China building electromagnetic pulse weapons for use against U.S. carriers

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China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against U.S. aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday.  Portions of a National Ground Intelligence Center study on the lethal effects of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and high-powered microwave (HPM) weapons revealed that the arms are part of China’s so-called “assassin’s mace” arsenal – weapons that allow a technologically inferior China to defeat U.S. military forces.

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Internet chief allays fears over ICANN transition

WASHINGTON, April 10 (UPI) — Fears over control of the Internet came into sharp relief Thursday as lawmakers voted to stall a plan to relinquish U.S. government oversight of a key Internet regulation.  After the Obama administration announced last month its plan to hand off control of oversight responsibility when its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ends next year, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., introduced the DOTCOM Act bill, which would delay the transition until the Government Accountability Office could examine the plan.

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The Shift From Low-Wage Worker to Robot Worker

It’s become commonplace for computers to replace American workers — think about those on an assembly line and in toll booths — but two University of Oxford professors have come to a surprising conclusion: Waitresses, fast-food workers and others earning at or near the minimum wage should also be on alert.

President Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour could make it worthwhile for employers to adopt emerging technologies to do the work of their low-wage workers. But can a robot really do a janitor’s job? Can software fully replace a fast-food worker? Economists have long considered these low-skilled, non-routine jobs as less vulnerable to technological replacement, but until now, quantitative estimates of a job’s vulnerability have been missing from the debate.

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Facebook buying 11,000 drones to connect Africa

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Facebook is in negotiations to buy a drone manufacturer with the aim of using its high-altitude autonomous aircraft to beam internet connections to isolated communities in Africa, according to reports.  The social networking company is one of the main backers of the internet.org project, which aims to connect the large parts of the world which remain offline.  Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – have access to the internet, according to Facebook. Other founding members include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.

 

Now TechCrunch reports that Facebook intends to buy the maker of advanced solar-powered drones which can remain in the air for up to five years at a time, in the hope that they can be modified to provide internet connectivity for those on the ground.  Titan Aerospace’s drones fly so high – up to 65,000 feet – that they can effectively operate as satellites with far lower operating costs, which the company calls “atmospheric parking”. The Solara 50 and 60 models can carry up to 100kg of equipment.

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Navy’s UCLASS Could Be Air to Air Fighter

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Could the U.S. Navy’s future Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft have an air-to-air role? The service’s director of air warfare Rear Adm. Mike Manazir posed that it could during a Dec. 20 interview with USNI News.  Manazir contemplated the possibility that that the UCLASS, which is primarily being designed for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike roles, could be used as a flying missile magazine which could supplement the firepower of the F/A-18E/F and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter in air-to-air combat as a robotic wingman of sorts.  “Maybe we put a whole bunch of AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on it and that thing is the truck,” Manazir said. “So this unmanned truck goes downtown with—as far as it can go—with a decision-maker.”  In Manazir’s vision the UCLASS could be commanded remotely from a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye or a Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter flight leader.  The concept has a lot of merit, said Air Force Reserve Col. Michael Pietrucha, a former F-15E weapons systems officer and autonomous unmanned air vehicle expert in a Wednesday interview with USNI News.

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The effect of today’s technology on tomorrow’s jobs will be immense—and no country is ready for it

INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were.

For those, including this newspaper, who believe that technological progress has made the world a better place, such churn is a natural part of rising prosperity. Although innovation kills some jobs, it creates new and better ones, as a more productive society becomes richer and its wealthier inhabitants demand more goods and services. A hundred years ago one in three American workers was employed on a farm. Today less than 2% of them produce far more food. The millions freed from the land were not consigned to joblessness, but found better-paid work as the economy grew more sophisticated. Today the pool of secretaries has shrunk, but there are ever more computer programmers and web designers.

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How Somebody Forced the World’s Internet Traffic Through Belarus and Iceland

This is a deeply technical but potentially very troubling story. Imagine one day you’re using the Internet the same way you do every day. Reading the news, shopping, sending email, checking your bank and credit card balances. Maybe even doing some work for your employer.  Typically, but not always, the bits being sent from your computer, tablet or phone will flow from where you are to where they need to be via the most direct route available.  But what if they didn’t? What if someone slipped in between you and the various servers you’re connecting with and diverted your traffic elsewhere, funneling it through a choke point of their choosing, so they could capture, copy and analyze it? Your data takes some extra — and imperceptible — milliseconds to get where it’s going and ultimately everything you’re doing online works just fine. But your traffic has been hijacked by parties unknown and you’re none the wiser that it has happened.

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A Romanian Scientist Claims to Have Developed Artificial Blood

Science, in all its grand ambition and contemporary sophistication, doesn’t quite have what it takes yet to replicate anything like blood. It not only delivers oxygen and essential nutrients, but also serves a host of other functions crucial for our survival, such as fighting infections, healing injuries and regulating hormones.  So far, researchers have concentrated the bulk of their efforts on the more modest goal of creating something that can at least effectively carry out the vital role of transporting oxygen throughout the body.  This kind of “artificial blood” would be a useful substitute for critical circumstances such as medical emergencies, when the body can’t do this on its own. It could also be designed to be sterile, unlike real blood, which can be infected and infect others during a transfusion. And while donated blood requires refrigeration, a synthetic version could be made to last longer and be readily available for various life-or-death situations, even on the battlefield.

