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The Military

A Small Secret Airstrip In Africa Is the Future of America's Way of War 139

HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that the Pentagon is quietly building up a small airstrip in a remote region of east Africa that is a complex microcosm of how Washington runs military operations overseas — and how America's way of war will probably look for the foreseeable future. Chabelley Airfield is less than 10 miles from the capital of the small African nation of Djibouti but the small airport is the hub for America's drone operations in the nearby hotspots of Somalia and Yemen as part of its war against Islamic militants. "The U.S. military is being pressured into considering the adoption of more of a lily pad basing model in the wake of so much turbulence and warfare across the region," says Dr. Geoffrey Gresh. "Djibouti is a small, relatively safe ally that enables the U.S. special operators to carry out missions effectively across the continent." In September 2013, the Pentagon announced it was moving the pilotless aircraft from its main base at Camp Lemonnier to Chabelley with almost no fanfare. Africom and the Pentagon jealously guard information about their outposts in Africa, making it impossible to ascertain even basic facts — like a simple count — let alone just how many are integral to JSOC operations, drone strikes, and other secret activities. However a map in a Pentagon report indicates that there were 10 MQ-1 Predator drones and four larger, more far-ranging MQ-9 Reapers based at Camp Lemonnier in June 2012 before the move to Chabelley.

The Pentagon does not list Chabelley in its annual Base Structure Report, the only official compendium of American military facilities around the world. "The Chebelley base [is] a reflection of the growing presence of the U.S. military in Africa," says Dr. David Vine, author of 'Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World". "The [U.S.] military has gone to great lengths to disguise and downplay its growing presence in Africa generally in the hopes of avoiding negative attention and protests both in the U.S. and in African countries wary of the colonial-esque presence of foreign troops." American drones fly regular missions from Chabelley, an airstrip the French run with the approval of the Djiboutian government. Washington pays Djibouti for access to Paris' outpost. Part of the reason for this circuitous chain of responsibility could be the fact that the Pentagon's drone missions are often controversial. Critics contend targeted strikes against militants are illegal under American and international law and tantamount to assassination. "The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don't like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It's a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Earth

Why James Hansen Is Wrong About Nuclear Power (thinkprogress.org) 645

mdsolar writes: Climatologist James Hansen argued last month, "Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change." He is wrong. As the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) explained in a major report last year, in the best-case scenario, nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming if it can solve its various nagging problems — particularly high construction cost — without sacrificing safety. Hansen and a handful of other climate scientists I also greatly respect — Ken Caldeira, Tom Wigley, and Kerry Emanuel — present a mostly handwaving argument in which new nuclear power achieves and sustains an unprecedented growth rate for decades. The one quantitative "illustrative scenario" they propose — "a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonise the global electricity system" — is far beyond what the world ever sustained during the nuclear heyday of the 1970s, and far beyond what the overwhelming majority of energy experts, including those sympathetic to the industry, think is plausible.
Government

Uber Raided By Dutch Authorities, Seen As 'Criminal Organization' 471

An anonymous reader writes: Uber offices in Amsterdam have been raided by Dutch authorities, as reported by several local media sources (Google translation of original in Dutch). This follows intimidatory deterrence practices earlier in The Netherlands, with Uber drivers being fined in the past months, and fresh allegations that the company would act as a "criminal organization" by offering a platform for taxi rides without license (read: without the authorities earning money from the practice). Time for tech companies to consider moving their European offices elsewhere? Uber's lawyers must be incredibly busy. Proposed regulations in London would effectively end the company's service there, while the mayor of Rio de Janeiro said he would ban Uber's operations outright. They're receiving mixed messages from Australia — just a day after running afoul of regulations in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory is moving to legalize it.
Earth

Study: Man-Made Global Warming First Became Evident In the Mid 20th Century 411

TapeCutter writes: In 1958 the US National Academies of Science (NAS) warned the US government that they had detected a robust Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) signal, they have not changed their mind on that claim for 57 years. Like the modern day Al Gore, Frank Capra publicized the possible effects in a popular documentary (video). Today we have news of a study from Melbourne University claiming the effects of AGW first became evident in the mid 20th century. In other words, the NAS could not have picked up the signal much earlier than they actually did. The fact that the last serious scientific objection to AGW (as a theory) was overcome in the mid 20th century by improving spectrometers in heat seeking missile was a remarkable coincidence, NAS took full advantage of that opportunity.
Programming

