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Demeter

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Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
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Ready for Nuclear War over Ukraine? by Robert Parry

NO OFFENSE TO OUR UKRAINIAN-BASED READERSHIP....BUT IS UKRAINE EVEN WORTH IT?

http://commondreams.org/views/2015/02/25/ready-nuclear-war-over-ukraine

A senior Ukrainian official is urging the West to risk a nuclear conflagration in support of a “full-scale war” with Russia that he says authorities in Kiev are now seeking, another sign of the extremism that pervades the year-old, U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.

In a recent interview with Canada’s CBC Radio, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said, “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.”

Prystaiko added, “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe.” The deputy foreign minister announced that Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants the West to supply lethal weapons and training so the fight can be taken to Russia.

“What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little,” Prystaiko said.


Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable about Prystaiko’s “Dr. Strangelove” moment is that it produced almost no reaction in the West. You have a senior Ukrainian official saying that the world should risk nuclear war over a civil conflict in Ukraine between its west, which favors closer ties to Europe, and its east, which wants to maintain its historic relationship with Russia.

Why should such a pedestrian dispute justify the possibility of vaporizing millions of human beings and conceivably ending life on the planet? Yet, instead of working out a plan for a federalized structure in Ukraine or even allowing people in the east to vote on whether they want to remain under the control of the Kiev regime, the world is supposed to risk nuclear annihilation.

But therein lies one of the under-reported stories of the Ukraine crisis: There is a madness to the Kiev regime that the West doesn’t want to recognize because to do so would upend the dominant narrative of “our” good guys vs. Russia’s bad guys. If we begin to notice that the right-wing regime in Kiev is crazy and brutal, we might also start questioning the “Russian aggression” mantra...No European government, since Adolf Hitler’s Germany, has seen fit to dispatch Nazi storm troopers to wage war on a domestic population, but the Kiev regime has and has done so knowingly. Yet, across the West’s media/political spectrum, there has been a studious effort to cover up this reality, even to the point of ignoring facts that have been well established...MORE

Weekend Economists Muse on Silk Stockings and Silver Spoons February 27-March 1, 2015

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens



Humans have known Hard Times, and come through them, repeatedly. We are just the Lucky Generation to suffer this particular Hard Time. Perhaps we can learn from history, a bit? How did America get through previous Hard Times, specifically, the Great Depression?

Well, they went to the movies...to try to imagine a better future.




The Great Depression: Hollywood 1929-1941
Historic Events for Students: The Great Depression.
Editor: Richard C Hanes & Sharon M Hanes. Volume 1. Detroit: Gale, 2002.

http://www.omnilogos.com/2015/02/the-great-depression-hollywood-1929-1941.html

Introduction

"Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Big bad wolf, big bad wolf?" This musical line originates from the Three Little Pigs movie, produced by Walt Disney in 1933. The big bad wolf in Walt Disney's animated short film is a metaphor for the Depression of the 1930s. People needed to sing that song through the vehicle of the movie to defend against their fear of what lay ahead. Likewise Americans needed their movies. Movies had become a cultural institution as well as a cultural necessity. No other form of entertainment had come to play as important a role in American's everyday life, not even radio. Sixty million to 75 million people still faithfully attended even if the price of a seat was too much for them to pay.

The great mass of people who were affected in some way by the economic crisis of the Great Depression, not only sought escape into the movies, but they also sought meaning as well. Frequently they sought meaning and escape in the same movie. Movies also depicted things desired or things lost, all of which Depression audiences could relate to. This period was lovingly known as "The Golden Age of Hollywood."

The 1930s were an era that brought about the advancement of film, both technically and with the establishment of specific types of film "genres." Some popular genres explored by Hollywood were gangster films, comedies, musicals, law and order (including federal agent films and westerns), social consciousness films, horror, and thrillers.

Devised by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, the production Code of 1930, enforced in 1934, had a major impact on the content of movies. Various themes important to the Depression populace ran through the films. Americans could find hope while watching a character's success and believe that betterment was still possible. They could laugh irreverently at traditional American institutions or at forces that they could not quite define but that had altered their lives in the 1930s. For two hours each week Americans could enter the dark comfortable movie houses and share in the communal experience of being transported into another reality. In 1939 the quest for better times was confirmed in Judy Garland's hit song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," one of the memorable compositions from the popular movie The Wizard of Oz. The song was a testimonial to hope that reigned at the end of the decade....

