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January 17 2014

17:39

Military life may put teens at risk for fights at school

Transitioning into new schools and coping with a parent’s military deployment can increase the risks that teens will be victimized by other students and bring weapons to school.

Military-connected students in middle and high school were more likely than nonmilitary students to be physically victimized, which included being pushed or shoved, being in a fight, and having property stolen, a new study shows. These students were also more likely to have rumors spread about them and to be the subject of sexual jokes and gestures.

Published in the journal Preventive Medicine, the study is based on the results of the California Health Kids Survey, which is conducted annually by the California Department of Education to monitor youth risk, behavior, and resilience.

The survey offers an optional military module, which allows for comparisons between military and nonmilitary students. This analysis focuses on a sample of 14,512 students in grades 7, 9, and 11 who attend schools in six military-connected school districts in Southern California.

While other recent research has shown links between a family member’s deployment and negative outcomes for military-connected adolescents, this study adds to the research by showing that being new in school is also associated with problems for the students.

“Such relocations cause youth to lose important social supports and networks,” says Tamika D. Gilreath, assistant professor of social work at the University of Southern California and the study’s lead author. “Additionally for military-connected youth, these moves may also coincide with deployment cycles whereby they lose the support of one of their parents.”

While only a small percentage of students reported carrying either a gun or a knife to school, the percentage of students with a parent in the military who reported bringing a gun to school was double that of nonmilitary students—8.3 percent compared to 3.6 percent.

Additionally those reporting no family member deployments had significantly lower rates of bringing a gun to school than those who reported one, or two or more deployments —2.8 percent compared to 5.6 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

“It is possible that having a military-connected family member allows youth access to weapons in the home,” Gilreath says. “Additionally, multiple deployments may contribute to increased weapon carrying if a parent is deployed and parental monitoring declines in the absence of the other parent.”

More research is needed on the combination of military-connected students being more victimized than nonmilitary students and the finding that they are also carrying weapons more often, says co-author Rami Benbenishty from Bar Ilan University in Israel.

“We do not have indications that these students are involved more in using weapons in schools. This may hint that carrying weapons may have a different meaning for military-connected students. We need to listen more to these students and better understand their experiences in school.”

The study, shows that schools need to increase the support they provide to new students, especially those from military families, Gilreath says.

“It’s never right for anyone to feel ostracized, to be picked on. Schools need practices to help integrate students who are transitioning in and out.”

Source: USC

The post Military life may put teens at risk for fights at school appeared first on Futurity.

November 20 2013

14:47

Kids of deployed soldiers more likely to consider suicide

Teens with a parent or a sibling who has been deployed are more likely than their nonmilitary peers to feel depressed and contemplate suicide, according to a survey of more than 14,000 adolescents in California.

Children whose family members have been deployed many times were at even higher risk of feeling sad or hopeless, the findings suggest.

“Given the link between separation and emotional health, it is not surprising that adolescents experiencing deployments were more likely to report feeling sad or hopeless, depressive symptoms, and increased suicide ideation and that more deployments further exacerbated these experiences,” says Julie A. Cederbaum, the lead author of the study and one of a team of researchers from the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.

Data used came from the California Healthy Kids Survey given to all 7th, 9th, and 11th graders in California. The current study looked at a subsample of California schools with high concentrations of military students.

Unlike most studies on the mental health of military-connected children, this one was drawn from a nonclinical sample of students in public schools.

It also compares military-connected youth with nonmilitary-connected youth attending the same classrooms and schools, and living in the same communities. Past studies have been conducted in settings such as mental health clinics, hospitals, or at therapeutic summer camps specifically designed for military-connected children.

Thoughts of suicide

Analysis shows that 33.7 percent of students with a parent in the military and over 35 percent of those with a sibling in the military said they felt sad or hopeless during the past year. Almost 25 percent of 9th and 11th grade students with a military parent and over 26 percent of students with a military sibling thought about ending their lives.

That compares to 31 percent of students with no one in the military who said they felt sad or hopeless during the past year. And 19.1 percent of 9th and 11th graders with no one in the military who thought about ending their lives.

“These findings match those published earlier this year in a similar, separate analysis which focused on substance use among military youth,” says Tamika Gilreath, a co-author for this study and a lead researcher for a series of several papers on the well-being, health behaviors, and experiences of school-age children in military families.

“It is not military family connection itself but the youths’ and families’ experiences associated with the past 10 years of war. It is important that we begin to take necessary steps to prevent and intervene in the well-being of our military-connected youth.”

Harder on girls than boys

As in other studies, girls are more likely than boys to report poor well-being. One reason, the researchers suggest, is that adolescent girls may take on more responsibility at home when one parent is deployed.

The authors also offer other possible explanations for why military children in their early teen years may be experiencing feelings of sadness, suicidal ideation, and other depressive symptoms.

Adolescents, more than younger children, may have a better understanding of the consequences of war. And even if they support their deployed parent they may also “perceive deployment as a burden on them and on the nondeployed parent,” the authors write.

Previous research suggests that an adolescent’s mental well-being may also depend on how well the parent at home is handling the stress of the deployment.

Deployed siblings matter, too

The study’s focus on siblings as well as parents in the military is fairly rare. A sibling’s deployment can also lead to changes in family roles and dynamics.

Less is known about how a young person is affected by a sibling’s deployment—but since adolescence is a time of increasing independence from parents—and a teen may feel more connected to an older brother or sister than a parent during this time, it’s possible that a sibling going off to war may have an even greater impact.

