Originally published Monday, July 30, 2012 at 3:46 AM
6 more Ugandans admitted with possible Ebola
Six more patients suspected to have Ebola have been admitted to the hospital days after investigators confirmed an outbreak of the highly infectious disease in a remote corner of western Uganda, a health official said on Monday.
By RODNEY MUHUMUZA Associated Press
KAMPALA, Uganda —
Six more patients suspected to have Ebola have been admitted to the hospital days after investigators confirmed an outbreak of the highly infectious disease in a remote corner of western Uganda, a health official said on Monday.
Stephen Byaruhanga, health secretary of the affected Kibaale district, said possible cases of Ebola, at first concentrated in a single village, are now being reported in more villages.
"It's no longer just one village. There are many villages affected," Byaruhanga said.
In a national address Monday, Uganda's president advised against unnecessary contact among people, saying suspected cases of Ebola should be reported immediately to health officials.
Officials from Uganda's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization announced on Saturday that the deadly Ebola virus killed 14 Ugandans this month, ending weeks of speculation about the cause of a strange illness that had some people fleeing their homes in the absence of reliable answers.
If the six new cases are confirmed as Ebola, it would bring to 26 the number of Ugandans infected with Ebola.
This is the fourth occurrence of Ebola in Uganda since 2000, when the disease killed 224 people and left hundreds more traumatized in northern Uganda. At least 42 people were killed in another outbreak in 2007, and there was a lone Ebola case in 2011.
Investigators took nearly a month to confirm Ebola's presence in Uganda this year. In Kibaale, a district with 600,000 residents, some villagers started abandoning their homes to escape what they thought was an illness caused by bad luck. One family lost nine members, and a clinical officer and her 4-month-old baby died from Ebola, Byaruhanga said.
D.K. Lwamafa, of Uganda's Ministry of Health, told reporters on Saturday that one Ebola patient from Kibaale had been referred to the national hospital in the capital but had then died in Kibaale.
The confirmation of Ebola's presence in the area has spread anxiety among sick villagers, who are refusing to go the hospital for fear they don't have Ebola and will contract it there. All suspected Ebola patients have been isolated at one hospital where patients admitted with other illnesses fled after Ebola was announced. Only the hospital's maternity ward still has patients, officials said, highlighting the deadly reputation of Ebola in a country where the authorities do not always respond quickly and effectively to emergencies and disasters.
Barnabas Tinkasimire, a lawmaker from the area, said that some nurses refused to look after Ebola patients after one clinical officer died and another was taken ill.
"They are saying, `We can't remain here if there is no sufficient allowance,'" Tinkasimire said of medical officers handling Ebola cases.
The lawmaker said the government's response so far has been poor and that it would have been worse without the technical support of organizations such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It took long for the government to respond, and up to now many people don't know how to guard against Ebola. We need sensitization," he said.
Ebola, which manifests itself as a hemorrhagic fever, is highly infectious and kills quickly. It was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized. A CDC factsheet on Ebola says the disease is "characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients."
Scientists don't know the natural reservoir of the virus, but they suspect the first victim in an Ebola outbreak gets infected through contact with an infected animal.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. During communal funerals, for example, when the bereaved come into contact with an Ebola victim, the virus can be contracted, health officials said.
July 30, 2003: Last Vee-Dub Marks the End of an Automotive Era By Tony Long July 30, 2012 | 6:30 am Categories: 20th century, Transportation
2003: The last “old style” Volkswagen Beetle rolls off a Mexican assembly line.
Born in Germany in 1938, the Volkswagen Type 1 was built to fit Adolf Hitler’s specifications for a “people’s car” that could accommodate two adults and three children while costing no more than 990 Reichsmarks. Production was under way but relatively few cars were built prior to the start of World War II.
The Volkswagen saw duty with the German army, its air-cooled engine proving particularly effective on the arid steppes of the Eastern Front and in the North African desert. Both the Wehrmacht’s Kubelwagen (roughly the equivalent of the American Jeep) and its amphibious Schwimmwagen were built on the Type 1 chassis.
Following the war, Volkswagen’s plant at Wolfsburg, Germany, was reopened and the Type 1 went into mass production as a civilian automobile. The one-millionth Type 1 rolled off the Wolfsburg assembly line in 1955.
The Type 1 was introduced to the U.S. market in 1949 where it became known affectionately as the Vee-Dub and was soon a top seller, despite being underpowered and noisy. (Although it was superior in all respects to other comparable foreign cars like the Citroen 2CV and Morris Minor.) While it had its drawbacks, it also had the advantage of being durable, easy to customize and a cinch to repair.
The 1967 model underwent some significant changes, receiving a larger engine size and increased horsepower among other things, and is generally recognized by aficionados as the vintage Vee-Dub year. (Maybe not coincidentally, 1967 was the first year that Volkswagen itself began marketing its car by its popular nickname, “Beetle.”)
In 1972, the Beetle surpassed the Ford Model T as the best-selling car of all time.
Still, by the early ’70s the Beetle was in decline, facing new competition from increasingly efficient Japanese cars that also eschewed the Vee-Dub’s simplicity for more bells and whistles. The last German-made Beetle left Wolfsburg in 1978 and production shifted mainly to Brazil and Mexico, where the car remained popular.
But it was all over by 2003, and on July 30 the last original Beetle, No. 21,529,464, rolled off the line at Puebla, Mexico, and was promptly shipped to the Volkswagen company museum in Wolfsburg.
