David Kirkpatrick

December 23, 2011

“The Blackwater dudes would play Nickelback … “

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:58 am

Talk about the bar from hell — in the midst of Iraq’s Green Zone during the worst of the war, everyone’s favorite “security contractor” (nee Blackwater, nee Xe, now Academi) allowed its employees to frequent a speakeasy and soil the airspace with cover songs.

Hope this doesn’t ruin your holiday cheer, but from the link:

Bearman: There actually wasn’t a jukebox. They had a stereo system with an iPod attachment. They played random music. No one gave me a playlist, but they had to take Men At Work off because Aussie security contractors would go apeshit when Men At Work came on. Which I understand! When i’m in a war zone and drinking, I kind of want to let off a little steam, too.

But actually, sometimes they had live bands. Contractors who were over there a long time would bring instruments and musical equipment. There would be jammy, crappy cover bands. The Aegis guys would play the Kinks. The Blackwater dudes would play Nickelback. There was a strong cultural difference in what mercenaries were into, musically speaking.

September 11, 2011

Ten years later …

I don’t really have a lot to offer aside from two blog posts.

First up is a post of mine from MarketingSherpa this Friday. I interviewed a reputation management expert for a how-to consumer marketing article who worked the American Airlines account for a major PR firm that day. He provided an interesting insight into some of the behind the scenes aspects of 9/11.

From the link:

I spent 48 hours doing nothing but monitoring and taking in reports from different people. I didn’t go to bed. I didn’t go home. It was kind of funny because the next day after the first 48 hours was over, I actually had scheduled a meeting with the Interactive Marketing team at AA.com.

I went to that meeting and I hadn’t gone to sleep. They insisted on having the meeting, not because they really wanted to have the meeting, but they knew that I was also in the Corporate Communications side, and that I knew what was going on.

The second is a post on the personal blog from a Sherpa colleague of mine, Brad Bortone, was a NYC resident on that morning. His post covers the first Mets home game after the attacks.

From the link:

For all the good that a night of baseball seemed to be doing, it was clear that the outside world wasn’t going away, no matter how much we wanted it to do just that. Then Mike Piazza stepped up once last time.

In the eighth inning, with the Mets down 2-1, and fan enthusiasm rapidly waning, Piazza hit a defining shot of his career. A fastball by Steve Karsay, left right in Piazza’s wheelhouse, promptly found its way over the center field fence, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead which would hold up till the end.

Piazza tried his damnedest to maintain composure as he rounded the bases, but the fans weren’t as controlled. Despite the thinning attendance, the cheers were as loud as any I’ve experienced in my 31 years. It was as if 41,000 people, after two weeks of holding their breath, finally allowed themselves to exhale.

May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden — D.O.A.

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:04 am

Yeah, I know I haven’t posted in a long time, but this news is big.

Congrats to our leadership and armed forces. I hate to celebrate the death of anyone, but this one was long overdue.

(Update 5/5/11: in retrospect a better header would have been “OBL — DOA”)

December 18, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell enters the dustbin of history

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:34 pm

And couldn’t come any sooner. We need willing and able soldiers of any stripe, and anyone who thinks the sexual orientation  of any one soldier is going to affect the performance of any other soldier ought to check in with the many, many militaries around the world that allow openly homosexual soldiers serve and ask them how that exercise is going (hint: pretty damn good.)

Here’s my favorite quote on the topic from a special operations soldier:

We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.

(Hat tip on the quote: the Daily Dish)

December 4, 2010

Electronic cigarettes are bad for you?

Don’t smoke ’em myself and have no plans to ever start, but these alternatives to actually burning tobacco have the anti-tobacco forces up in arms. Just check out the “results” of this University of California, Riverside, study that declares them possibly dangerous. Of course this non-study will get lots of ink about how bad electronic cigarettes are, even though the actual results say nothing of the sort.

Typical move from anti-tobacco forces. Long on overwrought hype and short on non-statistically skewed clinical results. It really is amazing how many citizens in the “land of the free” want to have control over what their fellow citizens consume, who they marry and where they worship (for those with that inclination.)

From the link:

Talbot, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, was joined in the study by Anna Trtchounian, the first author of the research paper. Together, they examined the design, accuracy and clarity of labeling, nicotine content, leakiness, defective parts, disposal, errors in filling orders, instruction manual quality and advertizing for the following brands of e-cigarettes: NJOY, Liberty Stix, Crown Seven (Hydro), Smoking Everywhere (Gold and Platinum) and VapCigs.

Their main observations are that:

  • Batteries, atomizers, cartridges, cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information regarding e-cigarette content, use and essential warnings;
  • E-cigarette cartridges leak, which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children, adults, pets and the environment;
  • Currently, there are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarettes products and accessories, including cartridges, which could result in contamination from discarded cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the environment; and
  • The manufacture, quality control, sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.

