. In other words, if you want to know whether someone’s a narcissist, you really just have to ask them.

via Can You Spot A Narcissist? It’s Not As Easy As You Think, Study Finds – Forbes.

Maslow’s Hierarchies of Needs Today March 22, 2015

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Mass Deaths in Americas Start New CO2 Epoch March 12, 2015

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http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mass-deaths-in-americas-start-new-co2-epoch/
The atmosphere recorded the mass death, slavery and warfare that followed 1492. The death by smallpox and warfare of an estimated 50 million native Americans—as well as the enslavement of Africans to work in the newly depopulated Americas—allowed forests to grow in former farmland. By 1610, the growth of all those trees had sucked enough carbon dioxide out of the sky to cause a drop of at least seven parts per million in atmospheric concentrations of the most prominent greenhouse gas and start a little ice age. Based on that dramatic shift, 1610 should be considered the start date of a new, proposed geologic epoch—the Anthropocene, or recent age of humanity—according to the authors of a new study.

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Marketing atrocity: Ancient Assyrians would have understood Islamic State’s methods March 10, 2015

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I also watched recent video of ISIS members in a museum smashing (alleged) archaeological relics from the very ancient Mesopotamian past. I felt a certain sense of historical irony while doing so. I wondered as I watched them use sledgehammers and power drills on a 3,000 year old Assyrian statue if they realized that they were following the ancient Assyrian playbook as they tried to erase the region’s past. The Assyrians of that era were masters at the art of atrocity marketing. The concept of publicizing horrific cruelty to cow and intimidate subjects or opponents has a long history, and only fell out of style relatively recently (and not everywhere). 

JoanArc17-eIt’s only in the last century or so that public executions, for example, have become rare. Having people view a burning, beheading or hanging (with or without a torture appetizer) was thought to be something that reinforced law and authority and demonstrated that justice was being carried out. Often it was thought an edifying thing to have children watch.

How would the German public living in the Third Reich have reacted to ISIS-like, slickly produced films showing the scenes inside a death camp gas chamber while people were dying? Even in a nation brainwashed by state-fostered anti-Semitism, it’s hard to imagine the reaction being anything the Nazi regime would have considered positive.

The fact that the Islamic State’s marketing gurus feel otherwise is interesting. Perhaps its more evidence bolstering the idea that ISIS seeks to return to the values of an earlier, much more harsh historical era. If so,we might be seeing a visual and visceral example of what our ancestors might have done with a good TV studio.

If online video existed in the Middle Ages, does the burning of Joan of Arc go viral? Would it go viral today?

via Marketing atrocity: Ancient Assyrians would have understood Islamic State’s methods.

Why Science is so Hard to Believe March 5, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, philosophy & politics, Science & Technology.
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We have trouble digesting randomness; our brains crave pattern and meaning.

Even for scientists, the scientific method is a hard discipline. They, too, are vulnerable to confirmation bias — the tendency to look for and see only evidence that confirms what they already believe. But unlike the rest of us, they submit their ideas to formal peer review before publishing them. Once the results are published, if they’re important enough, other scientists will try to reproduce them — and, being congenitally skeptical and competitive, will be very happy to announce that they don’t hold up. Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation. Scientists rarely proclaim an absolute truth or an absolute certainty. Uncertainty is inevitable at the frontiers of knowledge.

Featured imageThat provisional quality of science is another thing a lot of people have trouble with. To some climate-change skeptics, for example, the fact that a few scientists in the 1970s were worried (quite reasonably, it seemed at the time) about the possibility of a coming ice age is enough to discredit what is now the consensus of the world’s scientists:

Americans fall into two basic camps.  Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.

via Why science is so hard to believe – The Washington Post.

Decade Forecast: 2015-2025 from Stratfor March 4, 2015

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The United States continues to make up more than 22 percent of the world’s economy. It continues to dominate the world’s oceans and has the only significant intercontinental military force. Since 1880, it has been on an uninterrupted expansion of economy and power. Even the Great Depression, in retrospect, is a minor blip. This expansion of power is at the center of the international system, and our forecast is that it will continue unabated.

The greatest advantage the United States has is its insularity. It exports only 9 percent of its GDP, and about 40 percent of that goes to Canada and Mexico. Only about 5 percent of its GDP is exposed to the vagaries of global consumption. Thus, as the uncertainties of Europe, Russia and China mount, even if the United States lost half its exports — an extraordinary amount — it would not be an unmanageable problem.

