Cash Crops Around the World

Farmers are not in the business just for their health. Besides sometimes growing much of the food that they eat, farmers also need cash to buy the tools of the trade, as well as for everyday dry goods and occasional luxuries. The surest way to gain cash year after year has traditionally been via the so-called “cash crops.”

Not surprisingly, the most lucrative cash crops from a value per acre perspective are illegal in many parts of the world. With a higher risk to grow these, there is a higher reward for the farmers. Cannabis has a value of $47.7 million per square kilometre, while coca weighs in at $37.7 million and opium poppies $6 million per sq. km. … From an absolute value perspective, the world’s most valuable cash crop is cannabis as well. It is followed by rice, maize, and then wheat.

The most lucrative legal crops include tomatoes ($1.4 million per sq. km) and grapes ($625,000 per sq. km). Interestingly, tobacco comes in the middle of the pack with a value of $277,000 per sq. km. Rapeseed (also known as canola) comes in at $60,000 per sq. km.

… The highest yielding crops are sugar cane, sugar beet, and tomatoes. Sugar cane accounts for about 80% of the world’s sugar production, while sugar beet the remaining 20%.

__ VisualCapitalist

Coca, Cannabis, and Opium Poppy are the three most profitable “cash crops” in terms of dollars per square km. Other crops grown for their “mind-altering” effects include tea, coffee, cocoa, grapes (wine), barley (beer/whisky), maize (bourbon), sugar cane (rum) — and miscellaneous alcoholic drinks are made from rice, wheat, and other crops.

Coca

98% of the world’s coca is grown in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia.

Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocaine in the world, after Colombia and Peru.

The plant constitutes the raw material for cocaine production, but since pre-colonial times it has also been used in everyday life by the indigenous population, who chew the leaves, use it in teas and for religious rituals. It is also used for cosmetics and medicines.

For the Yungas, as the people here call themselves, coca growing is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. __ Coca

Cannabis

Cannabis is grown around the world — it is the world’s most valuable cash crop in terms of dollars per square km. High in the Himalayas, villagers grow cannabis for making a form of hashish called “charas.”

About half the citizens of this village, which will not be named in this article for the villagers’ protection against police retaliation, make their living by manually extracting a valuable resin, known as “charas,” from the live plants of cannabis indica, a flower that is native to India. It is a risky life that Suraj lives, making money in a country where marijuana use is widespread and tolerated, but its cultivation is illegal. __ Cannabis

Opium Poppy

Opium is also quite lucrative as a cash crop world-wide, although it is in for stiff competition from synthetic opioids from the fentanyl class.

Locals say farmers have been planting both crops [opium and cannabis] here since at least the 1970s, and prices for both have fallen steadily. Bulk marijuana that once sold for as much as $40 per kilo now sells for $10. Farmers don’t make much money on either crop. [Opium paste has dropped from $1000 per kg to only $250 per kg] __ More

More on Mexican Opium . . .

Some Legal Cash Crops

Tea originated in China thousands of years ago. Large amounts of Tea are still grown in China, but cultivation has spread to Southeast Asia, South Asia, parts of the middle east, Africa, and beyond.

Coffee originated in Africa, but is now grown around the world in tropical and semi-tropical zones.

Tobacco originated in the Americas, but the largest grower of tobacco is now China.

Cocoa (from cacao trees) originated several thousand years ago in Central America. It is cultivated in tropical countries around the world, mostly in Africa and Latin America.

Unsurprisingly, most of the top 10 cocoa-producing countries come from warm, wet climates similar to where the bean originated. However, nations across four continents make the top 10, and the largest contingent does not comes from the Americas, with four of the top five nations found in Africa.

Each country and region has its own set of cash crops that can be grown and sold. Profitability for cash crops may fluctuate wildly from year to year or decade to decade. It is up to each farmer to keep up with the way markets may change over time.

China’s Cash Crops

Many of the online [China cash crop] vendors contacted by ABC News claimed to operate in the area around the city of Wuhan, a hub of Chinese chemical manufacturing. __ Wuhan Again

Besides experimenting with the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl-like opiates and other illegal drugs, China is experimenting with the potential use of viral agents as cash crops. There is nothing so lucrative as being the only one to possess the antidote to a deadly toxin that has been spread around the world. For cash-flow purposes it is not the individual attempt at global extortion that is important, merely that the wide-ranging project be pressed forward with due diligence and effort.

The Kind of Conspiracy Theory that Arises in Such Cases

Last year a mysterious shipment was caught smuggling Coronavirus from Canada. It was traced to Chinese agents working at a Canadian lab. Subsequent investigation by GreatGameIndia linked the agents to Chinese Biological Warfare Program from where the virus is suspected to have leaked causing the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak.


The map above shows the seafood market at the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic — and its proximity to the Wuhan bioweapons-affiliated institution. Some speculate that low level custodial workers at the virology research facility sold dead animals from the bioweapons labs to the meat market instead of cremating them as required. It sounds a bit far-fetched.

There is a downside to using lethal viruses as a cash crop:

100,000 may have already been infected

Meanwhile, Chinese and global financial markets are being hit by fears that a lethally modified virus may have found its way onto global jetways. Some factories in China are being closed as a precaution and some regional neighbors of China are beginning to panic.

A less conspiratorial view of the coronavirus outbreak

China’s lethal bioweapons programs are reminiscent of the earlier Soviet programs, which experienced multiple leaks — some of which had lethal results. Beijing’s “end-game” is not clear, other than wishing to possess any and all lethal tools it can devise or steal.

Posted in Agriculture | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sex and the Banana: Not Work-safe

The Banana’s Controversial Sex Life

The banana plant first originated ten thousand years ago in South Asia, when two wild plant species — Musa acuminata and Musa balbisinia — accidentally cross-pollinated, resulting in the sterile half-breed banana plant. The fruit of the banana’s two wild parent plants is not very edible, but the banana . . . ah, the banana. The banana is sweet, easy to chew and swallow, and goes easy on the stomach if eaten at the proper stage of ripeness.

Despite the hybrid’s unfortunate sexual impotence, shrewd would-be agriculturalists realised that the plants could be cultivated from suckering shoots and cuttings taken from the underground stem. The genetically identical progeny produced this way remained sterile, yet the new plant could be widely propagated with human help. An intensive and prolonged process of selective breeding—aided by the variety of hybrids and occasional random genetic mutations—eventually evolved the banana into its present familiar form. Arab traders carried these new wonderfruit to Africa, and Spanish conquistadors relayed them onwards to the Americas. Thus the tasty new banana was spared from an otherwise unavoidable evolutionary dead-end. __ https://www.damninteresting.com/the-unfortunate-sex-life-of-the-banana/

Although it cannot reproduce except via cuttings, the banana plant’s fruit has long been associated with sex. Let’s look at some of the ways that bananas are associated with sex, in human minds and in their day to day lives.

As an appetizer, let’s look at one way bananas and sex seem to go together: Via the fruit’s nutritional benefits —

    • They improve testosterone levels: Bananas are rich in potassium, a nutrient that helps boost production of testosterone
    • They can get you in the mood: The tryptophan present in bananas helps regulate secretion of serotonin, a hormone that lifts your mood and increases your sex drive too.
    • They improve prostrate function: Bananas are rich in two minerals – manganese and magnesium – which is usually deficit in men. These minerals boost prostate health and help your reproductive organs to function to their optimum.
    • They improve libido: Bananas are also rich in bromelain and Vitamin B, both of these minerals are known to be regulators of testosterone and can increase sexual desire, performance and overall virility.
    • They improve your energy level: [Bananas increase blood flow] to your genitals that help improve libido and have a mind boggling sex.

Source

Keep in mind that increasing testosterone can boost libido in both men and women.

It is in the banana’s shape and size that impressionable and nature-loving women sometimes go astray.

Innocent Young Fruit’s Greatest Fear
Image Source

Yes, women sometimes use bananas as penis-proxies or dildos. A quick search of the internet will reveal numerous websites hosting videos and photographs of women resorting to the yellow fruit to obtain sexual pleasure. Although the use of bananas does not rank in the top ten sexual fantasies for women, the number of websites devoted to the practise suggests that it is popular in some circles.

Advice columns often suggest the use of a condom when indulging this particular passion.

A Night to Remember
Source

Our lawyer insists I insert that bananas are not only for binaries, but can also be used by all members of the LGBTQ+ communities.

For men, bananas are sometimes used for masturbation. To do this, the banana is removed and the remaining peel is prepped for service. Using clean technique and exactly 7 seconds in the microwave (and optional application of your favourite lotion), the inside of the peel is ready for the pièce de résistance. But be careful, men!

One Reddit user recounted a harrowing, cautionary tale where he used a banana skin to masturbate and allegedly ended up “falling in the mess I made, hit my head on the toilet and barely lived to tell the tale.” __ NYPost

I somehow doubt the veracity of the Reddit account, but my apologies in case I am being unfair 😉 .

Interesting Banana Facts

    • There are over 500 varieties of bananas; they come in many shapes and sizes, from small finger fruits to big purple plantains.
    • Some bananas are fuzzy pink; some when cooked taste like strawberries.
    • The yellow banana you eat is a mutant: a genetic variation on the hundreds of other varieties and rainbow of colors. The yellow banana is the sweetest.
    • The banana is the largest herb on earth. What looks like a banana tree is not a tree but a herbaceous plant that grows up to 40 feet tall.
    • Bananas grow in Iceland. Well, actually in greenhouses heated by volcanic underground springs.
    • There were more than 300 banana accidents in Britain in 2001, mostly from people slipping on skins.

Source

Note to readers: This article is an example of the kind of thing formerly posted to Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!, one of the Al Fin blogs that Google ended. For a long time after he lost that outlet, Mr. Fin was quite bereft — and inconsolable too! But at least for humans, time seems to heal most wounds. I wrote this piece on Mr. Fin’s computer in hopes it would cheer him up and show him that all is not lost. Keep your peckers chins up!

Valerie

Posted in food, Sex | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why 100,000 Typically Want to Go to Trump Rallies

Donald Trump spoke to the “woke billionaires” at the WEF in Davos, but they were not necessarily listening. The World Economic Forum has a different vision for the future, which is less concerned about whether people have jobs, and more concerned with leftist virtue signalling.

He is not the favourite of the Davos crowd — that would be Greta Thunberg. But he consistently draws large and enthusiastic crowds. For comparison, Joe Biden had 85 people at a “big” Iowa rally.

100,000 people are now seeking tickets to one of Mr. Trump’s signature Keep America Great rallies, to be staged in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Jan. 28 in a venue that only seats about 7,500.

__ 100,000 in New Jersey

Trump meeting Jeff Van Drew
Image Source

What Trump Has Accomplished in 3 Years:

  • 7 million jobs gained;
  • record-low 3.5 percent unemployment;
  • more women in employment than men;
  • record low unemployment of African Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and veterans;
  • the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs;
  • accelerating wage growth for the bottom 10 percent of wage-earners and for millennials.

Cutting taxes and deregulation might sound like standard Republican fare. But no previous Republican president has tackled America’s perverse, uncompetitive corporate tax rates. After eight years of Barack Obama, the Trump administration’s record of one new regulation enacted for every eight rescinded marks a major reversal in the growth of the administrative state.

… The president rejected what he rightly called the “prophets of doom” and their failed predictions of apocalypse. “They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers,” he told the Davos crowd, which happens to believe in the prophecies of the current generation of fortune tellers. “They want to see us do badly. We won’t let that happen.”

Indeed, earlier doomsayers predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 1970s and an end of oil in the 1990s. “These alarmists always demand the same thing,” Trump said. “Absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.” __ Trump at Davos

Brian Wang tried to put a good face on the WEF’s “rah! rah! sis boom bah!” but it seems clear that most of the attendees at Davos were mainly interested in grabbing fat government contracts from big initiatives that any government might get suckered into. Or as Trump said, they want “Absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives.”

Government connections are the surest road to riches across most of the world, after all. But if you want the best outcome for the most people, you must take a different path:

Human Development Index & Economic Freedom

Human Development and Economic Freedom
Image Source

The UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) is calculated from a number of components and sub-components including:

  • Life expectancy
  • Education
    • Mean years of schooling
    • Expected years of schooling
  • Gross National Income PPP per capita

Once, all the sub-indices have been calculated, the actual HDI is calculated as the cube-root of their product.

HDI = \sqrt[3]{L_I \cdot E_I \cdot I_I }  

The geometric mean has the nice property that since all the sub-indices vary from zero to one, so will the HDI. In addition, if any of the sub-indices goes to zero, so will the HDI.

Clearly, as the index of economic freedom increases, so in general do countries’ HDIs. … as economic freedom increases and the HDIs approach their ideal value of one, the scatter progressively narrows. What this says is that whatever cultural variables influence HDI, they are so tightly coupled to economic freedom at high values of both indices that the index of economic freedom becomes a progressively better predictor of HDI,

__ Source

If your main concern is getting rich at the public trough, following media fashions, or pursuing a rigidly conformist and politically correct ideology, then you will not care whether the average citizen has a job or can support a family. And neither does the Davos crowd care about such things, it seems.

But if you do care about maximising opportunity for ordinary people, you will try to minimise the opportunities for opportunistic vampires who lurk in the deep state swamp waiting for the chance to suck the blood of the masses.

But beware! Blood-sucking parasites will tend to resent any interference and will pull out all the stops to cast you out from any position of influence. And that is just what they are trying to do.

More: One big way that education has been “dumbed down” for decades. It takes courage to debunk “common wisdom and consensus” within large academic fields. But it is long past time for a “great debunking” of accepted wisdom across the full spectrum of a dumbed down academia. And it seems that Donald Trump is the only person handing out courage these days!

Trump is changing the rules of the game

Posted in Donald Trump, Economics, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Global Innovation: Foundations and Futures

Turnover is common on the Bloomberg Innovation Index. The 2020 list is no exception, as nations are rising and falling in the rankings across the board.

Who Will Lead in Innovation in 2030?

China is catching up with the rest of the advanced world economically and technologically. Vast infrastructure projects – from high speed rail to 5G – have led many to wonder if China will soon surpass the United States as the global leader in technology.

To understand the future of technological domination, one must consider several factors of production:

  • Higher education,
  • cultural attitudes,
  • funding and financial incentives,
  • the legal framework.

Higher education. American universities are the best in the world. According to Times Higher Education’s 2020 rankings, the United States is home to 40 of the global top 100 universities. By comparison, Europe has 36 (eleven in the United Kingdom, eight in Germany, seven in the Netherlands, four in Switzerland, three in France, two in Sweden, and one in Finland), and China has three (six if Hong Kong is included). Similarly, U.S. News & World Report places 44 of the top 100 universities in the United States.

Cultural attitudes. Perhaps because of our long history of individualism, innovation is a key feature of the American spirit. Indeed, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a prolific inventor. Despite constituting only about 4% of the world’s population, Americans are responsible for 22% of global patent applications, with China coming in second with 21%.

But patents don’t tell the whole story. Chinese culture, particularly its education system, reveres tradition, is obsequious toward authority, and does not encourage the sort of “outside-the-box” thinking that innovation requires. Schools brainwash their kids with Communist Party-approved groupthink. China’s schools notoriously practice rote memorization, which certainly helps prepare students for the standardized tests that the Chinese dominate. But, Inside Higher Education reported on a study that concluded that the highest-performing Chinese students are less creative than others. Fear of failure is also deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, a collective phobia that likely prevents the emergence of would-be entrepreneurs.

Funding and financial incentives. According to the previously referenced R&D Magazine report, the entire world spent roughly $2.3 trillion on research and development in 2019. Almost 25% ($581 billion) came from the U.S., 22% ($519 billion, PPP-adjusted) came from China, and 20% ($472 billion, PPP-adjusted) came from Europe. China has been greatly increasing its R&D investment in recent years, and at its current rate, may surpass the U.S. sometime this decade. R&D Magazine predicts this will occur in 2024.

In the U.S., nearly 2/3 of research dollars are spent by industry. It is difficult to make such a distinction in China, since most major companies are either partially owned or subsidized by the government. This means that China’s ability to further ramp up its R&D spending and business investment probably exceeds that of the U.S.

The U.S. has a distinct financial advantage compared to Europe, however, and not just for R&D. Venture capital funding in Europe is stingy compared to the U.S., partially due to the continent’s cultural aversion to risk.

Legal framework. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is the unofficial motto of American startup culture. There is no shame in opening a business and failing. In fact, many entrepreneurs see it as a badge of honor because they learned something valuable in the process. Bankruptcy laws make it relatively easy to pick up the pieces and start over.

While Americans take those truths for granted, they simply do not exist in many other countries, including European ones. Failure is frowned upon in Germany, and laws make it possible for entrepreneurs to be held financially or even criminally liable if the business becomes insolvent. Furthermore, enshrined within one of the European Union’s treaties is the “precautionary principle,” which in theory exists to minimize risks to public health and safety but in practice is used as a blunt weapon to bludgeon technologies that Europeans dislike, such as genetically modified food.

Though Chinese culture may not be an incubator for innovation, its legal framework might be. At the very least, China does not seem remotely concerned if it behaves in ways that Western nations would deem unethical.

Intangibles. Finally, there is an “intangible factor” that essentially boils down to this question: Where do scientists want to do research? With the possible exceptions of theoretical physics (because Europe hosts the Large Hadron Collider) and fields such as computer science and civil engineering (which are dominated by universities in China and Singapore), most cutting-edge research in most fields – especially in biology and medicine – occurs in the U.S. The fact that the U.S. has more Nobel Prize winners than any other nation attests to that.

