Japan’s recently appointed cybersecurity and Olympics minister has told parliament he has never used a computer in his life, though it’s his job to oversee cybersecurity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Yoshitaka Sakurada, is the deputy chief of Japan’s vaunted cybersecurity strategy office and is also the minister in charge of the Olympic Games that Tokyo will host in 2020.
Depite these responsibilities, Sakurada has admitted that he has never used a computer, and is more or less baffled by the very idea of a USB drive and what it might do, according to a report the Guardian published on Nov. 14, 2018.
It all began October 2018.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted Sakurada, 68, to the joint posts in October 2018, despite his left-field selection having never held a Cabinet position before during his 18 years in Japan’s Diet or parliament.
It was in the Diet, on Wednesday however, Sakurada came clean and admitted he is not a big computer person.
According to local media, the newly appointed minister made the admission at a parliamentary committee meeting when an opposition politician asked Sakurada a fairly routine are-you-computer-literate question.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
His response catches in a nutshell concerns that some Japanese lawmakers are growing desperately out of touch in a rapidly aging nation.
“I’ve been independent since I was 25 and have always directed my staff and secretaries to do that kind of thing,” Sakurada replied.
“I’ve never used a computer.”
Sakurada was answering questions from Masato Imai, an independent Lower House lawmaker.
When pursued by the concerned lawmaker about how a man lacking computer skills could be in charge of cybersecurity, Sakurada said he was confident there would be no problems.
“It’s shocking to me that someone who hasn’t even touched computers is responsible for dealing with cybersecurity policies,” Imai said.
He also appeared confused by the question when asked about whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities.
Sakurada also said “he doesn’t know the details” when a member of the Democratic Party for the People, asked him about what measures he had in place against cyberattacks on Japan’s nuclear power plants.
The countdown may already be on for Sakurada in his official role.
At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Sakurada stumbled and obfuscated when answering simple questions about his organizing committee’s three policy pillars for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and also the games’ budget.
The debate was punctuated with lengthy interruptions as the luckless minister turned to and relied almost entirely on his aides to answer the basic questions.
Sakurada apologized for his performance and the indignity to the Diet four days later.
He may not have gotten the email.
Featured image: toolstotal.com
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Amid increased Russian aggression, including the Kremlin’s unveiling a new “Satan 2” nuclear missile, NATO forces announced on Oct. 27 that they were increasing deployments of troops to nations most likely to suffer an attack if Russia goes on the offensive.
A Romanian soldier of the 33rd Mountain Battalion Posada fires a semi-auto PKM while conducting a simulated attack during exercise Combined Resolve VII on Sept. 11, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)
Russia has consolidated its military control and NATO believes it has 330,000 troops massed near Moscow. NATO has described its new deployments as a measured response. NATO’s new deployments consist of only about 4,000 soldiers.
The alliance will send a previously agreed upon four multinational battalions to its borders with Russia. A German-led battalion is headed to reinforce Lithuania, a Canadian-led battalion is reporting to Latvia, a British-led battalion is deploying to Estonia, and a U.S.-led battalion is protecting Poland. Most of the forces will arrive at their destinations in 2017.
Britain had originally pledged 650 men for the battalion in Estonia, enough for a headquarters and a few companies of frontline fighters. But the British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, announced on Oct. 26 that Britain would deploy 800 troops instead. Those 800 soldiers will sport tactical drones and Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
All of the NATO battalions being deployed are made up of multinational forces led by a battalion headquarters from a single nation, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The U.S.-led battalion going to Poland is the largest force planned in the agreement.
The U.S. also agreed to a deal with Norway that calls for 330 Marines to deploy to that country. The Marines have previously cooperated with Norway in NATO training exercises set in that country, says CNN.
America has pledged $3.4 billion to increasing defensive measures in Europe in 2017. A portion of the money will go to staging more military equipment near vulnerable NATO areas.
All of this activity comes amid continuously heightening tensions in Europe. Russia has continued to invest heavily in military infrastructure and exercises despite tightening budgets in Moscow.
The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.
The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of a unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuze built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.
Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.
The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.
