Saturday, July 15, 2017

Photos Of Aleppo Rising: Swimsuits, Concerts And Rebuilding In First Jihadi-Free Summer

ORIGINAL LINK

When taxi and bus drivers take journalists into Syria via the Beirut-Damascus Highway these days, there's a common greeting that has become a kind of local tradition as the drivers pull into their Damascus area destinations. They confidently tell their passengers: "welcome to the real Syria." Local Syrians living in government areas are all too aware of how the outside world perceives the government and the cities under its control. After years of often deceptive imagery and footage produced by opposition fighters coordinating with an eager Western press bent on vilifying Assad as "worse than Hitler", many average Syrian citizens increasingly take to social media to post images and scenes of Syria that present a different vision: they see their war-torn land as fundamentally secular, religiously plural, socially tolerant, and slowly returning to normalcy under stabilizing government institutions.

As the most intense phase of fighting in Aleppo was unfolding in 2016, veteran journalist Stephen Kinzer took to the editorial pages of the Boston Globe to remind Americans that the media has created a fantasy land concerning Syria. Kinzer painted a picture quite opposite the common perception:

Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press... For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it...

 

The United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story.

Now, during the first summer of relative calm Aleppo residents have seen in over four years of grinding conflict, the city commonly referred as "the jewel of Syria" is once again rising from the ashes. Foreign journalists are also accessing places like East Aleppo and the heart of the walled 'old city' for the first time. Some few honest correspondents, unable to deny the local population's spirit of hopefulness and zeal with which they undertake rebuilding projects, acknowledge that stability and normalcy have returned only after the last jihadists were expelled by the Syrian government and its allies.

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Aleppo orchestra concert, Summer 2017/via Sarah Abdallah

A Western press and political class which generally mourned the liberation of the city from al-Qaeda groups like Nusra (AQ in Syria), calling government actions a 'massacre' and 'genocide', now finds a reality that can't be ignored or denied: Aleppines are returning to ravaged parts of the city to rebuild, they are enjoying nightlife, going to music concerts, staying out late at cafes; families are swimming at local pools, women are strolling around in t-shirts and jeans free of the oppressive Wahhabi fighters that once ruled parts of the city.

Kinzer's Boston Globe piece further concluded that the entire web of assumptions on Syria woven by the media and fed to the public over the years were "appallingly distant from reality" and warned that these lies are "likely to prolong the war and condemn more Syrians to suffering and death." As new photos continue to emerge of the real Aleppo and the real Syria it is essential to revisit the most destructive among the lies that have helped serve to prolong this tragic and brutal war.

Aleppines didn't want to live under Wahhabi Islamist rule

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Andalusia Swimming Pool in Aleppo, Summer 2017/via Syria Daily

According to multiple eyewitness reports and studies, the story of how war entered Aleppo's environs was not primarily one of mass public protests and government crackdown, but of an aggressive jihadist insurgency that erupted suddenly and fueled from outside the city. According to then Indian ambassador to Syria, V.P. Haran (Amb. to Syria from 2009 to 2012), Aleppo on the whole was unwillingly dragged into the war after remaining silent and stable while other cities raged. In an interview which detailed his own on-the-ground experience of the opening years of war in Syria, the ambassador said:

Soon parts of Latakia, Homs and Hama were chaotic but Aleppo remained calm and this troubled the opposition greatly. The opposition couldn’t get the people in Aleppo to rise up against the regime so they sent bus loads of people to Aleppo. These people would burn something on the streets and leave. Journalists would then broadcast this saying Aleppo had risen.

Why did it take until July 2012 - well over a year since conflict in Syria began - for Aleppo to see any fighting? Why did residents not "rise up" against the government?

The answer is simple. The majority of Syrians, whether Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, Kurd, or Ismaili, are sane individuals – they’ve seen what life is like under the “alternative” rebel rule marked by sharia courts, smoke and alcohol bans, public floggings, street executions, desecration of churches, and religious and ethnic cleansing of minorities. They recognize that there is a real Syrian national identity, and it goes beyond mere loyalty to the current ruling clique that happens to be in power, but in Syria as a pluralistic Levantine society that rejects Saudi style theocracy.

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Rebuilding Aleppo, Summer 2017. Latin Parish of St. Francis/via Sarah Abdallah

The kind of religious and cultural pluralism represented in the liberal democracies of the West are present in Syria, ironically, through a kind of government-mandated “go along, get along” policy backed by an authoritarian police state. One can even find Syrian Jews living in the historic Jewish quarter of Damascus’ walled old city to this day.

