Friday, August 26, 2016
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Seems losing arms, like losing wars (Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq etc., etc.), is an art form if the piece from the NY Times rings true.
Early this year, a Facebook user in Baghdad using the name Hussein Mahyawi posted a photograph of a slightly worn M4 assault rifle he was offering for sale. Veterans of the latest war in Iraq immediately recognized it. It was a standard American carbine equipped with a holographic sight, a foregrip that was military-issue during the occupation and a sticker bearing a digital QR code used by American forces for inventory control. Except for one detail — an aftermarket pistol grip, the sort of accessory with which combatants of the current generation often pimp their guns — it was a dead ringer for any of the tens of thousands of M4s the Pentagon handed out to Iraqi security forces and various armed militias after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003. And here it was on the open market, ready for bids.
Was this a surprise? No. A little more than four years after the United States withdrew all its military forces from Iraq, and not quite two years after a smaller number of American troops began returning to the country to help fight the Islamic State, the open sale of such an M4 was part of Iraq’s day-to-day arms-trafficking routine. Mahyawi’s carbine was another data point attesting to an extraordinary and dangerous failure of American arms-trafficking and public accountability and to a departure from a modern military’s most basic practice: keeping track of the guns.
It gets better
This is along the lines that the favorite truck of choice for Isis is Toyota, courtesy of another way of how to lose things US style.
Just last year it was reported that the US State Department had been sending in fleets of specifically Toyota-brand trucks into Syria to whom they claimed was the “Free Syrian Army.”
US foundation-funded Public Radio International (PRI) reported in a 2014 article titled, “This one Toyota pickup truck is at the top of the shopping list for the Free Syrian Army — and the Taliban,” that:
Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks.
Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.
“Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground,” he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons.
Largesse, isn't it grand?
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Proxima Centauri is a smaller, cooler star than our sun. But the new planet, Proxima b, orbits about eight times closer to its star than Mercury does to the sun, the team that led the discovery said in an Reddit Ask Me Anything session. That keeps it warm in a cold solar system.
It’s about 1.3 times more massive than Earth, and it’s believed to only expose one side of its surface to the light (kind of like how on Earth we only ever see one side of the moon). A year on Proxima b is about 11.2 days long. If you were standing on Proxima b, you’d be basked in red light from the star. The Atlantic reports that if there were plant life on the planet, it would probably be crimson-colored to best absorb the rays.
Above, you can see just how close Proxima b is to its star, in the narrow band of green that represents the area where life could, hypothetically, live.
@ 4 1/2 Light Years, there's a chance we could check it out. Pretty cool don't you think? :)
A pale Red Dot
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Edward Snowden is right. The NSA got hacked. The question is, who are the ShadowBrokers as the dataset extracted was intense, legitimate and potentially dangerous as the purloined tool kits can be used against us in ways the NSA can never imagine.
ON MONDAY, A HACKING group calling itself the “ShadowBrokers” announced an auction for what it claimed were “cyber weapons” made by the NSA. Based on never-before-published documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept can confirm that the arsenal contains authentic NSA software, part of a powerful constellation of tools used to covertly infect computers worldwide.
The provenance of the code has been a matter of heated debate this week among cybersecurity experts, and while it remains unclear how the software leaked, one thing is now beyond speculation: The malware is covered with the NSA’s virtual fingerprints and clearly originates from the agency.
It gets better.
Rather than the NSA hacking tools being snatched as a result of a sophisticated cyber operation by Russia or some other nation, it seems more likely that an employee stole them. Experts who have analyzed the files suspect that they date to October 2013, five months after Edward Snowden left his contractor position with the NSA and fled to Hong Kong carrying flash drives containing hundreds of thousands of pages of NSA documents.
So, if Snowden could not have stolen the hacking tools, there are indications that after he departed in May 2013, someone else did, possibly someone assigned to the agency’s highly sensitive Tailored Access Operations.
In December 2013, another highly secret NSA document quietly became public. It was a top secret TAO catalog of NSA hacking tools. Known as the Advanced Network Technology (ANT) catalog, it consisted of 50 pages of extensive pictures, diagrams and descriptions of tools for every kind of hack, mostly targeted at devices manufactured by U.S. companies, including Apple, Cisco, Dell and many others.
Like the hacking tools, the catalog used similar codenames. Among the tools targeting Apple was one codenamed DROPOUTJEEP, which gives NSA total control of iPhones. "A software implant for the Apple iPhone,” says the ANT catalog, “includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact-list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell-tower location, etc.”