For these reasons, the graduate schools of American (and European) universities are filled with foreign students. Science is an international endeavor, and a technologically successful country must attract the world’s best talent. But very few scientists want to move to China. That fact is unlikely to change, so long as it insists on remaining an authoritarian country. __ https://www.acsh.org/news/2020/01/21/who-will-lead-world-technology-us-europe-or-china-14521

A few comments on the issues of education, culture, financing, and legal framework, with regard to China:

  • First, the Chinese educational system has a serious problem with cheating. In fact the entire Chinese culture has a terminal affliction of lying, cheating, and stealing that is unlikely to go away soon.
  • Chinese culture is authoritarian, with a high value on conformity, and a low value on creativity.
  • Financing in China is oriented toward state-owned enterprises and other companies that are well connected to high Party officials or their families.
  • As for “legal framework,” there is no rule of law in China. Only rule of the party as interpreted by high party officials.
  • Always remember that 90% of China’s ultra wealthy have close ties to families of the communist party’s ruling elite.

    Does anyone ever ask whether China can continue to prosper if forced to do without forced labour, without political concentration camps and its bloody organ harvest, or if forced to comply with international laws of trade? No stealing of intellectual property, no counterfeiting of other nations’ signature products, no “poison trade goods” including foods or pharmaceuticals? Such simple things to ask, but how monumentally difficult for communist China to comply.

    It is assumed in China that a person will lie, cheat, or steal, if it is convenient. There is no such thing as trust in China. Why do the Chinese send friends and relatives to Hong Kong to buy simple things like milk or chocolates? Because those and many other products cannot be trusted inside party-controlled territory. Why do they send their money and their families overseas if they can?

    Tyler Cowan, an economist whom I normally greatly admire, has come out with his diagnosis of what ails the US-China relationship. It’s not trade, he says, but a “lack of trust.”

    … President Trump has been very vocal about what China was trying to do and has put in place trade restrictions in an effort to force Beijing to accept international standards for trade and navigation in the oceans, for starters.

    The measures have had some effect — China’s economy has slowed dramatically, not entirely due to tariffs from the US, but the taxes have begun to bite.

    While China is often described as a market economy, consider this: shortly after Beijing put retaliatory tariffs on soybeans, Chinese imports of US soybeans went nearly to zero. Was this in reaction to a 10% tax, or did the government spread the word that US soybeans were not to be imported. I suspect the latter, which demonstrates that the term market economy really doesn‘t apply to a one-party system with no respect for the rule of law.

    So my answer to Professor Cowan: it’s not a lack of trust but systematic aggression by China against our people, our business and jobs that has rendered them unworthy of our trust.

    __ Charles Wallace in Forbes

    Some Problems in Mainland China

    The recent “independence votes” in Hong Kong and Taiwan cast a long shadow over the ambitions of Xi and other top officials. It is just as well that they are not being allowed to have a free hand in those places, since the economic well-being of China’s elite depends upon the existence of trusted intermediaries with the outside world — such as the so-far relatively independent Hong Kong and Taiwan. China has proven itself to be untrustworthy at every test.

    Economic growth in China lowest in about 30 years

    China is subject to major viral outbreaks

    Outbound planes and trains halted from Wuhan

    PDF download explaining cultural aspects of China’s lying and cheating culture

    The US has been the world’s wealthiest nation for 140 years, and the most innovative nation for most of that time. The US has been the world’s most powerful nation for 75 years and the world’s sole superpower for roughly 30 years.

    But for the past 20 years, media and academic pundits have been predicting that the 21st century would be “The China Century.” And by hook or by crook, the dragon has clawed its way into a position of wealth, power, and technological savvy. Since President Clinton boosted China into the WTO, nothing from the administrations of Bush II or Obama has caused intellectuals in the world of chatter to doubt that China would take over as the wealthiest, most innovative, and most powerful nation by 2050 — if not decades sooner. It is only in the past two years that any push-back toward Chinese illegal practises could be seen or felt from any part of the world. China’s sense of inevitable triumph has only recently seemed increasingly hollow and ghost-like.

    The 574% private debt-to-GDP is conservative… Moreover, it’s highly likely that there are more unreported financial debts out. If you factor in that China’s GDP is likely lower than stated, and that their debts have risen, you could get up into debt ratio approaching 800%.

    By comparison, the usual benchmark for a lofty debt-to-GDP ratio is anything over 150%… That makes China’s staggering debt problem almost unfathomable by most metrics. The only reason why debt-to-GDP bubble has gotten so big (without bursting) is that the Chinese government controls the economy.

    Whenever the Chinese economy slows, like it is doing now, the Chinese government intervenes. It adds fiscal and monetary stimulus or monkeys around with the financial system to kick the can down the road.

    This papers over the cracks but makes the problem worse. It’s now only a matter of time before this debt bubble burst. __ https://thefinancialcourier.com/index.php/2019/04/01/chinas-debt-bubble-is-immense-and-could-destroy-the-global-economy/

    Posted in China, Economics, Europe, innovation, University | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Four Paths to Savant Mental Skills

    Savant skills are typically confined to five areas: art, music, calendar calculating, mathematics and mechanical/spatial skills (Treffert 2005). These skills are [ed: in brain-damaged savants] accompanied by an exceptional ability to recall meaningless detail—memory without understanding (Sacks 2007) and a high incidence of absolute pitch (AP) and synaesthesia. __ Snyder 2009 Philosophical Transactions B R. Soc.

    Rain Man Savant
    Source

    The most familiar autistic savant to most of us is the fictional Raymond Babbit (played by Dustin Hoffman) from the movie “Rain Man.” Raymond displayed superhuman skills of recall which earned his scheming brother (played by Tom Cruise) a tidy sum at the Las Vegas gaming tables.

    There are at least four ways persons may find themselves with savant mental skills such as those displayed by “Rain Man.”

    1. One may be born with a condition that results in savant skills
    2. One may suffer a head injury that results in permanent savant skills
    3. One may temporarily turn off part of the brain that inhibits savant skills
    4. Spontaneous emergence of savant skills may occur

    In congenital savant syndrome the extraordinary savant ability surfaces in early childhood. In acquired savant syndrome astonishing new abilities, typically in music, art or mathematics, appear unexpectedly in ordinary persons after a head injury, stroke or other central nervous system (CNS) incident where no such abilities or interests were present pre-incident. __ Source

    Example of acquired savant syndrome:

    In 2002, two men savagely attacked Jason Padgett outside a karaoke bar, leaving him with a severe concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder. But the incident also turned Padgett into a mathematical genius who sees the world through the lens of geometry.

    Padgett, a furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington, who had very little interest in academics, developed the ability to visualize complex mathematical objects and physics concepts intuitively. The injury, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of his brain that makes everything in his world appear to have a mathematical structure.

    “I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life” — from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain, Padgett told Live Science. “It’s just really beautiful.” __ Source

    Transient Savant Syndrome from Electromagnetic Brain Stimulation

    Allan Snyder has demonstrated that the use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on certain parts of the brain may unlock savant-like cognitive abilities. More

    The individuals in the graphic below came by their savant mental skills in various ways:

    An Assortment of Individuals Displaying Savant Skills
    http://www.smarter.org/

    Sudden Spontaneous Savant Syndrome

    The fourth way for emergence of savant skills is Sudden Savant Syndrome (SSS). This seemingly miraculous occurrence may happen at any time in a person’s life for no obvious reason. It is different from “acquired savant syndrome” in that with SSS there is no injury or other obvious precipitating event.

    [In] sudden savant syndrome an ordinary person… has an unanticipated, spontaneous epiphanylike moment where the rules and intricacies of music, art or mathematics, for example, are experienced and revealed, producing almost instantaneous giftedness and ability in the affected area of skill sets. Because there is no underlying disability such as that which occurs in congenital or acquired savant syndromes, technically sudden savant syndrome would be better termed sudden genius.

    A 28-year-old gentleman from Israel, K. A., sent his description of his epiphany moment. He was in a mall where there was a piano. Whereas he could play simple popular songs from rote memory before, “suddenly at age 28 after what I can best describe as a ‘just getting it moment,’ it all seemed so simple. I suddenly was playing like a well-educated pianist.” His friends were astonished as he played and suddenly understood music in an entirely intricate way. “I suddenly realized what the major scale and minor scale were, what their chords were and where to put my fingers in order to play certain parts of the scale. I was instantly able to recognize harmonies of the scales in songs I knew as well as the ability to play melody by interval recognition.” He began to search the internet for information on music theory and to his amazement “most of what they had to teach I already knew, which baffled me as to how could I know something I had never studied.”

    … [A] 43-year-old woman woke up one night in December 2016 with what she called “the urgent need to draw a multitude of triangles, which quickly evolved to a web of complex abstract designs. I stayed up into the morning with a compulsive need to draw, which continued over the next three days at an intense level.” She had no prior interest or training in art. By the third day she was working on a piece of art she named “the Mayan,” which took her two weeks to complete. Three months later she had created 15 pieces whose styles were reminiscent of artists including Frida Kahlo and Picasso. She presently spends about eight hours a day on her craft in addition to her work as a real estate agent. Incorporated into most of her pieces of art is mandalic style of which she was totally unaware prior to her sudden art ability.

    Many people pick up a new skill or hobby, especially later in life. So what is different here?

    —The skill has an abrupt onset with no prior interest in or talent for the newly acquired ability.

    —There is no obvious precipitating event or CNS injury or disease.

    —The new skill is automatically coupled with a detailed, epiphany-type knowledge of the underlying rules of music, art or math, for example—none of which the person has studied. They know things without ever having learned them.

    —The new skill is accompanied with an obsessive-compulsive (OCD) component; there is the overpowering need to play music, draw or compute. It is as much a force as a gift, as is usually the case with both congenital and acquired savant syndromes.

    —There is a fear the gift and OCD is evidence of losing one’s mind, and a tendency to hide the new ability from others rather than display it.

    __ Darold Treffert in https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/brain-gain-a-person-can-instantly-blossom-into-a-savant-and-no-one-knows-why/

    Darold Treffert was studying 14 cases of SSS at the time he wrote the above Scientific American piece. Ten were female and four were male — with an average age of onset of 47.2 years.

    It seems that for “spontaneous savants,” various components of brain networks suddenly “clicked” and began working at a higher order of function than previously. Many persons would find the prospect of moving to a higher level of function quite attractive.

    … the acquired savant particularly, and now the sudden savant, reinforce the idea that not only is the line between savant and genius a very narrow one but also underscores the possibility such savant abilities may be dormant, to one degree or another, in all of us. The challenge is to tap those special abilities without head injury or CNS incident but rather with some nonintrusive, more readily available methods. __ Darold Treffert

    A Release of Inhibition?

    Our brains are a mass of inhibition. Without this inhibition we would all go mad, and suffer from incessant and uncontrollable seizure disorders. But we could all do with a bit less inhibition from time to time. In the “spontaneous savant” this release of inhibition seems to have occurred unprompted, out of the blue. But in the more common cases of savant skills, disinhibition occurs as a result of injury.

    Ways that Neural Inhibition Can Be Released

    Brain Damage: Savants with congenital and acquired savant syndromes have suffered from some kind of brain damage — either before birth or after, respectively.

    Behavioural neurologist Bruce Miller, of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center in San Francisco… has come up with a new theory to explain the phenomenon. He believes the talents of a savant emerge when the areas damaged — those associated with logic, verbal communication, and comprehension — have inhibited latent artistic abilities already present. According to this theory, these hyper skills, such as great proficiency in music, manifest themselves as the areas of the right brain associated with creativity operate unchecked for the first time. __ https://nationalpost.com/health/from-head-injury-to-math-genius-on-savant-syndrome-and-the-possibility-of-a-little-rain-man-within-us-all

    In the case of transient induced savant skills, electromagnetic stimulation is used to “inhibit the inhibition,” releasing other parts of the brain from their neural restraints. How it works:

    Snyder et al. (2003) directed low-frequency rTMS for 15 min over the LATL [Left Anterior Temporal Lobe] of 11, right-handed, healthy participants. The participants were given 1 min to draw a dog, horse or face from memory, before, during, immediately after and 45 min after rTMS treatment.

    Magnetic stimulation caused a major change in the schema of the drawings of 4 out of 11 participants. Two of these also underwent sham (inactive) stimulation either the week before or after the real test. The changes in drawing style were observed only following active stimulation and not after sham stimulation. In some cases, the drawings returned to ‘normal’ 45 min after rTMS ceased. Young et al. (2004) also reported rTMS-enhanced drawing skills.

    Several participants reported greater awareness of detail in their surrounds after active rTMS. One participant published his experience, stating that he ‘could hardly recognize the drawings as his own even though he had watched himself render each image’. (Osborne 2003, p. 38).

    … Low-frequency rTMS was applied to the LATL for 15 min (Snyder et al. 2006). Participants were presented with between 50 and 150 discrete elements on a monitor with rTMS and sham stimulation. Each session involved 60 trials, that is 20 opportunities to guess the number of elements before, immediately after and 1 hour after rTMS. The exposure time was 1.5 s: too short for anyone to count the number of elements, but sufficiently long to resemble exposure times in real-life situations (figure 1).

    Out of 12 participants, 10 improved their ability to accurately guess the number of discrete elements immediately following magnetic pulse stimulation. Out of these 10 participants, 8 became worse 1 hour later, as the effects of the magnetic pulses receded. None of those eight participants exhibited that pattern during the sham session. The probability of as many as 8 out of 12 people doing the best just after rTMS and not just after the sham by chance alone is less than 1 in 1000 (p=0.001; figure 2). __ Allan Snyder 2009

    The US DARPA is doing research with military personnel using electromagnetic brain stimulation, in the attempt to sharpen a number of thinking skills relating to combat.

    By delivering electrical pulses into the body’s nervous system, the scientists aim to modulate the brain’s neural connectivity and production of key chemicals. That kind of neural tuning can “influence cognitive state—how awake you are, or how much attention you’re paying to something you’re viewing or performing,” says Doug Weber, a bioengineer at DARPA who heads up the TNT project. __ Spectrum IEEE

    It is not entirely clear when a form of electromagnetic brain stimulation is “stimulating” the brain, “inhibiting” the brain, or “disinhibiting” the brain.

    If I had my preference, I would take the spontaneous sudden genius savant approach. But the use of electromagnetic or photonic stimulation to induce temporary savant skills is a viable alternative, when the first one fails.

    Pharmacology is another approach to both enhancing cognition and for disinhibiting parts of the brain. Drugs are a less focused approach than electromagnetic and photonic stimulation, but some pharmaceuticals may be effective in triggering a spontaneous savant-like mental condition in some people.

    More:

    Snyder 2009: A rich source of information

    I have argued that the extraordinary skills of savants are latent in us all and that they can be induced artificially owing to the inhibiting influence of low-frequency rTMS, that is, by turning off part of the brain, not by exciting it. My hypothesis is that savant skills are facilitated by privileged access to raw, less-processed sensory information, information that exists in all brains but is inaccessible owing to top-down inhibition. Thus, autistic savants tend to see a more literal, less filtered view of the world. Their ‘skill’ or performance does not depend on active learning, but simply on an effortless ‘reading off’ of this less-processed information.

    Treffert 2008: Fascinating look at spontaneous savant syndrome

    … such savant abilities may be dormant, to one degree or another, in all of us. The challenge is to tap those special abilities without head injury or CNS incident but rather with some nonintrusive, more readily available methods.

    An earlier Al Fin look at transient induced savantism from 2010

    More DARPA

    Posted in Cognition, Human Brain | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Is Culture as Malleable As We Feared?

    Perhaps not, if this study published yesterday in Nature Human Behaviour is to be believed. Study researchers compared rates of cultural evolution vs. rates of biological evolution.

    most culture is subject to “directional and stabilising forces”… – even creating stasis in some cases.

    “In short, the reason why a large part of modern culture shows so little long-term change,” they write, “is because of the action of some constraining force.” __ https://cosmosmagazine.com/society/modern-culture-actually-isn-t-evolving-that-quickly

    We have seen rapid technological change in areas related to semiconductor development affected by Moore’s Law. Electronic devices using semiconductors have evolved very quickly over the past several decades. The internet has exploded the worlds of commerce, entertainment, education, etc. At the same time, leftist political factions have gained rapid influence in media, academia, government, and other cultural institutions. Finally, birthrates in the advanced world have collapsed leading to the rapid ageing of affluent societies.

    “All we have is this sense that culture evolves really quickly, but relative to what?” said Armand Leroi, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College London.

    Leroi and his colleagues believe that cultural traits evolve much like biological ones, in that they are formed via descent by modification. “When making something new, people start with something that someone else has done,” he said.

    So they used the tools of evolutionary biology to measure how fast selections of human cultural objects are evolving, and compared them to the rate of evolution of a variety of animal populations.

    … In their paper, published today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, They reviewed changes in the topics of the novels and scientific articles, body size of the cars, and musical content of the songs.

    They compared these rates with the rate of evolution of a dozen animals, including some famous examples such as Darwin’s finches from the Galapagos Islands and pepper moths in northern England, and found something surprising. The cultural objects didn’t evolve very quickly — in fact they changed around the same speed as most of the animals in the study. __ https://www.insidescience.org/news/which-evolves-faster-culture-or-biology

    Many cultural anthropologists and sociologists believe differently, and have performed studies that project faster rates of cultural evolution than are seen in biological evolution. But this most recent study suggests that unseen factors tend to slow down cultural evolution.

