Monthly Archives: October 2012

Pentagon developing robotic soldiers for future wars


The Pet-Proto robot (file photo)

presstv.com | Oct 28, 2012

The US Pentagon has begun a contest to advance its efforts to develop robotic soldiers to fight the wars of the future.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), which kicked off at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conference center in Arlington, Virginia on Wednesday, focuses on testing robots’ abilities to work in difficult situations designed for humans that “simulate conditions in a dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environment.”

US officials and the designers of the robots say they are only being built to provide emergency services during disasters and have made no comments on any possible military applications.

Video: Pet-Proto biped robot/Terminator precursor terrifyingly navigating obstacles

The DRC has four tracks, with teams participating in tracks B and C competing for access to a modified version of the Atlas robot for use in live disaster-response challenge events in 2013 and 2014.

One of the robots, called Pet-Proto, a predecessor of DARPA’s Atlas robot, can maneuver over and around obstacles, using “capabilities, including autonomous decision-making, dismounted mobility and dexterity.”

DARPA project leader Gill Pratt says the DRC is “about trying to use robots to improve the resiliency of the US and world to natural and man-made disasters.”

According to DARPA’s $2.8 billion budget for 2013, the US military’s research arm intends to invest $7 million in a project to create robotic partners for its soldiers.

The project, called the Avatar Project, was devised to “develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the solder’s surrogate,” DARPA announced.

Earlier this year, DARPA released a video of the robodog, which is capable of hauling a soldier’s gear and following the soldier using its “eyes” — which are actually sensors that can distinguish between trees, rocks, terrain obstacles, and people.

Cyberdyne Unveils Improved Robotsuit ‘HAL’

Both the names Cyberdyne and HAL may not be the best names to imply a positive omen for the robotic suit, given the connotation to the Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey movies.

tomshardware.com | Oct 21, 2012

by Wolfgang Gruener – source: Cyberdyne

Japan-based Cyberdyne unveiled a new, radiation-protected version of its exoskeleton HAL, which is designed to be used for workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Both the names Cyberdyne and HAL may not be the best names to imply a positive omen for the robotic suit, given the connotation to the Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey movies, but the manufacturer says that its improved Hybrid Assistive Limb suit is an ideal fit to provide a human cyborg-type robot assist that can be essential in an environment such as the severely damaged Fukushima plant.

From Cyberdyne’s product description:

“When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneurons, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. “HAL” catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint in unison with the wearer’s muscle movement, enabling HAL to support the wearer’s daily activities. […] Not only a ‘voluntary control system’ “HAL” [also] has a ‘robotic autonomous control system’ that provides human-like movement based on a robotic system which integrally work together with the ‘autonomous control system’. “HAL” is the world’s first cyborg-type robot controlled by this unique Hybrid System.”

The new version of HAL was shown at the Japan Robot Week 2012. In addition to the previous power units and exo-limbs, the new version is equipped with a 132-pound vest made out of tungsten to protect workers from radioactive radiation. Since the vest is largely supported by the powered units of HAL, Cybedyne says it has virtually no effect on the wearing person. There is also a ventilation system that prevents overheating and keeps a worker cool inside the suit.

Cyberdyne HAL Robot Suit and Cybernics research

DARPA’s Pet-Proto Robot climbs over and skirts around obstacles

Watch Darpa’s Rescue Robot Jump, Climb and Dodge Obstacles

2012 Selection ‘Surprise’: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are Cousins

Obama & Romney Are Related! Genealogy Infographic

genealogybank.com | Oct 12, 2012

by Tom Kemp

In time for the 2012 election countdown, I recently did some genealogy research to learn more about the background of both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, and guess what—they’re related!

What’s more: they’re also related to several former U.S. presidents, English kings, outlaws and celebrities. This is really huge! So huge in fact that our team at GenealogyBank decided to create this Infographic to show many of these surprising genealogical findings.

Obama & Romney - Who Knew? We're Related! Genealogy Infographic

Obama & Romney Are Related?

Yes. Obama and Romney are both direct descendants of King Edward I of England, who was the eldest son of King Henry III and himself a father to numerous children by his two wives, Queens Eleanor and Margaret. King Edward I was perhaps the most successful of the medieval English monarchs. Known as “Longshanks” due to his great height and stature, King Edward I stood head and shoulders above other men of his time, towering at a height of 6’2. Romney and Obama are chips off the old block, both over six feet tall. Romney measures in at 6’2 and Obama at 6’1.

