Closing Thought–08May17

Brain Games!

I for one think that learning is essential to life……one should continue long after leaving school….and anything that would help me learn faster and better could be a good thing.

DARPA, that super secret R&D outfit that researches weapons and other such necessities for our continuous wars,  is looking into a way to hack a human brain….that’s right…I said hack the human brain!

If the brain is just a bunch of wires and circuits, it stands to reason that those components can simply be re-wired in order to create a better, smarter us. At least, that’s the theory behind a new project from the military’s secretive DARPA research branch announced on Wednesday, which aims to enhance human cognitive ability by activating what’s known as “synaptic plasticity.”

Recent research has suggested that stimulating certain peripheral nerves—those that relay signals between the brain, the spinal cord and the rest of the body—can enhance a person’s ability to learn, by triggering the release of neurochemicals that reorganize connections in the brain. Through its new Targeted Neuroplasticity Training program, DARPA is is funding eight different research efforts that seek to enhance learning by targeting those nerves with electrical stimulation. The end goal is to translate those findings into real-world applications that boost military training regimens—allowing a soldier, to say, soak up a new language in months instead of years. Should DARPA figure out a way to do that, its efforts will likely go on to impact all of us.

Source: DARPA Wants to Hack Your Brain to Make You Learn Faster

Plus these people are using the human brain to make robots more deadly…..

Without even realizing it, soldiers could soon be training robot sharpshooters to take their jobs.

Modern sensors can see farther than humans. Electronic circuits can shoot faster than nerves and muscles can pull a trigger. Humans still outperform armed robots in knowing what to shoot at — but new research funded in part by the Army may soon narrow that gap.

Researchers from DCS Corp and the Army Research Lab fed datasets of human brain waves into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence — which learned to recognize when a human is making a targeting decision. They presented their paper on it at the annual Intelligent User Interface conference in Cyprus in March.

Source: The Military is Using Human Brain Waves to Teach Robots How to Shoot – Defense One

While I like these ideas….I also see it as something that can and will be abused in the name of profit… is only a matter of time.

Any thoughts?

Today has been a bit slow on IST…I do hope it is not because I had to cut back….this is my last of the day….I have too much research to fool around……see you guys tomorrow….chuq  out.

Can We Find One Good Man?

Women have been asking that question for centuries…..but for this post I am talking about a question that must be asked within the Trump administration… appears that they are having a bitch of a time finding a Secretary of the Army.

The first nominee was a dude named Viola…a billionaire bud of Trump’s but after a few weeks he decided to withdraw is name….

Vincent Viola, Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Army, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Viola, founder of digital stock trading firm Virtu Financial and owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, said his existing business ties made navigating the confirmation process too difficult.
“I appreciate the confidence President Trump showed in me,” he said in a statement. “I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and look forward to redoubling my efforts to support the Army and its veterans as private citizens.”

The boyz in the White House put their collective heads together and named a replacement for Viola….Mark Green, state senator from Tennessee…..but after a few weeks he up and withdrew his name also…..

President Trump’s choice for Army secretary withdrew his nomination on Friday in the face of growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans, the AP reports. Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, said in a statement that “false and misleading attacks” against him had turned his nomination into a distraction. “Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Green said, expressing “deep regret” over the decision. Green is the second Trump nominee for Army secretary to withdraw.

The move to step aside comes after a video began circulating of remarks Green gave in September to a tea party group in Chattanooga. Green, who is opposed to gay marriage, said being transgender is a disease. He urged that a stand be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam” in public schools and also referred to the “Muslim horde” that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago. Green’s withdrawal underscores the challenges Trump has faced in filling two of the service secretary posts. The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.

Their luck sucks!  Or maybe they need to vet a bit better to avoid this type of embarrassment….

If anyone would like a name…a good name…then look no further than Chuck Hagel…..why?

He is a Republican, he was a US senator from Nebraska, former Secretary of State…plus he is a combat veteran in the US Army….I can guarantee that a combat vet would do everything in his power to be sure the US Army was in good hands…..(I wrote about Hagel when he resigned as SecState)…..

Source: Chuck Hagel–A Sign Of The Time? – In Saner Thought

Of course no one in the White House asked for my recommendation….but they need to look beyond billionaire buddies to control the fate of our soldiers.

They will not…but they should.


Syria: Are They Safe Now?

Back a few years ago Hillary had the bright idea for Syria….those darn pesky “no-fly zones”…..then during the 2016 campaign season candidate Trump had another brilliant idea for Syria….”Safe Zones”……… both were ideas to protect the refugees and to make it safe for humanitarian aid…..

But enough talk….read my take for yourself……

Source: Seriously? “Safe Zones” Again? – In Saner Thought

I bring this up again because of a situation that has occurred in Syria….the regional powers in the conflict, Russia, Turkey and Iran have signed a deal to implement “safe zones” in the country…..but they are calling them “de-escalation zones”….