Syrian urban centers have for decades been marked by a quasi-secular culture and public life of pluralist co-existence. Aleppo itself was always a thriving merchant center where a typical street scene would involve women without head-coverings walking side by side with women wearing veils (hijab), cinemas and liquor stores, late night hookah smoke filled caf├ęs, and large churches and mosques neighboring each other with various communities living in peaceful co-existence. By many accounts, the once vibrant secular and pluralist Aleppo is now coming back to life (and largely never left government-held West Aleppo).

"Moderates" did not "liberate" Aleppo, but gave cover to an ISIS and al-Qaeda invasion

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Image: "moderate" rebels mock a Christian government soldier
—This photo was originally posted online by a Swedish based terror group in Syria after the Summer 2013 rebel offensive against the Menagh airbase near Aleppo. A rebel fighter mocks a captured Christian government soldier’s cross. Another photo posted in the original set reveals that the soldier was later tortured by being crushed with a large rock on his chest as he lay on his back.

One of the most under reported and least understood events surrounding the history of how all of Aleppo province and the Northern Syria region became a hotbed of foreign jihadists is the fall of the strategically located Menagh airbase near Aleppo. As a Reuters timeline of events indicates:

In early 2012 rebels take control of the rural areas northwest of Aleppo city, besieging the Menagh military air base and the largely Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahra.

After a lengthy siege of Menagh, the base finally fell to jihadist factions under the command of the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in August of 2013. This event was key to rebel fighters gaining enough territory to cut off the Aleppo-Damascus Highway, which allowed them to encircle all of Aleppo for much of that year. But a little known yet hugely important detail of the Menagh episode is that rebels only got the upper hand after being joined by ISIS suicide bombers commanded by Omar the Chechen (ISIS' now deceased most senior military commander). The fall of this government base is what opened a permanent jihadi corridor in the North, allowing terrorists to flood the area. The commander for the operation was US Ambassador Robert Ford's personal friend, Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, who was head of the US and UK funded Revolutionary Military Council of Aleppo (FSA). Okaidi worked in tandem with ISIS military commander Omar the Chechen and his crew for the operation - all while being supported by the United States and Great Britain.

Concerning US-backed Okaidi's close relationship to the ISIS faction in the summer of 2013, there is actually video evidence and eyewitness testimony (US Ambassador Ford himself later admitted the relationship to McClatchy News). Amazingly, the video, titled “US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al Nusra” never had very widespread public distribution, even though it has been authenticated by the top Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, of the University of Oklahoma, and author of the hugely influential Syria Comment. Using his Twitter account, Dr. Landis commented: “in 2013 WINEP advocated sending all US military aid thru him [Col. Okaidi]. Underscores US problem w moderates.”

The video, documenting (now former) U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford’s visit to FSA Col. Okaidi in Northern Syria, also shows the same Col. Okaidi celebrating with and praising a well-known ISIS commander, Emir Abu Jandal, after conducting the joint Menagh operation. In an interview, this U.S. “key man” at that time, through which U.S. assistance flowed, also praised ISIS and al-Qaeda as the FSA’s “brothers.” Abu Jandal was part of Omar the Chechen's ISIS crew assisting the FSA. Further video evidence also confirms Omar the Chechen's role at Menagh. The videos also show Okaidi proudly declaring that al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) makes up ten percent of the FSA. The FSA was always more of a branding campaign to sell the rebels as "moderates" to a gullible Western media than a reality on the ground; it was a loose coalition of various groups espousing militant jihad with the end goal of establishing an Islamist polity in Syria.

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Foreign fighters flooded Aleppo Province. The U.S. State Department’s own numbers: read the full report at STATE.GOV

In the end, terror groups like ISIS enjoyed a meteoric rise in Syria due to US government and media support for these so-called "moderate rebels" - all entities which collectively sought regime change at all costs - even the high cost of mass civilian death and suffering that inevitably results from unleashing an insurgency in urban areas.

The Syrian Army and government were never "Shia" or sectarian-based

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Al Aziziyah neighborhood in Aleppo/via
 Syria Daily

The Arab Spring narrative was the ideological lens through which experts initially pit the oppressive supposedly “Alawite/Shia regime” against a popular uprising of Syria’s majority Sunnis. As Sunnis make up about 70% of Syria’s population, it was simply a matter of numbers, and of time. But this view proved overly simplistic, and according to one little known West Point study, utterly false. It was commonly assumed that the Syrian Army was a hollowed out Alawite institution with its Sunni conscripts apprehensively waiting for the right moment to defect to the rebel side. This was the fundamental supposition behind years of repetitious predictions of the Assad regime’s impending collapse, and predicated upon a view of the Syrian military as a fundamentally weak and sectarian institution. But West Point's 2015 study entitled Syria’s Sunnis and the Regime’s Resilience concluded the following:

Sunnis and, more specifically, Sunni Arabs, continue to make up the majority of the regular army’s rank-and- file membership.

