AI Fighter Pilot Wins in Combat Simulation

June 28th, 2016

Via: BBC:

An artificially intelligent fighter pilot system has defeated two attacking jets in a combat simulation.

The AI, known as Alpha, used four virtual jets to successfully defend a coastline against two attacking aircraft – and did not suffer any losses.

Alpha, which was developed by a US team, also triumphed in simulation against a retired human fighter pilot.

One military aviation expert said the results were promising.

In the simulation described in the study, both attacking jets – the blue team – had more capable weapons systems.

But Alpha’s red team was able to dispatch the enemy planes after performing evasive manoeuvres.

Large Helium Deposit Found in Tanzania Using New Technology

June 28th, 2016

Via: Independent:

But now a team from Oxford and Durham Universities has made a huge discovery in Tanzania that has developed a brand new way of finding helium. Working with Norwegian firm Helium One, the scientists found a “world-class” helium gas field in Tanzania.

The gas was discovered by using the same expertise from oil and gas exploration to look into how helium was generated underground, in an attempt to understand where it would accumulate. They found that volcanic activity provides the huge amounts of heat that is needed to push the gas out of ancient, helium-bearing rocks.

The scientists found the new field in the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley, where volcanoes push helium from deep rocks and into shallower gas fields.

Inside A Secret Government Warehouse Prepped For Health Catastrophes

June 28th, 2016

$7 billion worth.

Via: NPR:

When Greg Burel tells people he’s in charge of some secret government warehouses, he often gets asked if they’re like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant gets packed away in a crate and hidden forever.

“Well, no, not really,” says Burel, director of a program called the Strategic National Stockpile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thousands of lives might someday depend on this stockpile, which holds all kinds of medical supplies that the officials would need in the wake of a terrorist attack with a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon.

The location of these warehouses is secret. How many there are is secret. (Although a former government official recently said at a public meeting that there are six.) And exactly what’s in them is secret.

“If everybody knows exactly what we have, then you know exactly what you can do to us that we can’t fix,” says Burel. “And we just don’t want that to happen.”

What he will reveal is how much the stockpile is worth: “We currently value the inventory at a little over $7 billion.”

Mexico: Police, Troops ‘Routinely’ Rape Arrested Women

June 28th, 2016

Via: AFP:

Mexico’s police and armed forces routinely torture and mistreat women, sometimes using sexual violence during arrest and interrogation, Amnesty International wrote in a damning report released on Tuesday.

The rights group interviewed 100 women who reported violence during arrest, all of whom described having been the victim of some form of sexual harassment or psychological abuse. Seven in ten of the women reported sexual violence during arrest or in the hours that followed.

The types of mistreatment the women were subjected to included blows to the stomach and head, threats of rape directed either at them or their families, near-asphyxiation, electric shocks to the genitals, groping and rape.

“Police appear to be using them as easy targets for arrest to boost figures and show society that the government’s security efforts are yielding results,” said an Amnesty International statement.

“The women subjected to such violence are mostly young and from low income backgrounds. The multiple and intersecting discrimination these women face because of their gender, age and socio-economic situation increases their risk of being arbitrarily arrested and tortured or ill-treated,” the statement said.

European Superstate?

June 27th, 2016


Via: Radio Poland:

The foreign ministers of France and Germany have proposed creating a “European superstate” limiting the powers of individual members following Britain’s referendum decision to leave the EU, Polish public broadcaster TVP Info has reported.

The document in which the proposals appear is to be presented to Visegrad Group countries meeting in Prague on Monday by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, TVP Info said, adding that the document was an “ultimatum”.

TVP Info said the proposals would mean members of a superstate would in practice have no right to their own army, to a separate criminal code or a separate tax system, and would not have their own currency.

In addition, TVP Info said, member states would lose control over their own borders and procedures for admitting and relocating refugees.

FEMA Contractor Predicts ‘Social Unrest’ Caused by 395% Food Price Spikes

June 27th, 2016

Mmm hmm.

Via: Vice:

The US national security industry is planning for the impact of an unprecedented global food crisis lasting as long as a decade, according to reports by a government contractor.

The studies published by CNA Corporation in December 2015, unreported until now, describe a detailed simulation of a protracted global food crisis from 2020 to 2030.

The simulation, titled ‘Food Chain Reaction’, was a desktop gaming exercise involving the participation of 65 officials from the US, Europe, Africa, India, Brazil, and key multilateral and intergovernmental institutions.

The scenario for the ‘Food Chain Reaction’ simulation was created by experts brought in from the State Department, the World Bank, and agribusiness giant Cargill, along with independent specialists. CNA Corp’s Institute for Public Research, which ran the simulation, primarily provides scientific research services for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Held from November 9-10 in 2015, the “game” attempted to simulate a plausible global food crisis triggered by “food price and supply swings amidst burgeoning population growth, rapid urbanization, severe weather events, and social unrest.”

By 2024, the scenario saw global food prices spike by as much as 395 percent due to prolonged crop failures in key food basket regions, driven largely by climate change, oil price spikes, and confused responses from the international community.

Google Wants to Slither Into Public Transportation

June 27th, 2016

Via: Guardian:

Sidewalk Labs, a secretive subsidiary of Alphabet, wants to radically overhaul public parking and transportation in American cities, emails and documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Its high-tech services, which it calls “new superpowers to extend access and mobility”, could make it easier to drive and park in cities and create hybrid public/private transit options that rely heavily on ride-share services such as Uber. But they might also gut traditional bus services and require cities to invest heavily in Google’s own technologies, experts fear.

