Sunday, May 31, 2009

Solving the mess in Guantanamo

Keeping my number of political postings to a bare minimum, let’s just make a potpourri-pile of topical observations.

== Quoting Obama on Transparency ==

“And so, whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions - by Congress or by the courts.

“..... Because in our system of checks and balances, someone must always watch over the watchers - especially when it comes to sensitive information.

“Along those same lines, my Administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the "State Secrets" privilege... while this principle is absolutely necessary to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrasses the government. That is why my Administration is nearing completion of a thorough review of this practice.

“We plan to embrace several principles for reform. We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the State Secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following a formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. Finally, each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why, because there must be proper oversight of our actions.”
- Barack Obama

One of you commented upon how thoroughly this statement is  in tune with what I proposed in The Transparent Society, adding “Dr. Brin, are you writing his Speeches? ;)”

Ah... if only. Still, how nice to have an adult up there, for a change.

== And Solving Part of the Guantanamo Mess ==

The same commentor offered a suggestion that might help to get President Obama out of his bind regarding the Guantanamo detainees.  I think we can all agree that the Bushite doctrines there were dismal, loony, horrific and borderline insane.  Those so-called “pragmatists” only made matters far worse for our professional defenders, for example, by making torture legitimate for our enemies to use against our own troops.  Indeed, that alone offers probable cause to investigate charges of high treason.

On the other hand, what to do with the prisoners currently held in Guantanamo?  Or others we might capture amid a war without borders or fronts?  Many are genuinely bad or dangerous men and openly consider themselves to be enemies of the United States.  Others, to be sure, were hapless victims of circumstance, but, even after releasing those guys, President Obama seems caught between unpleasant options, when it comes to the really hard cases:

(1) bring some prisoners to America to face charges, which will be difficult to prove by civilian rules, and surely rile up any state where the trials take place,

(2) extend the duration of a somewhat gentler Guantanamo Prison, which will expose him to charges of hypocrisy and indecision,

(3) ship some of the worst off to home countries where they face likely torment and death... or else see them released to heroic welcomes and a return to plotting against our lives.

(4) Are those his only choices?   There does seem to be a fourth option, never mentioned.   It's pretty simple, as “Jester” pointed out, after a close reading of the four Geneva Conventions.

Those who have openly sworn allegiance to any entity that wages violent war against the US can legitimately be treated as Prisoners of War.

Yes, it sounds a lot like “enemy combatants.”  But that term was simply a Bushite excuse to drop every covenant that we had with decent or civilized behavior... a crazed raving offered by demagogues who tried to make us more afraid of a few hundred bozos with lice-ridden beards, than we ever were of a Soviet Union that bristled with 20,000 hydrogen bombs.  (And we let them do it, didn’t we?)

In contrast, “prisoner of war” has very clear definitions according to the Geneva conventions.  And yes, it can apply to irregular forces, even those that do not represent an official nation state.  (In any event, the Taliban government of Afghanistan was clearly an enemy state and it stood behind Al Qaeda. That regime’s continued existence in exile allows for an extended pretext.)

Calling the violent men in Guantanamo "POWs "does not mean they can be tortured.  In fact, the opposite. They must be treated according to Geneva protocols -- with red cross packages and everything else to make their existence far brighter than it was.  But it does mean they can be held indefinitely, in a military facility on American soil, so long as hostilities continue in a plausible state of war.  Moreover, there is no ticking clock to bring charges against them -- in fact, filing charges against such men might be illegal, if their actions were against even somewhat legitimate military targets.  Certainly there is no requirement to mix them with the regular population of a federal penitentiary.  In fact, that too violates Geneva.

True, this option does not apply to all of the current prisoners -- mostly those who have openly avowed that they consider themselves to be in a state of war against the US.  Moreover, they must be treated very different than they were in Guantanamo... e.g. they must be allowed to mingle with each other and garden and work and write home and appeal their conditions and all the things you see in movies like The Great Escape.  (Except for the tunneling part, we can hope!)

Still, consider how this option lets Obama & Co. off the hook!  He can end the Guantanamo travesty without letting them all go, or trying to press criminal charges that are inherently hard to stick, by civilian rules of jurisprudence.

Well, it's an idea…

==GM, Chrysler and Labor==

And... the bankruptcies of both GM and Chrysler seem to be pretty much following a path I suggested earlier (Offer a Fresh Deal to Labor and Management), sending them on a path where they’ll likely become largely employee-owned companies.  Ideally - and if they avoid repeating the (deliberately planned-in) mistakes that turned United Airlines sour - this should turn grumpy hourly workers into motivated owners, and allow American ingenuity to thrive.  It’s been a long time coming.  Both the far left and far right were nuts to oppose it for so long.

