Category: Military

Accidental anthrax shipments no danger — treating 26 people just to be sure, eh?

Click to enlargeJim Urquhart/AP
Where the anthrax was shipped from – just in case folks in Utah didn’t notice.

At least 26 people are being treated for potential exposure to deadly anthrax after an Army bio-defense facility in Utah mistakenly sent live samples to private and military laboratories in as many as nine states, including California, and South Korea…

No confirmed infections were reported, and Pentagon officials insisted the accidental shipments of live Bacillus anthracis spores around the country and halfway around the world posed no risk to the general public.

The Pentagon said the 26 affected, including at least four civilians at U.S. commercial laboratories, are being given antibiotics and in some cases, vaccinations, as a safeguard.

The 22 others being treated are at a U.S. military laboratory at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where emergency response teams destroyed the anthrax sample. A joint U.S.-Korean program at Osan aims to boost bio-surveillance capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.

Sounds like the joint US-Korean program should be under surveillance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working with state and federal agencies to investigate how the anthrax samples were sent from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, a vast facility in southwest Utah where researchers try to build and test defenses against chemical and biological agents, including viruses and bacteria.

The CDC said it had launched its inquiry last weekend after it was contacted by a private commercial lab in Maryland that had received live spores. Normally, the anthrax is exposed to gamma radiation to render it inert.

The CDC said it had sent investigators to all the labs and was trying to determine if they all had received live samples. Officials said the facilities are in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. They did not identify the specific labs.

Always heartwarming to know our government is doing all it can to keep us safe. After the fact.

Uncle Sugar closes in on self-guided bullets — maybe by stealing patents

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), basically the US military’s mad scientist division, announced it had cleared another milestone in its quest to develop self-guided bullets. The agency released footage of live-fire tests conducted earlier this year showing .50-caliber bullets making sharp turns in midair…

The first patent for a theoretically functional self-guided bullet was filed in 1997 by an academic. Rolin F. Barnett, Jr., now an associate professor of automotive engineering at North Carolina State University and head of Barnett Engineering, says that he first dreamed up his system as a graduate student, over two decades ago, as a personal challenge…

DARPA seems to have waded into self-guided small arms munitions around 2008, when the agency’s first reported research contract on the subject popped up. The resulting project is known as the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance program (EXACTO), and aims to increase US sniper lethality from 90 percent at 2,000 feet in good conditions to 90 percent at 6,500 feet…

That 2008 contract, a $14.5 million grant to a Lockheed Martin subsidiary known as the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, yielded an impressive public demonstration of a self-guided bullet four years later. Sandia eliminated the grooves in a modern rifle, which normally help a bullet travel straight by making it spin, and instead crafted the .50-caliber bullet to be front-heavy so it would move through the air like a dart. The heaviness at the tip of the bullet was acheived by installing a series of laser-detecting optical sensors, which would follow a laser trained on a target using an internal, eight-bit processing system running a simple control algorithm to guide external fins that make up to 30 directional corrections per second…

“The DARPA project, I think, experimented with my technology,” Barnett says. “The one that was demonstrated at Sandia looked to be identical to my patent…”

Barnett is so convinced that the technology at play was based on his own that he’s tried to file for patent-holder compensation, but he says he was rebuffed by DARPA representatives…

The footage released this year stems from work by a separate contractor, California’s Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, which first received $25 million from DARPA to work on self-guided bullets in 2010. The company released initial footage of their bullets last summer, although it’s not known precisely how they differ from the Sandia ammunition…

“I don’t know about what they’re using [now],” says Barnett, “because simply there’s not enough publicly available information.”

No one’s sure if and when DARPA’s bullets will be ready for use on the battlefield. But details of the still-active Sandia project on its website and in interviews with researchers suggest that the technology may be marketed not just to the military but to civilian law enforcement officials or even recreational hunters.

Please, let’s don’t leave out contract killers. Especially the freelance variety without Pentagon or CIA contracts. They’re still NRA-approved.

Nutball conspiracy groups say Pentagon plans invasion of Texas. Huh? Wha?

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U.S. Army Special Operations Command says that, contrary to reports circulating on conspiracy websites, it has no plans to invade Texas.

Some fringe websites have paraded a PowerPoint presentation, reportedly from USASOC, as evidence of Jade Helm 15, a series of military exercises across California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Texas. They say it will train the U.S. military to suppress American citizens rebelling in a coming military coup or civil war.

The Army says Jade Helm is a real exercise and will take place in the Southwest, as the slides indicate. But USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria said that’s the extent of the reports’ accuracy.

“It’s a training exercise. Just a regular training exercise,” Lastoria said of Jade Helm, which USASOC documentation references as a training exercise in at least one previous year as well…

Nothing in the presentation (with slides marked “unclassified”) contradicts the assertion that Jade Helm is merely a training exercise. It does note that civilian areas could notice some effects…including the potential for noise complaints and noting that personnel may be carrying weapons loaded with blanks.

