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Monday, August 31, 2009

WHO IS HATOYAMA?

As earlier predicted, the Democratic Party of Japan overwhelmed the Liberal Democratic Party in elections yesterday. Yukio Hatoyama will soon be installed (the Japanese electoral process is such that the party, or strongest coalition, later meets to select the leader, and he forms the cabinet) as the next Prime Minister of Japan. Who is Dr. Hatoyama (yes, PhD in engineering from Stanford University)?

You might say he is a hybrid of Obama and the Kennedy Clan. Hatoyama represents change, but is the grandson of Prime Minister.(1952-54) Ichiro Hatoyama, son of a foreign minister and brother of a member of former PM Taro Aso’s cabinet. His other grandfather, Shojiro Ishibashi (ishi-stone, bashi-bridge) founded Bridgestone, maker of tires and golf balls. His wife is Miyuki Hashimoto, former stage actress, who is an author and popular cuisine critic. There was an admitted infidelity incident in 1996. He likes baseball and is a Russophile.

His long term goals and dreams include forming a closer partnership with China, at the expense of minimizing U.S. relations, and, perhaps an Asian Union with a common currency. He has already declared that he won’t be visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese war criminals are symbolically placed. He has a nickname, ET, because of his bulbous eyes.
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On August 26, he published an op ed piece in The New York Times, entitled “A New Path for Japan.” As the world economy recovers, Hatoyama will share some credit for improving conditions in Japan. If he can maintain a scandal free administration, he will be around for some time. A long term problem is a population which will reach a max just under 130 million this year, but could drop to as low as 90 million in 2050. But then, again, perhaps a way can be found to prosper with a smaller population, as the advent of Peak Oil and Global Warming will significantly affect lifestyles.


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After being down 100, the Dow Jones Industrials recovered to only drop 48 at 9496. World markets mostly fell, with the Shanghai Composite Index sinking almost 7%. Oil is hovering at $70/barrel, but I noted that oil futures contracts for 2016 are only at $89/barrel. Gold decreased $5/toz to $951.


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Hurricane Jimena is now at 155 MPH, on the verge of Category 5, but will weaken somewhat and crash into Baja late Tuesday or early Wednesday. This is a powerful storm.








Tropical Storm Krovanh, never made it to Japan and is now moving away and north.



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Saturday, August 29, 2009

ON FRACTIONAL HYDROGEN, HEAVY-ION FUSION AND THE FUTURE OF HAWAII

Yesterday, The Huffington Post published my article on “The Future of Sustainable Aviation.” Mark Goldes, co-founder of Chava Energy commented, and mentioned a concept called fractional hydrogen. I need to know more about what this is all about. (The comments to fractional hydrogen in this HuffPo article seem to discredit the possibility of this concept, but we'll give the proponents time to surprise the knowledgeable community.)


One of the comments to the above HuffPo was from what appeared to be a die-hard doomsdayer, who indicated that hydrogen will only use more energy than it produces. He kind of misses the point, but I did cite my discussion yesterday with Charles Helsley, who is president of a heavy-ion fusion company. Should Chuck prevail, there will be sufficient methanol for the direct methanol fuel cell and hydrogen for the National Aerospace Plane. While he said in less than a decade, I suspect that, if his effort succeeds, large scale commercialization will occur long after I move on to eternal gloom.


But Chuck, at least, is doing something about the looming crush of Peak Oil and Global Warming. Interested in what you and our decision-makers can do? Please go to my blog of July 21, where I express dismay at our inability to work together for the common good. For Hawaii, we must start now to minimize the looming depression that will overwhelm us when tourists stop coming to Hawaii because of $200/barrel oil.


But even if Chuck does produce cost-effective hydrogen in a quarter century, where is the plane that will use it? Well, just ask Rinaldo Brutoco and his Hawaii Hydrogen Clipper. There is always hope. Who knows, oil might drop to $50/barrel and stay there for another century. Sure! I predict, though, that Hawaii will be terrific place to live at the next turn of the century.

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Global Sea-Surface Temperature

Wow, there are now six storms in the East Pacific. One, Hurricane Jimena, just popped out south of Mexico and is expected to attain Category 4 status as early as Monday. She is headed, though, sufficiently north northwest such that Baha might feel the brunt. In the West Pacific Tropical Storm Krovanh, currently at 65 MPH, will become a typhoon on Sunday, and is confusing trackers, as one group has it bearing straight over Tokyo, and a second sees the fury heading towards northern Honshu, but turning north and east before actually making landfall. In the Atlantic, Tropical Depression Danny is only bringing rain and swells to the Eastern Seaboard, not unlike Bill. Yet another disturbance, a week behind in the Atlantic, is seeming to follow the trail of Danny and Bill.

