Daily Archives: March 2, 2011

Schwarzenegger: It’s Time to Terminate Skepticism on Climate Change

‘What is best in life?’  ‘To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women.’

InnovationNewsDaily | Mar 1, 2011

by Stuart Fox

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at ARPA-E. (Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a room full of scientists, and with a slate of Nobel Prize winners and bureaucrats scheduled to speak, it took a movie star to demand that everyone stop playing make-believe. Giving the keynote address at the APRA-E Energy Innovation Summit here today (March 1), Arnold Schwarzenegger issued forth a call to end the false debate over climate science, to stop assuming China will provide new green tech cheaper and faster than the United States, and to stop pretending that global warming won’t affect people for decades.

Using analogies to leverage every aspect of his history, Schwarzenegger made the case that transitioning to a green economy, fixing the environment and ending political stalemate over carbon legislation fell well within the power of today’s technology and today’s political climate.

“We want a new era of energy independence, a new era of green technology and green jobs, a new era of better health from a cleaner environment, and a new era of American inventiveness,” Schwarzenegger said.

The former governor and action-firm superstar compared the current debate over climate change to the state of bodybuilding when he entered that sport in the late 1960s. A pervasive fear of weightlifting’s effects led celebrities to disavow their own exercise routines, and produced euphemisms when discussing the activity. However, scientific evidence eventually came to support the health benefits of weightlifting, and today talk about abs and pecs is common. Confident in having brought weightlifting to the mainstream, Schwarzenegger told the audience he hopes to do the same for climate science.

Schwarzenegger also linked a future green economy to the current unrest in the Mideast, both literally and figuratively. He suggested that the overthrow of foreign dictators seemed impossible a month ago but now seems inevitable. Similarly, he believes that defeatism about the ability of a green revolution to change America will soon look absurd as well.

More directly, the former California governor also pointed to the recent volatility in oil prices resulting from Middle Eastern revolutions as a perfect example of why the U.S. needs to wean itself off foreign oil.

“Why should a dried-up desert country with a crazy dictator like Libya play havoc with America’s energy future?” said Schwarzenegger.

In a closing point that struck the deepest chord with the audience, the erstwhile Terminator, who first made his mark in action films as Conan the Barbarian, identified the ARPA-E attendees as the primary agents for the change he advocated.

“I’ve made a lot of action movies in the past, so I know about action. And you are the true people of action,” Schwarzenegger said. “Conan was asked, ‘What is best in life?’ He answered, ‘To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of the women.’ Now, my views have evolved since. But my point is that Conan was not big on philosophy or navel-gazing. He was big on action, just like you.”

The ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) summit runs through tomorrow (March 2).

Libya rebels may seek U.N. airstrikes

Anti-Gadhafi forces secure a munitions storage hangar at a military base Tuesday in Ajdabiyah, a city where a rebel officer said plans are being made to go on the offensive. Goran Tomasevic   /  Reuters

“If it is with the United Nations, it is not a foreign intervention,” Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the council’s spokesman, told the Times.

U.S. repositions ships in Mediterranean Sea; Senate urges ‘no-fly’ zone

msnbc.com | Mar 1, 20011

AJDABIYAH, Libya — Libyan rebels are debating whether to ask for United Nation’s airstrikes against leader Moammar Gadhafi’s military assets, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The debate was reported as the U.S. Senate called on the U.N. to enforce a “no-fly” zone over Libya and the Pentagon moved two Navy amphibious warships into the Mediterranean Sea, along with an extra 400 Marines, in case they are needed to evacuate civilians or provide humanitarian relief.

The Libyan sources told the Times the revolutionary council is drawing a distinction between airstrikes and foreign intervention, which they oppose.

“If it is with the United Nations, it is not a foreign intervention,” Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the council’s spokesman, told the Times.

Gadhafi already accuses Western powers of fomenting the uprising, so any action by the U.N. or individual nations carries risks, the Times said.

“If he falls with no intervention, I’d be happy,” said one senior council official said of Gadhafi. “But if he’s going to commit a massacre, my priority is to save my people.”

The U.N. Security Council would have to approve any “no-fly” zone requests, but Russia and China appear cool to intervention, the Times said.

The strikes would be limited to Gadhafi’s stronghold wouth of Tripoli, Bab al-Aziziya, and installations like radar stations, sources told the Times.

At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said American military intervention in Libya is unlikely but he did not rule out other options, such as providing air cover for Libyan rebels.

