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0 Could Iceland adopt the Canadian loonie?

Will the loonie soon be flying high in ... Iceland?
While still a long shot, one possibility being raised as Iceland considers a replacement for its tarnished krona is Canada's loonie. 

For months, Icelanders have been toying with the idea of ditching the tarnished krona, which has never fully recovered from the collapse of the financial system four years ago.
But one of the intriguing suggestions floating around the North Atlantic island is that instead of the adopting the euro — a natural fit given that Iceland has taken initial steps to join the European Union — it might cast a furtive eye to the Canadian loonie.
This is not as outlandish as it sounds. Canada's banking system is something Iceland's is not — sound — and the Canadian economy, with its mooring in much-desired natural resource wealth, is among the most stable and predictable in the advanced world.
Canada also does not have the massive overhang of sovereign debt that will trouble Europe or even the United States for years.
While still a long-shot, Iceland's national broadcaster, RUV, reports that Canada's ambassador to the country, Alan Bones, will tell a meeting of the Progressive Party on Saturday that if Icelanders want, they can have the loonie.
The ambassador will tell the opposition party, which has stirred up the idea of adopting the loonie, that authorities in Ottawa are willing to start talks if that is the will of the Icelandic people, according to RUV.
However, late Friday, the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa issued a statement to reporters saying that the ambassador would not be participating in the currency convention in Reykjavik and "will not be speaking on the issue."
Bank of Montreal economist Douglas Porter says the feat can be accomplished. Iceland would need to buy sufficient Canadian currency to do the trick, which likely will initially put upward pressure on the loonie.
But the impact on Canada would be small, he said, since Iceland's population is only about 317,000 and the economy is less than one per cent of Canada's.
There are precedents. El Salvador and Ecuador have both unilaterally adopted the U.S. dollar in the past dozen years, and Kosovo has the euro.

Krona falls

"Frankly, I think we should take it as a great compliment. I know everybody thinks of Iceland as a basket case, but they are beginning to turn things around," Porter said.
"It shows you how far we've come in the past 10 years that people are even talking about this."
It's hard to imagine such a conversation a decade ago, when the loonie was valued at 62 cents U.S. and Canadians were more likely considering their own dumping operation.
The problem for Iceland is that it will have no influence in the setting of monetary policy, such as interest rates, so any adjustments for economic slack or hyper inflation would need to come at the expense of other levers, such as employment and income, rather than currency adjustment. That's a poor trade-off for many countries.
With the krona continuing to fall, and currency controls still in place, it's not that Icelanders have any particular love of their currency.
But economist Olafur Isleifsson of Reykjavik University said in an email interview that the loonie would not be the first option if the krona is jettisoned.
"There are some entities linked to the business community up here that are voicing adopting the Canadian dollar," he said. "I for one do not see this as a realistic possibility," saying the natural choice is the euro.
As spokesman for the Finance Department said the government would not speculate on other country's currencies.
Attempts to reach ambassador Bones or obtain advance copies of his address Saturday were not successful.

0 67 Tornadoes Decimate Midwest, Extreme damage

LOUISVILLE, A spokesman for Kentucky's governor says that five people have died in severe weather in that state, bringing the death toll from Friday's storms around the country to at least 13 people.
Terry Sebastian, a spokesman for Gov. Steve Beshear, says the people were killed in two different counties as the state was raked by a tornado-spawning weather system.

At least eight people died Friday in Indiana where tornadoes pummeled small towns in the southern part of the state.
The band of powerful storms stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes is the second deadly tornado outbreak this week.
UNDATED - Indiana authorities say at least three people have been killed by tornadoes that struck the southern portion of the state.

Officials say houses are missing near the small town of Chelsea, Ky. And the National Weather Service says there has been "extreme damage" in Henryville, a town of about 1,000 people just north of the Kentucky border. A law enforcement official also says the town of Marysville is "completely gone."

Just to the east, in Kentucky, an apparent tornado flattened a volunteer fire station. Dozens of homes were damaged in Alabama and Tennessee.
The violent weather struck two days after storms killed 13 people in the Midwest and South.
In the Chattanooga, Tenn., area, at least 20 homes were badly damaged and six people were hospitalized after strong winds and hail lashed the area.