The study's unpopular findings confirmed that the Syrian Army, which has been the glue holding the state together throughout this war, remains primarily a Sunni enterprise while its guiding ideology is firmly nationalistic and not sectarian.

The highest ranking Syrian officer to fall victim to rebel attack was General Dawoud Rajiha, Defense Minister and former chief of staff of the army, in a major 2012 bombing of a Damascus national security office. General Rajiha was an Orthodox Christian. Numerous Christians and officers of other religious backgrounds have served top positions in the Syrian Army going back decades - a reflection of Syria's generally nationalist and religiously tolerant atmosphere.

Mainstream press did not report from Aleppo, but was hundreds of miles away.

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Outside the Citadel of Aleppo: life returning to normal, Summer 2017/via Syria Daily

The heavily populated urban areas of Syria continue to be held by the government. But most reporting has tended to dehumanize any voice coming out of government held areas, which includes the majority of Syrians. The war has resulted in over 6.5 million internally displaced people - the vast majority of which have sought refuge in government territory. 

The fact remains that there are some popular figures in the establishment media and analyst community who speak and write frequently about Syria, and yet have never spent a significant amount of time in the country. Throughout much of the war they've primarily reported from Western capitals - thousands of miles away - or, if they are in a Middle East bureau, without ever leaving the safety of places like Beirut or Istanbul. Fewer still have the necessary Arabic language skills to keep pace with local and regional events. Some have never been to Syria at all. They become willing conduits of rebel propaganda beamed through WhatsApp messages and Skype interviews, which was especially the case when it came to the battle for Aleppo. That much of the world actually considers these people as authorities on what’s happening in Syria is a joke – it’s beyond absurd.

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Outdoor concert venue and Aleppo springs back to life, Summer 2017/
via Maram Kasem

We are hopeful that the jihadist menace will be fully expelled and that the international proxy war which has taken so many lives and reduced much of a beautiful nation to rubble will finally come to an end. Aleppines and other Syrians are rebuilding - they are optimistically preparing for the future. Welcome to the real Aleppo.

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Final national exams just before summer 2017
/via Syria Daily



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Friday, July 14, 2017

Why Has The Thinking Class Of America Abandoned Thinking?

ORIGINAL LINK

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

The abiding enigma of this tormented era remains: why has the thinking class of America abandoned thinking?

The answer is: it’s the reaction to their own failure.

Failure to do what? To produce the utopia that Gnostic liberalism promised - a perfect world based on altering human nature.

The result is an essentially religious hysteria, like the witch frenzies of Medieval Europe that were sometimes provoked by ergot poisoning — a fungus with toxic psychotropic properties that grew on the harvested rye, inducing frightful hallucinations in the villagers, who then lashed out at their perceived supernatural antagonists. Trump in our time is the ergot on the bread of our politics. And Russia is the witch.

Like other operations of the human mind, this collective fugue-state has a big subconscious module in it: the deep, poorly articulated fear that the single notion of Progress behind progressive politics in the industrial era has reached a dead end. The world is clearly not becoming a better place, but rather reeling into disorder and ecological crisis, despite all the rational programs and politics of modern democracy, and political failure is everywhere.

The “peace dividend” promised by the end of the cold war has degenerated into endless war. The miraculous promises of medicine have been hijacked by “health care” racketeering now institutionalized under ObamaCare. The Civil Rights campaign begun in the 1950s with the most earnest, hopeful intentions (and generous policies) has produced off-the-charts black crime rates, educational defeat, ruined cities, and epic rancor. The middle class has been left economically shipwrecked by the promises of globalism. The pledge of a happy retirement dissolves as the pension funds roll over and die. And the supposed paragon of enlightened American governance morphs into a sinister and corrupt Deep State of oligarchical corruption.

In the background of all this are even more disturbing quandaries and prospects: population overshoot, mass migration from regions that can’t support these numbers of people, extinctions of animal species, the death of the oceans, climate instability. The practical problems of economy approach an event horizon of energy scarcity, runaway debt from trying to mitigate it, and eventual collapse of our day-to-day hyper-complex economic arrangements. These things are so scary that the thinking classes - except for a minority of nerdy scientists - can’t even bear to think about them.

Instead, we have the Gnostic drive to alter human nature, which has terminated in the preoccupation with abolishing sexual identity - the fantasy that we will (and ought to) throw off the shackles of biology and rise into a sort of “trans-human” nirvana. Just behold the amount of “ink” that The New York Times has spilled reporting on the triumphs of transexualism in the past year.

