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Newz&Viewz Table of Contents

11-1-02: Just for fun

Make sure your sound and/or speakers are turned on. Insanity Test

Newz&Viewz Contents

11-1-02: The danger to our kids (UPDATED)

Actually, this is a danger to adults as well-- but surely a greater one to the as yet immature. What am I talking about? Ever slicker, ever more realistic, ever more fun games, in arcades, on consoles, and PCs. No, I'm not talking about the extreme violence present in many of the games (although the effect of that is a valid concern in its own right). The danger I'm pointing to is the increasing addictiveness of such virtual realities to young people.

Note that in a largely unrestrained capitalist economy like ours, we encourage businesses to find ways to 'hook' folks on their products or services, in just about whatever way they can. The dangers of the worst such stuff often have to pretty much slap us down and wrestle around with us in the mud for years or decades to make us grudgingly begin to speak about reining them in in any sort of significant way-- at least when the industry is question is already well-entrenched (i.e., a part of 'the establishment', to use a 1960's term). Say, like the tobacco industry?

Now we've got gaming (or VR) addictions staring us in the face. For many years such pastimes weren't that much of a threat, as the imagery and many other qualities were poor, plus the hardware and software relatively expensive and sparsely distributed about the population. Mass awareness of such gaming diversions was also pretty low, compared to other entertainments like films, sports, etc.

But all that's changing-- and fast. Everyone knows about games now. Indeed, many Hollywood theatrical blockbusters these days strive mightily to expand into game-based spin offs of their content in order to maximize profits. In addition, the virtual realities present in many games are approaching a quality similar to real life, in a wide variety of ways. Internet enabled interactivity with other users, and the vast potential of distributed processing-based enhancements are ramping up as well. The deployment of high speed internet connections (broadband) looks to only increase the potential for VR addiction among the populace. To get some forewarning of what's to come, keep an eye out on places in the world where high speed net access is already widely available-- like South Korea.

Here's a couple quotes from the article linked above:

"Teenagers are...becoming addicted to games, dropping out of school and traditional group activities, and becoming uncommunicative or even violent. Last week, a 24-year-old South Korean collapsed and died after spending 86 hours playing games..."

"S. Korean youths turning into broadband zombies" ran as a newspaper headline in the region.

To quite a few folks, one game or another has actually become better than their personal realities-- to the extent that many lose all desire to ever leave their home, attend school, strike up relationships with physical human beings, etc., etc. And the realism in future games will be even better than today's.

-- In the future, I see frightening realism; Gamespy.com

-- Fast forward to the future of games; BBC

-- What's the future of gaming? Here's what I think; ZDNet

Already independent and well-adjusted adults are by and large protected from entering into such voluntary isolation, due to responsibilities like jobs and family, and the joys of at least a few close personal relationships with other living breathing human beings.

Youngsters however, with little real world experience and perhaps no or few already established close relationships outside family (and perhaps not even there), may be overwhelmed with the siren call of VR-- and be sufficiently sheltered from the demands of reality by their parents or others so that they might indulge a lengthy plunge into the simulation of their choice, for months or years on end. Keep in mind that teens also often feel compelled to break away from their parents-- it's a natural part of the maturation process. But during this uncertain and unstable time of a quest for independence, when they feel the need to escape from family, but may not yet feel they are a part of any real peer group, the easy availability of a virtual game reality may lure them in, and stall or even prevent the exploration of their real social environment and opportunities which normally transpires during this stage.

The question is, can an addiction to the virtual reality of games ruin their life? Permanently damage their mental and physical health? Forever limit their ability to function in the mainstream of society? Perhaps.

Young Japanese males are withdrawing from society in large numbers for reasons as yet not wholly determined.

-- Japan: The Missing Million By Phil Rees; BBC Online; 18 October, 2002

Both a Taiwanese man and South Korean man, aged 27 and 24 respectively, died within days of one another while playing video games non-stop.

-- Man dies after playing video game for 32 hours - smh.com.au; October 20 2002

-- Terminal gaming - theage.com.au

-- Computer addict dead at screen - smh.com.au

-- S Korea to invest $11bn on broadband

All of us are limited to 24 hours a day and only so much attention we can spend upon a given activity. As ever better virtual reality games lure us to redirect more and more of that limited attention and time to gaming, some things will necessarily fall off the radar altogether. It appears voting in elections is one item losing out to other matters, at least among young Americans. Could gaming be a major culprit in this attention-shifting? Whatever the case, the growing voter apathy among the young is serving to distort our elections-- perhaps in dangerous ways. And I see no way that more and better gaming options are going to improve the situation anytime soon.

-- Young Voters' Disengagement Skews Politics (washingtonpost.com) By Amy Goldstein and Richard Morin Washington Post; October 20, 2002; Page A08

In my timeline and Contact!, I discuss how at some point civilization itself likely moves over completely or nearly so to a virtual environment (something akin to 'mind uploading', at least for the earliest pioneers). However, I believe those circumstances remain at least a few generations away-- and so today's young need to learn how to function in physical human society much the same as our own generation did. Otherwise they might suffer lives permanently stunted or limited by inadequate early acclimation to society.

So what might a concerned parent do? Here's a few ideas:

Strictly limit access to computer and video games to a small portion of your child's free time (if any). In general, the older and cheaper a game and/or game console is, the less addictive it may be (due to its lower quality imagery and other factors). A $50 game console is likely somewhat safer than a $300 console. Playing games on an old or slow PC may also help reduce the addictiveness of a game.

Will your kids loudly protest such restrictions? Probably. Will it be true when they claim their friends are allowed more game time or better gaming hardware and software? Again, probably so. But your kids' future health, academic and financial success, and happiness may well depend upon them today not enjoying maximum access to the leading edge of electronic gaming technologies.

Unfortunately, technology advances and market dynamics may soon wipe out the safety difference between lower and higher-priced games and related hardware. Also keep in mind that some kids will be more vulnerable to VR addiction than others, and such vulnerabilities may occur at different ages for different kids.

Make sure to spend quality time with your kids that does NOT involve video games (more traditional games like chess would seem OK). Encourage your kids to spend time in activities with other kids and in extracurricular stuff at school. Do your best to make sure your kids' lives do not revolve around their video games.

To make your job tougher, there's lots of reasons to encourage your child to use the internet and computers for all sorts of educational, research, communications, and entertainment purposes. And over time the line may well blur between all these and pure gaming, for a variety of reasons detailed in my timeline. Just about the only way you'll be able to substantially guide your child in all this is to stay actively engaged with them as they grow up, and try not to get too out of touch with what's happening in internet and computer issues in general. Good luck!

Newz&Viewz Contents

10-31-02: Something no one wants to hear (UPDATED)

It seems practically a certainty we'll see a repeat of the recent Washington area sniper attacks in the US-- only on a wider and more professional scale. Terrorists worldwide likely watched the US reaction to the attacks with great interest. And are now probably amazed at how much of an impact a couple of relative amateurs were able to have, with a minimum of smarts and resources. Think about the implications of that for a moment.

There's literally tens of millions of trained marksmen in the world right now, due to military, competition, or personal training. And it's not very difficult for almost anyone with decent eyesight and steady hands to go from not knowing where the trigger is on a weapon, to being able to use a quality firearm to reliably hit targets at 100 yards or further away. It just isn't that hard. Guns and ammo are dirt cheap and easy to acquire, compared to virtually any other possible weapon of terror. Especially in the USA. Combine all this with some organized, professional supervision, and folks with a deathwish anyway, and you've pretty much got a recipe for invoking martial law and worse in the USA. At least, judging by what I've seen of the country's present Administration and its druthers, in the wake of 9-11-01.

So just where and when will the 'professional terrorist' sniper attacks begin? Well, if the terrorists are only now beginning the planning and preparation for them, it could be 2-6 years from now. Unfortunately, I've seen some reports saying that sniper training and planning of various sorts has been going on in some terrorist enclaves already for years now. So such attacks could begin any time.

As for where, well, major metropolitan areas are always a favorite target. And shooters would enjoy a better chance for escape in such locations, compared to lesser populated spots. Perhaps the very urban centers of big cities will be safer than the sprawling suburbs, as a sniper in a skyscraper might have a harder time making their getaway.

Another point regarding 'pro' snipers is this: they might never get caught. There's various ingenious methods by which a shooter and their equipment might go their separate ways after an incident, so that they couldn't be caught together in a roadblock or other trap. Although there's new gizmos available for detecting signs of gun fire on a shooter pretty rapidly, almost no one has these things in the field yet. And even if they did, there's ways to foil those as well. Heck, for that matter pretty soon a sniper station won't need a person to man it, anyway. A machine is perfectly capable of aiming and pulling the trigger. Ask DARPA. Or your local robotics geek.

