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Saturday, July 31, 2010

THE COST OF THE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WARS TO HAWAII HAS THUS FAR BEEN $3.3 BILLION

My chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity reports on wars.  Today, the final day of the month, I noticed that in July America will suffer our worst loss of lives we have ever experienced in Afghanistan.

There is a web page called National Priorities.  Remember, yesterday, Nicholas Kristof criticized President Barack Obama for having misplaced priorities, spending more on the military, at inflation adjusted rates, compared to the worst years of the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars?  And, of course, I have been first beseeching our President since my first Huffington Post article, and a more recent one on The 10% Simple Solution for Peace, to shift his spending from war to clean energy, the environment, education and the like as we have no life or death enemies anymore. Then he goes out and caves in to the military-industrial complex.

Anyway, returning to National Priorities, this is really a cost of war portal showing that we recently exceeded a trillion dollars on Iraq and Afghanistan.  Mind you, Joseph Stiglitz already has published a book entitled The Three Trillion Dollar War, referring only to the Iraq conflict.  But what particularly stunned me about this somewhat conservative $1 trillion figure was that Hawaii's share of this cost stands at $3.3 billion, or $2,750/person.  For that sum we could already have in development the deep sea cable to feed 400 MW of wind power electricity to Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Maui, plus a 100 MW OTEC plant tossed in to provide baseload electricity and freshwater to Honolulu.  Perhaps of greater significance to diversify our economy, this could have been the beginning of the Blue Revolution, as the plantship would also host an array of at-sea enterprises linked to marine biomass plantations, next generation fisheries...perhaps a Disney at Sea resort...green materials production...I can go on and on.

By the way, Thursday night, August 5 at 6:30PM, I will be presenting a talk on The Blue Revolution in the theater of the Hanauma Bay Education Center as part of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant lectures.  I encourage you to come and learn more about this pathway to Hawaii's future.

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That Atlantic storm dissipated, but there are now two in the Pacific.  In addition to the one further east, a new one appeared today closer to Hawaii.  These disturbances come and go and I wouldn't get too excited at this point, but it is there today.



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Friday, July 30, 2010

THE STATE OF PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY ON 30JULY2010

1.  Global warming is real.  Yes, those hot temperatures on the East Coast were uncomfortable and yesterday Finland (the 14th country this year) recorded its highest temperature ever, 99 F, but I'm referring to official government pronouncements and academic studies:



  c.  The 29July2010 issue of Nature reports that the phytoplankton in our oceans have declined 40% since 1950.  Scientists blame global warming.  Frankly, I find this difficult to comprehend, for if the surface gets warmer, common sense would tell me that the temperature differential with the ocean depths should increase, and those higher nutrient fluids should come to the surface to enrich the photic zone.  However, apparently, these warming temperatures strengthen the layering effect to suppress deep ocean movement.  Anyway, phytoplankton represents the first stage of the marine cycle, so if they are disappearing, then there will be fewer and fewer fish.

Interesting, though, that the hottest temperatures occurred nearly a century ago (Libya 136 F and Death Valley USA 134 F).  Today? Both Death Valley and Baghdad went up to 119 F.

2.  New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in his typically astute manner, blames the U.S. Senate for preventing passage of the House-passed climate change bill, and specifically points out that the discussion should focus on how passage should be a future jobs issue.  While I agree with him, I still don't think anything useful will become law until temperatures approaching that of Libya become common and hundreds of millions die, somewhat detailed in my 10% Simple Solution for Peace.  As global warming is a slow process, this will not happen for centuries, and by then, it will be too late to legislate anything.  We seem doomed.


3.  Richard Borecca of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser remarks that the Akaka bill must be approved in August to become law.  If this fails (AND JUST ONE REPUBLICAN HOLD IN THE SENATE CAN PREVENT THE VOTE), it might never ever pass.





4.  Nicholas Kristof, also of the New York Times, indicates that President Barack Obama seems to have his priorities misplaced, for he is requesting 6.1% more in military spending than during the George W. Bush peak.  We are now committing more to the military, after adjusting for inflation, than were ever expended during the Cold War, Vietnam War and Korea War eras.  Our Navy is larger than the next 13 countries combined.  While we were once top rated, the U.S. fell to #13 in % of young people with college degrees.  Further on education, Kristof cites that the cost of just one American soldier in Afghanistan in a year could start 20 new schools there.  For the cost of one cruise missile, you can build 11 schools.  My 10% Simple Solution for Peace is actually beginning to make sense.

Pearl's Yellow Tree bloomed close to my office today.  There are at least a dozen such trees and this is the only one with flowers.  I gather global warming or something like that caused this second flowering this year.  At home on the roof, there are six sunbursts in various stage of blooming.

