Category: Military

Washington think tank says cute little nukes are just what America needs

Normally, when you hear the term “think tank” you assume that the people within the organization are there to actually think. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. During the course of trying to find “outside the box” solutions to national and international problems, sometimes think tanks come up with ideas that are patently absurd. Such is the case with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and their plan to arm America with numerous small, tactical nukes.

The United States should develop new low–yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter countries from seeking nuclear weapons of their own, a new think-tank report says. It also argues that the U.S. should base more nuclear weapons around the world to better deter attacks.

“Forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options conveys the message that the United States will ‘respond in kind’ and proportionately to nuclear attacks on its allies,” wrote Clark Murdock, a former Pentagon policy official who is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies…

Boy, where I do start? First off, since when did building nuclear missiles prevent other countries from doing the same? Doesn’t it have the opposite effect? I thought that was the Cold War in a nutshell. We built a few, then they built a few, and then we kept going back and forth with the Russians like that, until they went bankrupt. Now the planet is littered with thousands of these weapons in several different countries. Also, haven’t the war hawks in Washington been telling us for years that the Iranians want to build nuclear weapons, in part because they want to counter Israel’s nukes?…

…And finally, arming ourselves with small yield nuclear weapons is just an all around terrible idea. In fact, we’ve done it before. Meet the Davy Crockett:

2,100 of these nukes were produced in the late 50’s, and they were deployed to conventional forces between 1961 and 1971. There were several different versions that had an explosive yield of between 10 tons, and 1 kiloton. Franz Josef Strauss, the former defense minister of West Germany, was obsessed with this weapon and desperately wanted the Americans to give them to the German Army. His request was repeatedly denied.

Why? Because it practically guaranteed that any ground war with the Soviets would inevitably escalate into a nuclear war. If you considered using high yield strategic nukes, you’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. But these tiny devices don’t carry the same psychological weight. It’s easier to pull the trigger on something that would only level a few acres.

So all in all, this think tank’s plan for maintaining America’s military dominance, is probably one of the worst ideas anyone has ever come up with. It reads like a how-to guide for starting a nuclear war.

Joshua Krause at The Daily Sheeple has it wired.

And I fall apart every time, any time, someone reminds me of the Davy Crockett rocket. Because I did a little bit of work on that silly-ass piece of crap. I made it clear at the time it was one of the dumbest ideas in military history.

Krause doesn’t wander into details; but, the damned thing never sent a warhead far enough away to keep from frying the troops using it in their own radiation-whoopee. A portable death trap. Anyone who survived the testing phase was a walking lawsuit for stupid WMDs.

NO, even BITD no one let me near the part that went BOOM! I was involved with other portions of the launch.

A brave American soldier who testified against war crimes


Jess Cunningham tried to stop the murder of Iraqi detaineesPhotograph/Jonas Fredwall Karlsson

Cunningham was now a pariah.

He says warnings spread through Alpha Company to be careful about what was said around him. Thirteen men had been present at the killings at the canal site, and Cunningham was the one who could take them all down. For Cunningham it was a dangerous position to be in.

Critics later blamed him for not coming forward at once, but the army has no mechanisms in place that would have whisked him away and protected him. For precisely that reason, war crimes are more common than is generally supposed: they are simply too dangerous to report. A related truth is that some number of soldier suicides in combat zones are not suicides at all—they are murders committed to cover up crimes.

At the highest level, American military leaders must be aware of the pattern. They could begin to remedy the problem if they chose to—just as they have in the case of sexual assaults within the ranks, where immediate protections are offered to accusers. But war crimes are different. The United States takes a serious hit every time one is reported. It seems that the leadership would rather not know about them than have to deal with every one that takes place. The consequence, however unintentional, is that soldiers who report war crimes are put in harm’s way.

Had Cunningham come forward in Baghdad, he would have been exposed to a battlefield where there were a hundred ways to die. Even silent dissent was tricky for him now.

RTFA from the beginning. Long – and worth every word. Once again VANITY FAIR does the world journalistic service.

The tale is too real. Ignorant blind patriotism taken down to the gangbanger level. A command structure, military incompetence from the grunt level up to a White House that rejected global treaties and standards of conflict that respected the value of human life.

Jess Cunningham deserves the gratitude of the portion of this nation that stands for justice and honor. The remainder hate people like Cunningham for supporting justice over gang pride.

“A deaf whale is a dead whale”


Click to enlargeJosh Edelson/AFP

Six whales have washed ashore in northern California in the past two months, prompting headlines around the world and attracting droves of tourists, curious about the massive mammals so suddenly out of their natural element.

