Military communications may have accidentally formed a protective bubble around Earth


Click to enlarge

❝ When the Navy wants to send a message to an underwater submarine, it sometimes uses very low frequency (VLF) radio waves. These long wavelengths, beamed from large towers on the ground, are unique in their ability to travel through salty water. But some end up in space instead. There, according to a new report, they may be forming a protective bubble around Earth’s atmosphere.

The discovery comes from the Van Allen Probes — two spacecraft, launched in 2012, that patrol the radiation belts surrounding Earth. The Van Allen radiation belts are zones where charged particles streaming from the sun get stuck in Earth’s magnetic field. These high energy protons and electrons can destroy a satellite’s electronics, which is a constant concern because the belts don’t always stay in one place…

During an intense geomagnetic storm in 2015, a large solar storm knocked back the plasmasphere, but surprisingly the outer Van Allen belt didn’t come any closer to Earth. “The plasma retracted but the belt didn’t follow,” says Erickson. But he and his colleagues noticed something else: “The edge of where these very powerful radio signals stop is the same place where the electrons stop coming in.”

❝ In addition, data from the 1960s suggests that the belt’s inner boundary was much closer to Earth back when VLF transmissions were less common. The team thinks that, nowadays, when electrons shooting out from a solar storm approach Earth, VLF waves deflect them, knocking them off their trajectory and pushing them into the atmosphere, where they get lost.

“The edge of where these very powerful radio signals stop is the same place where the electrons stop coming in.”

“At least in the first hours to a couple of days into a solar storm, the waves seem to halt the electrons from coming in further,” says Erickson. “If you wait longer, the story gets more complicated because they gradually diffuse in…”

❝ Sometime this year, the U.S. Air Force plans to launch the DSX satellite, which will test the feasibility of using VLF waves to deflect space radiation. If it works, humanity may be able to harness these waves to help protect against solar eruptions that dump giant clouds of charged particles into the solar system.

Not a perfect cure for a rare happening. Still, science happening upon a collateral solution is always welcome. Except to beancounter$, of course.

Trump’s White House is run like Game of Thrones for Morons


Way too honest to last with Trump

❝ National security adviser H.R. McMaster has become the latest target of the leaks and infighting that have dogged the Trump administration’s early days.

❝ President Trump has tried to put an end to White House staffers placing palace intrigue stories, which peaked last month with a war of words between chief strategist Stephen Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner that played out in the press.

Now, McMaster, a favorite of Washington’s GOP and foreign policy establishment, finds himself in the crosshairs of anonymous White House officials as the administration mulls ramping up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
Those close to the White House describe the latest scuffle as another power struggle between rival spheres of influence. Foreign policy experts see the leaks as a reflection of a broader internal dispute over the appropriate level of U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

❝ Once again, Bannon is rumored to be at the center of it.

❝ …Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake reported that Trump was boiling over with rage at McMaster and had berated him in front of White House staff…The story said that Trump at one point “screamed” at McMaster on a phone call for assuring South Korean officials that the U.S. would foot the bill for a missile defense system, contradicting the president.

RTFA for all the plot lines, mis-characterization of characters, myths and legends counter to any rational evidence-based history. It makes for comic opera. It also describes a swamp filled with competing bigots and fools sucking up to the ignoranus-in-chief.

It’s Time to Audit the Pentagon – And Congress will let it slide, again


Pogo

❝ In 1994 Congress passed legislation requiring every federal agency to be auditable. Since then every agency has complied — except for the Department of Defense.

❝ “We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty,” Chairs John McCain and Mac Thornberry of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, respectively, said recently in a joint statement. “The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.”

Increasing Pentagon spending under these circumstances is the opposite of fiscal responsibility. In fact, giving the Pentagon $54 billion and finding out why later is bad budgeting.

Both the Republican and Democratic party platforms included the need to audit the Pentagon, and Congress should resist calls to give more money to an agency they know to be irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when sufficient members of Congress grow enough bony matter reinforcing their spineless lives – and challenge Pentagon incompetence, thievery and collusion in theft from American taxpayers.

Newly-digitized Nuclear Test Films Reveal More Data about Death and Destruction

❝ The film is silent, but it starts with a bang. The screen blows out white, then a tropical beach comes into view, before an explosion tears across the horizon. A two-tiered mushroom cloud flows skyward, revealing a dark, intense plume of smoke that smolders in the distance…

Another film, showing the charmingly titled “Operation Teapot,” is a black-and-white nightmare: A ball of fire comes into the frame over a mound in the distance, engulfing the sky and setting off a wave of soil or smoke or both, so powerful that the camera starts to shake.

❝ These are films of the nuclear age, and there are thousands of them. They document the 210 atmospheric nuclear tests the United States conducted between 1945 and 1962.