    Given that human culture is built directly upon human cognition — and human cognition is built directly on human genes — it is likely that some underlying innate “human nature” has much to do with moderating the rates of cultural evolution.

    In addition, the basic laws of thermodynamics and the basic laws of economics both place harsh restrictions on how quickly a runaway cultural movement can change the underlying societies.

    Modern human societies are also getting older, and older human beings have lower levels of certain hormones which may cause them to behave and think more conservatively.

    Leftist Radical “Progressives” May Have Overshot the Mark

    Before the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, leftist radicals believed that they had all of American society wrapped up in a nice neat gift-wrapped bundle. They believed they had won the “culture war,” and that the “climate apocalypse cult” could be used as a giant club to extinguish the use of fossil fuels in western societies (but not in China, India, Russia, Africa, or Latin America). The economic impact of that fox paw 😉 on Europe and the Anglosphere would have been horrific.

    Only a decade ago, CNNs Jim Acosta in particular—but representative of the whole progressive establishment—viewed the inauguration of Barack Obama as the culmination of the whole New Deal, Great Society agenda for the nation, comparing him to having Abraham Lincoln’s “big shoes to fill,” and calling his opening speech to the nation an agenda “for the ages.”[3] Then all of a sudden here was this “hateful brat” Donald Trump.

    There were pleasant surprises for conservatives from President Trump once in office for cutting market and social regulations, the appointment of conservative judges, and tax cuts, although with mixed signals on trade and industrial policy. On the other hand, with increased spending and a commitment not to touch entitlements and even adding more government employees, there seemed no commitment to the central conservative ideal of limited government.

    … __ https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/01/impeachment-end-era-conservative-challenge-donald-devine.html

    To the chagrin of leftist intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals, the election of Donald Trump emboldened cultural conservatives in the US — and the rest of the modern world. A wide range of culturally conservative movements and voices suddenly emerged in public life, on the internet, inside academia, and from within other mainstream cultural institutions.

    Because no one dared speak publicly, progressives had assumed their education and mainstream media “mocking” of traditional values had turned America progressive and now Donald Trump had proven they had not. Now with Mr. Trump in office, the last hope to contain the effects could only be by the expert bureaucracy that was the original faith of progressive scientific administration to produce the good welfare state. Rather than the elected president representing the people, salvation must now come from the permanent government. [ed: “The Swamp”] __ https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/01/impeachment-end-era-conservative-challenge-donald-devine.html

    But the swamp is being gradually exposed for the corrupt monstrosity that it has always been.

    The US 2nd Amendment movement has been a particularly strong force, with well-attended rallies taking place across the nation.

    The second amendment movement may also be adding strength to other cultural institutions, such as religion.

    They’re preparing for the worst-case scenario, one where their congregations are the target of a mass shooting — something that was almost unthinkable a few years ago but has happened twice in Texas in the past three years.

    … Chuck Chadwick, the founder and president of the National Organization for Church Security and Safety Management, has been in the church security business for about 18 years, encouraging parishioners and worshippers to take their safety into their own hands. He’s experienced a spike in interest in recent weeks, following the White Settlement shooting, that mirrors the same interest his business got after Sutherland Springs.

    In a one-story building in Krugerville, a city about an hour and a half north of Dallas, located next to a State Farm office and gun shop, attendees go through the same state-certification training as private security guards. Except at the end, instead of being paid to protect an office building, the participants will be volunteers protecting their flocks. __ https://www.texastribune.org/2020/01/21/texas-churches-arming-volunteer-security-after-white-settlement/

    Devout church members are beginning to see their faith again as a “life or death” matter, as it was in the days of the Roman Coliseum, the Spanish Inquisition, or as it is in today’s communist China. For American believers, this injection of sobriety is likely to boost church attendance (and firearms carry licenses for churchgoers). In other words, the long-run effect of these church shootings is likely to be the opposite of what the criminal gunmen who initiate the shootings were hoping.

    Note: Al Fin is neither a religious observer nor a believer in any religion. But it is clear that religion can serve as a strong stabilising force in western societies.

    Leftist Radicals Boost Own Opposition

    The more assertive the radical forces of the extinctionist new left, the greater will be the pushback from other directions. For example, there are plenty of scientists who doubt the “climate apocalypse” aspects of climate change, and as the evidence supporting them accumulates they will be less fearful of speaking out against the political steamroller that has silenced so many.

    As the “evidence” for climate apocalypse is increasingly refuted, the radical and violent voices seeking to silence more rational voices will get less support from the public. As evidence for human biological diversity builds, the voices for radical egalitarianism will find less support from the more thoughtful and well-read.

    The emergence of the Intellectual Dark Web out of academia has revealed that the culture war has not been won by either side. Intelligent human beings rebel against being told what to think, what to say, and who to be — as the radical left juggernaut of cultural engineering tries to force them to do.

    Biological Human Nature is a real thing, no matter how leftist radicals try to paint it. The push-back against leftist overreach has barely begun.

    Posted in anthropology, Disruptive Technologies, Donald Trump | Tagged | 2 Comments

    SpaceX Almost Ready for Manned Spaceflights

    The Moon is Getting Closer

    SpaceX is preparing to launch humans into space, following its successful Dragon capsule test yesterday.

    The first piloted flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon astronaut taxi is likely just a few months away, now that a critical safety test is in the rearview mirror.

    SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule aced an in-flight abort test Sunday morning (Jan. 19), successfully jetting away from its Falcon 9 rocket less than 90 seconds after liftoff and ultimately splashing down softly under parachutes in the Atlantic Ocean, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the Florida coast.

    The uncrewed test demonstrated the spacecraft’s ability to keep astronauts safe in the event of a launch emergency, marking a big step on the path toward crewed flight. __ https://www.space.com/spacex-crew-dragon-astronaut-launch-by-spring-2020.html

    Meanwhile development is moving forward for the larger and more powerful SpaceX “Starship.” As described at Brian Wang’s Nextbigfuture.com, the Starship is being primed to provide a very affordable ferry service between Earth and the moon.

    SpaceX could price moon missions with a fixed cost of $100 million. This price would cover loss of the rocket one out of every three landings. Moon missions would become safer and more reliable by building landing pads on the moon.

    NASA is spending about $10+ billion for each SLS (Space Launch System) moon mission.

    Even with $400 million for the mission portion and $100 million for the launch, $6 billion per year would be enough to fund monthly manned missions to the moon. [ed: Emphasis added]

    This would support the construction and operation of large manned bases on the moon.

    __ Nextbigfuture.com

    Notice that SpaceX moonshots would cost only 1% 5% [see comments below] of what each NASA moonshot would cost! NASA must be insane to proceed with its development of its exorbitantly expensive Space Launch System, when the SpaceX option is [likely to be] available [in a few years] and so much more affordable [than NASA’s SLS is projected to be]. I wonder what US President Trump would think about the economics here?

    Meanwhile, Beyond the Moon is Mars

    Elon Musk has one good company, and he is still planning to take it to Mars. The more powerful Starship design will allow for much larger cargoes — including human cargo — to Mars.

    Back in mid-2017, Musk said that the Starship architecture (which was then called the Interplanetary Transport System) could potentially allow a million-person city to rise on Mars within 50 to 100 years. He’s still working toward such an ambitious timeline — an even more ambitious one, in fact. On Thursday, one of Musk’s Twitter followers asked, “So a million people [on Mars] by 2050?” The billionaire responded simply: “Yes.” __ Space.com

    Elon Musk has been on a mission to Mars ever since he founded SpaceX in 2002. It is good to see his long preparations unfold. As long as he keeps the company on a sound fiduciary basis, his chances of establishing a permanent human presence off-planet seem good in the long run.

    The first $trillionaire may be a space entrepreneur such as Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. It is a question of economic incentives and payoffs.

    The satellite market is booming. But space tourism is up and coming. The technology for developing the resources of near-Earth asteroids and the moon is getting better. Many high value scientific projects would benefit from placement on the far side of Luna. The real “killer app” for space development has probably not been conceived yet.

    Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are working hard to make space launch safe, affordable, and routine. Once that is done, it is up to human ingenuity to devise an endless list of profitable space ventures that can bootstrap the human presence into space for the long term. It is important for free private entities to grab the high ground before the totalitarian “body snatcher” states such as China attempt to monopolize control.

    More on the radiation danger for both interplanetary space missions and the radiation danger of living on Mars.

    An analysis by Hassler and colleagues, published in 2014 in Science, noted that a human expedition with 360 days total in interplanetary space, plus 500 days on Mars itself, would expose astronauts to just over 1 sievert of radiation. Now statistically that’s not too awful. It would increase the odds of you getting fatal cancer by some 5% over your lifetime.

    However, if we consider just the dose on Mars, the rate of exposure averaged over one Earth year is just over 20 times that of the maximum allowed for a Department of Energy radiation worker in the US (based off of annual exposure).

    Mars settlers will need to shield their living and working spaces with a thick padding of Martian soil.

    Posted in Future, Space Future | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Nobody Wants to be Married; Can’t Afford Children

    We recently discussed the demographic crises in Japan, South Korea, and parts of Europe. In the close vicinity of both Japan and South Korea, is another nation that is unprepared for the sudden shrinkage of its working class population.

    “It’s a society where nobody wants to get married and people can’t afford to have children,” said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. “On a deeper level, you would have to think about what kind of society China will become, not just demographically, but socially.”

    … Dong Chang, a 28-year-old administrative employee at a dentist’s clinic in Beijing, said millennials like her enjoyed spending on themselves without batting an eyelid and would find it hard to sacrifice their wants for a child.

    “We are all only children, and to be honest, a little selfish,” she said. “How can I raise a child when I’m still a child myself? And take care of him and feed him at midnight?”

    … Melody Lin, a 26-year-old worker at a nonprofit, said she couldn’t think of a reason to have a child. She said she had thought about conforming to societal norms and starting a family but decided against it after reading arguments that not all women need to have children.

    “My parents think that I’m still young and will change my mind when I get older, but I think it’s unlikely,” she said.

    … The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said last year that China’s population contraction would begin in 2027. Others believe it will come sooner or has already begun. The accuracy and completeness of China’s population figures, like other sensitive statistics, have been questioned for years, making exact projections and comparisons difficult.

    __ Source via NYT and SCMP

    The global economic regime has come to depend upon a “China stimulus,” especially nations with heavy raw materials or high technology exports to China. China has come to depend upon large numbers of low-wage working-age Chinese, to spark its decades-old import/export binge. But as China’s working-age population has already begun to decline, the wages being demanded by workers have begun to ramp upward.

    Just as bad, some of China’s main trading partners are beginning to question some of China’s trading methods. As rumbles of discontent with China reverberate across the commercial world, expect the underlying complications to add up for Beijing.

    China now has a huge, capable population. It is not in danger of running out of people so much as it is in danger of running out of enough working-age people to sustain the hard-fought-for high ranking of China on the world economic stage.

    The fall in the birthrate is likely to accelerate as the number of young women of childbearing age is expected to drop sharply.

    Meanwhile, the population is aging due to greater longevity. According to the announcement on Friday, the number of people over age 65 reached 12.6% of the total population at the end of 2019, 0.7 percentage point up from the previous year.

    The birthrate decline and aging place an extra burden on the nation’s finances and social security benefits such as healthcare and pensions. __ Nikkei Asian Review quoted in China Digital Times

    This could all come to an unhappy climax if China is forced to play by international rules in its overseas trading policies. Beijing has bribed a lot of foreign journalists, politicians, and businessmen to stay silent on China’s abusive trade regime. But just as in the collapse of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s and early 1990s, China’s house of cards is subject to being downgraded to a pile of cards if the dragon loses favorable air currents.

    More: Trade Dispute repercussions

    Posted in China, Demographics | 2 Comments

    Evolution and Human Cognition

    Since the split from the chimpanzee lineage, the human brain has increased three-fold in size and has acquired abilities for vocal learning, language and intense cooperation.

    … the increasing availability of genome sequences from humans, chimpanzees and other primates, as well as even our closest extinct relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisovans [3], allows us to precisely identify most of the about 16 million genetic changes that occurred in the human lineage, i.e. after the split from the chimpanzee lineage and before the most recent common ancestor of currently living humans.

    … recent experimental 81, 82, 83, 84 and theoretical [85] evidence now strongly suggests that an expansion of so-called ‘basal progenitor cells’ is sufficient to cause an increase in cortical size and folding that echoes changes seen during evolutionary increases in cortical size and folding. __ Molecular Basis of Human Brain Evolution in Current Biology Vol. 26 Issue 20


    The human brain is larger and structured somewhat differently than the brains of other primates, but it is also different in function — displaying “cognitive functional networks” that are unique.

    Uncovering the evolutionary genetic underpinnings of cognitive functional networks, and in particular, to what extent cognitive functional networks have developed in recent human evolution, is crucial for our understanding of the high cognitive complexity of human brain function.

    … Here, we studied the expansion and evolutionary genetics of higher-order cognitive networks in recent human brain evolution, with a particular focus on the evolutionarily genetic drive of the DMN. Recent genome-wide studies comparing the human genome with that of the chimpanzee have identified a unique set of loci that displayed accelerated divergence in the human lineage17,18. Genes associated with these so-called human accelerated regions (HAR) have been linked to neuron development, but also the development of brain disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD)19. We integrate genetic data with comparative neuroimaging and present that regions of higher-order cognitive networks are highly expanded in recent human brain evolution. We show that HAR genes likely have played a crucial role in this, being highly expressed in expanded cognitive networks (and in particular the DMN) and being differentially expressed in the human brain compared to chimpanzees and macaques __ Nature Communications 10 (#4839 Oct 2019)

    Culture vs. Genetic

    The human brain evolved differently than the brains of other primates and hominids. If not, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading it. The question of whether culture plays a larger part in the evolution of human cognition — or whether genes do — is a matter of healthy scientific debate. For example:

    Tomasello and Rakoczy (4) highlight this point by noting that “if we imagine a human child born onto a desert island, somehow magically kept alive by itself until adulthood, it is possible that this adult’s cognitive skills would not differ very much—perhaps a little, but not very much—from those of other great apes (ref. 4, p. 121)”. __ quoted in “Unraveling the Evolution of Uniquely Human CognitionEvan MacLean published PNAS June 7 2016

    Without the benefit of human culture, the growing child would not learn language, music, mathematics, and other uniquely human skills that have led to our modern technological age.

    On the other hand, if we imagine a chimpanzee taken immediately after birth into an affluent and well-educated human household, given the best of human education, social life, and healthcare — while also given the best chimpanzee nutrition and exercise — it is likely that this chimp’s adult cognitive skills would not differ very much from those of other adult chimpanzees raised under less cognitively favorable conditions.

    It should be clear that uniquely human genes underlie uniquely human culture, while human culture under-girds the development of technologically advanced human societies capable of accumulating large growing bodies of human knowledge. It is even likely that human culture affects further human genetic evolution. More

    The 10,000 Year Explosion by Henry Harpending and Greg Cochran, looks closely at an example of the interaction of culture and genetic evolution in a small breeding population over the past 10,000 years. (Full text PDF)

    The thesis of The 10,000 Year Explosion is that the largely inbred population of Ashkenazim artificially (culturally) selected for intelligence, resulting in the disproportional over-representation of Ashkenazim among Nobel Prize winners, top mathematicians and theoretical physicists, and other groups of highly learned and highly accomplished members of modern western societies.

    There are several key observations that motivate our hypothesis.

    The first is that the Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group, combined with an un-usual cognitive profile, while no similar elevation of intelligence was observed among Jews in classical times nor is one seen in Sephardic and Oriental Jews today.

    The second is that the Ashkenazim experienced very low inward gene flow, which created a favorable situation for natural selection.

    The third is that they experienced unusual selective pressures that were likely to have favored increased intelligence. For the most part they had jobs in which increased IQ strongly favored economic success, in contrast with other populations, who were mostly peasant farmers. They lived in circumstances in which economic success led to increased reproductive success.

    The fourth is the existence of the Ashkenazi sphingolipid, DNA repair, and other disease clusters, groups of biochemically related mutations that could not plausibly have reached their present high frequencies by chance, that are not common in adjacent populations, and that have physiological effects that could increase intelligence. ___ https://web.mit.edu/fustflum/documents/papers/AshkenaziIQ.jbiosocsci.pdf

    The authors of the book are not trying to champion the cause of Judaic culture or religion. Neither are they suggesting that the Ashkenazim are some sort of “master race.” Rather they are suggesting that culturally driven selective breeding within a relatively small population of humans can — over time — lead to evolutionary genetic distinctions that provide advantages (and disadvantages) to some members of that population.

    Consider the Potential for Human Evolution on a Larger Stage

    If 20% of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, and only 0.2% of the human population is Jewish, one might suspect that over the past 10,000 years evolution has performed something of a cognitive miracle on that relatively small group of people.

    Modern humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, evolving on different continents in generally different breeding populations for most of that time. The map below is a look at IQ test results from indigenous populations from various regions. But it cannot tell us what IQs were many tens of thousands of years ago.

    IQ Indigenous People
    Found: http://hyperborea-land.blogspot.com/2011/06/qi-das-racas-nativas-do-mundo.html
    From VDare: Rushton Data via Lynn

    All we can suppose by comparing the different IQ distributions from various breeding populations today, is that something happened along the way that created different IQ outcomes for different widely separated breeding populations over time. Below is a more contemporary map providing regional IQ scores:

    Global IQ Score Population Averages
    Wikipedia

    Since all modern humans are presumably derived from hominids that originally evolved inside Africa, it is a challenge to discover just when and where the different breeding populations diverged, in terms of brain evolution. We can be sure that genes and culture interacted every step of the way. But of course, scientifically minded humans want to know the details behind the divergence.