Of course, this assumes that the US government will eventually divest its huge stakes in these companies. Which raises an interesting point.

One recent rightwing talking (ranting) point is to yatter about “unprecedented socialism.”  This calumny deserves open derision.  First, because it's obvious who made our current mess, and who gave unbelievable gushers of “socialism for the rich” to their fat-cat friends -- the Bushite Gang.

Second, turning eyes toward the future, simply ask Limbaugh et al: ”What do you think Obama wants to do with all that GM stock?”

The answer is obvious, and so capitalistic it would make Adam Smith proud.  Buy low... and sell high!   Dare the ranters to take a bet.  If the federal government no longer owns these companies in 2012... and if the taxpayer by then has made a tidy profit out of buying and then selling the shares... um... is that still “socialism?”  Remember, the Limbaugh types are agile about redefining terms, focusing on the narrow moment... so ask this question now.  And nail down that wager.

=== Making a Mistake on Health Care? ===

On the other hand, I feel that President Obama’s approach to revising Health Care is not well thought-out.  Yes, we cannot take on the whole problem all at once, not in today’s economic and political environment.  But his people are urging that we continue down the road of adding layer after layer of complex insurance subsidies that will work through (and benefit) existing companies and involve a million twists and turns of bureaucracy and entitlement.  It will be maddening, inefficient and easy to ridicule.  Worse yet, it will not cut the Gordian Knot of today’s system at any level or at any point.

Elsewhere, I've offered a simple alternative. Let’s put off for another day any major reform for working-age adults.  If we have limited resources and attention, let’s not do a half-assed job across-the board, but rather take a targeted approach to solve one part of the mess, completely -- the most important part.  Let’s do an immediate and excellent job in the one area where rapid and major transformation could make the biggest immediate difference, where it matters to us all most.

Simply  provide health care to all kids.

One way to do this,, making the legislation incredibly short and simple?  Extend Medicare to the other end of the spectrum, the other demographic group that is inherently both helpless and deserving, by simple definition.  Or else, use the kids to experiment with single-payer.
 Either way, political opposition would be disarmed from the start. Americans are inherently more socialistic when it comes to children than adults (who, we think, instinctively, should stand on their own two feet.)  Moreover, this step would let us act immediately in the zones where socialized medicine inarguably works best -- prevention and lifelong health investment in youth, by far the best use of medical care dollars.

This approach then leaves for later the vexing areas where socialized medicine has inherent problems and where we might want to do some more careful thinking.  (More on this next time.)

Seriously, why isn’t this a no-brainer?  A win-win that would let Obama achieve wonders at a stroke, while keeping both cost and complexity down and achieving the greatest bang for the buck? Poor parents would be relieved of their greatest fear, for their kids. With that responsibility taken off their shoulders, they would then be better able to bargain for their own, narrower coverage.  Can anyone explain why this alternative isn’t even mentioned?

And that's enough for now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Announcements... Coolstuff... and Halliburton

See my latest manic comedy story “Gorilla My Dreams” in UNIVERSE Magazine (now available through my website.).  This is a very different flavor of humor than my more - well - level-headed comedic serial “The Ancient Ones.”

And yes, this is one of my catch-all postings, filled with wonders... zipping from topic to topic but ending on a serious (and political) note.)

Please drop by the GoodReads web site and see if this endeavors, helping readers connect with authors and books, appeals to you.  (Of course, it would not hurt to rate your favorite author there!; ) 

Some folks try this and comment! Scribd, an Internet start-up here, will introduce on Monday a way for anyone to upload a document to the Web and charge for it.

See my brief essay on the can-do spirit of Star Trek, in The NY Daily News site.  I have subsequently thought further.  The self-indulgence of including every character from the original series, right away, is as irritating as ever.  (In fact, I hate it.  The characters spanned a wide range of ages, in fact.)  And the massive death toll was disturbing.  And the “red matter” and “supernova” stuff could have done with a technical advisor -- someone savvy in both science and fiction, to make it more plausible and less, well, boneheaded.  Still, it was overall entertaining and cheerfully manic and within range for me to tune my “expectation dials” and have a rollicking good time.

See a mostly positive article in the Washington Post about the involvement of SIGMA - the think tank of science fiction authors - at a recent conference on Homeland security.