“More research on e-cigarettes is crucially needed to protect the health of e-cigarette users and even those who do not use e-cigarettes,” said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC TRDRP. “Contrary to the claims of the manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes being ‘safe,’ in fact, virtually nothing is known about the toxicity of the vapors generated by these e-cigarettes. Until we know any thing about the potential health risks of the toxins generated upon heating the nicotine-containing content of the e-cigarette cartridges, the ‘safety’ claims of the manufactureres are dubious at best.

Okay, doesn’t sound too convincing there. And I encourage more research because if electronic cigarettes pose specific health risks, consumers of the product should know about them to make informed decisions on what they are putting into their bodies.

Now here’s the title from the linked PhysOrg piece, “Electronic cigarettes are unsafe and pose health risks, new study finds.” Does that match the studies results to your mind. Certainly not mine. Note the first observation — the products lack package labeling. Stop the presses!

Who funded this bit of research, “The study was funded by a grant to Talbot from the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP).”

November 24, 2010

Holiday air travel food for thought

Not only is the TSA a ridiculous bureaucratic mess that isn’t making anyone any safer at airports or in the skies, plus it’s now turned into an organization demanding organized “legal” molestation. It’s also very possibly damaging your health if you want to avoid the unwanted groping.

From the link:

As millions of U.S. travelers get ready for the busiest flying day of the year, scientists still can’t agree over whether the dose of radiation delivered by so-called backscatter machines is significantly higher than the government says. This is despite months of public debate between the White House, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and independent scientists.

Full-body scanners have been installed at many U.S. airports. The machines use either low-energy, millimeter wavelength radiation, which is harmless, or X-rays, which can potentially be hazardous. X-rays can ionize atoms or molecules, which can lead to cancerous changes in cells. Even if the government has significantly underestimated the dose of radiation delivered by an X-ray scanner, it is likely to be relatively small.

And more:

In April, four scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote a public letter to the White House warning that the government may have underestimated the dosage of ionizing radiation delivered to a person’s skin from a backscatter machine by one or two orders of magnitude. The scientists, who have expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, oncology, and X-ray crystallography, pointed out that the government’s estimate was based on radiation exposure for the entire body. During scanning, the majority of radiation will be focused on the surface of the body, meaning a more concentrated dose of radiation is delivered to the skin.

November 18, 2010

Rare earth mineral news

I’ve blogged about this more than once, but if you need the ultra-quick version — China supplies pretty much the entire world with rare earth minerals, elements that are used to manufacture vital electronics and computing parts, because it’s been doing so very, very cheaply for a long time. Recently the nation has used its rare earth monopoly as an economic bludgeon, most notably against Japan and the United States.

We know the U.S. and Australia, among other countries, have rare earth element resources. Now that we know just how rare earth rich the U.S. is, it’s time to seriously ramp up domestic production and get off the cheap Chinese teat.

From the fourth (and last) link:

Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

“This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States,” commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. “It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation’s natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come.”

REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

November 17, 2010

The erosion of personal privacy continues

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:41 am

And a to a very large extent, the violated are willfully doing it to themselves. I really wonder, do most people have no idea what data mining is and what it can do given a substantial amount of personal information? Maybe the boy-wonder CEOs of Google and Facebook are right, and most people just don’t care.

From the link:

In this cell-phone-centric age, your friends might learn that you’ve gone to see a movie when you arrive at the theater and check in on Facebook or Foursquare. But that’s probably too late to function as anything more than a boast. An iPhone app called Blaze Mobile Wallet tells them the instant you book a ticket in advance, giving them time to respond and meet you there.

When users pay for a reservation using the app, which debits funds from a prepaid account, a Facebook post lets friends know all the details: film, theater, and show time. “It makes it more likely that friends will join them at the movie,” says Michelle Fisher, CEO of Blaze Mobile, one of a slew of companies exploring how cell phones that act as wallets can encourage new connections between friends—and between businesses and their customers.

 

November 5, 2010

Creating terrorists — here comes the science …

Looks like “taking the fight” to the terrorists on their turf to keep them from coming here is a fairly flawed strategy. Studies on phase transition show that action only serves to create many more terrorists than would ordinarily be running around as bad actors (and not in the emoting sense.)

From the link:

Feedback loops are interesting because they lead to nonlinear behavior, where the ordinary intuitive rules of cause and effect no longer apply. So a small increase in one type of behavior can lead to a massive increase in another. In the language of physics, a phase transition occurs.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens in August’s model. They show that for various parameters in their model, a small increase in the removal rate of active radicals generates a massive increase in passive supporters, providing an almost limitless pool from which to recruit more active radicals.