    Neanderthal and Denisovan Genes

    One thing that distinguishes sub-Saharan African populations from Asian or European populations, is that the African populations lack genes from either of the archaic human groups known as Neanderthals and Denisovans.

    Neanderthals were very early (archaic) humans who lived in Europe and Western Asia from about 400,000 years ago until they became extinct about 40,000 years ago. Denisovans are another population of early humans who lived in Asia and were distantly related to Neanderthals. (Much less is known about the Denisovans because scientists have uncovered fewer fossils of these ancient people.) The precise way that modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans are related is still under study. However, research has shown that modern humans overlapped with Neanderthal and Denisovan populations for a period, and that they had children together (interbred). As a result, many people living today have a small amount of genetic material from these distant ancestors.

    The percentage of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans is zero or close to zero in people from African populations, and is about 1 to 2 percent in people of European or Asian background. The percentage of Denisovan DNA is highest in the Melanesian population (4 to 6 percent), lower in other Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander populations, and very low or undetectable elsewhere in the world.

    __ https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/dtcgenetictesting/neanderthaldna

    Is it possible that archaic human DNA contributed somehow to the cognitive divergence between the different continental groups? Difficult to say.

    We have seen the eruption of a cognitive divergence between the Ashkenazim and surrounding European populations, over a relatively short period of time. It seems altogether possible that given the longer period of time since the out-migration of modern humans (“Out of Africa”) with the generally isolated breeding populations on the different continents that prevailed for tens or hundreds of thousands of years — that other cognitive divergences could have occurred.

    It is likely that at the time of the out-migrations from Africa that the IQ differences between those who left and those who stayed were not as distinctly divergent as the differences in IQ distributions now between the various modern human populations.

    IQ and Achievement Match Too Closely to be Coincidence

    Economic Success Correlates With National Average IQ
    More at VDare

    The correlation between the wealth of a nation and its average IQ was first determined as linear, by statistical analysis. But more careful analysis suggests that the correlation is exponential, which makes the real-world situation even more serious and consequential.

    Whatever the details of the “how” of divergent cognitive evolution of the human brain in the different continents and regions, the consequences in terms of cultural and technological development could not be more stark. The average cognitive deficit can be compensated somewhat by a “smart fraction” or market dominant minority. It may also be partially compensated by natural resource wealth, as in the MENA region. But when a nation ejects its “smart fraction” or is otherwise unable to develop its natural resources, the miserable consequences of the evolved cognitive deficit are difficult to escape for most of the population.

    Genetic Selection on Cognitive Ability

    Genes are intimately connected to cognition. Over the past two decades, a large number of gene alleles have been discovered to be connected to cognitive ability and educational attainment.

    The use of Quantitative Traits (QT) as phenotypes provide increased statistical power over categorical association approaches and when combined with a GWAS creates a strategy for identification of unanticipated genes that modulate cognitive processes and cognitive disorders. ___ Genome-Wide Strategies for Discovering Genetic Influences on Cognition . . . in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 2009

    Every year brings new discoveries linking specific alleles with cognitive aptitude and educational attainment. As the evidence for the linkage accumulates, ever more objective ways of measuring cognitive ability also are being developed.

    Evolution Never Stops

    If we can accept that the diverging characteristics of different dog breeds reflect different genetic combinations, we should also accept that the same is likely to be true for different breeding populations of humans. Besides diverging physical characteristics, cognitive and emotional/executive function characteristics may also diverge along with genetic alleles and haplotypes.

    Each person accumulates between fifty and a hundred mutations over the course of his lifetime, since conception.

    The mutational site in the DNA can be of a number of types. The simplest and most common type is nucleotide-pair substitution, which can lead to amino acid substitution or to premature stop codons. Small deletions and duplication also are common. Even a single base deletion or insertion produces widespread damage at the protein level; because mRNA is read from one end “in frame” in groups of three, a loss or gain of one nucleotide pair shifts the reading frame, and all the amino acids translationally downstream will be incorrect. Such mutations are called frameshift mutations. __ Source

    Gene duplication is another source of genetic divergence, as are changes on the chromosomal level. Divergent changes in gene expression & epigenetics can also occur on many levels, leading to significant changes in phenotypic characteristics. These changes can be much more difficult to detect and quantify, but researchers are making strides even there.

    Cognition, emotional stability, and executive function are all strongly influenced by inheritance. Here is one example of a heritable influence on human behaviour, but there are many more. If you give neural systems of various types just the tiniest tweak, you may discover some surprisingly large effects.

    We are learning more about the past, present, and future evolution of animal cognition every year. Expect some politically incorrect surprises.

    More:

    Wealth by Nation 2019

    Global Population and Fertility Trends

    An interesting comparison of cultural evolution vs. biological evolution

    Posted in Cognition, Evolution, Genetics and Gene Expression, Human Brain | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Part of “the Deceit of Growing Up”

    There is no way to get from infancy to adulthood without suffering through a million tiny lies and self-deceptions. The neuropsychology of growing up provides insufficient cognitive resolution at the time it happens, to allow our developing bodies/brains and puny experience of life to understand what is happening to us and what we are becoming.

    I feel I am being drawn into a world whose meanings are never so clear any longer, distinctions between this and that, colours are blurred… Perhaps it is all part of the deceit of growing up… __ from the Poldark Saga #9 by Winston Graham

    When works of fiction give deep insights into common human experience, they are only doing what good fiction is supposed to do. Among the best writers at exposing underlying realities include Winston Graham, whose excellent Poldark Saga was once again butchered by the BBC. The written version is witty, earthy, and profound. The televised version is trite, derivative, and untrue to the excellent published book series.

    In the days when bright children and youth were expected to read several dozens of good books per year, they tended to arrive at adulthood bolstered by a wide range of vicarious insights and experiences. Without having experienced many of the joys and heartbreaks of the full spectrum of human experience, they nonetheless had viewed glimpses of the possible vistas and had felt twinges of bitterness and triumph.

    When children no longer read — but instead do social media, play video games, watch TV … — they move through time oblivious to all the lies and self-deceit. If parents never try to compensate for the defects of education and the failures of popular culture, youth suddenly arrive at adulthood without the slightest idea what they are expected to do. It simply isn’t in them to have a clue.

    The Age of Perpetual Immaturity

    I am not the first person to point out that today’s youth and college-age adults seem to lack the independence of mind and strength of character that might be wished for. The Coddling of the American Mind is a long-running project of American media and American academia that has been ongoing for at least the past 50 years. The project was perhaps best described in the 1994 book “Who Stole Feminism?” by Christina Hoff Sommers. The book is available for free download at archive.org. Another excellent look at the intentional hobbling of the minds of youth is The Closing of the American Mind.

    So, it is not bad enough that the bare phenomenon of “growing up” leaves us with a myriad of misconceptions, ignorant prejudices, and outright falsehoods of understanding. The educational system, media outlets, and institutions of popular culture must pile on by introducing a systematic program of coddling indoctrination, rendering the minds of children, youth, and young adults virtually incapable of distinguishing truth from falsehood on their own. In other words, entire generations are being rendered perpetually ignorant, incompetent, and unenlightened by protected institutions, tax-supported institutions, and departments of government.

    Characteristics of Perpetual Immaturity

    Here is a short list of the characteristics of the perpetually immature young adult — both male and female:

    She is in touch with her mom every day.

    She acts like a child, a teenager, or a person who is much younger than she is.

    She acts as if others should serve her. She expects to be taken care of and be pampered on demand.

    He cannot maintain a long-term, stable romantic relationship.

    He is commitment-phobic in nearly all areas of life—despite having a needy attachment style. It can take him six months to commit to buying a new sofa.

    She has few, if any, close friends.

    She is often passive-aggressive, meaning she has a tendency to engage in an indirect expression of hostility through acts such as subtle insults, sullen behavior, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks.

    She is a narcissist or exhibits a childish selfishness. If something is even mildly inconvenient, he will resist doing it.

    He is financially irresponsible. He spends too much money playing, partying, or chasing after whims.

    She rarely thinks anything is her fault.

    Adapted from Source

    As these immature adults inadvertently take on more responsibilities, they may find themselves parents of perpetually immature children, youth, and young adults. After all, if an adult never grows up, he cannot be expected to contribute much wisdom to the raising of a child.

    Such parents have frequent mood swings, have trouble connecting on an honest emotional level with their own children, often pursue their own pleasures at the expense of their children’s needs, and can swing between over-controlling behaviours and neglect.

    A Failure of Enlightenment

    18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant described this type of behaviour as a failure of enlightenment. Kant describes the phenomenon of “nonage,” or perpetual immaturity:

    Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on–then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me. Those guardians who have kindly taken supervision upon themselves see to it that the overwhelming majority of mankind–among them the entire fair sex–should consider the step to maturity, not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous. First, these guardians make their domestic cattle stupid and carefully prevent the docile creatures from taking a single step without the leading-strings to which they have fastened them. Then they show them the danger that would threaten them if they should try to walk by themselves. Now this danger is really not very great; after stumbling a few times they would, at last, learn to walk. However, examples of such failures intimidate and generally discourage all further attempts.

    Thus it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it. Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use–or rather abuse–of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage. The man who casts them off would make an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such free movement. That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds. __ Kant What is Enlightnement?

    Kant was a very harsh judge of human nature. He was concerned that books were shackles on the human mind! How much worse on the developing mind are the hobbling effect of social media, video games, movies and TV, lockstep educational systems of indoctrination, conformist journalistic media, and the ephemeral internet that enforces politically correct rules of censorship and “disappearing” at every turn. They had most of those things in Kant’s day of course, but technology is perfecting the groupthink shackles with every revision of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

    The Bookless Library

    The new trend for libraries is to go “bookless.” Whether this takes us closer to the world of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or not, is a matter that you may decide for yourself.

    The University of Michigan has reopened its Taubman Health Sciences Library after a $55 million overhaul and rethinking of how a library for medical students should function.

    Hundreds of thousands of books were moved to an offsite location and are available on demand for delivery, and by becoming “bookless” the school said that frees up space for medical student education. The facility on the school’s Ann Arbor campus officially reopened over the weekend. __ Source

    While a traditionalist may object to a library without books, the fact of the matter is libraries have always been more than warehouses for books. Academic libraries in particular are used more for study than for storing old and possibly outdated books. __ Why Libraries are Going Bookless

    It seems to me that we have the same problem with all-electronic libraries as we have with all-electronic voting, all-electronic money, or all-electronic anything. Electronic storage is subject to being hacked, to being altered. The same may be true of paper, but with paper the counterfeiting is more awkward, more time-consuming, more limited.

    A Return to Books: Fiction and Non-Fiction

    Good fiction provides important insights into human life and existence. It can provide an emotional and practical headstart for children, youth, and adults alike. Good nonfiction provides systematic knowledge and insights into human life and existence, as well as insights into the physical world and universe at large.

    Learning to navigate the world of family, friends, school, work, and the world around us is difficult enough. Not to mention learning to navigate the dangerous tides and shoals of our own emotions and misconceptions. If we can learn to borrow the wisdom and knowledge of worthy people who went before us, then we have an advantage we would not have had otherwise.

    We are all being drawn into a world where colours are blurred and meanings are not so clear. This makes it important to pay closer attention, and to acquit ourselves with the tools we will need to meet danger with Danger.

    We should be polished, but more importantly we should be honed to a sharp edge. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood © .

    A well-educated child is a Dangerous child. While this concept seems quite foreign to modern psychologically neotenous and sheltered societies, it is in fact transparently obvious and necessary to anyone who expects humans to progress to the next level. __ Source

    More: A difference in childhood between generations?

    Reading is good for children. It makes them more literate, better at math, and more academically successful in general. So it’s no wonder that a large majority of the respondents to Jerkins’ Twitter question answered cited time for reading as a major privilege of their childhood. “Books. Hundreds and thousands of them moving through our house—from libraries, bookstores, passed from friends and coworkers of my parents. No idea too frightening or taboo to discuss or analyze,” one Twitter user wrote. “Books saved my life,” another said.

    Today’s teens, however, are reading significantly less than their predecessors. In 1984, 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds said they “never” or “hardly ever” read for pleasure. In 2014, that number had almost tripled, to 22% and 27%. And entire cities have now become “book deserts,” wherein the chances that kids in low-income urban neighborhoods finding children’s books for loan or purchase are slim to none. __ qz.com

    Posted in Childhood Development, Competence, Dangerous Child | Tagged | 4 Comments

    Bernie Sanders’ Organizer Promises “Milwaukee Will Burn”

    A man claiming to be a Bernie Sanders campaign organizer named Kyle Jurek recently promised in a video that Milwaukee would burn if Bernie Sanders did not get the Democratic Nomination for US President in 2020. Milwaukee is the planned location for the 2020 Democratic Party convention.

    The Sanders man also promised that Trump voters would be sent to re-education camps similar to those used by Germany after WWII, or perhaps more like the Soviet gulag work camps.

    The video … shows Jurek warning that Milwaukee, host of this year’s Democratic National Convention, will “burn” if Sanders fails to win the party’s nomination. “If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination or it goes to a second round at the DNC convention, fucking Milwaukee will burn,” says Jurek. “It’ll start in Milwaukee and then when the police push back on that, other sites will fucking [explode].”

    The footage concludes with Jurek issuing the chilling prediction that Milwaukee could see riots akin to the 1968 convention in Chicago, where left-wing activists engaged in violent riots in the streets. “Be ready to be in Milwaukee for the DNC convention. We’re going to make [1968] look like a fucking girl’s scout fucking cookout,” warns the Sanders field organizer. “The cops are going to be the ones fucking beaten in Milwaukee.”

    The undercover video’s emergence comes as 2020 Democrats are slated to debate Tuesday evening… __ Source

    Keep in mind that these are not the words of Bernie Sanders himself, and should rather be seen as a window into the minds of some of Sanders’ supporters — such as the violent activists of Antifa.

    When countries are run the way Bernie Sanders says he wants to run the US:

    Socialist South Africa faces disaster

    Socialist disaster in Venezuela

    Cuba only gets worse… despite praise from Bernie Sanders (and Cuban health care is awfully bad and will not get better, while Cuban “education” is only socialist indoctrination into perpetual economic ruin)

    The fact is that at the infirmary, the thermometer was broken, and at the clinic lab, there was a long line of upset people, while the lab technician held a cheerful telephone conversation, indifferent to any complaint.

    … Summary: a tremendous panic; a hospital bed unnecessarily occupied; my work team going crazy, assuming my tasks; my friends mobilized, keeping me company and taking me food (we already know what to expect from the food at the hospitals in Cuba); a lot of trouble to bathe without a shower, with the toilet stopped up, and with cockroaches roaming around; surrounded by people with breathing infections, who coughed painfully and expectorated constantly; taking the chance of getting infected.

    Everything for a new bad diagnosis.

    The Cuban health care system is a disaster, as Bernie Sanders should know if he took the trouble to investigate. But that might spoil the narrative for his campaign, and hurt the feelings of his kiddies who are already too prone to temper tantrums.

    Another friend of Bernie’s beloved Venezuela suffering economic hardship

    Inflation is running near 40 percent, assailing consumers with sharply rising prices for food and other basic necessities. More than one in four young Iranians is jobless, with college graduates especially short of work, according to the World Bank.

    Bernie’s mass appeal is a cult of personality much like these men enjoyed.

    The fashionable climate change set also loves Bernie

    Leftist environmental policies in Australia led to the country being burned to a crisp…. similar to the US State of California’s leftist “let it burn” approach. This is the future under Bernie. These leftists kill the present and the future, but blame it all on “global warming.”

    By my observations over the years, every nation or other political jurisdiction that adopts the Bernie Sanders platform inevitably suffers financial decline and ruin, if it continues long enough. Sweden was on the brink, but pulled back just in time. Nordic economies are more capitalistic in many ways than the US economy. But neither Bernie, nor AlexiaOcasioCortez, nor any of their radical supporters trouble themselves to study and comprehend the real facts on the street.

    We see the spirit of Bernie Sanders in the current crisis of neo-socialist Chile, we see neo-socialist Argentina in dire straits, neo-socialist Spain is in for a host of all-too-predicable troubles, and everywhere a new generation of ignorant children must prove for themselves that socialism is a failed ideology when put into practise. Poor gullible fools.

    Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Learn to be very Dangerous in your ways, just in case the children ever have their way on the street where you live.

    Capitalism sprung humans from the Malthusian trap

    Bernie’s disciples like Hitler Youth

    The economic picture that Bernie wants to reverse; Because Bernie’s expertise lies in socialist rhetoric, not in practical management of anything real.

    Posted in Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

    The Iranian Breakdown and Abeyance of Apocalypse

    Note to readers: Al Fin is neither a religious observer nor a religious believer. But any discussion of events in the middle east will impinge on issues of religion.

    Protests in Iran Continue
    Source


    Protests continue in Iran against the corrupt, incompetent Islamic regime. Revolutionary Guard shooters have infiltrated protest crowds using ambulances, creating bloody confrontations.

    Iran has been in decline for many years under the Ayatollahs. Illicit drug use is high, birth rates are low, the economic situation is dire, and respect for the government and its ugly religion has plummeted. And why not? Revolutionary Iran has always been about the apocalypse, never about making life bearable for its people.