We were lucky that these recent DC shooters were human, and not very smart humans, and practically turned themselves in by way of the clues they gave police. We can't expect to be that lucky every time.

-- Besieged D.C. Learns Lessons of Terror

-- Tips for Staying Safe (washingtonpost.com)

-- ATF Officials Warned About Muhammad Last Summer

-- Sniper duo stopped at least 5 times at roadblocks

-- Snipers Made Same Point as Bin Laden

-- US media gripped by sniper obsession

-- Snipers: More Than Just Washington

-- Private camps teach just about sniper skills

Newz&Viewz Contents

10-25-02: Roundup of recent site additions or updates

How small-time web sites can make it financially on the internet has been expanded, updated and given its own page.

The Stream of web consciousness snapshot log and Leads to Recent Medical and Health Related Articles and Like Resources have both been updated recently. The 'stream' log has also spawned a couple of archive pages, at 8-21-02 through 9-12-02 snapshots and 6-26-02 through 8-5-02 snapshots.

The Low Cost Web Site Authoring Log now has its own archives.

The web site services page has had a few new options and links added to its armory.

Other updated pages include:

The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations Part 1
The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations Part 2
The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations Part 3
The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations Part 4
How to Live Well on Very, Very Little
Clues to coping with the frequent motivation and disciplinary troubles with teenagers in regards to education
Biochemical weapons and related defenses; status of infectious disease worldwide; hazardous waste disposal/recycling (1998-2013)
Ragnarok: The War for our Destiny
J. Staute and the first immortal artificial intelligence got a new sub page in Reference Notes on the Life and Times of J. Staute.

Newz&Viewz Contents

10-17-02: Weird or unusual news items of late (UPDATED)

In Cuban Depths, Atlantis or Anomaly? (washingtonpost.com)
Underwater structures look like ancient ruins
Visions of Atlantis revealed by strange shapes off Cuba's coast
A super-sized bird in Alaska?
Life on Venus may be microbe clouds
A pre-Columbus Viking in Mexico?
Israeli Tribes: Once Lost and Now Found?
Shipwreck adventurer's fiction revealed as true after 270 years
Invasion by thousands of snails closes airport
The homeless blogger

Newz&Viewz Contents

10-16-02: The benefits of low blood pressure

Hmmm. Some interesting new info relating to blood pressure and treatments for high pressure: It's turning out that the lower the pressure the better, in healthy folks. Relatively low pressures and/or drug treatments to bring down high pressures offer lots of beneficial health effects-- perhaps more than lots of folks might expect.

-- In blood pressure reduction, below standard is good

-- New recommendations to prevent high blood pressure issued

-- The low-down on high blood pressure; more focus on prevention and treatment goals

-- Blood pressure drug shown to cut stroke, death risks in common form of hypertension

-- Blood pressure medication preserves cognitive function in older African-Americans

-- Blood pressure drugs slow ageing

Newz&Viewz Contents

10-11-02: New worlds, anti-surveillance self-defense, reverse email searches, history re-writes, and more (UPDATED)

As you may have noticed, I'm adding a PayPal donation option to the site. It was much easier to sign up for than I expected. Here's one review of the service. And here's a relevant item about tipping which might help folks like me increase their donation revenues. I recently posted an item here about how small web sites might bring in enough funds to be self-sustaining or better. The link Managing Traffic Spikes looks like it'd make a good addition to that piece. Sell Software on a Shoestring may also be a good read for small business or self-employed folk.

CNN lately reported 'Biggest object since Pluto found in solar system' (Hefty Discovery Finding a Kuiper belt king is another link). An 800 mile across worldlet, I take it (too bad someone can't jump into a spacecraft and go claim it as their own, homestead-wise). This or a different piece on the subject offered another interesting tidbit: namely, that if the solar system's asteroids ever existed in one piece as a world of their own, it was likely smaller than this freshly discovered body. Shadow Moons: The Unknown Sub-Worlds that Might Harbor Life is a nice piece for reminding folks that life doesn't necessarily require a full-sized planet to evolve, while Surprise planet discovered in twin star system nicely points out that binary and other multiple star systems (which may comprise the majority of systems in our galaxy) can have planets too.

Several items regarding personal defense against surveillance cameras recently appeared on the web:

Slashdot: Lasers and Big Brother
blinding cameras with lasers
How to ZAP a Camera

So what's the big deal about surveillance? Well, did you know that 'the average American is videotaped 30 times a day'?

I recently was curious about the owner of a particular email address, and so compiled this list of reverse email search engines:

Reverse Email Search - Email Address Search - Find Email Addresses
411 Locate - Yellow Pages - White Pages - Email - Public Records
Peoplesearch Reverse eMail Search

Some more history may be soon re-written, according to items like these:

A New Theory on Mapping the New World (washingtonpost.com)
Portuguese may have 'discovered' Australia - Oct. 8, 2002
PrintersMark History - ORIGINS IN CHINA
It's official Admiral Zheng beat Cook to Australia - theage.com.au
Epic voyage may prove Chinese beat Columbus
Experts hope to emulate Chinese Columbus
Ancient map of Africa poses questions
Chinese discoverers dwarfed European travels

Lastly, Battling the telemarketers offers a list of gadgets currently available for staving off these types of annoyances.

Newz&Viewz Contents

10-7-02: Yep, the $200 PCs forecast in the timeline are arriving right on schedule (UPDATED)

(The timeline entry is titled: '2002 milestone: Approximately $200 virtual PCs/NCs (or pseudo-PCs/Network Computers) are becoming available in a variety of ways now')

Wal-Mart selling Window-less computers
Wal-Mart expands Linux offering - Tech News - CNET.com
Wal-Mart Delivers a Sub-$200 PC
Wal-Mart, Microtel Ship $199 Lindows PC
PCWorld.com - Walmart.com Offers Sub-$200 LindowsOS PC
Lindows and the $199 Computer
Lindows Prepping $199 PC
A move to build PCs without Windows csmonitor.com

Playstation II game consoles are also getting some development to double as PCs.

Of course, these Linux PCs are mostly for geeks or folks with plenty of geek support (like some businesses), at this point-- and maybe for geeky kids as well. Adults who like to tinker or experiment or create their own high tech home and auto gadgets might also go for them in some cases.

But such devices could relatively easily develop into quality internet clients and productivity and gaming machines to rival contemporary Windows PCs-- only for $100-$500 less each than comparable Windows machines, since the huge premium paid to Microsoft could be dropped.

Me, I'd LOVE to see the Linux OS (or even a hybrid game console/PC OS) take up the ease-of-use banner abandoned by Apple, and take Microsoft down a few million pegs too in terms of marketshare and brute power over the world. I'd love to see a new OS that still offered business opportunities for the little guy/programmer, as in the old days of computing, with a modern development kit as slick, easy, and cheap as Apple's original Hypercard promised, way back when (before Jobs killed development on HC). Such stuff would seem great for education, entreprenuership, innovation, and competition in general, as well as help protect the technological diversity of humanity-- one of our main defenses against extinction or collapse (See The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy for details.).

I recently received a gift of a Linux PC myself to tinker with, but so far haven't had the time to even plug it in. Like lots of folks, I dream of being wealthy enough to afford a personal staff of assistants and other employees who could help me realize all the different goals and projects constantly running through my head...of which you can get a few glimpses on this web site.

Newz&Viewz Contents

9-30-02: An unexpected political force in the making? Or just one more US hope for liberation from the Republican/Democrat stranglehold to be dashed?

Hmmm! What if at least one of the major US Presidential candidates for the next election was chosen in much the same fashion as potential pop stars, as seen in the recent American Idol TV shows? What if a significant TV network actually made a serious and sober attempt at such a thing? What if that network didn't abandon the effort even if the people chose someone the network head or owner didn't like?

What if that candidate turned out to be a decent and intelligent person who couldn't be seduced by the major US political parties or other powerful and entrenched interests?

What if that candidate actually got enough popular support to get a real shot at the presidency?

With enough lucky breaks, this might be one way the current stranglehold of the Republicans and Democrats on US politics could be broken-- at least temporarily.

AMERICAN CANDIDATE - A Capra Dream of a Populist President or A Nightmare To Be and WHITE HOUSE GAME SHOW MURDOCH NET PLANS 'AMERICAN CANDIDATE' are some links related to all this.