What this model describes, of course, is the cycle of violence that occurs in so many of the world’s trouble spots.

That has profound implications for governments contemplating military intervention that is likely to cause “collateral damage.” If you replace the term “active radical” with “terrorist” then a clear prediction of this model is that military intervention creates the conditions in which terrorism flourishes.

They say that this feedback loop can halted only if the removal of terrorists can be achieved without the attendant radicalizing side effects. As August and colleagues put it: “if this happened practically without casualties, fatalities, applying torture or committing terroristic acts against the local population.”

This is an interesting approach. It clearly shows that public opinion and behavior can change dramatically in ways that are difficult to predict.

 

November 4, 2010

GOP establishment v. Tea Party movement

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

Not hard to predict, and now it begins …

From today’s Playbook:

RECRIMINATIONS: WHY REPUBLICANS DON’T CONTROL THE SENATE -Jonathan Martin and Manu Raju: “With tea party-backed candidates going down in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada, depriving Republicans of what would have been a 50-50 Senate, a bloc of prominent senators and operatives said party purists like Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had foolishly pushed nominees too conservative to win … Movement conservatives pointed the finger right back at the establishment, accusing the National Republican Senatorial Committee of squandering millions on a California race that wasn’t close … ‘Candidates matter,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). ‘It was a good night for Republicans but it could have been a better one. We left some on the table. … If you think what happened in Delaware is “a win” for the Republican Party, then we don’t have a snowball’s chance to win the White House. … If you think Delaware was a wake-up call for Republicans, then we have shot at doing well for a long time.’

“Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott put it plainly: ‘We did not nominate our strongest candidates.’ Had Republicans run Castle in Delaware and establishment favorites Sue Lowden in Nevada and Jane Norton in Colorado, Lott said, … ‘we would have won and been sitting at 50.’ … Another high-profile senator [placed] the blame … at the feet of Graham’s South Carolina colleague, DeMint. … ‘It’s like you’re on the five-yard line ready to score and the quarterback calls the play and some member of your team tackles one of your members and keeps you from scoring. … We came tantalizingly close to a majority … I’m completely mystified by it.”http://bit.ly/br1xoW

Update 11/5/10 — Peggy Noonan piles on.

November 2, 2010

Need an explanation …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:18 am

… for today’s electoral outcome? Here you go.

From the link:

The number of Americans who say things are going badly in the country, at 75 percent, is higher than it has been on the eve of any midterm election since the question was first asked in the mid-1970s, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that the economy remains, by far, the top issue on the minds of Americans. Fifty-two percent of people questioned say the economy’s the most important issue facing the country.

“That’s more than the deficit, education, health care, terrorism, energy, illegal immigration and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “No other issue was named as the country’s top problem by more than 8 percent.”

The economy has been the issue most on the mind of Americans in CNN polling since the end of 2007.

 

October 26, 2010

We’re getting pretty close to “angry mob”

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:51 am

When political civility breaks down to the point middle-age adult men are physically assaulting a woman (and assaulting in a fairly cowardly way if you ask me), we have a serious polity problem on our hands. All the rage and anger of certain media factions has clearly whipped up something beyond normal political passions in parts of the electorate. This has happened in many places and many times in history and it’s never pretty.

Here’s more about the video.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

Update — More on this incident from Rand Paul’s camp.

From the update link:

“The Paul for Senate campaign is extremely disappointed in, and condemns the actions of a supporter last night outside the KET debate,” the statement reads. “Whatever the perceived provocation, any level of aggression or violence is deplorable, and will not be tolerated by our campaign. The Paul campaign has disassociated itself from the volunteer who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists — on both sides — to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.”

Update II — The courage and couth challenged perpetrator in the video has been IDed — Tim Profitt, a volunteer campaign coordinator for Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul. Paul has ended Profitt’s volunteer status and banned him from campaign events.

Update III (10/27/10) — And sometimes the stupid just dig in deeper

From the Update III link:

Tim Profitt — the former Rand Paul volunteer who stomped on the head of a MoveOn activist — told told local CBS station WKYT that he wants an apology from the woman he stomped and that she started the whole thing.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Profitt said. “I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you.”

“She’s a professional at what she does,” Profitt added, “and I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was the one that initiated the whole thing.”

 

October 21, 2010

Latest Beige Book still bland …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:48 pm

… but hints at Fed action to come.

From the link:

Economic growth continued at a sluggish pace over the past few weeks, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday, supporting views that the Fed might take action to spur the economy at its next policy meeting.

In its latest snapshot of regional economic conditions, the Fed reported some bright spots in manufacturing, travel, tourism and auto sales, but still saw weakness in the housing market.

The report, known as the Beige Book, summarized economic conditions in the central bank’s 12 districts across the nation. It will help set the tone for the Fed policy meeting set to take place Nov. 2-3. Investors are widely expecting an announcement of another round of asset purchases.