    Iran faces a demographic crisis over the next two decades as its population ages rapidly…

    … Few countries have endured this level of deprivation outside of full war mobilization, and few have seen such a drastic decline in the number of births. The only modern comparison is Venezuela. Governments with a monopoly of economic resources and the willingness to kill significant numbers of their own citizens can stay in power for quite some time, but there seems no question that Iran’s regime is fragile and prone to destabilization. __ Spengler

    Young Iranians are unhappy with the war-mongering, mindless rigidity, and bloody recklessness of the Iranian theocracy on the international stage. They do not want to fight another large-scale war in the manner of the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s, when millions of young Iranians were slaughtered on and off the front lines. They are relieved that Suleimani is dead, putting a temporary crimp in the theocracy’s plans to induce a grand middle eastern conflagration on the scale of Armageddon.

    The young of Iran protest on the streets, and agitate online for change. Millions of overseas Iranians join in the global conversation, and provide support. More of Iran’s best will defect and emigrate.

    Meanwhile, Angst over the Killing of Suleimani Slowly Fades

    Iranians are Happy that Suleimani is Dead

    Soleimani was not popular with most Iranians because he had long been the guy Iranian leaders called on to suppress widespread protests. This brutally used to be called on once or twice a decade. But now the demonstrations have been constant since late 2017 have had to be repressed, with great brutality, several times. A side effect of these protests is even more resistance to the several days a year when mandatory “Death To America” and “Destroy Israel” rallies are held to remind foreigners what Iran is all about. Soleimani was a general in the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) whose main job was to keep the religious dictatorship in power. Thus while Soleimani spent most of his time causing mayhem in other countries (as commander of Quds Force), he was called in when unruly Iranians had to be pacified. In Iran, it is no secret that Soleimani was a hardliner when it comes to domestic unrest. The coercion to round up large crowds to mourn Soleimani made a lot of Iranians even angrier because they were happy that he was dead. __ Strategy

    Nancy Pelosi and the Clown Car Brigade were the Most Sincere Mourners

    Was Trump lucky, or did he know more than the average dog-mess journalist or Democratic politician? The Iranian response to the destruction of Suleimani has been far from what Nancy Pelosi and the pundits of CNN predicted. A few people are even questioning whether Obama’s policy of appeasement toward Iran may have made the situation in the middle east far worse than it should have been.

    Is the Iranian Theocracy Naturally Apocalyptic?

    And if the Ayatollahs and their puppets are apocalyptic, why would any responsible outside force let them have nuclear weapons? One could ask that question of the Russians and the Chinese, who seem to have no scruples about empowering the raving Ayatollahs to fulfill their fevered dreams of religious annihilation.

    The apocalyptic republic of Iran has always intended to bring the world to the end of days, since the revolution of the late 1970s. Lacking the power to bring the world to the brink of destruction on its own, Iran has lately attempted to provoke others in such a way as to create some kind of “Armageddon” between itself and its Sunni neighbors — hoping to draw in Israel, the USA, and Europe (along with Russia!) for the final bloodbath.

    The Hidden – or Twelfth – Imam plays a dominant role in one specific form of Shi’ite Islamic theology, called “Twelverism,” which happens to be the primary belief system of Iran’s leadership. There is a messianic belief that at the end of days, the Hidden Imam will appear in the midst of a violent apocalyptic scenario played out on a battleground stained with infidels’ blood.

    … Preparing the ground for the reappearance of the Hidden Imam is the Islamic Republic’s raison d’etre. Ignoring it leads to misinterpretation of Tehran’s actions and miscalculation by Western policymakers.” __ https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Irans-aggression-and-the-Shiite-apocalypse-598904

    Another strong apocalyptic strain within Islam is ISIS. The doom-seekers of Iran and those of ISIS had diverging visions of apocalypse, of course — especially with regard to exactly who would be in charge after the infidels had been slaughtered or forced to convert to Islam.

    The forces of apocalyptic Islam were empowered by the policies of Obama — and would have been further empowered by the policies of a President Hillary. But for now, the apocalypse is in temporary abeyance. In a sane world, Iran’s apocalyptic visionaries would be prevented from owning a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons for as long as possible.

    Obama’s phony treaty would not have accomplished the postponement of the apocalypse, but would likely have hastened it. Strong pressure on the brutal theocracy from the outside may put off a middle eastern Armageddon for a short time.

    Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Learn to swim in the rising tide of Danger. Pay attention.

    More: Suleimani was a master player of the game that turned so much of the middle east into flaming hell

    Posted in geopolitics, Islam's Bloody Borders | Leave a comment

    Iranians Blame Ugly Ayatollah; Death to the Revolution!

    Iran’s ruling regime finally admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian airliner, and the Iranian people are not happy. Last night young Iranians poured into the streets — first to mourn the dead from the loss of the airliner, then to express outrage against the Ayatollah and his bloodthirsty government.

    … in a sharp rebuke to the regime, protesters tore down images of Iranian general and terrorist, Qassem Soleimani, calling him “murderer” and a “traitor” __ Source


    Just last month, the regime killed 1500 Iranians who were protesting for better living conditions inside the backward nation. But that was under the orders of now-deceased Qassem Suleimani. And that was before the world started paying closer attention to the revolutionary republic.

    Now the world’s eyes are on Iran, watching for the next mistake by the unhinged Islamic tyranny and state sponsor of terrorism.

    Here is a timeline of recent events leading to today’s discontent against the bloody dictatorship of Iran:

    • Revolutionary Guard murders 1500 Iranian protestors in mid December 2019
    • Iranian backed militias attack US embassy in Baghdad around New Year 2020
    • US missile kills Iranian terror-master Qassem Suleimani 2 Jan. 2020
    • Iranians both celebrate and protest Suleimani’s death 3 Jan. 2020
    • Iran launches flurry of missiles at Iraqi military base housing US personnel 8 Jan. 2020
    • Iran shoots down Ukrainian airliner killing 176 8 Jan. 2020
    • Iran blames engine failure for crash but most observers believe the plane was shot down
    • Ukraine and Canada demand full investigation; Iran again denies missile 8-10 Jan. 2020
    • Iran admits-denies-admits shooting down Ukrainian plane 11 Jan. 2020
    • Iranians engage in mass demonstrations against dictator Ayatollah 12 Jan 2020

    More:
    Mass protests in Tehran

    Donald Trump expresses solidarity with Iranian people, warns Iran against another massacre.

    Timeline of events from the perspective of a lukewarm Iranian apologist.

    American Media Reluctant to Cover Protest in Iran

    For several years, US media has been afraid to cover any news that puts the dictatorial and bloody government of Iran in a bad light — at least ever since Barack Obama began showing admiration and friendship toward the Ayatollahs and their agents of terror (including Suleimani). Instead, the mainstream media seems to want to put up a smokescreen to protect the Muslim terror regime in Tehran.

    Another troubling sign of duplicity is the lack of any support shown by the US political opposition candidates for the Iranian people and their impossible situation. Instead, we have seen only anger from the clown-car candidates against Trump, for having killed the terror-master Suleimani. Are these prancing people on the campaign stage truly clowns and one-trick ponies, as they appear?

    We know what Hillary Clinton would have done if confronted with a 3AM emergency at a foreign embassy, with American lives at stake: It already happened at Benghazi, and Hillary just rolled over and went back to sleep. But we have to wonder about Joey Biden, Colonel Sanders, Mr. Buttegig, Bloomberg, Warren, Klobuchar, and the rest of those packed tightly into the 1000-clown extravaganza. What would they do if they actually had to make a difficult choice where people were going to die no matter what they did. Would they roll over and go back to bed, or the equivalent? Probably so, and let their speechwriters and puppets in the media do their spinning to put it in the best possible light. It is the way of the post-Obama politician, with one notable exception.

    One person still makes decisions — even if they are unpopular with the opposition and with the mainstream media pundits. The media — allied with the deep state swamp — has been pulling out all stops to eliminate that one true decision maker for the past 38 and 1/2 months. Most of those methods of elimination have been dishonest, and a significant number of the methods have been illegal.

    But just as the media has covered up the bad actions of Iranian terrorists, so have they covered up the illegal actions of the deep state and the dishonest shenanigans of the US political opposition. Because, after all, the media is a core part of the US political opposition — as long as their political comrades are out of the White House.

    Besides the butchers of Tehran, it is actually the media that is in the spotlight of bad behaviour. And those the media habitually covers up for, of course.

    Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Get Dangerous. Accept no media bullsh!t.

    Posted in geopolitics, Media, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Taiwan and Hong Kong Compare China Notes

    “For sure. I already knew that China was an asshole. But after everything that happened in Hong Kong, I knew that that could be really worse.

    “They promised Hong Kong 50 years of freedom. They’re already breaking it. They couldn’t keep the promise and why would I trust them? I will never trust them. I already didn’t trust them and now it just proves that I could never trust them.”

    __ 27 yo Female Digital Designer in Taiwan

    Hong Kong won a great democratic victory against an oppressor last November. Elections in Taiwan are now approaching, and a delegation from Hong Kong has traveled to the besieged island to see the elections for themselves.

    Democracy Under Acute Threat

    After seeing what the Chinese Communist Party tried to do in Hong Kong — and knowing what the communists are doing in Xinjiang, in Tibet, and to religious observers and independent thinkers inside Han China — the people of Taiwan must decide what kind of officials to elect. Should they elect officials who want to cozy up to the mainland communists, taking the red bribes to look the other way? Or should they elect officials who are more independent minded, who will steer Taiwan on its own path?

    Hong Kong citizens are taking the opportunity to travel to Taiwan to observe the proceedings, and to offer any advice should they be asked.

    Hong Kong activists and budding pro-democracy politicians have flocked to Taiwan to observe its elections, aiming to bolster exchanges and galvanize an alliance against China’s influence.

    One delegation of about 50, including a batch of young district councillors who stormed to a landslide electoral victory in November, arrived this week and has been networking with key Taiwan civil society leaders, academics and officials.

    “There’s an acute sense of threat from China. What’s happened in Hong Kong has made everyone reassess its relationship with Beijing,” Joseph Cheng, a veteran pro-democracy activist and one of the leaders of the delegation.

    … __ Source

    Communist China is Itself Unsteady

    China’s economy has been somewhat troubled for more than a year. And while China’s ruling elite will have no trouble — with 90% of China’s ultra-rich being related to top officials — the ordinary Chinese worker is beginning to wonder where things are headed.

    China cannot keep such an extreme pace of debt-growth going. The debt load is just too high while productivity growth has stagnated. Though a massive infrastructure-spending program, for example, could revive growth, the ability of China to issue fiscal stimulus is starting to be seriously limited.

    … the “Chinese Miracle” has been more of a “Potemkin Village” for more than a decade. Because China has been kept growing by an incomprehensibly large increase in debt, its economy is actually a massive and vulnerable Ponzi-scheme waiting to collapse.

    __ This is the end of the miracle

    A weakening Beijing could not rein in the upstarts in Hong Kong, and so an attitude of independence from the empire tends to spread from Hong Kong outward. Even on the mainland, average Chinese are wondering why they should have to tighten their belts while the elite rulers are enjoying their luxuries while lording it over the coolies.

    Those who have gathered enough wealth to leave the country with their families are making their plans.

    The princelings are jealous of the fortunes made by China’s entrepreneurial class and have started to take their fortunes from them, starting with the likes of Jack Ma, who had founded Alibaba. Another Chinese billionaire, Miles Kwok, has predicted that Jack Ma will be either in prison or dead within a year. Once started, expropriation will work its way down through the economy, and it will be a profound productivity-killer.

    A lot of China’s managerial class now has at least part of its fortune offshore and has sent its children, often only one child, to foreign universities. Some of those children have been told, “Never come back to China.”

    __ Source

    Chinese communists are masters of propaganda, espionage, and technology theft. The elite ruling class expropriates the nation’s wealth wherever possible, while leaving enough to the little people to give them hope of improvement.

    The people of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and other overseas Chinese outposts understand the basic logic of how the communists run the mainland prison nation. And the smarter ones want no part of it. Meanwhile, on the mainland, an undercurrent of doubt is beginning to build.

    The Chinese people take a long time to act against an empire or a system that blacks out their future. But when they act, the aftermath is rending.

    More Taiwanese waking to China reality

    [Pro-Taiwan candidate Tsai] leads [Pro-China candidate] Han by 39 percentage points among 20-29 year-olds and 35 percentage points among 30-39 year-olds in polls. In contrast, she leads Han by only 6 percentage points among those aged 50-59, an age group in which Han had been ahead earlier last year. The results of this poll, however, should not be interpreted as reflecting only Tsai’s particular likability among the youth and Han’s failure to connect. A rising Taiwanese identity and alienation toward unification with China are the fundamental reasons behind this generation gap, and Han’s perceived China-friendly image has cost him dearly.

    82.4 percent of 20-29 year-olds considered themselves as Taiwanese only. For people aged 40-49, 50-59, and 60-plus, that number was between 55-58 percent in all three groups. __ Generation Gap in Taiwan

    China screwed the pooch in Hong Kong, in terms of the effect on Taiwan.

    More: CPC infiltrates every niche

    Update 1/11/20: Tsai Ing-wen wins in a landslide — Beijing licks its wounds

    Stratfor looks at Tsai’s victory

    Posted in China | Tagged | 2 Comments

    When Gaia Met Theia: The Blobs Remember

    Garnero speculates, the dense, distinct piles might even be fragments of Theia itself, forever interred in the deep Earth. __ Quanta

    Roughly 4.5 billion years ago, when Earth and the solar system were very young, a giant Mars-sized planet is said to have collided with Gaia in a fiery conflagration. The result of that collision was a much hotter Earth, and a lot of space debris which eventually coalesced to form our moon, Luna. But deep within our home planet reside two dense, hot, massive blobs of matter. These blobs are a reminder to us of what was, and what may be.

    … although these blobs usually stay beneath the surface, if one were to poke up above the crust, it would result in huge eruptions that would last millions of years, according to Garnero. __ Professor Edward Garnero

    “We literally don’t know what they are, where they came from, how long they’ve been around, or what they do.” __ Eos

    Long detected by seismologists, ancient as time, somehow linked to vulcanism and seismic activity — and perhaps the future triggers to a series of super-volcanic eruptions such as the Earth has never seen.

    These blobs are more dense than the surrounding mantle, but not so dense as the Earth’s core. They sit back-to-back with the core sandwiched between. And they move.

    “They’re among the largest things inside the Earth,” University of Maryland geologist Ved Lekic told Eos reporter Jenessa Duncombe, “and yet we literally don’t know what they are, where they came from, how long they’ve been around, or what they do.”

    … Both are massive, stabbing up about halfway through the mantle and measuring as long as continents. According to Duncombe, each blob stretches about 100 times higher than Mount Everest; ___ Nobody Understands Them

    the blobs have to be made out of “ancient materials,” said Roberta Rudnick, a geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s pretty exciting times.”

    As plumes and eddies swirl around the blobs, the currents may sometimes capture little clumps of the blob material itself, explaining the strangeness of hot spot lavas far above. But bigger pieces might also occasionally break off, and this may be connected to yet another suspicious pattern.

    According to studies led by Trond Torsvik at the University of Oslo, the blobs also seem be linked to about two dozen surface regions called large igneous provinces — places where, at multiple times in Earth’s past, millions of cubic kilometers of lava oozed onto the surface as if through open wounds. Many of these events are themselves linked to mass extinctions like the Great Dying, the largest life-snuffing episode of the last half-billion years. __ Quanta

    Why does the blob material seem so alien? The blobs certainly look like “foreign bodies” perhaps injected by an object such as Theia. Alternatively, the appearance of the giant blobs in the seismic imagery above may resemble the aftermath of a “bullet wound” to the Earth’s core (small black hole). Or perhaps it is more like the coup, contrecoup injury of a blunt impact to the head.

    What does it all mean? It means that science is never settled. From the miniscule to the gargantuan, mysteries abound. When humans finally grow into wisdom and brilliance, they will learn to focus on the mysteries — and to stop inventing false phantoms of dread for childish purposes of power and control.

    More: neutron star collisions

    Posted in Doom, Science | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Making Government Unnecessary III

    Large and unwieldy governments such as those of China, the EU, the USA, or Russia, must be dismantled piece by piece. The most salient aspect of large government is bureaucracy. Dismantling bureaucracy — making bureaucracy unnecessary — is a good start.

    Alexei Kudrin — the man who saved Russia from collapsing after Putin’s huge gaffes of 2014 — predicts something along those lines:

    “Soon technology will replace many of the functions of government. The technology of block chains can almost completely replace the state bureaucracy. Society will be able on its own to solve various issues as well as make contracts and agreements.” __ Alexei Kudrin quoted here

    Bureaucracy is the human response to increasing size and complexity of societies and organisations. The larger and more complex the population concerned, the more levels of hierarchy and control that must be created in order to regulate the people and processes.

    Bureaucracy is the technology of control. It is ideologically and practically opposed to disorder and irregularity. Problem is, in an age of discontinuity, it’s the irregular people with irregular ideas who create the irregular business models that generate the irregular returns. __ Gary Hamel in Harvard Business Review

    But bureaucracy tends to grow rigid over time, with people promoted to their highest levels of incompetence, based upon their ability to conform and practise groupthink.

    In times of rapid change and unpredictability, rigid bureacracies have fatal weaknesses — as the governments of Russia and France discovered in World War I.

    Bureaucracies Promote Incompetence

    Since over time bureaucracies exist mainly to perpetuate and enlarge themselves, they never learn the lessons of their own weaknesses and dysfunctions.