0 Breitbart's last investigation? Obama

Andrew Breitbart, the influential founder of, and other innovations in reporting whose sudden death today stunned the world of journalism, had been investigating President Obama.
Breitbart told a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last month that he had obtained videos of Obama from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s college days.
Andrew Breitbart
The videos have not been made public, and a WND request to Breitbart’s organization today did not elicit any information about when they might be unveiled.
“I’ve got videos, by the way. This election we’re going to vet him. I’ve got videos – this election we’re going to vet him – from his college days to show you why … racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008,” Breitbart told CPAC.
He said the videos will come out and reveal Obama during a time when he was meeting a “bunch of silver ponytails” – referring to Weather Underground terror group members Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
It was in the couple’s Chicago home that Obama’s political career reportedly was launched, and his ties to the two run deep. There’s been a solid argument made that Ayers ghost-wrote Obama’s highly acclaimed memoir, “Dreams from My Father.”
The possibility of videos producing revelations about Obama’s college days is significant, as Obama has carefully kept concealed evidence about his life during the time he reportedly attended Occidental College in California and later two East Coast schools.
A lawsuit at one point obtained an order for Occidental to reveal Obama’s student records. The aim was to find out whether he obtained aid or assistance as a foreign student, lending credibility to the argument that he does not qualify to be president under the Constitution’s “natural-born citizen” requirement.
The statement:
The issue of Obama’s eligibility was addressed today when an investigative team commission by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., said there is probable cause that the document released by the White House last year as President Obama’s birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery.
At a news conference today, lead investigator Mike Zullo said his team believes the Hawaii Department of Health has engaged in a systematic effort to hide from public inspection any original 1961 birth records it may have in its possession.
“Officers of the Hawaii Department of Health and various elected Hawaiian public officials may have intentionally obscured 1961 birth records and procedures to avoid having to release to public inspection and to the examination of court-authorized forensic examiners any original Obama 1961 birth records the Hawaii Department of Health may or may not have,” Zullo said.
Dr. Jerome Corsi, the author of several books on Obama, said at Arpaio’s news conference that he was able to help facilitate Breitbart’s request to interview Arpaio only hours before Breitbart’s death.

0 US anti-LeT team operates in India, 4 other nations

United States Special forces teams are currently stationed in five South Asian countries including India as part of the counter-terrorism co-operation with these nations, a top Pentagon commander has disclosed.
These teams have been deployed by US Pacific Command as part of its effort to enhance their counter-terrorism capabilities, in particular in the maritime domain, Admiral Robert Willard, the PACOM Commander said on Thursday.
"We have currently special forces assist teams -- Pacific assist teams is the term - laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, as well as India," Willard told  lawmakers at a Congressional hearing in response to a question on co-operation with India on counter-terrorism issues.
"We are working very closely with India with regard to their counter-terrorism capabilities and in particular on the maritime domain but also government to government, not necessarily Department of Defence but other agencies assisting them in terms of their internal counter-terror and counterinsurgency challenges," Willard said.