Spc. Avery Lebron Johnson Jr. (R), a cannon crewmember in 1st Platoon, Archer Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment guides a m155 round into a M777 howitzer Aug. 5, 2017 while training in the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia during Noble Partner 17. Noble Partner is a multinational training exercise in support of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2d Cavalry Regiment)
“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.
BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.
“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.
Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.
GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter, Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attacked without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envisioned as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.
The rise of near-peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.
This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much-discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.
Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.
Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation, and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad-hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.
At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite coms, harden networks and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.
The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radio frequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.
Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.
Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer-range weapons and sensors.
This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — … “it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
If true, the battle may mark the deadliest encounter between the Cold War rivals in decades.
While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, U.S. and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.
If the U.S. did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.
But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it portrays as peacekeeping and inexpensive.
Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.
“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the U.S. has trained, equipped, and backed for years.
The river acts as a border between the coalition and Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t a mistake.
Syrian regime forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 regime troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems on the U.S.-backed SDF headquarters in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east of the Euphrates River.
The U.S.-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.
The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF soldier. Days later, a U.S. jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank that had fired on U.S. and SDF forces, the Pentagon told Business Insider.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam. But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren’t exactly intuitive.
These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.
Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring.
(USARDEC Tom Faulkner)
Changing batteries can be the end
It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here’s the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.
Re-uploaded from a device you probably don’t have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You’re essentially faced with, “Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck.”
Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world’s highest-stakes game of Operation.
Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3?
(U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)
Is this version of the packing list really the final one?
No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That’s because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.
If you’ve been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don’t have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won’t affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn’t know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you’re now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.
There’s a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.
Even when you’re relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there’s always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You’re getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn’t answering their phone because they’re worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?
Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can’t even delay it with sex.
This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can’t risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery.
(U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)
Surprise formation? Crap, here’s a new training requirement.
The worst nightmare comes when you’re just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That’s when you’ll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.
And if you’re not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)
Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.
Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting!
(U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)
Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren’t great either)
CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there’s usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.
Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you’ve never heard before, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.
This message was brought to you by the letter ‘C.’ ‘C’ is just glad that you hate it a little less next to ‘X,’ because ‘C’ usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).
Beaver County native Scott Marshall and his wife Karen were trying out a new church Sunday because she had recently moved back to their home in La Vernia, Texas, after finishing an assignment at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, family members said.
In what was the first and only time they worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the Marshalls were among 26 people shot and killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a service there. Authorities said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute .
Scott Marshall, 58, was retired from the Air Force and had been working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base, about 35 miles west of La Vernia, said his father Robert Marshall, 85, of Crescent. Scott and Karen met while they were in the service together more than 30 years ago.
Scott grew up in Hopewell, Beaver County, and joined the Air Force after graduating from high school.
Karen was a Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard and had just finished a posting at Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Marshall said. Scott was driving her back to Texas, where she would officially retire. The couple stopped in Pennsylvania on their way home to spend a few days with Scott’s family. They threw a birthday party for Robert two Sundays ago.
“It was a surprise party for my dad. He thought they were just celebrating her retirement,” said Scott’s younger sister Holly Hannum, 48, of Chippewa.
They left last Tuesday to continue on their way back to Texas, Hannum said. They were just settling back into life together, she said.
Hannum said Karen, who grew up in Nevada, wasn’t raised Baptist but she found a Baptist church that she liked in Maryland. She wanted to try another one of the same denomination when she got back to Texas.
“They wanted to try a Baptist church that was just 10 minutes from their house,” Hannum said.
Hannum was just returning from church herself when she said she felt a wave of apprehension come over her. Her heart sank when she saw news of a shooting in Texas and her brother wouldn’t answer her text messages. She reached Scott’s son Brandon, who told her that he was awaiting word from authorities about what happened to Scott and Karen.
The family found out early Monday morning — on Robert’s 85th birthday — that Scott and Karen were among the dead. Their red Xterra SUV was visible in many of the TV shots taken outside the church, Hannum said.
As of Monday night, the family was preparing for a trip to Texas — complicated by Robert’s need for an oxygen machine — by air and by car.