❝ Until recently, these government-commissioned films had been scattered around different archives, though the bulk of them sat in boxes at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Fortunately, a team of physicists and film archivists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California decided to digitize the films before it was too late…

❝ Gregg Spriggs and his team started digitizing the films using special scanners that move the film without gripping it by the holes in the edges. But as they watched the old films, they noticed something: The nuclear yield data based on the images was wrong.

These aren’t just any old government movies: They are scientific documents that are key to understanding nuclear power. And even though the films are very old, scientists don’t get access to these sorts of nuclear tests anymore. Atmospheric nuclear tests have been banned since 1963…

❝ So Spriggs and his team set about reanalyzing all of the old films, using new techniques. The indicators remain the same, in some ways: The double flash of light, the fireball and the shock wave captured on film all provide significant information for researchers on the energy generated by the nuclear blast…But the newly digitized films allow researchers to more clearly see the fireball’s edge, allowing for much more accurate yield estimates. “We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent,” says Spriggs. “One of the payoffs of this project is that we’re now getting very consistent answers. We’ve also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before. New correlations are now being used by the nuclear forensics community, for example.”

❝ The lab has posted a number of the films on YouTube, and the ability to watch these films from the cold remove of one’s desk chair is an arresting experience.

These brief portals to the Cold War are oddly devoid of context. Each film on Lawrence Livermore’s Atmospheric Nuclear Test playlist is accompanied by nothing more than its code name — no date, no location, no mention of lingering radiation. The films are silent, the explosions otherworldly. But they were in our world: enormous nuclear weapons, unleashed over Nevada and the Marshall Islands.

We have politicians, pundits and other political pimps for death and destruction who miss the Good Old Days depicted in these films. If only the ideology of hegemony over the world that sparks these thugs would die out with them.

I doubt that.

Wowee, Zowee!! One of our $3 Million missiles took out a $200 drone

…At the Global Force Symposium in Alabama, U.S. General David Perkins said that an unspecified U.S. ally used a $3 million Patriot missile to shoot down a quadcopter that likely cost around $200-$300.

“That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot [missile],” Perkins said. “I’m not sure that’s a good economic exchange ratio.”

“Now, that worked, they got it, OK, and we love Patriot missiles,” Perkins said. “[But] if I’m the enemy, I’m thinking, ‘Hey, I’m just gonna get on eBay and buy as many of these $300 quadcopters as I can and expend all the Patriot missiles out there?’”

Unfortunately, Perkins didn’t elaborate on the incident any further, except to say that the country who shot down the drone was “a very close ally.”

There have been reports of guerrilla groups in Iraq fastening weapons on dozens of drones at a time and flying them at their enemies…The cost ratio between these drones and large surface-to-air missiles makes defending against this drone tactic a costly endeavor.

“It is clearly enormous overkill,” Justin Bronk…told the BBC. “It certainly exposes in very stark terms the challenge which militaries face in attempting to deal with the adaptation of cheap and readily available civilian technology with extremely expensive, high-end hardware designed for state-on-state warfare.”

No matter. The military-industrial complex which holds absolute control of the Pentagon and virtually every member of Congress – Democrat or Republican – will continue to get their welfare checks for building Navy ships that can be sunk by speedboats, million-dollar tanks that can be stopped by $45 RPGs, jet fighters at $100+ million can wow everyone at an air show and star in movies that cost as much as a plane or two – still manage to kill schoolkids in a building that looks just like the one next door hosting a terrorist luncheon.

The backwards mindset – and concept budgets – that ruled our military and politicians at the end of World War 2 are still in charge of the United States government. Often useless against pissed-off folks with a charge card and access to online shopping.

Border Patrol Easing Lie Detector Exams To Boost Hiring

❝ For the past three years, the U.S. Border Patrol has been using recruitment videos and job fairs to fill a gap in its ranks. It’s the largest law enforcement agency in the country but is still shy nearly 2,000 people from a target of 21,000.

That was the case even before President Donald Trump’s mandate that it bring in 5,000 more…rejection rates are high and it takes about 200 applicants to finally fill one position.

❝ “One of the things we do: we go to job fairs. We partner up with colleges and universities to look for candidates that are within the demographic of agents that we’re looking for,” Vicente Paco, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, said.

The Border Patrol also looks for military veterans and former police officers. But some agency critics said its strict lie detector tests are part of the reason it has such a hard time filling vacancies…

❝ Customs and Border Protection officials said a 2010 anti-corruption law requires it to administer these exams…The agency does appear to be trying to ease the application process by waiving the polygraph for applicants who have already worked in sensitive jobs such as certain military positions…

❝ Kevin McAleenan, the acting CBP commissioner…wrote that the Border Patrol receives 60,000 to 75,000 applications a year and since 2013, has hired an average of 523 agents a year but lost 904 agents a year to attrition.