When it comes to global issues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel often strikes a high-minded tone. In a keynote speech she delivered at the 2011 Munich Security Conference, she spoke of the "obligation to pursue value-based foreign policy." She also frequently says that no compromises can be made on human rights. And, in her view, the greatest thing to come out of the NATO summit held in Chicago this May was that Germany successfully pushed through passages related to nuclear disarmament in Europe.
That's the official face of German foreign policy -- but it's not the only one. Despite what Merkel would have people believe, Berlin's attention was on more than just disarmament in Chicago.
Although it escaped public notice, the German government was also trying within NATO to compile a list of non-member states with whom arms deals should be allowed for strategic reasons. Having NATO's blessing would have made it possible for Berlin to justify even sensitive weapons-export deals to the domestic audience. But Germany's alliance partners blocked the effort.
Still, Merkel doesn't plan on giving up. Martin Erdmann, Germany's ambassador to NATO, will reportedly make a second go at things in Brussels. Weapons sales have become a key element in her foreign-policy strategy, which means that reducing any related political hurdles is important to Merkel.
The Merkel Doctrine
Without accounting for it before a wider public, and with the support of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Merkel has altered the central premises of Germany's foreign and security policies. Her plans call for making arms exports to crisis regions -- which has long been a taboo in Germany -- a major pillar of the country's security policy. Since doing so could trigger a domestic political uproar, Merkel has been trying to justify her stance by taking circuitous routes like the one through NATO.
Merkel wants to bolster countries that -- at least from the German point of view -- can provide for stability in their regions. In doing so, she hopes to minimize the risks that the Bundeswehr, Germany's military, will have to participate in international missions to calm such crisis zones. The crux of the Merkel doctrine is essentially "tanks instead of soldiers."
The list of countries slotted to receive German arms is long. In June 2011, the Federal Security Council, a nine-member body made up of the chancellor and several ministers that meets behind closed doors, approved a preliminary application to sell more than 200 Leopard 2A7+ model tanks, Germany's most modern tank, to Saudi Arabia. In early July, Indonesia's government also expressed a desire to purchase 100 of these same tanks, and Qatar has likewise voiced its interest in the tanks. Merkel would also like a chance to sell Eurofighter fighter jets to India. And Angola reportedly wants to purchase "Made in Germany" patrol boats too.
The perpetually tense relationship between nuclear states India and Pakistan, and the fact that the Middle East numbers among the world's most explosive regions, do not run counter to Merkel's new strategy. On the contrary, according to her logic, weapons can also foster stability -- as long as they're in the right hands.
This strategy has a historical precedent. In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon announced a new US foreign-policy plan, the main maxim of which was that America would refrain from foreign interventions. However, it also called for America's allies to have their own militaries upgraded to be able to defend themselves.
The Nixon Doctrine was the president's response to lessons learned in the Vietnam War. Merkel's Vietnam is Afghanistan. When she takes stock of what the West has accomplished 11 years after launching its mission there, she sees a discouraging picture. She also views the West's UN-approved intervention in Libya as a failure because fighters and arms are now streaming from there into the Sahel region, where they are causing further destabilization.
These interventions have led Merkel to conclude that her government must avoid allowing Germany's military to participate in interventions at almost any price. Instead, it would like to assist select allies in either fighting terrorism or serving as a counterweight to problem countries.
Merkel's first public declaration of this new stance came last September, when she delivered a speech at a concert house in Berlin during an event honoring the 50th anniversary of the Bergedorf Round Table, a series of discussion sessions on international policy issues hosted by the Körber Foundation. She said that if the West doesn't have either the will or the ability to intervene militarily, "then it's generally not enough to send other countries and organizations words of encouragement. We must also provide the necessary means to those nations that are prepared to get involved. I'll say it clearly: This includes arms exports." Of course, she added, this would have to harmonize with a foreign policy "that is aligned with respect for human rights."
Merkel's model country is Indonesia, a Muslim country with an elected president who champions religious tolerance. But it would be a tall order for Germany to present all of the countries it would like to sell arms to as comrades in the battle for democracy, human rights and religious tolerance. This is precisely the challenge that Merkel's strategy will face.
Choosing Peculiar Partners
Plans call for selling German tanks to Saudi Arabia so that it can be built up as a counterweight to Iran. The Sunni regime in Riyadh is supposed to prevent Shiite leaders in Iran from gaining any more influence or engaging in any military adventures abroad.
Human rights issues haven't played any role in these considerations. Indeed, the Saudi regime numbers among the most repressive in the world, and it even sent in troops and tanks to help Bahrain, its neighbor, suppress an internal pro-democracy uprising during the Arab Spring. What's more, it exports Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative branch of Islam, into the Arab world.
The next test case for Merkel's arms-export policy has already arrived. The sheiks in Qatar's government have announced their interest in purchasing up to 200 tanks in a deal that could be worth up to €2 billion ($2.5 billion). Weeks ago, a delegation from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the Munich-based manufacturer of the Leopard tanks, traveled to Qatar to discuss the possible deal.
Qatar's desire to purchase the tanks has yet to be discussed in the Federal Security Council. But there are indications that both the Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology are inclined to give the deal their blessing.
In fact, Qatar perfectly fits the type of country targeted by the Merkel Doctrine. The peninsula-nation has become one of Germany's most important partners in the Gulf region. It took an active role in the fight against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and it has been supplying the Syrian resistance with weapons. It aims to become a stabilizing power in the region and declares itself to be pro-Western. Taken together, these factors make it an ideal partner in Merkel's eyes. But it's still far from being a democracy.
Arming Future Enemies?
Whether Merkel's strategy will bear fruit is an open question. "The idea of supporting partners in turbulent regions with weapons so that they can provide for stability is not implausible," says Markus Kaim, a security expert at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). "However, a sensible strategy would have to be integrated into a European framework and incorporate all departments. One can't create stability with arms exports alone."