Newz&Viewz Contents

9-27-02 Rant: Wow. The world's getting harsher and more dangerous by the day now UPDATED

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator"

-- US President-elect George W. Bush, December 2000

-- Bush's Hill tour comes to a close By Mark Sherman/ Cox News Service;12-19-2000

-- BusinessWeek Online: WASHINGTON WATCH A Gentleman's "C" for W By Richard S. Dunham; Edited by Beth Belton; JULY 30, 2001

-- Bush calls Saddam 'the guy who tried to kill my dad' - Sep. 27, 2002; CNN

-- President's zeal to oust Hussein may be personal

-- Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President; Sunday Herald (second link to this story)

-- A Case Not Closed

-- Lies My President Told Me - It's mid-September during alleged wartime. Do you know where your government is?

-- Agency disavows report on Iraq arms -- The Washington Times

-- Bush fails to make case for war

-- New U.S. Doctrine Worries Europeans (washingtonpost.com)

-- Why even allies are now anti-US - AUG 15, 2002

-- Nelson Mandela: The United States of America is a Threat to World Peace

-- Bush's War Plans are a Cover-Up

-- Unveiled: the thugs Bush wants in place of Saddam; Sunday Herald

-- A Global Balkans

-- Bush Is Pushing Too Hard Too Fast on Iraq; Newsday

-- Bush: how I'll rule the world

-- 200 Nuclear Warheads Missing And The Feds Are Confiscating Nail Clippers

-- Iraq course set from tight White House circle; USA Today

-- White House Insiders: Bush is Out of Control

-- Seizing Dictatorial Power by William Safire; www.commondreams.org; December 13, 2001 [November 15, 2001 in the New York Times)

-- Civil liberties, R.I.P.

-- Ex-U.S. officials warn that U.S. policies threaten repression

-- Rights trampled in U.S., report says

-- The arrogance of the Bush Doctrine; Salon

-- It's Empire Versus Democracy

-- Bush a Threat to World Peace

-- The US will be legislator, judge and executioner

-- America's bid to control the world; Mirror

-- Mr. Bush, stop the insanity

-- The Case Against War; The Nation

-- TOMPAINE.com - Reasons Why We Shouldn't

-- Making the world more dangerous; Observer

-- A Reckless Rush to War

-- Top 10 Reasons Not to Do Iraq

-- A new kind of U.S. foreign policy

-- Scientists question Bush case against Iraq

NOTE: I originally wrote much of this item in March of 2002 but didn't post it at the time. END NOTE.

Some of the things I've predicted in the timeline for many years now are suddenly happening at lightning speed-- much faster than my own schedule placed them. This has forced me to do lots of revisions to the site in past months. For instance, the increased surveillance by the US government on its own citizens, lowered thresholds for the use of nuclear and biochemical weapons by the US and others, the increasing tendency of the US to act unilaterally (thereby unfortunately contributing to its own eventual decline in prestige, trust, and hope around the world), and more.

I must admit I didn't expect my own country to lead the charge for first use of nuclear and biochemical weapons, thereby encouraging any nation which doesn't already possess them to buy or develop them ASAP. But that's apparently going to be the result of us breaking the ABM treaty and changing our nuclear posture policy.

-- Bush Outlines Pre-Emptive Strategy; ABC News

-- Bush Outlines Strategy of Preemptive Strikes (washingtonpost.com)

-- Butler accuses US of nuclear hypocrisy - smh.com.au

Heck, now some US doctors are starting to refuse to accept patients under Medicare insurance, as US administrations and Congress are increasingly squeezing Medicare and Social Security payouts in order to buy more super expensive weapons systems which cannot stop terrorism, and to bribe foreign governments into smiling photo opportunities relating to the 'war on terror'.

-- Many Doctors Say They Are Refusing Medicare Patients By ROBERT PEAR; The New York Times/ Yahoo! News; Mar 17, 2002

-- Backing on Iraq; Let's Make a Deal; LA Times

-- US Dollars Yielded Unanimous UN Vote Against Iraq

-- CIA's Cash Toppled Taliban (washingtonpost.com)

-- U.S. Discusses Aid for Turkey to Defray Costs of an Iraq War (washingtonpost.com)

-- Washington relies on a network of paid warlords in Afghanistan

-- Is America Renting or Buying Its Friends;ABC News

-- West pays warlords to stay in line; UK Observer

-- US cash squads 'buy' Iraqi tribes

-- The final means of persuasion...bribes

-- U.S. Offering Turkey Billions in Aid if Turks Cooperate in Iraq War - from Tampa Bay Online

Some estimates place the cost of Bush's proposed missile defense system at $60 billion.

-- U.S. Antimissile Plan Hit With One-Two Punch By Jim Wolf; June 12, 2000; Yahoo!/Reuters

Various means of everyday transport such as airplanes, trucks, and ships are more likely to be used in terrorist attacks than missiles, according to the CIA circa 2002. Indeed, these other means of transport may rightfully be regarded by terrorists as more reliable and accurate than missiles for delivering weapons of mass destruction. They are also much cheaper and easier to obtain/develop than ICBMs, and their true source or responsible parties more easily hidden or disguised.

Atop all these advantages is yet another one: avoiding use of an ICBM would also neatly bypass any and all missile defenses the USA might have now, or set up in the future.

-- U.S. Alters Estimate Of Threats By Walter Pincus; The Washington Post; January 11, 2002; Page A01

The US government now appears it will be mired in budget deficits at least through 2005, if not longer, according to a National Press Club speech by President Bush's budget director, Mitch Daniels.

Daniels says the deficits should be handled by cutting the budgets of social programs, and forcing annual Congressional votes (and opportunities for more cuts) even for the continuing operation of programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

-- Media War Horses Aim for the Front Lines By Howard Kurtz; Washington Post; November 30, 2001

At the same time they're planning to cut the budgets of social programs and buy more from the military industrial complex in general, the US Administration also intends to boost the profit margins of defense contractors to perhaps something far beyond the present 15%.

According to the article cited pharmaceutical companies dislike undertaking projects which may not generate at least 45% margins for them.

-- Pentagon to boost profits of defense contractors; April 24, 2002; Reuters Limited

Social Security benefits are perhaps being reduced annually now in a subtle way: the government has changed its measurement of the CPI (consumer price index), which makes for smaller inflation numbers. Since annual Social Security cost of living changes are indexed to the CPI, the new measurement method insures that those increases are smaller than they would have been before the change was instituted. If the change means Social Security hikes are now consistently smaller than the true rate of inflation, then Social Security payments are gradually getting smaller and smaller in terms of real value.

-- ECONOMICS REPORTING REVIEW: The NYT and the Washington Post Under the Microscope [possibly by Dean Baker] Week of October 28 - November 3 (found on or about 11-5-00) [TOMPAINE.com: ECONOMICS REPORTING REVIEW may be the original link], citing "As Social Security's Finances Improve, Some See Fix as Premature," by John M. Berry, the Washington Post, October 29, 2000, page H1, and "Gore and Bush Clashing on Social Security," by Richard W. Stevenson, the New York Times, November 2, 2000, page A21

As for down the road, President Bush's commission on Social Security recommends the government change the way it calculates benefits for future retirees. If these recommendations are adopted, future retirees will find themselves suffering a smaller real income from SS than present retirees do. If past historical trends continue into future decades, it appears this calculation change could eventually push some future retirees into poverty, as their adjusted SS benefits will no longer keep up with general wage increases in the economy, as present benefits do.

Another recommendation would reduce future real monthly SS payments still more, to account for estimated increases in average life expectancy.

-- Investments Called 'Central' to Social Security Health By Amy Goldstein Washington Post, December 11, 2001; Page A04

-- "Bush Plan Cuts Social Security Benefits"; America's Future: Articles: Chart, with guide, explaining benefit cuts under Bush by the Institute for America's Future; 4/15/02; citing the Chief Actuary's analysis of the Bush Commission plans (p.78)

The US income tax system seems to be getting more complex at an exponential rate the last few years. It's getting so that anyone without an internet connection and several years savvy to properly use it to research tax form problems doesn't have a prayer of properly completing form 1040 for something like self-employment income on their own. YIKES!

US corporations are going wild, raising prices at will on things like TV cable and broadband internet subscriptions, while health insurance premiums are going through the roof. Many other prices too seem to be exploding the past several years-- but for some reason these things aren't showing up in the USA's consumer price index/measures of inflation. Could it be the government is fudging the figures to prevent (or reduce) automatic increases in Social Security payouts, and make overall economic performance look better than it really is?