McAleenan wrote that the agency will need to hire 2,729 agents a year to achieve the president’s order within five years.

Reliability of lie detectors is questionable. Results are still not admissible AFAIK in courts of law in the United States.

The chuckle remains – does anyone think Trump could pass a lie detector test. For anything?

How a Cold War major asked a forbidden question — it cost him his career.

❝ It was a risk. Dedicating a book to someone I’d had had a five-minute phone conversation with three decades ago. Someone who, last I’d heard, had become a long-haul trucker and whom I’d given up trying to track down.

❝ But I went ahead and dedicated my new book, How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III, to Maj. Harold Hering because Maj. Hering sacrificed his military career to ask a Forbidden Question about launching nuclear missiles. A question that exposed the comforting illusions of the so called fail-safe system designed to prevent “unauthorized” nuclear missile launches…

❝ Get ready to twist your launch keys in their slots and send anywhere from one to 50 missiles rocketing toward Russia. World War III is under way.

Or is it? Your launch order codes are “authenticated,” everything seems in order, the seconds tick away. But in what may be the last seconds of your life — for all you know Soviet missiles are about to rain down on the plains — a thought crosses your mind. About “authentication.” It’s supposed to ensure that the launch order comes from the president himself, or (if the president has been killed) from the surviving head of the nuclear chain of command.

❝ But what about that person at the top of the chain of command, the person who gives the order? Has he been “authenticated”? Who authenticates the authenticator? Can the president start a nuclear war on his own authority — his own whim or will — alone?…

Maj. Hering decided to ask his question anyway, regardless of consequences: How could he know that an order to launch his missiles was “lawful”? That it came from a sane president, one who wasn’t “imbalance[d]” or “berserk,” as Maj. Hering’s lawyer eventually, colorfully put it?

RTFA. It’s long, complex, a couple different narratives bound together by Hering’s question. Stick with it and read it all.

The Pentagon decides on a new military handgun


Donald Trump Jr. holding a Sig Sauer MCX…brother Eric, 2nd from right

The US Army has confirmed that its new XM17 handgun is to be a 9 mm Sig Sauer model P320 and the contract allows the government to buy Sig Sauer’s proposed XM1152 Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and XM1153 Special Purpose (SP) ammunition and training rounds.

The long-running XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract, intended to replace legacy 9 mm M9 Beretta pistols, was awarded…with a total $580+ million maximum ceiling.

It is understood that Sig Sauer bested bids from Beretta, FN Herstal, and Glock, after Smith & Wesson and partner General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems (GDOTS) had earlier been dropped from the programme. A total of nine bids were submitted, according to a separate Pentagon statement. The US Army declined to reveal the other bids…

The MHS programme, which is expected to reach full-rate production in 2018, could result in buying between 280,000 and 500,000 weapons for the army, navy, air force, marines, and US Special Operations Command. The army has said it wants more than 280,000 handguns…

I’m not commenting, today, on the predictable waste of dollar$ from the Pentagon. This project or any other is subject to the politics of our military-industrial complex – which has little to do with defense or sanity.

I grew up in the “arsenal of America” – in Connecticut. Where mass production was invented as an innovation to produce muskets for the American Revolution. Where firms like Colt, Winchester, Remington and Ruger got their start because of talented, trained and experienced machinists and designers. Natives and immigrants alike.

It was only my generation that ended the lineage of folks from my family who worked on firearms, from assembly lines to talented prototype gunsmiths who spent their lives designing fine guns for peace – or war.

The furor over Beretta’s award years ago will not be matched over Sigg-Sauer getting this juicy contract. Their headquarters is in the US, nowadays – even though they’re a subsidiary of Lüke & Ortmeier Gruppe. And they love their friendship with the Trump family.

Army vets back to Standing Rock – forming a human shield to defend against police

❝ US veterans are returning to Standing Rock and pledging to shield indigenous activists from attacks by a militarized police force, another sign that the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline is far from over.

Army veterans from across the country have arrived in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, or are currently en route after the news that Donald Trump’s administration has allowed the oil corporation to finish drilling across the Missouri river.

❝ The growing group of military veterans could make it harder for police and government officials to try to remove hundreds of activists who remain camped near the construction site and, some hope, could limit use of excessive force by law enforcement during demonstrations….

❝ “We are prepared to put our bodies between Native elders and a privatized military force,” said Elizabeth Williams, a 34-year-old air force veteran, who arrived at Standing Rock with a group of vets late on Friday. “We’ve stood in the face of fire before. We feel a responsibility to use the skills we have.”

RTFA. Truly heartwarming to see veterans of our often-unfortunate wars putting their skills and courage to work for Native Americans at the leading edge of resistance to corporate might. Power to you – sisters and brothers.