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Still only 101 countries have visited this site: 4579-101-230

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Friday, August 28, 2009

ETERNAL LIFE (Part 30)

The following continues the serialization of Chapter 2 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:






The telomere is a protein (ribonucleoprotein) complex found at the edges of a chromosome, and a little bit is lost, or shortened, every time the cell divides. Depending on age and site, a cell then dies after between 20 to 100 divisions. (Those yellow spots are the telomeres.)










The concept was envisioned by Cornell cytogeneticist, Barbara McClintock, although she was a faculty member of the University of Missouri at Columbia when she published her paper in 1939 on the subject. She primarily worked on maize, and went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1983 at the age of 81.

Telomerase is an enzyme found in the telomere region, and was discovered by Carol Greider in 1984, working, it is said, on Christmas Day. Telomeres can be lengthened by the activation of telomerase, and could be the key to immortality. However, while aging is thus slowed, there is an increase in vulnerability to cancer. Geron Corporation granted a license to TA Sciences Center to market a telomerase activator agent extracted from the Chinese Astragalus plant. Human trials for extending lifespan are expected within the decade.

The bottom line is that research for curing cancer or heart failure is a necessary step towards finding the secret for immortality. Get to know your telomeres and telomerases.
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The Dow Jones Industrials slipped 36 to 9544, with world markets almost all up. This summer rally has most surprised. Why? It seems almost predictable that there will be a black day or week, and hopefully not a month, or longer, in October. Some say hold on to your bucks to jump in sometime this Fall. Gold increased $6/toz to $956 and crude is now at $73/barrel.
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Well, Tropical Storm Danny, slightly weakened to 40 MPH, seems headed in the direction of North Carolina for at least minor impact on Saturday and then Canada on Sunday, but, interestingly enough, a tropical storm warning has not yet been issue. There is another disturbance in the mid-Atlantic heading in a slightly more southern route than Danny.



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In the West Pacific, Tropical Storm Krovanh at 55 MPH popped up about a thousand miles southeast of Tokyo, and seems headed straight for that city. A Monday landfall is anticipated.


Nothing is currently threatening Hawaii.


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

YUKIO HATOYAMA WILL BECOME THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN


On April 4, my blog reported on the upcoming Japanese elections. I made some predictions on the basis of Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), running against someone from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). I suggested that Prime Minister Taro Aso should not be that person. Well, five months later, the situation has significantly shifted, for Ozawa did resign, and the people of Japan are ready to kick out the LDP after 54 years of almost continuous rule.

The individual who should become the next Japanese Prime Minister on Sunday is Yukio Hatoyama (pictured above), who obtained a PhD in engineering from Stanford University. In 1981, he became an assistant professor at Senshu University, a private college in Chiyoda, Tokyo. Senshu has no engineering program, so I wonder what he taught? He ran for the House of Representatives from Hokkaido in 1986 and won.


Hatoyama is 62, and the grandson of a former Prime Minister, Ichiro Hatoyama. Yukio Hatoyama, of course, was part of the LDP, but in 1993 he broke ranks with his family and joined the Japan New Party. That lasted only about a year, so he wandered about in new organizations for a while and was involved in the formation of the DPJ, a consolidation of various new parties, in 1998. There was then another merger with Ichiro Ozawa’s Liberal Party in 2003. Ozawa became their leader in 2006, and was replaced by Hatoyama in May.


The DPJ is more liberal, more social and is for change and transparency. Sort of sounds like Obama’s campaign. So we shall see how the DPJ improves the Japanese economy and finds ways to reverse the aging of the country.

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The Dow Jones Industrials showed an increase for the eighth straight day, up 37 to 9580, but world markets were almost all down. Gold rose $5/toz to $950 and oil is at $72.59/barrel.

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There are four storms in the East Pacific. Hilda went south, Ignacio is going north and who knows what those other two disturbances will do. Tropical Storm Danny is not fully organized, but is at 45 MPH, and could increase to 55 MPH over the next day or two. Models show the potential of landfall on the Eastern Seaboard Saturday night:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ETERNAL LIFE (Part 29)

Well, after 28 postings, we finally get to ETERNAL LIFE, the subject of Chapter 2 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.




