Synergic Disarmament: Wisdom, we shouldn’t have!

Timothy Wilken

Future Positive — Timothy Wilken, MD writing in 2002: Interestingly, the recent advent of the Washington D.C. area sniper has brought renewed interest in the subject of weapons and their role in our present society.  …

Think of the power of the tools we humans use everyday—a Boeing 747 airplane, our automobiles, computers, cell phones, televisions, household appliances, the tools in our garages and at our places of work. The knowing in these tools multiply our human power by orders of magnitude. They allow us to do what was considered impossible just a few years ago. It is the power of the knowing embedded in these tools that give them their power. You don’t have to be wise to use a tool full of wisdom. You don’t even have to be knowledgeable to use such a tool. McDonald’s fast food restaurants, use picture icons of the food and drinks on the buttons of the check out computers, so that the illiterate and innumerate humans working there can operate the computers without reading, adding or subtracting. The computer even tells the operator the correct amount of change to return to the customer.

However, there is risk in using tools you don’t understand. Remember, “a little knowing is a dangerous thing.” Today, we commonly put enormously powerful tools into the hands of those who do not understand them. This means the risk of using these tools in an unsafe manner is high. And since weapons are specifically designed to hurt or kill, they are among the most dangerous tools available in today’s society.

And yet they are easily available to anyone who desires them. They can be purchased legally by any adult who passes a background check for criminal record. If you are not a convicted felon, you can legally purchase all the weapons and ammunition you desire. You are not legally required to be literate, numerate, or have any knowledge of science or physics. No knowledge of weapons or the consequence of their use or misuse is required before becoming armed. As to felons, minors, or non-citizens—anyone wishing to avoid the background check of legal purchase, they can be purchased illegally in any town in America. (02/04/2016) 

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Dear Body

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Washington Post — Casey Seidenberg writes a letter for her body as a model for her children as they begin the new year. …

Dear Body,

Thank you for being my home. For loving me no matter what I do. For keeping me in one piece and recovering quickly even when I challenge you with trips, slips, falls, collisions, tackles, concussions, late nights of studying, too much sugar, and the germs that I encounter everywhere.

Thank you for protecting me from the many harsh and damaging chemicals, pollutants and substances in our world. For ditching the bad stuff you are given and employing the good.

Thank you for helping me to grow and get stronger every year. Thank you for balancing and righting me when I become sad, scared or discouraged. You never ask questions, and you are always there for me.

So to say thank you this New Year I will try my hardest to make more choices that benefit you.

I will try to sleep well so that you can rebuild the pieces that get broken or weary during a typical day. I will stretch and I will exercise to help you transport blood efficiently. I will eat lots of vegetables so you don’t have to work so hard to filter the pollution in the air I breathe or the chemicals in the candy I eat. I will drink many glasses of water so my spine and joints stay hydrated, my blood travels efficiently, and my nerves function correctly. I will eat protein to give me long-lasting energy, and healthful fats to help my brain function at its highest capacity. I will take lots of deep breaths so all of my cells receive the oxygen they need to do their jobs.

I will try to listen when you talk to me. When I yawn, I will recognize that you want me to sleep. When I ache, I will stop pushing you so vigorously. When I feel anxious, I will breathe deeply and slow down. When I feel angry, I will pause, acknowledge and respect my feelings. When I lack energy, I will drink water, eat healthful food and get some fresh air.

And since you love and take care of me no matter what, perhaps this year I could decide to love you back no matter what shape or size you are, no matter how much muscle or fat or bone you build, no matter how coordinated you are or are not, no matter how many pimples you produce, or how many bad hair days you have. I will love you and take care of you as much as you love and take care of me.

(02/03/2016)

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The Populist Revolution: Bernie and Beyond

Ellen Brown

CommUnity of Minds–Ellen Brown writes: The world is undergoing a populist revival. From the revolt against austerity led by the Syriza Party in Greece and the Podemos Party in Spain, to Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise victory as Labour leader in the UK, to Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the Republican polls, to Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton – contenders with their fingers on the popular pulse are surging ahead of their establishment rivals.

Today’s populist revolt mimics an earlier one that reached its peak in the US in the 1890s. Then it was all about challenging Wall Street, reclaiming the government’s power to create money, curing rampant deflation with US Notes (Greenbacks) or silver coins (then considered the money of the people), nationalizing the banks, and establishing a central bank that actually responded to the will of the people.

Over a century later, Occupy Wall Street revived the populist challenge, armed this time with the Internet and mass media to spread the word. The Occupy movement shined a spotlight on the corrupt culture of greed unleashed by deregulating Wall Street, widening the yawning gap between the 1% and the 99% and destroying jobs, households and the economy.

