Tuesday, May 24, 2016

doing the most: eavesdropping neuronal snmp < hacking dreams


ted |  Now, if you were interested in studying dreams, I would recommend starting first by just looking at people's thoughts when they are awake, and this is what I do. So I am indeed a neuroscientist, but I study the brain in a very non-traditional way, partially inspired by my background. Before I became a neuroscientist, I was a computer hacker. I used to break into banks and government institutes to test their security. And I wanted to use the same techniques that hackers use to look inside black boxes when I wanted to study the brain, looking from the inside out.
4:34
Now, neuroscientists study the brain in one of two typical methods. Some of them look at the brain from the outside using imaging techniques like EEG or fMRI. And the problem there is that the signal is very kind of blurry, coarse. So others look at the brain from the inside, where they stick electrodes inside the brain and listen to brain cells speaking their own language. This is very precise, but this obviously can be done only with animals. Now, if you were to peek inside the brain and listen to it speak, what you would see is that it has this electrochemical signal that you can translate to sound, and this sound is the common currency of the brain. It sounds something like this.
5:17
(Clicking)
5:21
So I wanted to use this in humans, but who would let you do that? Patients who undergo brain surgery. So I partner with neurosurgeons across the globe who employ this unique procedure where they open the skull of patients, they stick electrodes in the brain to find the source of the problem, and finding the source can take days or sometimes weeks, so this gives us a unique opportunity to eavesdrop on the brains of patients while they are awake and behaving and they have their skull open with electrodes inside.
6:02
So now that we do that, we want to find what triggers those cells active, what makes them tick. So what we do is we run studies like this one. This is Linda, one of our patients. She is sitting here and watching those clips.
6:16
(Video) ... can't even begin to imagine.

mebbe it's the fast talking, but this guy seems more full of shit than a christmas goose?



zdnet |  I'm part of a team that runs studies on humans while they are being monitored with electrodes implanted deep inside their brains. This is unique, allowing us to eavesdrop on the activity of individual nerve cells inside a human brain. We work with patients who have severe problems that require brain surgery, for potential resection of the focus of an epileptic seizure. Most people with epilepsy take medication to reduce the seizures, but a small number of patients are candidates for an invasive surgery [resection] that removes the seizure focus and stops the seizures. You want to find the smallest amount of brain you can resect to stop the seizure. The surgeons put electrodes around the part of the brain that is suspected as the seizure onset site. Then the neurologists can monitor the activity inside the patient's brain and wait until the patient has experienced a number of seizures in the course of a few days while they are in the hospital. One can then monitor the flow of the seizures and isolate the exact source before resecting the site that causes the seizures. Then the surgeons remove the electrodes and resect the part of the brain where the seizures originate. The patient walks away seizure-free.

As researchers, we use this unique opportunity to work with a patient who is awake with electrodes deep inside his or her brain to study cognition. The patients who are in the hospital waiting to have seizures for the doctor are happy to help science by participating in studies. These studies allow us unique access to the building blocks of thought, memories and emotions in a way that is rarely accessible otherwise in humans. There are only a small number of people in the world who have had their brains opened and have participated in studies where scientists recorded directly from within their brain. We ask the patients about their feelings, for example, while looking inside the brain using those micro-electrodes, and we can see how their answers indicate how the brain works. We can map the brain and learn how the brain operates slowly using this unique way, by looking inside the brain of a person who is sitting in front of us.

In one study, we had people look at images. When you look at a picture of, say, your mother, there is a part of your brain that becomes active as you recognize her. Other parts come to life when you think about something else (say, Marilyn Monroe or Big Ben in London). We can decode these thoughts by looking at the patterns that become active when you see an image of one thing and when you later think about that thing voluntarily. We then are able to see what they're thinking of as they think. At the same time, we can decode their current thought on these things and effectively project those to the patients in front of their eyes. You can actually show patients their thoughts. Even more interesting for us is we can look at competing thoughts. We can put two images on the screen and tell them to think of only one of them and see how this competition is resolved inside the brain.