Featured imageThe United States is also insulated from import constraints. Unlike in 1973, when the Arab oil embargo massively disrupted the U.S. economy, the United States has emerged as a significant energy producer. Although it must import some minerals from outside NAFTA, and it prefers to import some industrial products, it can readily manage without these. This is particularly true as industrial production is increasing in the United States and in Mexico in response to the increasing costs in China and elsewhere.

The Americans also have benefited from global crises. The United States is a haven for global capital, and as capital flight has taken hold of China, Europe and Russia, that money has flowed into the United States, reducing interest rates and buoying equity markets. Therefore, though there is exposure to the banking crisis in Europe, it is nowhere near as substantial as it might have been a decade ago, and capital inflows counterbalance that exposure. As for the perennial fear that China will withdraw its money from American markets, that will happen slowly anyway as China’s growth slows and internal investment increases. But a sudden withdrawal is impossible. There is nowhere else to invest money. Certainly the next decade will see fluctuations in U.S. economic growth and markets, but the United Stares remains the stable heart of the international system. While I subscribe to Strafor’s Intelligence service, they have chosen to make this intriguing report, on possible future geopolitical trends, available to the public via the link below.

via Decade Forecast: 2015-2025 | Stratfor.

Drones Sacrificed for Spectacular Volcano Video March 3, 2015

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Net Neutrality – Be Careful What You Wish For March 2, 2015

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When Google’s Eric Schmidt called White House officials a few weeks ago to oppose President Obama ’s demand that the Internet be regulated as a utility, they told him to buzz off. The chairman of the company that led lobbying for “net neutrality” learned the Obama plan made in its name instead micromanages the Internet.

Mr. Schmidt is not the only liberal mugged by the reality of Obamanet, approved on party lines last week by the Federal Communications Commission. The 300-plus pages of regulations remain secret, but as details leak out, liberals have joined the opposition to ending the Internet as we know it.

The Progressive Policy Institute said: “There is nothing progressive about the FCC backsliding to common carrier rules dating back to the 1930s.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports applying the 1934 law to the Internet, nonetheless objects to a new regulation giving the FCC open-ended power to regulate the Internet. “A ‘general conduct rule,’ applied on a case-by-case basis,” the EFF wrote, “may lead to years of expensive litigation to determine the meaning of ‘harm’ (for those who can afford to engage in it).”

What if at the beginning of the Web, Washington had opted for Obamanet instead of the open Internet? Yellow Pages publishers could have invoked “harm” and “unjust and unreasonable” competition from online telephone directories. This could have strangled Alta Vista and Excite, the early leaders in search, and relegated Google to a Stanford student project. Newspapers could have lobbied against Craigslist for depriving them of classified advertising. Encyclopedia Britannica could have lobbied against Wikipedia.

Among the first targets of the FCC’s “unjust and unreasonable” test are mobile-phone contracts that offer unlimited video or music. Netflix , the biggest lobbyist for utility regulation, could be regulated for how it uses encryption to deliver its content.

via Gordon Crovitz: Liberals Mugged by Obamanet – WSJ.

First Direct Observation of Carbon Dioxide’s Increasing Greenhouse Effect at the Earth’s Surface February 28, 2015

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The scientists measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s contribution to radiative forcing at two sites, one in Oklahoma and one on the North Slope of Alaska, from 2000 to the end of 2010. Radiative forcing is a measure of how much the planet’s energy balance is perturbed by atmospheric changes. Positive radiative forcing occurs when the Earth absorbs more energy from solar radiation than it emits as thermal radiation back to space. It can be measured at the Earth’s surface or high in the atmosphere. In this research, the scientists focused on the surface.

Both series showed the same trend: atmospheric COemitted an increasing amount of infrared energy, to the tune of 0.2 Watts per square meter per decade. This increase is about ten percent of the trend from all sources of infrared energy such as clouds and water vapor.

Based on an analysis of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s CarbonTracker system, the scientists linked this upswing in CO2-attributed radiative forcing to fossil fuel emissions and fires.

The measurements also enabled the scientists to detect, for the first time, the influence of photosynthesis on the balance of energy at the surface. They found that CO2-attributed radiative forcing dipped in the spring as flourishing photosynthetic activity pulled more of the greenhouse gas from the air.

via First Direct Observation of Carbon Dioxide’s Increasing Greenhouse Effect at the Earth’s Surface – News Center.