    Bureaucracy is gripped by“the ideology of controlism” and “worships at the altar of conformance.” It’s hostile to “the irregular people with irregular ideas who create the irregular business models that generate the irregular returns,” and so “cripples organizational vitality.” It “shrinks our incentive to dream, imagine and contribute.” It causes our organizations to “remain incompetent at their core.” __ Steve Denning in Forbes

    Blockchain technology has the potential to transform bureaucracy in at least 19 important sectors of modern societies. The technology’s ability to make contracts transparent to reduce deception — and to simplify enforcement of specified terms — will also put a lot of attorneys out to pasture. The simple elimination of large numbers of lawyers from the equation will go a long way to streamlining bureaucracy.

    We Still Need to Pay Attention

    Over the next few years, more and more companies are going to start implementing blockchain into their processes. That means that government adoption of blockchain technology will increase as well. These are all good things and will help shed light on areas that need exposure. But, that doesn’t mean that blockchains will be infallible. __ https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/weekly-standard/will-blockchain-kill-government

    As long as governments are given a license to kill, imprison, and financially ruin with impunity, they will be resistant to being tamed — or to being made unnecessary. The US Constitution was written to limit the powers of government to the extent that citizens would be free to conduct their personal and business affairs, and be safe from domestic and foreign enemies — and from the caprice of government itself. But the US Constitution is being attacked by well-placed persons inside government and by persons of wealth and influence outside of the government but still operating under the huge umbrella of the deep state.

    Pruning the bureaucracy and the deep state

    Revolutions tend to be bloody affairs, unless well planned. So when contemplating how to make government unnecessary, it is wiser to move slowly, step by step. Pruning an overgrown and stifling bureaucracy is a necessary early step in the process, but this pruning itself must be done carefully — mindful of inevitable blowback that is likely to occur as the bloated monstrosity fights for every ugly incremental mass of its own rotting flesh.

    The best way to take on the deep state is to defund it. Stop the diversion of government spending into parts of media, academia, activist groups, NGOs, lobbies, and other organisations that perpetuate the monstrous bureaucracy and the toxic deep state.

    The bureaucracy and the deep state are cancerous tumours that must be excised, but in such a way that minimal damage is done to the underlying organism, as it was intended to function by the founders as a minimal state.

    Using reliable advanced technologies to better perform the functions previously performed by bureaucracies, will assist in the worthy project of dismantling the unwieldy state apparatus down to its essential core.

    Posted in Disruptive Technologies, Economics, Government, Making Government Unnecessary, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

    People are Dying for Company: What is the Solution?

    Japan is withering and growing old for lack of children. Few are getting married which means that few babies are being born.

    The problem is spreading to other countries:

    Believe it or not, the West may not be far behind: Decreasing sexual activity has been reported in the U.K., U.S., and Germany, stories on sexless loneliness are starting to emerge… __ https://thediplomat.com/2019/04/lets-talk-about-no-sex-a-closer-look-at-japans-virginity-crisis/

    Are Feminists to Blame?

    In South Korea, the natural trend to less dating, less sex, less marriage, and fewer babies is being made measurably worse by a raging feminist movement.

    A growing number of South Korean women are banding together to reject rigid patriarchal norms and vowing never to wed, have children or even date and have sex.

    “I’ve always felt that as a woman there are more disadvantages than advantages to being married,” said Lee, a 40-something professional who lives with her dog near Seoul.

    Now she has gone even further, embracing the nation’s radical feminist movement called 4B, from the “four nos”: no dating, no sex, no marriage and no child-rearing.

    … A decade ago, almost 47 percent of single and never-married Korean women said they thought marriage was necessary. Last year, that fell to 22.4 percent. The number of couples getting hitched slumped to 257,600 — down from 434,900 in 1996. __ Source

    If you have feminism, who needs war, famine, plague, or bloody economic collapse? You’re doomed, either way.

    Japan, Korea, and Germany …

    These countries have average population IQs among the highest on Earth. If humans are to think and innovate their way out of its current crop of problems, they will need to rely on their most intelligent, creative, and conscientious specimens. If these people die out, the average IQ of human Earth will only decline more quickly.

    South Korea’s total fertility rate – the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime – dropped to 0.98 in 2018, far below the 2.1 needed to keep a population stable.

    The government predicts the South’s 55 million population will drop to 39 million by 2067, when half the nation will be aged 62 or older. __ https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/til-death-do-i-stay-single-south-koreas-nomarriage-women

    The places where birthrates remain very high — sub Saharan Africa, Afghanistan — are places with relatively low average population IQs, low literacy levels, high levels of poverty, high levels of violence, and low levels of productive achievement.

    To promote higher levels of disruptive innovation, advanced human societies need to find better ways to bring their young people together with a positive outlook toward their futures. It seems that universities — and most other cultural institutions including the media — are making the problem worse. Women are being set against men, artificial catastrophes are being hyped to create attitudes of pessimism, violent schisms are being created between all conceivable and imagined segments of society, new “oppressed groups” are being invented by the day, and a climate of hysterical outrage is being promoted above all else. Where is the future in all that?

    But what gets my goat is that the bright and successful people who owe the most to society — such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, the Google founders, etc. — seem to be oblivious to this potentially existential problem, or are too frightened of transgressing political correctness to commit time or resources to counteract the problem.

    What Could Be Done?

    In the ancient days, young men and young women became acquainted at church, at work, at school, through family connections, through town & village matchmakers, and by growing up in the same neighborhoods. Today, most of these avenues for making matches in the formative years have fallen away — or been impinged upon by lawsuits, feminist culture warp, or government actions. Mass media and social media have forced themselves between individuals and anyone else in their physical vicinity. Non-productive diversions are the order of the day.

    Clearly children in advanced societies are being raised by media, institutions, and popular culture, not their parents. And clearly they are not being given any heft or substance or meaningful perspective on the flow of human existence through time — and their own places within that flow.

    That would be the place to start, but even in the absence of a substantive upbringing it would not be that difficult to arrange places and venues for young men and women to meet, or to devise meaningful activities that would allow them to learn and grow together while having fun. Environments that are alcohol-free would provide for more effective and long-lasting connection and bonding.

    It would be possible to franchise some forms of these get-together places, perhaps profitably. But even as non-profits, the idea has merit.

    At Burning Man, they say “welcome home.” At Rainbow Gathering, they say “welcome home.” But there are potentially thousands of possible places and gatherings where humans of any age could feel at home. Why are people dying of loneliness and lack of fulfillment?

    From outside, it seems to be a matter of choice. But if every aspect of a child’s upbringing is lacking in the building of confidence, competence, and sense of personal motivation, purpose, and choice — perhaps the person simply does not know they have a choice. Multiply that one person with a deficient childhood by a factor of tens of millions — in Europe, in the far East, in the Anglosphere, in Russia or Latin America — and the current pathetic state of affairs as displayed by governments, media, academia, NGOs, and other cultural institutions is not so hard to understand.

    Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Make yourselves closely acquainted with the Dangerous world that is evolving.

    Posted in Demographics | 2 Comments

    Augmenting Human Cognition

    It is important to understand that human cognitive ability is strongly influenced by genes — with the genetic influence generally increasing as a person grows older, from about 40% heritability in childhood to roughly 80% heritability in late maturity.

    Intelligence is highly heritable and predicts important educational, occupational and health outcomes better than any other trait. Recent genome-wide association studies have successfully identified inherited genome sequence differences that account for 20% of the 50% heritability of intelligence. These findings open new avenues for research into the causes and consequences of intelligence using genome-wide polygenic scores that aggregate the effects of thousands of genetic variants. __ Plomin 2018

    Also see Sniekers et al 2017 and Zabaneh 2017

    We cannot easily change our genes, or the way that our genes are expressed. And so we must look for other methods if we are to find a way to augment our own intelligence.

    An Overview of Different Approaches to Brain Augmentation

    1. Nootropic drugs in normal healthy brains
    2. Electromagnetic Brain Stimulation (tDCS and TMS)
    3. Brain Stimulation by transcranial laser
    4. Sleep for cognitive enhancement
    5. Donor-recipient enhancement
    6. Enhancement through complex reasoning training
    7. Decoding and reprocessing brain activity to enhance it
    8. Brain machine interfaces
    9. Memory prostheses and augmentation
    10. Modulating brain oscillations
    11. Gene therapy
    12. Action video games
    13. EEG Neurofeedback
    14. Stem cells and neural growth factors
    15. Nanotech devices
    16. More

    Cover the Basics of Cognition First

    Apathy is an important symptom of treatable physical and psychiatric disorders. A number of medical disorders can cause pseudo-dementia — some of them are easily treated. Sometimes reversible delirium is confused for dementia. Lethargy and anhedonia are further clues that a potentially treatable medical condition may have been overlooked.

    As mentioned here recently, chronic inflammation of the body and brain can lead to disorders of thinking and premature decline of brain function. Bringing inflammation under control can restore some or most of previously lost cognitive function due to inflammation.

    Our level of interest in our lives has a lot to do with our level of cognitive functioning. This is influenced by our diet, exercise, sleep habits, alcohol intake, social and family lives, our occupational satisfaction, medication, whether we can pay our bills, and levels of health and fitness.

    Before chasing after experimental methods of cognitive enhancement, I would first recommend putting one’s basic life elements in order. Rudimentary mindfulness training may help, as might the use of basic self help books such as Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Once you have covered the basics of social and emotional health and have optimised your physical health, you might consider pursuing some form of augmented reality.

    But if you feel like you are ready to play around with low level cognitive enhancement, you might consider an inexpensive tDCS device, herbals such as ginkgo, or simple nootropics with relatively safe profiles (example in combination with nicotinamide mononucleotide).

    As in the field of longevity and life extension, the human genome is at the heart of the enhancement and augmentation of cognition. And there is much to learn.

    Each genetic variant slightly increases or decreases cognitive ability. Because it is determined by many small additive effects, cognitive ability is normally distributed, following the familiar bell-shaped curve, with more people in the middle than in the tails. A person with more than the average number of positive (IQ-increasing) variants will be above average in ability. The number of positive alleles above the population average required to raise the trait value by a standard deviation—that is, 15 points—is proportional to the square root of the number of variants, or about 100. In a nutshell, 100 or so additional positive variants could raise IQ by 15 points.

    Given that there are many thousands of potential positive variants, the implication is clear: If a human being could be engineered to have the positive version of each causal variant, they might exhibit cognitive ability which is roughly 100 standard deviations above average. This corresponds to more than 1,000 IQ points. __ Stephen Hsu

    Gene expression is more than a simple combination of SNP variants. Which makes the project to enhance human cognition much more complex, more interesting, and more exciting than Stephen Hsu lets on.

    Sources: Lebedev, Opris, Casanova 2018

    Stephen D.H. Hsu 2014

    As for the idea of “super-intelligence,” it remains a long-sought goal — a far off beacon of light best used to motivate us to higher levels of rationality and inspiration. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, after all. The video clip below provides just enough “cognitive rags to riches” to suggest what may be possible using some combination of advanced cognition enhancers of the future:

    More:  A few simple do’s and don’ts

    Posted in Cognition, Human Brain | Tagged , | Leave a comment

    Obama Loses a Friend; Trump Unapologetic

    … early Friday, a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper — operating under President Donald Trump’s orders — fired missiles into a convoy carrying Soleimani as it was leaving Baghdad’s international airport. __ Source

    Former US President Obama in 2015 sent $1.7 billion in cash to Iran. The money was largely used to fund activity of Iran’s proxy terrorist militias in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq — and the draconian Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The largest beneficiary of that $1.7 billion was head of Iranian intelligence Qasem Soleimani — a person that Obama is said to have admired.

    Obama admired Soleimani and prevented the Israelis from assassinating him five years ago, when they had the state terrorist in their sights.

    Obama likes Suleimani, and admires his work. As the president reportedly told a group of Arab officials in May, the Arabs “need to learn from Iran’s example.”

    … The president [Obama] seemed to marvel at the fact that from Hezbollah to the Houthis to the Iraqi militias, Iran has such a deep bench of effective proxies willing to advance its interests. Where, he asked, are their equivalent on the Sunni side?

    … The deal is with the hard men of the regime, the extremists—the deal is with Qassem Suleimani. __ https://www.hudson.org/research/11436-obama-strikes-a-deal-with-qassem-suleimani

    American forces allowed Suleimani to get away in January of 2007, but President Trump decided to put an end to Suleimani’s long and bloody career last night. A number of other terrorists shared Suleimani’s fate, as their convoy was driving away from a freight terminal at Baghdad’s international airport.

    Suleimani had enjoyed a long and successful career as a terrorist mastermind — and as a bloody oppressor against his own people inside Iran.

    To see just how significant Mr. Suleimani’s death truly is, it helps to understand the geopolitical game he’d devoted his life to playing. In Lebanon, Mr. Suleimani built Lebanese Hezbollah into the powerful state within a state that we know today. A terrorist organization receiving its funds, arms and marching orders from Tehran, Hezbollah has a missile arsenal larger than that of most countries in the region. The group’s success has been astounding, helping to cement Iran’s influence not just in Lebanon but farther around the Arab world.

    Building up on this successful experience, Mr. Suleimani spent the last decade replicating the Hezbollah model in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, propping up local militias with precision weapons and tactical know-how. In Syria, his forces have allied with Russia to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a project that, in practice, has meant driving over 10 million people from their homes and killing well over half a million. In Iraq, as we have seen in recent days, Mr. Suleimani’s militias ride roughshod over the legitimate state institutions. They rose to power, of course, after participating in an insurgency, of which he was the architect, against American and coalition forces. Hundreds of American soldiers lost their lives to the weapons that the Qods Force provided to its Iraqi proxies.

    Mr. Suleimani built this empire of militias while betting that America would steer clear of an outright confrontation. This gambit certainly paid off under President Barack Obama… __ Trump’s Ground Game

    Suleimani’s gambit paid off big — to the tune of $1.7 billion — under President Obama. But Trump has a different view of Iran and of Suleimani’s actions than did Obama. Mr. O. admired Suleimani’s successes and was a huge fan of Islamic Revolutionary Iran in general. Mr. T., on the other hand, simply lost patience with both the man and the reckless regime that Suleimani represented.

    Add Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and South America to the list
    https://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_direct_link.cfm/blog_id/62071
    New York Post

    What Will Iran Do Now?

    Iran’s government is in a bad position, with a failing economy and a population that is losing confidence in its leaders.

    In November, the Iranian regime [ed: Suleimani] ruthlessly suppressed anti-regime protests, killing up to 1,000 demonstrators. After the US struck five bases of Iran-backed militias in Iraq on Dec. 30, Iran decided that its credibility required a demonstration of power, and ordered the attack on the US embassy.

    That left Trump with few good choices… The embassy attack was intended by Iran as a public act of ritual humiliation, and the United States had no choice but to respond. Trump chose to respond by subjecting Iran to an even more poignant form of humiliation, by assassinating a national hero, Gen. Qassam Sulemaini. It is easy to criticize the US president, but harder to recommend an alternative course of action…

    It seems clear that Iran was taken aback by the ferocity of America’s response to the embassy attack. If it anticipated this sort of attack, Gen. Sulemaini never would have appeared in person at the Baghdad Airport. Iran now has to devise a response whose outcome is extremely difficult to calculate. There is a significant probability of a major escalation. __ https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/01/article/trump-takes-a-calculated-risk/

    Years ago, Iran’s leaders chanted “Death to America!” at every opportunity. The same chant is likely to be used years from now. Paying Iranian terrorists $billions for a mock treaty will not stop the violence and hatred emanating from the ruins of Persia. Obama could never understand that — or if he did he did not care.

    Because of the identity of the US president who pulled the trigger on this particular set of terrorists, “the swamp” of Washington DC will condemn the action and moan in terror at possible “repercussions.” If a “President Hillary” had done the same thing, the swamp would have rolled over itself in congratulations for the strong action taken against a terrorist regime.

    The American public — as opposed to the swamp — has never liked the Islamic Revolutionary Republic ever since the days of the extended hostage crisis in the US embassy of Tehran. Nothing has happened since those days to endear Iran to the American public. Given the proximity to the 2020 US presidential election (and what happened in the 1980 US presidential election), the US media and the US political opposition would do well to tone down any remarks that appear to support the terrorist state of Iran and its many murderous actions across the nations of the middle east.

    If the Pentagon is correct and Soleimani orchestrated the invasion of the U.S. Embassy, the airstrike against him is proportionate. If war comes, it will be the fault of Iran, not Trump.

    It will also be the fault of the Obama administration, which thwarted Israel’s attempt to stop Soleimani five years ago. How many Americans have died because the Obama administration prevented Israel from carrying out this hit? __ Source

    Obama had enough political and media cover to express admiration for a world-class terrorist such as Suleimani, and get away with it. He could even give the bloody cause $billions and save the man’s life. But no one in the 2020 race has the political stature and political cover that is given to Obama. They had best be cautious.

    More: The Shadow Commander… a man who did not hesitate to kill fellow Iranians or anyone else that got in his way.

    His death was celebrated in Iran, in Iraq, and in Syria

    He was also hated, not only by Sunnis who suffered at the hands of his proxy militias in Syria and Iraq, but also by fellow Shias, including some in Iraq and Iran, where he helped uphold a repressive system and was seen as the man responsible for Iran’s role in costly wars abroad. He was not simply on a mission to undo the unsatisfying score of the Iran-Iraq war and make up for the conflict’s devastating death toll and the humiliation it served his country; he had become the mission, the upholder of the Islamic revolution, keeping it alive for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. __ https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/01/qassem-soleimani-death-missed/604396/

    Obama feels the loss

    Posted in geopolitics, Islam's Bloody Borders, Politics | Tagged | 1 Comment

    Do 2020 Days Seem to be Getting Longer?