Background

All living things today are essentially already immortal. We should be able to, someday, trace ourselves back through 50 billion DNA copyings over 4 billion years to determine our Luca. Our DNA has, thus, had everlasting life. Of course, we live through our children and their children. Then, too, the products of our life, such as books and statues, live for a very long time. However, Woody Allen has expressed a sense that he was not satisfied living forever through his works, for he wanted to live forever by not dying. Conscious eternal life, if not rejuvenation and reversal, then, is an ultimate goal on the level of world peace and universal happiness. Sounds a bit like Heaven.

It has been speculated that someday, through human cloning and the transfer of your memory to this new body, eternal life can be attained. Computer technology now exceeds 100 trillion calculations per second, and will be 100 times greater in a decade, at which size the brain can be simulated. Such a computer should only cost about $1000 in 2020. Then there are algorithms and biological interfacing challenges. This should all be possible in 25 years. However the focus in the following discussion will be on biological immortality.

The search, thus, is for the aging gene. Science is on to finding it and stopping the tick of this biological clock. The human genome table offers this opportunity. As chemists once tinkered with the periodic table of elements (there are 115 elements, although one atom of 118, Ununoctium, guessed to be a colorless gas, was first found in 2002, leaving 113, 115 and 117 still undiscovered) bioscientists are today just beginning the quest with many thousand times more “elements.”

There is a difference between life expectancy and life span, with the former the number of years something is expected to live, and the latter referring to the maximum age possible. Some animals, such as alligators and female flounders, apparently, have no limit. The Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish can transform itself back into a child. There are definite clues here on what scientists might explore.

Our early humans had a life expectancy of 18, although averages as high as 33 have been reported for limited periods tens of thousands of years ago, which actually dropped back down to 18 during the Bronze Age (3500-1200 BC) with more crowded conditions causing infections and lack of proper nutrition. During classical Greek and Roman periods, the lifespan was 28, which improved back up to 33 in Medieval England. The average today is 67, with females at 69.5 and males at 65. Andorra, in the Pyrenees Mountains has the highest at 83.5, with Japan #2 at 82.6. The U.S. is #39 at 78.2.

The oldest human ever was Jeanne Calment of France, who quit smoking at the age of 117 and passed away in 1997 at the age of 122. As of this writing, the oldest man is Walter Breuning of Montana, 112, taking over from Henry Allingham of the UK.
Walter (on left) was too old to serve in World War II. The oldest woman appears to be Gertrude Baines of California at 115, although an unprovable 120 has been reported from Israel for Mariam Amash. Since 1955 there have been 54 oldest humans, so, on average, there is a new oldest person about every years.

In 1964, Donald Currey, a graduate student from the University of North Carolina, received permission from the U.S. Forest Service to cut down Prometheus, a bristlecone pine growing at altitude on Wheeler Peak, and by counting rings, determined that it was 4862 years old. Currey died in 2004 at the age of 70. What a tragedy, the death of Prometheus! Can we learn from trees? Well, Michael Cohen wrote the "rest of the story," providing some interesting background as to what really happened.

The life span for the Galapagos tortoise is 193, Bowhead Whale 211 (harpoon of 1790 attached to body), giant aldabra tortoise 250 years, and Icelandic Cyprine mollusk.

However, in 2007, it was reported that Ming, an ocean quahog clam, was at least 405 years old, making this the oldest animal who ever lived Incidentally, guess what, to determine the age of Ming, British scientist had to count the rings of its shell. By doing so, they also killed the clam. We did it again.

Medical researchers studying animals have determined that a 50% caloric intake can increase mean life span by 65% and anti-oxidants MLS up to 30%. There definitely are clues here.
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The stock market remained steady, up 4 to 9544, with world markets mostly declining. Crude oil is still slipping, but remains in the 70's, while gold is unchanged at $946/toz.
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That Atlantic disturbance was upgraded to Tropical Storm Danny, now at 45 MPH. It has a path similar to Bill, but closer to the Eastern Seaboard. A few models predict landfall in the U.S.





Tropical Storm Hilda should pass well south of Hawaii.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

THE SWINE FLU FEAR


Every month or so I bring you up to date on the swine flu. My previous posting was on July 27.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted an explosion of swine flu cases. Then, this week, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) reported that half the U.S. population might catch the swine flu in the Fall and Winter, killing as many as 90,000.

Should we be concerned. Sure, of course. But how serious is the situation? World-wide a month ago, there were 15,000 new cases/day. Today, the average appears to be 23,000/day. Remember, though, there are 1,000,000 flu cases per day. Thus, swine flu has increased from 1.5% to 2.3%. Deaths per day have increased from 9/day to 15/day. However, keep in mind that 1000 die from flu complications every day, or 250,000 to 500,00 every year.