...Although the stock market crash of 1929 marked the beginning of the Great Depression, 110 million people still went to the movies in 1930. The introduction of sound proved enticing and Hollywood's profits continued. As the economic conditions, however, steadily worsened nationwide Hollywood's apprehension grew. Their fears were legitimate because attendance dropped to roughly 60 to 75 million by 1933 and profits evaporated. The unemployment rate hit 25 percent that year and almost everyone's salaries had declined significantly. The public could no longer afford to attend the movies as frequently as before.

The few cents it took to get in the movies was an extravagance for many. Still those 60 to 75 million that faithfully came represented 60 percent of the population. In comparison 10 percent of Americans attended the movies in the 1970s. This figure is a powerful testimonial to movies as a cultural institution. Ultimately the industry would be saved because movies no longer represented simply entertainment but a necessity in the lives of Americans.


There was the sophistication of Fred Astaire and his numerous dancing partners, for example:


Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in the 1937 film “Shall We Dance.”

“The culture of elegance, as represented by Astaire and the Gershwins, was less about the cut of your tie and tails than the cut of your feelings, the inner radiance that was one true bastion against social suffering. They preserved in wit, rhythm and fluidity of movement what the Depression almost took away, the high spirits of Americans, young and modern, who had once felt destined to be the heirs and heiresses of all the ages.” Sheer delight, pure escapism, serves its cathartic purpose — and it means something, too...

ADAM BEGLEY of NYTimes reviews Morris Dickstein’s “Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/books/review/Begley-t.html

The ’30s were neither uniformly red nor universally hungry, but they were undeniably shadowed by economic crisis. This was the decade in which knee-jerk American assumptions about prosperity were knocked sharply back, when the American Dream — the phrase dates from the early ’30s — took a drubbing. A 25 percent unemployment rate (the grim statistic from the winter of 1932) is bound to tell; so is the failure of more than 5,000 banks in just two years. The numbers were bleak, but not as bleak, perhaps, as the mood: “There was hardly a man or woman in the country,” the popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen wrote in 1931, “whose attitude toward life had not been affected . . . in some degree . . . by the sudden and brutal shattering of hope.”


Funny how Hollywood today doesn't meet the public's need. Have the American people changed? No, the business has. The films make their money overseas, catering to different tastes and dreams: sex and violence, mostly.

Lots of change, but no improvements, since 1929...

Police seize property and cash in questionable raids

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/02/22/civil-asset-forfeiture-michigan-seizures-aclu-heritage-foundation-institute-justice/23737663/

Police seized more than $24 million in assets from Michiganders in 2013, under asset forfeiture laws. In many cases the citizens were never charged with a crime but lost their property anyway.

Thomas Williams was alone that November morning in 2013 when police raided his rural St. Joseph County home, wearing black masks, camouflage and holding guns at their sides. They broke down his front door with a battering ram.

"We think you're dealing marijuana," they told Williams, a 72-year-old, retired carpenter and cancer patient who is disabled and carries a medical marijuana card.


When he protested, they handcuffed him and left him on the living room floor as they ransacked his home, emptying drawers, rummaging through closets and surveying his grow room, where he was nourishing his 12 personal marijuana plants as allowed by law. Some had recently begun to die, so he had cloned them and had new seedlings, although they were not yet planted. That, police insisted, put him over the limit.

They did not charge Williams with a crime, though.

Instead, they took his Dodge Journey, $11,000 in cash from his home, his television, his cell phone, his shotgun and are attempting to take his Colon Township home. And they plan to keep the proceeds, auctioning off the property and putting the cash in police coffers. More than a year later, he is still fighting to get his belongings back and to hang on to his house.

"I want to ask them, 'Why? Why me?' I gave them no reason to do this to me," said Williams, who says he also suffers from glaucoma, a damaged disc in his back, and COPD, a lung disorder. "I'm out here minding my own business, and just wanted to be left alone."