-- Long-Distance Rates Increasing

-- Gasoline Prices Likely To Keep Rising (washingtonpost.com)

-- Hotels, airlines, others piling on the fees

-- Look out! Broadband prices rising By Sam Ames Special to ZDNet News; May 30, 2002

-- Sticker Shock Still Reigns In Broadband September 23, 2002; CBS News

-- Employers Reducing Retirement Health Benefits, Study Finds (washingtonpost.com)

-- Health Coverage Falls (washingtonpost.com)

-- Health-Care Costs' Sickening Surge; Businessweek

-- Skyrocketing Health-Care Premiums By Jackie Judd; April 25, 2002; ABC News Internet Ventures

-- Shifting Health-Care Costs to You By Howard Gleckman; Edited by Douglas Harbrecht; APRIL 30, 2002; WASHINGTON WATCH; BusinessWeek Online

"American families live just one illness or accident away from complete financial collapse" -- Harvard law school professor Elizabeth Warren, co-author of a study published in Norton's Bankruptcy Adviser

Staggeringly high health care costs are a major contributing factor to bankruptcies in the USA. And this is true for middle-class families which possess health insurance, but whose policies do not adequately cover their expenses.

In a move sure to make life still harder for average citizens, the US government is considering measures which would substantially reduce such bankruptcy protections, thereby causing many people to more readily spiral into lifelong poverty and homelessness.

"It was very unlikely 30 years ago that an ordinary family could run up a half-million dollar medical bill, yet today that can happen in a matter of weeks in a major medical centre" -- Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren

-- US Study: Medical Bills Main Culprit In Bankruptcies by Araminta Wordsworth; www.commondreams.org; October 09, 2002; originally published by the National Post in Canada, April 27, 2000

"Americans are raising the white flag as never before..."

-- Breaking Records--For Bankruptcies By Andy Serwer; FORTUNE STREET LIFE found on or about 7-14-2002

If the above is what's happening to many fairly well-off middle-class folks with at least some health care insurance protection, what might the less fortunate people in America be going through?

30 million US workers don't possess health insurance. 40 million total Americans don't have health insurance.

-- Study: Uninsured Don't Get Needed Health Care By Ceci Connolly Washington Post; May 22, 2002; Page A03

Many of the those who are themselves uninsured actually pay thousands in taxes which end up paying for the health care of others.

-- Harvard Medical School study concludes: 'We pay for national health insurance but don't get it' by Frances M. Beal; July 17, 2002; San Francisco Bay View

Ironically, Americans already pay enough in taxes to get the universal health care virtually all other developed nations already possess. But we've let our politicians and big business simply pocket huge chunks of it rather than provide us with the services we've paid for. At some point this may become a far bigger scandal than the other schenanigans of US business accounting fraud and government waste.

"We pay the world's highest health care taxes, but much of the money is squandered. The wealthy get tax breaks, and HMOs and drug companies pocket billions in profits at the taxpayers' expense."

-- Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard

"...politicians claim we can't afford universal coverage. Every other developed nation has national health insurance. We already pay for it, but we don't get it."

-- Dr. David Himmelstein, of Physicians for a National Health Program.

"Other nations provide comprehensive health care to everyone without spending any more than the amount that we already pay in taxes to fund health care. But in the United States, we keep in place flawed policies that prevent tens of millions from having any health care coverage at all."

"We have an abundance of data to show that we can provide truly comprehensive health care benefits for absolutely everyone and actually reduce our total health care costs by adopting a program of universal health insurance."

-- Dr. Don McCanne, president of Physicians for a National Health Program

-- Harvard Medical School study concludes: 'We pay for national health insurance but don't get it' by Frances M. Beal; July 17, 2002; San Francisco Bay View

Compared to other countries, Americans are charged too much for just about everything health or medical-related. For example, we typically pay twice as much as other nations do for the same exact drugs. We pay our doctors twice on average what other OECD nations do too. We also pay lots more in administrative costs than most other OECD countries, wherever they use universal health systems compared to our private health care insurance system.

-- Health Insurance Premiums; OUTSTANDING STORIES OF THE WEEK; Economic Reporting Review By Dean Baker; July 15, 2002

-- Pills, Profit and the Public Health with Peter Jennings; ABC News Internet Ventures; Bitter Medicine: Pills, Profit and the Public Health aired on ABC, May 29, 2002 at 10 PM ET

-- Health Care in a 'Death Cycle' (washingtonpost.com) By David S. Broder; April 17, 2002; Page A15

Americans are more at risk from bioterror attacks than the citizens of any other developed nation on Earth due to the simple fact so many Americans have no health insurance.

"Their lack of insurance is a known risk to their own health, but it must now also be recognized as a risk to the nation's health"

-- Dr. Matthew Wynia of the American Medical Association and Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University

-- Health experts worry uninsured may spread bioterror germs; The Associated Press/Nando Media /Nando Times; May 30, 2002

Even when a sick uninsured person does seeks help at a US hospital, they tend to receive a lower quality of care and less attention than the insured, both in cases considered routine or as emergencies-- and so a dangerous contagion from an as yet unreported bioterror attack would have that much more opportunity to spread throughout a community.

-- Lack of Insurance Hurting Americans' Health: Report By Todd Zwillich; May 21, 2002; Yahoo!/Reuters Health

--Myth challenged: uninsured adults not receiving needed care; 24 OCTOBER 2000; EurekAlert!; US Contact: John Lacey john_lacey@hms.harvard.edu 617-432-0442 Harvard Medical School

-- Safety Net Just Isn't There For Health Care Uninsured; [Contact: John Lacey, Judith Montminy] 25-Oct-2000; UniSci Daily

-- Many uninsured adults do not receive needed medical care; 24 OCTOBER 2000; US Contact: John Lacey 617-432-0441 Center for the Advancement of Health; Eurekalert!

-- Whites join slide into poverty as US incomes fall

-- Census U.S. Poverty Up, Income Down (washingtonpost.com)

-- U.S. Poverty Up, Income Down; ABC News

-- US in denial as poverty rises

-- Ninety percent of young white male workers now doing worse than they would have 20 years ago; EurekAlert!; 20-Feb-2002; Contact: Joel Schwarz; joels@u.washington.edu; 206-543-2580; University of Washington

-- Most Americans Experience Poverty Sometime In Adult Life, Study Finds; 7 APRIL 1999; Contact: Gerry Everding; gerry_everding@aismail.wustl.edu; 314-935-6375; Washington University in St. Louis

Of course, it doesn't help matters that the separate state governments of the USA are in dire financial straits too at this time, often cutting back services while at the same time raising taxes on citizens.

-- Finances of U.S. States Called Worst Since World War II; New York Times

-- N.Y. Fiscal Crisis Is Echoed Across Nation (washingtonpost.com)

-- 'worst crisis in state finances since World War II'

-- Governors Cite U.S. In Fiscal Crises (washingtonpost.com)(washingtonpost.com)

-- Leaving the States in the Lurch (washingtonpost.com)

-- A Grim Fiscal Forecast for States (washingtonpost.com)

It appears American car makers have slid back into their poor quality ways of the 1970s and 80s, and consumers are starting to realize that, once again, it may be smart to buy only Japanese autos for a while.

On the other hand, maybe those increased auto sales will help Japan climb out of its perpetual recession it's now been suffering for 10 years or so. Heck, some folks are starting to call it a Depression over there. Folks like Forbes magazine and others. I don't believe Businessweek used that word, but it tip-toed all around it if not (as of early 2002).

-- The Panic Spreads; Benjamin Fulford, Forbes Global, 02.18.02

-- As debts grow, Japanese reluctantly turn to bankruptcy

-- Nikkei Ends 2002 Down 19 Percent (washingtonpost.com)

-- America’s car industry Driving downhill; Economist

-- Ford sales drop 10 percent in 2002

Back in the 1920s, the Great Depression took hold of America after Republicans took command of government, cut taxes for the rich, boosted trade tariffs, and looked the other way as domestic business monopolies reduced economic competition.