According to a California Academy of Sciences (CAS) necropsy one of those whales, a 32ft female humpback that washed ashore in Pacifica, a 20-minute drive from San Francisco, had “signs of trauma consistent with blunt force”.

Suggested causes of death have included being hit by a ship and an attack by an orca. But while those might have been the final blows for the whales, other issues are being raised by environmental groups…These issues include the US navy’s use of sonar.

Moe Flannery, a stranded marine mammal responder and manager of the CAS Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy, declined to give a cause of death shortly after conducting the necropsy on the first Pacifica whale. But she did say the whale showed signs of muscle hemorrhaging, an injury which research has shown to be consistent with sonar-related deaths.

Other researchers who participated in the necropsy, including those from the Marine Mammal Center, corroborated such findings and pointed out that hemorrhaging does not necessarily mean blunt force trauma from a ship…

In March, a US district court in Hawaii found that the National Marine Fisheries Services improperly gave approval to the navy’s use of sonar in the Pacific, an issue long-contested by environmental groups that allege sonar is causing damage to marine animals’ migration patterns, feeding locations, breeding and ability to hear and communicate. The navy uses sonar for training, to simulate real-life situations in the ocean. Thousands of sonar devices remain in the coastal waters of the Pacific as Earthjustice and other environmental organizations negotiate with the navy on how and where it should use sonar for drills…

The navy is not being forced to stop using sonar, says Earthjustice attorney David Henkin – it is only a matter of where and how. The navy requires authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The navy’s current five-year permit expires this year…

In a May 2012 report on sonar use, the navy said acoustic sources and sonar more than 2.5 million times annually exposed marine animals to sounds considered “disturbing”, while around 500 times a year marine animals were exposed to sound levels that were considered to result in injury…

Even when stranding does not result, military sonar can cause hearing loss and internal injuries to marine mammals that results in death, even if the animal does not end up on shore,” Henkin said.

Our military, like most commercial users of global waters, considers the death of countless denizens inconsequential. Just as they feel above the law when it comes to pollution, they are equally unconcerned over turning this planet’s oceans into a charnel reservoir strewn with the unburied dead.

Hollywood and downwinders continue to deal with nuclear fallout

The photograph shows John Wayne with his two sons during a break in filming on the set of The Conqueror, a big budget blockbuster about Genghis Khan shot in the Utah desert in 1954. It was one of Hollywood’s most famous mis-castings. The duke could do many things but playing a 13th century Mongol warlord was not one of them. Film geeks consider it one of the great turkeys of Hollywood’s golden age.

There is another, darker reason it endures in film lore. The photograph hints at it. Wayne clutches a black metal box while another man appears to adjust the controls. Wayne’s two teenage sons, Patrick and Michael, gaze at it, clearly intrigued, perhaps a bit anxious. The actor himself appears relaxed, leaning on Patrick, his hat at a jaunty angle. The box, which rests on a patch of scrub, looks unremarkable. It is in fact a Geiger counter.

It is said to have crackled so loudly Wayne thought it was broken. Moving it to different clumps of rock and sand produced the same result. The star, by all accounts, shrugged it off. The government had detonated atomic bombs at a test site in Nevada but that was more than a hundred miles away. Officials said the canyons and dunes around St George, a remote, dusty town where the film was shooting, was completely safe.

Last week, half a century later, Rebecca Barlow, a nurse practitioner at the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP), which operates from the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St George, now a prosperous little city with an airport, leafed through her patient records. “More than 60% of this year’s patients are new,” she said. “Mostly breast and thyroid, also some leukaemia, colon, lung.”

This is a story about cancer. About how the United States turned swathes of the desert radioactive during the cold war and denied it, bequeathing a medical mystery which to this day haunts Hollywood and rural Mormon communities and raises a thorny question: how much should you trust the government?

RTFA and decide for yourself how much you should trust some parts of the government.

I haven’t yet become paranoid about the whole structure. After all, the Social Security Administration runs with a management staff one-fifth of its private-sector counterparts and cranks out the insurance benefits we paid for year-after-year. The only problem there is Congress persists in cutting off taxing anyone making more than most of us.

And then there’s the Pentagon and Congress.

ISIS turns captured Humvees into a suicide bomber’s dream

More than two-thirds of the Humvees the US supplied to Iraq to fight terrorists have ended up in the hands of Islamic State militants.

And the Islamic State…has not wasted any time in converting those vehicles into one of its deadliest and most nightmarish tools: suicide car bombs.

According to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, ISIS controls about 2,300 armored US Humvees. Most of those vehicles were seized after ISIS overran Mosul in June 2014.

In addition to being used in further attacks against Iraqi forces, these vehicles were sent over the border to Syria to help ISIS solidify its foothold there.