......

"It's straight up theft," said Williams' Kalamazoo attorney, Dan Grow. "The forfeiture penalty does not match the crime. It's absurd. They grow an extra plant and suddenly they're subjected to forfeiture. A lot of my practice is made up of these kinds of cases — middle-aged, middle-income people who have never been in trouble before. It's all about the money."



Police targeted Williams because he had been on the board of directors of a "compassion club" in Battle Creek, an hour away, and his name had turned up in records in a raid there, Grow said, even though he had not been involved with the club since 2011. The seizure, Grow contends, was particularly vicious.

"He is disabled and lives alone. They took the man's cell phone and his car, and left him out there alone. He doesn't have a landline. He was stranded out there for three days until somebody stopped by."

A Star Came Within 0.8 Light-Years Of Our Sun 70,000 Years Ago

http://io9.com/a-star-came-within-0-8-light-years-of-our-sun-70-000-ye-1686500486




http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--TNUHn0TD--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/bzrvjprog6ejaelcgrar.jpg
Artist's impression of the red dwarf Scholz's star and its brown dwarf companion. (Credit: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

An international team of astronomers has identified a star that passed through the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud some 70,000 years ago. It came within a distance of 0.8 light-years, making it the closest known flyby of a star to the Solar System. The star, dubbed Scholz's star, is actually part of a binary system. Its companion is a brown dwarf, a kind of "failed star" reminiscent of a gas giant. After analyzing its current trajectory, a group of astronomers from the United States, Chile, Europe, and South Africa have calculated that at its closest approach, it came within approximately 52,000 AU to the Sun, or 0.8 light-years. That's 5 trillion miles (8 trillion km), which, by cosmological standards, is excruciatingly close for an interstellar flyby of this nature.

Not Quite Visible From Earth — But Just Maybe...

When it visited our Solar System, it flew through the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud — a massive spherical region comprised of trillions of bits of ice, rock, and planetesimals. The cloud's maximal distance is 0.8 light-years, which places it at one-fifth the distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. The outer limit of the Oort cloud is considered the cosmographical boundary of the Solar System and the outermost limit of the Sun's dominant gravitational influence.

When Scholz's star was in the neighborhood, it would have been a 10th magnitude star (red dwarfs are very dim). That's about 50 times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye at night. Under normal circumstances, it would be invisible. But because red dwarfs are magnetically active, it could have briefly "flared-up" (i.e., V-band flares) to become thousands of times brighter. The astronomers say it's possible that the star was visible to our paleolithic ancestors for a few minutes or hours if this rare flaring event transpired at the time.

Slow Tangential Motion

Scholz's star is now 20 light-years away, but it displays very little motion across the sky, or what astronomers refer to as slow tangential motion. To the scientists, this indicated one of two possibilities: either the star is moving directly towards us or it's moving away...

Watch: A 5-year-old child labourer goes to McDonald’s for the first time (India)

Here are all the countries that don’t have a currency of their own

http://qz.com/260980/meet-the-countries-that-dont-use-their-own-currency/

Countries that only use a foreign currency

US dollar: Ecuador, East Timor, El Salvador, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Zimbabwe.

Euro: Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Vatican City.

Countries in a currency union


Euro: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

East Caribbean dollar
: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and the Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The successor to the British West Indies dollar was created in 1976. The East Caribbean dollar is fixed to the US dollar at a rate of 2.7 to 1. The only member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to not take part is the British Virgin Islands—which uses the US dollar, of course.

CFA franc: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

It may surprise you to know that 14 countries in Africa also are dependent on the euro, albeit indirectly. Strictly speaking, there are two currencies between them: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo use the West African franc. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon use the Central African franc. Both currencies are at parity and their notes are interchangeable across all 14 countries, but they have different monetary authorities.

The CFA franc was created in 1945 to spare France’s colonies the pain that the post-World War II revaluation in the French franc would do to their much smaller economies. The CFA franc was set at fixed exchange rates against its French counterpart, and is now fixed against the euro.