“The lack of meaningful improvements leaves investors anticipating additional action by the Federal Reserve to reinvigorate the economy in November,” said Kathy Lien, director of currency research for GFT, in a research note.

“If the Fed was worried about the recovery in September, they will remain worried in November as there was no major pickup in economic activity,” Lien said.

 

October 20, 2010

Update on the rare earth mineral/China issue

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:34 pm

I blogged about this topic a couple of times last month, and now it looks like the issue is already coming to North American shores. Not exactly sure what China is up to here, but it is very serious economic saber-rattling, and in a media world full of manufactured bogeymen, this is an issue to actually be concerned about.

From the third (and final) link:

Last month, the New York Times reported that the Chinese government clamped down on its exports of rare earth metals, which are used in the manufacture of all kinds of electronics, to Japan. Now, it appears that a similar thing is happening with Western countries like the United States, the Times reports, though Chinese officials deny it.

The Chinese action, involving rare earth minerals that are crucial to manufacturing many advanced products, seems certain to further intensify already rising trade and currency tensions with the West. Until recently, China typically sought quick and quiet accommodations on trade issues.

But the interruption in rare earth supplies is the latest sign from Beijing that Chinese leaders are willing to use their growing economic muscle. “The embargo is expanding” beyond Japan, said one of the three rare earth industry officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of business retaliation by Chinese authorities.

They said Chinese customs officials imposed the broader restrictions on Monday morning, hours after a top Chinese official summoned international news media Sunday night to denounce United States trade actions.

As we said last time, the mechanics of any rare earth metal embargo is important to manufacturers and suppliers, but hard to pin down. What’s important, policy-wise, is that we could have a domestic rare earth metal industry in the United States, but we have refused to support it in the belief that the market would always deliver what we needed from low-cost Chinese suppliers.

 

October 11, 2010

Congrats to Sully

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:33 am

Many thanks and congratulations to Andrew Sullivan for reaching ten years blogging at his Daily Dish. It’s simply one of the best, and most honest, political (and, of course, more) blogs out there. He wears his heart on his sleeve most of the time and every once in a while can make a fairly harsh snap judgement on any number of topics, but one thing Sullivan has always done is remain intellectually curious and open. As he himself has put it more than once, you can watch him change his mindset on topics in real-time over weeks and months of blog posts. The Daily Dish has long been a daily read for me, and I doubt that changes anytime soon.

September 27, 2010

China, already cracking the rare earth metal whip

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:57 pm

I know I’m over half a week late on this (and yes, I’m aware I haven’t blogged well over a week — been crazy around these parts of late), but since I covered the topic earlier this month I thought it was interesting it’s already hit the front pages.

The issue is China essentially controlling the world’s supply of 17 rare earth metals — critical for the manufacture of electronics and military parts, to name two key examples — and how that power might be wielded. I blogged that everyone fretting about Chinese ownership of U.S. Treasuries was completely misplacing their concern. That advice has already been borne out now that China has used that control as a political bludgeon against Japan. I’m betting this is just the opening kickoff of a very serious game of political football. (Couldn’t help the metaphor there, I’m still pretty excited the NFL season is in full swing.)

From the second link:

Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese government has blocked exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.

Chinese customs officials are halting shipments to Japan of so-called rare earth elements, preventing them from being loading aboard ships at Chinese ports, industry officials said on Thursday.

September 13, 2010

In advance of favorable midterm elections …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:21 pm

… the “party of ‘no'” says, “maybe.”

Good news on the tax front. This at least hints the GOP isn’t willing to blow up tax cuts for a very huge majority of taxpayers just to side with the top two percent (or thereabouts) of households.

From the link:

The top Republican in the House of Representatives offered a hint of compromise on the divisive issue of taxes on Sunday, saying he would support extending tax cuts for the middle class even if cuts for the wealthy are allowed to expire.

Representative John Boehner said President Barack Obama’s proposal to renew lower tax rates for families making less than $250,000 but let the lower rates for wealthier Americans expire was “bad policy” — but he will support it if he must.

“If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I’ll vote for it,” Boehner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

“If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 and below, of course I’m going to do that,” he said. “But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.”

Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program student projects

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about today’s webinar last week, and here’s a summary of the student projects from this year’s Singularity University.

From the first link:

Singularity University webinar today: sneak preview

September 13, 2010 by Edito

Former astronaut Dan Barry, M.D., PhD, faculty head of Singularity University, will join Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis on Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a live video webinar briefing to unveil this summer’s Graduate Studies Program student projects.

The projects aim to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The briefing is free and is open to media and the public — visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register.

Here are some of the team projects to be profiled in the webinar.