0 REVEALED: How Giant Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures Does Business

Two researchers say they have uncovered a bunch of new information about the world's largest patent "aggregator," Intellectual Ventures.
 Nathan Myhrvold
Founded by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold about a decade ago, the company's main business is getting patents, then using them to extract licensing fees or legal settlements from other companies.
The impolite word for companies who use patents this way, rather than in the course of making and selling products, is "patent troll."
Intellectual Ventures is secretive about how it works. Until a lawsuit last year, nobody knew exactly who its investors were, or who had licensed its patents. (Turns out that Microsoft, Apple, Sony and a ton of other prominent tech companies have invested and/or taken licenses. So have a number of universities.)
Robin Feldman, a law professor at U.C. Hastings, and lawyer Tom Ewing decided to find out more.
People told them their task was impossible. They write: "'You can’t find out anything about them; don’t even try,' is a chant that has been whispered in intellectual property circles for a number of years. It motivated us to take a hard look, and the information eventually unraveled like the yarn from an old sweater."
In January, they published a paper in the Stanford Law Review (PDF here) with their findings.
Here's some of what they wrote:
  • Intellectual Ventures has between 30,000 and 60,000 patents. That's a rough estimate. But even the low number makes Intellectual Ventures (IV) the 5th largest patent portfolio of any U.S. company, and 15th in the world. Nearly all of those patents originated elsewhere. IV does very little inventing of its own.
  • It uses more than 1,200 shell companies. IV's patent holdings and legal actions are hard to track because it often assigns patents to shell companies. The researchers say they discovered at least 1,276 of these, and they "have little doubt that other shell companies have been formed."
  • About half its patents originated outside the U.S.  A lot of patents are not valued as highly overseas as they are in the U.S. "This suggests that Intellectual Ventures may be acting as an arbitrageur to exploit the disparities in intellectual property valuation between the United States and the rest of the world," write the researchers.
  • Big companies invest, then use its patents for defense. For instance, Verizon paid $350 million for patent licenses an equity stake in one of IV's funds in 2008. When TiVo sued Verizon for patent infringement, Verizon "purchased a patent from one of Intellectual Ventures’ shell companies, which was then put to work as a counterclaim in the TiVo suit," say the researchers.
  • How it gets patents from smaller companies. According to the researchers, IV has a "turnkey" method for getting patents from smaller companies. IV pays the company a one-time fee and a percentage of any profits it makes from the patents. IV then "assumes the costs of maintaining the portfolio, and gains the right to go after other companies." In the case of a company called Digimarc, IV agreed to pay $36 million over three years, plus 20% of the profits from all successful licensing and litigation.
Feldman and Ewing compare IV's activities to "privateering," a now-abolished kind of warfare from the 1800s. Countries would encourage private sailors to attack their enemies' ships and auction off the proceeds.
In IV's case, say the researchers, the company licenses some patents to more aggressive third parties, then lets them do the dirty work of licensing and suing. They speculate -- but do not have evidence to prove -- that IV could use this tactic to convince new companies to license its patents, and to make sure existing customers keep paying up.
It's an ugly business. But it's also perfectly legal.
Surprisingly, Ewing and Feldman don't think the patent system is hopelessly broken, and they do support patents for software.
But they point out that IV (and other aggregators) have created a massive unregulated market -- IV alone claims to have collected more than $2 billion in licensing fees.
"Markets require regulation," Feldman told us. "You can't just let them go -- particularly markets like this one that have characteristics of anticompetitive behavior."
A good start would be more transparency -- the SEC requires publicly traded companies to disclose all kinds of information about their businesses. But information about patent licensing deals is so closely guarded, nobody even knows what a patent is worth.
"What kind of market is that?" asked Ewing in an interview.
Ewing also suggests that the U.S. could change how damages are calculated, so that companies who win a patent infringement suit could only recover profits that had been lost as a result of the infringement. So if you don't make anything, you couldn't collect.
That would put an end to the kind of "protection racket" that Feldman says IV is running.
Intellectual Ventures did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Read more:

0 Stolen NASA Laptop Contained Commands For International Space Station

In testimony before Congress today, NASA’s Inspector General discussed NASA’s IT security efforts, and discussed some of the attacks and thefts that have plagued the agency’s assets. Some of the numbers discussed are somewhat eye-opening, but it’s difficult to say whether NASA has a significant problem compared to other agencies, since NASA is a rare Federal agency that consistently monitors such incidents.
Among the highlights of the testimony, NASA reported that from April 2009 to April 2011, 48 mobile computing devices containing sensitive information were either lost or stolen. One stolen laptop contained algorithms that are used to command the International Space Station. Other contained information related to the Orion and Constellation manned spaceflight programs. The laptops were not encrypted, and the Inspector General commented that “Until NASA fully implements an Agency-wide data encryption solution, sensitive data on its mobile computing and portable data storage devices will remain at high risk for loss or theft.”
Surprisingly, most NASA assets aren’t encrypted. The Federal Agency average is about 54% of laptops or other mobile devices encrypted. The NASA rate is 1%.
The Inspector General also reported that there were 5,048 attacks on NASA’s computers in 2010 and 2011 that either resulted in unauthorized access to NASA’s systems or the installation of malware. Some of these incidents may have been related to organized crime or foreign intelligence services. In addition, NASA suffered 47 attacks by “Advanced Persistent Threats” (APTs), which are described as “groups that are particularly well resourced and committed to steal or modify information from computer systems and networks without detection.” Of those 47 attacks, 13 were successful.
One of those APT attacks, which is still under investigation, involved someone with Chinese IP addresses gaining complete access to systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, including the ability to “(1) modify, copy, or delete sensitive files; (2) add, modify, or delete user accounts for mission-critical JPL systems; (3) upload hacking tools to steal user credentials and compromise other NASA systems; and (4) modify system logs to conceal their actions.”
Basically, whoever hacked the JPL could pretty much do anything with what they found there. Considering some of the work that gets done at the JPL, that could prove quite worrisome. Here’s hoping that this audit leads to improved security of NASA’s systems.
(Source: NextGov)