Anyone care to study up on this, telling us more than is in the article?  Tantalizing!  Ultra-dense deuterium may be the nuclear fuel of the future.  I wonder if they are talking about Rydberg Matter. (Thanks Mike G.)

Alas, it’s probably to good to be true.  Says Brian Wang: “It isn't even "microscopic amounts" - for "microscopic" means "visible in a microscope". Do the math, fellow NBF visionaries: 2.3 picometers .....   This is not a union-of-deuterons lasting nanoseconds, or microseconds, or milliseconds, or seconds. No, these are the fragments that lasted just long enough for the D(-1) state to hold together in a laser beam for ATTOSECONDS.”  sigh.

Fascinating look at “The Economics of Star Trek.” 

Side appeal:  See BETTER OFF TED on ABC.  It is hilarious and terrifically written and needs some buzz in order to survive.

Thoughts on the “natural burial” movement... or “be a tree?”

"Isolation of a gene called DARPP-32 helps explain why some people fly into a rage at the slightest provocation, while others can remain calm. .. Those who had the "TT" or "TC" versions of the gene portrayed significantly more anger than those with the "CC" version." Telegraph 6th May 2009.

Here’s a cool looking new magazine with an ambitious theme and a quirky title: Build a Model Orbiter  (!)  Seems I’ll be featured in an upcoming article.   

Somebody do a book report for us on Jacques Pitrat's new book Artificial Ethics: Moral Conscience, Awareness and Consciencousness   “...of interest to anyone who likes robotics, software, artificial intelligence, cognitive science and science-fiction.”

=== Miscellany ===

More than 100 schools have partnered with YouTube to make the YouTube EDU channel, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Yale, and UC.

 Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

 GM and Segway demonstrated Tuesday an electric two-wheel, two-seat prototype vehicle for use in congested urban environments. The 300-pound, zero-emissions vehicle is powered by a lithium-ion battery and dual electric wheel motors. It features all-electronic acceleration, steering, and braking.

 A new thermodynamic analysis suggests that 10 of life's 20 amino acids must be common throughout the cosmos  for reasons that I explicated in my 1983 SETI review article.

 A roundup of the coolest computer interfaces past, present, and future.

A sixth nucleotide?

 See another TED video about data visualization.  The Allosphere.

 Tweet this: Rapid-fire media may confuse your moral compass.  Um.... duh?

 At a  conference last week, researchers showcased many new and innovative ways to interact with machines, from  to .  Including (out of sci fi) Eye-Tracking Goggles....

 Just after midnight on Thursday, April 9, unidentified attackers climbed down four manholes serving the Northern California city of Morgan Hill and in what appears to have been an organized attack on the electronic infrastructure of an American city. Its implications, though startling, have gone almost un-reported. That attack demonstrated a severe fault in American infrastructure: its centralization.

 Ugolog Creates Surveillance Website To Watch Anyone, Anywhere

  Free Will... or at least the place where we decide to act, is sited in a part of the brain called the parietal cortex, new research suggests.

Looking for signals from distant civilizations might be an effort in futility, according to scientists who met at Harvard University recently. The dominant view of astronomers at a symposium on the future of human life in the Universe seems to be that if other life is out there, it likely is dominated by microbes or other nonspeaking creatures.   If life did develop elsewhere, Andrew Knoll, the Fisher Professor of Natural History, used the lessons of planet Earth to give an idea of what it might take to develop intelligence.

Of the three major groupings of life: bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes, only the eukaryotes developed complex life. And even among the myriad kinds of eukaryotes, complex life arose in just a few places: animals, plants, fungi, and red and brown algae. Knoll said he believes that the rise of mobility, oxygen levels, and predation, together with its need for sophisticated sensory systems, coordinated activity, and a brain, provided the first steps toward intelligence.

Josh D supplied these about ZOMBIE animals... and maybe zombie humans...brrrr...

Achieving WaterIndependence

Living Machines.  Wowser.  And I portrayed them in EARTH, of course.

California Water And Energy does seem to be based on my Kiln People concept.  But that's not my biggest complaint.  It takes forever to load each page of their site, in exchange for lots of gloss and very little actual information.  Frankly, I haven’t the patience to wade slowly through their interface.  Somebody try it and report?