Conspiracy websites painted language regarding civilian impact as revealing of the true nature of the mission: to prepare for abducting dissidents from their homes.

Many of the conspiracy sites have focused in on the selection of Texas as a “hostile” territory. To them, a high degree of libertarian support, pro-gun leanings and patriotism make Texas a target. The slides also mark Utah and a pocket in Southern California as “hostile,” while New Mexico is “uncertain (leaning hostile)” and Arizona is “uncertain (leaning friendly).”

There are only two reasons for either the Left or the Right to invade Texas. Lefties would support intervention if the Confederate brigades ever get started with their fixation on secession and return to a slave economy.

The Right-Wing under the thumb of the Koch Bros still prefers Texas oil over North Dakota because it’s cheaper, therefore more profitable.

VA health care wait times getting better – unless you live in the South

The chronic delays plaguing the Veterans Affairs health system are concentrated in a fraction of its hospitals and clinics – many of them in the South – that have done far worse than others in delivering prompt care, according to government data reviewed by The Associated Press.

A year after Americans recoiled at revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists, VA statistics show that the number of patients facing long waits has not declined, even after Congress gave the department an extra $16.3 billion last summer to shorten waits for care.

Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system’s timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. More than a quarter of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days.

Since the summer, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has nearly doubled.

Those delays were not spread evenly throughout the VA’s vast network of hospitals and clinics.

Many occurred in a handful of Southern states, often in areas with a strong military presence, a rural population and patient growth that has outpaced the VA’s sluggish planning process.

47 clinics and hospitals represent just a fraction of the more than 1,000 VA facilities nationwide, but they were responsible for more than one in five of the appointments that took longer than 60 days to complete

The AP examined six months of appointment data at 940 individual VA facilities to gauge changes since a scandal over delays led to the resignation of the VA’s secretary and prompted lawmakers in August to give the VA an additional $16.3 billion to hire doctors, open more clinics and build the new Choice program that allows patients facing long delays to get private-sector care…The analysis reveals stark differences between the haves and have-nots.

In the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast states, few VA sites reported having significant delays. A little less than half of all VA hospitals and clinics reported averaging fewer than two appointments per month that involved a wait of more than 60 days.

But at the VA’s outpatient clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, 7,117 appointments completed between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28 involved a wait of more than 60 days. There were more vets experiencing extended delays there than in the entire states of New York and Pennsylvania combined.

RTFA if you want more examples, lots of statistics illustrating regional distortions beyond comprehension. I haven’t been in a VA hospital for years and most of those I ever visited were in New England where they take care of business pretty well. At least since Reagan left office.

You’d think that with all the agitprop our politicians spew on a regular basis about our holy wars and even-holier warriors they might want competent oversight of the buck$ we regularly throw at problems like this.

Or not.

Army investigating ‘racial Thursday’

The U.S. Army is investigating claims Fort Wainwright soldiers have free reign to use racial slurs every Thursday as a way to encourage camaraderie.

Dubbed “racial Thursday,” soldiers in the 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment say they are allowed to use racial slurs and make racist comments with impunity, the Army Times reported. Two anonymous soldiers told the Army Times the event is a tradition and, although officially forbidden, it is ongoing.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Alan Brown confirmed an investigation was launched into the allegation.

The unit under investigation is part of a company embroiled in the controversial 2011 suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen, who was subjected to racially motivated hazing before he died.

Eight soldiers were court-martialed in that case.

I can hear the discussion in the bar where losers get together on payday and swap war stories. “This is supposed to be a free country. Whatever happened to Free Speech? That’s what we fought for.”

It ain’t good enough to fight for Free Speech if you don’t fight for standards, as well. The Free Speech part protects the rights of bigots and fools as well as everyone else. Standards demonstrates to everyone around you what kind of a person you are.

Hopefully, not a bigot or a fool.

There’s a detailed report over at the Army TIMES.

This ship cost you and me $15 million – US Navy is selling it for $180K

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Any millionaire can buy themselves a fancy yacht, but if you want a conversation piece … well, it helps if it has a story behind it, and the Lockheed Martin-built Sea Slice certainly does. Launched in 1996 by the US Navy as a military support vessel, the experimental watercraft features a unique hull design that reportedly allows it to remain as stable as a conventional ship three times its size. It cost $15 million to design and build, but you can have it now for the low, low price of just $180,000…

A regular SWATH boat has two hulls, kind of like a catamaran. Whereas a catamaran’s hulls resemble skinnier versions of a conventional single hull, however, a SWATH’s are more like cylindrical pontoons that sit completely below the surface. The struts that connect those hulls to the rest of the boat are quite narrow, thus minimizing volume at the sea’s surface, where all the wave energy is located. Because the hulls themselves sit deeper in the water, they’re not affected much by the waves.