Russia, Iran and Turkey have signed a deal calling for the setup of so-called de-escalation zones in war-torn Syria during talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

The signing ceremony on Thursday was briefly interrrupted as some members of the Syrian armed opposition’s delegation stormed out in protest against Iran’s participation in the deal.

Source: Regional Powers Agree on Syria ‘De-escalation Zones’ | World Affairs Journal

I have written several times about the failure of most “no-fly zones/safe zones”…whatever the Hell you want to call them.

But if you think I may be mistaken then there is a way to see what I am talking about….

Is there more to this move than what we see on the surface?

A new deal aimed at reducing violence in Syria is now in effect, but questions remain as to its implementation and its consequences.

The agreement signed on Thursday by Iran, Russia and Turkey in the Kazakh capital, Astana, is the latest in a series of ceasefire proposals aimed at ending Syria’s war, now in its seventh year.

The plan calls for the cessation of hostilities between rebel groups and forces fighting on behalf of Bashar al-Assad‘s government in four so-called “de-escalation zones” in mainly opposition-held areas of the country.

Source: Syria’s ‘de-escalation zones’ explained | Syria News | Al Jazeera

This story of “safe zones” has not been all that successful…..will this one be any different?

If history is any indication, the creation of a series of safe zones in Syria, currently being discussed by the United States, Russia, Turkey, and the war-torn country, is likely to provide little relief for hundreds of thousands of civilians on the ground.

Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran on May 4 signed a memorandum backing a Russian proposal that calls for such zones to be created in rebel-held territory in northwestern Syria. The United States said it supported any effort to de-escalate the violence in Syria, though it had “concerns” about the agreement.

Source: ANALYSIS. The ‘Very Bad History’ Of Safe Zones | World Affairs Journal

I have said before and still firmly believe that unless everyone involved in the conflict is on board with the “safe zone” thing then there is a high probability that something could go horribly wrong.

I mean the Syrian air force will still be carrying out sorties and so will the US and its allies… false move and this conflict could become a full blown war.

So NO this is not a step forward if anything it could become a provocation in one form or another.

Child Soldiers Reloaded

It is no secret that I have been a verbal critic of private armies…..those for profit war mongers like Blackwater or Xe or whatever this pack of barbarians want to call themselves this week.

The sad part of any war is when the children are turned into soldiers…it is big in Africa….but in case you are ignorant on what entails a child soldier…I can help…..

  1. Child soldiers are any children under the age of 18 who are recruited by a state or non-state armed group and used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes.
  2. In the last 15 years, the use of child soldiers has spread to almost every region of the world and every armed conflict. Though an exact number is impossible to define, thousands of child soldiers are illegally serving in armed conflict around the world.
  3. Some children are under the age of 10 when they are forced to serve.
  4. Two-thirds of states confirm that enrollment of soldiers under the age of 18 should be banned to prohibit forced child soldiers, as well as 16- and 17-year-old armed force volunteers.
  5. Children who are poor, displaced from their families, have limited access to education, or live in a combat zone are more likely to be forcibly recruited.

Children who are not forced to be soldiers volunteer themselves because they feel societal pressure and are under the impression that volunteering will provide a form of income, food, or security, and willingly join the group.

In the last 2 years, 20 states have been reported to have child soldiers in government, government-affiliated, and non-state armed groups. Additionally, 40 states still have minimum age recruitment requirements under 18 years.

Girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes. They are especially vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence.

A few of the countries who have reported use of child soldiers since 2011 are Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Thailand, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Despite a government agreement in the District of Chad to demobilize the recruitment of child soldiers, there were between 7,000 and 10,000 children under 18 serving in combat and fulfilling other purposes in 2007.

I revisit this subject because these private armies are recruiting former child soldiers to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria….

How private companies recruit former child soldiers for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

From opportunistic guns for hire on the fringe of domestic conflicts to a global force operating within a multibillion-dollar industry – the private military sector seems to be flourishing.

As armies and war increasingly become ‘outsourced’, private military companies have taken on a wider increasing range of responsibilities, from security and intelligence analysis to training and combat roles.

“The private military industry is a part of how the countries fight wars today … The US government doesn’t track the number of contractors used in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. We know it’s a lot, we don’t know exactly how many,” says Sean McFate, a professor at Georgetown University who used to work for a private military company.

Source: Child Soldiers Reloaded: The Privatisation of War | Sierra Leone | Al Jazeera

When Obama announced that the US would be pulling its troops out of Iraq…something had to be done to keep the fight going…..

…..when the US decided to end its military mission in Iraq, budgets decreased and the private military industry had to start offering different types of deals. As a result, they started to hire cheaper soldiers, many of them from the developing world.

Once again these former child soldiers were exploited when they were young and now they are being so again….this time by the for profit war machine.