Monday, May 23, 2016

british want out of the musical chairs great game...,


WaPo |  Seen from London, Edinburgh, Oxford or other havens of the cosmopolitan British elite, this country’s vote next month on whether to quit the European Union may appear to be a relatively easy choice.
  
Not a day goes by when a foreign leader, renowned economist or military chief doesn’t warn of the dire consequences of a vote to leave — for Britain and for the world.  

But venture just 45 minutes north of London by train to the ancient market city of Peterborough and it soon becomes clear why, with just over a month to go before the referendum, the polls are running nearly even.  

Here, the initials E.U. are spat rather than spoken, Brussels is a dirty word, and all the prophecies of doom seem a small risk compared with the opportunity to unshackle Britain from Europe.  

For in Peterborough — by at least one measure the least E.U.-friendly city in Britain — Europe doesn’t mean the world’s most prosperous and peaceful continent. It means a mass influx of Eastern European immigrants across open borders that residents say has transformed this city beyond all measure.  

“This used to be the posh part of Peterborough. Look at it now,” David Jackson, a 41-year-old teacher, said as he ruefully surveyed the scene on Lincoln Road, the commercial heart of the city’s multiethnic immigrant communities. “Romanians pissing in the park. Lithuanians out on the street drinking, doing drugs. Even the rats here are on heroin.” 

racial self-destruction in America...,


NYTimes |  Ali-Rashid Abdullah, 67 and broad-shouldered with a neatly trimmed gray beard, is an ex-convict turned outreach worker for Cincinnati’s Human Relations Commission. He or his co-workers were at the scenes of all five of Cincinnati’s shootings with four or more casualties last year, working the crowds outside the yellow police tape, trying to defuse the potential for further gunfire.

They see themselves as stop signs for young black men bound for self-destruction. They also see themselves as truth-tellers about the intersection of race and gun violence — a topic that neither the city’s mayor, who is white, nor its police chief, who is black, publicly addresses.

“White folks don’t want to say it because it’s politically incorrect, and black folks don’t know how to deal with it because it is their children pulling the trigger as well as being shot,” said Mr. Abdullah, who is black.

No one worries more about black-on-black violence than African-Americans. Surveys show that they are more fearful than whites that they will be crime victims and that they feel less safe in their neighborhoods.

Most parents Mr. Abdullah meets are desperate to protect their children but are trapped in unsafe neighborhoods, he said, “just trying to survive.” And some are in denial, refusing to believe that their sons are carrying or using pistols, even in the face of clear evidence.

“ ‘Not my child,’ ” he said, adopting the resentful tone of a defensive mother. “ ‘It may be his friends, but not my child, because I know how I raised my child.’ ”

His reply, he said, is blunt: “These are our children killing our children, slaughtering our children, robbing our children. It’s our responsibility first.”

African-Americans make up 44 percent of Cincinnati’s nearly 300,000 residents. But last year they accounted for 91 percent of shooting victims, and very likely the same share of suspects arrested in shootings, according to the city’s assistant police chief, Lt. Col. Paul Neudigate.

Nationally, reliable racial breakdowns exist only for victims and offenders in gun homicides, not assaults, but those show a huge disparity.

The gun homicide rate peaked in 1993, in tandem with a nationwide crack epidemic, and then plummeted over the next seven years. But blacks still die from gun attacks at six to 10 times the rate of whites, depending on whether the data is drawn from medical sources or the police. F.B.I. statistics show that African-Americans, who constitute about 13 percent of the population, make up about half of both gun homicide victims and their known or suspected attackers.

“Every time we look at the numbers, we are pretty discouraged, I have to tell you,” said Gary LaFree, a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland.