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The Dow Jones Industrials fell all of 1 point to 10,466, while world markets mostly decreased, Japan the most at -159 to 9,537.  Gold jumped $14/toz to $1181 and crude oil is just at $79/barrel.  Save for BP, which lost $17 billionoil company quarterly profits are surging.  Actually, these profits just about balance what BP lost.

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Disturbances popped up in the Atlantic off Africa moving in the direction of the Caribbean and south of Central America, heading for Hawaii.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE VAUNTED SWINE FLU?

I've posted a bunch of swine flu articles in this daily blog and The Huffington Post, and here are three of them:

  1.  Benefits of the Swine Flu Scare (27April2009)

You would guess that I was making fun of the swine flu and be half right.  I certainly would not want to get it and I was amused that all forms of government, from the State of Hawaii to the United Nations, way overreacted.  But okay, it was a decent educational exercise.

Why was I so cavalier about this feared epidemic?  A quote from #3 above:

2. The numbers are embarrassingly obvious. Since the so-called epidemic was announced only a little more than a month ago, we have had about 500 cases and 3 deaths a day. I wouldn't want to be one of those statistics, but consider that a million people daily contract some form of flu and at least a thousand die, every day, usually from complications (heart, pneumonia, etc.). This terrifying swine flu is thus hardly detectable noise. I might further add that traffic fatalities number 3000/day, but we drive on.

To continue:

Why, then, has the world, epitomized by the World Health Organization (which can best be appreciated if you know the internal workings of the United Nations), gone bonkers over the swine flu? I would like to speculate on the reason. I think it has to do with our political way of life influenced by the world wide web (WWW), as sensitized by the terroristic act of September 11, 2001. Add the palpable need to cover your rear.

To quote from #1:

Thus, my prediction is that government will look good by being so proactive to stop this disease in its tracks. But, then, this would have probably occurred anyway if no one did anything. By responsibly announcing this potential pandemic, Mexico will financially suffer, severely. No wonder China was so "irresponsible" about the avian flu, maybe hoping that it would just go away...which is exactly what happened.

So fifteen months after the first case, flucount.org (which is updated every 4 minutes) reports:

  1.  There have been from 44,640 to 115,431 swine flu cases in the U.S., with 10,837 deaths.

  2.  The world had 1,438,880 cases and 14,337 deaths.

  3.  Yet, in an adjacent table, the total world deaths is listed as 25, 174.

  4.  The incidence of deaths was 94% in North Korea, 9% in the USA, 2% in Russia, 1% in Indonesia, 0.2% in South Korea and 0.02% in Belgium.

Clearly something is wrong here.  With less than 5% of the population, we experienced roughly the deaths from the swine flu?  Plus those incidencies are ridiculous.  Anyway, the higher count of 25,174 swine flu deaths is about 2.5% of the million or so who died from the standard flu during this same period.

Oh, by the way, the Food and Drug Administration reported that 70 million swine flu shots, worth about half a billion dollars, will need to be scrapped by the end of the year, 43% of the total prepared.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to express caution (as it should) and recommends we all take the H1N1 (swine flu) shot, when it becomes available in September.  Let's see, now, is that, then, one or two different injections?  Maybe even patches and nasal sprays might be available.  Stay tuned.

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The Dow Jones Industrials fell 31 to 10,467, while world markets also were mostly down.  Gold rose $4/toz to $1168 and crude oil is at $78/barrel.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ETERNAL LIFE

Chapter 2 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity deals with immortality.  On July 15 The Huffington Post published my article on this subject (as shown below), the same day and time that another posting appeared by David Stipp on "Why Anti-Aging Science Really Matters."  Stipp just this month came out with a book entitled,


The Youth Pill: Scientists at the Brink of an Anti-Aging Revolution



The e-book version, incidentally, costs one-third lower than the hardback.

Anyway, he drew 7 comments while mine received 222.  The best I can figure out is that his article is rather clinical and factual, while mine is somewhat conjectural.  Plus, I participated in the interchange while he did not.  ANYONE OUT THERE WITH ANY IDEA WHY THIS DIFFERENTIAL FOR A SIMILAR POSTING?


Science and the Future of Cloning: Is Immortality Possible?