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China unveils moon rover for lunar mission set to launch in December

China-unveils-moon-roverSHANGHAI, Nov. 5 (UPI) — Officials in Shanghai have unveiled a moon rover they say will be launched with the Chang’e-3, China’s third lunar probe set to be fired into space next month.  Designed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, the six-wheeled rover is equipped with four cameras, and is designed to climb hills and cross over obstacles, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.  “It will move really slowly,” planning its route only after observing and detecting the surrounding environment, said Xiao Jie, one of the rover’s designers.  Two mechanical legs will dig into the moon’s surface to collect samples.  It will have a solar panel to generate electricity but is also equipped with a nuclear battery using plutonium-238 that can provide years of power, officials said.

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Battlehawks and rocks that spy: 3 wild new military technologies from AUSA

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What do a kamikaze drone, a “field and forget” surveillance system and an Israeli robot have in common? Buzz at the annual AUSA Army meeting in Washington, D.C.  Here are three new pieces of tech revealed at this year’s show.  A new “kamikaze” drone that blows itself up — and takes its target with it — was revealed at AUSA.  Made by Textron System, the Battlehawk is similar to Aerovironment’s widely publicized Switchblade. Both are drones that can be carried in a backpack and hand-launched. And they both represent a movement towards making drones more accessible at a squad level.  Rather than call in air support, a squad would have a drone literally in their hands to deploy against threats like a sniper or an ambush waiting around the corner. The Battlehawk is made of carbon-fiber wings – wings that can be curled up for deployment from a 22-inch tube launcher.

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Pentagon agency creating digital map of the world

Future military operations may use a constantly updated digital “image skin” for a comprehensive map of the world under development by the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  This week the NGA sought information from potential contractors to help develop the “orthorectified image skin” that would provide the base layer for the world map. Such a map would give the military a clearer picture of any potential trouble spot where they would have to operate.  Orthoimagery, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, are “high resolution aerial images that combine the visual attributes of an aerial photograph with the spatial accuracy and reliability” of a traditional map.  “A key element necessary to support global readiness is the availability of a current and accurate worldwide image base to ensure a common operational picture for all users,” the NGA document says.

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House Republicans Want To Kill Net Neutrality As Part Of Their Debt Ceiling Bill

Not sure what to make of this episode, but it matters and so here we are: A draft of provisions that Republican leaders in the House are attempting to demand in return for allowing the debt ceiling to be raised includes the elimination of net neutrality.  The language of the legislative outline that the National Review obtained calls for the “blocking” of net neutrality.  Net neutrality, if you didn’t know, is the set of rules forcing ISPs treat traffic on their networks equally, not speeding or slowing any one piece of content more than any other. This matters as many companies that provide Internet access are also part of larger conglomerates that produce media. Those companies have an inherent incentive to speed their content and slow that of their rivals.

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Hacking firm hints at cybercrime’s professional elite

LAST June, one of the world’s most advanced hacker groups hit a problem. The US defence contractor whose systems it wanted to access only allowed a small set of trusted IP addresses to connect to their network. In an unusual move – hackers typically go for the low-hanging fruit – the group hacked the company that provided the IP whitelisting service, enabling it to forge access certificates.  This group, which calls itself Hidden Lynx, was given a vague face last week when antivirus software-maker Symantec released a report profiling it. Believed to be based in China, the group is known only through traces of malicious software bearing its mark found in the compromised computers of some of the world’s largest companies.

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Amazon alters strategy to win landmark CIA contract

It was a contract that Amazon.com’s business-technology group wasn’t supposed to get.  The CIA, an organization whose data is among the most protected in the world, asked for bids last year on a contract to provide the agency Web-based tech infrastructure. Longtime government contractors — IBM, among others — seemed likely winners.  So when Amazon Web Services, or AWS, won the $600 million contract in January, IBM cried foul. Big Blue argued that the agency did not properly evaluate IBM’s bid, and the General Accountability Office, which reviewed the contract, agreed in part.  Now, Amazon is bidding again for the contract while also challenging in federal court the CIA’s ability to reopen the bidding.  Both winning the contract and sparking IBM’s ire are coming-of-age moments for AWS. The division, which Amazon launched in 2006, rents data storage and computer-server time to corporations and agencies to run core business processes.

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Jobs, Robots, Capitalism, Inequality, And You

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everything will be fine. Maybe the “widening gap between rich and poor” is temporary. Maybe the steady growth in the proportion of jobs that are part-time and/or low-paid will soon reverse.  Or maybe the idea that all the homeless need are old laptops and a few JavaScript textbooks is not unlike the claim that new technologies automatically create new jobs for everyone. Maybe, unless something drastic changes, most people are totally screwed.  This has not been a great decade for the average American. The recession ended in 2009, but median household income remains 6.1% below what it was in December 2007…while the income of the top 10% rose. Meanwhile, productivity growth has been exceedingly sluggish on both sides of the Atlantic. The Economist explains, and theorizes:

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