Achieving the benefits of space at a fraction of the cost

The space project teams have developed imaginative new solutions for space and spinoffs for Earth. The AISynBio project team is working with leading NASA scientists to design bioengineered organisms that can use available resources to mitigate harsh living environments (such as lack of air, water, food, energy, atmosphere, and gravity) – on an asteroid, for example, and also on Earth .

The SpaceBio Labs team plans to develop methods for doing low-cost biological research in space, such as 3D tissue engineering and protein crystallization.

The Made in Space team plans to bring 3D printing to space to make space exploration cheaper, more reliable, and fail-safe (“send the bits, not the atoms”).  For example, they hope to replace some of the $1 billion worth of spare parts and tools that are on the International Space Station.

The Cheap Access to Space team is working with NASA Ames and CalTech engineers and scientists on a radical space propulsion system using beamed microwave energy to dramatically reduce the cost of a space launch by a factor of ten.

Solving key problems for a billion people on Earth

Back on Earth, a number of teams are working on solving global problems of waste, energy, hunger, and water.

The three Upcycle teams have developed synergistic solutions to eliminate waste and reduce energy use.

The Fre3dom team is planning to bring 3D printing to the developing world to allow local communities to make their own much-needed spare parts using bioplastics.

The BioMine team is developing environmentally regenerative, safe, efficient and scalable biological methods for the extraction of metals from electronic waste. This is a multidisciplinary team with technical expertise ranging from synthetic biology and chemical engineering to computer science and biotech IP, and they are leveraging exponential advances in bioengineering, functional genomics, bioinformatics and computational modeling.

The i2cycle team focuses on developing global industrial ecosystems by upcycling one manufacturer’s waste (such as glass and ceramics) into raw material for another manufacturer (such as manufacturing tiles), conserving resources and energy in the process.

[+]

The AmundA team is developing a Web-based tool that offers data such as electricity demand and energy resources  to guide suppliers in finding optimum, lower-cost, energy generation solutions.  They hope to  help 1.5 billion potential customers in the developing world gain access to electricity.

The H2020 team is building an intelligent, web-based platform to provide information on water to people. For example, they will use smart phones to crowd-source data about water problems,  such as pollution or shortages, in communities at the “bottom of the pyramid,” and will use AI to match problems with solutions.

The Naishio (“no salt” in Japanese) team, inspired by lecturers such as Dean Kamen, plans to use nanofilters to achieve very low cost and compact, but high-volume desalination. They have a designed a filtration cube measuring just 6.5 inches per side that could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day.

The Food for Cities program is planning to grow all the vegetables you need in a box barely larger than your refrigerator, using “aeroponics,” which could feed a billion people healthy food at low cost.

And the Know (Knowledge, Opportunity, Network for Women) team seeks to empower young women across the world by providing them with mentors and resources.

Full disclosure: writer and KurzweilAI editor Amara D. Angelica is an advisor to Singularity University.

September 12, 2010

Stem cell therapy potential — here comes the science

Stem cell research is back all over the news again with court rulings and counter rulings making the subject either okay, or not okay, for federal funding. It’s a crazy debate to my mind because stem cell research has the potential to improve the health of many, many people and it’s a philosophical crime for it to be held hostage to the mythology of theocons. And even if the research is held back in the United States by lack of government money, it will be going on around the world and just pushing the U.S. that much farther behind in the cutting edge of medical research.

It’s a hot topic all the time, especially right now, but really what is the potential of stem cell research? Helpfully here’s news out of Elsevier Health Sciences with some expert opinion on the subject.

From the first link, the release:

What Progress Has Been Made, What Is Its Potential?

New York, NY, September 9, 2010 – The use of stem cells for research and their possible application in the treatment of disease are hotly debated topics. In a special issue of Translational Research published this month an international group of medical experts presents an in-depth and balanced view of the rapidly evolving field of stem cell research and considers the potential of harnessing stem cells for therapy of human diseases including cardiovascular diseases, renal failure, neurologic disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, pulmonary diseases, neoplastic diseases, and type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Personalized cell therapies for treating and curing human diseases are the ultimate goal of most stem cell-based research. But apart from the scientific and technical challenges, there are serious ethical concerns, including issues of privacy, consent and withdrawal of consent for the use of unfertilized eggs and embryos. “Publication of this special issue could not have been more timely, given the recent federal district court injunction against federal support for human embryonic stem cell research,” said Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and Editor in Chief of Translational Research. “This court order stops all pending federal grants and contracts, as well as their peer review, suspending over 20 major research programs and over $50 million in federal funding for them,” he noted. As Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, stated, “This decision has the potential to do serious damage to one of the most promising areas of biomedical research, just at the time when we were really gaining momentum.”