For some reason, both WHO and PCAST appear to be using fear as their educational methodology. Yes, we need to be careful and it would be wise to have a supply of an effective vaccine available. I still think, though, that this just another example of overreaction by government. Sure, spend that billion dollar sum to accelerate having a goodly supply on hand as soon as possible. After all, we did lay out a trillion to Wall Street.

I would not, though, change your lifestyle or stop all traveling to preserve your life. Keep enjoying your life, and why not come to Hawaii, for our economy needs you.

While I'm on this subject, let me inform you on what will happen to the Obama health plan:

1. It will pass and essentially everyone will largely be covered in a year or two or three.

2. The government will become the health insurer for most by the end of Obama's second term.

3. The rich will not be much affected, for they will just pay more to cut in line or otherwise gain better care through supplemental plans provided by the private sector.

4. With all the above will come some control over skyrocketing costs and universal coverage. Amen.
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The Dow Jones Industrials increased 30 to 9539, and world markets were also mostly plus. Gold is up $2/toz at $946 and oil is easing down, but still at $72/barrel.
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I might insert here Pearl's final fireball, which bloomed today.
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There are three storms in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. None is threatening any major population site. Just hope that Tropical Storm Hilda, now at 45 MPH, does not suddenly turn north, as Iniki did. Tropical Storm Ignacio in the Pacific, is at 50 MPH, but should weaken over the next few days.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT NATURAL GAS

There is an article in the Honolulu Advertiser today indicating that the local gas company was turning to renewable sources. We don't use natural gas (NG) in Hawaii, we use synthetic natural gas (SNG). What’s happening to the price of natural gas? Last week, with crude at $72/barrel, NG dropped below $3/million Btu, or a ratio of 24. This is a seven year low for NG. (Hawaii residents pay about $4/MMBtu for SNG.) The historical average is about 8.4. A further drop to $2.25/MMBtu has been predicted by some.


Apparently, the recession hit NG users more than other fossil consumers, and inventories are at peak, with the further expectation that the coming winter will be mild. Interestingly enough, though, the stock value of NG companies remains relatively high


Thus, it seems to me that one should purchase some NG index, like UNG. Looking at its chart, a little more than a year ago, UNG was at 64. Today, it closed at 11.69.

Powerplants that use NG produce half the carbon dioxide of coal. If the carbon tax is ever adopted, then NG should benefit. All things concerned, then, even if the price of NG further decreases, in a year or two, UNG should begin to climb, perhaps even back up past 50. So I bought.


On Saturday, I reported on three stocks I purchased only because they looked like they might go bankrupt, had not yet, but showed intriguing potential. During this 10 week period, Freddie Mac went up 240%, Fannie Mae 174% and Sirius XM Radio 201%. I’m as shocked as anyone else, but, amazingly enough, today, Freddie jumped 18%, Fannie 42% and Sirius 4%. What is happening? Any comments out there?


The Dow Jones Industrials edged up 3 to 9509, and world markets mostly increased. Oil is at $74/barrel and gold dropped $13/toz to $941.

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Global Sea-Surface Temperature
Well, in the Atlantic, Bill can be dismissed, although there is a disturbance in mid ocean that is expected to follow almost the exact path of Bill. There are four storms heading for Hawaii, possibly. Hilda is now a Tropical Storm, but could well become a hurricane over the next 24 hours...but should pass sufficiently south of the Big Island. A new one, Invest 94, is already south and west of Hawaii, but various models show it going in various directions, including northeast to Hawaii. The advantage we have is that the waters around Hawaii remain "relatively" cool.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

THE BOCKRIS-TAKAHASHI PLAN TO SAVE PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY

Over the past few years, John Bockris and I have exchanged, easily, a hundred e-mails on the matter of hydrogen, methanol, wind power and related topics. John is credited with coining the term, the Hydrogen Economy. We first met in 1974 when Nejat Veziroglu convened his hydrogen romantics. We sometimes don't agree with each other, but we absolutely do feel that methanol is the prime solution to Peak Oil, Global Warming and our economy. John jumped into cold fusion. I have always felt there is something to this concept. John attempted to convert base metals into gold. I think he actually did this, but, perhaps, not with commercial prospects. I proposed making hydrogen free, and that was mostly ridiculed. I have, thus, suggested to John the Bockris-Takahashi Plan to Save Planet Earth and Humanity.



From: jbockris@cox.net
To: patkentak@hotmail.com
Subject: letter
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2009 09:21:18 -0400

Dear Pat:

Thank you for you note of August the 17th.


I think we talked before about the methanol economy. I’ve become very keen on it recently, and we’re going to make quite a show of it.