Some researchers say the single strongest predictor of gun homicide rates is the proportion of an area’s population that is black. But race, they say, is merely a proxy for poverty, joblessness and other socio-economic disadvantages that help breed violence.

when the cost of living is too high, wombs are closed for business...,


NYTimes |  A shrinking population creates ripples that are felt from the economy to politics.

With one of the lowest birthrates in the world and little immigration, Japan has seen this milestone coming for years, if not decades. Yet efforts by the government to encourage women to have more children have had little effect, and there is little public support for opening the doors to mass immigration.

“These numbers are like losing an entire prefecture,” Shigeru Ishiba, a cabinet minister in charge of efforts to revitalize Japan’s especially depopulated rural areas, said at a news conference. A handful of Japan’s 47 prefectures, administrative districts similar to provinces or states, have populations of less than a million.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded to the census report by reiterating a long-term goal of keeping the population from falling below 100 million. Projections by the government and international bodies like the United Nations suggest that will be difficult, however. The latest United Nations estimates suggest that Japan’s population will fall to 83 million by the end of the century, down 40 percent from its peak.

Mr. Abe’s goal depends on raising the birthrate to 1.8 children per woman, up from 1.4 now and higher than it has been since the early 1980s. Rates have, in fact, risen slightly compared with a decade ago. But with women marrying later — in part, demographers say, to avoid pressure to give up their careers — a more decisive turnaround looks far off.

Japan will not necessarily suffer just because it is smaller. Many countries with fewer people are just as prosperous, and in a country known for jam-packed rush-hour trains, there may even be benefits. Japan’s economic output has been stagnant for years, but the picture looks less dire, economists say, once a shrinking work force is taken into account.

we pray hard for rain, then we pray it stops - is there no end to extreme weather?


Guardian |  Harvest should be the time for celebrations, weddings and full bellies in southern Malawi. But Christopher Witimani, Lilian Matafle and their seven children and four grandchildren had nothing to celebrate last week as they picked their meagre maize crop.

Last year’s drought, followed by erratic rains, hit the village of Nkhotakota hard. But this year the rains never came and, for a second year running, the family grain store is empty. If they manage their savings carefully and eat just one small meal a day, they may just have enough food for two more months.

By August, said Irish charity Concern Worldwide, they and tens of thousands of other small farmers in southern Malawi will have completely run out of food, with no prospect of another harvest for at least seven months. With nothing to sell and no chance of earning money, Witimani, Matafle and family will starve.

“I am worried the children will starve to death. I don’t know what to do,” said Matafle.

“We need food. We are in a desperate situation,” her husband added.

Countries are just waking up to the most serious global food crisis of the last 25 years. Caused by the strongest El Niño weather event since 1982, droughts and heatwaves have ravaged much of India, Latin America and parts of south-east Asia. But the worst effects of this natural phenomenon, which begins with waters warming in the equatorial Pacific, are to be found in southern Africa. A second consecutive year without rain now threatens catastrophe for some of the poorest people in the world.

The scale of the crisis unfolding in 10 or more southern African countries has shocked the United Nations. Lulled into thinking that Ethiopia in 1985 was the last of the large-scale famines affecting many millions, donor countries have been slow to pledge funds or support. More than $650m and 7.9m tonnes of food are needed immediately, says the UN. By Christmas, the situation will have become severe.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

life without design?


aeon |  Biological replication and self‑reproduction are in fact such stupendously well‑orchestrated physical transformations that one must explain how they are possible under the simple, no‑design laws of physics such as ours. This additional explanation, which was not included in the theory of evolution, is essential for that theory to properly explain how living things arise without intentional design – to close the explanatory gap.

The conclusion that the laws of physics must be tailored to produce biological adaptations is amazingly erroneous

Now, it turns out that an explanation of this sort is peculiarly difficult to formulate using the prevailing methods of physics. The latter can predict only what a physical system will do (or will probably do) at a later time, given certain initial conditions and laws of motion. But applying laws of motion to particles is an intractably laborious way to express the appearance of design, replication, self‑reproduction and natural selection. Those processes are highly emergent, involving the collective motion of countless interacting particles.

