A Turning Point.  For the First Time, Autonomous Drones Attacked Humans


Kargu-2 drones under production at STM, Ankara, Turkey

The world’s first recorded case of an autonomous drone attacking humans took place in March 2020, according to a United Nations (UN) security report detailing the ongoing Second Libyan Civil War. Libyan forces used the Turkish-made drones to “hunt down” and jam retreating enemy forces, preventing them from using their own drones.

The field report…describes how the Haftar Affiliated Forces (HAF), loyal to Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, came under attack by drones from the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) forces. After a successful drive against HAF forces, the GNA launched drone attacks to press its advantage. From the report:

Logistics convoys and retreating HAF were subsequently hunted down and remotely engaged by the unmanned combat aerial vehicles or the lethal autonomous weapons systems such as the STM Kargu-2 (above) and other loitering munitions. The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true “fire, forget and find” capability.

Drone experts have been dreading this moment while advocating for a ban on autonomous attack drones.

Once there is a ban on autonomous attack drones – after much breast beating and pledges of honesty – their use will continue. Of course.

This is, after all, a software question. The capacity for these drones to self-destruct after such a mission is often built-in. Once the command has been entered to hunt down and kill humans relying on the AI of the drone for decision-making, an additional command will be programmed-in instructing the drone to destroy itself afterwards. Starting with wiping the software.

U.S. violated human rights in uranium mine licensing in Navajo Nation


Uneva Uranium Mine in Utah

With historic uranium mine sites already polluting communities, members of the Navajo Nation have been fighting for 27 years to stop a new mining initiative from starting in the Crownpoint and Church Rock areas.

On Thursday, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining took that fight to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, arguing that the United States and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of Hydro Resources Inc. mines violated the human rights of Navajo Nation residents…

In Thursday’s filing, ENDAUM alleges that this license approval came despite the fact that NRC knew the mining will contaminate water and that the communities already have increased risk of disease and death from historic uranium mining and milling promoted by the United States…

Uncle Sugar treats all its citizens as pawns in the game of profiteering. The nuclear version of the game adds death and destruction, poisoned water and land, to the equation.

How Africa was erased from the history of the modern world

The long thread that leads us to the present began in those three decades at the end of the 15th century, when commerce blossomed between Portugal and Africa, sending a newfound prosperity washing over what had previously been a marginal European country. It drove urbanisation in Portugal on an unprecedented scale, and created new identities that gradually freed many people from feudal ties to the land. One of these novel identities was nationhood, whose origins were bound up in questing for wealth in faraway lands, and soon thereafter in emigration and colonisation in the tropics…

The fateful engagement between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa produced civilisational transformations in both regions, as well as in the wider world – ones that, looking back today, produced an exceptionally crisp division between “before” and “after”.

Back then, Europeans were mindful of this reality. As late as the 1530s, well after the start of Portugal’s more famous spice trade with Asia, Lisbon still recognised Africa as the leading driver of all that was new. João de Barros, a counsellor to that country’s crown, wrote: “I do not know in this Kingdom a yoke of land, toll, tithe, excise or any other Royal tax more reliable … than the profits of commerce in Guinea.”

But as remarkable as Barros’s acknowledgment of African vitality was, his omission of slavery as a pillar of the relationship was equally notable. It may have been the first time that the centrality of Black bondage was simply passed over in an informed account of modernity in the west. It would not be the last. When Barros wrote, Portugal overwhelmingly dominated Europe’s trade in Africans, and slavery was beginning to rival gold as Portugal’s most lucrative source of African bounty. By then, it was already on its way to becoming the foundation of a new economic system based on plantation agriculture. Over time, that system would generate far more wealth for Europe than African gold or Asian silks and spices.

And so it grew. Dehumanization redefined the trade in human beings. And as other economic systems proceeded to greater efficiencies, the older means of profit required even more rationales for staying power. Erasing the whole history of nations and a continent…or at least trying to…while turning the people of those lands into a commodity.

The 50 Most Miserable Cities In America


My hometown.

Of course, Bridgeport, Connecticut made the list. The view of Bridgeport harbor is one of the ugliest harborviews of the American coastline. Which is saying something for (what was) an urban manufacturing center that was known as the Park City when I was born.

Most of those early years we had a phony Socialist mayor who wasn’t even up to the mediocre standards of what passes for Social Democrats in the GOUSA. Ol’ Jasper McLevy was elected and re-elected a kajillion times on a platform that wouldn’t have made a sensible moderate Republican blush.