It’s really “liquid hydrogen” isn’t it?


The key point is to collect the CO2 from the atmosphere, combine it with the hydrogen from water and burn the methanol, giving rise to CO2, i.e, the CO2 is replaced.


There will be several advances of course, as you know, as you were one of the suggestor’s of it, except you left out the vital point of getting the CO2from the atmosphere.


Now, I think that with Olah’s support, this really might fly.


It’s so very simple. Hardly any change in infrastructure, just collect electricity from wind, solar, etc., make hydrogen, and the rest follows, very cheaply too.


A methanol fuel cell has quite a life you know, as is, without further research. Laptop computers, etc.

Sincerely,

John Bockris

Lecturer, Imperial College, London University (1945-1953)

Professor, University of Pennsylvania (1953-1972);

Distinguished Professor, Texas A&M University (1978-1997)



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Dear John:

I fervently wish that your total carbon dioxide to methanol to carbon dioxide...can prevail. Do everything you can, with George Olah, to attain this ideal system. There is the matter of funding, but I later have a solution for that.

For the sake of reality, though, let me point out one possible fatal flaw: it will cost too much to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make methanol. Someday, perhaps, but for the next several decades, I would offer that methanol from the gasification and catalysis of biomass provides the sensible pathway.

Then there is that second requirement: a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) for vehicles. Yes, Toshiba should by next year market a DMFC for portable electronics. However, nothing much has been done about larger applications. This will take about a decade, IF MAJOR FUNDS ARE ALLOWED FOR R&D...and at this point, the Department of Energy is still ambivalent, if not actually still antagonistic, regarding methanol. There is that lingering fear from the Farm Lobby that remains.

All this is both silly and tragic, for what better than the heartland of America (our farmers) joining forces with motor city Detroit, to gain the patents for the DMFC and produce the fuel (methanol) to power our transport sector? My HuffPo written in March underscores this opportunity. In the meantime, though, I haven't seen any particular movement to build this bridge to our future.

Thus, I would like to propose the Bockris-Takahashi Plan to combat both Global Warming and Peak Oil, while rescuing our economy: a billion dollar/year R&D program to develop the technology and systems to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce methanol, linked to a billion dollar/year farm-GM-Ford partnership to produce biomethanol and take control of the direct methanol fuel cell. If we can spend more than one thousand billion dollars (a trillion) to save our financial sector, surely, this relatively picayune amount to solidify the foundation for long-term economic success, plus saving Planet Earth and Humanity, can be well justified.

Aloha.

Pat

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Okay, we have a plan. Now what?

Anyone out there interested in this effort, please let us know who you are and join our partnership! Consider this as Day One to develop the Simple Solutions for Planet Earth and Humanity.
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Global Sea-Surface Temperature
In the North Atlantic, Hurricane Bill will soon diminish because of the cold waters, and appears to be avoiding making landfall, only causing major swells. In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Hilda, now at 40 MPH, will strengthen over the next four or five days, but remain well south of Hawaii.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

ON THE PURCHASE OF COMPANIES ON THE VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY


On May 22 I purchased some GM stocks at 1.38 as a hedge against it not going bankrupt, thus hurting the value of my Ford shares. Well, GM did announce bankruptcy a week later, and the value dropped, but not that much. GM became GMGMQ, and actually surged up to 1.66 on June 10, so I sold, and made 20% in little less than three weeks.


So I looked for three more endangered species, and that day found:


Freddie Mac FRE 0.72

Fannie Mae FNE 0.69

Sirius XM Radio SIRI 0.35


...........Yearly Low Yearly High Current Price Percent Change

FRE ..........0.25 ..........5.52 ............1.73 ...............240

............(09/16/08) ...(09/03/08) ...(08/21/09)


FNE ..........0.30 ..........7.95 ............1.2 ................174

.............(11/21/08) ...(08/28/08) ...(08/21/09)


SIRI ..........0.05 ..........1.41 ............0.702 ............201

............(02/11/09) ...(08/22/08) ...(08/21/09)


The Federal government owns 78% of Fannie Mae (U.S. Federal National Mortgage Association) and 80% of Freddie Mac (U.S. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp). They both surged in price recently because they actually showed a profit this past quarter, and, additionally, their lifelong Republican leader, James Lockhart, a Bush appointee (they were high school and college classmates) resigned on August 7. President Obama has yet to name a permanent overseer of the FMs. As much of the economic collapse can be blamed on housing, chances are that Mac and Mae will expand their importance over the next few years. Their upside potential should be good, although I’ve already doubled my investment in ten weeks.