What's more, one can hardly predict how societies -- and particularly those in authoritarian states -- will develop. The rebellions in the Arab world, which have taken almost all experts by surprise, provide just one example of this. And what will happen when the arms fall into the wrong hands?
Indeed, there are plenty of historical examples of the risks of pursuing such a policy. In the 1980s, Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan were only able to resist Soviet invaders because the Americans had outfitted them with modern weapons. In doing so, however, America only strengthened what would become an enemy it later had to fight itself. Libya's Gadhafi also once enjoyed the favor of the West and was supplied with weapons that were eventually turned upon his own people.
Even selling weapons to countries that seem to be following a path toward democracy is not without its problems. For example, the Society for Threatened Peoples, an international NGO based in Germany, has accused Indonesia of human rights violations in West Papua. The situation is also sometimes difficult for Christians in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, which has prompted the Dutch parliament to reject a deal to supply Jakarta with tanks.
The fact that Merkel's arms policy is essentially hidden from public view because the Federal Security Council meets behind closed doors also makes it problematic. Ruprecht Polenz, the chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, has called for parliament to assume a greater role in decisions related to arms exports. "We need more transparency on these issues," he says, but Merkel's government is not at all inclined to making such changes.
India blackout, on second day, leaves 600 million without power
By Simon Denyer and Rama Lakshmi Published: July 30 | Updated: Tuesday, July 31, 3:15 AM
NEW DELHI — India’s blackout spread to cover more than half the country on Tuesday, as the electrical grid collapsed in 14 states in the country’s north and east, depriving at least 600 million people of power, many for a second day.
More than 500 trains came to a halt, and thousands of passengers were briefly trapped inside the capital’s Metro line. There was gridlock on many streets of the capital as traffic lights stopped working. Bank ATMs also failed.
But airports and major industries were unaffected, switching to backup generators in a country used to power outages.
Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government had not yet not been able to detect the reason for the grid breakdown.
“Alternative arrangements like hydel power have been made,” he told television reporters. “We still have to wait for some time.”
Earlier on Tuesday, a senior power official in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Avinash Awasthi, was transferred for failing to prevent Monday’s blackout. But officials said the main problem was that some northern states like Punjab and Haryana were regularly withdrawing too much power from the northern grid.
“We are absolutely clueless why this has happened again today,” Shakti Sinha, principal secretary in the power department of the Delhi government, said in a telephone interview. “Yesterday we knew it was overdrawing of power, today it looks like a technical fault,” he said. “The system failed somewhere.”
Sinha said New Delhi and other states covered by the affected grids received power from the western grid Tuesday and managed to supply emergency power to hospitals and the Metro line in the capital city sooner than they did on Monday — “in less than an hour.”
In an editorial, the Hindustan Times, blamed populist politics for the mess. “India’s basic energy shortage is compounded by the policy of selling electricity to consumers at politically correct prices,” it wrote. “The government-owned distribution monopolies in the states have all but lost their ability to buy power because their political bosses force them to sell it cheap, sometimes free, to voters.”
People vented their frustrations on Twitter and Facebook.
“What we really need in the North is a power greed failure!” tweeted Meera Damji. “Why doesn’t this Government give out hurricane lamps since they can barely ensure electricity!!!!” wrote Suhel Seth.
Indian industry leaders blamed the incident on a large and growing gap between electricity demand and supply, something that the government has failed to tackle despite repeated pledges to do so. Some senior government officials say reform of the power sector is the greatest challenge facing Asia’s third-largest economy in the next few years.
“One of the major reasons for the collapse of the power grid is the major gap between demand and supply,” said Rajiv Kumar, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “There is an urgent need to reform the power sector and bring about infrastructural improvements to meet the new challenges of the growing economy.”
India suffers a power deficit in peak periods of 8 to 12 percent, and power cuts of eight hours a day are common in many parts of the country.
Middle-class residents of New Delhi complained of waking up Monday morning drenched in sweat as fans and air conditioners failed, but others would not have noticed the difference — about 300 million Indians, or a quarter of the population, have no access to electricity at all.
India has the world’s fifth-largest reserves of coal, but the country’s wrangles over environmental and land clearances, as well as its failure to invest in mines and technology, have prevented output from growing and keeping up with demand.
Losses in electricity transmission and distribution are also among the world’s highest, 24 to 40 percent, because of inefficiencies and theft.
July 31, 1971: Astronauts Drive on the Moon By Tony Borroz July 31, 2009 | 12:00 am Categories: 20th century, Space Exploration, Transportation
Astronaut David Scott in the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Credit: NASA
1971: Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the surface of the moon. It’s the first off-planet automobile ride.
Forty years after Neil Armstrong made his giant leap for mankind, the Apollo program remains a singular cultural and technological achievement. The application of so much technology to a single goal was nearly without precedent. Amongst all the gadgetry born of the Apollo program, the lunar rover ranks near the top of the cool scale.
The rover was the most famous electric vehicle until that slick little two-seater from Tesla Motors came along, and it remains a technological marvel. The amount of tech packed into that little buggy still boggles the mind.
The rovers were used to give the astronauts greater leeway in exploring the moon during the later, more science-heavy Apollo missions. Those space suits are bulky, and walking in them wasn’t easy. So, having a set of wheels expanded the astronauts’ range, because they weren’t restricted to walking short distances.
Boeing built the rover and needed just 17 short months to develop it. Not only did the rover have to carry two men wearing space suits, but it also had to haul whatever rocks and dirt the astronauts found interesting. The main design concerns were, as always, weight and performance.