The authors suggest public schools, mental health providers and physicians systematically screen adolescents—especially those in military-connected families and those experiencing parental or sibling deployment—for depression and suicide ideation.

“Providers can be trained to identify warning signs that an adolescent may be experiencing problems and should be supported with referrals to evidence-based interventions that can reduce the long-term consequences of deployment-related stressors,” the authors write.

“Increasing capacity of support personnel in medical and school settings can help identify the mental health risks and needs of adolescents with military-connected parents and siblings,” Cederbaum says.

Researchers from Bar Ilan University in Israel and the Chapman University College of Educational Studies contributed to the study.

Source: USC

The post Kids of deployed soldiers more likely to consider suicide appeared first on Futurity.

September 05 2013

15:00

Is War Really In Decline?

Tank Battle

Depiction of a tank battle from World War II. Basically the worst.

Terrence Cuneo

Wait 150 years after the last major war to know for sure.

Just over a century ago, Europe embarked on the first of two ugly, horrendous, horribly violent world wars. Since 1945, despite half of a century of nuclear standoff, multiple smaller conflicts, and the birth of dozens of new nations out of the dying bodies of empires, big wars don't seem to happen any more. Author Steve Pinker, in The Better Angels Of Our Nature, argues that war is declining, killing fewer people, and no longer how nations choose to resolve conflicts. Bear Braumoeller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, disagrees, seeing the recent trend as more statistical anomaly than historical fact. On August 29, he presented a paper arguing this at the American Political Science Association conference in Chicago. Nations, the paper says, are just as likely to go to war as they have always been. We caught up with Braumoeller to learn more:

Popular Science: How long has this debate [about whether war is in decline] been going on in political science?

Bear Braumoeller: About 10 years ago John Mueller wrote a book about war in decline. For a long time his was a minority position until Pinker's book popularized it.

Popular Science: The catchiest line from your paper is that it will take 150 years to know if the trend is holding. What's some more background on that?

Braumoeller: Some of this literature points to "the long peace" of post-World War II. Obviously we haven't stopped fighting wars entirely, so what they're referring to is the absence of really really big wars like World War I and World War II. Those wars would have to be absent for like 70 to 75 more years for us to have confidence that there's been a change in the baseline rate of really really big wars.

We need a big enough sample to rule out the historical average, which is about one or two big wars per century.

That's sort of a separate question from how we know whether there are trends in warfare in general. We need to understand that war and peace are both stochastic processes. We need a big enough sample to rule out the historical average, which is about one or two big wars per century. We just haven't had enough time since World War I and World War II to rule out the possibility that nothing's changed.

Popular Science: So it seems to me like big wars are a relatively rare event, so a slightly longer time between them is well within the statistical norm, rather than evidence of a trend away from them. Are human events that subject to chance? Is it entirely fair to be treating it as a matter of probability?

Braumoeller: Think of it like a coke machine that gives you your coke sometimes and sometimes it doesn't give you your coke. The output looks like random chance, to the people who are pushing things and trying to get drinks out. Inside the machine, everything is mechanical. But as observers, we can't see that internal detail, so it just looks like probability, even though it isn't.

An example I use is that we didn't go to war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. That came down to one person's decision not to use nuclear weapons on a Russian submarine. That person's decision probably wasn't a matter of probability, but everything else was in place.

There are structural factors that predispose a system or a collection of states to start fighting each other, and those causes are deeper than the actual territorial dispute that's the spark, say.

Popular Science: You have this measure called "warlikeness" that you use.

Braumoeller: Here's the trick. I'm taking a look at the number of uses of force. When you use force, you're rolling the dice; no idea how long or involved the war is going to be. So what I'm looking at is uses of force over time. And that's a problem, because the number of opportunities to use force over time has changed. For one thing, we have more countries than we used to have. For another, not all those countries are relevant to one another. In pairs like Bolivia & Botswana, what happens in Bolivia is pretty irrelevant to what happens in Botswana, and vice versa.

I'm trying to control for the opportunity to go to war, so I can capture a pure measure of the willingness to go to war.

Popular Science: There are models that eliminate pairs based on distance. How do you narrow the pairs?

Braumoeller: In the paper there are two methods. The most conservative is continuity--the country has be adjacent to, or have a sea border of no more than 150 miles, another in order for the pairing to be considered politically relevant. That's a really strict rule--the U.S. is politically relevant to far more countries than that.

The other end of the spectrum, the measure that I came up with, uses a statistical measure to create a continuous spectrum of political relevance, based on distance and the capabilities of the strongest country. Lots of countries are highly politically relevant to the U.S., the U.K. is more of a regional player with some potential for farther-flung interests, Egypt is very much a regional player, and Chile, hardly any countries are politically relevant to it.

Popular Science: It seems like this data, starting in the 1500s, covers a time when there were fewer countries but they were bigger ones. How much does country size factor into this?

Braumoeller: When you've got a small number of big states facing off against each other, for one thing they're stronger, and once those empires and big states break up into smaller countries, those smaller parts are weaker, and many of them are further apart. The fact that we've gone from a small number of large countries to a big number of smaller, weaker countries means that the opportunity for countries to fight each other has declined.

Popular Science: Why the focus on the major wars? There's clearly been wars fought since World War II, so why talk about the big wars?