What would you do with a $40 Linux computer the size of a three-prong plug adapter? Marvell Technology Group is counting on an army of computer engineers and hackers to answer that question. It has created a “plug computer.” It’s a tiny plastic box that you plug into an electric outlet. There’s no display. But there is an Ethernet jack to connect to a home network and a U.S.B. socket for attaching a hard drive, camera or other device. Inside is a 1.2 gigahertz Marvell chip, called an application processor, running a version of the Linux operating system.

And finally, lighting the political lamp...

Halliburton exposed.
This is absolutely necessary to view.  A wave of “emergency-override” crony contracts that violated every US contracting law.  Anyone who does not realize that this was the main reason for the war has got to be crazy.  And mind you I wanted to go and get Saddam!  In order to make up for the way Bush Sr. betrayed the Iraqi people in 1991.  But that was never the goal. It was the excuse. 

 Said one viewer: “God, I wish Obama had the balls to go after these bastards. Dig down deep enough, and you'll find the roots leading up to Bush and Cheney.”  Indeed, unleashing totally apolitical auditors and civil servants and prosecutors is precisely the way that BHO can attack without seeming to be pursuing a witch hunt.  Again... see this video! And get others to do so.

*  Oh... and political art dada.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Obama is Upping the Border Patrol

First - see me blather in the next “Life After People” - Tuesday on the History Channel. I offer some way-out speculations!

And now the political lamp is lit:  This item wasn’t at the top of the news, but it did make page one of the Times: Obama budget puts security first at the border - He'll ask Congress to help curb the flow of arms to Mexico before seeking any immigration reform.” 

This is a complex topic, with some strange twists.  But first, let me quote a forecast that I made, way back in December 08, in my “100 Suggestions for the Obama Administration.”  This one really deserves a spot in any Predictions Registry.

“If I seemed to lean a little "left" in some of my earlier missives criticizing a worldwide drift toward crony-aristocratism, and then to the right in supporting a repair of the U.S. military, and then left again by pushing the vital importance of citizen-level resilience... then prepare for another of my patented sudden veers! Because I believe the Obama Administration can, should... and will... act swiftly to regain control over the borders of the United States. In fact, I will lay heavy odds that he does it very soon.”

Although many sneered with doubt, alas, nobody had the guts to meet my bet (and offer of odds!) with real cash.  Too bad, because President Obama has given high priority -- and budgetary support -- to regaining control over the borders of the United States, exactly when and as I expected.  Let’s go back to my prediction:

”This may sound surprising, but it shouldn't, if you had been paying attention to one of the great ironies of the last 16 years -- one that lay in plain sight, largely unnoticed. As one of his first acts upon entering office, Bill Clinton doubled the number of field agents in the Border Patrol. And one of George W. Bush’s first endeavors was to savagely undercut that service.

“It sounds counter-intuitive, of course, and neither political party ever spoke up about it much. But the reasons are simple. Democrats like legal immigration, which results in lots of new voters and new union workers, while illegals drain resources, get embroiled (against their will) into crime, and prevent domestic programs from achieving full effectiveness. On the other hand, Republicans -- well, not your neighbors, but some influential people near the top of the party -- like access to pools of cheap, undocumented labor that won’t talk back. Only when border state citizens began getting riled did the GOP start talking tough about immigration. And talk, for the most part, is all they ever did.”

The correlation is now perfect.  Democrats boost border patrol and enforcement, but hate talking about it, because much of their base is made up of people for whom generosity is a zealous canon.  Hence, Obama needed an excuse, something to distract from his real reasons for regaining control at the border (reversing emphasis from illegal to legal immigration.)  He found his excuse with the ongoing drug gang violence in Mexico.  Blaming much of that chaos on U.S.-originating weaponry, he can claim that the new agents will be there foremost to stanch the southward flow of guns.

Now, the right wing punditocracy and blogosphere has been derisive -- and this time with some cause!  The purported “statistics,” proving that most Mexican gang-guns came from the U.S. ,  are very weak and show signs of being cludged.  Anyway, if the cash-rich mobs want guns, there are countless places to get them.  So it’s a rationalization, all right.

But while Dobbs and Limbaugh & co. eagerly pounced on this discrepancy with ridicule, they have to be very careful about is not letting their audiences dwell too long or think too deeply about any one matter.  They must keep up the rapid armwaving, pointing rapidly thither and yon, in order to distract Red America from connecting the dots.  For if rural or conservative whites ever realize which party is always pragmatically better at defending our borders... or maintaining military readiness, or strengthening alliances, or creating a good climate for small businesses, or nurturing a strong economy... then it will be all over for the neoconservative-GOP shell game.