THEN THERE ARE PEGS TO THE DOLLAR OR OTHER BIG-NAME CURRENCY, AND MULTIPLE-CURRENCY NATIONS (THE US AND CANADA COULD BE CONSIDERED SUCH)

WELL WORTH THE READ!

Weekend Economists Think on the Starving Armenians February 20-22, 2015

If you are old enough, you may recall hearing the admonishment to clean your plate: "Remember the starving Armenians!"

Who are the Armenians, and why were they starving? Are they still starving today? For that matter, where IS Armenia?





History of Armenia

Armenia lies in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat. The original Armenian name for the country was Hayk, later Hayastan (Armenian: Հայաստան, translated as the land of Haik, and consisting of the name of the ancient Mesopotamian god Haya (ha-ià) and the Iranian suffix '-stan' ("land").

The historical enemy of Hayk (the legendary ruler of Armenia), Hayastan, was Bel, or in other words Baal (Akkadian cognate Bēlu). The word "Bel" is named in the Bible at Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 50:2 and 51:44. (MENDELSSOHN'S "ELIJAH" ORATORIO IS ALL ABOUT A CONTEST BETWEEN THE JEWISH GOD JAWEH AND BAAL....DEMETER)

The name Armenia was given to the country by the surrounding states, and it is traditionally derived from Armenak or Aram (the great-grandson of Haik's great-grandson, and another leader who is, according to Armenian tradition, the ancestor of all Armenians).

In the Bronze Age, several states flourished in the area of Greater Armenia, including

    the Hittite Empire (at the height of its power),
    Mitanni (South-Western historical Armenia), and
    Hayasa-Azzi (1600–1200 BC).


Soon after the Hayasa-Azzi were the

    Nairi (1400–1000 BC) and the
    Kingdom of Urartu (1000–600 BC),


who successively established their sovereignty over the Armenian Highland. Each of the aforementioned nations and tribes participated in the ethnogenesis of the Armenian people.

Yerevan, the modern capital of Armenia, dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by King Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Erebuni has been described as "designed as a great administrative and religious centre, a fully royal capital."

The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu (Assyrian for Ararat) was replaced by the Orontid dynasty. Following Persian and Macedonian rule, the Artaxiad dynasty from 190 BC gave rise to the Kingdom of Armenia which rose to the peak of its influence under Tigranes II before falling under Roman rule.

In 301, Arsacid Armenia was the first sovereign nation to accept Christianity as a state religion. The Armenians later fell under Byzantine, Persian, and Islamic hegemony, but reinstated their independence with the Bagratuni Dynasty kingdom of Armenia. After the fall of the kingdom in 1045, and the subsequent Seljuk conquest of Armenia in 1064, the Armenians established a kingdom in Cilicia, where they prolonged their sovereignty to 1375.

Greater Armenia was later divided between the Ottoman Empire and Russia.

In the early 20th century Armenians suffered in the genocide inflicted on them by the Ottoman government, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more dispersed throughout the world via Syria and Lebanon. Armenia, from then on corresponding to much of Eastern Armenia, regained independence in 1918, with the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia, and in 1991, the Republic of Armenia.


An ancient land...with a heavy burden of history and beautiful scenery.



The Khor Virap monastery stands before the snowcapped flanks of Mount Ararat.



An even more dramatic view!





Tatev monastery 9-13 century

I blame it on this clown

World's biggest geoengineering experiment 'violates' UN rules by Martin Lukacs

Monday 15 October 2012 06.34 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 1 October 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/oct/15/pacific-iron-fertilisation-geoengineering


Controversial US businessman's iron fertilisation off west coast of Canada contravenes two UN conventions

Geoengineering with bloom : high concentrations of chlorophyll in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska



Yellow and brown colours show relatively high concentrations of chlorophyll in August 2012, after iron sulphate was dumped into the Pacific Ocean as part of a controversial geoengineering scheme. Photograph: Giovanni/Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center/NASA





A controversial American businessman dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of a geoengineering scheme off the west coast of Canada in July, a Guardian investigation can reveal. Lawyers, environmentalists and civil society groups are calling it a "blatant violation" of two international moratoria and the news is likely to spark outrage at a United Nations environmental summit taking place in India this week. Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Californian Russ George that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilisation that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.