Blowback's a bitch - Robert E.
THESE DAYS IT seems like every government has a far-reaching and well-developed digital surveillance operation, complete with defense, international espionage, and offensive components. Smaller nations even join spy alliances to pool resources. But there are still many nation-states that for various reasons prefer not to handle their cyber intelligence development in-house. So they do what we all do when we need software: They buy it from a vendor.
On Thursday, researchers published evidence that an established private cyberarms dealer called NSO Group, whose clientele primarily comprises governments, has been selling masterful spyware that is delivered to mobile devices through a series of critical vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Once established on a device, this tool, known as Pegasus, can surveil virtually anything, relaying phone calls, messages, emails, calendar data, contacts, keystrokes, audio and video feeds, and more back to whomever is controlling the attack. Apple says it has fully patched the three vulnerabilities, collectively called Trident, as part of today’s iOS 9.3.5 update.
To the highest bidder so it seems.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Sunday, August 21, 2016
In this animation, the daily Arctic sea ice and seasonal land cover change progress through time, from the prior sea ice maximum March 24, 2016, through Aug. 13, 2016. The Arctic sea ice cover likely won’t reach its yearly minimum extent until mid-to-late September.
2016 - The hottest year on record thus far.
Addendum: All is not well in the northlands.
This is because across today's Alaska, temperature records are falling as fast as bird populations are plummeting.
July was the warmest month ever recorded in the state's largest city, Anchorage. Temperatures from the southeastern portion of the state all the way up to the town of Deadhorse on the Arctic Ocean broke records; the airport at Deadhorse hit a stunning 85 degrees.
Acceleration 2Step continues...
Astounding says it all when JC gets involved with health, ideology, politics and finance, something Texas has done with ruthless efficiency when stripping funding for Planned Parenthood and reproductive clinics as seen by the Guardian article titled Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds.
The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.
The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.
But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.
No other state saw a comparable increase.
In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.
At the same time, Texas eliminated all Planned Parenthood clinics – whether or not they provided abortion services – from the state program that provides poor women with preventive healthcare. Previously, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas offered cancer screenings and contraception to more than 130,000 women.
Am I missing something here?
Thursday, August 18, 2016
No Man's Sky, based on procedural generation, the algorithmic way to build a universe, is a journey to forever. Not bad, not bad at all.
But No Man’s Sky is far more complex and sophisticated. The tens of millions of planets that comprise the universe are all unique. Each is generated when a player discovers it, and is subject to the laws of its respective solar systems and vulnerable to natural erosion. The multitude of creatures that inhabit the universe dynamically breed and genetically mutate as time progresses. This is virtual world building on an unprecedented scale.
Any questions? :)
The world is careening towards an environment never experienced before by humans, with the temperature of the air and oceans breaking records, sea levels reaching historic highs and carbon dioxide surpassing a key milestone, a major international report has found.
The “state of the climate” report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) with input from hundreds of scientists from 62 countries, confirmed there was a “toppling of several symbolic mileposts” in heat, sea level rise and extreme weather in 2015.
“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” Michael Mann, a leading climatologist at Penn State, told the Guardian. “They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.”
It's pedal to the metal is it not?
Monday, August 15, 2016
Armata T-14 - The most advanced tank in the world.
Whenever I think about the NeoCons, including Hillary, and their really stupid notions about war, especially with Russia, something these people have never been a part of, let alone military service, images like this come to mind, really powerful tech backed by a real country more than willing to defend itself, who knows how to build weapons designed to handle the vagaries of the real world AK47 vs. the F35. better then the US. Adding to this blinding stupidity is the notion war is an affair that can be controlled, a notion completely at odds with reality, something the MICC
Military/Industrial/Congressional/Complex seems utterly incapable of understanding in any way shape or fashion.
A point that the tofu ferocities of New York might bear in mind is that wars seldom turn out as expected, usually with godawful results. We do not know what would happen in a war with Russia. Permit me a tedious catalog to make this point. It is very worth making.
When Washington pushed the South into the Civil War, it expected a conflict that might be over in twenty-four hours, not four years with as least 650,000 dead. When Germany began WWI, it expected a swift lunge into Paris, not four years of hideously bloody static war followed by unconditional surrender. When the Japanese Army pushed for attacking Pearl, it did not foresee GIs marching in Tokyo and a couple of cities glowing at night. When Hitler invaded Poland, utter defeat, and occupation of Germany was not among his war aims. When the US invaded Vietnam, it did not expect to be outfought and outsmarted by a bush-world country. When Russia invaded Afghanistan it did not expect…nor when America invaded Afghanistan, nor when it attacked Iraq, nor….