The #NoEstimates Debate: An Unbiased Look At Origins, Arguments, and Leaders 299

New submitter MikeTechDude writes: Estimates have always been an integral part of the software development process. In recent years, however, developers, including Woody Zuill and Vasco Duarte, have begun to question the efficacy, and even the purpose, of using estimates to predict a project's cost and time line. A fierce debate has sprung up on Twitter, between those calling for an end to estimates and those who continue to champion their use in a professional setting. On the surface, it would appear that the debate is black and white. Proponents of the #NoEstimates Twitter hashtag are promoting a hard stop to all estimates industry-wide, and critics of the movement are insisting on a conservative approach that leaves little room for innovation. However, the reality of the debate has unfolded in far more complex, nuanced shades of gray. HP's Malcolm Isaacs digs deep and pinpoints where the debate started, where it now stands, and what its implications are for the future of software development. Meanwhile, Martin Heller offers his less unbiased approach with his post, #NoEstimates? Not so fast.
Medicine

Study: Living Near Fracking Correlates With Increased Hospital Visits 132

New submitter Michael Tiemann writes: An article published in PLOS One finds increased hospital admissions significantly correlate with living in the same zip code as active fracking sites. The data comes from three counties in Pennsylvania, whose zip codes mostly had no fracking sites in 2007 and transitioned to a majority of zip codes with at least one fracking site. While the statistical and medical data are compelling, and speak to a significant correlation, the graphical and informational figures flunk every Tufte test, which is unfortunate. Nevertheless, with open data and Creative Commons licensing, the paper could be rewritten to provide a more compelling explanation about the dangers of fracking to people who live within its vicinity, and perhaps motivate more stringent regulations to protect them from both immediate and long-term harm.
The Military

The Marshall Islands, Nuclear Testing, and the NPT 69

Lasrick writes: Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former senior policy adviser to the Energy Department's secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment, details the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands and explains the lawsuits the Marshallese have filed against the nuclear weapons states. The lawsuits hope to close the huge loophole those states carved for themselves with the vague wording of Article VI of the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty), wording that allows those states to delay, seemingly indefinitely, implementing the disarmament they agreed to when they signed the treaty.
Earth

The Arrival of Man-Made Earthquakes 166

An anonymous reader writes: The New Yorker has a long investigative report on a recent geological phenomenon: man-made earthquakes. The article describes how scientists painstakingly gathered data on the quakes, and then tried to find ways to communicate the results — which are quite definitive — to politicians who often have financial reasons to disbelieve them. Quoting: "Until 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of one to two earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater each year. (Magnitude-3.0 earthquakes tend to be felt, while smaller earthquakes may be noticed only by scientific equipment or by people close to the epicenter.) In 2009, there were twenty. The next year, there were forty-two. In 2014, there were five hundred and eighty-five, nearly triple the rate of California.

In state government, oil money is both invisible and pervasive. In 2013, Mary Fallin, the governor, combined the positions of Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Environment. Michael Teague, whom she appointed to the position, when asked by the local NPR reporter Joe Wertz whether he believed in climate change, responded that he believed that the climate changed every day. Of the earthquakes, Teague has said that we need to learn more. Fallin's first substantive response came in 2014, when she encouraged Oklahomans to buy earthquake insurance. (However, many earthquake-insurance policies in the state exclude coverage for induced earthquakes.)"
Power

The US's First Offshore Wind Farm Will Cut Local Power Prices By 40% 267

merbs writes: The U.S. is finally getting its first offshore wind farm. Deepwater Wind has announced that its Block Island project has been fully financed, passed the permitting process, and will begin putting "steel in water" this summer. For local residents, that means a 40% drop in electricity rates. The company has secured $290 million in financing, with funding from the likes of Key Bank and France's Société Générale, in part on the strength of its long-term power purchase agreement with US utility National Grid. Block Island has thus surpassed the much-publicized Cape Wind project, long touted as "the nation's first offshore wind farm," but that has been stalled out for over a decade in Massachusetts, held up by a tangle of clean power foes, regulatory and financing woes, and Cape Cod homeowners afraid it'd ruin the view.
Politics

