The mountains labor; the future of the dollar; Beware the fury of the Legions

Chaos Manor View, Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I was going for another story conference today, but John had problems, which is just as well because I still have a cold. Not bad, but it hangs on. Given that half the United States is suffering from Climate Change as Global Warming buries them under ten feet of snow, while Southern California is warm and sunny, I mustn’t complain.

The Apple Mountains labored, and have produced the Apple Watch. It may be a very profitable item, but for me it is not very interesting; at least not yet. I am reminded of one of Aesop’s fables: .

A watch that was in communication with my telephone, allowing me to dictate notes without removing the phone from its holster would be of more use to me; indeed a watch that was in integral part of the phone system might be very useful. The present ones seem to me more decorative, although their ability to keep my calendar without drawing out me phone is a good start.


Apple’s medical research app raises hopes, questions (LA Times)


A new toolkit announced by Apple on Monday would allow medical researchers to tap into an expanding universe of iPhone users to recruit and enroll study participants, collect data and monitor health outcomes that are the object of research.

Apple on Monday made publicly available five new apps built by Apple and various university researchers using the toolkit. The company said it would release the open-access software for the toolkit next month, so other researchers could tailor apps to their needs.

Researchers studying asthma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer will be the first to use the new apps to conduct studies.

Most of the research being launched with the new applications appears to allow participants and researchers to track the daily lives and functioning of subjects and detect patterns that might lead to better disease-management practices.

One of the apps will be used as a part of an observational study that collects data from Parkinson’s patients in an effort to more fully understand the disease and how it affects daily life. Parkinson’s patients who download the app will be able to use the iPhone’s GPS and accelerometer to provide data on dexterity, balance, gait, voice strength and memory several times a day.

Apple Introduces ResearchKit, Giving Medical Researchers the Tools to Revolutionize Medical Studies

New Apps to Aid Research on Asthma, Breast Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes & Parkinson’s Disease

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Apple® today announced ResearchKit™, an open source software framework designed for medical and health research, helping doctors and scientists gather data more frequently and more accurately from participants using iPhone® apps. World-class research institutions have already developed apps with ResearchKit for studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.* Users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data is shared.


Apple introduces ResearchKit, giving medical researchers the tools to revolutionize medical studies. (Photo: Business Wire)

“iOS apps already help millions of customers track and improve their health. With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. “ResearchKit gives the scientific community access to a diverse, global population and more ways to collect data than ever before.”

ResearchKit turns iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research. When granted permission by the user, apps can access data from the Health app such as weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use, which are measured by third-party devices and apps. HealthKit™ is a software framework Apple introduced with iOS 8 to provide developers the ability for health and fitness apps to communicate with each other. ResearchKit can also request from a user, access to the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in iPhone to gain insight into a patient’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

ResearchKit also makes it easier to recruit participants for large-scale studies, accessing a broad cross-section of the population—not just those within driving distance of an institution. Study participants can complete tasks or submit surveys right from the app, so researchers spend less time on paperwork and more time analyzing data. ResearchKit also enables researchers to present an interactive informed consent process. Users choose which studies to participate in and the data they want to provide in each study.

“We’re excited to use these new ResearchKit tools from Apple to expand participant recruitment and quickly gather even more data through the simple use of an iPhone app. The data it will provide takes us one step closer to developing more personalized care,” said Patricia Ganz, MD, professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Director of Cancer Prevention & Control Research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Access to more diverse patient-reported health data will help us learn more about long-term aftereffects of cancer treatments and provide us with a better understanding of the breast cancer patient experience.”

“When it comes to researching how we can better diagnose and prevent disease, numbers are everything. By using Apple’s new ResearchKit framework, we’re able to extend participation beyond our local community and capture significantly more data to help us understand how asthma works,” said Eric Schadt, PhD, the Jean C. and James W. Crystal Professor of Genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Founding Director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology. “Using iPhone’s advanced sensors, we’re able to better model an asthma patient’s condition to enable us to deliver a more personalized, more precise treatment.”

Developed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solutions, the Asthma Health app is designed to facilitate asthma patient education and self-monitoring, promote positive behavioral changes and reinforce adherence to treatment plans according to current asthma guidelines. The study tracks symptom patterns in an individual and potential triggers for these exacerbations so that researchers can learn new ways to personalize asthma treatment.

It took longer to bring this out than I would have thought, but it certainly is significant. Look for a new wave of such programs coupled with micro sensors of the sort I saw at the Hilton Island Nanotech Conference last year — there will undoubtedly be more this year – and expect real progress. This might be incorporated into a watch. That would be progress indeed.


The one Chinese innovation that could change the way we think about money (WP)

By Dominic Basulto March 10 at 8:59 AM

The new China International Payments System (CIPS), which is set to debut before the end of 2015, has been described as a “worldwide payments superhighway for the yuan.” What the creation of such a system means in the short-term is that the Chinese currency (officially known as the renminbi) has the potential to become a truly international, convertible currency and a more attractive currency for conducting international trade and finance. What it means in the long-term is that America’s long reign of economic dominance is at risk.