What's Your Reaction:



An MSNBC poll shows that 81 percent of Americans don't believe in the afterife. Yet, a Pew Forum poll shows that 82 percent do believe in an afterlife. How can two respectable organizations be so different in their surveys? On-line poll crashing perhaps. Well, 90 percent or so of Americans claim to believe in a God, so chances are the Pew version is closer to reality.
Whether you believe or not, most of us have thought about death, and for many "something" after our present life seems better than a dark eternal gloom forever. Hoping the Bible, Koran and virtually every religious publication are right, let us nevertheless speculate on the biological option, for there is a finite chance that they might all be wrong. I certainly haven't seen anything close to compelling proof.
What is "eternal life?" In one sense, all living creatures 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. While our species almost became extinct in that Great Toba Supervolcano Eruption of 73,000 BC, where Homo sapiens dropped to perhaps a thousand breeding pairs, we have recovered well, survived the potential nuclear winter of the Cold War, and have no obvious doomsday event on the horizon, except, maybe, for The Venus Syndrome.
Of course, we will also live through our children and their children. Plus, the products of our life, such as letters, books, digital photos and statues, will be around long after we expire.
However, Woody Allen has expressed a sense that he was not satisfied with immortality 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.
There are at least two pathways to continue your presence. One does not involve human cloning. Without going into telomeres and ribonucleoproteins, let me just say that science is actually close to finding and checking the aging gene. Someday, you might be able to take a pill and stop growing old. The question is, can this technique be perfected before you get too old? You can still, then, of course, get killed in an auto accident or through an illness, but that so-called 130 year old lady from Georgia (of the former Soviet Union) could someday be commonplace.
The other is cloning, and there are two kinds: therapeutic and reproductive. The former is almost okay, while the latter is verboten, except in certain countries where the laws are fuzzy. You can expect some future breakthrough in countries where religion is not dominant.
Animal reproductive cloning is old news. Scotland produced Dolly in 1997, with mice in Hawaii (1998), Prometea in Italy (horse, 2003), Little Nicky in the USA (a cat, 2004) and Snuppy in South Korea (dog, 2006). Thus, the concept of reproductive cloning has been proven to be real.
So let's get to reproductive human cloning, laden with legal and moral land mines. I sat in on a seminar by Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg almost half a century ago while a student at Stanford, where this concept came up during the discussion. The field has both come a long way, and not really that much, over this period.
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.
So where is the USA on human cloning? Human cloning is legal in the U.S., but there are some Federal prohibitions against research. The George W. Bush regime was especially difficult, and Barack Obama ended the ban on embryonic stem cell researchwhile remaining opposed to human cloning.
Stanford formed a stem cell institute in 2003 and Harvard initiated efforts to clone human embryos in 2006. They initially were attempting to fund this work with private donors without any government assistance. Mind you, they are not cloning humans, as Harvard would like to harvest stem cells to fight leukemia and diabetes. The University of California at San Francisco announced a similar pursuit. Advanced Cell Technology of Massachusetts is commercializing human embryonic stem cell cloning services.
Some countries have observed the American reluctance to support human cloning research and have taken definite steps. There was South Korea and their scandal. The situation is somewhat foggy in the United Kingdom, as the University of Newscastle in 2005 claimed to clone the first human embryo.
Singapore, a former British colony of 4.5 million people, has 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. Biotechnology is a priority area. They created Biopolis, a $300 million, 2 million square foot research center focused on biomedical development, recruiting world class scientists, some who were fed up with the 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. While reproductive human cloning is banned, I can see this island someday becoming the site of choice for therapeutic cloning, as depicted in a former CBS television drama Century City.
What about China? Is China a cloning paradise? 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. Tragically, Professor "Yang" passed away last year at the age of 49.
Okay, let's say someday human reproductive cloning is attained. The concern always comes up about what good this is, as I won't know this will be the real me. Well, it has been speculated that by the time all these bioethical hurdles are cleared, computer technology will be developed to the stage where your memory can be transferred to this new body. The field now exceeds 100 trillion calculations per second (1014 cps), and should be at least ten times faster in a decade, at which capability the brain can be simulated. Such a computer should only cost about $1000 in 2020.
That's not all. There are algorithms and biological interfacing challenges. This field is just beginning, but the odds are, this fantasy for immortality could be possible in 25 years.
Finally, the cost factor. Originally only billionaires might be able to afford eternal life. So if you were worried about exacerbating our already overpopulated world, economics, as they are already affecting birth rates, will also check the growth of human reproductive cloning. However, while we all know how Moore's Law has precipitously dropped the price of computing power, the reduction of genome sequencing costs has been a lot more dramatic, so immortality could well be closer than you think.

Part 1 of Human Cloning appeared last month. Chapter 2 of Simple Solutions For Humanity (see icon below) covers eternal life. This series has to do with the afterlife. Chapter 5 of my book goes into a nationally popular topic in afterlife discussions -- the religious afterlife.
Finally, click on


for a HuffPo on anti-aging science. He recently wrote a book entitled THE YOUTH PILL.


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The Dow Jones Industrials settled 40 to 10,498, with the Japan Nikkei continuing to soar, up 256 to 9,753.  All I need to do is threaten to buy and that market takes off.  Gold increased $3/toz to $1164 and crude oil hung around $77/barrel.

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