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Archive for January, 2003

BLOOD CLOT BANDAGES DEBUT

Friday, January 31st, 2003

BLOOD CLOT BANDAGES DEBUT
The U.S. military is rolling out bandages with clotting agents inside, CNN reports. Made from a shrimp-based product, the dressings can supposedly stop bleeding within two minutes. They’ve just been approved by the FDA, and there are immediate orders from the military for 6000 units.

VIDEO, POWERPOINT CLOG MILITARY AIRWAVES

Friday, January 31st, 2003

VIDEO, POWERPOINT CLOG MILITARY AIRWAVES
Think downloading a video clip at home is a pain? Try doing it aboard a frigate, chasing enemy forces through the north Arabian Sea during monsoon season. Or under hostile fire in a makeshift Army post in the Afghan hinterland.
The typical American soldier stationed overseas has access to hundreds of times as much network bandwidth as the average grunt in the first Gulf War. But despite all the extra capacity, U.S. troops face a bandwidth shortage that dictates where ships are sent, when drones can fly and what kind of messages sailors and soldiers can receive.
Streaming video is the biggest bandwidth hog, according to Steven Aftergood, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists. Everybody wants to look at what the spy drones and satellites see.
Take the battle of Takur Ghar — one of the bloodiest encounters in the Afghan campaign. While U.S. special forces engaged in a mountaintop firefight, a Predator drone fed real-time digital video to top brass in Tampa, Florida.
Gen. Lance Lord, the chief of Air Force Space Command, said the Afghan effort used 10 times more bandwidth than Operation Desert Storm, with one-tenth the human forces involved.
Video was one reason. But so was the military’s predilection for PowerPoint presentations.
“Some say that 70 percent of that bandwidth was consumed by PowerPoint briefings,” Lord joked.
My latest Wired News story has additional details on the military’s bandwidth shortage.
THERE’S MORE: The Pentagon does have some long term solutions to this problem. By 2004, the Defense Department hopes to fatten its pipes by linking 90 sites worldwide with fiber optic cable into a “Global Information Grid.” The military is also looking into satellites that communicate by laser light to ease the bandwidth squeeze.
But that’s years away — at least. For now, U.S. troops will have to rely on aging birds and borrowed time to talk.

DRONE VIDEO ONLINE

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

DRONE VIDEO ONLINE
Wanna see through the eyes of a Predator drone? Soon, all you may need is a web browser.
MITRE, a not-for-profit group that handles a fair amount of Defense Department research, has been testing out a system that makes online accessible video from the Predator and Global Hawk unmanned spy planes. So far, MITRE has only worked with archived footage. But the idea is to get the shots in something approaching real time.
That’s not going to happen without Defense Department involvement, however. And so far, the Pentagon hasn’t sunk any money into the project. MITRE is hoping to get such funding soon.

NAVY: TATTOOS NOW TABOO

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

NAVY: TATTOOS NOW TABOO
Like tomato sauce and pasta, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, like J. Lo and that big ol’ ass, sailors and their tattoos have long seemed like one of nature’s unalterable combinations.
But now, the U.S. Navy is putting the brakes on some tattoos and ornamentation, according to Stars and Stripes.
“Tattoos/body art/brands that are excessive, obscene, sexually explicit or advocate or symbolize sex, gender, racial, religious, ethnic or national origin discrimination are all out. So are forked tongues. So is branding, or “scarification.“
The other armed services also have limits on “ink.” In the Air Force, taboo tattoos are ones that exceed one-fourth of the exposed body part. Marines can’t have body art on the head or neck. Nor are they allowed “objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation through their skin, tongue or any other body part.e
“Mom” or “Semper Fi,” written across the shoulder, are, presumably, still allowed.

PILOTS’ UNREAL WORLD

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

PILOTS’ UNREAL WORLD
How can you land a plane if you can’t see the ground? When rough weather dials visibility down to zero, even the most routine landings become fraught with danger.
The U.S. Air Force is trying out a fix for this problem — an onboard computer that digitally recreates pilots’ surroundings. It lets pilots look at a rendered world, when they can’t rely on the real one to guide them.
The program — called “synthetic-vision” — has been in use on civilian flights for years, National Defense magazine reports. And now the Air Force’s 412th Flight Test Squadron is trying it out in a modified C-135 transport plane. Just like night-vision goggles let troopers roam around in the dark, this system is supposed to let pilots see in stormy skies.
But “synthetic-vision” is still years and years away from widespread military use. Digital maps of most major commercial airports already exist; but recreating the rough terrains an Air Force pilot would encounter — and updating those images in real-time — is going to take a lot of work.

“TIA” AIN’T DEAD YET

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

“TIA” AIN’T DEAD YET
For those of you who thought that the Senate killed off “Total Information Awareness,” the scandalously-broad, uber-database being developed by the U.S. military, think again. Salon’s Farhad Majoo reports:

TIA is already steaming forward. According to people with knowledge of the program, TIA has now advanced to the point where it’s much more than a mere “research project“‘ There is a working prototype of the system, and federal agencies outside the Defense Department have expressed interest in it.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is developing a second database project, the “Terrorist Threat Integration Center,” that, to privacy advocates, sounds eerily reminiscent of TIA.
THERE’S MORE: The Bush Administration now says that the CIA will be in charge of the new “Terrorist Threat” database project.

INTERNET ATTACKER: MYSTERY MAN

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

INTERNET ATTACKER: MYSTERY MAN
The FBI thinks they can catch whoever launched the “Slammer” worm that gummed up the Internet last weekend? Fat chance, computer security experts say.
While “Slammer” is somewhat similar to the “Honker” worm launched in 2001 by a Chinese hacker group, it’s impossible to tell whether or not the same culprits unleashed the latest assault.
The Associated Press says, “Exhaustive reviews of the blueprints for the attacking software are yielding few clues to its origin or the author’s identity.”

NAVY GOES WIRELESS

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

NAVY GOES WIRELESS
The White House has labeled easy-to-access wireless networks a homeland security threat. The Defense Department believes the so-called “wi-fi” connections many interfere with as many as ten different radar systems.
But, apparently, someone forgot to tell the Navy all of this.
The destroyer USS Howard is being fitted with an 802.11b “wi-fi” network. According to Network World, The Navy is hoping it’ll let crewmembers check motors and pipes from a single location — instead of making rounds — and control heating and air conditioning units, remotely.
Ultimately, the goal is to let the captain command from anywhere on the ship, and to reduce crew size from 300 to 90 through automation.
The Navy may want to think twice before handing sailors their pink slips, however. As several Slashdotters have pointed out, “wi-fi” networks are notoriously hackable. And anything from a cordless phone to a microwave oven has the potential to interfere with the “wi-fi” signal.

SMART BOMB STOCKPILE

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

SMART BOMB STOCKPILE
StrategyPage details the U.S.’ inventory of precision-guided weapons. The Air Force, for one, now has 17,000 Joint Direct Attack Munition kits — which turn a regular bomb into a satellite-directed killer. The service expects to buy a total of 236,000 of the kits, some of which they’ll share with the Navy and with the Marines.

FUTURIST-IN-CHIEF SPEAKS

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

FUTURIST-IN-CHIEF SPEAKS
Wired magazine has a Q&A with Andrew Marshall, “the Pentagon’s 81-year-old futurist-in-chief.” The interview doesn’t reveal much. But Marshall does say that he’s worried about performance-enhancing drugs. He quips, “A future intelligence problem is going to be knowing what drugs the other guys are on.”