There is more. Even if one could predict that – given certain dynamical laws and initial conditions – particles would aggregate so as to form a goat at a certain time, this would not at all explain whether a goat could have come about without design. The design of the goat, for all we know, could be encoded in the initial conditions or in the laws of motion. In general, one must explain whether and how a goat ispossible (ie, permitted) under no‑design laws of physics; not just predict that it will (or will probably) happen, given some version of the actual laws and initial conditions.

Thinking within the prevailing conception has led some physicists – including the 1963 Nobel Prize-winner Eugene Wigner and the late US-born quantum physicist David Bohm – to conclude that the laws of physics must be tailored to produce biological adaptations in general. This is amazingly erroneous. If it were true, physical theories would have to be patched up with ‘design-bearing’ additions, in the initial conditions or the laws of motion, or both, and the whole explanatory content of Darwinian evolution would be lost.

So, how can we explain physically how replication and self reproduction are possible, given laws that contain no hidden designs, if the prevailing conception’s tools are inadequate?

By applying a new fundamental theory of physics: constructor theory.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

How Does This Warmongering Neocon Slug Even Fix His Mouth To Call Anybody Else Fascist?!?!


WaPo |  Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist for The Post.
 
The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. If only he would mouth the party’s “conservative” principles, all would be well. 

But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

Not Just Trade - Political Realignment On Foreign Policy Imperative As Well...,



theintercept |  IN THE LATEST example of how foreign policy no longer neatly aligns with party politics, the Charles Koch Institute — the think tank founded and funded by energy billionaire Charles Koch — hosted an all-day event Wednesday featuring a set of speakers you would be more likely to associate with a left-wing anti-war rally than a gathering hosted by a longtime right-wing institution.

At the event, titled “Advancing American Security: The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy,” prominent realist and liberal foreign policy scholars took turns trashing the neoconservative worldview that has dominated the foreign policy thinking of the Republican Party — which the Koch brothershave been allied with for decades.

Most of the speakers assailed the Iraq War, nation building, and regime change. During a panel event also featuring former Obama Pentagon official Kathleen Hicks, foreign policy scholar John Mearsheimer brought the crowd to applause by denouncing American military overreach.

“We need to pull back, stop fighting all these wars. Stop defending rich people who are fully capable of defending themselves, and instead spend the money at home. Period. End of story!” he said, in remarks that began with a denunciation of the dilapidated state of the Washington Metrorail system.

“I completely agree on infrastructure,” Hicks said. “A big footprint in the Middle East is not helpful to the United States, politically, militarily, or otherwise.”

Chas Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, decried U.S. thinking on toppling foreign governments. “One has to start questioning the basic premise of regime change, whether it is to be accomplished by invasion and occupation or by covert action or the empowerment of NGO activity on the ground or other means,” he reflected. “Frankly, it generally doesn’t go well.”

“If you want to know why our bridges are rickety … our children are educationally malnourished, think of where we put the money,” concluded Freeman, pointing to the outsized military budget.

Friday, May 20, 2016

quiet as it's kept, the TPP is disastrous to working families and central to the 2016 campaign


thenation |  The United States International Trade Commission has just released a long-awaited “report on what critics have decried as the NAFTA on steroids” proposal for a Pacific Rim trade deal. The report was expected to make a strong case for the agreement. Instead, it barely makes a case at all. So modest is the argument for the TPP that it was characterized by Politico as a “mildly positive” document with a “mixed” projection for how the TPP would influence the US trade deficit and the bad news that “the oil, coal, chemical, auto parts, forestry, leather and medical device industries could see slower growth than without the agreement.” 

Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, points out that “This report spotlights how damaging the TPP would be for most Americans’ jobs and wages given it concludes 16 out of 25 US economic sectors…”

Instead of strengthening the argument for the TPP, the congressionally mandated study of how the sweeping agreement might help or harm the US economy is heightening the level of concern. 