Braumoeller: Only because "The Long Peace" after World War II is something that's occasionally cited by people as evidence that major war is going away. I think the real heart of the evidence is in the trends and uses of force, controlling for distance and political relevant. It's more of a brush burning exercise. The argument is out there that, after 70 years of peace, we don't have to worry about war any more. Both war and peace can be treated as stochastic processes. We don't really have enough evidence yet to claim that.

It's easy to say that 70 years of peace is not an unusual stretch of peace between world wars. The harder question is "how long will we have to wait before we can say this with reasonable certainty?" and I think the answer "150 years" is going to surprise a lot of people.

I think the answer "150 years" is going to surprise a lot of people

Popular Science: Where would you like to see research on this go from here?

Braumoeller: I am turning it into a book. The main motivation for this is that we study wars and conflict using data to the best of our ability. And, obviously, I think this is worth doing, because this is what I do for a living, but we ought to be able to come up with a concrete answer about whether or not war is on the increase or decrease or if the frequency of warfare is even changing. That ought to be something that we as a discipline should be able to do. If we can't even do that, we should probably hang up our hats and go do something else.



    






15:00

Is War Really In Decline?

Wait 150 years after the last major war to know for sure.

Just over a century ago, Europe embarked on the first of two ugly, horrendous, horribly violent world wars. Since 1945, despite half of a century of nuclear standoff, multiple smaller conflicts, and the birth of dozens of new nations out of the dying bodies of empires, big wars don't seem to happen any more. Author Steve Pinker, in The Better Angels Of Our Nature, argues that war is declining, killing fewer people, and no longer how nations choose to resolve conflicts. Bear Braumoeller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, disagrees, seeing the recent trend as more statistical anomaly than historical fact. On August 29, he presented a paper arguing this at the American Political Science Association conference in Chicago. Nations, the paper says, are just as likely to go to war as they have always been. We caught up with Braumoeller to learn more:

Popular Science: How long has this debate [about whether war is in decline] been going on in political science?

Bear Braumoeller: About 10 years ago John Mueller wrote a book about war in decline. For a long time his was a minority position until Pinker’s book popularized it.

Popular Science: The catchiest line from your paper is that it will take 150 years to know if the trend is holding. What’s some more background on that?

Braumoeller: Some of this literature points to “the long peace” of post-World War II. Obviously we haven’t stopped fighting wars entirely, so what they’re referring to is the absence of really really big wars like World War I and World War II. Those wars would have to be absent for like 70 to 75 more years for us to have confidence that there’s been a change in the baseline rate of really really big wars.

We need a big enough sample to rule out the historical average, which is about one or two big wars per century.

That’s sort of a separate question from how we know whether there are trends in warfare in general. We need to understand that war and peace are both stochastic processes. We need a big enough sample to rule out the historical average, which is about one or two big wars per century. We just haven’t had enough time since World War I and World War II to rule out the possibility that nothing’s changed.

Popular Science: So it seems to me like big wars are a relatively rare event, so a slightly longer time between them is well within the statistical norm, rather than evidence of a trend away from them. Are human events that subject to chance? Is it entirely fair to be treating it as a matter of probability?

Braumoeller: Think of it like a coke machine that gives you your coke sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t give you your coke. The output looks like random chance, to the people who are pushing things and trying to get drinks out. Inside the machine, everything is mechanical. But as observers, we can't see that internal detail, so it just looks like probability, even though it isn’t.

An example I use is that we didn’t go to war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. That came down to one person’s decision not to use nuclear weapons on a Russian submarine. That person’s decision probably wasn’t a matter of probability, but everything else was in place.

There are structural factors that predispose a system or a collection of states to start fighting each other, and those causes are deeper than the actual territorial dispute that’s the spark, say.

Popular Science: You have this measure called “warlikeness” that you use.

Braumoeller: Here’s the trick. I’m taking a look at the number of uses of force. When you use force, you’re rolling the dice; no idea how long or involved the war is going to be. So what I’m looking at is uses of force over time. And that’s a problem, because the number of opportunities to use force over time has changed. For one thing, we have more countries than we used to have. For another, not all those countries are relevant to one another. In pairs like Bolivia & Botswana, what happens in Bolivia is pretty irrelevant to what happens in Botswana, and vice versa.

I’m trying to control for the opportunity to go to war, so I can capture a pure measure of the willingness to go to war.

Popular Science: There are models that eliminate pairs based on distance. How do you narrow the pairs?

Braumoeller: In the paper there are two methods. The most conservative is continuity--the country has be adjacent to, or have a sea border of no more than 150 miles, another in order for the pairing to be considered politically relevant. That’s a really strict rule--the U.S. is politically relevant to far more countries than that.

The other end of the spectrum, the measure that I came up with, uses a statistical measure to create a continuous spectrum of political relevance, based on distance and the capabilities of the strongest country. Lots of countries are highly politically relevant to the U.S., the U.K. is more of a regional player with some potential for farther-flung interests, Egypt is very much a regional player, and Chile, hardly any countries are politically relevant to it.

Popular Science: It seems like this data, starting in the 1500s, covers a time when there were fewer countries but they were bigger ones. How much does country size factor into this?

Braumoeller: When you’ve got a small number of big states facing off against each other, for one thing they’re stronger, and once those empires and big states break up into smaller countries, those smaller parts are weaker, and many of them are further apart. The fact that we’ve gone from a small number of large countries to a big number of smaller, weaker countries means that the opportunity for countries to fight each other has declined.