We had lots of parks, the schools had damned good teachers IMHO (and experience). The air was tough to breathe some days in the industrial neighborhoods; but, you could usually find a job at GE, Remington Arms or Bridgeport Brass.

Megafires are becoming common!

What the US Forest Service once characterized as a four-month-long fire season starting in late summer and early autumn now stretches into six to eight months of the year. Wildfires are starting earlier, burning more intensely and scorching swaths of land larger than ever before. Risks for large, catastrophic fires like the Camp fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018 are rising…

More than half of the 20 largest fires in California history burned in just the last four years. Eight of the top 20 fires in Oregon occurred in that time frame too. Last year, Arizona saw the most acres burned in its history. California’s August Complex fire, which consumed more than 1m acres alone, became the first-ever giga-fire in 2020. The Dixie fire this year came close to becoming the second, burning through more than 963,200 acres…

The conditions that set the stage for a staggering escalation in wildfire activity in the American west are layered and complicated, but the climate emergency is a leading culprit…

There are still solutions and mitigations that could slow the shift in intensity – but researchers say that window is closing.

“The trends that are driving this increase in fire risk, fire size, fire severity over time are continuing – that’s climate change.”

Until and unless people press politicians to act upon climate change, reversing human-made trends decades in the making, the dangers to whole communities, whole states, regional disasters, will continue and increase.

Anti-Vaxxers Could Bring Back Childhood Diseases


“The good old days”

…Replicated in some form or another in cities and towns across America, (there is) a growing grassroots movement of people who believe that vaccine mandates—for COVID, yes, but increasingly for other diseases as well—are an affront to their personal freedom. That represents a marked shift from pre-pandemic times, when vaccine opponents typically based their reasoning on medical concerns and were largely comprised of a few religious sects and a small number of left-leaning activists seeking explanations for rising rates of autism. As the anti-vaxx mandate movement gains political traction, particularly on the right, medical experts fear it could not only cripple efforts to eradicate COVID but could also lead to a surge in long-conquered diseases, from mumps to whooping cough to smallpox.

“There are some more conservative states where we are likely to see other non-COVID vaccine mandates under attack, and it is very worrisome,” says Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “If we have some of these pediatric infectious diseases come back, it will be horrific.”

Yet what scares epidemiologists now is that many conservatives who denounce vaccine mandates are eliding the medical questions of whether they are safe. Instead, says David Rosner, a Columbia University historian who specializes in the intersection of politics and public health, they’re focusing on a political view that requiring them is wrong.

“We are at the beginning of a much more profound change that may lead to resistance to other vaccines but also may lead to disintegration of any sense of social obligation, social cohesion and social purpose,” he warns. “It’s part of the questioning of what the country is and what it represents. When you see this kind of breakdown and unwillingness to work together, even under the most obvious circumstances where we’ve had more than 650,000 people die, it feels like the beginning of a major dividing point.”

I usually end a post like this by saying “I try to differentiate between ignorance and stupidity”. I have no interest, however, in letting “Stupid” win this one. I’ve said this several times before. Let me repeat myself. I’m old enough to remember springtime and gathering together with the other kids in my neighborhood to figure out who died over winter from diphtheria or pneumonia or influenza.

And even if you’re ignorant enough to make a religious crusade of libertarian healthcare choice, I hope you’re not stupid enough to offer your children a better chance of dying before they’re old enough to vote.

Think you and your kids are safe?


Timberview High School parking lot, Arlington, Texas

Watching the news, this morning. Shooting in a classroom in a Texas high school has come to this view. Dozens of cop cars…they’re trying to find the shooter.

“Let’s put it out on the local news and tell parents to stay away.” You know what’s going to happen, right away. Every parent who hears that jumps in the family cqr (or pickup) and heads to the school. Except the cops have already setup road blocks because they knew what would happen.

So, the freeway is backing up because parents are getting as close as possible to the school…and then simply parking along the edge of the freeway to climb over the railings, fence, to run to the school to help their kids, to help the cops.

Except, this is Texas, after all. Everyone learned how to be a hero from watching John Wayne movies. So, now – the biggest danger is from all the parents who grabbed their rifles – bring ’em along to help the cops, right?

I am so glad my wife and her kin moved out of Arlington and Texas, years ago.

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Yes, I realize the TV reporter who told us about parents carrying their rifles to the school – might just be full of crap. All part of it, folks.