Related

Obama, Romney Family Ties Share Polygamy, More

Several U.S. Presidents as Cousins-in-Common

The 2012 presidential candidates not only share a royal ancestor, they also have many distant cousins-in-common. These distant relatives form the impressive lineup of United States presidents featured in the White House Family Reunion photo in the Infographic above.

12 yr Girl Discovers ALL U.S. Presidents Except One Related to One British King

Obama and Romney’s U.S. president distant cousins-in-common include:

  • James Madison – 4th President of the United States
  • William Harrison – 9th President of the United States
  • Zachary Taylor – 12th President of the United States
  • Ulysses S. Grant – 18th President of the United States
  • Benjamin Harrison – 23rd President of the United States
  • Grover Cleveland – 24th President of the United States
  • Warren G. Harding – 29th President of the United States
  • Calvin Coolidge – 30th President of the United States
  • Richard Nixon – 37th President of the United States
  • Gerald Ford – 38th President of the United States
  • Jimmy Carter – 39th President of the United States
  • George W. Bush – 43rd President of the United States
  • George H.W. Bush – 41st President of the United States

Early American Presidential Roots

Obama and Romney also have deep early American roots in their respective family trees. Mayflower passengers Edward and Samuel Fuller are both direct ancestors of Mitt Romney. They were part of the group of Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620.

Romney is also a distant cousin to the early American President Thomas Jefferson, and Obama is a distant cousin to President George Washington.

Wild West Outlaw Kin

Another interesting ancestral find was that each of the presidential nominees is a distant relation to notorious American Wild West gunslingers. Wild Bill Hickok is a distant cousin to Obama, and William H. Bonney a.k.a. “Billy the Kid” is a distant cousin to Romney. Also noteworthy is that Romney is a relation to famous American actor Clint Eastwood, who has starred in many hit Western movies such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Star-Studded Family Trees

Both of the 2012 election candidates share their family trees with Hollywood megastars, as well as other celebrities ranging from renowned American artists to British royalty.

Obama is a distant cousin to the following celebrities:

  • Brad Pitt – Hollywood Megastar
  • Elvis Presley – King of Rock & Roll
  • Georgia O’Keeffe – Famous American Artist & Painter
  • Robert Duvall – Hollywood Actor

Romney’s family tree also has many movie stars and famous people. His distant cousins include:

  • Clint Eastwood – Hollywood Megastar
  • Alec Baldwin –Hollywood Actor
  • Princess Diana – Former Princess of Wales
  • Katherine Hepburn – Earlier Hollywood Megastar
  • Julia Child – Famous Chef, TV Personality and Author

Both Have Foreign-Born Fathers

President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to parents Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. The Infographic features an old photo of Barack Obama II as a child with his mother Ann.

President Obama’s father was born in 1936 in Kanyadhiang Village, Kenya. The Infographic features an old picture of President Obama’s dad Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., as an infant with the president’s paternal grandmother Habiba Akumu Obama.

Governor Romney was born in 1947 in Detroit, Michigan, to parents Lenore and George W. Romney. The old family photograph in the Infographic shows the governor as a baby with his mom and dad.

Mitt Romney’s father George W. Romney, the former governor of Michigan, was born in 1907 in Colonia Dublán, Mexico. The old picture in the Infographic shows Romney’s father as a child with Mitt’s grandma Anna Amelia Pratt Romney.

Who knew the presidential candidates shared so many family connections? We’re continuing our ancestral exploration into the 2012 U.S. presidential candidates’ family trees. Make sure to stay tuned by following us here on the blog and on Facebook, Twitter or G+ to get more Obama and Romney family history.

. . .

Romney Agrees With Obama… On Everything

Completely corrupt Portland city council secretly met with fluoride lobbyists before voting to poison Oregonians’ water

NaturalNews | Oct 23, 2012

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Did Portland City Council members secretly meet with lobbyists representing those who seek to force area residents to be poisoned with fluoride? Opponents of the effort seem to think so, and with good reason.

The lobbyists did, in fact, meet with all five council members in July or August, they have said, but only one of those initial meetings appears on public calendars and only then under a vague heading, according to local Oregon media.

If there was other contact, that could cast a pall over the entire council because such meetings would appear to violate the city’s lobbying and reporting requirements.

Those requirements, which were championed by then-Commissioner (now mayor) Sam Adams in 2005, affect lobbyists and city officials alike “and are meant to reveal who attempts to influence city leaders – and on what topic,” The Oregonian reported on its blog.