Popular Science: Why the focus on the major wars? There’s clearly been wars fought since World War II, so why talk about the big wars?

Braumoeller: Only because “The Long Peace” after World War II is something that’s occasionally cited by people as evidence that major war is going away. I think the real heart of the evidence is in the trends and uses of force, controlling for distance and political relevant. It’s more of a brush burning exercise. The argument is out there that, after 70 years of peace, we don’t have to worry about war any more. Both war and peace can be treated as stochastic processes. We don’t really have enough evidence yet to claim that.

It’s easy to say that 70 years of peace is not an unusual stretch of peace between world wars. The harder question is “how long will we have to wait before we can say this with reasonable certainty?” and I think the answer “150 years” is going to surprise a lot of people.

I think the answer “150 years” is going to surprise a lot of people

Popular Science: Where would you like to see research on this go from here?

Braumoeller: I am turning it into a book. The main motivation for this is that we study wars and conflict using data to the best of our ability. And, obviously, I think this is worth doing, because this is what I do for a living, but we ought to be able to come up with a concrete answer about whether or not war is on the increase or decrease or if the frequency of warfare is even changing. That ought to be something that we as a discipline should be able to do. If we can’t even do that, we should probably hang up our hats and go do something else.


    






August 30 2013

18:30

New Details Emerge On The Surveillance Technology Used To Hunt Osama Bin Laden

All the technology in the world doesn't beat a knock on the door.

New documents detail the sophisticated, if only partially successful, surveillance technology used to hunt and kill the most wanted terrorist on earth.

Before the Obama administration sent Navy SEALS to raid the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound, where Osama bin Laden was hiding, assorted government agencies deployed technologies such as stealth drones; satellites that took high-res and infrared images of the compound from space; phone tracking; and a co-opted vaccination program to hunt the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman, writing in the Washington Post, discuss the breadth of the surveillance techniques used:

... [T]he U.S. government employed virtually every tool in its enormous surveillance apparatus to locate bin Laden. For more than a decade, bin Laden had stymied all efforts to find him by making certain he did not leave a direct electronic trail. He steadfastly avoided phones and e-mail, relying on face-to-face communications with a few couriers and middlemen.

So U.S. intelligence tried to get creative:

In addition to the satellites, the government flew an advanced stealth drone, the RQ-170, over Pakistan to eavesdrop on electronic transmissions. The CIA also recruited a Pakistani doctor and other public health workers to try to obtain blood samples from people living in the Abbottabad compound as part of a vaccination program to determine whether the residents might be related to bin Laden.

Despite all the advanced technology used in the hunt, intelligence officials only estimated a "40 percent to 60 percent" chance that bin Laden was at the Abbottabad compound. A drone strike or a bombing mission could have destroyed the compound, but it would have left no conclusive evidence that bin Laden had ever been there. Instead, Obama chose to send in Navy SEALs, both to minimize civilian casualties and to confirm that it was, in fact, bin Laden in that compound.

The full article, as well as other details disclosed in a leaked "black budget" from the intelligence community, show how modern technology can track an, ahem, Enemy of the State, but with only like 40 to 60 percent accuracy.


    






17:00

Which NATO Weapons Could Strike Syria? [Infographic]

Here are the options for military action against Assad.

The United States and its allies are considering an attack against Syria's government. Such an attack is limited only by the people, aircraft, ships, and vehicles available in the area, so when the U.S. Navy moves more ships into the eastern Mediterranean, it starts to look a little like war.

This infographic, by Farwa Rizwan at Al Arabiya English, looks at the military maneuvers already underway. France and the U.S., with Turkish and UK airbases serving as a staging point, are the nations most likely to act against Syria's government. Until yesterday, when this map was published, the United Kingdom looked ready to intervene, but then its Parliament voted against intervention. I've left every reference to British military assets on the map intact here, but it's unlikely now that the UK will play a direct role. All these countries are allies as part of NATO. Here is what they could bring to an intervention:

Runways and Airplanes
It's hard to conduct a bombing campaign without a place for the warplanes to land. France has an aircraft carrier in the western Mediterranean that could be moved closer; there's a shared U.S./Turkish airbase in Turkey; the UK has an air base in Cyprus, about 160 miles away from Syria; France and the U.S. both have bases in the United Arab Emirates; and the U.S also has bases in Qatar and Bahrain. There are also two American aircraft carriers in the region: the USS Nimitz and the USS Harry Truman, both in the Persian Gulf. It takes about 5 days for a carrier to move between the Suez and the Persian Gulf (provdied Egypt doesn't close the canal), but they might not even need to do that. With mid-air refueling, and with permission from Iraq, American fighters could take off from carriers in the Persian gulf and attack Syria.

The map also shows American F-16s and British Typhoon planes. These are strike aircraft, or known in an earlier era as fighter-bombers. They can fight enemies in the air, as well as attack vehicles, buildings, and troops on the ground.

Submarines and Destroyers
America, France, and the UK all have ships in the Mediterranean Sea ready to strike at Syria, if need be, with cruise missiles. Both ships and subs carry cruise missiles, which can hit targets more than 1,000 miles away. You can read more about cruise missiles, and how they work, here.