Asked specifically about establishing a “no-fly” zone over Libya, Gates said military actions “have their own consequences” for U.S. interests, not just in Libya but throughout the greater Middle East.

“We also have to think about, frankly, the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East,” Gates added, referring to the long war in Iraq and its backlash in the Arab world. “So I think we’re sensitive about all of these things, but we will provide the president with a full range of options.”

The Senate, in passing the “no-fly” resolution, condemned the “gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya” and demanded that Gadhafi leave office.

Also Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Libya is at risk of collapsing into a “protracted civil war.” amid increasingly violent clashes with anti-government rebels.

“The stakes are high,” she told the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives.

The United States must lead an international response to the crisis, including expanding already tough financial and travel sanctions against Gadhafi, his family and confidants and possibly imposing a “no-fly” zone over Libya, she said.

As she spoke, Gadhafi and forces still loyal to him sought to protect their remaining strongholds in and around Tripoli and take back rebel-held areas in eastern Libya.

Clinton said U.S. officials were aware that defecting military officers were attempting to organize fighters to defend areas they hold and “even try to take Tripoli away from Col. Gadhafi.” Gates, however, said the United States has an incomplete picture of the rebels’ potential for prevailing on their own. Nor was it clear how many civilians have died, he added.

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Military experts say psy-ops isn’t brainwashing

That truth might be spun, he said, but outright lies tend to backfire by destroying credibility. Friedman compared psy-ops with advertising or public relations.

Psychological operations just convinces the enemy to change behavior

LiveScience | Feb 28, 2011

By Stephanie Pappas

Rolling Stone magazine caused turmoil in the U.S. military with a recent report that a commander in Afghanistan ordered a “psychological operations” team to help him manipulate visiting U.S. senators into providing additional funds and soldiers to the war effort.

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell may well have broken the law, which prohibits psychological operations from being used against U.S. citizens. But shelve those “Manchurian Candidate” fantasies: those familiar with psy-ops (PSYOP in military parlance) and propaganda say the field is a closer cousin to public relations than its intimidating moniker would suggest. (In the movie “Manchurian Candidate,” a former prisoner of the Korean War gets brainwashed by Communists.)

“There’s no brainwashing,” Sgt. Maj. Herb Friedman, an army veteran and psy-ops expert, told LiveScience. “PSYOP gets blamed for a whole host of things that has nothing to do with them whatsoever.”

Hearts and minds

So what is psy-ops? According to Friedman, psychological operations specialists are in a battle for that old canard, the “hearts and minds” of enemy combatants. In 2010, the psychological operations label was dropped in favor of “Military Information Supply Operations,” or MISO, which “everybody hates” because “it’s basically a green soup from Japan,” Friedman said.

As Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, the former leader of the information operations unit who bucked the order to conduct psy-ops on John McCain and other senators, told Rolling Stone, the goal of psy-ops is “to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave.” Usually, Friedman said, that means persuading the other side to stop fighting and support the new government.


Sometimes, the methods are straightforward: Leaflets urging surrender dropped on civilian villages and opposition armies, loudspeaker messages telling fighters to lay down their arms. Psy-ops specialists target the message to the culture and community they’re hoping to reach, Friedman said. During World War II, he said, leaflets urging Japanese soldiers to “surrender” made no headway. But urging the Japanese soldiers to “cease resistance” was more effective, because the words conveyed less shame.

In other cases, psy-ops teams exert more subtle pressure. During WWII, a British radio station was broadcast into German territories posing as a German propaganda station, said Aaron Delwiche, a professor of communications at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, who maintains a website on propaganda called propagandacritic.com. But instead of boosting morale, the disguised station broadcast information meant to undermine German civilians’ confidence. There were about a dozen such stations, Friedman said, one of which broadcast exclusively to German submarine crews.

Sexual psy-ops

One of the stranger psy-ops methods in war has been the use of pornographic pamphlets to try to convince the men on the front lines to go back home to their girlfriends. During WWII, the Germans and Japanese papered U.S. soldiers with leaflets depicting mostly naked women being seduced by draft dodgers and other shady characters back home. “While you were away,” read one, implying that the soldier’s own wife or girlfriend was no doubt in flagrante with another while he risked death.

The idea, Friedman said, is that the pamphlets would kill morale.

“The reality is, it does just the opposite,” he said. ” The guys loved dirty pictures.”

The United States got in on the pornographic propaganda game only slightly during WWII, Friedman said. Psy-ops teams created just a few pornographic pamphlets. Several attempted to play on homophobia, warning (with lurid illustrations) that German soldiers’ wives had turned to lesbianism in their absence.