George is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc, whose previous failed efforts to conduct large-scale commercial dumps near the Galapagos and Canary Islands led to his vessels being barred from ports by the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments. The US Environmental Protection Agency warned him that flying a US flag for his Galapagos project would violate US laws, and his activities are credited in part to the passing of international moratoria at the United Nations limiting ocean fertilisation experiments. Scientists are debating whether iron fertilisation can lock carbon into the deep ocean over the long term, and have raised concerns that it can irreparably harm ocean ecosystems, produce toxic tides and lifeless waters, and worsen ocean acidification and global warming.

"It is difficult if not impossible to detect and describe important effects that we know might occur months or years later," said John Cullen , an oceanographer at Dalhousie University. "Some possible effects, such as deep-water oxygen depletion and alteration of distant food webs, should rule out ocean manipulation. History is full of examples of ecological manipulations that backfired."


George says his team of unidentified scientists has been monitoring the results of the biggest ever geoengineering experiment with equipment loaned from US agencies like Nasa and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. He told the Guardian that it is the "most substantial ocean restoration project in history," and has collected a "greater density and depth of scientific data than ever before".

"We've gathered data targeting all the possible fears that have been raised about ocean fertilisation," George said. "And the news is good news, all around, for the planet."


The dump took place from a fishing boat in an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, one of the world's most celebrated, diverse ecosystems, where George convinced the local council of an indigenous village to establish the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation to channel more than $1m of its own funds into the project. The president of the Haida nation, Guujaaw, said the village was told the dump would environmentally benefit the ocean, which is crucial to their livelihood and culture.

"The village people voted to support what they were told was a 'salmon enhancement project' and would not have agreed if they had been told of any potential negative effects or that it was in breach of an international convention," Guujaaw said.


International legal experts say George's project has contravened the UN's convention on biological diversity (CBD) and London convention on the dumping of wastes at sea, which both prohibit for-profit ocean fertilisation activities.

"It appears to be a blatant violation of two international resolutions," said Kristina M Gjerde, a senior high seas adviser for the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "Even the placement of iron particles into the ocean, whether for carbon sequestration or fish replenishment, should not take place, unless it is assessed and found to be legitimate scientific research without commercial motivation. This does not appear to even have had the guise of legitimate scientific research."


George told the Guardian that the two moratoria are a "mythology" and do not apply to his project. The parties to the UN CBD are currently meeting in Hyderabad, India, where the governments of Bolivia, the Philippines and African nations as well as indigenous peoples organizations are calling for the current moratorium to be upgraded to a comprehensive test ban of geoengineering that includes enforcement mechanisms.

"If rogue geoengineer Russ George really has misled this indigenous community, and dumped iron into their waters, we hope to see swift legal response to his behavior and strong action taken to the heights of the Canadian and US governments," said Silvia Ribeiro of the international technology watchdog ETC Group, which first discovered the existence of the scheme. "It is now more urgent than ever that governments unequivocally ban such open-air geoengineering experiments. They are a dangerous distraction providing governments and industry with an excuse to avoid reducing fossil fuel emissions."

Weekend Economists Celebran Los Presidentes February 16, 2015



Well, we were visiting Cuba, so it seemed politic to talk about the political....and Cuba's politics has revolved around the Castro brothers since 1959 or even before.

Not everyone admires their dedication to public service, but it cannot be denied to exist.

Actually, there are three Castro brothers, all revolutionaries:

Ramón Eusebio Castro Ruz (born October 14, 1924) is the older brother of Fidel and Raúl Castro and a key figure of the Cuban Revolution.

As the eldest male Castro sibling, Ramón remained at home at the onset of the revolution, looking after his parents and the sizable farm owned by the family. This experience cultivated in Ramón an interest in agriculture which would remain a major element in his life.

Although not active in a military capacity like his brothers, Ramón Castro aided in the ongoing revolution as the quartermaster for the troops of Fidel and Raúl, sending them supplies, such as weapons and victuals. Not only was he responsible for furnishing supplies, he also established and maintained pipelines from the cities to the troops' position. Using his skills in both farming and engineering, Ramón also manufactured an alcohol-based fuel for Cuba during a gasoline shortage.