Limbaugh et. al. have to keep it all about simplistic strawmen and ideological stereotypes (e.g. after the most corrupt and wastrel administration of all time pummeled US capitalism nearly flat, scream that the new one is “socialist!”)   Because, if the natural anti-authoritarianism of the people living in heartland “red” counties can ever turn away from reflex hatred of bureaucrats, long enough to rediscover Americans’ traditional distrust of fatcat aristocratic thieves, then... well... Rush Limbaugh will have to get a real job.

 Even  more important, genuine classic conservatives and libertarians will have a chance - at long last - to rescue their movement from the freakshow denizens who have hijacked it.

Also see my posting: Rejigger the Immigration Debate

==== MISCELLANY ====

On April 28 the Senate passed financial fraud legislation that would allow for the creation of an investigative panel modeled after the Depression-era Pecora Commission, which unearthed the crimes that led to the 1929 economic collapse. Some are calling on the House of Representatives to act on creating an independent, muscular probe into the roots of today's financial crisis.

 Comics writer Mark Sable was detained by TSA security guards at Los Angeles International Airport this past weekend because he was carrying a script for a new issue of his comic miniseries Unthinkable. Sable was detained while traveling to New York for a debut party at Jim Hanley's Universe today.  The comic series follows members of a government think tank that was tasked with coming up with 9/11-type "unthinkable" terrorist scenarios that now are coming true.

NOTE, I will add a lagniappe below, under comments -- an older item, pointing out that Adam Smith is not the only icon of freedom and liberal markets who has been abandoned by the far right.  Now they have latched onto Thomas Paine.  But they will soon drop him like a live grenade... and I’ll tell you why.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The old and new versions of "culture war"

375369This month, we note the 50th Anniversary of C.P. Snow's famous Rede Lecture, "The Two Cultures," which described the wide and seemingly unbridgeable gulf of language, assumptions and mindset, between people working in the sciences and intellectuals in the literary arts and humanities.  In a a followup essay, "The Two Cultures: A Second Look," Snow optimistically suggested that a new culture, a "third culture," might emerge and close the communications gap. In Snow's third culture, the literary intellectuals would be on speaking terms with the scientists.

According to sci-tech book agent John Brockman ”This never happened. Although I borrowed Snow's phrase in my 1991 essay "The Third Culture", it does not describe the third culture he predicted.”   Indeed, Brockman portrays recent progress as more one-sided than any act of collaboration, with the bridging largely undertaken from the scientific side and most literary mavens playing the unhelpful role of cantankerous curmudgeons. 

”The third culture consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are. Increasingly, The Third Culture has moved into the mainstream and the questions it is asking are those that inform us about ourselves and the world around us.”

Speaking as someone who has moved across both of these worlds without impediment, all my life, I can say that Brockman is mostly right about this.  High-end scientists do tend to be vastly more agile and forward-looking thinkers, than their counterparts in almost any other field of endeavor.  Instead of narrowly-specialized “boffins,” those at the top of their fields seem to be smarter, more-broadminded and deeply curious than anyone else alive. The reason for this is so astonishingly simple that it seems to have escaped notice.  It has nothing to do with any intrinsic superiority of scientific minds.  Rather, suppose that a person is truly broadminded and eclectic, wanting to excel in a wide span of fields. He or she must thereupon choose the scientific field of interest to work hardest in, at the professional level, simply because science is exceptionally demanding.  That person's other interests, in contrast, can be pursued part-time.   Indeed, nearly all of the top scientists I’ve met (and I know many) also nurtured impressive artistic hobbies and passionate avocations, at near-professional levels.  They bridge the gap not as invaders from science but as brilliant people who never accepted the existence of any gap, in the first place!

Meanwhile, the intellectual curse of vapid, simpleminded postmodernism has been slow to dissipate from hundreds of university English, Literature and social studies departments.  One symptom of this obdurate troglodytism has been the refusal of all but a dozen U.S. universities to pay more than nodding attention to science fiction, the most exploratory and truly American of all genres.  Another diagnosable illness is the slavish devotion that so many have pledged to the rigid storytelling tropes that Joseph Campbell called “fundamental” to myth.  These rigid prescriptions may have been nearly ubiquitous for 4,000 years, but nobody seems willing to also point out the downside -- that those bardic straightjackets were also fundamentally debasing of the human imagination, helping to limit and crush our shared cultural experience... until we finally broke free of our chains.