Patriot Missiles
Also noted on the map are Patriot missiles, which is a bit of an odd choice. Patriot missiles are anti-ballistic, fired to intercept incoming enemy missiles. Syria has some long range ballistic missiles and last summer threatened to use them against foreign intervention.


    






August 26 2013

16:00

Big Pic: Terrorism In Iraq, Visible From Space

Pipeline Bombing in Northern Iraq

Google Earth via SkyTruth

Evidence of ongoing violence is captured in satellite imagery

It might not make headlines any more, but violence in Iraq rages on, as evidenced by this image snapped from space. This picture, taken with a NASA satellite and published by the nonprofit human and environmental rights group SkyTruth, shows smoke plumes from two fires set to an oil pipeline in northern Iraq. The bombed pipeline goes north through Turkey and then out to the Mediterranean.

When the United States withdrew its last convoy of troops from Iraq in December 2011, Iraq was left in a tenuous state. The presence of a large foreign occupying army had calmed tensions between Sunni extremists and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government, but today, the civil war in Syria attracts radical Sunni foreign fighters to Iraq (and elsewhere in the region). (In 2012, the government of Iraq took action, ordering border guards to prevent adult men crossing from Syria into Iraq, but it doesn't look like it was all that effective.) Iraq's internal political balance, very carefully negotiated between Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds, could easily be upset, and there are groups actively trying to do just that. Al Qaeda in Iraq, thought to be decimated during the American occupation, has been resurgent since the withdrawal, and is active in both Iraq and Syria. A series of terror attacks this July killed 1,000 Iraqis, an amount of terrorist-related violence not seen since 2008.


    






16:00

Big Pic: Terrorism In Iraq, Visible From Space

Evidence of ongoing violence is captured in satellite imagery

It might not make headlines any more, but violence in Iraq rages on, as evidenced by this image snapped from space. This picture, taken with a NASA satellite and published by the nonprofit human and environmental rights group SkyTruth, shows smoke plumes from two fires set to an oil pipeline in northern Iraq. The bombed pipeline goes north through Turkey and then out to the Mediterranean.

When the United States withdrew its last convoy of troops from Iraq in December 2011, Iraq was left in a tenuous state. The presence of a large foreign occupying army had calmed tensions between Sunni extremists and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government, but today, the civil war in Syria attracts radical Sunni foreign fighters to Iraq (and elsewhere in the region). (In 2012, the government of Iraq took action, ordering border guards to prevent adult men crossing from Syria into Iraq, but it doesn't look like it was all that effective.) Iraq's internal political balance, very carefully negotiated between Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds, could easily be upset, and there are groups actively trying to do just that. Al Qaeda in Iraq, thought to be decimated during the American occupation, has been resurgent since the withdrawal, and is active in both Iraq and Syria. A series of terror attacks this July killed 1,000 Iraqis, an amount of terrorist-related violence not seen since 2008.


    






August 23 2013

16:30

Satellite Photos Reveal Construction At Iran's Island Drone Base

What is Iran up to in the Strait of Hormuz?

On the island of Qeshm in the Persian Gulf, on the northern-most end of the narrow Strait of Hormuz, Iran is making improvements to a drone base. The information was revealed by satellite images, which showed completed improvements to an airfield that were started 2011. The picture above, taken in March 2013, highlights these new developments: a 5,250-foot runway, a new radar array, an unidentified, 5-meter-long drone, new hangars, and a new communications antenna.

Qeshm sits at a particularly narrow part of an already narrow passage. The U.S. Energy Information Administration identifies the Strait of Hormuz as "the world's most important oil chokepoint," so an airfield on the island is incredibly useful for threatening or protecting oil tankers passing through the strait. Also, while the drone pictured above is of modest size, Iran has a larger drone type. Iran claims this larger drone, the Shahed 129, is capable of carrying missiles, and the improvements to the airfield might be designed with the Shahed 129 in mind.


    






16:30

Satellite Photos Reveal Construction At Iran's Island Drone Base

Satellite Image of Iranian Drone Base

IHS / Jane's Defence Weekly

What is Iran up to in the Strait of Hormuz?

On the island of Qeshm in the Persian Gulf, on the northern-most end of the narrow Strait of Hormuz, Iran is making improvements to a drone base. The information was revealed by satellite images, which showed completed improvements to an airfield that were started 2011. The picture above, taken in March 2013, highlights these new developments: a 5,250-foot runway, a new radar array, an unidentified, 5-meter-long drone, new hangars, and a new communications antenna.

Qeshm sits at a particularly narrow part of an already narrow passage. The U.S. Energy Information Administration identifies the Strait of Hormuz as "the world's most important oil chokepoint," so an airfield on the island is incredibly useful for threatening or protecting oil tankers passing through the strait. Also, while the drone pictured above is of modest size, Iran has a larger drone type. Iran claims this larger drone, the Shahed 129, is capable of carrying missiles, and the improvements to the airfield might be designed with the Shahed 129 in mind.


    






August 22 2013

16:00

Union Soldiers Fired This Primitive Machine Gun During The Civil War

Patented in 1862, the Gatling gun heralded a new age of violence.

Yesterday in 1866, the U.S. Army adopted machine guns for the first time. Or, well, almost machine guns: the Gatling gun, first patented in 1862, wasn't fully mechanical. Someone still had to crank it by hand make the gun fire. In an era of warfare remembered for muskets and bayonets, the Gatling gun was a terrifying leap forward.