Sirius XM Radio is a whole another story. Sirius and XM Radio officially merged a little more than a year ago (July 29). However, there was an announcement of possible bankruptcy on February 10 and the stock dropped to 0.05 the next day. Liberty Mutual (49% owner of Direct TV), however, took over about half the stock, stabilizing the company. More recently, the stock has jumped up because there is a rumor that the XM SkyDock will soon be made available for your iPod or iPhone, that will convert your device into a Satellite SM radio receiver. There are 170 stations, including Howard Stern, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. My problem with this company is that it will cost you $19/month (or $13 through the internet) to subscribe (they have close to 20 million), when there are free radio signals and a bunch of free internet radio stations. I kind of liked this service, though, which was offered at the Four Seasons Hualalai. What about the future of Sirius? I don’t know.

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Global Sea-Surface Temperature

There are now three storms in the East Pacific, which just got formed, and Hilda is at 40 MPH, less than a week from Hawaii, if she moved northwest. However, all models have her going south. Typhoon Vamco is about a thousand miles from Wake Island, but should begin to weaken.

Hurricane Bill, now at 85 MPH, continues to move north and should not impact the U.S., save for the surf. He should weaken quite a bit before affecting Newfoundland.

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Well, I have reached triple digits, as 101 countries have now visited this site. Ninety three countries to go: 4349-101-184

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Friday, August 21, 2009

HAWAII AT 50


Just another day in paradise. My view as I'm posting this blog:

The State of Hawaii was admitted to the Union on August 21, 1959, 50 years ago as the 50th state. I don’t remember much of this day because I was working at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory in California after my freshman year at Stanford. I recall, though, being vaguely excited.


The island of Hawaii is the tallest mountain in the world, rising from the sea bottom to a height of 33,500 feet. Mt. Everest is only 29,029 feet tall. Mt. Waialeale on Kauai regularly is the wettest spot with about 500 inches of rain.


The Hawaiian Archipelago consists of over 130 islands, stretching a length of 1,600 miles from the Kure Atoll in the north to the Island of Hawaii in the south, with Loihi soon (10,000 to 100,000 years) to pop up just off the southeast coast of the Big Island. Including both land and exclusive economic zone (200 nautical mile region), Hawaii is twice the size of Texas. Clearly, the economic future of Hawaii will depend on the ocean around us, but President George Bush in 2006 proclaimed the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the 139,797 ocean space north of Niihau, larger than all the national parks combined.


While 96°F has been recorded at the Honolulu Airport, the average daytime temperature in July is 82 °F and 72° in January. It does snow on Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.


The earliest speculated arrival of Polynesian settlers, probably from the Marquesas, then Tahiti, occurred approximately 300 years before Christ. The sugar industry imported workers beginning with China in the mid 1800s, then Japan, Portugal and the Philippines, resulting in a diverse blend of races. There is today, with a population of slightly more than 1.3 million, no racial majority, as the breakdown is very roughly 1/3 White, slightly more than 1/3 Asian and slightly less than 1/3 other (Polynesian, Black, etc.).


Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth. We are 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; and 4,900 miles from China. Interestingly enough, Oahu (Waikiki, Honolulu, etc.) with 1,650 people per square mile, has a higher population density than New Jersey, the most densely populated state at 1,134 people/sq. mi. But the State of Hawaii average is only 189 people/sq. mi. We live longer than any state, with a life expectancy of 80.


We have the supreme collection of telescopes on Mauna Kea, the most active volcano in Kilauea, largest dormant volcano in Haleakala and the biggest contiguous ranch with Parker Ranch. Our land use laws have been progressive, our unemployment rates are historically well below the national average, we have about the closest thing to a universal health program and have the only unified K-12 education system. We pay the highest state tax/capita (about $3,000/person) to support for much of this and more. Read my chapter 6 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity for more.


Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee and pineapples. At one time, we supplied most of the latter, but not so today. Our sugar industry has also severely declined, but biofuels could delay early extinction. The largest source of revenue exports of a single commodity today, it is reported, could well be freshwater desalinated from the deep ocean at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.


Held today as a celebration of half a century of statehood was a “New Horizons” conference at the Hawaii Convention Center. This was the only salient event commemorating our birthday. As might, sadly, and pathetically, be expected, 200 “Hawaiians” protested. I'll only report on the final concert with the Coasters, Platters and Drifters. They were fine, except I wonder why Tom Moffatt, who MC'd the event, did not instead involve Robin Luke (Suzie Darlin') and the Kingston Trio (Punahou, Stanford...and at their prime in 1959)? Sitting next to me was Andre the Giant Solar and his significant other. He really enjoyed the performance.