Donald Trump’s populist campaign has not focused much on Wall Street; but Bernie Sanders’ has, in spades. Sanders has picked as will so will I figure up the baton where Occupy left off, and the disenfranchised Millennials who composed that movement have flocked behind him. (02/03/2016)

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Winning Hyperloop design revealed by MIT engineers

MIT Hyperloop Pod

BBC Technology — Designs for passenger pods that could travel through airless tubes have been revealed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Hyperloop is a conceptual transport system in which passenger pods could be fired through vacuum tubes at more than 600mph (1,000km/h). The MIT team came first in a SpaceX competition to design pods that could be tested in a prototype tube. The team will now have the opportunity to build and test its design in the US.

Describing his team’s winning design, chief engineer Chris Merian said: “Our pod focuses on levitating as well as moving at really high speeds. Those are the two things that we see as crucial to this being a true Hyperloop pod,” he added.

To help reassure potentially nervous riders, the MIT designers have included fail-safe brakes, which would stop the pod if the computer systems failed. However the design currently does not have space for cargo or passengers. More than 115 teams entered the design competition, with the MIT engineers scooping the Best Overall Design prize. Twenty-two teams will go on to test their pod designs on the SpaceX test track. (02/03/2016)

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Microcephaly: ‘It’s not the end of the world’

Laney (age 13)

BBC Medical Science — Microcephaly has come to prominence since the news reports of the Zika virus being linked to birth defects. The condition causes the head to be small in size and the brain to under-develop. But it is not known why babies are born with microcephaly. Gabrielle Frohock from Austin, Texas, US is a mum of three daughters – her last born – nicknamed Laney – has microcephaly. This is her story.

Diagnosis

“After she was born doctors saw her head was too small. They did a cat scan the same day and diagnosed her with microcephaly. Part of the corpus callosum, or the nerve fibres, didn’t form at the back of the head that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Doctors didn’t expect her to survive beyond a few months old. I had never heard of the condition before, and it was complete and utter devastation when we got the news. We also found out later she has a chromosome disorder that may be a cause of the microcephaly. I was determined I would love her and hold her – I did not put her down for six months, as I didn’t know how long she would survive. …

“When you have a child you love it unconditionally – when you have a special child, for me it’s a love without expectation. If she never says she loves me or never talks, it doesn’t matter. She’s a gift to me. It’s been heartbreaking but I never knew that kind of love existed. It only takes little things to make her happy. She can crawl now – and she can push a button on her favourite toy. We celebrate her birthday like you can’t imagine every year! She has brought so much joy in our lives. She is so wonderful, sweet and loving.” (02/03/2016)

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Greatest Poems Ever Written

Robert Frost

Epoch Times — Evan Mantyk reports:For your education, enjoyment, and (perhaps) excitement, this is a list of the greatest poems originally written in the English language. It is presented from least greatest (10) to greatest greatest (1) and each poem is followed by a brief analysis of each poem.

The poems in the list were selected by the Society of Classical Poets to inspire and educate new poets, but can also inspire and educate all people with their timeless wisdom and universal themes.

Many good poems and poets had to be left out of this list because of the list’s necessary shortness (a mere 10 among many thousands) as well as the Society’s emphasis on classical poetry.

What is classical poetry? It means poems that follow perennial forms, like meter and rhyme, and that are infused with a classical flavor—that is, with humanity’s quintessential quest for virtue over vice, epic over ephemeral, and beauty over baseness.

Additionally, I note that long poems, such as epics and plays, and excerpts of such works have not been considered for this list. (01/23/2016)

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10. ‘The Road Not Taken’

By Robert Frost (1874–1963)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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2015 was Hottest Year on Record

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Bloomberg Business — To say that 2015 was hot is an understatement. The average recorded temperature across the surface of the planet was so far above normal that it set a record for setting records.

The year was more than a quarter of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than the last global heat record—set all the way back in 2014—according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures released on Wednesday. A quarter of a degree may not sound like much, but on a planetary scale it’s a huge leap. Most previous records were measured by hundredths of a degree.

A powerful El Niño is largely responsible for the year’s extremes, but make no mistake: This is what global warming looks like. Temperatures are rising 10 times faster than during the bounce back from the last ice age. Fifteen of the hottest 16 years on record have come in the 21st century. …

The heat during 2015 was relentless. Monthly records were broken for every month except January (second hottest) and April (third hottest), according to data from NOAA. The year ended with an exclamation point in December, recording the most extreme departure for any month on record.

Results from the world’s top monitoring agencies vary slightly, but NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the U.K.’s Met Office all agree: 2015 was unprecedented. The heat was experienced differently around the world, but most regions were unusually warm to downright scorching for much of the year. (01/20/2016)

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Wealth of richest 1% ‘equal to other 99%’

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BBC  Business News — The richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, according to Oxfam. It uses data from Credit Suisse from October for the report, which urges leaders meeting in Davos this week to take action on inequality. Oxfam also calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population.