The standard American approach to war is to underestimate the enemy, overestimate American capacities, and misunderstand the kind of war it enters. This is particularly true when the war is a manhood ritual for masculine inadequates–think Kristol, Podhoretz, Sanders, the whole Neocon milk bar, and that mendacious wreck, Hillary, who has the military grasp of a Shetland pony. If you don’t think weak egos and perpetual adolescence have a part in deciding policy, read up on Kaiser Wilhelm
As an aside, yours truly did two years in the the Army with a stint in Korea instead of Nam, thank god.
Retired General Anthony Zinni displayed little confidence in Bush and his aides. He said that their Iraq endeavor has landed the United States into the middle of assorted “culture wars” in the Middle East. “We don’t understand that culture,” he remarked. “I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life in this part of the world. And I’ll tell you, every time I hear…one of the dilettantes back here speak about this region of the world, they don’t have a clue. They don’t understand what makes them tick. They don’t understand where they are in their own history. They don’t understand what our role is….We are great at dealing with the tactical problems–the killing and the breaking. We are lousy at solving the strategic problems; having a strategic plan, understanding about regional and global security and what it takes to weld that and to shape it and to move forward.”
“We should be…extremely proud of what our people did out there….It kills me when I hear of the continuing casualties and the sacrifice that’s being made. It also kills me when I hear someone say that, well, each one of those is a personal tragedy, but in the overall scheme of things, they’re insignificant statistically.” (Perhaps he had in mind the comment Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made in June, when he played down attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by saying, “You’ve got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month; there’s going to be violence in a big city.”) Zinni continued: “When we put [our enlisted men and women] in harm’s way, it had better count for something, It can’t be because some policy wonk back here has a brain fart of an idea of a strategy that isn’t thought out.”
Brain fart? That’s not quite a military term. But those are fighting words. And Zinni practically counseled his audience to rebel against the Bush administration. U.S. troops, he said, “should never be put on a battlefield without a strategic plan, not only for the fighting–our generals will take care of that–but for the aftermath and winning that war. Where are we, the American people, if we accept this, if we accept this level of sacrifice without that level of planning? Almost everyone in this room, of my contemporaries–our feelings and our sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and lies, and we saw the sacrifice. We swore never again would we do that. We swore never again would we allow it to happen. And I ask you, is it happening again? And you’re going to have to answer that question, just like the American people are.”
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Quanta Magazine is a gem. Science for the rest of us, particularly physics, warms the cockles of yours truly's heart, especially when it comes to the mysterious connect between order and disorder, a subject that never ceases to amaze given just how profound the connect truly is. With this in mind, the eyes of birds have an interesting tale to tell with it's indirect link to random walks, chaos and close packing, commonplace phenomena that show the inner workings of reality in subtle and interesting ways.
Chaos - Lorenz attractor aka The butterfly effect
Close packing of cannon balls
Seven years ago, Joe Corbo stared into the eye of a chicken and saw something astonishing. The color-sensitive cone cells that carpeted the retina (detached from the fowl, and mounted under a microscope) appeared as polka dots of five different colors and sizes. But Corbo observed that, unlike the randomly dispersed cones in human eyes, or the neat rows of cones in the eyes of many fish, the chicken’s cones had a haphazard and yet remarkably uniform distribution. The dots’ locations followed no discernible rule, and yet dots never appeared too close together or too far apart. Each of the five interspersed sets of cones, and all of them together, exhibited this same arresting mix of randomness and regularity. Corbo, who runs a biology lab at Washington University in St. Louis, was hooked.
When this notion of unordered yet uniform distribution is connected to the universality of phase transitions and the permutations of randomness, a more comprehensive view of reality emerges.
Beyond the one-dimensional random walk, there are many other kinds of random shapes. There are varieties of random paths, random two-dimensional surfaces, random growth models that approximate, for example, the way a lichen spreads on a rock. All of these shapes emerge naturally in the physical world, yet until recently they’ve existed beyond the boundaries of rigorous mathematical thought. Given a large collection of random paths or random two-dimensional shapes, mathematicians would have been at a loss to say much about what these random objects shared in common.
“You take the most natural objects — trees, paths, surfaces — and you show they’re all related to each other,” Sheffield said. “And once you have these relationships, you can prove all sorts of new theorems you couldn’t prove before.”
Mandelbrot would get this research without question.