0 Estimates Clash for How Much Natural Gas in the United States

Natural gas is now flowing so fast into U.S. pipelines that the big question seems to be what to do with it all: Engineer cars to run on methanol? Reopen shuttered chemical plants that rely on gas for feedstock? Export liquefied gas by tanker? With about two-thirds of U.S. states thought to hold natural gas reserves, many take President Barack Obama seriously when he calls the United States the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas."
A natural gas well in Springville, Pennsylvania.
Hydraulic fracturing sites like this one in Springville, Pennsylvania, have proliferated across the United States to tap the country's stores of natural gas, but the exact volume of those reserves remains uncertain.

But just how much natural gas does the United States have?
A close look at the assessments shows that even the experts disagree. Most dramatically, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the government's own analytical team, last month slashed in half its estimate for a key and large subset of reserves: the amount of gas in shale rock formations across the country.
Although the government's new estimate for total U.S. natural gas resources—2,214 trillion cubic feet (tcf)—is a third higher than its 2008 estimate, the shale gas markdown underscores the uncertainties around this new supply source. In an interview with National Geographic News, the EIA has offered a sneak preview of the more detailed explanation it will publish in April on why its shale gas estimate plummeted.
But with other geologists convinced that EIA's new numbers are too conservative, it is certain that there will be plenty of debate ahead on the size of the energy windfall from shale gas.
Newfound Riches
Ever since Texas gas producers proved less than a decade ago that they could stimulate production from seemingly impermeable and ubiquitous shale rock through a combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, shale gas production has been booming across the United States.
(See interactive: "Breaking Fuel From Rock")
Shale gas now makes up about 23 percent of U.S. production, helping to offset a fall in natural gas supplies coming from conventional wells. Shale production could double or triple over the next 25 years, EIA projects, estimating it will make up nearly half of U.S. production by 2035.
As a result, natural gas prices in the United States are now at their lowest point in a decade. Throughout the northeastern United States, homes long reliant on oil for heating have been switching in droves to cheaper natural gas. Gas now seems so abundant that the United States, which only a few years ago was contemplating major imports to address a perceived shortfall, now is contemplating new expensive port facilities to chill and liquefy gas to export it by tanker overseas. (The EIA now projects U.S. liquefied natural gas exports starting in 2016.)
The U.S. chemical industry, which depends on natural gas as a feedstock, was fleeing offshore amid high prices only a decade ago; now it is contemplating new factories in the heart of shale country.
Tom Ridge, Pennsylvania's former Republican governor and the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, who has worked as a consultant to the natural gas industry, co-authored an op-ed in last week's New York Times urging Congress to consider requiring carmakers to design vehicles to run on 100 percent methanol, an alcohol that can be derived from natural gas. Even though methanol has half the energy content of gasoline, he argued that the money saved compared to today's oil prices, and the security of relying on a domestic resource, would make the switch worthwhile.
But the wisdom of any of these new policy choices for an era of U.S. natural gas abundance all depends upon how much natural gas there actually is.
New doubts seemed to emerge on January 23, when the EIA issued the "early release" of its Annual Energy Outlook. A key estimate, the amount of natural gas in "unproved reserves"—areas that have not yet been drilled—was lowered dramatically. EIA's new estimate for how much gas these areas might yield was just 482 tcf, a bit more than half the 2011 estimate of 827 tcf.
What happened?
The most drastic change was for the Marcellus shale formation, underlying Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia. The EIA used the new analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), along with the known histories of production from wells in the area, to create a new estimate.
The 2011 estimate figured "unproved reserves" in the Marcellus were 410 tcf, but the new estimate plummeted by two-thirds, to 141 tcf.
Because shale gas production in the Marcellus is still relatively new, having catapulted to prominence only in the past few years, researchers are still working to understand just how much gas each well might produce over the long run.