Michael Mann: Swiftboating Comes To Science 786

Lasrick writes: Michael Mann writes about the ad hominem attacks on scientists, especially climate scientists, that have become much more frequent over the last few decades. Mann should know: his work as a postdoc on the famed "hockey stick" graph led him to be vilified by Fox News and in the Wall Street Journal. Wealthy interests such as the Scaife Foundation and Koch Industries pressured Penn State University to fire him (they didn't). Right-wing elected officials attempted to have Mann's personal records and emails (and those of other climate scientists) subpoenaed and tried to have the "hockey stick" discredited in the media, despite the fact that the National Academy of Sciences reaffirmed the work, and that subsequent reports of the IPCC and the most recent peerreviewed research corroborates it.

Even worse, Mann and his family were targets of death threats. Despite (or perhaps because of) the well-funded and ubiquitous attacks, Mann believes that flat-out climate change denialism is losing favor with the public, and he lays out how and why scientists should engage and not retreat to their labs to conduct research far from the public eye. "We scientists must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the deniers-for-hire. We must be honest as we convey the threat posed by climate change to the public. But we must also be effective. The stakes are simply too great for us to fail to communicate the risks of inaction. The good news is that scientists have truth on their side, and truth will ultimately win out."
United States

What's Wrong With the Manhattan Project National Park 160

Lasrick writes Dawn Stover describes the radioactive dirt behind the creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, from its inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act (the park legislation wouldn't pass otherwise) and lack of funding for national parks in general to the lack of funding for cleanup at Superfund nuclear sites like Hanford. And then there is how the Parks Service is presenting exhibits: at least some of them are described in the past tense, as if nuclear weapons were a thing of the past. Here's the description of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota: "Nuclear war loomed as an apocalyptic shadow that could possibly have brought human history to an end." Can the National Park Service be ignorant of the fact that missiles remain on station, nuclear weapons are still being stockpiled, and saber rattling did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall?"
The Media

Skeptics Would Like Media To Stop Calling Science Deniers 'Skeptics' 719

Layzej writes: Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. "Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry."
Transportation

Who's To Blame For Rules That Block Tesla Sales In Most US States? 141

cartechboy writes The common assumption among Tesla fans seems to be that state auto-dealer lobbyists are working with Republican legislators to enact laws banning direct sales of Tesla's electric cars to retail buyers. Is it true? The New York Times published an article with some data points that assesses the supposition. While the article mainly focuses on the conflict between Uber and the Republican party, some quotes could be easily applied to Tesla. For instance, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said, "It should be consumers, not government bureaucrats or legislators, that deicde what companies get our business." The author of the article, Josh Barro, wrote that 22 states permit direct sales of automobiles by Tesla to retail buyers, and of those the majority--14 of them-- voted for President Obama. He suggested that Democratic California, Illinois, and New York "have freer markets in auto retailing than Texas," which is presently Republican. When looking at a five-year-old article by Nate Silver that looked at political donations by car dealers, fully 88 percent of those donations went to Republican candidates, and just 12 percent to Democrats. That possibly suggests a propensity among Republican state legislators to support the interests for car dealers over those of electric-car buyers. Is the small bit of evidence enough to make a case? Good background on the current system of dealership sinecure can be found in this short 2009 Competition Advocacy Paper from the U.S. Department of Justice, which delves into the history and effects of the dealers-only system which still prevails.
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 445

Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
United Kingdom

David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures 942

00_NOP writes: Children in the U.K. have been taught in metric measures in school since (at least) 1972, but yesterday British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that they should actually be taught in Imperial measures (which are still in use officially to measure road distances and speeds, but not really anywhere else). Is this because he hasn't a clue about science or because he is catering to a particular political base?

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