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

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Geopolitics, philosophy & politics.
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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

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Science & Technology, Video.
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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

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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.

Causes of Autism Found January 26, 2015

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Bird picture by autistic artist David Barth 2008

Bird picture by autistic artist David Barth 2008

“Let’s suppose you buy a book, we’re used to getting books where the cover’s on right, the pages are in order, and they tell a continuous story. But imagine a publisher that duplicated his pages, dropped some pages, changed the order of the pages. That’s what happens in the human genome. That’s copy number variation.”

This form of mutation turns out to appear with surprising frequency in the human genetic text. Wigler’s group first glimpsed the phenomenon in cancer cells, but his hunch was that similar “publishing” errors might also play a role in diseases like autism. Sure enough, when the researchers examined the genomes of people with autism, they often found weird, large-scale duplications or deletions of DNA—mutations not present in the mother or father. The fact that they were not inherited strongly suggested that they were recent corruptions of the genetic text, almost certainly arising in the sperm or egg cells of the parents.

“The evolutionary twist on this whole story, is that our genome is really set up to fail, in the sense that we’re prone to delete and duplicate. The flip side of it is that that selective disadvantage is offset by the emergence of novel genes that have conferred an advantage to us cognitively.”

via Genetic Advances Provide Insight into the Causes of Autism | MIT Technology Review.

GMO Mosquitoes to Fight Spread of Dengue and Chikungunya January 26, 2015

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Global_DengueTransmission_ITHRiskMapThere are no vaccines or cures for dengue, known as “break-bone fever,” or chikungunya, so painful it causes contortions. While U.S. cases remain rare for now, they have been rapidly spread throughout the Caribbean and Central America. But Aedes aegypti, whose biting females spread these diseases, have evolved to resist four of the six insecticides used to kill them.

Enter Oxitec, a British biotech firm that patented a method of breeding Aedes aegypti with fragments of genes from the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria as well as coral and cabbage. This synthetic DNA is commonly used in laboratory science and is thought to pose no significant risks to other animals, but it kills mosquito larvae.

Oxitec’s lab workers manually remove modified females, aiming to release only males, which don’t bite for blood like females do. The modified males then mate with wild females whose offspring die, reducing the population. Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes in a Key West neighborhood this spring

via Millions of GMO insects could be released in Florida Keys.

Education and class: America’s new aristocracy January 24, 2015

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The Economist | Education and class: America’s new aristocracy http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21640331-importance-intellectual-capital-grows-privilege-has-become-increasingly?frsc=dg%7Cd via @theeconomist

OH GREAT January 18, 2015

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Why porn is exploding in the Middle East January 16, 2015

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bikini_burkha According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states. Pakistan tops the list at number one, followed by Egypt at number two. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey come in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively. Pakistan leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.

via Why porn is exploding in the Middle East – Salon.com.

Ian Bremmer’s Geopolitical Predictions January 2, 2015

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ChinaUSAPuzzleOne of the more astute analysts that will make you think.

Q: Why doesn’t China want Russia to fight with the West?

A: I think you have to understand that China is patient. China is growing. China has 1.3 billion people. The world will come to China. If China waits, China will have more power, more influence and be able to determine outcomes to their favor, without war, without conflict. They can just use their influence.

The Russians, of course, are declining and so Russian power is greater today than it will be in five or 10 years’ time. If you’re China, you really don’t want the Russians to “rock the boat” too much in the near term. Causing problems for the U.S. is fine, but you don’t want them to become a pariah state for everyone else.

Q: Is there a possibility of a Cold War between the U.S. and China?

A: Longer term, that is a bigger concern. It’s not a concern today. But if you asked me in five or 10 years’ time, one of the potential scenarios of post-G-Zero is that the United States and China fundamentally move into different blocks. It’s possible.

Q: Will China become a big power, as big as the U.S?

A: No. The future is a long time, but if you ask me in 10 years’ time, China will probably be the largest economy, but their military will be a tiny fraction of that of the United States. Their technological capacity will be a tiny fraction of the U.S. Their energy production capacity will be a tiny fraction of the United States. Their diplomatic capabilities will be a tiny fraction of the United States. Their soft power will be a tiny fraction of the United States. Their cultural power will be a tiny fraction of the United States. Their universities will be so much worse. They will be a superpower, looking purely in terms of their economic might and they will not be a superpower in any other way.

via The world post-G-Zero: US, China Cold War possible, says Ian Bremmer- Nikkei Asian Review.

US Segregation Maps December 18, 2014

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Last year, a pair of researchers from Duke University published a report with a bold title: “The End of the Segregated Century.” U.S. cities, the authors concluded, were less segregated in 2012 than they had been at any point since 1910. But less segregated does not necessarily mean integrated–something this incredible map makes clear in vivid color.

The map, created by Dustin Cable at University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, is stunningly comprehensive. Drawing on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, it shows one dot per person, color-coded by race. That’s 308,745,538 dots in all–around 7 GB of visual data. It isn’t the first map to show the country’s ethnic distribution, nor is it the first to show every single citizen, but it is the first to do both, making it the most comprehensive map of race in America ever created. Thanks to Caroline for sharing this.