In the "core area" of the Marcellus—where most of drilling activity has taken place so far—the EIA had assumed before that each well would, in time, produce 3.5 billion cubic feet of gas. But with new data on how much gas wells have produced to date, the EIA's calculation came out lower, with each well expected to produce about 2 billion cubic feet, a drop of about 40 percent.
Proving Their Worth
And the issue is more complicated still. There is a bewildering array of classifications for energy reserves and resources, with no standard methods or terminology for most types of estimates.
Of all the types of reserves, the most certain class of reserves are known as "proved reserves," which publicly traded natural gas producing companies in the United States have to estimate and report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). There are strict rules about how these reserves must be estimated, since these numbers are often taken as a measure of a company's success-and so can affect their stock prices.
According to the EIA's latest data, in 2011 the U.S. had 60 tcf of proved reserves of shale gas.
(There may be room for doubt even over this figure, since the SEC is investigating whether companies overstated their proved reserves.)
On top of these "proved reserves" are a variety of other types of estimates from the EIA, the USGS, and nongovernmental groups, which include "inferred reserves" and "unproved reserves," as well as "undeveloped discovered resources" and "undiscovered resources."
"We've gotten a lot of questions in the past about these different estimates," said energy analyst John Staub of the EIA.
"We're trying to make it more intuitive," using a simpler system, he added. Instead of using a variety of different estimates, "we've switched this year to just talking about proved reserves and 'unproved' being everything else."
In addition to the changes in the Marcellus estimate, to estimate the "unproved reserves" for four of the other major shale gas regions—the Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Fayetteville, and Woodford formations—the EIA used estimates published last year by the USGS, which led to some drops compared to the EIA's 2011 estimate.
For these four areas, the EIA used the USGS estimates straight off the shelf, Staub said. Although the two government bodies use different language, the EIA's "unproved reserves" are "essentially the same as the 'undiscovered resources' that the USGS talks about," he said.
With the new assessments from the USGS, the EIA estimates that, outside of the Marcellus, the "unproved reserves" are lower than it estimated in 2011, dropping from 417 to 341 tcf.
Adding up all the proved and unproved reserves around the country, the EIA now estimates there is 542 tcf of shale gas available—roughly half what it estimated in 2011.
The Early Stages
However, geologist Terry Engelder of Pennsylvania State University argued that the recent EIA estimate is too conservative, given the data on which the agency based its conclusions.
Engelder is often given credit for spurring the shale gas rush in the Marcellus with early estimates that the formation held large amounts of natural gas. In his most recent published estimate, from 2009, he figured the Marcellus could in the long run yield 489 tcf, a number in the same ballpark as the EIA's 2011 estimate.
More recently, he has obtained production data from leaseholders for a small number of wells, to see how much they produce, and to update his estimate.
Engelder's earlier estimate was based on very limited data available at the time. "That's a pretty challenging thing to do," he said, "to take just 50 wells and try to project what a field might do that might ultimately end up having 100,000 to 300,000 wells."
With new data on production from 16 Pennsylvania counties, Engelder has updated his estimate. Though he has yet to publish the results, "half the counties are doing better than predicted, and half of them are not doing quite as well as predicted," he said. "But on average, it is just right where we were with that 2009 estimate."
Engelder said the geological analysis by the USGS—which was a crucial input for the EIA's reassessment of the potential for Marcellus shale gas—is problematic.
A key problem, Engelder said, was that the USGS assessment broke up the Marcellus into thousands of parcels, and then assumed that only 37 percent of them would yield significant natural gas. Engelder thinks that a lot more of the parcels will be productive.
Sorting out this disagreement may have to wait until more data comes in.
The Marcellus "is a very large geographic area," said Staub of the EIA; for the 2012 estimate, the agency had access to production data from about 3,000 wells.
With longer histories from individual wells, their potential over the long term should become clearer. "Three thousand wells is not that many," Staub added. "We're still in the early stages of development."
(Related photos and video: "Faces of the Gas Rush")
This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visitThe Great Energy Challenge.