It’s not surprising that some of the worst thinking, the most obviously tortured theological hallucinations, emanate these days from the universities — the places where young, developing intellects are supposed to be molded. Instead of free inquiry, they now offer intellectual martial law, chained to sets of ersatz metaphysics. “Victim” ideas run wild because malign supernatural powers are in play against the faculty hierophants on the elite campuses, charged with interpreting the sacred mysteries and esoteric principles of “post-structural” (reality-optional) thought. The quandaries of “minority” America have resolved in the simple superstitious idea that demonic forces of “white male privilege” and ubiquitous, implacable misogynistic racism are entirely responsible for the woes and sorrows of the world, and the failure of progress in particular.

The failures of US-sponsored economic globalism now focus on the ur-demon (the Satan!) called Russia. Apocalyptic battle with the greatest monster of the imagination is the ultimate struggle in outbreaks of religious frenzy, and America has a ripe history of engaging with the Devil. It’s bad enough when it breaks out in a tiny colonial settlement like Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600s. There only a few dozen people were persecuted and destroyed. It’s another matter on the global stage today when you engage a perceived “Satan” like Russia, which truly can rain holy Hell back on you if you push your hallucinated animus too far.



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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mercury & Autism Relationship Confirmed in Longitudinal Study

ORIGINAL LINK

The international journal Science of the Total Environment has just published a compelling study from the Republic of Korea, where autism prevalence is high. The study identifies a strong relationship between prenatal and early childhood exposure to mercury and autistic behaviors in five-year-olds.

Lead author Jia Ryu and coauthors acknowledge mercury’s potential for neurotoxicity straight away but choose to characterize previous findings on the mercury-autism relationship as “inconsistent.” They attribute the seeming lack of consistency, in part, to methodological issues, especially flagging problematic cross-sectional study designs that measure autistic behaviors and mercury levels (in either blood or hair) at a single point in time. To rectify these methodological weaknesses, Ryu and coauthors report on data from a multi-region longitudinal study in the Republic of Korea called the Mothers and Children’s Environmental Health (MOCEH) study.

The ongoing MOCEH study examines environmental exposures during pregnancy and childhood and their effects on children’s growth and development. A unique feature is that it includes five different blood samples: maternal blood from early and late pregnancy; cord blood; and samples from children at two and three years of age. In addition, the study asks mothers to complete three follow-up surveys and—when their child reaches age five—the 65-item Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), which assesses autistic behaviors.

Key Results

Ryu and colleagues present available data for 458 (26%) of the 1,751 mother-child pairs originally recruited into the MOCEH study. What are their key findings?

–First, the researchers report a significant linear relationship between mercury exposure and autistic behaviors (as indicated by a scaled score called an SRS T-score). Strikingly, they find that with a doubling of blood mercury levels at four time points (late pregnancy, cord blood, and at two and three years of age), SRS T-scores are significantly higher.

–Ryu et al. also look specifically at SRS T-scores greater than or equal to 60. Sixty and above is the accepted threshold for detecting “mild to moderate” deficits of social behavior related to autism; scores of 76 or more are in the “severe” range. In these analyses, the same linear relationship holds for late pregnancy and birth (i.e., cord blood). With a doubling of blood mercury levels at these two time points, there is a 31% and 28% increase, respectively, in the risk of an SRS T-score of 60 or more.

–Finally, the researchers identify a stronger association between late-pregnancy mercury exposure and autistic behaviors in five-year-old boys versus five-year-old girls, perhaps due to mercury’s endocrine-disrupting properties.

Limitations

Although the Korean study has many methodological strengths, it displays some curious omissions and contradictions. For example, the authors note, almost in passing, that they measured total mercury “instead of methylmercury,” but they discount any potential relevance of ethylmercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines. In support of this dismissive stance, they cite a 2014 meta-analysis that failed to find any “material associations” between thimerosal exposure and ASD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They do not mention that the authors of the meta-analysis actually urged readers to interpret their results with caution “since the number of epidemiological studies on this issue [is] limited and still at an early stage.”

Ryu and coauthors also repeat the canard that methylmercury is the only form of organic mercury capable of inducing neurotoxic effects because of ethylmercury’s shorter blood half-life compared to methylmercury. This statement is disingenuous in light of the well-documented fact that methylmercury and ethylmercury share numerous mechanisms of toxicity. Moreover, strong evidence from infant primates shows that injected thimerosal has a much slower half-life in the brain than in the blood, and infants exposed to injected thimerosal accumulate harmful inorganic mercury (an end product of thimerosal) in the brain to a far greater extent than infants exposed to orally ingested methylmercury. Due to these differences, blood mercury levels are not a suitable indicator of injected thimerosal’s potentially adverse effects on the brain. Finally, it is biologically plausible that simultaneous exposure to both forms of mercury (ethyl and methyl) may result in additive and synergistic neurotoxic effects.