Economist Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and an internationally respected expert on trade and employment issues, notes that “The overall projected gains to national income by 2032 are $57.3 billion or 0.23 percent. Since this gain is realized over the next 16 years, it implies an increase to the annual growth rate of just over 0.01 percentage point. In other words, the USITC projects that as a result of the TPP, the country will be as wealthy on January 1, 2032 as it would otherwise be on February 15 of 2032.” 

Baker also offers a cautionary reminder that the projected gains could be inflated. “It is worth noting that the USITC modeling exercises in the past have not been good predictors of the outcomes of trade deals,” explained the economist. “For example, their models failed to project the large increases in the deficit with Mexico following NAFTA, the increase in the deficit with China following PNTR, and the increase in the deficit with Korea following the US-Korea trade agreement.” 

Critics of the agreement—which President Obama and Republicans in Congress are still trying to advance this year—are actually using the new report to make the case against the TPP.
“This ITC report is so damaging that any reasonable observer would have to wonder why the Administration or Congress would spend even one more day trying to turn this disastrous proposal into a reality,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

2Parties1Ideology and the Big Fraud Against the American People


theconservativetreehouse |  Just because the so-called “conservative” and “liberal” punditry and politicos refuse to answer this question, doesn’t mean we should stop asking it.

In 2009 President Obama along with congress passed the roughly $900 billion stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The “non-shovel ready” spending took place within fiscal year 2010/2011. The amount is significant because the injected stimulus was 30% more than the entire federal budget for the same year.

However, since Fiscal Year 2008 we’ve never had a federal budget, preferring instead to fund government via base-line budgeting, continuing resolutions, increased in the debt ceiling, and omnibus spending.
As a direct result of the “baseline-budgeting” part of that spending approach, the federal government re-spent the ’09 “Stimulus” (first spent in FY ’10) in all subsequent fiscal years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 (started last October), and 2017 (December’s Paul Ryan Omnibus bill).

That’s seven direct times the $900 billion “Stimulus” has been spent.

Seven times $900 billion equals $6.3 Trillion, or sixty three hundred billion.

Where is it?
What did we get for it?
What are we currently getting while continuing to spend it?

Remember, this is IN ADDITION TO the original funding of government. This is ADDITIONAL SPENDING.

So, where is it?
What did we get for it?
Where is it currently accounted?

Some people might enjoy talking about gender bathrooms or Donald Trump’s 1990’s dating habits. Me, notsomuch. I’m rather curious about where sixty three hundred billions have disappeared – and it appears no-one associated with political discussions, and that includes “conservative punditry” seems the least bit curious on where this money has gone.

resistance will not be futile at all....,


economist |  THE “hell cannons” of Aleppo pack a deadly punch. Cobbled together in Syria by militant groups fighting to overthrow the autocratic regime of Bashar al-Assad, they use an explosive charge at the bottom of a pipe to hurl a propane cylinder crammed with 40kg or more of explosives and shrapnel. A finned tail welded to the cylinder shields it from the launch blast and provides stability in flight. The Ahrar al-Sham brigade reckon the cannons can hit targets 1.5km away. Fuses detonate the cylinder upon impact or, using a timer, after it punches into a building. This is all the better to demolish several floors with a single strike.

The use of improvised weapons in conflict has a long and bloody history: from the Irish shillelagh, a walking stick that doubles as a club—especially effective when the knob at the top is loaded with lead—to the Molotov cocktail, as the glass petrol bombs the Finnish army hurled at Russian tanks during the second world war came to be known.

The modern equivalents are more high-tech and, like Aleppo’s hell cannons, far deadlier. This comes from a combination of more sophisticated and easily available “off-the-shelf” equipment, and the internet providing a ready medium to spread new weapon-making ideas. The upshot is a reshuffling of the cards in modern warfare, says Yiftah Shapir, a weapons expert at Tel Aviv University and a former lieutenant colonel in Israel’s air force. Any side that begins with a technological advantage will see it erode quickly as the underdogs improve their improvisation capabilities.