In addition to his father and sister Holly, Scott is survived by sisters Kim, Laurie and Amy; son, Brandon; daughters Martina and Kara; and five grandchildren. The Marshall family could not name all of Karen’s siblings.
Funeral arrangements were being planned for Texas, Hannum said.
Researchers from MIT and NASA have developed an airplane wing that can change shape and increase the efficiency of aircraft flight, production, and maintenance, according to MIT News.
On a traditional airplane wing, only parts of the wing, such as flaps and ailerons, can move to change the plane’s direction. The wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers would be able to move in its entirety.
The wing is made of hundreds of small, identical pieces that contain both rigid and flexible components which make it lighter and more efficient than traditional airplane wings. Since the wing could adjust to the particular characteristics of each stage of flight (takeoff, landing, steering, etc.), it could perform better than traditional wings, which are not designed to maximize performance during any part of a flight.
Wing assembly under construction.
“We’re able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack,” NASA research engineer Nicholas Cramer told MIT News.
The wing’s parts are arranged in a lattice structure that creates a large amount of empty space and covered in a thin, polymer material. Combined, the wing’s materials and structure make it as firm as a rubber-like polymer (though much less dense) and as light as an aerogel.
MIT graduate student Benjamin Jenett told MIT News that the wing performed better than expected during a test in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.
Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)
America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.
But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.
Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.
PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)
These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.
Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.
The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.
They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.
U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.
All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.
But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”
Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.
The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.
U.S. Coast Guardsman Bobby “Blackhat” Walters is the epitome of “cool cat.”
He’s a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s also the winner of the 2017 Mission: Music competition that found incredible musicians from the military community, sent them to Nashville for a professional video shoot at the iconic Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios, then introduced them America, who voted for which artist would take the stage at Base*FEST Powered by USAA.
Walters’ blues and contagious laughter carried him all over the country and right up to that stage, along with headliners Thompson Square and DNCE.
“You know, when you’re going up onto that stage, and the first thing you worry about is ‘please don’t let me trip,'” he laughed. “But then I gathered everyone around me together and I said, ‘Okay guys, rule number one: have fun.'”
For many veterans, who put their creative careers on hold when they join the military, building an artistic life can be challenging. Opportunities like Mission: Music give talented service members a helpful boost as a way of thanking them for that service. Nationwide coverage and the chance to play at an event with major headliners can be a game-changer.
Walters called the experience one of the highlights of his musical career.
“They say you get the rockstar treatment, well, we got the ‘blues star’ treatment!”
Follow Walters’ journey from the U.S. Coast Guard to the blues, to competing in Mission: Music and receiving that victory call, all the way to the stage at Naval Air Station Pensacola and his meeting with Thompson Square in the video below:
(Bobby Blackhat slays at Base*FEST Powered by USAA)
“Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.” Verdict: Definitely true. Sadly, this prediction became true quickly, on September 11, 2001.
“Iraq and Iran [will] develop long range missiles in the near future. Iran … could be testing such weapons by as early as the coming year, and cruise missiles by 2004.” Verdict: Both true and false. Iran is definitely working on an ICBM and was expected to test it in 2015. But international sanctions on Iran has brought it to the negotiation table and diplomats say they are close to a comprehensive deal.
“The world population will grow by more than one billion, to 7.2 billion.” Verdict: True. The world population is now about 7.3 billion.
“Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the US as a shaper of the global economic system.” Verdict: Not quite true. The CIA report was very bullish on the European economy, which had been sluggish at the start of the year, but has recently picked up steam.
“Aids, famine, and continuing economic and political turmoil means that populations in many [African] countries will actually fall.” Verdict: False. Africa’s population rose from 800 million in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2014.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
In northern Iraq, fleeing ISIS militants adopted a “scorched earth” policy in many of the areas they once occupied, making it virtually impossible for civilians to return to their communities safely. In countless neighborhoods, ISIS either destroyed critical infrastructure such as power plants, water treatment facilities, hospitals, and schools, or emplaced explosive hazards to target returning Iraqis and prevent them from rebuilding. In the city of Mosul, after six months of hard work funded by the U.S. Department of State, al-Dawassa Water Treatment Facility has been cleared of deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) deliberately left behind by ISIS, as well as unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the battle to liberate the city from ISIS’s three-year occupation.
Unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices removal is a crucial precursor in stabilizing post-conflict areas because explosive remnants of war impede humanitarian assistance and stabilization efforts. The presence of these hidden hazards coupled with an explosive incident that killed three people prevented repair crews from approaching al-Dawassa facility, leaving families without access to clean water and people without jobs. With support from the Department of State and U.S. Embassy Baghdad, our implementing partner, Janus Global Operations, undertook the methodical and dangerous work of carefully surveying the site and removing explosives hazards. In all, teams safely cleared a total of 168 explosive hazards from the site, allowing maintenance teams to get the plant back on line.
(Janus Global Operations photo)
Al Dawassa consists of three main units: the pumping station which takes water from the nearby Tigris River, the treatment plant which purifies and distributes the water, and on-site employee housing. The facility suffered only light damage during the fight for Mosul, but three years of ISIS’s occupation reduced the facility to an inoperable state, requiring a significant amount of repairs. When fully operational, the facility can process approximately 750 cubic meters (26486 cubic feet) of water per day; however, after years of ISIS occupation, the facility’s production capacity declined to 300 cubic meters (10594 cubic feet) per day, well below half of its original capability.
Al-Dawassa is critical to the daily functioning of Mosul. The treatment facility not only provides families with clean drinking water, but also supports local businesses and agriculture. With these critical functions restored, families can return to their homes.
(Janus Global Operations photo)
With smart investments in the work of partners like Janus to support stabilization, the United States demonstrates its enduring commitment to bolstering the safety of the Iraqi people. These efforts are not only making a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis, but they are also removing the insidious legacy that ISIS left behind, a key priority of the United States and the entire 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
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Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, told reporters on Nov. 8, 2018, that “there was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong” about the resignation.
Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.
Details of China’s allegations against Meng remain unclear. His detention appears to be part of a wider “anti-corruption drive” led by President Xi Jinping since his ascendancy to the Chinese leadership.
Activists at Human Rights Watch believe Meng is kept under a form of secret detention called liuzhi (留置), where the person is held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives for up to six months.
Sophie Richardson, the organization’s China director, told Business Insider that “we assume but cannot confirm” that.
The wife’s fight
Meng’s wife, Grace, repeatedly denied China’s corruption charges and claimed that her husband’s disappearance was “political persecution.”
She told the BBC in October 2018: “I’m not sure he’s alive. They are cruel. They are dirty,” she added, referring to China’s tactics to silence people.
Reuters reported early November 2018 that Meng had retained two law firms in London and Paris to track down her husband. Business Insider contacted the two firms for comment on Meng’s next steps.
The last text Grace Meng received from her husband on Sept. 25, 2018, says in Chinese: “Wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji — a possible warning that he was in danger.
Interpol says it can’t investigate, but is “strongly encouraging” China to speak out
The international police organization, where Meng was elected president in 2016, has not provided much clarity either.
It has not released a public statement since Oct. 7, 2018, when it acknowledged Meng’s resignation and has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, said on Nov. 8, 2018, that the organization’s rules forbade him from investigating Meng’s disappearance.
“We are not an investigative body,” he said, according to the Associated Press. He added that “we are strongly encouraging China” to provide details of Meng’s whereabouts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Richardson of Human Rights Watch told Business Insider: “If President Xi was even remotely serious about the rule of law, Meng would be guaranteed fair trial rights, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the profound politicization of China’s legal system.”
Rights groups protested Meng’s election to the Interpol presidency at the time, citing his previous work at China’s ministry of public security in Xinjiang and Tibet. The two regions are home to the country’s Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, who Beijing has attempted to muzzle.
During Meng’s tenure, China submitted multiple “red notices” — Interpol arrest warrants — for dissidents around the world.
Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider in October 2018 that public disappearances were not unusual in China, especially in politics.
“It is often a sign that someone has got into trouble if they fail to appear in public doing their normal duties for a period of time,” he said.