Through a series of authoritative articles authors highlight basic and clinical research using human embryonic and adult stem cells. Common themes include preclinical evidence supporting the potential therapeutic use of stem cells for acute and chronic diseases, the challenges in translating the preclinical work to clinical applications, as well as the results of several randomized clinical trials. Authors stress that considerable preclinical work is needed to test the potential of these approaches for translation to the clinical setting.

In considering the potential for clinical applications, some common challenges and questions persist. The issue focuses on critical questions such as whether the use of any stem cell population will increase the risk of cancer in the recipient and whether the goal of stem cell therapy is to deliver cells that can function as organ-specific cells.

Writing in a commentary on advances and challenges in translating stem cell therapies for clinical diseases, Michael A. Matthay, MD, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California San Francisco, notes that “the progress that has been achieved in the last 30 years in using allogeneic and autologous hematopoietic stem cells for the effective treatment of hematologic malignancies should serve as a model of how clinical applications may yet be achieved with embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, endothelial progenitor cells, and mesenchymal stem cells. Although several challenges exist in translating stem cell therapy to provide effective new treatments for acute and chronic human diseases, the potential for developing effective new cell-based therapies is high.”

KEY POINTS:

Bone marrow and circulating stem/progenitor cells for regenerative cardiovascular therapy
Mohamad Amer Alaiti, Masakazu Ishikawa, and Marco A. Costa
Despite initial promising pilot studies, only small improvements in a few clinical outcomes have been seen using stem cell therapies to treat heart disease in the acute or chronic setting. But new research, and a multitude of new pilot studies, may alter this scenario.

New therapies for the failing heart: trans-genes versus trans-cells
Vincenzo Lionetti, and Fabio A. Recchia
This review presents key aspects of cardiac gene therapy and stem cell therapy for the failing heart. Recent discoveries in stem cell biology may revitalize gene therapy and, vice versa.

Endothelial lineage cell as a vehicle for systemic delivery of cancer gene therapy
Arkadiusz Z. Dudek
Rather than focusing on the cancer cell itself, attention to blood vessels feeding the cancerous cells, lined by endothelial cells, presents a new avenue of cancer therapy. The author discusses recent evidence that endothelial progenitor cells may be useful in treating primary and metastatic tumors. Targeted cancer gene therapy using endothelial lineage cells to target tumor sites and produce a therapeutic protein has proven feasible.

Pluripotent stem cell-derived natural killer cells for cancer therapy
David A. Knorr, and Dan S. Kaufman
The potential value as well as challenges of using human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells is to provide platforms for new cell-based therapies to treat malignant diseases are discussed.

Translation of stem cell therapy for neurological diseases
Sigrid C. Schwarz, and Johannes Schwarz
Early clinical work to develop cell-based therapy for neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s disease is discussed.

Stem cell technology for the treatment of acute and chronic renal failure
Christopher J. Pino, and H. David Humes
The authors cover the relative potential and success to date of embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells as therapies for regenerating functional kidney tissue.

Stem cell approaches for the treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus
Ryan T. Wagner, Jennifer Lewis, Austin Cooney, and Lawrence Chan
The authors provide a thorough discussion of the potential of using either embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells to generate functional islet cells, the cells of the pancreas which normally make insulin, but fail to do so in severe forms of diabetes.

Intestinal stem cells and epithelial–mesenchymal interactions in the crypt and stem cell niche
Anisa Shaker, and Deborah C. Rubin
Both preclinical and early clinical trials have been carried out with allogeneic bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells to treat steroid refractory acute and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, particularly Crohn’s disease.

Stem cells and cell therapy approaches in lung biology and diseases
Viranuj Sueblinvong, and Daniel J. Weiss,
Cell-based therapies with embryonic or adult stem cells have emerged as potential novel approaches for several devastating and otherwise incurable lung diseases, including emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

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The articles appear in Translational Research, The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, Volume 156, Issue 3 (September 2010) entitled Stem Cells: Medical Promises and Challenges, published by Elsevier. The entire issue will be available online via Open Access for a 3-month period beginning September 20, 2010 at www.translationalres.com.

September 11, 2010

Remember

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:46 am

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=world+trade+center+attack&iid=1232563″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/1232563/file-photo-authorities/file-photo-authorities.jpg?size=500&imageId=1232563″ width=”500″ height=”590″ /]

That image is not easy to look at, but I think it’s important to remember what it meant for America and to protect this date from demagogues and politicization. This event brought international terrorism to U.S. soil in a manner that dwarfed all previous attempts, and in consequence it, at least for a while, united all citizens of America.

The aftermath of what happened to U.S. polity and policy after 9/11 can be debated, but for a few weeks in September 2001, this was truly a nation united.

