7 Mind-Blowing Investment Stories No One is Talking About

1. OMG, Something Else to Give Up?

For at least 20 years, most Americans have lived with the myth that a little alcohol is good for you. Remember when those articles came out about the so-called French paradox? The French were said to have similar life spans to other peoples, yet they ate those rich French meals and consumed gallons of wine. A closer look showed that real French people don’t eat much of what is served in French restaurants around the world and most French don’t drink as much wine as we thought they did — they export it. The French are not healthier than most people on the planet.

And now any semblance of the myth that a little alcohol is good for you has been shattered by two recent studies. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health couldn’t be clearer about the truth. Alcohol, it says, causes 1 of every 30 cancer deaths in the United States each year. People who drink alcohol lose 17–19 years of their potential life span. And we’re not talking only about heavy drinkers. People in the study who drank about 1.5 alcoholic beverages a day accounted for up to a third of all alcohol-attributable deaths. About 20,000 people a year in the United States die from cancers caused by alcohol consumption, the study says.

The World Health Organization declared alcohol a carcinogen as long ago as 1988. But a new study by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has just declared that no amount of alcohol consumption is good for humans — none, zero.

A definitive relationship between throat cancers and mouth cancers has been known for more than a decade. And it is dose dependent: The more you drink, the higher the risk. Evidence is building that alcohol also causes colon, liver and female breast cancers. Evidence is building that pancreatic cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma as well as cervical, vaginal and vulva cancers might be caused by alcohol.

A meta-analysis by the agency of more than 150,000 drinkers and nondrinkers showed that even very light drinking could cause throat cancers and female breast cancers. All of which makes sense: Alcoholic beverages commonly contain many known carcinogens, including ethanol, lead, acetaldehyde, acrylamide, arsenic, cadmium, benzene and formaldehyde.

The kind of alcoholic beverage doesn’t seem to matter much, except that esophageal cancers are known to be higher among people who drink liquor rather than beer or wine.

Some physicians have begun a campaign to encourage the use of warning labels on all alcoholic beverages similar to those found on cigarettes, alerting drinkers that what they’re imbibing is known to cause cancer.

2. What Google’s Self-Driving Car Can “See” These Days

Google’s self-drive cars have now covered more than 700,000 road miles without a human touching the steering wheel. And the software just keeps getting better. For example, it now can “see” road construction ahead and devise a path through it. Or it can steer itself around a car parked inappropriately on the side of the road.

When the Google car stops at an intersection, it tracks the movement of every pedestrian and every other car there to make complex decisions about when it is actually safe to proceed on a green signal.

The car uses 360-degree cameras and sensors so it can track exactly what a cyclist behind it is doing as well as interpret the hand signals of the cyclist. Watch this video to see how much safer a self-drive car is than one controlled by a human.

And if you’re driving anywhere near Mountain View, Calif., where Google is headquartered, don’t be surprised if you see a funny-looking Toyota Prius whose driver doesn’t put her hands on the wheel. I’ve ridden in it several times, and it’s really spooky.

3. Free Wi-Fi Headed for the Big Apple

Remember not that long ago when every city in America was going to be wired for free Wi-Fi access? Well, the dream isn’t dead in New York. The city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio is pushing ahead with a plan to use all those payphone kiosks that no one needs anymore as Wi-Fi stations. There are 10,000 of them in the city’s five boroughs and the contracts for the three landline companies that use the space will come to an end in October.

Maya Wiley, counsel to the mayor, said in a press release that “The digital age holds great potential to better deliver services, and by reimagining 20th-century payphones as 21st-century connection points, we’re making broadband access more equitable and accessible to every New Yorker.”

Each station will provide not only Wi-Fi, but free phone calls to 911 and 311. The concept had already been tested by the previous administration of Michael Bloomberg.

It does make you wonder what will happen to millions of expensive smartphone data contracts if wireless works well and it’s free.

Leica T CameraThe new Leica T is one of the most beautiful cameras ever designed.

4. Leica? No, You’ll Love it!

There has always been something about the Leica camera design that seems perfect for photography. Almost any old 35-mm film camera, no matter how great it was, is now worth little more than its scrap value. But that’s not true of Leica cameras. They are considered works of art.

The M3, made from 1954–1967, is probably the best camera ever made. Although they are often more than half a century old, M3s are still used to make some of the best photos, and every Leica lens from 1933 to today will work on an M3. On eBay, they are priced from $600 or so for a much-used model to well over $3,000 for one in good shape.

But as Leica enters the digital age, it has decided to reinvent its camera design. Working with Audi to build a housing out of solid aluminum, the new Leica T may well surpass the M3 as the world’s most beautiful camera. Leica has changed everything this time — there’s no mirror anymore, no rangefinder, and the lens mount is new. Yikes. If it wasn’t so darn elegant, the change would be devastating.

The new T debuted May 26, and the body is priced at $1,850. Lenses will start at $1,800. The price may seem high for a digital camera, but it is far less than Leica’s digital M line, which sells for more than $7,000 for the body alone. Leica has had marginal success with its digital point-and-shoot cameras, but this one looks like a real winner.