It criticised the work of lobbyists and the amount of money kept in tax havens. Oxfam predicted that the 1% would overtake the rest of the world this time last year.

It takes cash and assets worth $68,800 (£48,300) to get into the top 10%, and $760,000 (£533,000) to be in the 1%. That means that if you own an average house in London without a mortgage, you are probably in the 1%.

The figures carry various caveats, for example, information about the wealth of the super-rich is hard to come by, which Credit Suisse says means its estimates of the proportion of wealth held by the 10% and the 1% is “likely to err on the low side”.

As a global report, the figures also necessarily include some estimates of levels of wealth in countries from which accurate statistics are not available. Oxfam said that the 62 richest people having as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the population is a remarkable concentration of wealth, given that it would have taken 388 individuals to have the same wealth as the bottom 50% in 2010. (01/17/2016)

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Inequality and Modernization

Ronald Inglehart

Foreign Affairs — Ronald Inglehart writes: During the past century, economic inequality in the developed world has traced a massive U-shaped curve—starting high, curving downward, then curving sharply back up again. In 1915, the richest one percent of Americans earned roughly 18 percent of all national income. Their share plummeted in the 1930s and remained below ten percent through the 1970s, but by 2007, it had risen to 24 percent. Looking at household wealth rather than income, the rise of inequality has been even greater, with the share owned by the top 0.1 percent increasing to 22 percent from nine percent three decades ago. In 2011, the top one percent of U.S. households controlled 40 percent of the nation’s entire wealth. And while the U.S. case may be extreme, it is far from unique: all but a few of the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for which data are available experienced rising income inequality (before taxes and transfers) during the period from 1980 to 2009.

The French economist Thomas Piketty has famously interpreted this data by arguing that a tendency toward economic inequality is an inherent feature of capitalism. He sees the middle decades of the twentieth century, during which inequality declined, as an exception to the rule, produced by essentially random shocks—the two world wars and the Great Depression—that led governments to adopt policies that redistributed income. Now that the influence of those shocks has receded, life is returning to normal, with economic and political power concentrated in the hands of an oligarchy.

Piketty’s work has been corrected on some details, but his claim that economic inequality is rising rapidly in most developed countries is clearly accurate. What most analyses of the subject miss, however, is the extent to which both the initial fall and the subsequent rise of inequality over the past century have been related to shifts in the balance of power between elites and masses, driven by the ongoing process of modernization.

In hunting-and-gathering societies, virtually everyone possessed the skills needed for political participation. Communication was by word of mouth, referring to things one knew of firsthand, and decision-making often occurred in village councils that included every adult male. Societies were relatively egalitarian.

The invention of agriculture gave rise to sedentary communities producing enough food to support elites with specialized military and communication skills. Literate administrators made it possible to coordinate large empires governing millions of people. This much larger scale of politics required specialized skills, including the ability to read and write. Word-of-mouth communication was no longer sufficient for political participation: messages had to be sent across great distances. Human memory was incapable of recording the tax base or military manpower of large numbers of districts: written records were needed. And personal loyalties were inadequate to hold together large empires: legitimating myths had to be propagated by religious or ideological specialists. This opened up a wide gap between a relatively skilled ruling class and the population as a whole, which consisted mainly of scattered, illiterate peasants who lacked the skills needed to cope with politics at a distance. And along with that gap, economic inequality increased dramatically. (01/16/2016)

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Kenny’s Window: A Book Review

Book Cover

brainpickings — Maria Popova writes: “I don’t write for children,” Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928–May 8, 2012) told Stephen Colbert in his last on-camera appearance. “I write — and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’” Having fallen in love with his work as an adult myself — none of it made it past the Iron Curtain and into the Bulgaria of my childhood — I’ve come to appreciate this sentiment all the more deeply. Sendak was indeed a storyteller who, while enchanting children, very much embodied E.B. White’s dictum that “anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time” — instead, he wrote up to them and made an art of naming what is dark and difficult, then enveloping it in hope.

It’s a craft he began honing in the largely forgotten 1956 masterpiece Kenny’s Window (public library) — his first and, in many ways, most directly philosophical children’s book, written and illustrated when Sendak was only twenty-eight.

Published seven years before Where the Wild Things Are turned him into a cultural icon, this was Sendak’s debut as a storyteller. He was yet to encounter William Blake, who would become his greatest influence. Although he had previously illustrated children’s books by other authors — including the immeasurably wonderful Open House for Butterflies and I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss, one of the finest children’s storytellers of all time — this was Sendak’s serenade to his own becoming, a creative homecoming into his own voice as an artist of word and image. (01-10-2016)

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