Here is bit from a comment on a blog post of mine from February 2, 2008 (the post from January 31) on how I felt on September 11, 2001:

Sure that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

September 10, 2010

Good news from the U.S. Court of Appeals

Federally funded stem cell research back in business. Of course it’s stupid this is even a issue, much less a political football. I wrote out, and deleted, two sentences of snark about christianist theocons, but maybe those thoughts are better left to your imagination. Let’s just say I think the groups pushing against stem cell research are a serious threat to my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and everyone would be better off if they could just form their own society on an island somewhere and institute whatever manner of holy book law they wanted to live under.

From the link:

A federal appeals court here ruled Thursday that federal financing of embryonic stem cell research could continue while the court considers a judge’s order last month that banned the government from underwriting the work.

The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals could save research mice from being euthanized, cells in petri dishes from starving and scores of scientists from a suspension of paychecks, according to arguments the Obama administration made in the case.

It could also allow the National Institutes of Health to provide $78 million to 44 scientists whose research the agency had previously agreed to finance.

The stay also gives Congress time to consider legislation that would render the ban, and the court case behind it, largely moot, a prospect that some embattled Democrats have welcomed. Despite staunch opposition by some critics, embryonic stem cell research is popular, and a legislative fight on the issue could prove a tonic for Democrats battling a tough political environment.

September 9, 2010

Latest Beige Book outlook not so bright

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:15 am

The Great Recession, the near-depression, economic downturn — whatever you want to label the economy of the last years with, it all comes down to it’s not good, hasn’t really gotten appreciably better for Main Street and doesn’t really seem like tangible recovery is even visible on the horizon. So it’s another fall of keeping the chin up and tightening the belt a little bit more once again.

From the link:

The mixed picture is in line with government data released last month that showed U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, was much weaker in the second quarter than previously estimated.

The nation’s GDP was revised sharply lower to an annual growth rate of 1.6% in the three months ending in June. The initial reading had been for a 2.4% growth rate in the period.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged in a speech late last month that the U.S. economic recovery has lost considerable steam. But he said the central bank is prepared to use “unconventional measures” to boost the economy if the outlook were to “deteriorate significantly.”

In its Aug. 10 policy statement, the Fed announced plans last month to begin reinvesting proceeds from securities in its $2 trillion portfolio in to U.S. Treasurys. The central bank had bought billions worth of government debt two years ago to keep interest rates low on home and other consumer loans. But minuets from the August meeting subsequently showed that Fed officials were unusually divided over the policy.

Full expensing of capital equipment in 2011

Now this is a tax break businesses of all sizes can get behind.

From the link:

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president will announce a plan to offer businesses the chance to deduct 100 percent of the cost of qualifying capital equipment purchases made in 2011, double the amount allowed in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Pub. L. No. 110-343) and proposed for the small business bill (H.R. 5297) that is currently stalled in the Senate.

“We’re saying that for 2011, we believe that 50 [percent] should go to 100 [percent]. It builds off of an effort to get capital off the sidelines and into the economy,” Gibbs told reporters.

From the same link, here’s another excellent pro-business proposal:

The president also is pushing to make the research and development tax credit a permanent feature of the tax code, rather than continue to ask Congress to pass it as a temporary extension every year.

Making the R&D credit permanent and expanding it would cost about $100 billion over 10 years—a key reason Congress has not already done so—but Obama has argued that the change will benefit the economy by reducing business uncertainty about the credit’s future.

Update — here’s more on the R&D tax credit from Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation:

It is welcome news that President Obama will ask Congress to expand and make the research and development (R&D) tax credit permanent. This will better enable the U.S. compete globally and make it clear that the United States has finally gotten off the sidelines in the fight for global economic competitiveness.

While expanding the credit from 14 to 17, as has been reported, makes sense. ITIF thinks an even more generous credit makes even better sense. ITIF estimates that expanding the credit from 14 percent to 20 per¬cent would create 162,000 jobs in the short to moderate run and an additional, but unspecified, number of jobs in the longer run – many of them high-skill, high wage jobs.

September 8, 2010

The latest on the White House proposed tax cuts and infrastructure spending

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:20 pm

Can Obama pull off these fiscal moves this year? Opinions are a mixed bag, but the quick answer is probably not.

From the link:

Tax experts and economists offered mixed reviews about the feasibility of the Obama administration’s attempt to pass additional tax cuts now with the legislative year winding down, even as the president declined Sept. 3 to specify what proposals his administration will advance.

On Aug. 30, the president announced that he will propose a series of targeted tax cuts and infrastructure investments in the coming days and weeks, some of which will be new.

“I will be addressing a broader package of ideas next week,” the president told reporters at the White House Sept. 3. “We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that’s needed so desperately all across the country.”

Singularity University to announce session breakthroughs September 13

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about one of the breakthroughs yesterday, and the university leader’s are going to announce the entire group next Monday.