The driving force behind adding fluoride to the drinking water of Portland and surrounding communities is Upstream Public Health, but the group’s plan has been challenged via a referendum effort that could block the council’s unanimous Sept. 12 vote of approval.

Just slipped their minds?

Lobbyists, in a recently filed disclosure, reported meeting with commissioners Randy Leonard on July 26, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fick on Aug. 2, Amanda Fritz on Aug. 6 and Adams on Aug. 27 to push their case for adding fluoride to water.

Yet, those same officials, who are required by rule to publicly post their calendars on a quarterly basis, “either didn’t disclose them meetings about fluoride or left a vague subject heading,” The Oregonian reported, adding that both Adams and Leonard said they weren’t actually present at the meetings.

Leonard has been a proponent of the fluoride plan. According to his calendar, he had four meetings on July 26, but none were about fluoride.

Saltzman, meanwhile, had three meetings listed for Aug. 2 with the city forester, the police union and one regarding a homeless camp – nothing about fluoride.

Of nine slots on Fish’s calendar, he reported a single 30-minute meeting Aug. 2 with “Health Coalitions” but did not provide specifics about the group or the topic of discussions.

Fritz, who reports weekly rather than daily appointments on her calendar, listed 16 meetings or events for the aforementioned period of time; none listed fluoride as the topic or Upstream Public Health as an organization she met with.

Finally, Adams listed six items on his calendar for Aug. 27, including a meeting with Police Chief Mike Reese, a meeting regarding trade with Brazil, one with Transportation Director Tom Miller, a media event and two blocks for “office time.” Again, nothing about fluoride.

City code requires elected officials to post their calendars “of activities related to official city business” 15 days after the end of the preceding quarter. That deadline was Oct. 15.

There is one exception – if an elected official “determines that such posting posses a safety threat.”

It seems, now that allegations of impropriety have hit the light of day, everyone has an excuse about why they didn’t do their duty and inform the public what was happening.

About that reporting requirement…

Leonard told the paper via email he never met with Upstream Public Health on July 26, even though the group has said its representatives had a “personal meeting” with him. Leonard said the meeting was with Stuart Oishi, a member of his staff.

Oh.

Adams spokeswoman Caryn Brooks says the mayor never met personally with the group, either, that Upstream met with herself and Amy Ruiz, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff. She did say; however, that Adams phoned Upstream about fluoride – a claim that did not appear on the group’s mandated reporting requirement – and that he also ran into representatives of the organization at a local tavern.

Sure.

Fish, in a separate email to the local paper, said Kayse Jama, a founder for the Center for Intercultural Organizing, requested the Aug. 2 meeting but told his office that the agenda was “broad health equity strategy.” Fish says he didn’t learn about the topic until the meeting actually began.

Of course.

So, “not me, my staff;” “saw someone in a bar;” and “I didn’t know until it was too late” are the “reasons” for not reporting what was obviously an effort by a lobbying group to influence elected officials – no matter the method.

Most subsequent meetings with Upstream were put on council member’s calendars, but the initial ones clearly were not.

Portland, by the way, is one of the last bastions of fluoride-free water in the U.S.

U.S. military dumped millions of pounds of mustard gas, explosives into the Gulf of Mexico

 

Natural News | Oct 23, 2012

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) It’s not something that has been sanctioned by the Defense Department for more than 40 years, but once upon a time, it appeared to be a routine practice: The disposal of U.S. arms at sea.

Now, years later, the effects of this irresponsible practice are returning to haunt us.

“Lurking (and leaking) beneath the world’s oceans are an estimated 200 million pounds of unexploded and potentially dangerous explosives – from bombs to missiles to mustard gas,” Fox News reported recently.

That is the conclusion of William Bryant and Niall Slowey, oceanographers from Texas A&M University, who have documented a pair of these dump sites in the Gulf of Mexico. The two researchers put out a conservative estimate that at least 31 million pounds of ordnance can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coastlines of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii.

That includes thousands of containers of mustard gas, which lie strewn about the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey. And, they said, there are seven dump sites on the seafloor of the Gulf, each one measuring approximately 81 square miles

One is located at the mouth of the Mississippi River Delta.

“The amount that has been dumped was unbelievable,” Bryant said. “No one seems to have reported seeing explosives in the Gulf. We felt it was our responsibility to report it.”