How it worked: The shooter turns a crank, which pushes a firing pin into a loaded, ready barrel at the top of the gun. When the firing pin sets off the bullet, the next barrel moves into place and the just-fired barrel moves toward the ground, where it drops the spent bullet casing. Then, the turning motion brings the barrel up to a hopper of ammunition, where the next shot is loaded into the barrel. A firing pin then connects with the bullet in the newly loaded barrel, and the gun fires. This happens for all six barrels, as fast as the crank can be turned—up to 200 shots per minute. (Here's a helpful animation of this process.)

Pictured above is the patent for an improved version of the gun made in 1865. This is the version first officially adopted by the U.S. Army, though technically not the first used. That distinction goes to the 1862 model. During the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler purchased a dozen for his forces and used them fighting near Petersburg, Va.

While Gatling guns didn't change the outcome of the Civil War (unlike some technology that certainly could have), they played a major part in the colonial wars of the next 50 years. During that time, the Maxim gun appeared, a true machine gun that replaced Gatling guns by the start of World War I.

Musing on the Maxim gun's role in colonial wars, British poet Hilaire Belloc quipped "Whatever happens, we have got / The Maxim gun, and they have not." The bloodiness of WWI, with tens of thousands dying in single days while charging machine guns, is in no small part a result of this evolution in weaponry.


    






16:00

Union Soldiers Fired This Primitive Machine Gun During The Civil War

Gatling Gun Patent From 1865

National Archives

Patented in 1862, the Gatling gun heralded a new age of violence.

Yesterday in 1866, the U.S. Army adopted machine guns for the first time. Or, well, almost machine guns: the Gatling gun, first patented in 1862, wasn't fully mechanical. Someone still had to crank it by hand make the gun fire. In an era of warfare remembered for muskets and bayonets, the Gatling gun was a terrifying leap forward.

How it worked: The shooter turns a crank, which pushes a firing pin into a loaded, ready barrel at the top of the gun. When the firing pin sets off the bullet, the next barrel moves into place and the just-fired barrel moves toward the ground, where it drops the spent bullet casing. Then, the turning motion brings the barrel up to a hopper of ammunition, where the next shot is loaded into the barrel. A firing pin then connects with the bullet in the newly loaded barrel, and the gun fires. This happens for all six barrels, as fast as the crank can be turned-up to 200 shots per minute. (Here's a helpful animation of this process.)

Pictured above is the patent for an improved version of the gun made in 1865. This is the version first officially adopted by the U.S. Army, though technically not the first used. That distinction goes to the 1862 model. During the Civil War, Major General Benjamin Butler purchased a dozen for his forces and used them fighting near Petersburg, Va.

While Gatling guns didn't change the outcome of the Civil War (unlike some technology that certainly could have), they played a major part in the colonial wars of the next 50 years. During that time, the Maxim gun appeared, a true machine gun that replaced Gatling guns by the start of World War I.

Musing on the Maxim gun's role in colonial wars, British poet Hilaire Belloc quipped "Whatever happens, we have got / The Maxim gun, and they have not." The bloodiness of WWI, with tens of thousands dying in single days while charging machine guns, is in no small part a result of this evolution in weaponry.


    






August 21 2013

21:30

This Scientist Helped Quietly Save The World From Soviet Nukes

Siegfried Hecker spent more than a decade securing a nuclear test site the size of New Jersey.

When the Soviet Union broke apart at the end of the Cold War, several of its military and science facilities fell into disrepair. One of them, the Semipalatinsk Test Site, just happened to be a nuclear test site the size of New Jersey and filled with leftover nuclear material that could potentially be made into weapons. Abandoned in what is today Kazakhstan, the test site is much less of a danger to the world, thanks to the quiet work of Russian, Kazakh, and American scientists over more than a decade, which as the Times reported over the weekend, is revealed in a new report published this month.

Siegfried Hecker was crucial to the American part of that equation. A former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, he became interested in Semipatalinsk after Kairat Kadyrzhanov, director of the Kazakh Institute of Nuclear Physics, visited Los Alamos. Kadyrzhanov spoke of the site's problems, including radioactive hot spots and copper thieves. Here Hecker describes the scene on the ground when he arrived in 1998.

I was alarmed to find unmanned guard posts and virtually no security at the site. My Los Alamos colleagues and I became convinced that Semipalatinsk was not only a serious proliferation problem, but also an urgent one. The copper cable thieves were not nomads on camelback, but instead they employed industrial excavation machinery and left kilometers of deep trenches digging out everything they could sell. We were concerned that some of that copper cabling could lead to plutonium residues.

Following that 1998 visit, Hecker worked with Washington, Moscow, and Astana to clean up the site. Stanford has an excellent interview with Hecker, who is now a research professor and senior fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation. It covers everything from how they secured the site to which nuclear fears still keep Hecker up at night.

[Center for International Security and Cooperation.]


    






21:30

This Scientist Helped Quietly Save The World From Soviet Nukes

Kurchatov city, the center of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site

Wikimedia Commons

Siegfried Hecker spent more than a decade securing a nuclear test site the size of New Jersey.

When the Soviet Union broke apart at the end of the Cold War, several of its military and science facilities fell into disrepair. One of them, the Semipalatinsk Test Site, just happened to be a nuclear test site the size of New Jersey and filled with leftover nuclear material that could potentially be made into weapons. Abandoned in what is today Kazakhstan, the test site is much less of a danger to the world, thanks to the quiet work of Russian, Kazakh, and American scientists over more than a decade, which as the Times reported over the weekend, is revealed in a new report published this month.