The Korean Context

Interestingly, fully a third of Ryu’s study population (32.5%) had an SRS T-score of at least 60 (versus about 18% of U.S. children). In 2011, a South Korean study of over 23,000 seven-to-twelve-year-old children made headlines by reporting a national ASD prevalence of 2.64%—or 1 in 38 children. The Republic of Korea’s immunization rates have been steadily climbing (along with autism rates) since the 1990s, with nearly universal (98%-99%) coverage, for example, for measles and DTP3 in one-year-olds. Is it simply a coincidence that “neuro-psychiatric conditions” represent the single largest cause of  “years of healthy life lost due to disability” (YLD) in the Republic of Korea? As per the nation’s crowded immunization schedule, Korean infants receive three doses of the thimerosal-containing Hepavax-Gene® hepatitis B vaccine at birth, one month, and six months. Analyses of Korean children’s mercury levels have paid insufficient attention to developmentally vulnerable infants’ exposure to ethylmercury in the form of thimerosal. Surely, identifying and lowering allsources of mercury exposure is a logical next step to improve children’s health and quality of life.

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Tech Billionaires Are Secretly Funding a Plan to Break the Human Race out of The Matrix

ORIGINAL LINK

(ANTIMEDIA) — On the southwestern edge of Lake Titicaca, Peru, there is an ancient 23-foot doorway known as the Aramu Muru. Local natives call it the “Puerta de hayu Marca,” the gateway to the lands of the gods and immortal life. Throughout their history, the natives have described people disappearing and appearing at this doorway.

In 1998, purported extraterrestrial contactee Jerry Wills claimed a tall blonde humanoid named Zo taught him how to access Aramu Muru and enter “another universe.” Wills further claimed that Zo illustrated to him how our universe is an experimental simulation within his species’ universe. They built it to understand their own reality, which is itself nested inside a larger universe.

The next year, in 1999, the blockbuster science fiction film The Matrix came out and forever emblazoned into our collective subconscious the idea that our existence is a simulation created by a more advanced race of beings. Incidentally, the film also made long black trench coats, black sunglasses, and my last name all the rage, but I digress…

A few years after the release of The Matrix, philosopher Nick Bostrom published the Simulation Argument, a concise paper entitled “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” It presented a trilemma, a mathematical breakdown of why at least one of three provocative scenarios must be true.

“(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a ‘posthuman’ stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.”

The “posthuman civilization” to which Bostrom refers defines a period of time after which humans have merged with technology. This is sometimes referred to as post-Singularity, with the ‘Singularity’ describing futurist Ray Kurzweil’s designation of a society in which humans are post-biological, living synergistically with artificial intelligence.

The Simulation Argument presupposes the development of this posthuman civilization, at which point, Bostrom states, advanced humans or AI might develop simulations of the past in the same way that current scientists create test environments; some of the simulations would likely be for entertainment reasons, as well, in the same way humans currently create video games and movies.

In recent years, a number of high-profile figures have come out to state their belief that we are living in a simulation. Chief among them is tech magnate Elon Musk, who has stated that the video game No Man’s Sky confirmed his belief that someday simulations would approximate reality so comprehensively that they would be indistinguishable from reality. Apparently, he was sitting in a hot tub with friends when he finally converted.

Musk is the CEO and brains behind Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and OpenAI. In recent years, he has expressed bold plans for his companies that he believes will advance the human race: with Tesla, he wants to spearhead a transportation infrastructure that doesn’t rely on burning hydrocarbons; with SpaceX, he wants to assist in humanity’s gradual extraplanetary migration to Mars; and with Neuralink and OpenAI, he wants to facilitate humanity’s merger with advanced computer technology.

When he was asked about whether humans are living inside a computer simulation, Musk made headlines last year by saying he thinks the chances are one in billions that we aren’t.

“The strongest argument for us probably being in a simulation I think is the following: 40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot,” Musk stated. “That’s where we were. Now 40 years later we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.”

Here Musk is referring to the exponential growth of technology, the lynchpin of the Singularity theory. If in 40 years we’ve gone from the two-dimensional pong to the cusp of augmented and virtual reality, imagine where we’ll be in another forty, or a hundred, or 400. Provided the human race survives, one may assume we will achieve the ability to produce simulations with sentient beings. Already, the Department of Defense has created the Sentient World Simulation, a real-time “synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information, such as major events, opinion polls, demographic statistics, economic reports, and shifts in trends,” according to a working paper on the system.