-- Encyclopedia Americana: Republican Party possibly by George H. Mayer, University of South Florida, Grolier Incorporated

Oh wait. Am I talking the 1920s or today? Kind of hard to tell, with Bush putting big tariffs on foreign steel, his Administration doing its best to sign over control of the PC industry and the internet to Microsoft, and cutting all those taxes for the rich (while throwing a bone to the rest of us). On the brighter side, in the 1920s it took around 10 years of such concerted Republican efforts to drive us into economic depression. So maybe we're OK until around 2012? On the darker side, the Democrats often act the same as Republicans these days, so there's less organized resistance to excess at the highest levels of government. And Japan (which may be the 2nd biggest economy after the US? I'd have to check that) is already in depression, according to some. Big chunks of South America are suffering mightily as well, while major business media has warned that high oil prices could cause all of Asia to slide into recession or worse. Meanwhile the constant US drumbeat for warring upon Iraq to appease the Israelis (since Iraq is only an obvious military and terror threat to Israel, not the USA) and take control of Iraqi oil reserves (check out Bush's and Cheney's big oil connections and past history in the region) has pushed oil prices up to around $30 a barrel for quite a while now. It's anybody's guess what will happen to prices in the long term after such military action ends. Actions which have already begun with almost no one noticing, as the USA substantially ramped up its air attacks supposedly related to the Iraqi 'no-fly' zones in months past. This way they can 'soften up' Iraq's defenses as they like to prepare for invasion, while claiming they're doing nothing of the sort.

-- Yahoo! News - IMF Reveals Precarious Global Economic Prospects By Mark Egan, Sep 25, 2002

-- Global crash fears as German bank sinks

-- Global Gloom and Growing Anti-Americanism

-- The Worry Beneath Greenspan's Words; Businessweek

-- Of debt, deflation and denial; The Economist

-- Like Father, Like Son The Economic Indicators Head South; LA Times

-- Consumers' confidence slips to 9-year low

-- Resistance grows as economies melt down in Latin America

-- Economic Crisis Swells in S. America (washingtonpost.com)

-- Could We Face Another Depression? By Christopher Farrell; BusinessWeek; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. ; OCTOBER 19, 2001

-- 'The Dow had its worst December since 1931' (washingtonpost.com)

-- We're Not Turning Japanese

-- Is Germany Fast Turning into Another Japan?

-- Mind-boggling' accounting fraud stuns tech industry

-- Bush anti-corruption chief accused of account fraud

-- Circumstance Had Role in U.S.-Microsoft Deal (washingtonpost.com) By Jonathan Krim; Washington Post; November 3, 2001; Page A21

-- You're free to think by Dave Winer; Nov 6, 2001

-- The Threat Of Microsoft's .Net BY WHITFIELD DIFFIE AND SUSAN LANDAU; found on or about 10-25-01

-- RETHINKING THE ECONOMY By Michael J. Mandel, Peter Coy and William Symonds; OCTOBER 1, 2001; BusinessWeek Online; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

-- Extending its tentacles; The Economist Newspaper/The Economist Group; Oct 20th 2001

-- A punitive puppeteer? The Gripe Line by Ed Foster; INFOWORLD; InfoWorld Media Group, Inc., October 04, 2001

-- Entertainment control freaks have an ally in Microsoft (10-23-2001)

-- Ashcroft: 'Unlawful conduct' is over November 2, 2001; Cable News Network; CNN.com

-- Sharon labels Iraq as Israel's greatest threat

"[Saddam's weapons]...are primarily a threat to Israel and U.S. troops in the field, not American cities..."

-- Iraq Said to Step Up Bid for Nukes, 9-8-2002; ABC News

-- Russia fears US oil companies will take over world's second-biggest reserves

-- Oil - behind the tough talk on Iraq

-- In Iraq War, to the Victor Goes the Oil

-- Latest American airstrikes pave way for an invasion; Times Online

-- Iraq In all but name, the war's on

-- U.S. Bombing Watch (iraq)

-- War Begins; Nobody Notices

-- A shadow war has already begun, aiming to undermine the Iraqi leader and his defenses even before the first shot is fired

-- US operatives are said to be active in Iraq

Although virtually everyone is certain that Iraq is now so weak militarily and Saddam so unpopular at home that an American invasion will be a cakewalk with about the same number of American casualties or less of the war to free Kuwait, there's far less certainty about what'll happen after Saddam has definitely lost control of the country. Will his nuclear and biochemical scientists flee to Iran or elsewhere to set up shop? Will disaffected Iraqi soldiers sell whatever weapons do exist to the highest (or fastest or nearest) bidders? It appears the USA will be unable to staunch such flows of weapons and skills even after major hostilities have ceased in Iraq. Especially since the US has been unable to secure even the capital city of Afghanistan since routing the Taliban, much less the countryside or borders. And key figures of the Taliban and Bin Laden's terrorist group appear to escaped as well.

-- The Fifty-First State Fallows; The Atlantic

-- Iraq invasion could 'worsen terrorist threat'; New Scientist

-- Analysis Iraq Pandora's box in the making

-- Ironic if Bush himself causes jihad

-- Why a First Strike Will Surely Backfire; Washington Post

-- Muslim backlash, possible new terror attacks if U.S. hits Iraq

-- Will Iraq war hurt terror war csmonitor.com


So bin Laden's minions or Iran or others may get a windfall of weapons and/or weapons experts out of all this.

And what if Saddam can lure Israel into mounting a major attack upon the Iraqi people? Maybe even into dropping a nuclear bomb onto Baghdad? Things like that might stir great unrest in many Arab nations, leading to oil embargos like those of the mid-seventies, or worse. In past history various nations in the region have become so incensed that they made major attacks on Israel itself. Today's Israel seems sure to use some of their 200 or so nuclear weapons if they come under military pressures similar to those of certain battles past. But since Israel itself is so tiny, they'd likely have to use such weapons on major cities of the attackers, rather than the attacking armies themselves. After all, nuclear explosions on their own soil would literally be too close to home. Perhaps only four well placed nukes would be required to essentially wipe Israel itself off the map. So it seems unlikely the Israelis would detonate nukes within their own borders or very near them. Of course, small tactical nukes might be more managable for such duties, and surely Israel possesses some of them as well...

-- U.S. Air Force: Israel has 400 nukes, building naval force

-- US intelligence says Israel could nuke Iraq if attacked

If Saddam really, truly possesses a biological weapon like smallpox or others in a form he can deploy in a practical manner, and is dead certain Bush is out to kill him, then not long after the blitzkreig invasion begins he may well push the button. It might take days or weeks for the world to learn that a new plague has been loosed upon the world. Not even the best experts can guarantee it would be successfully contained. The most recent natural outbreak of such a disease was the 1918 flu, which spread worldwide and killed tens of millions in an age where contaminated people and cargo could not travel nearly as easily and quickly as today.

-- Alibek Warns of Worldwide Smallpox Catastrophe

-- Outside Smallpox, Plenty Else to Fear; ABC News

It appears Russia (a friend to Saddam) has possessed smallpox and even deadlier variants for years now. Indeed, Russia has contagions specifically developed to be difficult or impossible to defend against, medicine-wise. America too has some nasty things in its military labs-- some of which we gave to Saddam in decades past, when we regarded him as a 'friend'.


-- Who armed Saddam

-- A U.S. Gift to Iraq Deadly Viruses; Businessweek

-- Bush the First, Hating Saddam, Selling Him Weapons; Counterpunch

-- U.S. and Iraq Were not Always Enemies; ABC News

-- U.S. sent Iraq germs in mid-'80s

-- U.S. germs fuelled Iraqi bioweapons, records show

-- US helped start Iraq's bioweapons, records reveal - smh.com.au

-- U.S. helped launch Iraq's bioweapons program

-- Did the U.S. Help Saddam Acquire Biological Weapons?

-- Novak Following Iraq's bioweapons trail; Sun Times

-- How US Dealers Arm the World

-- How did Iraq get its weapons? We sold them

-- When US turned a blind eye to poison gas

-- 1982: U.S. provides billions in aid to Saddam Hussein for weapons to kill Iranians

-- The Saddam in Rumsfeld’s Closet

In their never-ending efforts to keep Americans anxious about their miliary strength (thereby maintaining popular support for perhaps the largest military spending in the history of the world), the government and media have also been making a big deal about how thinly spread US forces will be during an Iraq invasion, while also attending to Afghanistan and other locations relating to the 'war on terror', etc. So wouldn't that seem an ideal time to make mischief elsewhere, if you were, say, China? Or North Korea? Or Russia? China could arrange something appearing to be terrorism or an attack on it by Taiwan, and 'respond' by taking the island nation by force once and for all. End of story. North Korea could spring a surprise attack on the south. Russia could invade Georgia or some other land on its borders that's been giving it problems lately. Just read a few Tom Clancy novels or similar fare to find a variety of scenarios for this. Of course, usually it's smaller nations than these that do such mischief under such circumstances. But the main obstacle preventing a bigger nation from emulating a smaller one in this regard is inertia. The bigger the entity, the harder it is for it to prepare for such actions, as well as keep such preparations and strategies secret. But it's not impossible.