Siegfried Hecker was crucial to the American part of that equation. A former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, he became interested in Semipatalinsk after Kairat Kadyrzhanov, director of the Kazakh Institute of Nuclear Physics, visited Los Alamos. Kadyrzhanov spoke of the site's problems, including radioactive hot spots and copper thieves. Here Hecker describes the scene on the ground when he arrived in 1998.

I was alarmed to find unmanned guard posts and virtually no security at the site. My Los Alamos colleagues and I became convinced that Semipalatinsk was not only a serious proliferation problem, but also an urgent one. The copper cable thieves were not nomads on camelback, but instead they employed industrial excavation machinery and left kilometers of deep trenches digging out everything they could sell. We were concerned that some of that copper cabling could lead to plutonium residues.

Following that 1998 visit, Hecker worked with Washington, Moscow, and Astana to clean up the site. Stanford has an excellent interview with Hecker, who is now a research professor and senior fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation. It covers everything from how they secured the site to which nuclear fears still keep Hecker up at night.

[Center for International Security and Cooperation.]


    






17:45

No One Wants To Be A Drone Pilot, U.S. Air Force Discovers

The Air Force's drone program is too unmanned for its own good.

While the vast majority of U.S. Air Force pilots still control their aircraft from inside the cockpit, about 8.5 percent are drone pilots who operate their vehicles remotely. That percentage is expected to grow, but there's a problem: the Air Force can't get enough people to volunteer for the training, according to a new report written by Air Force Colonel Bradley Hoagland for the Brookings Institution think tank.

Here's the challenge: Drones are usually chosen for jobs that are "dirty, dangerous, or dull"—with dull being the key word here. Some surveillance drones require round-the-clock shifts, and the very stressful work is so time intensive that drone pilots often cannot take advantage of additional training and education, which in turn dampens their prospects for career advancement, according to the study.

Burnout also seems to be a major concern, as drone pilots quit at three times the rate of manned aircraft pilots.

If the Air Force can figure out how to get more people to sign up for drone training, the problem should self-correct: A larger pool of drone pilots would hopefully mean shorter shifts and more time for career advancement.

One way to increase the number of drone pilots would be for the Air Force to alter its requirements for pilots. The Air Force only allows commissioned officers to fly drones, and commissioned officers must have a bachelor's degree in addition to technical training. By contrast, the Army allows warrant officers, who only need a high school diploma or GED, to fly both unmanned aircraft and helicopters.

Or, it just might be that actually flying through the air will always be more awesome that piloting an aircraft from the ground.


    






17:45

No One Wants To Be A Drone Pilot, U.S. Air Force Discovers

Predator Drone Pilot

Wikimedia Commons

The Air Force's drone program is too unmanned for its own good.

While the vast majority of U.S. Air Force pilots still control their aircraft from inside the cockpit, about 8.5 percent are drone pilots who operate their vehicles remotely. That percentage is expected to grow, but there's a problem: the Air Force can't get enough people to volunteer for the training, according to a new report written by Air Force Colonel Bradley Hoagland for the Brookings Institution think tank.

Here's the challenge: Drones are usually chosen for jobs that are "dirty, dangerous, or dull"-with dull being the key word here. Some surveillance drones require round-the-clock shifts, and the very stressful work is so time intensive that drone pilots often cannot take advantage of additional training and education, which in turn dampens their prospects for career advancement, according to the study.

Burnout also seems to be a major concern, as drone pilots quit at three times the rate of manned aircraft pilots.

If the Air Force can figure out how to get more people to sign up for drone training, the problem should self-correct: A larger pool of drone pilots would hopefully mean shorter shifts and more time for career advancement.

One way to increase the number of drone pilots would be for the Air Force to alter its requirements for pilots. The Air Force only allows commissioned officers to fly drones, and commissioned officers must have a bachelor's degree in addition to technical training. By contrast, the Army allows warrant officers, who only need a high school diploma or GED, to fly both unmanned aircraft and helicopters.

Or, it just might be that actually flying through the air will always be more awesome that piloting an aircraft from the ground.


    






August 20 2013

21:15

Iran Teaches Students How To Hunt Drones

You get an A+ in robot-hacking!

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard will teach Iranian teenagers how to hunt drones, according to reformist Iranian newspaper Etemaad daily and semi-official Fars news agency. Etemaad daily quotes Ali Fazli, the acting general in charge of the Revolutionary Guard's Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia infamous for attacking pro-democracy supporters, saying drone-hunting will be part of high school classes on "Defensive Readiness."

Iran claims it previously hunted American drones; most notably, in December 2011, it claimed it captured a RQ-170 stealth drone. There's a possibility the RQ-170 was not shot out of the sky, but instead compromised by "spoofing," where hackers feed the drone new GPS coordinates, forcing it to land and then capturing it. (The U.S. government denied that this was the case, claiming instead a technical problem.) After the RQ-170's capture, Iran paraded it around, and has continued to do so for two years now.

Drone-thwarting efforts are hardly unique to Iran. In just the past six months, Americans have proposed a variety of drone countermeasures, including a drone-proof concept city, a pocket-sized drone-detector, this vague drone obstruction system, and this town's proposed drone-hunting licenses.