Cost was not a big concern. The original budget was $19 million for four rovers. Cost overruns — in a government program? I’m shocked, shocked! — doubled the final price tag to $38 mil (worth about $200 million in today’s cash).
The rover didn’t arrive on the moon ready to roll. It was folded like a Transformer and packed into a cargo hold. When the time came, the astronauts used a system of pulleys, reels and tapes to lower the vehicle from the payload bay. After that, the rover took over. Its wheels unfolded automatically and locked into place as the rover opened like an Autobot. The LRV was 10 feet, 2 inches long with a 7.5-foot wheelbase and a 6-foot tread width. It was less than 45 inches high.
Weight is the enemy of all things that fly, especially those things flying into space. Boeing made the rover supermodel-light. It tipped the scales at a featherweight 463 pounds, a figure that must have made Colin Chapman swoon with envy.
The frame was made of welded 2219 aluminum-alloy tubing. Everything else was aluminum, magnesium or other exotic light alloys. Light, but strong: The little lunar runabout could carry a payload of 1,080 pounds.
The “tires” weren’t tires at all, but zinc-coated woven steel strands attached to the rim and discs of formed aluminum. On top of the zinc and steel mesh were titanium chevrons that covered 50 percent of the contact area to provide traction.
The electric motors — made by GM subsidiary Delco — mounted within the wheels. Each 54-amp DC series-wound motor cranked out 1.9 kilowatts at 10,000 rpm and was attached to its wheel by an 80:1 harmonic drive. The brakes were mechanically operated. Top speed on a smooth, level surface was about 8 mph.
The rover was controlled with a joystick-like T-shaped hand controller located between the two seats. It controlled the four drive motors, two steering motors and brakes. Push it forward and off you went. Pulling back slowed you down. Move the joystick in the direction you wanted to go and the rover turned. It was pretty much like using your Xbox.
The lunar rovers were used on the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions, and together they covered a little more than 55 miles. That doesn’t sound like much, but it gave the astronauts an upgrade in range, mobility and payload capacity that paid huge dividends in data.
On the other hand, it works out to $3.6 million per mile in 2009 dollars. MSRP = Moon Sure Rides Pricey.
Three rovers were left in place on the lunar surface. The fourth was intended for the Apollo 18 mission, which was cancelled. That LRV (one owner, never been used) now lives at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The rig on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle is an original Boeing mock-up.
BAE Wins S. Korean Deal To Upgrade KF-16s Jul. 31, 2012 - 10:20AM By JUNG SUNG-KI
SEOUL — South Korea selected BAE Systems’ North American subsidiary as prime integrator to upgrade its older fleet of KF-16 fighter aircraft over the next decade, the country’s arms procurement agency said July 31.
BAE beat Lockheed Martin to win the deal, worth about 1.3 trillion ($1.1 billion), according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). The contract was awarded under a Foreign Military Sales deal.
Under the deal, BAE will oversee installation of new software and hardware components, including the F-16 commercial fire control computer and the plane’s active electronically scanned radar, the agency said. A total of 134 KF-16 jets are subject to the upgrade project.
Other key upgrades include installing the Link-16 data exchange system and the multifunction display, and equipping GPS-guided weapons, such as the AIM-120C air-to-air missile and the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser.
“A final contract is expected to be signed in December after reviewing the Letter of Offer and Acceptance from the U.S. government,” DAPA spokesman Baek Youn-hyung said.
“The selection of a prime integrator was made based on thorough evaluations of candidate firms’ proposals, including performances, cost-efficiency and offset programs,” said the spokesman.
The DAPA will open a separate bid to choose a supplier of the active electronically scanned array radar early next year, he added. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are vying for the radar deal.
“Once the upgrade program is completed, the KF-16 will have a detection range at least two times longer than now and be able to detect and track multiple targets simultaneously,” an Air Force officer said. “The upgrade package will also allow the aircraft to hit key facilities in the enemy zone at longer range.”
BAE officials said their KF-16 upgrade package will also allow the South Korean Air Force to share source codes more easily for F-16 flight control and weapon control operational flight programs.
The KF-16 is a Korean version of the F-16 built locally under license from Lockheed Martin in the 1990s.
The aircraft is a key part of the South Korean fighter fleet that includes 60 F-15K jets built by Boeing. South Korea plans to introduce 60 more fighter jets equipped with stealth functions under the F-X III competition.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7104 on: Aug 1st, 2012, 08:51am »
Exclusive Pics: The Navy’s Unmanned, Autonomous ‘UFO’ By Spencer Ackerman July 31, 2012 | 1:34 pm Categories: Drones, Navy
The Navy's next-generation drone, the X-47B, on display Tuesday at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland.
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Maryland — If you saw it in person, you’d probably think it was a UFO, too.
That’s what happened when the Navy trucked its batwing-shaped drone of the future from California to its new testing bed here in Maryland. Across the country, 911 switchboards lit up with reports that mysterious trucks were hauling a spaceship. In truth, it was a demonstration model for something the Navy desperately wants: to launch an armed, spying, stealthy drone from an aircraft carrier, one of the hardest maneuvers in aviation, conducted with the click of a mouse. But up close, you can see why people freaked out.
Not many people have seen the X-47B, as the Navy calls it, up close: its Northrop Grumman manufacturers and its remote Navy test pilots, mostly. Until Tuesday, when the Navy program executive office in charge of developing what will be known as the UCLASS — for Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System — let reporters see the X-47B in the metallic flesh.
