Disturbing Trends in the News

Worrisome. The War on Cameras in Reason details police threats, phone confiscations, detentions, felony charges and convictions of citizens for the ‘crime’ of recording officers on duty. Yet, laws are vague and vary greatly from state to state. The central issue revolves around whether taping police without their consent is a violation of wiretapping statues, and whether police have a reasonable expectation of privacy in public encounters with citizens—or if they are to be held accountable for their actions on the job.

We’ve discussed this here before.  Yes, a recent Supreme Court case appears to have settled this matter, in principle. The imbalance of power between individual and state is so huge that the citizen must — must — retain the one thing that equalizes the playing field somewhat.  The truth. In practice, this will still be a hard fight.  I tend to worry much less about restricting what the government and other elites can see (how you gonna stop em?) than about preserving our right to look back!

But can we look?  Really?  We have the illusion of choice…but six media giants now control a staggering 90% of what we read, watch or listen to. These companies are: CBS, Viacom, Disney, GE, NewsCorp (which includes Fox and the Wall Street Journal) and Time Warner (which includes CNN, HBO, Time and Warner Bros). The largest owner of radio stations in the U.S., Clear Channel, operates 1,200 stations, airing shows by the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity, with programs syndicated to more than 5,000 stations. And who owns Clear Channel? Bain Capital purchased Clear Channel shortly before Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential bid  One clear reason why conservative talk show hosts support Mitt? And weren’t we supposed to be more independent and broad in in our access to information, by now?

Well, at least now we know who to blame for what’s happened to the History Channel.

A horrifying brain drain. “At some Ivy League schools last year, up to half of the graduates went into finance or consulting, a move that could have a profound effect on the economy in the years to come.”  Crum, any civilization that does this to itself deserves what will happen next. The very brightest, who do NOT fall for this trap will simply leave the country. A genuine “brain drain.” Leaving the finance twits in charge of a society that explores nothing, invents nothing, produces nothing except paper short-term-parasitic profits. Ever hear of the Golgafrinchan B-Ark? Think about it.

Self censorship? Social media giant Twitter announced they would block messages on a country by country basis, to “to withhold content from users in a specific country while making it available to the rest of the world.” This policy will allow Twitter to grow internationally into countries with “different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression”, but won’t affect China or Iran where Twitter is already completely blocked.

An unprecedented loss of Arctic sea ice over the last few decades suggests we may soon see an ice-free Arctic summer. But then, as I have linked many times before, the US Navy has long known this and is making major plans. So are the Russians. Maybe THAT will get through to your crazy uncle.

Digital thievery is rampant! Have a look at the precautions that US corporate officers, scientists and government officials have started taking, before getting on a plane to China.  “If a company has significant intellectual property that the Chinese and Russians are interested in, and you go over there with mobile devices, your devices will get penetrated,” said Joel F. Brenner, former counterintelligence specialist. We’re not enemies!  But things are passing through a phase where it just makes sense to be careful.  You’ll actually get more respect when they know you’re smart enough to protect yourself and your endeavors. Seriously, read the description of what a cautious businessman does to stay digitally clean and no bring home spyware.

The media does seem to have a polarizing effect…Would ANY new data make you change your opinions on hot button issues such as the death penalty, abortion, same sex marriage, legalization of marijuana? Or God? Or the fact that US taxes are near a 100 year low? Any data at all? Read about opinions beyond the reach of data.

Cadmium, a carcinogen and neurotoxin, may be as hazardous to children as lead. Current regulations are based on threats to adults; recent studies show possible links with learning disabilities and retardation in children.

== Better Accountability through Visualizing our World==

Shining a light into the darkness: I knew I liked the guy, despite resenting the soul-sold handsomeness… The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), begun by George Clooney, is an attempt to use technology to deter civil war and atrocities against citizens in Sudan. SSP combines satellite images and field reports with Google Maps to track movements of troops and displaced people, bombed villages, mass graves and other evidence of large-scale violence, providing public access to updated information on these long-suffering areas.

An ever-reddening glow: NASA video depicts global temperature data over 130 years

Speaking of heating… this map shows hot spots for terrorist attacks within the U.S.–a third of attacks occur in urban areas.

How is water used worldwide? Researchers map a global water footprint detailing water usage. 92% goes to growing food, 40% toward the export of products.

Satellite data reveal the extent of China’s air pollution problem–finding dangerous levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5, less than 2.5  microns).

Accountability on a local basis: the energy usage of New York’s buildings, visualized.

When 30,000 square feet isn’t enough…aerial views of mega-mansions. Even as the size of the average American house shrinks after peaking during the boom, several of the wealthy are building gigantic homes of 20,000 square feet and more.

==On the Technology Front==

 Virtual devices will read your hand motions and gestures and provide what you want—meaning technology will appear even more like…magic. If you hold up your hand, a map or keypad will appear, for you to retrieve or send data. Sensors on the ceiling will monitor your gestures, and respond.  I portray this in Existence…

CleanSpace One, an $11 million “Janitor Satellite” under development in Switzerland, would be the first of a series of craft launched to clear orbital debris, grabbing items with its robotic arm.  Read a better method in chapter one of my next novel.

Patrick Tucker suggests that Artificial Intelligence will be America’s next Big Thing, directing traffic, managing electrical grids and resources, aiding doctors, lawyers and police, analyzing satellite data, optimizing manufacturing and design, developing new medicines and cures, leading to a third Industrial Revolution. Yet, the roboticization of the factory floor will have human costs, as well. See Making it in America in The Atlantic.

Researchers make iron invisible to X-rays, using quantum interference.

==Miscellaneous Fiction/Film==

I’m quoted in this article on Prophets of Science Fiction–and the interplay between science and Sci Fi.

A few sci-fi-ish films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Eeeek!  A “re-imagining” remake of the worst sci fi pile of drivel ever made… Space 1999!

Fascinating perspectives from Jonathan Dotse – an IT student, blogger, and science fiction writer based in Accra, Ghana. He discusses the future of African science fiction.

How does Science Fiction influence Public perception of science topics such as Genetic engineering, cloning, nanotechnology? See an article in Biology in Science Fiction.

Glimpse this new Nigerian sci fi film! Kajola.

Seriously? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In this movie, that axe isn’t just for chopping down trees… and it looks as if it just might (unbelievably) be worth checking out!

Russian speakers, see a translation of my essay about The Uplift War.

Enough of a coolstuff dump for ya?  Well… the year has just begun…

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