The ominous consequences have led America’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the Pentagon, to try to keep up with developments by soliciting worldwide for new ways to make weapons using commercially available materials and technologies. More than 20 experts are now reviewing hundreds of submissions. To better assess the risks, some of the most promising designs will be built as prototypes and tested. This could earn their inventors awards of up to $130,000.

militarized masonic militia doubles-down but there's been not one iota of criminal justice reform...,


thenation |  Keep in mind that this article barely scratches the surface when it comes to the increasing numbers of ways in which the police’s use of technology has infiltrated our everyday lives. 

In states and cities across America, some public bus and train systems have begun to add to video surveillance, the surreptitious recording of the conversations of passengers, a potential body blow to the concept of a private conversation in public space. And whether or not the earliest versions of predictive policing actually work, the law-enforcement community is already moving to technology that will try to predict who will commit crimes in the future. In Chicago, the police are using social-networking analysis and prediction technology to draw up “heat lists” of those who might perpetuate violent crimes someday and pay them visits now. You won’t be shocked to learn which side of the tracks such future perpetrators live on. The rationale behind all this, as always, is “public safety.” 

Nor can anyone begin to predict how law enforcement will avail itself of science-fiction-like technology in the decade to come, much less decades from now, though cops on patrol may very soon know a lot about you and your past. They will be able to cull such information from a multitude of databases at their fingertips, while you will know little or nothing about them—a striking power imbalance in a situation in which one person can deprive the other of liberty or even life itself. 

With little public debate, often in almost total secrecy, increasing numbers of police departments are wielding technology to empower themselves rather than the communities they protect and serve. At a time when trust in law enforcement is dangerously low, police departments should be embracing technology’s democratizing potential rather than its ability to give them almost superhuman powers at the expense of the public trust.

Unfortunately, power loves the dark.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

human nature and the bad actors problem...,


declineoftheempire |  The phrase "bad actors" is not a reference to Ashton Kutcher, Adam Sandler, etc. 

Instead, the phrase refers to those who use nominally value-neutral "technologies" (like the internet or mortgage-backed securities) to exploit others. Basically, we're talking about predators here.

Those discussing the subject all sought to counter simplistic reductionist statements like "it's all in the genes" or "the selfish gene." We've all heard these kind of reductionist arguments. Instead, the researchers in the video cited environmental factors like upbringing and biological factors like epigenetics during development to explain the astonishing individual variation we see within the human population. One can then argue further that human nature is a mirage because of there's so much individual variation, as expressed behaviorally.

My own view is that individual variation may appear to be large, but it is clearly bounded (finite), and that variation can therefore be categorized in useful ways. As a result, there is an identifiable suite of human behaviors at the level of large populations, or at the species level. And that is where you need to look if you want to understand human nature.

There is also the statistical argument which I used in the first Flatland essay—the fact that .01% of the human population is actively trying to preserve other species merely implies that 99.99% are either killing them off, even if it is not their "intention" to do so, or doing nothing to prevent it. We are interested in the vast majority, not the tiny minority which expresses some rare individual variation. These arguments complement one another.

Which brings me to bad actors.

A government study released a few days ago found that people are becoming leery about using the internet for various purposes. And why is that? Here's the Christian Science Monitor report on the study.

um.., shouldn't there be some LOTS OF orange jump suits for fraud on this epic scale?


Fortune |  Theranos’ board of directors was assembled for its government connections, not for its understanding of the company or its technology.

“With three former cabinet secretaries, two former senators, and retired military brass, it’s a board like no other.”

So begins Fortune Editor-at-Large Roger Parloff’s 2014 piece on the board of directors at Theranos, the blood-testing company that was the subject of a deeply reported story in The Wall Street Journal this morning questioning the reliability of its drug tests. Theranos disputes the story, calling it “factually and scientifically erroneous and grounded in baseless assertions by inexperienced and disgruntled former employees and industry incumbents.”