The Humvees were specifically created by the US to be able to carry heavy loads and to sustain small-arms fire — qualities ISIS has found make the vehicles perfect for suicide bombings

ISIS has used these bomb-laden Humvees in waves of suicide bombings across both Syria and Iraq, targeting strategic locations including Syrian military bases and the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, which fell to the militants at the end of May. The Kurds are increasingly concerned that they will face a wave as well.

Even though they have an inventory of at least 2000 at hand to build more suicide car bombs, they’re not likely to run out. Between Republican hawks like Tom Cotton and his Blue Dog Democrat counterparts – like Bob Menendez – there are more than enough idiots prepared to stack up American and Iraqi bodies with a matching flow of arms and vehicles capable of keeping ISIS in business for decades.

“President Obama — Don’t drop bombs in my backyard!”


What the Pentagon thinks Pacific islands should look likeAlex Walters/U.S.Marine Corps

The small Pacific islands of Pagan and Tinian are home to pristine beaches, majestic mountains and colorful sea life. They are also home to 2,800 American citizens, as they are part of the Marianas, a US territory. The US Navy has plans to bomb these islands as part of a training exercise, obliterating their rare coral ecosystems, wildlife, and important historic artifacts. The islands’ residents would be relocated, kicked off their ancestral land for the sake of bomb testing. We cannot let this happen…

We need the Secretary of Navy to cancel plans for Combined Joint Military Training exercises on Tinian and Pagan Islands.

The bombings would restrict the use of two-thirds of my island of Tinian, leaving only 10 square miles for its people, and rare and endangered wildlife. On the island of Pagan, the Navy wants to relocate the entire indigenous population so that they may bomb 100% of the island. Our pristine beaches would become theaters for elaborate live-ammunition military exercises, and our people’s traditions and culture would be all but extinguished.

The residents of Tinian and Pagan are citizens of the United States, just like you. But since we are so far from the mainland and have no representation in Congress, our voices are often not heard. Now, we are crying out to make sure our homes are not demolished, and our 4,000 years of history are not lost forever.

We only have one home. We can’t let it be destroyed. Please join us in asking the Secretary of Navy to cancel his plans to bomb Tinian and Pagan.

Signed by Arley Long, Tinian MP

You can sign up over here to send a petition to President Obama requesting a halt to Pentagon plans to use this ancient home for bombing practice.

DARPA contest sends robots into mock-up nuclear reactor

On Friday and Saturday, the Darpa Robotics Challenge – the “Robolympics”, unofficially…completes its final competition, with 25 teams of engineers and scientists giving orders to huge machines trundling across a landscape designed to simulate the impassible environment that greeted aid workers after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan melted down multiple times in 2011.

Engineers tried to help, but no robots could navigate the hazardous terrain and disaster ensued, rendering a huge area around the plant uninhabitable after toxic steam exploded into the skies. The radioactive leftovers are still emitting a million watts of heat.

If a Darpa contestant is able to navigate the terrain successfully, and in a short amount of time (each team has an hour to run the course) it will become the richest robot in town: first prize is $2m, second prize is $1m, and third gets $500,000.

The public event is a cross between the Consumer Electronics Show and an episode of Mythbusters. Inside the Fairplex, the stands were filled on Friday with people cheering for their favorite androids. Outside was a big expo with kids running around playing with (or staring terrified at) all kinds of robots: some dancing, some playing music, some swimming in a giant tank where they can be piloted with a video game controller. One company, Ekso, makes robotic trousers that make it easier to carry a backpack.

The purpose of the main event, however, is deadly serious.

“The idea, inspired by Fukushima, is to come up with a simulation of a disaster that is like [that],” said Dr Gill Pratt, the avuncular, eloquent director of the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) program at Darpa that oversees the project.

Darpa is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the arm of the US Defense Department that is responsible in large part for the creation of the computer network, Arpanet, that became the internet.

“The teams will not have any human help for the robots themselves, and the key element, again, between the human controllers and the robot is a very degraded communication link,” Pratt explained.,,

“Particularly when you need to improvise, the environment you’re going into is a human environment, and a humanoid robot is designed to take on a human environment and we can adapt to it like humans,” Darwin Caldwell said.

“If you’ve got a quadruped robot, or a robot with wheels, it’s not really designed for that environment, so it might be able to adapt. But we know humans can go in there. We know humans can do that. That’s one thing we’re certain of.”

Some DARPA competitions don’t come close to succeeding in the first year of trials. Or more. But, unlike many extremely narrow experimental targets proposed for military trials, DARPA projects often have a broad framework and move sooner rather than later into civilian-focused experimentation, potentially global adoption.

Like autonomous automobiles or the Internet.

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.