-- Military Spending Clock - Center for Defense Information

-- Study New Demands Could Tax Military (washingtonpost.com)

And what would be the world's reaction to such a deed? What about America's? I believe President Bush has promised war to defend Taiwan. But unlike the virtually militarily helpless Iraq, China possesses the means to likely do considerable nuclear damage to the US homeland, and/or its allies. YIKES!

Some folks have said an American invasion of Iraq could 'open the gates of hell'. Though hopefully that won't happen, the truth is it really could. But President Bush and his advisors either don't mind, don't care, or don't understand this. Or maybe their intelligence reports have said the probabilities are too small to worry about. Keep in mind these same intelligence agencies have proven themselves ignorant of what was happening in other countries over and over again in the past. For example, the President himself claims they didn't give him any reasonable warning of the 9-11-01 attacks. They certainly didn't alert anyone of the U.S.S.R.'s imminent collapse in the early nineties. Other glaring failures can also be listed.

-- US adviser warns of Armageddon

-- Ignorance is strength in Bush Security Strategy 2002

-- Report details US 'intelligence failures'

From the deafening silence in the heavens so far found by SETI, it would seem virtually ALL civilizations around our stage of development sooner or later make some miscalculation that ultimately brings on their doom. Let us hope Bush's war on Iraq will not be ours!

-- Analysts New Strategy Courts Unseen Dangers (washingtonpost.com)

-- Journalist Cronkite warns against potential war

Anyway, to add to the heap of bad news, the US is also giving Hollywood virtually everything they want in terms of stripping consumers of long held civil liberties in regards to usage of and access to intellectual property. At some point public libraries may be shut down (some US communities already burn books on occasion, like the Nazis did), and individuals may be unable to make their own music or videos from scratch and distribute them online without paying a hefty fee to Hollywood (huh?). It's happening folks. And most of us don't have a clue about it. So there's few phone calls being made or letters being written to Congress in protest. Thus, the average Congressman is figuring why not give Hollywood what it wants? To do anything else would require some research and hard thinking, after all. And today's Congress prefers to leave that sort of thing to the Supreme Court, anyway. Tsk, tsk.

-- Band Can't Sell Own Music on EBay

-- eBay Prevents Musician from Selling Own CD-Rs

And don't think you can find more freedom by moving to another country. The Bush Administration already thought of that, and has declared that it has the right to censor, hunt down, arrest, prosecute, or kill anybody anywhere in the world if they find them doing something on the net they don't like. Don't believe me? Check recent headlines. US intelligence agencies and the military have been given carte blanche to go after whatever folks the Bush cadre decide deserve it, no holds barred-- while at the same time claiming the US itself to be immune from such persecutions which might be pressed by other nations. The US has claimed it has ultimate authority on internet activities, no matter what country they occur in, if such activities somehow reach or go through US territory (this is a trick condition, as net geeks can explain to you; technically there may be no way to be excluded from such jurisdiction). This is scary stuff folks. Few nations worldwide are protesting or challenging these edicts yet, due partly to their unbelievable nature (surely the US is kidding, right?), newness, deference over the tragedy of 9-11-01, and real fear of the mind-bogglingly large and powerful US armed forces, which could literally destroy any other nation on Earth in a matter of hours, if only the President gave them the word.

-- New laws let feds prosecute any criminal Internet transmission routed through U.S. By D. IAN HOPPER, Associated Press; November 21, 2001; http://www.nandotimes.com

-- Antiterror law gives U.S. sweeping Net power; CNN; 2001

-- U.S. Hopes to Check Computers Globally

-- US websites not bound by foreign law; Nov 08 2001; Geek.com

-- US wants wider exemptions from war crimes court

-- Europeans resist US call for UN immunity; Independent

-- EU Slams U.S. Threat to World War Crimes Court; Reuters

-- America is not so special that she can be allowed to shirk her obligations; Independent

-- The US assault on world criminal court

-- U.S. veto threat 'frontal attack' on law

-- Control freaks tightening their grip on the Internet

-- Armey: Justice 'out of control'; USA Today

-- Activists protest police cameras at gatherings

-- Feds' cyberspace plan should appeal to control freaks; Silicon Valley

-- U.S. aims for more power to police seas

-- U.S. Presses Allies on War Crimes Court (washingtonpost.com) |

-- America bids to become net watchdog

-- U.S. Ties Military Aid to Peacekeepers' Immunity

-- Why Does America Fear This Court? (washingtonpost.com)

It may be that if everything the US currently spends on defense, security, intelligence, and top secret projects related to any of these were all tallied up, the US alone is spending half (or more) of all the money the entire world spends on such matters today(!)

And no, sorry, there's no way to do this tally in real life. Maybe as little as 25% to 50% of the true amounts being spent by the US in these areas are 'on the books' where the public might get at them. And even much of those public consumption figures may be misleading, with much going to military or intelligence purposes but being labeled something entirely different. Top secret projects and all, you know. For example, there might be thousands or hundreds of thousands of Social Security and Medicare recipients listed as receiving monthly checks in the federal databases-- only they don't exist, and that money is really going into something like new underground bunkers or hovercraft tanks or airplanes that can fly backwards or sideways or whatever. It's virtually guaranteed that America is spending more on defense than it thinks it is, and has been for decades. And yet we continue to allow the politicians to keep increasing the part of the military budget we do know about, atop all this.

Perhaps the most depressing thing is that there's oodles of credible references for all this on the internet and even the mainstream press in America and around the world-- but the average American apparently couldn't care less. We didn't used to roll over so easily and often like this for our politicians-- did 9-11-01 actually knock the stuffing out of good old American resistance to tyranny? Either that or rising pollution in our drinking water, problems in our education system, and the takeover of our mainstream media by big business and big politics have combined to 'dumb us down' to the point we simply can't grasp what's going on around us anymore. It's a sad and scary time for America.

"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions"

-- US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on...they have to cover it up...that's where the corruption comes in. They have to cover up the fact that they can't do the job."

-- Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service

"[the defense budget] numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year"

-- Department of Defense Analyst Franklin C. Spinney

"With good financial oversight we could find $48 billion in loose change in [the Pentagon building]"

-- Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan

-- The War On Waste (possibly by Vince Gonzales); CBSNews.com; Jan. 29, 2002

-- Betrayed by the Business Press; Businessweek

-- Business Reporting: The Voice Of The Profit?; TomPaine.com

-- That Reporter Done Steered Me Wrong - How much should we blame journalists for the dot-com crash?

-- 'network news sources skew white, male & elite'

-- TV news looks to the most powerful groups

-- CNN chief claims US media 'censored' war

-- Media Advisory Networks Accept Government ‘Guidance’

-- Public strong on opinions – weaker on knowledge; EurekAlert

-- Knowing but not understanding

-- From Citizens To Customers, Losing Our Collective Voice (washingtonpost.com)

-- Doesn't anyone notice the erosion of our freedoms?

-- For Voters, It's Business As Usual

-- Majority of companies, waste treatment plants exceeding EPA pollution permits, study finds - 10-18-2002 - ENN.com

-- Perhaps No U.S. Streams Unpolluted By JOHN HEILPRIN, Yahoo! News; Sep 24, 2002

-- Asia's Wind-Borne Pollution a Hazardous Export to U.S.

-- Half of Americans breathing bad air - May 1, 2002; CNN

-- Pollution Locator USA

-- Thousands of Underground Fuel Tanks Leak Unseen

-- Pollution 'makes you stupid' By Alex Kirby, 22 April, 2000, BBC News Sci/Tech

-- Why Johnny can't program

-- TV dots airwaves with inaccuracies; Miami Herald

-- Abducted by the Media csmonitor.com

-- Madison Avenue and your brain By Matthew Blakeslee; Sept. 30, 2002; Salon.com

-- The future of mind control; The Economist

-- Slaves of celebrity; Salon

-- Democracy in Deep Decay

-- Slide in Citizenship Knowledge

-- Ours Not To Reason Why (washingtonpost.com)

-- Hell No, We Don't Care

-- The American Majority: Angels, Devils, or Just Powerless?