Without taking a position one way or the other, I think it’s worth noting that this “board like no other” was assembled for its regulatory and governmental connections, not for its understanding of the company or its technology. That raises significant governance issues at a moment like this one, issues that may bedevil the company in the days and months to come.

Let’s take a look at Theranos’ 12-person board (which is an 11-man team if you don’t include CEO and Chairwoman Elizabeth Holmes—interesting given her stated commitment to women in STEM). We have former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Senators Sam Nunn and Bill Frist (who, it should be noted, is a surgeon), former Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, former Marine Corps General James Mattis, and former CEOs Dick Kovacevich of Wells Fargo and Riley Bechtel of Bechtel. There is also one former epidemiologist—William Foege, and, in addition to Holmes, one current executive, Sunny Balwani, who is Theranos’ president and CEO.

It’s quite an impressive group, isn’t it? But here’s what it’s not: an appropriate board of directors for a company that is valued at $9 billion. There are no sitting chief executives at other companies—a basic tenet of board best practices.

discoveriesinhealthpolicy | "Biotech Theranos Offers a Cautionary Tale for Silicon Valley."
NPR.  All Tech Considered.  By Laura Sydell.  Here.
"Here's What Warren Buffett Thinks of Theranos and its Star Studded Board."
Finance.Yahoo.com   By Daniel Roberts.  Here.

May 4, 2016
"Everything You Need to Know About the Theranos Saga So Far."
Wired.  By Nicholas Stockton.  Here.

"FDA Looks to Clamp Down on Laboratory-Developed Tests and Put an End to ‘Wild West of Medicine’: Might CLIA Problems at Theranos Support FDA’s Position?"
Dark Daily. By Andrea Downing Peck. Here.
[Answer to the title question: Yes.]

May 5, 2016
"The Fall of Theranos and the Future of Silicon Valley."
TIME.  By Lev Grossman.  Here.
 


May 9, 2016
"Bleeding Out: Theranos Oozes with Corporate Governance Lessons."
Compliance Week.  By Jaclyn Jaeger.  Here.

May 11, 2016
"Theranos Executive Sunny Balwani to Depart Amid Regulatory Probes."
WSJ.  By John Carreyou.  Here.
______

Wikipedia. Company,  Here.  Elizabeth Holmes, Here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dystopian Now: the future is here - just not evenly distributed



CSMonitor | Dr. Church told The Washington Post that the meeting wasn’t open to the public or to media because its theme overlapped with a paper written by many scientists that’s pending publication in a major scientific journal. The organizers didn’t want to be accused of "science by press release," reported the Post, so decided not to share their project publicly until they had a peer-reviewed article validating their research.

"It wasn't secret. There was nothing secret or private about it," said Church, who told the Post that the video of the event will be released when the scientific paper is published, likely soon.

Church also said that the project is not aimed at creating people, only cells, and not just for human genomes, despite that an invitation to the meeting at Harvard said that the primary goal “would be to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of 10 years,” as the Times reports.

There has been tremendous progress in genomics since scientists finished sequencing the entire human genome in 2003. As the Times reports:
Scientists and companies can now change the DNA in cells, for example, by adding foreign genes or changing the letters in the existing genes. This technique is routinely used to make drugs, such as insulin for diabetes, inside genetically modified cells, as well as to make genetically modified crops. And scientists are now debating the ethics of new technology that might allow genetic changes to be made in embryos. But synthesizing a gene, or an entire genome, would provide the opportunity to make even more extensive changes in DNA.
A team headed by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter first synthesized the chromosome of one bacterium in 2010 and inserted it into another species, thereby replacing the host species's DNA. The result, named Syn 1.0, was a microbial cell that was able to replicate and make a new set of proteins, powered by its synthetic genome, as the Monitor has reported.