In recent years, other scientists have conducted research and even experimentation in attempts to show actual evidence of the Simulation. Heads turned last year when theoretical physicist S. James Gate announced he had found strange computer code in his String Theory research. Bound inside the equations we use to describe our universe, he says, is peculiar self-dual linear binary error-correcting block code.

team of German physicists has also set out to show that the numerical constraints we see in our universe are consistent with the kinds of limitations we would see in a simulated universe. These physicists have invoked a non-perturbative approach known as lattice quantum chromodynamics to try to discover whether there is an underlying grid to the space/time continuum.

So far their efforts have recreated a minuscule region of the known universe, a sliver of a corner that is but a few femtometers across. But this corner simulates the hypothetical lattice of the universal grid, and their search for a corresponding physical restraint turned up a theoretical upper limit on high-energy particles known as the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin, or GZK cut off. In other words, there are aspects of our universe that look and behave as a simulation might.

With news that there are two anonymous tech billionaires working on a secret project to break us out of the Matrix, it’s hard to know whether we should laugh or scream in horror. Simulation talk is great epistemological fun and metaphysical amusement of the highest order, but it may speak to an underlying anxiety regarding the merging of our reality with machines, or an underlying existential loneliness. It’s even been posited as a solution to the Fermi ParadoxWhy haven’t we met aliens? Well, because we live inside a world they built.

Our earth is marooned in a cosmic void so vast it would take our current Deep Space I propulsion system an astonishing 81,000 years to reach the nearest star — in a galaxy of hundreds of billions, which is, itself, just one of hundreds of billions. The thought that it’s all 1s and 0s rendered by a futuristic microprocessor is philosophically sexy but, perhaps, sociologically lazy.

That there is anxiety about reality being manufactured in a society obsessed with simulated pleasure and mediated experience isn’t altogether surprising. It’s the ultimate, though perhaps accidental, expression of resistance to a culture steeped in consumerism and artificial growth.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo



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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Attack on Al Jazeera

ORIGINAL LINK

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Photo by Joi Ito | CC BY 2.0 Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple, who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free […]

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How girls are seeking (and subverting) approval online

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Relax, your girls aren't harlots yet

Common Sense MediaIt’s not a law that you have to post a selfie before, during, and after every activity. But for kids, it’s pretty much mandatory. The resulting likes, thumbs-ups, and other ratings all get tallied, both in the stark arithmetic of the Internet and in kids’ own minds. For some — especially girls — what starts as a fun way to document and share experiences can turn into an obsession about approval that can wreak havoc on self-image.

That kids have been comparing themselves to popular images in traditional media — and coming up short — is a well-researched phenomenon. But new studies are just beginning to determine the effects of social media — which is arguably more immediate and intimate — on the way kids view themselves. A Common Sense survey called Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image found that many teens who are active online fret about how they’re perceived, and that girls are particularly vulnerable:

  • 35 percent are worried about people tagging them in unattractive photos.
  • 27 percent feel stressed about how they look in posted photos.
  • 22 percent felt bad about themselves if their photos were ignored.

How Kids Get Feedback

You probably know about popular apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. But the specific ways kids use these tools to get — and give — feedback can be troubling. Here are a few examples:

  • Instagram. The number of followers, likes, and emojis kids can collect gets competitive, with users often begging for them. Instagram “beauty pageants” and other photo-comparison activities crop up, with losers earning a big red X on their pics.
  • Snapchat. Numerical scores display the total number of sent and received chats. You can view your friends’ scores to keep tabs on who’s racking up the most views.
  • Hot or Not. This quintessential rating app lets you judge the attractiveness of others based on a series of photos, tapping either a heart sign or an X to to rank them. Users log in to see what others think of them.
  • #tbh. When Instagram users type “#tbh,” they’re indicating either that they want others to honestly appraise their selfies or they’re expressing their true feelings about someone else’s looks. Examples: “#tbh am I pretty?” or “#tbh I think you’re really pretty.” Although #tbh is usually positive, it can get negative in specific and hurtful ways, and even when it stays positive, it reinforces the idea that appearance is what matters most.
  • “Am I pretty or ugly?” YouTube videos. Kids — mostly girls — post videos of themselves asking if other users think they’re pretty or ugly. These videos are typically public, allowing anyone — from kids at school to random strangers — to post a comment.

The Good News

Although approval-seeking and self-doubt continue to plague girls both privately and publicly, there are signs of fatigue. The “no-filter” trend is prompting girls to share their true selves and accept (and even challenge) whatever feedback they receive. Under hashtags such as “uglyselfie,” and “nomakeup” girls post pics of their unadorned selves, funny faces, unretouched images, and “epic fails” (attempts at perfect selfies that went wrong).

Given that adolescents are naturally eager for peer validation — precisely when they begin to use social tools that provide it — it’s encouraging to see kids having fun with the notion of perfection. As a matter of fact, one of the Common Sense study’s most welcome findings is that social media has the potential to combat unrealistic appearance ideals and stereotypes. And, after all, kids use social media to be, well, social, and constant rejection and pressure is no fun at all.