And yet, having agreed with much of Brockman’s point, I do have to take some exception.  Because the literary types that he and Snow call the “first culture” are not really relevant to the intellectual problems of our age. Self-marginalized and generally silly, the literature profs are no more pertinent for their anti-science thetoric than they ever were a threat to young minds, by promoting “leftist memes.”  These were strawman foes, hardly even worth the time spent shrugging them off.

Then why talk about this cultural gap at all?  C.P. Snow had an excuse.  Especially in his day, the British education system was in large part designed to cauterize scientific or technical “boffins,” keeping them physically and intellectually isolated while ensuring that real power -- cabinet posts , corporate directorships and such -- would be preserved for those steeped in the classics. (Whereupon, completely subjective grading ensured that the sons of aristocracy would slip gracefully into the high positions set aside for them.)  Hence a nearly complete lack of “breadth requirements” in most British (indeed, European) baccalaureate programs.

Meanwhile, U.S. students take an extra fourth year longer for their bachelor’s degree, getting exposure across lateral horizons of interest.  This important feature of American academic life is seldom mentioned, even though it is an inherent expression of a very different intellectual worldview.

Hence, while American lit departments are only slowly awakening from their prickly, faux-European inferiority complex, others on campus have no problem embracing a new culture of change. At the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), for example, several arts departments have joined with scientific colleagues to forge Sixth College, and the Center for the Study of Computing in the Arts, dedicated to the mission of bridging every perceived gap, with tech-savvy artists and art-loving techies.

No, in America the dangerous gap is not between CP Snow’s old archetype intellectual cultures.  Rather, what we are challenged by is a very different “culture war,” in which every kind of anti-intellectualism is fanned by those who most directly benefit from this put-up distraction.  One of the tools that help to maintain this debilitating chasm?  The metaphor of an obsolete and profoundly misleading, so-called “left-right political axis” -- a curse from 18th Century France that has been a lobotomizing political discourse for generations, focusing attention on a silly, almost meaningless “gap,” when the real chasm is much simpler -- between non-thieves and thieves.


Want to attend Worldcon? The World Science Fiction Convention is always a marvelous show and this year's event Anticipation -- in Montreal, city of fine food and hospitality -- should prove no exception with great panels, previews, the Hugo Awards and a special min-conference on teaching science fiction in the classroom that I labored to help create, along with the fine folks at www.AboutSF and Reading for the Future. 


 So cool In case you haven't already seen it -- the launch of a 1/10-scale model of a Saturn V rocket, built by hobbyists. I'd have been impressed if it used liquid hydrogen and multi stages.

 Inside These Lenses, a Digital Dimension -- now appearing... my “TruVu Specs”...  (Please do let me know when anybody spots more on this trend.  I have particular interest.)

 ELECTROMAGNETIC pulse weapons capable of frying the electronics in civil airliners can be built using information and components available on the net, warn counter-terrorism analysts. Yael Shahar, director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, and her colleagues have analysed electromagnetic weapons in development or used by military forces worldwide, and have discovered that there is low-cost equipment available online that can act in similar ways. "These will become more of a threat as the electromagnetic weapons technology matures," she says.  Douglas Beason, a director at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, says it may be straightforward to build a do-it-yourself EMP weapon, but more difficult to make one that can be stowed in an aircraft. 

 BTW - Beason is a Brin-pal. See my own suggested measure we should take, in order to solve this threat.

VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies has developed a miniature telephoto lens that can be implanted into the eye and could soon help people with vision loss from end-stage macular degeneration. (VisionCare) Because only the central parts of the retina are damaged in the disease, magnifying the image on the eye allows the retinal cells. 

 Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology: ”I learned about research that is nearing completion to develop a strain of E. coli which cannot be infected by bacteriophages.  Phages are a major mechanism - likely *the* major mechanism - that keeps bacteria from growing out of control. A phage-proof bacterium might behave very similarly to "red tide" algae blooms, which apparently happen when an algae strain is transported away from its specialized parasites. But E. coli is capable of living in a wide range of environments, including soil, fresh water, and anaerobic conditions.  A virus-proof version, with perhaps 50% lower mortality, and (over time) less metabolic load from shedding virus defenses that are no longer needed, might thrive in many conditions where it currently only survives. The researchers doing this acknowledge the theoretical risk that some bacteria might become invasive, but they don't seem to be taking anywhere near the appropriate level of precaution. They are one gene deletion away from creating the strain.”  Church's recent article describing the possible future benefits of his work, and possible future safety precautions."

Oh, think it’s time for bold amateur sci fi television?

Cool stuff on Stranger Things TV.