First impression: It’s a lot bigger than the photos and music videos have made it out to be. Its 62.1 feet of bat-shaped wingspan look even larger in person. When it stands on its landing gear, you get the sense that a human being could actually crawl into the X-47B — they’d need a ladder — even though that would defeat the purpose. After all, the X-47B is designed to be one of the most autonomous drones the U.S. military has.
The idea behind UCLASS — of which the X-47B is merely the demonstration model — involves doing away with the joysticks and computer banks that most remote operators use to control their drones. Instead, Northrop’s proprietary software lets drone pilots program where they want the drone to fly. Then they can go get a sandwich. “It’s smart enough for you to put really interesting contingencies” in the X-47B’s way, says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy’s program manager for its flying drones. “It has the smarts to react to that condition.”
The Navy doesn’t really want to elaborate, beyond saying that “precision GPS” helps the drone understand where its aircraft carrier mothership is. The Navy is quick to remind reporters, however, that the X-47B is just a demonstrator, unarmed and carrying no sensors yet. It’s at Pax River, home to catapults and trapping wires that simulate what’s necessary for an aircraft launch, to test the proposition that the Navy really can launch a drone from a carrier and bring it safely back. The drone took its first flight from Pax River on Sunday, a 35-minute flight over the Chesapeake Bay at 7,500 feet and a 180-knot clip.
Next year, the Navy plans to actually launch the X-47B from Pax River to the deck of an aircraft carrier — with the aforementioned mouse click. The plan is to bring UCLASS into the Navy’s air fleet by 2019 (the date recently slipped a year).
That said, not even a drone as autonomous as the X-47B is without human companionship. A Northrop test pilot named Gerrit Everson can prove it: on his forearm is a white box called the Control Display Unit. Packed with six buttons and cabled to a battery pack strapped to the small of Everson’s back, it’s kind of like if Nintendo created a Power Glove for flight-deck operations. The control unit can power the drone up once it’s latched to a carrier catapult and take control of it once it lands and needs to be moved elsewhere on the carrier. Everson grips a handle and flicks his wrist; if the X-47 was powered up, its nose would along with his wrist.
Another thing the Navy’s got to test is just how an aircraft carrier’s crew works with a robotic plane. There’s little margin for error in flight deck operations, and so far, sailors only know how to interact with human pilots. At Pax, a commander named Jeff Dodge explains how the Navy has “digitized an aircraft carrier” so the X-47B can better understand all the other stuff that occurs on the flight deck, in order to integrate it with manned flights. There’s even a dongle that Dodge calls a “Pickle Stick”: something that can send wave off the X-47B if the robot looks like it’s not going to land on the carrier at the right angle.
Which is an indicator that a lot can go wrong with an autonomous drone above the waves. The Navy says it’s not concerned about them — yet. Engdahl concedes that for the time being, the Navy isn’t testing how the X-47B protects against spoofing, which may have been how the Iranians brought down the CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel drone last year. And since the X-47B isn’t strapped with any weapons or cameras — yet — the Navy hasn’t figured out exactly how the human being who will decide when to use its deadly force fits into the drone’s autonomous operations. “We’re in the crawl-walk-run stage of autonomous systems,” Engdahl says. But underneath the bulbous, beak-like nose cone — what you might call the jowls of the drone, there’s a second set of doors behind the landing gear. That’s the payload bay, where the drone can carry two 2,000-pound bombs.
The rest of the drone is weirder than meets the eye. Calling it a mini-stealth bomber, a common description, doesn’t really do it justice. It’s got something of a pot belly and a hunched back. Its wings don’t taper flat, they bulge out like a flexed bicep and out a second time near the wingtips. In place of a cockpit is a red slit — an air intake — that makes the machine look like a Cylon Raider from Battlestar: Galactica. It may be on an aircraft carrier before the decade ends, but it’s not crazy to think the X-47B seems otherworldly.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7105 on: Aug 1st, 2012, 08:54am »
Assad praises troops but his whereabouts are mystery
By Erika Solomon Wed Aug 1, 2012 8:05am EDT
(Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad told his troops on Wednesday that their battle against rebels would determine Syria's fate but his written message gave no clues to his whereabouts two weeks after a bomb attack hit his inner circle.
Assad has not spoken in public since the bombing in Damascus on July 18 killed four of his close security aides although he has been seen on television.
His latest remarks - made as the two sides battled for control of Syria's commercial capital Aleppo - appeared in a statement in the military's magazine to mark armed forces day.
But it was not clear exactly when or where he was speaking, indicating heightened concern over his personal security in the wake of the bombing at the defense headquarters in the capital.
"The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle," he said.
In confronting "terrorist criminal gangs" - the government's usual term for the rebels, the army had proved it had "the steely resolve and conscience and that you are the trustees of the people's values", he said.
In the northern city of Aleppo, rebel fighters seized three police stations while fighting the army for control of a strategically important district.
Explosions could be heard on Wednesday morning and helicopter gunships cruised the skies as government forces tried to push the rebels out of the historic city and preserve one of Assad's main centers of power.
Earlier, at least 10 volleys of shells lit up the darkened sky and drowned out the Islamic call to prayer. Carloads of rebel fighters shouting "God is great" sped off towards the fighting.
The battle for Aleppo has become a crucial test for both sides. Neither Assad's forces nor the rebels can afford to lose if they hope to prevail in the wider struggle for Syria.
Since last month's bomb attack, the fighting has become more intense, reaching into Damascus and Aleppo for the first time in the 17-month-old uprising against the Assad dynasty.
Video footage posted on the Internet appeared to show that rebel fighters were carrying out summary executions in Aleppo in much the same way as government forces have been accused of acting in Damascus.