It makes you realize just how powerful social media tools can be. While they foster relationships and engagement — and can even bolster self-esteem — they can be both constructive and destructive. That’s why you can’t leave it all up to kids to find their way. Whether your kids are just getting into social media or are seasoned posters, it’s critical to help guide them to use Snapchat, Instagram, and other networking apps for fun and connection and not as fuel for self-doubt.

What You Can Do

Talk about the pictures they post. Experimenting with identity is natural, and it’s very common for kids to adopt provocative stances in cell phone pictures, on their social network pages, and in YouTube videos. But are they doing it only because they think others expect it of them? What pose would they strike if they could do anything they wanted?

Ask how feedback makes them feel. Are they stressed out by others’ comments and feedback? Does it make them feel better to be “liked?” Why is external approval important? How do negative comments make them feel?

Help them develop a healthy self-image. Body image is developed early in childhood, and the family environment is very influential on how kids view themselves. Emphasize what the body can do instead of what it looks like. Also, be careful of criticizing your own looks and weight.

Rely on role models. Positive role models have an enormous effect on kids. Cultivate relationships with women your daughter can look up to. Also, point out celebrities and other famous folks who challenge stereotypes about size and beauty and seem comfortable in their own skins.

Help them stop the cycle. Urge them to post constructive comments that support their friends for who they are, not what they look like.

Help them view media critically. Talk about over-sexualized images or unrealistic body ideals of girls in the media. Explore websites such as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media and the Representation Project that promote the importance of positive body image and valuing women for their contributions to society.



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Whistleblower: “The NSA Is Still Collecting the Full Content Of U.S. Domestic E-Mail, Without a Warrant …”

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The man who designed the NSA’s electronic intelligence gathering system (Bill Binney) sent us an affidavit which he signed on the Fourth of July explaining that the NSA is still spying on normal, every day Americans … and



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“It’s Too Late” – 7 Signs Australia Can’t Avoid Economic Apocalypse

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from Zero Hedge:

AUSTRALIA has missed its chance to avoid a potential “economic apocalypse”, according to a former government guru who says that despite his warnings there are seven new signs we are too late to act.

The former economics and policy adviser has identified seven ominous indicators that a possible global crash is approaching — including a surge in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin — and the window for government action is now closed.

John Adams, a former economics and policy adviser to Senator Arthur Sinodinos and management consultant to a big four accounting firm, told news.com.au in February he had identified seven signs of economic Armageddon.

He had then urged the Reserve Bank to take pre-emptive action by raising interest rates to prevent Australia’s expanding household debt bubble from exploding and called on the government to rein in welfare payments and tax breaks such as negative gearing.

Adams says he has for years been publicly and privately urging his erstwhile colleagues in the Coalition to take action but that since nothing has been done, the window has now closed and Australia is completely at the mercy of international forces.

“As early as 2012, I have been publicly and privately advocating that Australian policy makers take pre-emptive policy action to deal with the structural imbalances within the Australian economy, especially Australia’s household debt bubble which in proportional terms is larger than the household debt bubbles of the 1880s or 1920s, the periods which preceded the two depressions experienced in Australian history,” he told news.com.au this week.

“Unfortunately, the window for taking pre-emptive action with an orderly unwinding of structural macroeconomic imbalances has now closed.”

Former Coalition economic adviser John Adams.

Former Coalition economic adviser John Adams.Source:The Daily Telegraph

Adams has now turned on his former party and says both its most recent prime ministers have led Australia into a potential “economic apocalypse” and Treasurer Scott Morrison is wrong that we are heading for a “soft landing”.

“The policy approach by the Abbott and Turnbull Governments as well as the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, which has been to reduce systemic financial risk through new macro-prudential controls, has been wholly inadequate,” he says.

“I do not share the Federal Treasurer’s assessment that the economy and the housing market are headed for a soft landing. Data released by the RBA this week shows that the structural imbalances in the economy are actually becoming worse with household debt as a proportion of disposable income hitting a new record of 190.4 per cent.

“Because of the failure of Australia’s political elites and the policy establishment, the probability of a disorderly unwinding, particularly of Australia’s household and foreign debt bubbles, have dramatically increased over the past six months and will continue to increase as global economic and financial instability increases.

“Millions of ordinary, financially unprepared, Australians are now at the mercy of the international markets and foreign policy makers. Australian history contains several examples of where similar pre conditions have resulted in an economic apocalypse, resulting in a significant proportion of the Australian people being left economically destitute.”

