Archive for ‘War’

January 14, 2016

ADE 651

bomb sniffer

The ADE 651 is a fake bomb detector produced by ATSC (UK), which claimed that the device could effectively and accurately, from long range, detect the presence and location of various types of explosives, drugs, ivory, and other substances. The device has been sold to 20 countries in the Middle East and Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for as much as US$60,000 each. The Iraqi government is said to have spent £52 million on the devices.

Investigations by the BBC and other organizations found that the device is little more than a ‘glorified dowsing rod’ with no ability to perform its claimed functions. In 2010, export of the device was banned by the British government and the managing director of ATSC was arrested on suspicion of fraud. The company was dissolved in 2013, and the founder, Jim McCormick, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Similar ‘bomb sniffing’ devices, which are still widely used, have also come under scrutiny in the wake of the revelations about the ADE 651.

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November 20, 2015

Red Mercury

mercury by Hussain Ismail

Red mercury is a hoax substance of uncertain composition purportedly used in the creation of nuclear bombs, as well as a variety of unrelated weapons systems. It is purported to be mercuric iodide, a poisonous, odorless, tasteless, water-insoluble scarlet-red powder that becomes yellow when heated above 126 °C (258 °F), due to a thermochromatic change in crystalline structure.

However, samples of ‘red mercury’ obtained from arrested would-be terrorists invariably consisted of nothing more than various red dyes or powders of little value, which some suspect was being sold as part of a campaign intended to flush out potential nuclear smugglers. The hoax was first reported in 1979 and was commonly discussed in the media in the 1990s. Prices as high as $1,800,000 per kilogram were reported.

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November 19, 2015

Afghanistanism

Afghanistan by Rhonald Blommestijn

Afghanistanism is a term, first recorded in the US, for the practice of concentrating on problems in distant parts of the world while ignoring controversial local issues. In other contexts, it has referred to ‘hopelessly arcane and irrelevant scholarship,’ ‘fascination with exotic, faraway lands,’ or ‘railing and shaking your fist at an unseen foe who is quite unaware of your existence, much less your fury.’

The first known citation of the expression was a quote by newspaper editor J. Lloyd Jones in 1948: ‘I don’t wish to belabor this subject of Afghanistanism, this business of taking forthright stands on elections in Costa Rica, while the uncollected local garbage reeks beneath the editor’s window.’ 

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September 14, 2015

Cowboy Diplomacy

Spock

big stick

Cowboy diplomacy is a term used by critics to describe the resolution of international conflicts through brash risk-taking, intimidation, military deployment, or a combination of such tactics. It is criticized as stemming from an overly-simple, dichotomous world view. Overtly provocative phraseology typically centralizes the message.

One of the earliest known applications of the term was in 1902, when it was used by Jackie Lawlor from Westford, Massachusetts and the American press to describe Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policies. Roosevelt had at the time summarized his approach to international diplomacy as ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick,’ an adage that was engraved on a bronze plaque on Donald Rumsfeld’s office desk in the Pentagon and has set the modern precedent. The term has since also been applied to the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

August 20, 2015

Baker-Miller Pink

Goethe

Adam Alter

Baker-Miller Pink is a tone of pink that was originally created by mixing one gallon of pure white indoor latex paint with one pint of red trim semi-gloss outdoor paint. It is named for the two US Navy officers who first experimented with its use in the Naval Correctional Facility in Seattle, Washington at the behest of researcher Alexander Schauss. The color is also known as Schauss pink, after Alexander Schauss’s extensive research into the effects of the color on emotions and hormones, as well as P-618 and ‘Drunk-Tank Pink’ (so named because jails cells are painted this color because it is believed to calm inmates).

Contemporary research has shown conflicting results on the effects of Baker-Miller pink. While the initial results at the Naval Correctional facility in Seattle were positive, calming those exposed, inmates at the Santa Clara county jail were trying to scratch the paint from the walls with their fingernails when exposed for more than fifteen minutes. At Johns Hopkins, appetite suppression was observed and studied.

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June 23, 2015

The Cuckoo’s Egg

Markus Hess

The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage’ is a 1989 book written by Clifford Stoll, an astronomer turned systems administrator of the computer center of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) in California. It is his first-person account of the hunt for a computer hacker who broke into a computer at the lab.

In August of 1986 his supervisor asked him to resolve a US$0.75 accounting error in the computer usage accounts. He traced the error to an unauthorized user who had apparently used up nine seconds of computer time and not paid for it, and eventually realized that the unauthorized user was a hacker who had acquired root (high-level) access to the LBL system by exploiting a vulnerability in the movemail function of the original GNU Emacs (an open-source computer program that moves a user’s mail to another file).

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May 14, 2015

The Third Wave

Die welle

ron jones

The Third Wave was an experimental social movement created by high school history teacher Ron Jones to demonstrate the appeal of fascism and explain how the German populace could accept the actions of the Nazi regime. Over the course of five days, Jones conducted a series of exercises in his classroom emphasizing discipline and community, intended to model certain characteristics of the Nazi movement.