After a half a century on the sea floor…

Now, the two oceanographers admit that the existence of UXO (unexploded ordnance) at sea is no secret. Until relatively recently, it was an acceptable international practice.

“Dumping conventional and chemical munitions captured from enemies – Nazi German, for example – was also an accepted practice,” Fox News reported.

For the U.S. anyway, that all changed in 1970 after the Pentagon prohibited the practice. Congress followed up with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, which generally banned sea disposal altogether.

But after some 50 years or more on the sea floor, the condition of these dangerous munitions is not known.

“Is there an environmental risk? We don’t know, and that in itself is reason to worry,” Bryant said. “We just don”t know much at all about these bombs, and it’s been 40 to 60 years that they’ve been down there.”

The report noted that analysts have suspected for some time that tones of undocumented munitions were “short-dumped,” as in, disposed of long before ships reached designated dumping sites, leaving them much too close to shore for comfort.

While conducting their sea floor research, Bryant and his team found two dump sites where they vividly captured decaying canisters of what they believe to be chemical weapons. At one point, they also found themselves floating above a field of munitions that were as large as 500 pounds.

How much is out there, and where is all of it?

In a statement published by Texas A&M, an explosion from a UXO could produce a number of calamities: It could threaten ship traffic, commercial fishing and cruise lines, among other activities. And, of course, the munitions pose a threat to some 30,000 people who work in the oil and gas industry aboard ocean rigs.

Bryant’s team said Texas shores are the closest to munitions, some of which lie as little as 50 miles offshore. Louisiana was the second closest, and in particular, the Mississippi River Delta.

Officials at the Defense Department want to know just how lethal these devices still are, so the Pentagon began conducting a massive search effort in 2004 to locate all of the ordnance. Thousands of hours of labor have been spent looking over millions of pages worth of documentation to determine where dump sites are, what type of ordnance was dumped and how much at each site.

The team has presented their findings at the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions in Puerto Rico recently.

Mali: “The New Afghanistan”


Armed Islamists gather on Sept. 21 in Gao, the biggest city in northern Mali, which is now under the control of armed Islamist groups. Issouf Sanogo / AFP – Getty Images

NBC News | Oct 23, 2012

By Rohit Kachroo

For many years, the landlocked state rarely bothered the international community. Its growing economy and relative social stability made it an example to some neighboring countries.

But that has changed over the past several months. Today, security officials frequently talk of Mali as being “the new Afghanistan.” They fear that deep inside the country’s northern desert, al-Qaida has carved out a new home — not only a safe haven for terrorists, but a training ground for a new generation of Islamist militants.

The fragile government has lost control of most of the country since President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown in a military coup in March, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels, Mali’s main rebel group, to seize two-thirds of the country. But Islamist extremists, some allied with al-Qaida, hijacked the revolt and then imposed harsh Islamic law in a desert region the size of France.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb have benefited from the remains of the Libyan regime, as guns and fighters from Libya have found their way into the country.

The conflict has exacerbated a deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the turbulent Sahel area — a belt of land spanning nearly a dozen of the world’s poorest countries on the southern rim of the Sahara — where millions are on the brink of starvation due to drought.

Mali al-Qaida-linked group stones couple to death over alleged adultery

The experience of other al-Qaida franchises may have taught the world to act early when faced with a growing threat on a new front. Consequently, military planners around the world are focusing their attention on Mali.

France is becoming increasingly involved behind the scenes, and foreign military intervention would likely follow the example of Somalia, where African forces provided soldiers, assisted by Western resources.

Top-level American and French military leaders and diplomats, including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, began two days of talks in Paris on Monday on intelligence-gathering and security in the Sahel region, diplomats from both sides told The Associated Press. In addition, France will move surveillance drones to West Africa, according to Intelligence Online, quoted by The AP.

One of France’s fears is that because of its history as a former colonial power, it could become a target of the militants.

Although France is likely to take the diplomatic lead among the Western powers, many other countries, including the U.S., appear to be growing more concerned about the terrifying prospect of a lawless Mali upon their domestic security.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Tuesday after talks in Berlin with the U.N.’s envoy to the Sahel, Romano Prodi, that he was extremely worried about the situation in northern Mali.

“From the north of Mali you need to cross only one international border and you are at the Mediterranean. If the north collapses, if terrorist training camps spring up and it becomes a haven for global terrorism, this won’t just endanger Mali and North Africa, it will also threaten us in Europe.”

“There will be support from Germany and Europe, it is not about fighting troops but support through the training of an African mission,” Westerwelle added.