One video showed four men identified as members of the pro-Assad Shabbiha militia being led down a flight of stair, lined up against a wall and shot in a hail of rifle fire as onlookers shouted "God is Greatest".
In another video, a cameraman filmed the bodies of about 15 men lying dead at a police station. One rebel fired at the corpse of the station commander, blowing his head off. In both cases, the content of the footage could not immediately be verified.
STREET FIGHTING MEN
The Salaheddine district in the southwest of Aleppo has been the scene of some of the worst clashes, with shells raining down for hours at a time.
While the Syrian army said at the weekend it had taken control of Salaheddine, scrappy street fighting was still underway with neither government forces nor rebels in full control. Salaheddine resembles a ghost town, its shops shuttered, with little sign of normal life.
Rebel fighters, some in balaclavas and others with scarves around their faces, fired machineguns and assault rifles around street corners at invisible enemies. Wounded civilians and fighters were carried to makeshift dressing stations.
Syrian state television said on Tuesday troops in Salaheddine were still pursuing remaining "terrorists".
A rebel commander said his fighters' aim was to push towards the city centre, district by district, a goal he believed they could achieve "within days, not weeks".
The rebels say they now control an arc that covers eastern and southwestern districts.
"The regime has tried for three days to regain Salaheddine, but its attempts have failed and it has suffered heavy losses in human life, weapons and tanks, and it has been forced to withdraw," said Colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the Joint Military Council, one of several rebel groups in Aleppo.
Oqaidi, who defected from the army six months ago, told Reuters that more than 3,000 rebel fighters were in Aleppo.
According to an NBC News report, the rebels have acquired nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey. The missiles could tilt the battlefield balance if the rebels were able to shoot down government helicopter and war planes.
FOOD, FUEL SHORT
The fighting has proved costly for the 2.5 million residents of Aleppo, a commercial hub with an ancient Old City that was slow to join the anti-Assad revolt that has rocked Damascus and other cities.
Thousands have fled and those who remain face shortages of food and fuel as well as the risk of injury or death.
"We have hardly any power or water, our wives and kids have left us here to watch the house and have gone somewhere safer," said Jumaa, a 45-year-old construction worker.
Makeshift clinics in rebel-held areas struggle to deal with dozens of casualties after more than a week of fighting.
Up to 18,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Aleppo and many frightened residents were seeking shelter in schools, mosques and public buildings, according to the U.N. refugee agency in Geneva.
Rebel fighters, patrolling parts of Aleppo in pick-up trucks flying green-white-and-black "independence" flags, face a daunting task in taking on the well-equipped Syrian army.
Armed with Kalashnikov rifles, machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades, they are up against a military that can deploy fighter jets, helicopter gunships, tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery and mortars.
Western and anti-Assad Arab states have for months been urging the Syrian opposition to unite.
On Tuesday, it appeared further fractured when a group of exiled Syrian activists announced a new opposition alliance to form a transitional government - a challenge to the Syrian National Council, a long established group they said had failed.
The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army criticized the new political coalition, calling its leaders opportunists seeking to divide the opposition and benefit from the rebels' gains.
Assad, a member of the Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, is now opposed by the leaders of other Arab states, nearly all of which are led by Sunni Muslims, as well as by Turkey and the West.
Within the region he retains the support of Shi'ite-led Iran, and in the U.N. Security Council he has been protected by China and Russia.
The U.N. General Assembly said on Tuesday it would hold a meeting on the crisis in Syria this week and diplomats say it will likely vote on a Saudi-drafted resolution that condemns the Security Council for failing to take action against Damascus.
(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Beirut, Yasmine Saleh in Cairo, Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7107 on: Aug 1st, 2012, 09:09am »
No One Knows How Much Peter Jackson's New 'Hobbit' Film Will Cost 5:00 AM PDT 8/1/2012 by Kim Masters
The original deal to make two Hobbit movies was undoubtedly one of the most complicated in Hollywood history, with an array of players including Warner Bros., New Line, MGM and other rights holders. Warners chairman and CEO Barry Meyer is said to have told associates that never in his 40-plus years in the business had there been more meetings in pursuit of a project.
So, clearly organizing a third Hobbit film in a matter of weeks was not going to be simple. Still, once director Peter Jackson and collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens decided that three movies was the preferred approach, the deal announced July 30 came together fast.
"If anybody had been a big hindrance, it wouldn't have happened," says a source with ties to the movies. "It was such a short window of time to make this decision, if anybody had said no, it would have been two movies."
Previously, the budget for the two movies was estimated, probably conservatively, at $500 million. A source says the production cost of the third could run between half and two-thirds as much as one of the other two films thanks to work that's already been done. (Marketing No. 3 will add to the total.) But the final cost is not yet known because the studio is awaiting a full script for the third movie.
Jackson, Walsh and Boyens pitched the idea for a trilogy to executive producer Alan Horn and New Line's Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood in early July. Then Jackson returned to shooting a few weeks of pickups on the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, set for release Dec. 14, and left the dealmaking to the execs. "I'm sure it's been the biggest nightmare in the world for them to try to actually work it all through," he tells THR. Sources say deals for the cast to return were done before Jackson announced the third, as-yet-untitled film on Facebook.
Jackson says shooting of "essentially every page of script" of the first two Hobbit films is completed. Cast and crew were always set to return to Jackson's facilities in Wellington, New Zealand, in June to finish "a few pickups to complete some battle stuff." That will now be extended to a few more weeks of additional shooting.
"There's some areas of the story to develop and expand," Jackson says. The second movie, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is set for December 2013, and the third film will be slotted into summer 2014.
