Reaper drones now on anti-pirate duty

Sleek and sinister-looking, the latest weapon against piracy could have flown directly out of a science fiction film.

Somali pirates are attacking farther and farther from home; previously safe areas are now very much within range.

The farthest attack from shore has just taken place – an oil tanker managed to evade two skiffs some 1,000 nautical miles (1,850km) off Somalia – 400 nautical miles (741km) north-east of the Seychelles.

In total, close to 200 crew members are being held hostage for ransom and hardly a day passes without news of another attack.

The drone is controlled remotely and can fly up to 18 hours at a time. Its camera is capable of zooming in on suspected pirates from heights of up to 50,000 feet…

The deployment of the MQ 9 Reaper is an initiative of the US Africa Command (Africom) which is based in Stuttgart, Germany…

The deployment of these remote controlled drones will be taken by some as evidence that Africom does not necessarily need a huge base in Africa to get its work done.

It is hoped that the data collected by the US drones will make it easier for the international anti-piracy task force to capture the pirates red-handed.

RTFA. I know, I know. Evidence gathering for trials in Africa is still pretty frustrating for those who occasionally support frontier justice.

Real world oil reserves phonied by pressure from United States

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying…

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply published today – used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production…

“Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,” he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone. I think that the situation is really bad,” he added.

The annual outlook was released today and the IEA repeated its prediction that oil supplies would rise to 105 million barrels by 2030. The oil’s gonna run out someday; but, not while they’re in charge.

A truly thoughtful attitude.

Samsung expands smartphone array

Samsung, the world’s second largest phone maker globally after Nokia, has announced Bada as its own new smartphone platform which it hopes to use to gain entry into the sophisticated phone market.

Samsung’s Bada, the Korean word for “ocean,” is reportedly built on top of Linux and is expected to be released with an open SDK next month, with the first Bada phones to be introduced early next year. Unlike Symbian or Android, Samsung appears to be developing its new mobile platform and software market solely for the benefit of its own phones, much like RIM, Apple, and Palm.

So, if Samsung expands their tie-in with Microsoft and does a special search engine for this smartphone it will be: Bada-Bing!

Obama mulling 4 options for Afghanistan. Where’s the 5th?

Senior administration officials tell ABC News that President Obama at his war council meeting tomorrow will assess four different specific strategies for Afghanistan and Pakistan, including two different options put forward by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

At his meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday, October 30, President Obama asked Pentagon officials to assess in detail two other strategy options, including the missions, troop requirements and cost.

All four options increase the levels of US troops in Afghanistan. The president has not yet been presented with those new assessments.

Where’s the fifth option we voted for?

President Obama was asked what variables would play into his decision-making that would cause him to not just take McChystal’s recommendation and implement it…

“I’ve been asking not only General McChrystal, but all of our commanders who are familiar with the situation, as well as our civilian folks on the ground, a lot of questions that, until they’re answered, may — may create a situation in which we resource something based on faulty premises,” Mr. Obama said, “And I want to make sure that we have tested all the assumptions that we’re making before we send young men and women into harm’s way, that if we are sending additional troops that the prospects of a functioning Afghan government are enhanced, that the prospects of al Qaeda being able to attack the U.S. Homeland are reduced…”

“There are a whole host of those questions that we have worked through systematically. I have gained confidence that there’s not an important question out there that has not been asked and that we haven’t asked — that we haven’t answered to the best of our abilities. And as a consequence of the process that we’ve gone to, I feel much more confident that when I issue my orders, that not only do we have a better prospect of success and we are serving our men and women in uniform well, but that we are not also looking at an indefinite stay in — where we have bought, essentially, a — a permanent protectorate of Afghanistan that I think would be unsustainable…”

From respect for General McChrystal and other military visionaries, I long supported options which included expanson of numbers and redirection of the war effort in the Af-Pak region. No more.

I think efforts in Pakistan have proven we can aid the more cohesive, young democracy there to pushback the Taliban from gaining control. Similar efforts in Afghanistan are worth the effort – and no more.

Start bringing our troops home.

Boat tail reduces truck fuel consumption

A boat tail, a tapering protrusion mounted on the rear of a truck, leads to fuel savings of 7.5 percent. This is due to dramatically-improved aerodynamics, as shown by road tests conducted by the PART (Platform for Aerodynamic Road Transport) public-private partnership platform…

An articulated lorry was driven for a period of one year with a boat tail (of varying length) and one year without a boat tail. The improved aerodynamics, depending on the length of the boat tail, resulted in reduced fuel consumption (and emissions!) of up to 7.5 percent. The optimum boat tail length proved to be two metres.

The tests were conducted by PART. This is a platform in which academics, road transport manufacturers, transport companies and shippers work together. The platform aims to reduce fuel consumption in the road transport industry by improving aerodynamics. PARTs ambition is to achieve a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in the road transport industry by 2020…

Comparable bodies in the United States are running similar tests. I’ve seen the altered boxes on the Interstate system.

OK. I had to look around a little bit. Transtex and ATDynamics are not only experimenting with boat tails – but, also trailer side skirts. Loks like they haven’t gotten out to the optimized 2-meter length that TU Delft likes. Yes, these are designed as add-ons for existing trailers. They can be built-ons more efficiently utilizing the cube for OEM production.

Teacher suspended – students read story about masturbation

An English teacher from the Bronx is accused of overstepping his boundaries by sharing with his students a steamy composition about teenage masturbation.

Greg Van Voorhis, known as “Mr. V” by students at the Bronx School of Law and Finance, is accused of giving his 11th graders a graphic short story titled “Guts” written by “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk. The explicit reading centers around a teenager’s masturbation habits involving things like carrots, among other items.

School officials say Van Voorhis went too far and as a result the Department of Education re-assigned Van Voorhis to an administrative office, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Students at the school are outraged the popular teacher has been removed from the classroom. Many of them say he knows how to relate to them best.

Some 300 students at the school have joined a Facebook group called, “Save Mr. V,” in which a majority of them posted supportive messages urging school officials to let him teach again.

Unsurprising, their parents say they’re glad he’s suspended. Their kids achieve grades in English better than two-thirds of the students in NYC. No matter.

He must be doing something wrong. Getting them to read and think is still forbidden in the All-American Rulebook.

Bird drops snack – shuts down world’s biggest atom smasher


A peckish bird briefly knocked out part of the world’s biggest atom smasher by causing a chain reaction with a piece of bread, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said Monday.

Bits of a French loaf dropped on an external electrical power supply caused a short circuit last week, triggering failsafe devices that shut down part of the cooling system of the giant experiment to probe the secrets of the universe, CERN said.

The system was restored several hours after the incident last Tuesday while the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider was barely affected, a spokeswoman said.

The bird escaped unharmed but lost its bread,” CERN said in a statement.

They believe it was an owl. My bet would be on a raven.