Following his landmark seven signs of the economic apocalypse, which was read by a quarter of a million people, Adams has now identified seven signs that it is too late for Australia to take action. Here they are in his own words:

SIGN 1: TIGHTENING MONETARY POLICY

The US Federal Reserve has raised interest rates. Picture: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

The US Federal Reserve has raised interest rates. Picture: Andrew Caballero-ReynoldsSource:AFP

A cycle of global monetary tightening has begun. For example, the US Federal Reserve has raised short term interest rates in December 2016, March and June 2017 with more forecasted increases to come. The US Federal Reserve also announced a program, expected to commence within months, which would shrink its balance sheet (i.e. quantitative tightening) by selling its holdings of $US6 billion a month from Treasuries and $US4 billion a month from mortgage bonds, increasing each quarter until the Fed’s balance sheet is being reduced by a total of $US50 billion a month or $US600 billion per year.

Market expectations are now being set by officials at the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England for higher interest rates in both Canada and the UK in the near future.

Due to Australia’s record high foreign debt, increases in the international cost of credit are being passed onto Australian borrowers through the banking system, particularly on interest-only and investor loans.

SIGN 2: INVERTED AND FLATTENING YIELD CURVES

Chinese officials kick off trading on the long awaited Bond Connect link. Picture: Vincent Yu

Chinese officials kick off trading on the long awaited Bond Connect link. Picture: Vincent YuSource:AP

In May 2017, the Chinese Government bond market recorded its first ever inverted yield curve. Also, the US Government bond yield curve, over the past 6 months, has significantly flattened as some market analysts anticipate an inverted US yield curve in late 2017.

Inverted yield curves (or where long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the same credit quality) are known as a market predictor of a coming market crash or broader economic recession.

SIGN 3: SOVEREIGN AND CORPORATE DEFAULTS

Corporate defaults are emerging around the world. Picture: Bryan R. Smith

Corporate defaults are emerging around the world. Picture: Bryan R. SmithSource:AFP

Sovereign government and corporate defaults in both developed and developing economies are beginning to emerge. For example, China has registered in 2017 its highest level of corporate defaults in the first quarter of a calendar year on record. Delinquencies and charge-offs in the United States soared to $US1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2017, the highest recorded level since the first quarter of 2011.

Also, in May 2017, creditors to the International Bank of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan’s biggest bank) were forced to take a 20 per cent haircut (i.e. a partial default) which was upheld in June by a US Bankruptcy court in New York.

SIGN 4: FALLING CONFIDENCE AND CREDIT DOWNGRADES

In May 2017, six major Canadian banks were downgraded by Moody’s Investor Service (Moody’s) as concerns rise over soaring Canadian household debt and house prices leave lenders more vulnerable to losses. Moody’s also downgraded China’s sovereign debt in May 2017 for the first time since 1989 and has warned of further downgrades if further reforms are not enacted.

In May 2017, S&P has downgraded 23 small-to-medium Australian financial institutions as the risk of falling property prices increases and potential financial losses start to increase. In June 2017, Moody’s downgraded 12 Australian banks, including Australia’s four major banks.

Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded bonds for the US State of Illinois down to one notch above junk bond status as the state has over $US 14.5b in unpaid bills. Despite a new budget deal passing the Illinois state legislature which raises more revenue through higher taxes, Moody’s this week has placed the state government’s bonds under review for possible downgrade.

SIGN 5: EMERGING CHINESE CREDIT CRISIS

There could be big trouble in big China. Picture: Keith Tsuji

There could be big trouble in big China. Picture: Keith TsujiSource:Getty Images

Significant concerns among international observers are now being discussed publicly regarding the $US4 trillion Chinese Wealth Management Product (WMP) market as Chinese bank regulators are now taking significant interventionist steps to drain liquidity and reduce financial risk. As a result of recent interventionist steps, the one-year Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate hit a two year high at 4.30% in May 2017.

The Chinese WMP market has, in the past few years, experienced significant growth involving long term asset acquisition funded through the use of short term liabilities. Evidence is emerging that the long-term assets within WMPs are not performing consistent with expectations resulting in difficulties meeting short term debt obligations.

The WMP market represents approximately 10% of the Chinese banking system whereas the 2006 07 subprime mortgage backed securities crisis only represented 2% of the US banking system.

SIGN 6: SIGNIFICANT GROWTH IN VALUE OF CRYPTO CURRENCIES

Bitcoin is on the rise, which is not comforting news. Picture: Roslan Rahman

Bitcoin is on the rise, which is not comforting news. Picture: Roslan RahmanSource:AFP

In the past five months, the crypto currencies industry (especially the leading five internationally recognised cryptocurrencies) have experienced tremendous growth in market capitalisation indicating that investors are seeking to escape the formal banking and financial system as well as government mandated fiat currencies.

Read More @ ZeroHedge.com



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