-- 'how the American media are softening up public attitudes to war with Iraq'; UK Guardian

-- Without protest, Americans are giving up freedom

More references for the above Newz item may be found in the following links:

| The Latest Bush Doctrine Out With The Old, In With The Old | Instant Book Puts Kibosh on Bush Admin's War of Convenience | WLUML statement on the first anniversary of September 11th | Self-centered interests in Iraq | Invade and Unleash (washingtonpost.com) | Open Letter to Congress | Just say no | Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Politicization of the Debate on Iraq | Ashcroft’s Baghdad Connection | Bush's real goal in Iraq | New Bush Policy WE Hate THEIR Freedoms | Bush risks isolating US, cautions Kissinger | US adviser warns of Armageddon | Americas' Life Expectancy Rises, but Health Mixed (washingtonpost.com) | Ghostwriting the Law | What Britannia taught Bush | Senator Byrd - A Responsible Approach to Homeland Security | US threat to stop Iraq inspections | Hail Bush A new Roman empire - smh.com.au | Cronies in Arms | Democrats Question Iraq Timing (washingtonpost.com) | A conservative breaks ranks with both the right and left to oppose an Iraq attack | The Last Emperor |

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9-24-02: Folks, Harry and Helen Highwater could use our help

Harry and Helen publish the unknownnews.net weblog, with which quite a few net users are likely familiar.

I've only personally known of them for a few months, but they seem a bright and wonderful couple, who run a fiercely independent weblog on political matters and others. It appears they may be going down for the count now, due to a combination of financial and computer problems striking simultaneously, and could really use help in the form of contributions. However, as of late 9-23-02 it looked as if they'd even been cut off from their own site and email by problems they can't afford to fix, and so cannot make the appeal themselves (the last update of their site was 9-2-02 at last check, and their email account was bouncing messages due to being full).

I hope everyone reading this will consider helping them out of their bind. If not by a check, then by posting something about their plight on your own web page, or various message boards. Besides this post on Newz&Viewz, I'm planning on sending them a check by snail mail (H&H don't have a Paypal or Amazon honor link, unfortunately). And no, I'm not rolling in dough either-- but Harry and Helen's site has become one of my favorites since I found it, and I will not give it (or them) up easily.

At http://www.unknownnews.net/page2.html#subscriptions H & H give the following snail mail address for donations:

Stephanie Webb
PO Box 32185
Kansas City MO 64111

Check out their site (and archives!) to see what sort of folks they are, and you'll likely write them a check yourself.

Thanks again for your consideration.

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9-21-02: We should all keep in mind that some present-day 'crimes' are almost undoubtedly tomorrow's virtues attempting to bust out today

For example, many of the acts for which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades in South Africa during the apartheid years are now considered to have been essential for bringing more justice to a highly discriminatory and/or unjust society. Likewise the incarceration of many dissidents in the former Soviet Union-- their 'illegal' deeds back then now appear to have helped that culture become far more open, dynamic, and free in the decades since. The Tiananmen Square uprising in China, also considered illegal at the time, served as a wake up call for the nation to better respond to the changing needs of its people, and perhaps accelerate certain reforms.

Note that the American Revolution against the British was considered criminal activity too at the time. But today the ideas brought forth by that 'criminal' activity (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc.) are considered almost unanimously to represent a historic milestone in the progress of human rights and dignity worldwide.

The point is, tomorrow's virtues are not always recognized today by the majority of the public in a given nation (or the world). What acts considered criminal today in the USA or other countries might actually be some of tomorrow's virtues struggling to emerge? Might file-sharing and wireless bandwidth-sharing be a couple, for instance? Perhaps an individual's right to choose a quick and painless death, professionally administered by a doctor (under certain circumstances) could be another?

Could hacking for a just cause eventually be seen as a virtue rather than a crime? Especially where it reveals government or business corruption or purposeful misleading of the public? If business and government become ever more powerful, manipulative, and secretive in future decades, 'whistle-blower' investigations utilizing hacking techniques might become humanity's primary defense against catastrophic mistakes, deceptions, or miscalculations of various sorts, on everyone's part.

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9-4-02: Recent site updates

The following pages got significant updates lately:

The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy

Low cost web site authoring

How to Live Well on Very, Very Little: The Best Ideas for Obtaining the Essentials of Modern Human Sustenance for Minimal Cost

Nutricious food: More ways to eat well for very, very low cost

Health and medical care: More ways to guard your health and attend to basic medical needs for very, very low cost

J.R.'s Dirt Cheap PC and Killer Deals Page

J.R.'s clearinghouse of used Mac ware sources

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8-21-02: How small-time web sites can make it financially on the web

Newz&Viewz Contents

8-21-02: Bootstrapping the singularity (or how to maybe baby-step our way to triggering a full-blown Vinge singularity) DRAFT: SUBJECT TO CHANGE

AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you're unfamiliar with Vernor Vinge and his idea of a technological singularity, CLICK HERE for something of an explanation. END NOTE.

Micro-singularity memes (ideas), delivered over the internet, could be just the ticket. Micro-singularity memes (or ms memes for short) would be ideas or algorithyms capable in themselves of causing a paradigm shift in a certain social, economic, or technological niche, very quickly (sometimes virtually overnight).

Other principles descriptive of ms memes might include:

* techniques immediately and easily/cheaply applicable to solve or lessen a particular nagging problem or annoyance, largely through software programming or a relatively small change in social perspectives or policies (social engineering)

* such concepts are usually capable of propagating over the internet

* such ideas usually may capitalize on the net effect; i.e., the more people who learn of it and implement it, the faster the solution comes to realization and the more effective it is

* typically affects virtually everyone-- or at least the majority of those who take it up (in a 'win-win' situation, where the meme is benevolent)

* concepts striking in their simplicity and elegance and valuable in their potential for improving the human condition (at least where 'good' or benevolent memes are concerned)

* ideas which are largely unexpected-- surprises (people tend to notice and spread word of unanticipated or unusual events and ideas; info theory also tells us that the more densely a message is packed with surprises, the more real info it tends to contain); ideas which are sufficiently intriguing and accessible to spread in a way similar to 'juicy gossip'; the more surprising or 'out of the blue' a ms meme is, the better (in terms of likely replication)

* something which almost anyone who learns of it will wish to try for themselves

* the success and functionality of an implemented ms meme is usually unmistakable, tangible, and measurable

* most or all may be just as applicable for evil purposes as good; the law of entropy and basic human nature combined may tilt the balance of likely consequences towards evil. Thus, some effort or guidance may be required to prevent one or more released ms memes from leading to the end of the world-- or worse.

Some real world examples of items past and present potentially sharing some ms meme characteristics:

* the anti-mosquito sonics programming of PCs, during a circa 2002 summer state of emergency in several US states regarding the spread of West Nile virus by the insects

-- PC-powered mozzie-buster gets upgrade; CNN; found on or about 7-31-02

* the US Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights

* the notion of civil disobedience and other ideas from Walden by Thoreau

* various aspects of FDR's 'New Deal' during the Depression, such as Social Security

* some of the earliest freely downloadable examples of internet web browsers and email applications

Note that of all the large (possibly infinite) number of potential ms memes we could generate to propel the human race forward, there could be one or more capable of initiating a full-blown Vinge Singularity all on their own-- if we could but isolate it/them from the rest.

It could also be that the triggering of the macro singularity is a potential possibility inherent in ALL ms memes-- with the main differences being in the gestation period required and the necessity for a presence of certain other catalysts too in a given frame of reference.

Due to the possibly significant benefits to be derived from 'good' ms memes, I'll try to set up a web log just to identify possible candidate memes, in the near future. If and when that new log is established I'll post its URL here in Newz&Viewz.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Keep in mind that while many folks look forward to the possible triggering of a real Vinge singularity with almost religious fervor, believing or hoping that the technological advances it might bring could result in heaven on Earth, even Vinge himself has strongly cautioned that the conditions on the far side of the event are likely unpredictable in the extreme, and perhaps even hellish. However, there's some reason to hope that we might affect that outcome significantly by how peaceful, tolerant, generous, thoughtful, and civilized we all are just prior to the event itself. CLICK HERE to see some ways we might help ourselves go to heaven rather than hell via a passage through the singularity. END NOTE.

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8-21-02: The best way for Old Geezers (and Geezerettes) to find interesting reading material?

Last time I checked there were quite a few of both amateur and professional book reviewers on the web, offering thousands of opinions on various tomes. I did a little spot reading here and there among them, but didn't realize at the time the possibly best way to exploit these.

You see, I hate wasting time or money-- even more so as I've gotten older. And it can be tough (time consuming) to find books I really like and will enjoy. Books have gotten so expensive that bad choices also hurt the pocketbook.

But I've lately realized a way to optimize my search. Namely, look up one or more prolific book reviewers who offer reviews of books I've already read-- especially several books I loved, and several I hated, and see how closely the reviewer's opinion matches my own.