    The Days are Getting Longer!

    By approximately 14 nanoseconds . . .

    A day on Earth is slightly longer this year than last year. It might be hard to notice in just a single year, but the time it takes Earth to spin about a full 360° on its axis is longer today than it was one year ago, by approximately 14 nanoseconds. That might not make much of a difference to most of us — excepting those of us who pay close attention to the occasional leap second — but this really adds up over time. __ Universe Changes With Every Year

    The universe is changing on a moment by moment basis — in many ways and for many reasons:

    • The moon is getting farther from Earth
    • The sun is getting hotter
    • New stars are being born in our galaxy
    • The universe as a whole is getting cooler
    • The universe is getting larger
    • Millions of stars go beyond reach

      At some critical distance, about a third of the way to the cosmic horizon (around 16 billion light-years), the galaxies more distant than this will appear to recede from us at speeds faster than light.

      This means that if we loaded up a spaceship that was capable of instantaneously accelerating to speeds indistinguishable from the speed of light, it could only reach the galaxies that were closer than this critical distance. With each year that passes, approximately 20 million new stars — or about one small dwarf galaxy — transitions from being reachable to being unreachable from our perspective. The Universe is disappearing, and this is the rate at which it’s doing so.

    Source

    2020 Will be an Active Year for Human Space

    Space Missions to Watch

    • SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner are expected to bring the first astronauts to space in the coming year, although exact launch dates haven’t been announced yet. Both spacecraft are still in testing mode to make them as safe as possible for humans.
    • The Solar Orbiter – a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency – is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 5.

      The spacecraft is expected to get as close as 0.28 astronomical units to the sun, which is well within the orbit of Mercury, to better study how the sun works. (One astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and Earth.) This mission is expected to last seven years.

    • On July 17, NASA will launch its long-awaited Mars 2020 rover to explore possible sites of ancient habitability, while the European Space Agency and Russia plan to do the same with their ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover on July 25.

      The United Arab Emirates plans its first mission, the Hope Mars Mission, which will launch from Japan. China also plans a lander and a small rover for Mars.

    • The first launch of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, a new rocket from the Indian Space Research Organisation, is expected sometime in early 2020.
    • China’s space agency is expected to launch its next moon mission, called Chang’e-5, sometime in 2020.
    • The U.S. Air Force is expected to, sometime in 2020, once again launch the mysterious X-37B space plane (also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle).

      This will be the sixth mission of the uncrewed vehicle, which can stay in space for up to a year at a time to perform its secret work. In 2019, one of Air Force’s two known X-37 spacecraft returned to Earth after a record-breaking 780-day spaceflight. That’s more than two years in space.

    • In 2019, Virgin Galactic launched its first test passenger into space. In 2020, the company is expected to begin launching space tourist flights with paying passengers aboard.
    • Blue Origin, the private space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, launched three flights of its New Shepard spacecraft in 2019 – most recently on Dec. 11 – and is on track to make the leap into human spaceflight in 2020.
    • Virgin Galactic isn’t the only company expecting to make a space leap in 2020. Its sister company Virgin Orbit aims to begin orbital launches during the year.

      Virgin Orbit is a small-satellite launch company that aims to launch payloads into orbit using LauncherOne. The rocket is an air-launched booster carried into launch position by a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet called Cosmic Girl.


      In July 2019, Virgin Orbit successfully performed a drop test of its LauncherOne rocket after a series of captive carry shakedown tests. The first launch from Virgin Orbit is expected to take off from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port and launch from a position over the Pacific Ocean.
    • In addition to Starlink and Crew Dragon, SpaceX has two other ongoing rocket programs. The company’s heavy-lift Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in use today, may launch a mission for the U.S. Air Force in late 2020, according to Spaceflight Now.

    __ https://www.space.com/space-missions-to-watch-2020.html

    Remember that Stratolaunch has proven capable of flight, and is still the biggest air-launch capable aircraft despite new competition from Cosmic Girl.

    Meanwhile on a Smaller Scale

    Particle accelerators are being shrunk to the size of microchips

    Age reversal gene therapy targeting over 300 genes

    A successful universal flu vaccine might change our entire approach to emerging pandemics

    We may not need advanced biofuels for another 50 years, but it is good to know that some good people continue to work on them

    Bad News

    The ongoing corruption of our universities is proceeding apace and a lot of people are beginning to notice!

    Trendy magazine attacks religious cult but is oblivious to the irony of the three fingers pointing back at itself. Cult is as cult does, and Rolling Stone does cult with the best of them.

    Paradoxical News

    A great deal of time, money, and effort have been put into the project to kneecap the Trump presidency and to bring it to a premature end. Ironic, then, that Trump may be benefiting more than anyone else from being impeached.

    2020 is Likely to be Memorable

    Although climate change is turning out to be a dud, a lot of other trends seem to be converging on the year 2020. We may be getting addicted to disruption.

    We are being told that the “Great European Divergence” occurred because the Roman Empire collapsed and Europe was left as a multi-political entity in competition with itself. So now we have North America, China, Europe, and the UK/Commonwealth plus Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan, and a number of other strivers — Russia, Brazil, Turkey, India, etc. — all in competition. If things go well, all of that competition may work to accelerate the pace of disruptive innovation.

    Stay tuned.

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and learn to make yourselves very Dangerous in 2020.

    More:

    The SpaceX Decade

    2020 Transcendent Year for SpaceX?

    The Coming Mars Decade

    Posted in Future, Space Future | Tagged | 1 Comment

    Are We Dead and Just Don’t Know It?

    Forever Doomed

    In 1988, famed climatologist James Hansen predicted that much of Manhattan would stay permanently underwater sometime between 2008 and 2018.

    In 1989, a senior UN environmental official declared that entire nations would be inundated by rising sea levels no later than the year 2000. Source

    In 2004, a secret Pentagon report warned President Bush that by the year 2020 European cities would be sunk beneath rising seas and the UK would be plunged into a Siberian climate. Source

    In 2009, Jim Hansen told President Obama that he had only four years to save the planet. He said that action must be taken within Obama’s first four years or all would be lost. Source

    Just last week (2019), former vice president Joe Biden affirmed that “we are all dead” if we do not stop using fossil fuels in the next ten years. Source

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) declares that the world is going to end in 12 years. BBC News warns we only have 18 months to reverse the damage we’ve inflicted. It sure sounds like we’re entering into the apocalyptic era. __ Spectator

    The New York Times hypes a fake fish crisis due to “climate change”

    We have well over 50 years of failed climate predictions, and further back throughout all of human history it is likely that climate change (floods, drought, deadly cold, failed crops, etc.) has been a favourite subject for false prophets and witch doctors.

    Why is doom so popular these days? Doom has always been popular.

    Belief in apocalypse is programmed into western civilization. Given our heritage, “the end is nigh” is the nearly unavoidable personal and collective response to times of uncertainty and rapid change. _Pattern Literacy via original Al Fin blog

    The precise type of doom doesn’t really matter. Climate apocalypse, Peak Oil Armageddon, Pollution extinction, and every kind of ruination under the sun — these and more are all suitable tinder for lighting the fires of obsessive imagination of those with nothing truly important to do.

    Modern civilisations rely upon hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric power for reliable life-giving heat, transportation fuels, and electricity — to support the critical infrastructure of advanced societies. Without these reliable forms of heat, power, and fuel our elaborate and complex societies would collapse for lack of infrastructure.

    Judging by the failed predictions above, it appears that a number of people would like to weaken modern societies by depriving them of vital fuel, power, and heat. Some of the false prophets may have actually believed their bunk, but most of those in media, politics, academia, the climate/green businesses, bureaucracies, lobbies, NGOs, and industries just wanted to take advantage of any “crisis” they could drum up.

    People who talk the language of the false prophets above are not to be trusted — and should certainly not be placed in control of national and international policies.

    More:

    Interesting lists of false prophecies:

    Fail after fail after fail

    1970’s False Prophets of Doom

    False prophets of religious etc. doom

    Zero successes and Forty-one failures: Failed prophets of eco doom

    All the glaciers in Glacier National Park were supposed to be gone by 2020 — but they’re still here.

    Documentary: Contemporary Prophets of Doom

    Snowfalls are a thing of the past (from the year 2000)

    Posted in Climate, Doom, Environment | Tagged , | 2 Comments

    The Slow Death from Smoldering Inflammation

    Acute, short-term inflammation is important to fight infections and to heal from injuries. But smoldering, chronic inflammation will eventually kill you.

    Slow, chronic inflammation is linked to several diseases of ageing including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint diseases, COPD, and inflammatory brain diseases that lead to senility. Chronic inflammation is also associated with cancer. Beyond such diseases, the “process of ageing” itself is linked with chronic inflammation.

    Human aging is characterized by a chronic, low-grade inflammation, and this phenomenon has been termed as “inflammaging.” Inflammaging is a highly significant risk factor for both morbidity and mortality in the elderly people, as most if not all age-related diseases share an inflammatory pathogenesis. __ https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/69/Suppl_1/S4/587037

    If you are always tired and achy, have trouble sleeping, are commonly depressed or anxious, and have frequent viral infections, you may suffer from low level chronic inflammation which could lead to you getting old before your time.

    What are Some Causes of Chronic Inflammation?

    Some of the things that can lead to chronic inflammatory processes in tissues include the following:

    1. Failure of eliminating the agent causing an acute inflammation such as infectious organisms including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, protozoa, fungi, and other parasites that can resist host defenses and remain in the tissue for an extended period.
    2. Exposure to a low level of a particular irritant or foreign materials that cannot be eliminated by enzymatic breakdown or phagocytosis in the body including substances or industrial chemical that can be inhaled over a long period, for example, silica dust.
    3. An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system is sensitized to the normal component of the body and attacks healthy tissue giving rise to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
    4. Recurrent episodes of acute inflammation. However, in some cases, chronic inflammation is an independent response and not a sequel to acute inflammation for example diseases such as tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
    5. Inflammatory and biochemical inducers are causing oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction such as increased production of free radical molecules, advanced glycation end products (AGEs), uric acid (urate) crystals, oxidized lipoproteins, homocysteine, and others.

    Source

    Senescent cells are also a cause of chronic inflammation:

    … senescent cells likely fuel age-related disease because they secrete numerous proinflammatory cytokines (termed the senescence-associated secretory phenotype or SASP) that modify the tissue microenvironment and alter the function of nearby normal or transformed cells (12,13). Senescent cells accumulate with age in many tissues and are prominent at sites of many age-related pathologies. __ https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/69/Suppl_1/S4/587037

    We can control some of the risk factors for chronic inflammation, but not all. Simply by growing older, we are at higher risk for chronic simmering inflammation — due to our falling hormone levels with age and also increasing numbers of senescent cells. What we eat plays a strong role in our risks from chronic inflammation. Gaining too much weight puts us at higher risk, as does smoking. Not getting enough sleep is a significant risk factor for chronic inflammation, along with excessive stress levels.

    Physical exercise is associated with the normal acute inflammation of healing, but regular moderate exercise helps the body to reduce chronic inflammation.

    Inflammation is the body’s way of healing itself after an injury and protecting itself from infection; but chronic inflammation is linked with all kinds of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease. When you start exercising and moving your muscles, your muscle cells release a small protein called Interleukin 6, or IL-6, which appears to play an important role in fighting inflammation. __ Source

    There are a number of tests that your doctor can order to determine whether you have abnormal levels of inflammatory markers in your blood. A serum protein electrophoresis and tests for inflammatory proteins such as C-reactive protein, serum Amyloid A, and cytokines can provide a small window into your cellular processes of inflammation.

    What Can You Do About It?

    Many dietary and lifestyle changes may be helpful in removing inflammation triggers and reducing chronic inflammation as listed below. The most effective is weight loss.

    Low-glycemic diet: Diet with a high glycemic index is related to high risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is beneficial to limit consumption of inflammation-promoting foods like sodas, refined carbohydrates, fructose corn syrup in a diet.
    Reduce intake of total, saturated fat and trans fats: Some dietary saturated and synthetic trans-fats aggravate inflammation, while omega-3 polyunsaturated fats appear to be anti-inflammatory. Processed and packaged foods that contain trans fats such as processed seed and vegetable oils, baked goods (like soybean and corn oil) should be reduced from the diet.
    Fruits and vegetables: Blueberries, apples, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation.
    Fiber: High intake of dietary soluble and insoluble fiber is associated with lowering levels of IL-6 and TNF-alpha.
    Nuts: such as almonds is associated with lowering risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
    Green and black tea polyphenols: Tea polyphenols are associated with a reduction in CRP in human clinical studies.
    Curcumin: a constituent of turmeric causes significant patient improvements in several inflammatory diseases especially in animal models.
    Fish Oil: The richest source of the omega-3 fatty acids. Higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with lowering levels of TNF-alpha, CRP, and IL-6.
    Mung bean: Rich in flavonoids (particularly vitexin and isovitexin). It is traditional food and herbal medicine known for its anti-inflammatory effects.
    Micronutrients: Magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc and selenium). Magnesium is listed as one of the most anti-inflammatory dietary factors, and its intake is associated with lowering of hsCRP, IL-6, and TNF-alpha activity. Vitamin D exerts its anti-inflammatory activity by suppressing inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells. Vitamin E, zinc, and selenium act as antioxidants in the body.
    Sesame Lignans: Sesame oil consumption reduces the synthesis of prostaglandin, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes and is known for its potential hypotensive activity.

    In human clinical trials, it is shown that energy expenditure through exercise lowers multiple pro-inflammatory molecules and cytokines independently of weight loss. __ Chronic Inflammation

    Some treatments for the chronic inflammation of ageing include the prescription drugs metformin and rapamycin. Over the counter aspirin can help in low doses, as long as not contraindicated by other health issues or drug interactions. A wide range of foods, herbal supplements and vitamin-like supplements are available that provide some anti-inflammatory protection — including curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q, N-acetyl cysteine, and a large number of extracts from various seeds, barks, fruit, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants.

    General Recommendations as a Starting Point

    It is easy to become obsessive about this kind of thing, given the importance of chronic inflammation to the ageing process. But it is best to begin any changes you plan to make with basic lifestyle choices: Regular moderate exercise, a healthier diet, no smoking, moderate drinking, adequate sleep, learning to deal with stress, avoid overmedicating.

    More details:

    Increase uptake of anti-inflammatory foods: It is important to avoid eating simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, high-glycemic foods, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils. Consuming whole grains, natural foods, plenty of vegetables and fruits such as avocados, cherries, kale, and fatty fish like salmon is helpful in defeating inflammation.

    Minimize intake of antibiotics and NSAIDs: Use of antibiotics, antacids, and NSAIDs should be avoided as it could harm the microbiome in the gut causing inflammation in intestinal walls known as leaky gut which in turn releases toxins and triggers chronic, body-wide inflammation.

    Exercise regularly to maintain an optimum weight: It is largely known that adipose tissue in obese or overweight individuals induces low-grade systemic inflammation. Regular exercise is helpful not only in controlling weight but also decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and strengthening the heart, muscles, and bones.

    Sleep longer: Overnight sleep (ideally at least 7 to 8 hours) helps stimulating human growth hormones and testosterone in the body to rebuild itself.

    Stress Less: Chronic psychological stress is linked to greater risk for depression, heart disease and body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response and normal defense. Yoga and meditation are helpful in alleviating stress-induced inflammation and its harmful effects on the body. __ Chronic Inflammation

    Sources:

    Sources of Chronic Inflammation in AgingVia

    Chronic Inflammation and Ageing

    Exercise and Reducing Chronic Inflammation

    Chronic Inflammation

    More: Hydrotherapy may reduce chronic inflammation

    Can LSD soothe the brain inflammation that leads to dementia?

    More on psychedelics and the mainstream

    Posted in Longevity | Tagged | 2 Comments

    In California You Must Have Solar Panels

    As of January 1, 2020, all new houses built in California must incorporate photovoltaic panels in the construction. This government mandate is expected to add between $9,000 and $20,000 to the cost of each new home. Median home prices in California are well above $300K $500K, but every added cost reduces the likelihood of a sale or new construction.

    Building Permits in California are Already Down


    The high cost of housing in California is driving long-time residents out of the state at the same time that prospective newcomers are discouraged from moving into the state. And the “opportunity costs” due to the high expense of housing is suppressing much economic activity in the state which would otherwise take place.

    California’s new solar roof mandate will make housing more expensive, increase electricity prices, and transfer wealth upwards.

    … The deployment of solar has been the main driver of high and rising electricity prices in California, which currently produces more solar energy than it can use.

    “We already have some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and this will only be exacerbated by this mandate,” UC-Berkeley economist Lucas Davis said. “As more and more rooftop solar gets installed, that pushes the cost onto all the non-solar customers.” __ Schellenberger

    Sacramento Actually Believes it is Helping!

    Besides raising the cost of housing in California, the new solar panel mandate will also cause the price of electric power to rise. In addition, the stability of the electric power grid will be undermined by increased penetration of solar energy.

    The larger the investment in solar energy (or wind energy) for any given jurisdiction, the higher the costs of electricity will climb. This has been demonstrated in multiple nations of Europe, in Australia, and in California and Texas. For California to double down on high power costs is no surprise, however.

    Everybody Pays a Cost

    The benefits of “rooftop solar” have been hyped to the point of quasi-criminality over the past two decades. Companies associated with entrepreneur Elon Musk are at least partially to blame for the misleading of the public on the true costs of such an investment.