New Line president Emmerich says the trilogy decision was not an obvious one. "Everyone involved had to make a grand leap of faith," he says. "As cynics have pointed out, The Hobbit is not an exceptionally long book, but Peter has phenomenal creative integrity and truly believes this is the best way to tell the story. We all had to trust each other, and Peter, and we sincerely believe it will be great."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7108 on: Aug 2nd, 2012, 09:23am »
New York Times
August 1, 2012 Inquiry Into Security Leaks Is Casting Chill Over Coverage By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — F.B.I. agents on a hunt for leakers have interviewed current and former high-level government officials from multiple agencies in recent weeks, casting a distinct chill over press coverage of national security issues as agencies decline routine interview requests and refuse to provide background briefings.
The criminal investigation, which has reached into the White House, the Pentagon, the National Security Agency and the C.I.A., appears to be the most sweeping inquiry into intelligence disclosures in years. It coincides with Senate consideration of new legislation, designed to curb intelligence officials’ exchanges with reporters, that intelligence veterans and civil libertarians fear could be counterproductive and may raise constitutional issues.
The legislation approved last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee would reduce to a handful the number of people at each agency permitted to speak to reporters on “background,” or condition of anonymity; require notice to the Senate and House intelligence committees of authorized disclosures of intelligence information; and permit the government to strip the pension of an intelligence officer who illegally discloses classified information.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the presumed presidential nominee, and other Republicans have added an election-year spin to old Washington tussles over government secrecy, accusing the White House of leaking secrets to enhance President Obama’s image. Mr. Romney has sought to taint the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s security record, the killing of Osama bin Laden, calling White House disclosures about the raid in Pakistan “contemptible.”
The Obama administration has set a record for prosecuting leaks of classified information to the news media, with six cases to date, more than under all previous presidents combined. But on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, suggested that the F.B.I. was foot-dragging and should zero in on high-level Obama administration officials.
Mr. McCain said he was “frankly puzzled” that investigators were taking so long, since the relevant articles and books cited “a relatively small number of senior officials.”
The F.B.I. appears to be focused on recent media disclosures on American cyberattacks on Iran, a terrorist plot in Yemen that was foiled by a double agent and the so-called “kill list” of terrorist suspects approved for drone strikes, some of those interviewed have told colleagues. The reports, which set off a furor in Congress, were published by The New York Times, The Associated Press, Newsweek and other outlets, as well as in recent books by reporters for Newsweek and The Times.
In June, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., rejecting Republican calls for a special prosecutor, directed the United States attorneys for Maryland and the District of Columbia to investigate the leaks. While some officials have indicated that their primary focus has been on the cyberattacks and the Yemen plot, some of those interviewed have been questioned about the targeted killing of terrorists.
Employees of several agencies have been directed to preserve records related to the cases under review. Early interviews have appeared to be informational in tone, rather than accusatory, some employees have said, as agents try to master the facts on complex secret programs and trace press reports about them.
Already the deterrent effect of the investigation on officials’ willingness to discuss security and foreign policy issues, presumably one purpose of the leak crackdown, has been striking. Some government officials and press advocates say Americans are learning less about their government’s actions.
“People are being cautious,” said one intelligence official who, considering the circumstances, spoke on condition of anonymity. “We’re not doing some of the routine things we usually do,” he added, referring to briefings on American security efforts and subjects in the news.
Gregg Leslie, the interim executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an advocacy group, said the effect of the current investigation comes on top of a growing awareness by journalists in the last two years that the government often tracks employees’ e-mail and telephone contacts.
“Reporters are beginning to resort to the old practice of meeting on a park bench to avoid leaving an electronic trail,” he said.
The Senate antileak proposals got strong bipartisan support in the intelligence committee, with only Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, voting against them. But in recent days the proposed bill has been pilloried by former officials and civil liberties groups and has gotten no public support from current intelligence officials, the White House or the House Intelligence Committee.
Critics have pointed out that the new rules would be highly selective, applying only to the intelligence agencies and not to the White House, the State Department — or to Congress itself. In addition, they say, by prohibiting official background briefings by subject-matter experts who do not want to be named publicly, the bill could actually prompt reporters to seek out unofficial sources, leading to more uncontrolled disclosures.
“Everybody in the intelligence world agrees that we have never seen so many high-level leaks,” said Mark M. Lowenthal, a former assistant director of the C.I.A. “But this is the wrong solution.”
W. George Jameson, a lawyer who spent most of his 30-year C.I.A. career in the general counsel’s office, said the Senate bill also could be unconstitutional on separation-of-powers grounds. “It’s the legislative branch telling the executive branch how to deal with executive-branch classified information,” he said.
Rigid rules can backfire, Mr. Jameson said. Often, a reporter who obtains classified information calls an agency to check facts or alert officials to a pending story. Remaining mum, he said, often makes no sense.
“Sometimes you have to reveal classified information to protect classified information,” Mr. Jameson said. “Things move fast, and there are no bright lines.”
Brian Weiss, a spokesman for Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said she was aware of the potential problems. “The bill is a work in progress,” he said. “Senator Feinstein is looking at the comments and is open to changes as it moves forward.”
A closer look at the recent disclosures reveals some of the complexity. The Stuxnet computer worm that destroyed some Iranian nuclear centrifuges, for example, first came to light not from press leaks but from computer security companies that saw its consequences in several countries. The New York Times had reported in January 2009 that President George W. Bush had authorized attacks on Iranian computer networks; more recent articles provided more detail on the American role in the attacks, and Mr. Obama’s oversight of them.
Some experts say the underlying cause of damaging disclosures is the overclassification of routine information. “People who regularly deal with classified information lose all respect for the system because so much of what they see is improperly classified,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University law school.