After the revolution, Ramón Castro abandoned the family farm as it became legal property of the state. He continued to dedicate himself to the study of agriculture, however, and is chiefly responsible for many of Cuba's agricultural initiatives since the revolution.

He is married, has two children, Ramón and Oneida Castro Rodríguez, and lives in Havana.




Ramon has the raised arm.





Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones By Kevin Poulsen

BECAUSE WHAT GOES ABOUT, COMES ABOUT--SO MUCH FOR THE INVIOLABILITY OF EMPIRE AND EMPERORS. IT'S POSITIVE PROOF, HOWEVER, THAT NOT ENTIRELY EVERYONE IN GOVERNMENT IS BRAIN-DEAD CORRUPTED AND CORRUPTIBLE. ONE SMALL SPECK OF HOPE FOR CHANGE....DEMETER

http://www.wired.com/2015/02/white-house-drone/

If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds last week, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination.

(JUST LIKE OUR PRESIDENT, CIA AND ARMED FORCES! YOU TOO CAN BE FORCE FOR CHANGE! GREAT ADVERTISING SLOGAN! DEMETER)

The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.) But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week...Attendee Daniel Herbert snapped a photo and posted it to his website along with detailed notes from the conference. The day after the White House incident, he says, DHS phoned him and politely asked him to remove the entire post. He complied. “I’m not going to be the one to challenge Homeland Security and cause more contention,” says Herbert, who runs a small drone shop in Delaware called Skygear Solutions...


A Drone Maker Takes Decisive Action


The Phantom line of consumer drones made by China-based DJI figures prominently in the government’s attack scenarios. That’s not because there’s anything sinister about DJI or the Phantom—in fact, just the opposite. The Phantom is the iPod of drones, cheap, easy to use, and as popular with casual and first-time fliers as with experienced radio control enthusiasts. With all the attention surrounding the White House landing, DJI felt it had to take action. So last Thursday it pushed a “mandatory firmware update” for its Phantom 2 that would prevent the drone from flying in a 15.5 mile radius of the White House. So far it’s the only drone-maker installing what’s known as GPS geofencing. The technique is not new to DJI. The company first added no-fly zones to its firmware in April of last year to deter newbie pilots from zipping into the restricted airspace over airports, where they might interfere with departing and arriving aircraft. If a Phantom 2 pilot flies within five miles of a major airport’s no fly zone, the drone’s maximum altitude begins to taper. At 1.5 miles away, it lands and refuses to take off again. Municipal airports are protected by smaller zones, also programmed into the drones’ firmware.

For DJI, airport no-fly zones were a response to the growing popularity of the Phantom 2 and perhaps a hedge against the constant threat of increased regulation. “We started seeing the community of pilots grow,” says spokesman Michael Perry, and many users have no idea where they can and can’t legally fly the drone. “The guy in the White House incident, I’m pretty sure he didn’t know that flying in downtown DC is illegal.” Rather than put the onus on every user to learn local air traffic zoning rules, DJI translated them into code, and added a little buffer zone of its own for added safety. The White House geofence is only the second one that isn’t centered on an airport, according to Perry—the first was Tiananmen Square. It won’t be the last. Now that the company has perfected the ability to erect geofences at will, the sky’s the limit—or, more accurately, the skies are limited. DJI is preparing an update that will increase the number of airport no fly zones from 710 to 10,000, and prevent users from flying across some national borders—a reaction to the recent discovery that drug smugglers are trying to use drones to fly small loads of meth from Mexico into the US.

‘I Want to Fly Wherever the Heck I Want’

This geofencing has critics, including hobbyists chagrined to find their favorite flying spot suddenly encompassed by a DJI no-fly zones....“Right now there doesn’t exist any hacks to remove the geofencing or downgrade the firmware,” says Herbert. “I’m sure they’re coming. People will figure it out eventually.”

MORE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES AT LINK



The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.

— Albert Einstein
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