Ever since the end of World War II, the dollar has been the bedrock of the international financial system. The rise of a competitor currency to challenge the dollar seems almost impossible. While the euro and the yen have emerged as possible options for supplanting the dollar, they have never had the global clout of the U.S. dollar. China’s plans for the internationalization of the renminbi, though, are a different matter entirely. Given the size and heft of China’s economy, it only makes sense that China is creating a global payments system to make it easier for people to trade, invest and conduct transactions using the renminbi.

One way to measure how important the Chinese currency has become worldwide is to look at the percentage of international trade finance deals that are conducted using the renminbi. On a global basis, the renminbi accounts for nearly 9 percent of all trade finance deals worldwide, the second largest behind only the dollar. Moreover, as of January 2015, the renminbi is now the fifth most used payments currency in the world, trailing only the dollar, the euro, the pound sterling, and the yen. According to Wim Raymaekers, Head of Banking Markets at SWIFT, this is “an important milestone” that confirms the transition of the renminbi from an “emerging” to a “business as usual” payment currency.

One area where the launch of the new Chinese payments system could really have an impact is in the global energy markets. As a result of the so-called “petrodollar system” established between the U.S. and Middle East oil producers, oil exports are priced and transacted in dollars. Now imagine the price of oil being quoted in Chinese yuan and not U.S. dollars. What if Saudi oil exporters decide they want yuan and not dollars for their oil? That means anyone buying or selling oil in commodity markets has to have a yuan bank account in addition to a dollar bank account. Given the voracious energy demands of China’s growing economy, it’s easy to see why a global payments system facilitating these trades makes sense.

An interesting future. Farewell the Almighty Dollar and with it the Euro and the Ruble..


: The Demise of Military Integrity

An apt article, if overdue.  I recall being told:  “there is the right way, the wrong way, and the army way”.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Leaders lie “in the routine performance of their duties,” and “ethical and moral transgressions [occur] across all levels” of the organization. Leaders have also become “ethically numb,” using “justifications and rationalizations” to overcome any ethical doubts. This “tacit acceptance of dishonesty… [facilitates] hypocrisy” among leaders.

These quotations sound like they are ripped from the headlines about some major corporate scandal. But they’re not describing Enron before its collapse in 2001, or firms like Lehman Brothers and Countrywide before the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, they describe one of the country’s most respected institutions: the U.S. Army.

Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, who are both professors at the U.S. Army War College, just published a devastating study called Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession. They state up front that indications of ethical and moral problems can be found throughout the entire U.S. military, not just in the Army. These include (but certainly are not limited to) U.S. Air Force personnel cheating on tests about nuclear launch systems, and U.S. Navy admirals and others sharing classified information in exchange for gifts and bribes. Last year, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel appointed a two-star admiral as the first Senior Advisor for Military Professionalism to address mounting concerns about ethical issues throughout the force.

Nevertheless, this study of the Army deserves special attention, because its findings are so broad and deeply disturbing. Wong and Gerras find that it is “literally impossible” for Army officers to meet all the requirements imposed on them, but that it is also unacceptable for them to fail to meet the requirements. They routinely square this impossible circle by lying – about what they’ve done, who they’ve trained, and to what standard. Yet they maintain a self-image of integrity by rationalizing their lies in various ways. They no longer see this pervasive dishonesty as dishonorable, or even wrong. As Wong and Gerras argue:

“‘White’ lies and ‘innocent’ mistruths have become so commonplace in the U.S. Army that there is often no ethical angst, no deep soul-searching, and no righteous outrage when examples of routine dishonesty are encountered. Mutually agreed deception exists in the Army because many decisions to lie, cheat, or steal are simply no longer viewed as ethical choices.”

We have seen signs of this in the Academies; if there is rot there you may be sure there is more in the field. Of course there have always been Sergeant Bilko and his minions, and there have always been higher officers with political influence; is there more now? Recall the letter from Africa from the centurion.

We had been told, on leaving our native soil, that we were to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens settled overseas, so many years of our presence, so many benefits brought by us to populations in need of our assistance and civilization. We were able to verify that this was true, and because it was true, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood, to sacrifice our youth and our hopes. We regretted nothing, but whereas we over here are inspired by their frame of mind, I am told that in Rome factions and conspiracies are rife, that treachery flourishes, and that many people in their uncertainty and confusion lend a ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment and vilify our action. I cannot believe that all this true, and yet recent wars have shown how pernicious such a state of mind could be and to where it could lead. Make haste to reassure me, I beg you, and tell me that our fellow citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we protect the glory of the Empire. If it should be otherwise, if we should leave our bleached bones on these desert sands in vain, then beware the fury of the legions.”

From a letter supposedly written by one Marcus Flavinius, a centurion in the second cohort of the 2nd Augusta Legion serving overseas, to his cousin, Tertullus, in Rome, quoted in the Prologue of Jean Larteguy’s novel, “The Centurions.”

(And yes, I am aware that this may be fiction; I first became aware of it as an epigraph in The Centurions; but fiction or not it expresses a real concern. But recall its results. Timocracies rarely last a generation. They are replaced by something far worse.)


I am pleased to report a strong upsurge in sales of The California Sixth Grade Reader. and I hope that will continue. Technology has given us some means of counteracting the abysmal plunge of the public education system. The Kahn Academy is another. The Kahn site has recently been “improved” in a disturbing manner, but the underlying lessons seem as effective as ever.





Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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