She noted that more than 4.8 million government employees and contractors now held security clearances. “That’s not a recipe for keeping secrets,” she said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7109 on: Aug 2nd, 2012, 09:28am »
Originally published Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 9:01 PM
Chinatown ID crisis center an alternative to jail or ER
On Monday, a 16-bed facility designed for adults experiencing a mental-health crisis, including those accused of minor crimes, will open near Seattle's Chinatown International District.
By Jennifer Sullivan Seattle Times staff reporter
A mentally ill man is wandering around Seattle's Pioneer Square, mumbling to himself. He's been accused of stealing a candy bar from a nearby convenience store.
For Seattle police, the options for dealing with the man are few. They can book him into the King County Jail, where he'll be housed in the facility's mental-illness/suicide ward. Or they can have him admitted into an already overcrowded Harborview Medical Center.
Either option, says King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, will yield the same result: The man soon will return to the streets and back to his cycle of mental illness.
But on Monday, a 16-bed facility designed for adults in King County who are experiencing a mental-health crisis, including those accused of minor crimes, will open near the Chinatown International District. The Crisis Diversion Center will give police and paramedics a place to bring people where they can connect with mental-health experts and services and receive medications.
"It's a much friendlier and a much warmer setting; the professionals will all be there to help them to recovery," said Amnon Shoenfeld, director of mental health, chemical abuse and dependency services for King County. "The jail is about punitive and control, and the hospitals are a rushed atmosphere; they have to handle them quickly and move them out."
Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), which has worked with the region's homeless and mentally ill for more than 30 years, says the new facility will be "a therapeutic alternative" to jail or the emergency rooms.
"Our whole agenda is to get to know people and to create meaningful discharge plans," said Hobson, whose DESC will run the Crisis Diversion Center and two partner programs out of the nondescript brown building at 1600 S. Lane St.
The three-pronged program, called the Crisis Solutions Center, is expected to serve some 3,600 people a year, said Shoenfeld.
The program's origins date to 2006, when politicians, law-enforcement and mental-health experts across King County began looking for alternatives for dealing with the severely mentally ill, other than jail or hospitals. As a result, in 2007 the Metropolitan King County Council enacted a one-tenth of one cent sales tax to fund programs to get the mentally ill and chemically dependent out of jails and emergency rooms.
The Crisis Diversion Center, which will cost $3.5 million annually, is considered the heart of the program. The other two elements of the program — Crisis Diversion Interim Services and the Mobile Crisis team — will bring the total annual cost of the program to $6.1 million.
Each year, Seattle police contact thousands of mentally ill or drug-abusing suspects accused of minor crimes such as disorderly conduct, trespassing or drug possession. Those are the people the Crisis Diversion Center is designed to serve, proponents say.
"In law enforcement this is one of the big challenges ... to deal with effectively, more appropriately with folks who are in behavioral health crisis," Seattle police Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer said. "Places like Harborview are overextended with folks who are decompensating and the jail, which is not a mental health facility."
According to county statistics, the average length of stay in the King County Jail for felony inmates is 24 days, compared with 158 days for mentally ill inmates. The cost of incarcerating an unstable, mentally ill inmate in the jail's psychiatric unit is about $300 a day, as opposed to $95 per day for housing in the general housing area.
The precise daily cost of housing at the Crisis Diversion Center has not been determined, but it is expected to be less expensive than the present alternatives, Shoenfeld said.
The Crisis Diversion Center is a voluntary option for people in need, Hobson said. Though the doors will be locked, patients can leave whenever they want, he said.
But leaving the program could result in jail time and punishment, Satterberg said. Mentally ill defendants suspected of more than two dozen misdemeanor crimes and low-level felonies could avoid prosecution if they successfully participate in the Crisis Solutions Center program.
Eligible misdemeanors include criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, unlawful bus conduct, alcohol in a park and prostitution. The eligible felonies are: possession of less than one gram of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or possession of prescription of drugs without a proper prescription.
"Anybody who works in the criminal-justice system is frustrated to see the same people over and over again brought in on minor offenses," Satterberg said.
The center hasn't gone without controversy. The Jackson Place Alliance for Equity, a neighborhood group created in opposition of the Crisis Solutions Center facility, fought the facility in court and lost.
Neighborhood resident Kwame Amoateng said that the group's main concern was that the facility was zoned as hospital, but it is actually being used by police as another form of incarceration.
Kimerer said the Crisis Solutions Center falls in line in "the general philosophy we're pursuing."
Kimerer, the deputy police chief, said that more than 400 Seattle officers have received training to recognize people in a behavioral-health crisis. Eventually, all officers will undergo the crisis-intervention training, he said.
The goal is to have all law-enforcement officers in King County receive similar training, Shoenfeld said.
After being evaluated, prescribed medications and linked with services at the Crisis Diversion Center, which could take up to 72 hours, men and women will "graduate" to Crisis Diversion Interim Services, Hobson said. This secondary program has 23 beds and is located in the same building.
Participants will have greater freedoms in this secondary program.
While in the secondary program, clients will be working on finding permanent housing, be able to have approved visitors and start meeting with a case manager.
Clients can stay in this program up to two weeks, according to King County.
The program also includes two mental-health professionals, who have expertise working with the chemically dependent, to work out of the Crisis Solutions Center building 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These professionals will help first-responders with people in the middle of a mental-health or substance-abuse crisis.
"This is certainly going to be a big relief for our system," King County's Shoenfeld said."The sooner you get them that help the more you can help them recover, get back on their feet and prevent tragedies down the road."