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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 156 to 9506. European markets were all up, while those in Asia were down. Crude oil reached a 10 month high, now near $74/barrel, while gold increased $14/toz to $954.

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Global Sea-Surface Temperature

Typhoon Vamco, at 125 MPH, continues to move north, but will then take a northeast course to nowhere and weaken. Also in the Pacific, there is a disturbance that could strengthen and head towards Hawaii, but the consensus at this time time is a more southernly pathway. Hurricane Bill, now down to 105 MPH, will strengthen over the next few hours, but should mostly only provide big waves to the the east coast. There is predicted, though, landfall as a Category 1 into Canada.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

ETERNAL LIFE (Part 28)


The following continues the serialization of Chapter 2 from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:


CLONING


Clone comes from the Greek word for twin, and for this section, cloning will refer to the manipulation of a DNA sequence within the cell to obtain multiple copies. While the technique is complicated, this allows for replication into an exact copy. Grafting of a grape plant also can be considered to be form of cloning.


There is a kind of natural cloning beyond single cell division called asexual reproduction or parthenogenesis. This is relatively common in a few species of reptiles, fish and birds. Apparently, it is possible for the female hammerhead shark or Komodo dragon to conceive without the help of any male, the offspring turning out to have a genotype exactly of their mother, but not identical.


Hans Spemann, a German embryologist, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1935, wrote of his 1928 salamander nuclear transplant experiment in his 1938 book entitled, Embryonic Development and Induction. However, he never himself ever attained a successful clone. The first reported actual human induced cloning, was that of northern leopard frogs in 1952 by two American scientists, Robert Briggs and Thomas King. Tong Dizhou, a Chinese embryologist, in 1963 produced a clone of a carp. The Briggs-King technique was used to create, 6LL3, or Dolly—after Dolly Parton, because the cloning was of a mammary cell from a Finn Dorset lamb—the sheep, in 1996. Dolly apparently died from accelerated aging, caused by shortening of telomeres (located at the tips of a chromosome, which could well be the vital clue to eternal life).


There is, however, considerable controversy as to who should get credit. English embryologist Ian Wilmut was the supervisor, but English biologist Keith Campbell did most of the lab work. In 1997 came Cumulina by Ryuzo Yanagimachi at the University of Hawaii, and Campbell, in 1998, cloned Polly, another sheep, from genetically altered skin cells containing a human gene. Since then, clones of a rhesus monkey, cattle, cat (Little Nicky, 2004), mule, horse and dog have been created.


There was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, but that was just a fabrication from assorted human parts, and Jurassic Park, the novel by Michael Crichton and film by Stephen Spielberg, which featured clones of dinosaurs. Can this actually be accomplished? Apparently yes, as a team from Japan and Russia is trying to extract the DNA from a frozen woolly mammoth to bring this beast, at least the clone, back to life. The San Diego Zoo stores frozen tissues from the most endangered of species, awaiting the day.


Human cloning is the generation of a genetically identical version of a person. Identical twins are clones. The controversy has to do with cloning yourself. Animal stem cells are one thing, while embryonic stem cells are another. This distinction is amplified when it comes to animal cloning and human cloning. Cloning will develop into one option for eternal life.


How can a human be cloned? Basically, copying the Briggs-King technique: take an egg cell from a donor with the nucleus removed, then fuse on your cell with the proper genetic material.


Has there been any success? In 2002, Clonaid claimed victory with Baby Eva, and in 2004 returned with announcement of 13 additional clones. However, this organization is the medical arm of a religion called Raelism, which believes that aliens introduced human life (see Chapter 4). Absent any genetic confirmation, dubiosity runs rampant. In a nutshell, the field has been riddled with hoaxes and scientific frauds, including the incident out of South Korea, later described.


Notwithstanding, human cloning is now just about a given. In 2008, Stemagon, a company in La Jolla, California, announced it had cloned Samuel Wood, their chief executive. Wood, himself, indicated their firm had no interest in cloning humans as such (although, this is a wise thing to say today, not necessarily indicating ultimate intention). Their primary purpose was to grow the clone of a patient from which stem cells can be harvested to grow replacement tissues and organs.


The following polls show public feelings (all of these are virtual as of August 2007, except as indicated):


o From Explore More poll on genetic engineering:


Do you think cloning should be legal?


Yes 55%

No 45%


What are your feelings about human cloning?

Doubtful 15%

Fearful 41%

Hopeful 44%


From About.com on Agnosticism/Atheism:


Should research into human cloning be permitted or banned?