As the movement grew outside his class and began to number in the hundreds, Jones began to feel that the experiment had spiraled out of control. He convinced the students to attend a rally where he claimed the announcement of a Third Wave presidential candidate would be televised. Upon their arrival, the students were presented with a blank channel and told the true nature of the movement, and shown a short film discussing the actions of Nazi Germany. The psychology involved has been extensively studied in terms of youth gang behavior and peer pressure, of which this experiment was a variant.

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April 27, 2015

Satyagraha

Charkha

gandhi

Satyagraha [suht-yuh-gruh-huh] is a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi to describe his particular philosophy and practice within the broader overall category generally known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. It loosely translates as ‘insistence on truth’ (Sanskrit: ‘satya’ ‘truth’; ‘agraha’ ‘polite insistence,’ or ‘holding firmly to’) or ‘truth force.’

He deployed satyagraha in the Indian independence movement and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa for Indian rights. Satyagraha theory influenced Nelson Mandela’s struggle in South Africa under apartheid, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement in the US, and many other social justice and similar movements. Someone who practices satyagraha is a ‘satyagrahi.’

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April 23, 2015

War Before Civilization

noble savage

War Before Civilization: the Myth of the Peaceful Savage’ is a 1996 book by Lawrence H. Keeley, an archeology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who specializes in prehistoric Europe. The book deals with warfare conducted throughout human history by societies with little technology. In the book, Keeley aims to stop the apparent trend in seeing civilization as bad. According to Keeley, modern western societies are not more violent or war-prone than (historical) tribes. He conducted an investigation of the archaeological evidence for prehistoric violence, including murder and massacre as well as war. He also looked at nonstate societies of more recent times. It has long been known, for example, that many tribes of South America’s tropical forest engage in frequent and horrific warfare, but some scholars had attributed their addiction to violence to baneful Western influences.

He makes three conclusions which the ‘New York Times’ wrote were unexpected: ‘The most important part of any society, even the most war-like ones, are the peaceful aspects such as art; neither frequency nor intensity of war is correlated with population density; and societies frequently trading with one another fight more wars with one another.’ The Times said that ‘the book’s most dramatic payoff is its concluding explanation for the recent ‘pacification of the past’ by scholars,’ that ‘…revulsion with the excesses of World War II has led to a loss of faith in progress and Western civilization…’

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April 22, 2015

Stingray Phone Tracker

metadata

dont spy on me

The StingRay is an IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), a controversial cellular phone surveillance device, manufactured by the Harris Corporation. Initially developed for the military and intelligence community, the StingRay and similar Harris devices are in widespread use by local and state law enforcement agencies across the US. Stingray has also become a generic name to describe these kinds of devices.

The StingRay has with both passive (digital analyzer) and active (cell site simulator) capabilities. When operating in active mode, the device mimics a wireless carrier cell tower in order to force all nearby mobile phones and other cellular data devices to connect to it. The devices can be mounted on cars, airplanes, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as carried by hand. They are primarily used for surveillance, but can also conduct denial of service attacks (radio jamming).

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April 21, 2015

Project Blue Book

ufos by paul r hill

Project Blue Book was one of a series of systematic studies of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) conducted by the United States Air Force. It started in 1952, and it was the third study of its kind (the first two were projects ‘Sign’ in 1947 and ‘Grudge’ in 1949). A termination order was given for the study in 1969. Project Blue Book had two goals: To determine if UFOs were a threat to national security, and To scientifically analyze UFO-related data. Thousands of UFO reports were collected, analyzed and filed.

As the result of the ‘Condon Report’ (1968), which concluded there was nothing anomalous about UFOs, Project Blue Book was ordered shut down in 1970. Ultimately, Project Blue Book stated that UFOs sightings were generated as a result of: hysteria, fraud, hoaxes, and misidentification. The Air Force continues to provide the following summary of its investigations: ‘There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ were extraterrestrial vehicles.’ 

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March 12, 2015

As We May Think

memex

as we may think

As We May Think‘ is an essay by engineer and Raytheon founder Vannevar Bush, first published in ‘The Atlantic’ in July 1945, and republished again as an abridged version two months later — before and after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bush expresses his concern for the direction of scientific efforts toward destruction, rather than understanding, and explicates a desire for a sort of collective memory machine with his concept of the memex that would make knowledge more accessible, believing that it would help fix these problems. Through this machine, Bush hoped to transform an information explosion into a knowledge explosion.

The article was a reworked and expanded version of Bush’s 1939 essay ‘Mechanization and the Record’ where he described a machine that would combine lower level technologies to achieve a higher level of organized knowledge (like human memory processes). Shortly after the publication of this essay, Bush coined the term ‘memex’ in a letter written to the editor of ‘Fortune’ magazine. That letter became the body of ‘As We May Think,’ adding only an introduction and conclusion.

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