Once I find a reviewer or two who synchs up well with me, I'll start buying books on their recommended list-- and that should save me immense amounts of time and money!

Of course, this technique really only works for Old Geezers like me that are set in their ways-- or in other words, know what they want. Youngsters (anyone under 30-- maybe even 40) probably should avoid using this technique, since many (maybe most) of you haven't yet sampled enough of life to really know what you want, and so this technique would do more harm than good for you. You see, there comes quite a few times that you'll discover something you like in a most unexpected place-- so being forced or encouraged to explore things you'd rather not in your early days sometimes leads you to the very things which will make the rest of your life worth living. One example for many would be various schooling experiences.

Personally, I always loved to read. For most of my life there was no internet, and so reading material of any kind was often hard to come by for one reason or another. This set of circumstances led to me reading just about everything and anything I came into contact with, as well as frequent libraries every chance I got. From the random comic books my dad brought home from the factory (discarded by employees), to the set of Worldbook Encyclopedias and Childcraft books my parents bought us, to the hodge podge of magazines in various waiting areas to the random books and mags I encountered at friends' homes and at school, to a glorious stack of old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics mags from the forties through the sixties I found in an obscure mountain town in North Carolina, I literally read it all. And this led me to lots and lots of amazing discoveries that greatly enriched my life.

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8-8-02: Once mythical creatures which turned out to be real

The fantasy film Reign of Fire currently in theaters depicts a fight to the death between mankind and an all-consuming race of flying dragons, which previously killed off the dinosaurs (according to a review I read).

Many folks probably don't know that dragon myths are practically universal among humankind, across all cultures and regions, deep, deep into our past. There's lots more folk tales about dragons amongst us, than there ever were about certain other unworldly seeming creatures-- creatures which turned out to be real. For example, the giant squid, and great whales, which both purportedly sometimes attacked ships in the old days. Today, centuries later, the existence of these creatures has now been proven. Just the other day a new article came out supporting the possibility that sperm whales may indeed have head structures conducive to ramming one other, as well as sailing ships of old. The novel Moby Dick is said to have been based on a real-life ramming incident by a Sperm.

-- Dragon legend lives on in Imba Marsh by Kevin Short Special to The Daily Yomiuri; The Yomiuri Shimbun; found on or about 7-23-02

-- Thar They Blow; Smithsonian magazine

Other reports of recent days have said the giant squid are now multiplying at a furious pace, due to global warming and the over-fishing of the oceans by humanity-- both conditions that make the seas ideal for squid, for various reasons. Some now believe there's more pounds of living giant squid in Earth's oceans than pounds of living human beings on dry land(!) With more to come(!) Might the 21st century see the return of harrowing tales of giant squid attacking boats? Perhaps giant squid attacks on humans coincide with regular population booms like this latest one, which only occur every several hundred years on average. But since human sea traffic only rose to substantial levels near the end of the last squid boom, we just got a hint of the possibilities before-- and this time will see the full-blown version.

Could 'Reign of the Tentacle' be coming to waterways near you some time soon?

-- Giant squid 'taking over world' (July 31, 2002); News.com.au

-- New species' of giant squid found; BBC Online

Other supernatural seeming creatures which were nothing more than the subject of 'tall tales' for untold centuries, eventually proved to be real as well-- like the enormous mountain gorillas, pandas, and King cheetahs, to name a few.

In 1975 two cryptozoogists found the rare King Cheetah, a cat larger than the standard cheetah, and sporting a different pattern of stripes and spots in its fur. They learned that the reason for the difficulty in locating one of the animals was that King Cheetahs are created only when a recessive gene for the form is present in both the cheetah's parents-- otherwise normal cheetahs are the consequence of reproduction. One result of this is that King Cheetahs may be completely absent from a given area for years, then suddenly reappear from a suitable mating involving the recessive genes.

-- The Unnatural Museum - Cryptozoological Alumni by Lee Krystek, 1996

The final scientific confirmation dates for the existence of lowland gorillas and pandas is documented in The Signposts Perspectives 1,901 AD-1,950 AD.

-- Wayward species frequently 'found'

-- Return of the unicorn ­ a myth comes to life

-- Not as extinct as they used to be

-- Expedition Finds Angola's Missing Antelope

Lately there's even been reports that modern-day examples of the 'blood-sweating' horses of Asia have been found-- another creature long thought to be simply another 'tall tale', told around camp fires at night for centuries.

It may be an increasing number of amateur expeditions are searching for a real 'big foot', especially in north america. If there's a real creature behind those tales, it surely won't escape capture for very much longer. No matter how smart it is. [Some interesting cave art was recently found, applied at seemingly much higher than normal heights in the caverns. Though it's of course being attributed to the ancestors of human beings like ourselves, I personally thought the height factor to be striking. If we ever did find artwork created by real big foot-type beings, wouldn't it too often be found at heights greater than those usually marking human works, since Big Foot is supposed to be so much taller? Here's the original URL of the article in question]

But what of dragons themselves? Could there be any basis in fact for these animals? Yes. It seems very plausible that folks in ancient times happened upon the giant bones of dinosaurs and even much younger creatures like mammoths, and wove tales of dragons (among other things) around them. The deep fear of and fascination for snakes within us probably also contributed to the tales. And our occasional encounters with gigantic alligators, crocodiles, Komodo 'dragons', and gargantuan boa constrictor snakes in antiquity would only have added to the strength of these stories. It also seems possible some relatively modern humans encountered immense dinosaur-like reptiles in Australia around 50,000 BC (the humans seemed to have literally set fire to the entire continent over a few thousand years, perhaps to kill off the huge lizards and various other megafauna of the time).

Add to all the above the small 'flying' lizards which exist in some regions (they glide in ways similar to flying squirrels, from tree to tree), plus even 'flying' snakes(!)(a recent article details how such snakes flatten their bodies and use their 'S' shape body configuration to successfully glide between trees) and stories of large flying reptiles such as dragons become ever more plausible for ancient story tellers to weave.

-- New Snake Footage Uncoils Mystery of Flying Serpents; National Geographic

-- Flying snakes slither through the air - August 8, 2002; CNN

-- Expert tackles mysteries of soaring snakes; Sun Times

-- ‘Flying’ snakes intrigue student

But could there be still more substance to the dragon myth, than all this? Yes. Evidence is mounting that there remains quite a lot about both dinosaurs and reptiles we don't know. There's lots of gaps in the fossil record. We're still discovering new species of animals on our planet-- some of them quite large. The US Navy recently reported they've been hearing sounds of some immense beast in the deep sea for years now, that seems to be neither whale or giant squid. What is it? Not even the experts know.

New and relatively large species are being found on dry land as well. The biggest recent finds have been around the size of large dogs. That's pretty big in the unknown animal realm-- especially for the 21st century(!)

If you'd like to see some far out but still somewhat plausible speculation about living dragon-like creatures, CLICK HERE.

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8-5-02: Latest estimates and speculations regarding star faring races in the Milky Way

The Fermi Paradox which contrasts the 100% probability of life and intelligence developing on Earth against the thunderous silence from the heavens so far (no alien signals) may be resolved by four things: (one), gamma ray bursters which may have effectively prohibited the development of sentient races until only the last 200 million years; (two), the lengthy gestation period required for the emergence of intelligence (which almost requires the entire useful lifespan of a given planet, based on our own biography); (three), the need for an unusually high measure of stability in terms of climate over hundreds of millions of years (the 'Goldilocks' scenario, enabled by a huge natural satellite like our Moon moderating the tilt of a planet's axis, as well as gas giants parked in proper orbits to mop up excess comets and asteroids to reduce impact frequencies for a living world); and (four), an extremely dangerous 600 year or so 'gauntlet' of challenges and risks most any technological society must survive to become a viable long term resident of the galaxy (i.e. getting a critical mass of population and technology off their home world, among other things). That 600 year period may be equivalent to our own span between 1900 AD and 2500 AD, wherein we'll have to somehow dodge the bullets of cosmic impacts, nuclear, biological, and nanotechnological war, terrorism, mistakes, and accidents, as well as food or energy starvation, economic collapse, and many other threats, both natural and unnatural. So far it appears (according to SETI results and other scientific discoveries) extremely few races likely survive all these. So why haven't we heard from those which have? What are they like? And how far away might they be? Details of all the above and more (along with references) may be found in the latest draft update to The Rise and Fall of Star Faring Civilizations in Our Own Galaxy . A mirror site can be found here. Enjoy!

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