    Subsidies for solar directly affect the production of electricity, directly affecting cost and pricing. Between 2010 and 2016, subsidies for solar energy ranged from 10¢ to 88¢ per kWh, while subsidies for coal, natural gas, and nuclear were from 0.05¢ to 0.2¢.

    These subsidies incentivize solar panels, but end up increasing the cost of the electricity they generate. This cost is transferred directly to the ratepayers via utility bills. Moreover, customers involved in net metering are often paid inflated prices for excess power produced. Ratepayers end up funding the production of already heavily subsidized solar installations, a phenomenon which actually makes the adoption of renewable energy costlier. __ https://www.powerelectronics.com/technologies/alternative-energy/article/21864098/the-true-cost-of-solar-energy

    Electric Car Owners Share the Delusions of Rooftop Solar Owners

    The feel-good message behind these schemes is that “you will be saving the world.” But what you will be doing is profiting from higher costs being passed to someone else nearby. And the persons who truly benefit in a big way — big money developers and builders who are politically well-connected — stay out of the limelight so that you can go on believing the jingo-lingo of their lackeys in media and government.

    As IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol has said, “If you think you can save the climate with electric cars, you’re completely wrong.” In 2018, electric cars saved 40 million tons of CO2 worldwide, equivalent to reducing global temperatures by just 0.000018°C — or a little more than a hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius — by the end of the century.

    Individual actions to tackle climate change, even when added together, achieve so little because cheap and reliable energy underpins human prosperity. Fossil fuels currently meet 81% of our global energy needs. And even if every promised climate policy in the 2015 Paris climate agreement is achieved by 2040, they will still deliver 74% of the total.

    We already spend $129 billion per year subsidizing solar and wind energy to try to entice more people to use today’s inefficient technology, yet these sources meet just 1.1% of our global energy needs. The IEA estimates that by 2040 — after we have spent a whopping $3.5 trillion on additional subsidies — solar and wind will still meet less than 5% of our needs. __ Marketwatch

    Whether or not you believe the popular apocalyptic consensus about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, it pays to be hard-headed about what you can actually achieve — besides driving your neighbors into energy poverty and heading your nation’s economy toward recession. Practical results count much more than that feeling of self-righteousness (which is almost always based on a false belief).

    Rethinking Renewable Mandates

    Rooftop Solar Scam

    What Can You Make Without Fossil Fuels?Not a wind turbine or a solar array either. And solar panels are very toxic for a long, long time.

    How bad is the poisoning of the Earth by solar panels?

    Solar panels generate 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants. They also contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic (even carcinogenic) chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel. Worse, rainwater can wash many of these toxics out of the fragments of solar modules over time.

    Intermittency Kills

    Here are three short articles pointing out some of the problems with relying on unreliable forms of energy:

    The Problem of Renewable Energy and Intermittency

    10 Reasons Intermittency is a Problem

    Why is Intermittency a Problem for Renewable Energy?

    These articles are written by intelligent people who are sympathetic to the appeal of big wind and big solar, but who have taken the trouble to understand some of the limitations of these intermittent, unreliable forms of energy.

    Must-read Energy Primer. After reading this you will understand the energy problem better than 95% of energy journalists and virtually all government energy policy-makers.

    Al Fin was once a champion of wind and solar, thinking that what is good on a small scale (off-grid cabins etc.) would also be good on a large scale. After considerable training and education, it turned out that that is not always the case.

    Studies find that the cost of electricity increases as the penetration of wind and solar into the system increase. And there is often little benefit in terms of reduced CO2 emissions. The latest data on the German grid indicate that total power produced by German power plants exceeds what is consumed domestically by what is approximately produced by solar and wind.

    That difference often has to be exported at low prices, thereby further increasing the cost to the entire system. One can only conclude that electricity costs will rise as the electric system operator seeks to rely more on renewable energy from wind and solar. __ G. Cornelis van Kooten

    Posted in Demographics, Economics, Energy, Sun | Tagged , | 1 Comment

    Where Electric Power is in Short Supply

    In sub Saharan Africa, across MENA, and in large parts of Asia, many millions of people must live without reliable access to electric power. For most of these countries the problem is that the humans who live in these countries cannot provide sufficient expertise to build, maintain, and operate large systems for power generation, transmission, and distribution.

    Large electric power systems form the foundation for most of the critical infrastructures of advanced civilisations. For lack of the human infrastructure, these countries lack reliable electric power — which leads directly to severe weaknesses in their other critical infrastructures.

    For Advanced Civilisations, Nuclear is the Safest Form of Energy

    If a country has the human infrastructure to support large power systems, then nuclear power is the safest and most sustainable form of electric power. As advanced nuclear power becomes more scalable, more capable of load-following, and makes more efficient use of nuclear fuel, no other form of power generation will even come close for societies that need large scale power generation over a significant time scale.

    Unfortunately for the energy-poor nations designated in the upper graphic, the lack of human infrastructure eliminates the possibility that nuclear power will serve them well in any time frame. Consider Africa and its perennial infrastructure problem:

    Africa continues to suffer from low levels of agricultural productivity and is constantly bedeviled by famines. A large part of the continent’s inability to feed itself and stimulate rural entrepreneurship can be explained by poor infrastructure (transportation, energy, irrigation, and telecommunication).

    … According to the World Bank, the continent’s infrastructure deficit is considered one of the most significant barriers to sustaining Africa’s growth. It is estimated that the continent will need to invest nearly $93 billion per year over the next decade to bridge the deficit. Some estimates put the budget for Nigeria alone at $15 billion per year.South Africa’s plan is part of a long-term infrastructure strategy to be implemented over the next 15 years at the cost of $462 billion. __ Forbes

    Europe has tried to fix the problem. The Americans have given it a try. China is currently working as many angles as it can, and even shrinking Russia is trying to extend its reach to Africa in an attempt to maintain global relevance. But every time someone tries to help Africa with its infrastructure, things fall apart.

    “As soon as we have problems, we ask someone else to take care of them for us,” Isaac continued. “We ask the Europeans. We ask the Americans. We ask the Chinese. We will run this train into the ground, and then we will tell the Chinese we need another one. This is not development.” I thought of the wreckage by the tracks. In China, there is no such thing as metallic waste. Armies of migrant workers scour the countryside with hammers and chisels, collecting and selling every scrap to the insatiable smelters that feed the country’s industries. Here, by contrast, was a land without industry. __ Atlantic

    There is something quite child-like about the African tendency to ask others to continue to build new infrastructure for them. But in the case of nuclear energy, the lack of qualified personnel to build, maintain, operate, and safeguard the advanced components of nuclear power generation allows no margin of error whatsoever. It is a risk too far.

    In the topmost graphic on this page, South Africa is shown as a country with largely reliable electric power. But are the publishers of the graphic being completely honest?

    White rule in South Africa ended in 1994. It was about ten years later that power outages began, which eventually reached crisis proportions. The principle reason for this is simply lack of maintenance on the generating equipment. Maintenance is future-oriented, and the Zulu entry in the dictionary for it is ondla, which means: “1. Nourish, rear; bring up; 2. Keep an eye on; watch (your crop).” In short, there is no such thing as maintenance in Zulu thought, and it would be hard to argue that this is wholly unrelated to the fact that when people throughout Africa say “nothing works,” it is only [a slight] exaggeration. __ Liveleak

    South Africa is the most advanced nation of sub Saharan Africa, in terms of industrial infrastructure. Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was once another nation of sub Saharan Africa with advanced infrastructure. But Zimbabwe’s infrastructure declined rapidly after its market dominant minority was overthrown, and South Africa seems to be on the same path of decline.

    Human Infrastructure is Critical

    Although human infrastructure is not often mentioned along with the other critical infrastructures, in reality all of the other critical infrastructures rely upon a minimally competent human infrastructure.

    Evaluating the quality of a nation’s human infrastructure is not easy or convenient, but it must be done in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of any realistic development plan that one may try to implement to help the people of that country.

    Here is a graphic attempt to match human cognitive competence (IQ) with occupational levels of competence:

    Occupations and IQ Requirements
    Average Sub Saharan IQ is 70 to 75

    In South Africa and other parts of sub Saharan Africa, the problem is made progressively worse by the outward emigration of the most competent persons, in search of a “better future”:

    In particular, engineers, doctors, lawyers are moving to the US, Europe and Australasia, and agencies claim to handle almost 40% more applications than a year ago. __ Source

    We are not supposed to understand the problems with the human infrastructure of sub Saharan Africa and much of MENA and tribal Asia. Such an understanding is not politically correct and thus is not fashionable. And yet the underlying substrate of these places will clearly not support 99% of the well-intentioned plans that outsiders try to set for them. Not only are large scale advanced infrastructure projects there a waste of money over the long run, but in the case of nuclear power they can leave deep and deadly scars for hundreds of years.

    If one truly wanted to help the people of these long-deprived countries, they would try to help raise their average levels of human competence. But such a winning plan would not be acceptable politically. And so the misery must be perpetuated out of a “progressive” sense of decorum. It is a terribly sad perversion of noblesse oblige.

    Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood © .

    Posted in Africa, Energy, Nuclear Power | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Global Economic Foreshocks

    Anglospheric Economies Set to Grow

    Anglospheric countries such as the UK, Canada, and the US are expected to experience economic growth. The UK is expected to benefit from a new trade agreement with the US, perhaps similar to the one enjoyed by Canada.

    Mr Trump and Mr Johnson have both talked up the prospects of a wide-ranging pact. Following the Prime Minister’s election victory this month, the US President tweeted that a trade deal between the two nations ‘has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the EU’. __ Source

    Such an agreement with the US should set the UK up for a better deal with the EU, since many nations of Europe might then see the UK as a “backdoor” into the US economy.

    Instead of collapsing from Brexit — as many pundits have predicted — the UK economy seems set to grow faster than Europe’s over the next decade:

    BRITAIN’s economy has defied forecasts predicting it would be overtaken by France as a new report reveals we have cemented sixth place in the world.

    And by 2034 the UK’s economy is now predicted to be a quarter larger than France’s, according to research by the annual World Economic Rankings from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). __ Source

    China Suffers Faster Capital Flight

    China has had a rough year, with drops in import/export, decreased investment, and a rise in capital flight as wealthy Chinese look to pad their overseas safety havens in preparation for what may be coming.

    Investors fear another devaluation. And that’s a reasonable fear. State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are imploding with unpayable debt.

    And anyone with an ounce of common sense knows China’s GDP is grossly overstated.

    Money was leaving the country at a record clip earlier this year through unauthorized channels, according to analysts. That’s bad news for China, which needs to keep financial reserves high to maintain confidence in its markets. __ CNN

    __ Mish

    Bad news for those nations that depend upon a booming Chinese economy — whether artificially booming or not. From 1980 to 2008, China’s economic boom came from outside investment and technology transfer. But since 2008 much of China’s “growth facade” came from massive internal stimulus. Even a shadow economy such as China’s will eventually have to pay the piper.

    Revolutionary Groundshifts

    The US share of the global economy is now larger than it was in 2007. That share could grow larger, as US President Trump is now consciously exploring several avenues to combat illegal Chinese grifting in global trade:

    • Intellectual property theft
    • Forced technology transfer
    • China subsidizing their manufacturers and the consequent dumping of goods

    Each illegal Chinese tactic of trade must be met with a targeted response. Until Trump, no global leader had the gumption to confront the Chinese cheater.

    “The short tag line from the president is simply ‘We’re not going to be anybody’s piggy bank anymore. We’re not going to be anybody’s patsy. You cannot keep sending half a trillion dollars a year in trade deficits offshore and expect good things to happen.” __ Source

    The US share of global trade has grown since 2007, and is set to grow further if Donald Trump is given time to continue working his long run strategies. Predictably, China does not enjoy facing a trading partner who insists upon playing by international rules.

    Others in the Anglosphere Who May Profit

    Australia and Canada, which both have skills-based immigration systems that Boris Johnson hopes to emulate after Brexit, are expected to rise in the rankings due to their success in attracting skilled migrants, according to the CEBR report.

    By 2034 Canada is predicted to be the eighth largest economy and Australia the 13 biggest. __ Source

    How Does the US Improve as a Global Economic Driver?

    From Clinton to Obama, the US had a bad run of presidents — people without any genuine insight into economics, trade, or the components that go into national wellbeing and national strength. President Trump is the first US president since Ronald Reagan to move into the political arena after having been successful in the private economic sector. Experience outside of politics provides needed insights to political leaders.

    “Why is manufacturing and trade so central to Trump’s vision?”

    “Economic security is national security,” replied Navarro. “You can’t have a strong United States of America from a military perspective unless you have a strong manufacturing base which begets a strong defense industrial base. The second reason is simply that these jobs tend to pay more, plus they have a robust supply chain which ripples jobs out across the land.”

    Navarro notes the ‘high multiplier effect’ from manufacturing felt across the economy – as it provides a “key source of employment for those who don’t go to college,” which benefits “blue collar folks in flyover states, in our communities, that can earn very good wages and an ability of working with their hands, building things for America and the world.”

    “As someone once said, the Republican Party under President Trump has become the party of the working class, and that’s why we focus on manufacturing,” he added. __ Source

    For a society to be strong it must be strong all the way down to its foundations. People of the working class must believe that they and their children have a dynamic future in front of them. They do not demand “equality.” They demand a chance to climb the ladder. This is why genuine workers on average tend to distrust socialism, while “intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals” flock to socialism. And that is how the US elections of 2020 are shaping up: people who actually work for a living vs. the parasitic intellectuals/pseudointellectuals of media, academia, politics, activism, foundations, lobbyists, bureaucracies (including corporate bureaucracies).

    If Trump is Re-Elected Expect Stronger Shocks to the System

    A few Trump accomplishments from the past few years:

    • President Trump negotiated a new trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico to replace the disastrous and outdated North American Free Trade Agreement.
    • The President implemented a five-year ban on lobbying for White House employees and a lifetime ban on lobbying for foreign countries.
    • Since the election, 4.6 million Americans have been lifted off of food stamps
    • More than 5 million jobs have been created since President Trump’s election and the unemployment rate remains below 4 percent.
    • The women’s unemployment rate recently reached its lowest rate in 65 years.
    • President Trump signed legislation to roll back burdensome Dodd-Frank regulations that harmed community banks.
    • US economic growth has been consistently stronger since Trump’s election
    • President Trump secured a record $73.1 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide quality medical care for our veterans.
    • Each quarter since taking office, President Trump has donated his salary, fulfilling a promise he made to the American people.
    • In a historic show of transparency and accountability, the Trump Administration completed the Department of Defense’s first ever audit.

    More

    Trump is also moving the nation’s courts away from political activism and back toward a more solid constitutionalism. This important move brings “rule of law” back to the forefront of American life and enterprise — setting the stage for longer-term prosperity.

    Donald Trump has a better understanding of debt-based economic systems such as modern governments, than his predecessors going back decades. The only thing being offered by the opposition going into the 2020 elections, is socialism. And while today’s young may want to give another chance to the economic system that killed 100 million people in the 20th century, perhaps wiser and more experienced heads with more long-term perspectives will prevail.

    The revolution inside the UK leading to Brexit is the first of the foreshocks suggesting a change from global decline as previously scheduled.

    If Trump is re-elected, the global economic system will experience additional shaking and turning back from the precipice — which the policies of Clinton-Bush II-Obama combined with rotten EU policies had been inexorably approaching for decades.

    North American Energy Shocks to Continue

    Before the US shale boom of the 2010s, the global economy was being held ransom by the machinations of energy-rich dictatorships — which needed very high oil prices to fund their budgets and global ambitions. But something happened since 2010 to shake up the global energy regime.

    In 2010, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that in 2019, the U.S. would be producing about six million barrels of oil a day. The reality? We’re now producing 12 million barrels of oil a day.

    Meanwhile, EIA projected oil prices would be more than $100 a barrel. They’re currently hovering around $60 a barrel.

    __ Axios

    Since 2014, North American energy production has overturned the global equilibrium. Oil prices have since stayed consistently lower and have proved resistant to the old “oil-shock” strategies of OPEC and Russia. Expect more of the same over the next 10 years.

    The Boris Johnson Effect in the UK

    The leader of the UK is bringing a more confident attitude to the nation which has not been seen there since the days of Margaret Thatcher and before that the days of Winston Churchill.

    Boris Johnson has already shown that he has the ambition and enthusiasm – as well as the intellect – required to deliver what is needed.

    There is a sense of national relief that the logjam has been broken. Get ready for a Prime Minister who is not afraid to make us laugh and show us that hard work is fun. __ Letter to the editor

    If the Anglosphere is to help bring a more optimistic future to the world, it demands leaders willing to step back from the socialist policies of decline.

    Western Europe is badly in need of such leaders.

    More:

    Global stocks gain over $17 trillion in value in 2019

    Paul Krugman blames Trump … Heh!

    China headed for a large default which could trigger a global slowdown, except for people smart enough to decouple from China ahead of time.

    China’s economic growth has been exaggerated

    Trump Riding the Storm As 2020 Rolls In:


    “Trump is winning with union voters (Trump leads 48% to 42%) and consumers-NASCAR fans (Trump leads 63% to 32%), weekly Walmart shoppers (Trump leads 54% to 37%), and weekly Amazon shoppers (Trump leads 54% to 43%),” reports Zogby.
    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/new-zogby-poll-shows-trump-beating-all-dem-candidates

    Posted in China, Donald Trump, Economics | Tagged | Leave a comment