From the first link:

Singularity University to Unveil Breakthrough Solutions for ‘Global Grand Challenges’ at Sept. 13 Briefing

September 8, 2010 by Editor

This summer, 80 students from 35 nations were challenged to apply innovations in exponentially advancing technologies to solve some of the world’s “grand challenges” with a focus on food, water, energy, upcycle, and space industries.

On Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a webinar briefing, Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, and faculty head Dr. Dan Barry will unveil for the first time multiple solutions in each problem space, each aiming to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The Briefing is open to media and the public, but space is limited. You can visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register for the webinar briefing.

Singularity University (SU) is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges. With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, SU hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. SU is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. For more information, go to www.singularityu.org and follow SU on Twitter and Facebook.

Department of Homeland Security sued for illegal search and seizure

This is a long overdue lawsuit. Unbeknownst to many United States citizens, if you leave the country with an electronic device — like a smartphone, cell phone, camera, or more likely, a laptop — your electronics can be seized, searched and contents archived by the Department of Homeland Security with no due process other than a field officer deciding you might be a threat to the nation.

I’ve blogged about this very topic a couple of times — first back in June 2008 and again in September 2009 — and my sense of outrage at the privacy and civil liberties violation hasn’t abated. Sure we need to protect the nation and monitor who comes and goes into and out of the country, but with the due process that represents the best of America. In the post-9/11 world, policies like this are slowly turning the United States into a police state that would be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers.

From the first link:

Civil liberties groups sued the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday, alleging that the government should not be able to search, copy or keep the data on electronic devices carried by people crossing the border without a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Layers (NACDL) announced on Tuesday that they filed a lawsuit against the policy, arguing that Americans “do not surrender their privacy and free speech rights when they travel abroad.”

DHS policy says that electronic devices such as laptops, cameras and cell phones can be searched as a matter of course, and that the border agents can copy the contents of the devices in order to continue searching them once the traveler has been allowed to enter the U.S. — even if the traveler is not suspected of any wrongdoing. Information obtained by the ACLU indicated that over 6,600 travelers — nearly half of whom are U.S. citizens — had their electronic devices searched at the border between Oct. 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010.

Update 9/10/10 — In the meantime, here’s a CIO.com article on getting your data across the border while avoiding the invasive scrutiny of the DHS.

September 7, 2010

Low cost desalination for potable water

Via KurzweilAI.net — A theoretical device from the recently concluded Singularity University. This sounds like a fresh water solution with real promise.

From the first link:

Our approach leverages advances in 3 exponentially growing fields: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and solar energy.  Synthetic biology is a factor because synthetic molecules are currently being developed that can create ionic bonds with sodium and chloride molecules, enabling fresh water to pass through a nanofilter using only the pressure of the water above the pipe.

Nanotechnology is relevant for reverse osmosis, because using thinner filter further reduces the amount of pressure required to separate fresh water from salt water. A filtration cube measuring 165mm (6.5 inches) per side could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day at 1 psi. Finally, as advances in solar energy improve the efficiency of  photovoltaics, the throughput of solar pumps will increase significantly, enabling more efficient movement and storage of fresh water.

Although the individual components described above have not advanced to a point where the solution is possible at present, we were able to speak with leading experts in each of these areas as to the timeline for these capabilities to be realized.

Synthetic molecules capable of bonding with sodium and chloride molecules have already been created, but have not yet been converted to an appropriate form for storage, such as a cartridge. This is expected to occur in the next 2-3 years. Filters are currently in the 10-15nm range, and are expected to reach 1nm over the next 3-5 years. As with the synthetic molecules, 1nm tubes have been built; just not assembled into a filter at this point. Photovoltaics are currently approximately 12% efficient, but it is anticipated that 20% efficiency is achievable in the next 5 years.

A possible implementation of our Naishio solution. The pressure from the water volume is sufficient to propel fresh water across the membrane (A), and photovoltaics (D) generate all the energy needed to pump water from the repository (C) to the water tank and circulator (E). Sensors (B) communicate between the solar pump and membrane to regulate the water level and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated. (Image: Sarah Jane Pell).

From the department of, “no duh” …

… I’ll let this bit from KurzweilAI.net speak for itself:

Magic mushrooms reduce anxiety over cancer

September 7, 2010

Source: New Scientist Health, Sep 6, 2010

The active ingredient of magic mushrooms,  psilocybin, has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood in people with cancer. researchers from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center have found.

Volunteers reported feeling less depressed and anxious two weeks after receiving psilocybin. Six months later, the level of depression was significantly lower in all volunteers than it had been before the treatments began.

(Dohduhdah/Wikipedia Commons)

Read original article

Net neutrality and the FCC …

… a lot of talk (a whole lot of talk) and no action.

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