"All palaeotemps" by Glen Fergus - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png#mediaviewer/File:All_palaeotemps.png

“All palaeotemps” by Glen Fergus – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png#mediaviewer/File:All_palaeotemps.png CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE

Great Power Conflict: Will It Return? February 25, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News and politics, philosophy & politics.
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we are witnessing four changes in international affairs that will lead to renewed great power conflict.

The first change is the slow disengagement of the United States from the dominating role it has played after World War II, marked most notably by a lowering of its defense spending and commitments. America has retreated from its role of protector of the world order, but the current occupant of the White House clearly ranks foreign affairs as an annoyance compared to an ambitious domestic agenda and has telegraphed his desire for America to have either a light or non-existent footprint across much of the globe.

The slow American withdrawal coincides with the second change, in which four of the current great powers (Russia, China, India, and Japan) are revaluating, amplifying, or changing aspects of their grand strategy in a way that resembles a similar reshuffling that took place late in the nineteenth century.

Third, there are ominous parallels between the cauldron that created the conflict of the Great War and those simmering today. China, playing the role of nineteenth-century Germany, seems determined to upset the economic and military stability created by the United States and Japan, especially in the area of naval power and power projection. Japan is playing the role of the United Kingdom, an old power clinging to its power base by mobilizing nationalism and militarism. Russia, attempting to resurrect its glory by aggressive action, reminds us of a turn-of-the-century France. India, coming on the world stage for the first time, yet not quite ready for a big role, is reminiscent of the newly unified Italian peninsula of 1861.

via Great Power Conflict: Will It Return? | World Affairs Journal.

Rock Music Sales Lead, As Streaming Jumps February 23, 2015

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Music Sales Comparison

The Best Defense is a Good Offense February 20, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, In The News, Science & Technology, Technology.
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J0216075The US has made the strategic choice to put its resources into engineering better attack tools and an infrastructure to support them. In a way it’s a smart choice. It’s a truism that the cyber battlefield is asymmetric—a defender has to get it right every time, while an attacker only has to succeed once. If the US spends a billion dollars in cyber defense, it will still be vulnerable. But spend it on cyber attack, and you get the most advanced computer espionage and sabotage tools that history has ever seen.

 The tool hides itself encrypted in the Windows registry, so that anti-virus software can’t find it on the computer’s disk. It carves out its own virtual file system on your machine to store data for exfiltration.  It uses a well-engineered piece of software called a bootkit to control the operating system from the ground up. There are update mechanisms, dozens of plug-ins, a self-destruct function, massive code obfuscation, hundreds of fake websites to serve as command-and-control. One of the NSA’s malware plug-ins can even reprogram your hard drive’s firmware, allowing the implant to survive a complete disk wipe.

via Surprise! America Already Has a Manhattan Project for Developing Cyber Attacks | WIRED.

Does Globalization Cause War?  January 29, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, philosophy & politics.
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The argument that globalization does not necessarily lead to peace is a pretty easy one to make, the usual example being that German-British trade was going brilliantly right up to World War I. Arguing that globalization leads to war is an altogether different enterprise. In his new book, When Globalization Fails: The End of Pax Americana, James Macdonald comes daringly close to showing that globalization, as a system of interdependence among major states, is an inherently unstable system that breeds insecurity among great powers. The interdependence feeds the insecurity.

Asian Currency WarIf our multipolar world is going the way of Macdonald’s analysis, we would expect to see greater regionalization under the direction of one or another regional hegemon — and that does appear to be the case, despite important countervailing trends such as improving U.S.-India relations, which have rescued the World Trade Organization. In Central Asia, Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s New Silk Road confront each other as opposing regional power plays. Asia’s export-led economies are also becoming more regional: Asian exports are increasingly purchased within Asia itself as demand from advanced economies remains weak. And regardless of the degree to which “re-shoring” exists, the desirability of siting production in closer physical proximity has captured Western political imaginations. Meanwhile all the major powers are focused on strengthening regional security arrangements, and all the major emerging powers are building their defenses, including the blue-water navies, whose major “defensive” purpose is to defend raw-material supply routes.

There are huge differences between today and earlier eras when the dynamics of globalization led to large-scale conflict. Nuclear weaponry is one; the lack of demographic-growth pressures in advanced economies is another. But we are nonetheless entering dangerous times.

via Does Globalization Cause War? | Scott Malcomson.

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