Question authority

For the most part, however, psy-ops is about telling the truth, Friedman said. That truth might be spun, he said, but outright lies tend to backfire by destroying credibility. Friedman compared psy-ops with advertising or public relations.

“We’re asking them to surrender and you’re saying, ‘Go out and buy a Ford,'” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of difference there.”

Indeed, the line between propaganda and persuasion or education can be hard to draw, Delwiche said. Propaganda is not intrinsically bad, he said, and there are no mind-control tricks to ensure a docile audience.

“A key finding that has emerged in communications research over the years is that when propaganda fails, it’s because audiences are active. They ask questions,” Delwiche told LiveScience. “We can’t predict what audiences are going to do.”

So would conducting psy-ops on visiting U.S. senators have worked? Friedman thinks not.

“When an army is victorious, you can’t mess with their minds. The only time you can mess with their minds is when they’re defeated,” he said. “You can’t do this on a big congressman walking around thinking he’s the king of the world in his private jet. How are you going to psy-op them?”

Delwiche said he believed a line had likely been crossed by Caldwell, but said that the senators targeted weren’t exactly shrinking violets.

“I don’t want to let them off the hook,” Delwiche said. “But at the same time, you look at some of these senators, people like John McCain, Al Franken, Joe Lieberman, these are people who, regardless of what you think of their politics, tend to speak up and ask questions and not necessarily swallow the Kool-Aid.”

On the other hand, Delwiche said, if the military leaders set themselves up as authorities, saying that, as civilians, the senators couldn’t possibly know what the soldiers were facing in Afghanistan, the politicians might have been swayed.

“There is a long history on all sides of the political spectrum in all countries of propaganda being used in inappropriate ways,” Delwiche said. “If people are kind of freaked out or alarmed by this, what they should do is educate themselves and pay attention to the kinds of tools that are used to persuade. That’s really the best way to protect yourself.”

Small Nuclear War Could Reverse Global Warming for Years Say Experts

A nuclear bomb explodes in a test on the Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia in the early seventies. Photograph from AP

Regional war could spark “unprecedented climate change,” experts predict.

National Geographic News | Feb 22, 2011

by Charles Q. Choi

Even a regional nuclear war could spark “unprecedented” global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models.

Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate.

During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a “nuclear winter.”

In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.

Today, with the United States the only standing superpower, nuclear winter is little more than a nightmare. But nuclear war remains a very real threat—for instance, between developing-world nuclear powers, such as India and Pakistan.

To see what climate effects such a regional nuclear conflict might have, scientists from NASA and other institutions modeled a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, each packing the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT—just 0.03 percent of the world’s current nuclear arsenal. (See a National Geographic magazine feature on weapons of mass destruction.)

The researchers predicted the resulting fires would kick up roughly five million metric tons of black carbon into the upper part of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In NASA climate models, this carbon then absorbed solar heat and, like a hot-air balloon, quickly lofted even higher, where the soot would take much longer to clear from the sky.

Reversing Global Warming?

The global cooling caused by these high carbon clouds wouldn’t be as catastrophic as a superpower-versus-superpower nuclear winter, but “the effects would still be regarded as leading to unprecedented climate change,” research physical scientist Luke Oman said during a press briefing Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Earth is currently in a long-term warming trend. After a regional nuclear war, though, average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest.

At the extreme, the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would cool by 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F (3 to 4 degrees C), according to the models. Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic would actually warm a bit, due to shifted wind and ocean-circulation patterns, the researchers said.

After ten years, average global temperatures would still be 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) lower than before the nuclear war, the models predict.

Years Without Summer

For a time Earth would likely be a colder, hungrier planet.

“Our results suggest that agriculture could be severely impacted, especially in areas that are susceptible to late-spring and early-fall frosts,” said Oman, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Examples similar to the crop failures and famines experienced following the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 could be widespread and last several years,” he added. That Indonesian volcano ushered in “the year without summer,” a time of famines and unrest. (See pictures of the Mount Tambora eruption.)

All these changes would also alter circulation patterns in the tropical atmosphere, reducing precipitation by 10 percent globally for one to four years, the scientists said. Even after seven years, global average precipitation would be 5 percent lower than it was before the conflict, according to the model.

In addition, researcher Michael Mills, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, found large decreases in the protective ozone layer, leading to much more ultraviolet radiation reaching Earth’s surface and harming the environment and people.

“The main message from our work,” NASA’s Oman said, “would be that even a regional nuclear conflict would have global consequences.”