Dystopian Now: managing the decline of the Left Behind so it doesn't produce revolt


libertyblitzkrieg |  I write a lot about the middle class. It’s been one of the core themes here at Liberty Blitzkrieg since inception, yet my posts tend to be filled with statistics and sarcasm, and often lack the crucial element of heart. In order to truly connect with the public and shift their sentiments from apathy to action, it’s imperative to create a deep emotional connection. I admittedly have not done a great job in this regard. Fortunately for all of us, Eli Saslow of the Washington Post has done just that.

I read a lot of articles, and I can’t remember anything that hit me as hard as what he published this past weekend. It tells the tale of the spirit-crushing decimation of the American middle class through the lens of eternal optimist, Chris Setser. Chris is a man who always went above and beyond in order to provide a good life for himself and his family. Working the graveyard shift at an Indiana United Technologies plant so that he could be home when his kids came home from school, Mr. Setser lived his entire life living by the mantra: “Things have a way of working in the end.” Until they didn’t.

Chris’ transformation from an optimistic Democrat, to a pissed off, jaded Trump supporter, is a microcosm for what’s happening all across the country. Through his eyes, you witness a justified desperation, and a painful recognition that working hard and staying positive simply aren’t good enough in America’s current hollowed out, oligarch-owned, shell company of an economy.

Below, I provide some excerpts from the article, but these select passages don’t do it justice. I think this piece is so important, it’s imperative you read it in full and share it with everyone you know. The future of America rests upon reversing this pernicious trend.

From the Washington Post:

Dystopian Now: shall we pretend or not-see the purpose of these policies and activities?


NYTimes |  In Indiana, Mark Dobson, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, said that when he went to national conferences, the topic was “such a common thread of conversation — whether it’s in an area like ours that’s really enjoying very low unemployment levels or even areas with more moderate employment bases.”

In Colorado, “to find a roofer or a painter that can pass a drug test is unheard-of,” said Jesse Russow, owner of Avalanche Roofing & Exteriors, in Colorado Springs. That was true even before Colorado, like a few other states, legalized recreational use of marijuana.

In a sector where employers like himself tend to rely on Latino workers, Mr. Russow tried to diversify three years ago by recruiting white workers, vetting about 80 people. But, he said, “As soon as I say ‘criminal background check,’ ‘drug test,’ they’re out the door.”

A much broader data trove, the federal government’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reported in September that one in 10 Americans ages 12 and older reported in 2014 that they had used illicit drugs within the last month — the largest share since 2001.

Taken together, Dr. Sample said, his data and the government’s indicate higher drug use among those who work for employers without a drug-testing program than workers who are tested, though use by the latter increased as well in 2013 and 2014.

Testing dates to the Reagan administration. The 1988 Drug-Free Workplace Act required most employers with federal contracts or grants to test workers. In 1991, Congress responded to a deadly 1987 train crash in which two operators tested positive for marijuana by requiring testing for all “safety sensitive” jobs regulated by the Transportation Department. Those laws became the model for other employers. Some states give businesses a break on workers’ compensation insurance if they are certified as drug-free.

the present is dystopian, transhumanists are looking for a way out...,


WaPo |  This week, we’re talking about transhumanism. Need a primer? Catch up here.
 
Charles T. Rubin is author of “Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress.” He teaches political philosophy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

For its proponents, transhumanism — the idea of using technology to redesign humans beyond our biology — is just common sense. Who doesn’t want to live a healthier, happier and wealthier life? And wouldn’t it be great to live such an “enhanced” life indefinitely? For nearly as long as we have written record, humans have rebelled at the limits of the human condition, but with the development of modern science and technology we have become increasingly able to overcome what once seemed like absolute limits. Advances in fields such as genetics, synthetic biology, neuropsychology, robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology are putting us on the verge of even more radical breakthroughs, allowing us to imagine that we can ultimately rebuild completely the flawed human product that evolution has bequeathed us.