0 Mysterious plume blankets Kewalo Basin, Honolulu

A mysterious cloudy substance is emptying into Kewalo Basin from a storm drain at an alarming rate. 

The mystery plume started pouring into Kewalo Basin before sunrise. 

"It was like 5:30 in the morning and I was standing here and then all of a sudden it came all at one time," said Robert St. Romain of Sashimi Fishing Tours. At first light he and other boat owners were stunned by the free flowing plume that turned the water white. "Just was coming out here like crazy just like you see it right now and it muddied the whole harbor in a matter of five minutes." 

"The whole harbor was just glazed over usually you can see down," said a boater. 

And it kept coming hundreds of gallons of milky brown fluid every minute. 

"That storm drain is capable of close to a million gallons a day of water coming through," said Kewalo Basin Harbor Master Charles Barclay. He said he's never seen anything like this. "If it was a sewage discharge or if it was an oil discharge we'd smell it but this is a siltation." 

"Obviously it's not oil because you don't see any slick on top," said boater Michael de Jong. 

"I don't know what else it might be. Do you have anything further?" asked Barclay. 

About a dozen state and city officials were on the scene. Everyone was baffled by the source. City crews visited numerous construction sites and checked for broken water mains but found no clues. 

"The storm water drain where it's coming out of connects to an artesian well up by the Blaisdell Center," said Barclay. He said this is one of 37 storm drains in Kewalo Basin. But this particular drainage was seldom source of storm runoff and the rains weren't heavy over-night. 

"Some floating fish." 

Barclay says boat owners reported seeing dead fish in the harbor which is home to stingrays, hammerhead sharks and turtles and an occasional visit from monk seals. 

"There's just no question we don't want any type of discharges that would impact the marine life," said Barclay. 

The cloudy substance that blanketed the harbor made its way to the ocean where unsuspecting surfers, fishermen and divers had already started their day. 

"We noticed the signs when we came in," said surfer Kraig Kina 

"We need to know what it is, would be nice so it's safe for the people surf and fish yeah," added surfer Eddie Amaral. 

"Sample it and get to the bottom of it you know the deal. It shouldn't be too hard," said St. Romain. 

The state Department of Health has gathered samples of the water emptying into Kewalo Basin and determined that it is fresh water. State officials believe the water is mixing with silt and coral which is producing the white color. The source still remains a mystery. 

"I do want it stopped," said Barclay. "It impacts our harbor, it impacts the quality of the boating experience, impacts the surfers and all the other ocean recreational users."


0 New speech-jamming gun hints at dystopian Big Brother future

Japanese researchers have created a hand-held gun (pictured above) that can jam the words of speakers who are more than 30 meters (100ft) away. The gun has two purposes, according to the researchers: At its most basic, this gun could be used in libraries and other quiet spaces to stop people from speaking — but its second application is a lot more chilling.
The researchers were looking for a way to stop “louder, stronger” voices from saying more than their fair share in conversation. The paper reads: “We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking when speaking. However, some people tend to lengthen their turns or deliberately interrupt other people when it is their turn in order to establish their presence rather than achieve more fruitful discussions. Furthermore, some people tend to jeer at speakers to invalidate their speech.” In other words, this speech-jamming gun was built to enforce “proper” conversations.
The gun works by listening in with a directional microphone, and then, after a short delay of around 0.2 seconds, playing it back with a directional speaker. This triggers an effect that psychologists call Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF), which has long been known to interrupt your speech (you might’ve experienced the same effect if you’ve ever heard your own voice echoing through Skype or another voice comms program). According to the researchers, DAF doesn’t cause physical discomfort, but the fact that you’re unable to talk is obviously quite stressful.
Speech jammer, in a librarySuffice it to say, if you’re a firm believer in free speech, you should now be experiencing a deafening cacophony of alarm bells. Let me illustrate a few examples of how this speech-jamming gun could be used.
At a political rally, an audience member could completely lock down Santorum, Romney, Paul, or Obama from speaking. On the flip side, a totalitarian state could point the speech jammers at the audience to shut them up. Likewise, when a celebrity or public figure appears on a live TV show, his contract could read “the audience must be silenced with speech jammers.”
Then there’s Harrison Bergeron, one of my favorite short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. In the story’s dystopian universe, everyone wears “handicaps” to ensure perfect social equality. Strong people must lug around heavy weights, beautiful people must wear masks, and intelligent people must wear headphones that play a huge blast of sound every few seconds, interrupting your thoughts. The more intelligent you are, the more regular the blasts.
Back here in our universe, it’s not hard to imagine a future where we are outfitted with a variety of implanted electronics or full-blown bionic organs. Just last week we wrote about Google’s upcoming augmented-reality glasses, which will obviously have built-in earbuds. Late last year we coveredbionic eyes that can communicate directly with the brain, and bionic ears and noses can’t be far off.
In short, imagine if a runaway mega-corporation or government gains control of these earbuds. Not only could the intelligence-destroying blasts from Harrison Bergeron come to pass, but with Delayed Auditory Feedback it would be possible to render the entire population mute. Well, actually, that’s a lie: Apparently DAF doesn’t work with utterances like “ahhh!” or “boooo!” or other non-wordy constructs. So, basically, we’d all be reduced to communicating with grunts and gestures.