Sidewalk is initially offering its cloud software, called Flow, to Columbus, Ohio, the winner of a recent $50m Smart City Challenge organized by the US Department of Transportation.

Using public records laws, the Guardian obtained dozens of emails and documents submitted to Challenge cities by Sidewalk Labs, detailing many technologies and proposals that have not previously been made public.

Some will be controversial, including spending transport subsidies for low-income residents on ride-sharing services such as Uber, requiring cities to upgrade to Sidewalk’s mobile payments system, and modernizing public parking to boost city revenues.

Sidewalk Labs was spun out from Google last June with a mission to “improve city life for everyone”. Since then, it has deployed several hundred free Wi-Fi kiosks in New York and is rumoured to be designing a city from the ground up for self-driving cars. Now, it’s offering Columbus a three-year demonstration project consisting of 100 Wi-Fi kiosks and free access to Flow.

Research Credit: Jb

Inside the World of Large-Scale Food Heists

June 27th, 2016

We just had all of the meat from our most recent home killed steer stolen from our butcher shop’s freezer. The thieves sawed a hole through the freezer and made off with our meat, another customer’s meat and some of the shop’s meat. (I assume it was multiple thieves because several hundred kilos of meat was stolen.)

The police didn’t even show up. They gave our butcher a reference number over the phone and asked him to, in effect, do his own police report. Yep. It’s true. This article mentions that police are no longer responding to shoplifting and burglaries around here.

Via: Eater:

A large draw to boosting food is that the stakes, compared to other stolen goods, are extremely low. Unlike money or electronics that have serial codes, it’s difficult to trace food that has been stolen. And to make matters worse, the penalties, even if a perp is caught with thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods, can be almost non-existent. “It’s a slap on the wrist,” said Rocky Pipkin, a private detective based in Visalia, California and president of the Pipkin Detective Agency. “Even if [thieves] get caught — and very few have gotten caught — unless the Feds get involved and rope up all the people facilitating the transport and such of the large quantities, then it’s grand theft.” According to Pipkin, that translates to “no time in jail in California, or at least very little.”

While Brazil Was Eradicating Zika Mosquitoes, America Made Them Into Weapons

June 24th, 2016

Via: Atlas Obscura:

In the 1950s, while in South America military-like brigades were hunting down Aedes aegypti, in the United States, the Army was falling in love with the same mosquito.

At Fort Detrick, the military’s biological weapons base in Maryland, in great secret, Army scientists were considering how fleas, grasshoppers, and mosquitoes might be deployed against the Communist threat. These insects were harder to protect against than gas— masks wouldn’t help. The threat they posed would last, as long as a population of insects remained alive. Plus, it would be very difficult to pin an insect-borne attack on the U.S.

Among these possible insect soldiers, A. aegypti was “the golden child,” writes Jeffrey A. Lockwood, in Six-Legged Soldiers, because the disease it carried, yellow fever was so terrible. The Army Chemical Corps, in a 1959 report, notes that yellow fever is “highly dangerous” and that “since 1900, one-third of patients have died.” There were parts of the Soviet Union that had never been exposed to the disease, which made them vulnerable, but which had the right climate to support mosquitoes. The Chemical Corps started to experiment with how a brigade of A. aegypti might be deployed and what sort of damage they might do.

Even now, there’s a limited amount of public information about these experiments, and much of what’s known comes from one Chemical Corps report published in 1960. Mostly, though, it seems that Army mosquito researchers were raising hordes of insects and releasing them in different situations. In 1956, looking to see how quickly and how well A. aegypti could penetrate houses and spread through the area, the Chemical Corps released a fleet of uninfected female mosquitos in a residential area of Savannah, Georgia, and collected data from locals on how often they had been bitten. (There’s no information about which neighborhood was afflicted; apparently the Corps had the “co-operation of people in the neighborhood,” although it’s not clear they knew they were part of an experiment.) That same year, the Corps started experiments in Avon Park, in Florida. They would load hundreds of thousands of mosquitos into planes and, later, helicopters, then drop them over the field and see how far they could spread.

The mosquitoes apparently performed well enough: By 1960, the Chemical Corps was producing 500,000 A. aegypti every month, rearing them on sugar water and blood and letting them lay their eggs on paper towels. Scientists had found they could infect a new generation of mosquitoes with yellow fever by mixing the virus in the solution in which the mosquito eggs grew. Hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes were not enough to start a real epidemic, though. The corps proposed constructing a facility in Arkansas that could produce 100 million A. aegypti mosquitoes each week.

It’s unlikely that the Public Health Service knew what the Army was doing—the Army’s program was a closely held secret, and details did not start becoming public until the 1980s. But at the end of the 1950s, the two branches of government were working directly at odds to one another. As the Chemical Corps reports details, in 1957 and 1958, the Army was releasing A. aegypti in Avon Park, in the middle of the Florida peninsula. In those same years, in the Panhandle, the Public Health Service had finally started a pilot program to eradicate A. aegypti in Pensacola, Florida.

Germany Worried that France, Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Hungary Could Also Seek to Leave EU

June 24th, 2016

Via: Reuters:

Germany is worried that France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Hungary could also seek to leave the European Union after Britain’s vote to quit the bloc, German newspaper Die Welt said on Friday, citing a finance ministry strategy paper.

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