In the case of the Sea Slice, there are four shorter teardrop-shaped hulls – two on each side, one behind the other. Apparently this modification reduces waves caused by the boat, along with hydrodynamic drag. That drag reduction allows it to travel at higher speeds for a given amount of horsepower, as compared to other SWATH boats of a similar size and displacement.

The 105-ft long, 55-ft wide, 180-ton watercraft features two 3,480 hp diesel engines, two 180-kW Caterpillar diesel electric generators, and (if its specs are still the same as they were when it was first built) a top speed of 30 knots. There’s no word on how many people it can accommodate, although judging by the photos, there are at least six bunks. It also has a full galley, shower-equipped bathroom, plus a washer and dryer.

Anyone vetting prospective buyers to see if they’re fronting for Mexican drug cartels – or worse?

Reichsführer Himmler’s Borghild Project – world’s first sex doll

The world’s first sex doll – or “gynoid” – was built in 1941 by a team of craftsmen from Germany’s Hygiene Museum in Dresden. The project was supervised by the famous preparator and technician Franz Tschakert. The ”Father of the Woman of Glass”, which happened to be the sensation in 1930’s Second International Hygiene Exhibit, used his skills and experience to create a kind of doll the world had never seen before.

The ”field-hygienic project” was an initiative of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who regarded the doll as an ” counterbalance” (or regulating effect) for the sexual drive of his storm tropers. In one his letters, dated 20.11.1940 he mentions the ”unnessessarylosses”, the Wehrmacht had suffered in France inflicted by street prostitutes…

The project – called Burghild in the first place – was considered ”Geheime Reichssache” , which was ”more secret than top secret” at the time. Himmler put his commander-in-chief SS-Dr. Joachim Mrurgowsky in charge, the highest ranking officer of Berlins notorious SS-institute…

In July 1941, when Hitler’s army attacked Russia, an unknown but ambitious Danish SS-Doctor called Olen Hannussen took over from Mrurgowsky. Perhaps he was the one who changed Burghild to Borghild, which is nothing more than the Danish equivalent.

Hannussen pushed everybody forward to make the project a success. The ”galvonoplastical dolls” – manufactured in a bronze mold – were meant to follow the Storm troopers in ” desinfections-trailers” into the enemy`s land, in order to stop them visiting ”infection herds” – linke front-brothels and ”loose women”. At least, this was Himmler ‘s plan. A psychiatrist Dr. Rudolf Chargeheimer , befriended with Hannussen and also involved in the project, wrote him a letter to clearify the difficulties…

Between June 1940 – 1941 IG Farben had already developed a number of ”skin-friendly polymers” for the SS. Special characteristics : high tensile strength and elasticity. The cast of a suitable model proved to be more difficult.

Borghild was meant to reflect the beauty-ideal of the Nazis , i. e. white skin, fair hair and blue eyes. Although the team considered a doll with brown hair , the SS- Hygiene-Institute insisted on manufacturing a ”nordish doll”. Tschakert hoped to plastercast from a living model and a number of famous female athletes were invited to come to his studios, among them Wilhelmina von Bremen and Annette Walter…

In Tschakerts view the doll should be nothing more than a” female best form”, a ”perfect automaton of lust”, that would combine ”the best of all possible bodies”. The team agreed on a cheeky and naughty face , a look-a-like of Käthe von Nagy, but the actress politely declined to lend her face to Tschakert’s doll…

After Mrurgowsky’ s exit , Dr. Hannussen rejected the idea to cast a face from a living person. He believed in an ”artifial face of lust”, which would be more attractive to soldiers.

RTFA for all the foibles of Fascist design ideology. Like so many Nazi projects, the only bits that achieved artistry were copied. In this instance, copied from segments of real women.

Improbable Research — jet-powered maple seed drone

In 1992, Litos et al. patented their bio-mimic throw-in-the-air toy called the ‘Autorotative Flyer’. It might not occur to everyone that the passive toy could be updated, and militarized, with the addition of a supersonic jet pack. But occur it did to high-tech weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin Inc. which has just received a US patent for its Active Maple Seed Flyer.

The flying jet-seed, which can be used for transporting a miniature video camera for remote surveillance purposes, can also eject an (unspecified) ‘payload object’ on demand. The (unspecified) ‘payload object’ carries an adhesive causing it to stick to surfaces when it lands.

The remote-controlled, 10 gram, 3.5 cm long vehicle can fly for 20 minutes or so, and spins 250 times per second thanks to its supersonic jet thruster. Onboard (or offboard) electronics can de-spin the resulting images says the patent. For the convenience of the human-in-the-loop the seeds come in a blister-pack of 5 or more.

Martin Gardiner asks, “Is this the first time that a children’s toy has has been adapted to form a military device – rather than the other way around?”

My guess is probably not. Different age groups is all.