Permitted 49%

Banned 44%


Should actual cloning of human beings be permitted or banned?


Permitted 34%

Banned 59%


From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (May 2006):

Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to try to create children for infertile couples:

Yes 9.7%

No 83.4%


Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?

Yes 11.4%

No 81.2%


It’s pretty clear that Americans have a negative opinion of human cloning, especially if a religious organization runs the survey. Most of the earlier traditional polls, actually, showed a negativity factor in the 80-90% range for actual human cloning.


In a poll of undergraduate students in Indonesia, Kenya, Sweden and the U.S., 10% were positive to human reproductive cloning, while 74% were negative. Muslims were the most negative and Hindus least. Non-religious respondents showed about the same overall average. It’s all in how you ask the question, but, even in Europe, disapproval of cloning prevails. Strangely enough, this same poll hinted that the views from both Mexico and Turkey had only a 50% disapproval figure.


The UN General Assembly in August of 2005 did adopt a declaration prohibiting all forms of human cloning. The vote was 87 in support, 34 in opposition and 70 abstaining or absent. But the edict was non-binding. The European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine prohibits human cloning, but has not been ratified by most countries. There is, further, a Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which bans reproductive human cloning, but it has no legal standing. Cloning is largely unregulated in the U.K., but a therapeutic cloning license was issued in 2004 to the University of Newcastle. Human cloning, actually, is legal in the U.S., but there are Federal prohibitions against research.


Some countries have observed the American reluctance to support human cloning research and have taken definite steps. South Korea made a quick entry, but fell by the wayside in the scandal involving Professor Hwang Woo-Suk of Seoul National University (SNU), who announced in 2004 that his team had cloned human embryos and would someday be able to grow genetically matched tissues to repair anything in your body that broke down. His monumental breakthrough was published in Science, the most prestigious of scientific journals. It turned out to be a hoax. He did not produce even one stem cell line, while endangering the lives of junior female researchers who were unethically coaxed to donate their eggs for this research.


But Korea plugs along, as in 2006, a collaborator of Professor Wang, Lee Byeong-chun, also of SNU, succeeded in cloning the first female dog, Snuppy, an Afghan hound, using 2000 eggs to make 1000 embryos to produce one dog. Snuppy’s surrogate mother was a yellow Labrador. Professor Lee, though, remains in jeopardy because of the earlier scandal.


Singapore, a former British colony of 4.5 million people, has also entered the competition. For all intents and purposes, while a democracy, it is about as close to a benevolent dictatorship as there exists today. The government decides what is best and gets the job done. Education is one area, which is reported in the next chapter. Biotechnology is also a priority area. They have created Biopolis, a $300 million, 2 million square foot research center focused on biomedical development. They have recruited world class scientists who are fed up with national politics in their own country. Singapore is trying to establish a world sanctuary for stem cell research. While first inaugurated in 2003, Biopolis is already home to scientists from 50 nations.


A prime attraction is that Singapore allows stem cells to be drawn from embryos up to 14 days old. I keep reading that human cloning will be banned with a fine of $60,000 and five years of jail time, but I haven’t yet seen the actual law. Perhaps the benevolent dictatorship group is mulling over the humanitarian prospects of someday becoming the site of choice for therapeutic cloning, as depicted in a former CBS television drama, Century City.


What about China? University of Connecticut animal cloning director Jerry Yang Xiangzhong told The Standard, China’s business newspaper, that China can jump ahead of the U.S. in three years if their scientists were given the green light to proceed. His contention is that in much of the developed world scientific progress in this field is hindered by political and religious debates. There is also the moral problem with something called human dignity. Apparently, these difficulties would not be experienced in China.


So where is the USA on human cloning? Harvard initiated efforts to clone human embryos in 2006. They are funding this work with private donors without any government assistance. Mind you, they are not cloning humans, they would like to harvest stem cells to fight leukemia and diabetes. On the West Coast, the University of California at San Francisco announced a similar pursuit. There are also companies, such as Advanced Cell Technology of Massachusetts, pursuing human embryonic stem cell cloning. The ethical issues, however, will determine how quickly this effort develops. Well, now on to the next logical step beyond human cloning: eternal life.

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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 71 to 9350, with world markets also up, save for the Pacific. Crude remains comfortably in the 70's and gold dropped $5/toz to $940.

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Global Sea-Surface Temperature
We are now down to two: Typhoon Vamco at 120MPH heading north to nowhere and Hurricane Bill at 125 MPH, which should safely avoid the Eastern Seaboard. The crucial day is Saturday, when Bill is expected to turn north.

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