There are some major differences between these ideas and Iran's strategy. Anti-drone measures in the United States are designed to hide individuals from privacy invasions. The Iranian effort, instead, is a national defense initiative, aimed not at hiding from their own drones, but instead hacking into the "alien drones" of a foreign interloper, and then bringing them down. In February, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reportedly made downing American drones a serious national priority. If so, this latest announcement is an evolution of Iranian policy, not a new initiative.

American drones have a long history of operating with impunity above the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq, and with permission above Pakistan and Yemen. Iran's anti-drone efforts are a reminder that such drone-friendly environments are by no means the rule, especially when you get disaffected teenagers involved.


    






21:15

Iran Teaches Students How To Hunt Drones

You get an A+ in robot-hacking!

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard will teach Iranian teenagers how to hunt drones, according to reformist Iranian newspaper Etemaad daily and semi-official Fars news agency. Etemaad daily quotes Ali Fazli, the acting general in charge of the Revolutionary Guard's Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia infamous for attacking pro-democracy supporters, saying drone-hunting will be part of high school classes on "Defensive Readiness."

Iran claims it previously hunted American drones; most notably, in December 2011, it claimed it captured a RQ-170 stealth drone. There's a possibility the RQ-170 was not shot out of the sky, but instead compromised by "spoofing," where hackers feed the drone new GPS coordinates, forcing it to land and then capturing it. (The U.S. government denied that this was the case, claiming instead a technical problem.) After the RQ-170's capture, Iran paraded it around, and has continued to do so for two years now.

Drone-thwarting efforts are hardly unique to Iran. In just the past six months, Americans have proposed a variety of drone countermeasures, including a drone-proof concept city, a pocket-sized drone-detector, this vague drone obstruction system, and this town's proposed drone-hunting licenses.

There are some major differences between these ideas and Iran's strategy. Anti-drone measures in the United States are designed to hide individuals from privacy invasions. The Iranian effort, instead, is a national defense initiative, aimed not at hiding from their own drones, but instead hacking into the "alien drones" of a foreign interloper, and then bringing them down. In February, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reportedly made downing American drones a serious national priority. If so, this latest announcement is an evolution of Iranian policy, not a new initiative.

American drones have a long history of operating with impunity above the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq, and with permission above Pakistan and Yemen. Iran's anti-drone efforts are a reminder that such drone-friendly environments are by no means the rule, especially when you get disaffected teenagers involved.


    






August 19 2013

19:00

The Original Sail Plans for America's Oldest Warship

The U.S.S. Constitution

Naval History Photographs

This famous ship beat up another famous ship 201 years ago today.

On the afternoon of August 19, 1812, about 400 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the USS Constitution knocked the masts off the British warship HMS Guerriere. The battle earned the U.S. ship the nickname "Old Ironsides," in no small part due to the density of American oak, which repelled cannon shots better than the less-dense oak from Europe. Today the USS Constitution, with 215 years of service, is the longest-serving warship in the U.S. Navy.

Pictured above is the original sail plan for the USS Constitution from 1797. Pretty majestic, right?

Back in the 1790s, the U.S. faced an uncertain world of revolutions, rising superpowers, and piracy off the coasts of Africa. The Naval Act of 1794 created the first U.S. Navy ships since the Revolutionary War, including the USS Constitution.

Two very important and competing threats influenced the construction of the USS Constitution. The first was pirate attacks against American merchant ships in the Mediterranean. To outgun these pirates, the ship carried 44 heavy cannons.

The second challenge was the threat of the more-established European navies, which maintained much larger warships than those of the U.S. Called "ships of the line," they were massive, heavily armed, and held hundreds of crewmen and marines. The USS Constitution was built to outgun any ship the same size or smaller, and at the same time to sail faster than any bigger ship.

Crucial to those goals was a narrow body and a lot of sails: 42,710 square feet of sail on three masts, to be exact.

Today, the USS Constitution is both a commissioned naval vessel and a living museum in Boston Harbor.


    






19:00

The Original Sail Plans for America's Oldest Warship

This famous ship beat up another famous ship 201 years ago today.

On the afternoon of August 19, 1812, about 400 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the USS Constitution knocked the masts off the British warship HMS Guierre. The battle earned the U.S. ship the nickname "Old Ironsides," in no small part due to the density of American oak, which repelled cannon shots better than the less-dense oak from Europe. Today the USS Constitution, with 215 years of service, is the longest-serving warship in the U.S. Navy.

Pictured above is the original sail plan for the USS Constitution from 1797. Pretty majestic, right?

Back in the 1790s, the U.S. faced an uncertain world of revolutions, rising superpowers, and piracy off the coasts of Africa. The Naval Act of 1794 created the first U.S. Navy ships since the Revolutionary War, including the USS Constitution.

Two very important and competing threats influenced the construction of the USS Constitution. The first was pirate attacks against American merchant ships in the Mediterranean. To outgun these pirates, the ship carried 44 heavy cannons.

The second challenge was the threat of the more-established European navies, which maintained much larger warships than those of the U.S. Called "ships of the line," they were massive, heavily armed, and held hundreds of crewmen and marines. The USS Constitution was built to outgun any ship the same size or smaller, and at the same time to sail faster than any bigger ship.

Crucial to those goals was a narrow body and a lot of sails: 42,710 square feet of sail on three masts, to be exact.

Today, the USS Constitution is both a commissioned naval vessel and a living museum in Boston Harbor.


    






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