US Segregation Maps

Some Christmas Cheer for all you Preppers December 7, 2014

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Geopolitics, Life.
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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/11276913/So-this-is-how-the-world-ends…-isnt-it.html
Aside from the rise of the machines, many potential threats have been identified to our species, our civilisation or even our planet itself. To keep you awake at night, here are seven of the most plausible.

Seeking a Climate Change – The Chronicle of Higher Education November 9, 2014

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cultural theory of risk assessment. Social norms, above all else, informed how people judged risks, she said. The public divided along two spectra: one measuring their support of social structure, running from egalitarian to hierarchical; the other, their devotion to individualism or communitarianism. The scales combined for four essential “worldviews.” – See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/Seeking-a-Climate-Change/149707/#sthash.vX66URJw.dpuf

http://m.chronicle.com/article/Seeking-a-Climate-Change/149707/

How Russia and the EU are economically connected to each other October 20, 2014

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Islam On Dogs: Can You Be A Good Muslim And Still Have A Dog? October 19, 2014

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http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1885580
Malaysian Muslims trying to break dog taboo with dog petting event.

http://m.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/squeals-and-giggles-abound-as-malays-get-acquainted-with-dogs

International Fears Before Ebola October 18, 2014

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Millennial. « Generation Wuss » by Bret Easton Ellis September 27, 2014

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In his books, he used to shoot at the materialistic excesses of his generation. But today, youth has become Bret Easton Ellis’ favorite target. According to him, young people are just too sensitive, too narcissistic ,too stupid. But ultimately, as he explains in this exclusive text, he kind of feel sorry for them ( and they love it).
http://m.vanityfair.fr/culture/livre/articles/generation-wuss-by-bret-easton-ellis/15837

Climate Science Is Not Settled – WSJ September 20, 2014

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ikePolicy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is “settled” (or is a “hoax”) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.

Society’s choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.

via Climate Science Is Not Settled – WSJ.

The Rhyme of History: Lessons of the Great War September 15, 2014

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The U.S. has so far been prepared to act as the guarantor of international stability, but may not be willing—or able—to do so indefinitely.

Though the era just before World War I, with its gas lighting and its horse-drawn carriages, seems very far off and quaint, it is similar in many ways—often unsettlingly so—to ours, as a look below the surface reveals. The decades leading up to 1914 were, like our own time, a period of dramatic shifts and upheavals, which those who experienced them thought of as unprecedented in speed and scale. The use of electricity to light streets and homes had become widespread; Einstein was developing his general theory of relativity; radical new ideas like psychoanalysis were finding a following; and the roots of the predatory ideologies of fascism and Soviet communism were taking hold.

Hbomb-detonation-colorizedGlobalization—which we tend to think of as a modern phenomenon, created by the spread of international businesses and investment, the growth of the Internet, and the widespread migration of peoples—was also characteristic of that era. Globalization can also have the paradoxical effect of fostering intense localism and nativism, frightening people into taking refuge in the comfort of small, like-minded groups. One of the unexpected results of the Internet, for example, is how it can narrow horizons so that users seek out only those whose views echo their own and avoid websites that might challenge their assumptions.

While history does not repeat itself precisely, the Middle East today bears a worrying resemblance to the Balkans then.
It is tempting—and sobering—to compare today’s relationship between China and the U.S. with that between Germany and England a century ago. Now, as then, the march of globalization has lulled us into a false sense of safety.
Like the world of 1914, we are living through changes in the nature of war whose significance we are only starting to grasp.

Read on at http://www.brookings.edu/research/essays/2013/rhyme-of-history

The Rise (and Likely Fall) of the Talent Economy September 15, 2014

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mrmoneybagsAs recently as 50 years ago, 72% of the top 50 U.S. companies by market capitalization still owed their positions to the control and exploitation of natural resources.

By 2013 more than half the top 50 companies were talent-based, including three of the four biggest: Apple, Microsoft, and Google. (The other was ExxonMobil.) Only 10 owed their position on the list to the ownership of resources. Over the past 50 years the U.S. economy has shifted decisively from financing the exploitation of natural resources to making the most of human talent.

Over the past 13 years the list’s number of hedge fund managers, by far the fastest-growing category, has skyrocketed from four to 31, second only to computer hardware and software entrepreneurs (39) in possessing the greatest fortunes in America.

The Republican Party seems foursquare behind hedge funds, which it sees as embodying capital—even though hedge fund managers are in fact talent, a breakaway branch of labor (their overcharged customers are the real representatives of capital). The Democratic Party, traditionally supportive of organized labor, has increasingly transferred its allegiance to capital, largely because pension funds have become the most important form of capital and their beneficiaries represent the traditional Democratic power base. Neither party represents labor directly.

via The Rise (and Likely Fall) of the Talent Economy – Harvard Business Review.

Isis September 7, 2014

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