5. More Coffee, Better Sight?

A new study in mice shows that coffee can ward off degenerative retinal effects. The good molecule in coffee that seems to have this effect is called chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that is associated with the slowing of glucose released into the blood after a meal. It is also found in peaches and potatoes. It’s in prunes too and may be part of the laxative effect of those shriveled-up plums.

Unfortunately, in the study the mice were pre-treated with chlorogenic acid directly into their eyeballs. Chlorogenic acid ingested in coffee may not penetrate the blood-brain barrier, behind which the retina rests.

All of this makes me think it is time to end our little study of the scientific effects of coffee with this issue because the news is always good news, which is boring.

But just in case you’re thinking that anything with coffee in it is good for you, consider these three facts: a Starbucks grande Java Chip Frappuccino contains 460 calories; a McDonald’s large Frappé Caramel contains 670 calories; and a large Caribou Coffee Campfire Mocha Cooler hits the charts at 810 calories. Not good.

6. When the Satellites Go Down

In our electronic world, a collapse of infrastructure could be devastating. And one of the most interesting vulnerabilities is our sudden dependence on GPS. A week ago, the British minister of defense and the minister of science teamed up to raise a red flag of concern. Without GPS, aircraft would be grounded, ships would run aground, ambulances would get lost, and armies would not know where to go. Weather forecasts of more than 24 hours would be worthless.

A couple months ago, the U. S government stopped printing paper marine charts — only electronic versions are now available unless you print your own. As a somewhat serious sailor, I am appalled by the number of people on the water today who cannot read a chart or plot a course. Some are steering 10-ton powerboats that travel at 50 mph — far ahead of the navigational skills of most boaters. Without a GPS, most of those speed freaks on the water would be in deep trouble. But that’s my problem.

The world’s problem is far worse, and the takeout of many satellites is a far likelier probability than most people could guess.

Solar storms have already destroyed communications briefly, but a severe solar storm could disable many satellites permanently.

It would be years before we recovered. There are already dozens of satellites waiting for launch dates. A gamma ray burst close to Earth would destroy all satellites.

The British are suggesting that a land-based system like LORAN be re-established.

The LORAN (long-range navigation) system was developed in World War II to guide ships and planes across the Atlantic and Pacific using low-frequency radio waves broadcast from towers.

Receivers can triangulate the stations to within a 10-foot accuracy. Many nations built similar systems following the war. LORAN began a phaseout in the U.S. with the rise of civilian use of GPS and was finally shut down in the United States and Canada in 2010.

The British began building an enhanced LORAN system known as eLoran in 2007, and the first station began broadcasting in 2010. The service is funded through 2022. Forever a seafaring nation, the British seem to understand the value of reliable navigation aids.

July 2012 Coronal Mass EjectionJuly 2012 coronal mass ejection that came too close to Earth for comfort.

7. I Told You So

If you think the previous story is about people who worry too much, you need to know that when researchers convened at a NOAA Space Weather Workshop a couple months ago in Boulder, Colo., they were plenty scared about an event that occurred on July 23, 2012.

Most people know nothing of it, but on that day, the sun threw out a double coronal mass ejection — two solar particle storms separated by about 15 minutes.

They passed through Earth’s orbit in the exact spot our planet had been one week earlier. Had it been a direct hit, said Daniel Baker, professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at Colorado University, “We’d still be picking up the pieces.”

Scientists at the conference said the storms might have been larger than the so-called Carrington Event of 1859, named for amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, who observed a massive solar flare leaving the sun on Sept. 1.

It got to Earth in 17 hours, instead of the usual four days the solar wind takes to travel here. When it hit our protective magnetosphere, the aurora borealis (northern lights) could be seen almost anywhere on the planet.

It was so bright that people could read newspapers in the middle of the night. Telegraph wires melted around the world. Ice cores examined in recent years from Greenland show that these events happen with a 500-year frequency, but severe solar storms seem to be occurring more frequently than that. Storms in 1921 and 1960 disrupted communications and radio signals everywhere.

The one that missed us in 2012 could have destroyed most operational satellites circling the globe and could have killed everyone on the International Space Station. It also could have taken down most power grids and destroyed the Internet.

The possibilities are so disruptive that NOAA scientists are now calling for “space buoys” near the sun to warn us when a flare occurs. We’d then have about 24 hours to shut down vulnerable systems, which would help. Longer-range planning calls for satellites and power grids that are hardened against solar rays.]


Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Stephen Petranek is a rare seed. He puts his boots on the ground to bring you the story no one else is telling. He’s also a regular fixture among other colorful and qualified contributors in the FREE Tomorrow in Review email edition, which you can sign up for — for FREE — right here. Once inside, you’ll receive daily emails detailing the most exciting and potentially lucrative technologies that are about to hit the market… and chances to discover those companies that are set to skyrocket because of it. Don’t miss another great profit opportunity. Sign up for Tomorrow in Review, for FREE, right here.

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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