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Posts Tagged ‘politics

U.S. military drones that are so small they even look like insects

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They look like children’s toys that are left discarded in wardrobes around the world.

But these innocent-looking devices are actually some of the most sophisticated drones on the planet.

The U.S. Air Force is developing the miniature spy craft with the goal of making them so small that they resemble birds and even insects.

Causing quite a buzz: Lead researcher Dr Gregory Parker holds a small, winged drone that resembles an insect. The U.S. military's goal is to make the devices so small that they resemble birds and even insects

Causing quite a buzz: Lead researcher Dr Gregory Parker holds a small, winged drone that resembles an insect. The U.S. military’s goal is to make the devices so small that they resemble birds and even insects.

Some even have moving wings that military chiefs hope will look so convincing that people won’t pay them any attention.

The Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) are being developed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The base’s Air Force Research Laboratory mission is to develop MAVs that can find, track and target adversaries while operating in complex urban environments.

The engineers, led by Dr Gregory Parker, are using a variety of small helicopters and drones in the lab to develop the programs and software.

Testing takes place in a controlled indoor environment, during which data is gathered to analyse for further development.

An insect-sized drone. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's mission is to develop MAVs that can find, track and target adversaries while operating in complex urban environments

An insect-sized drone. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s mission is to develop MAVs that can find, track and target adversaries while operating in complex urban environments.

You'll believe a toy can spy: First Lieutenant Greg Sundbeck (left) and Dr Parker watch a test flight of a drone

You’ll believe a toy can spy: First Lieutenant Greg Sundbeck (left) and Dr Parker watch a test flight of a drone.

The trials are the latest research into tiny drones funded by the U.S. military.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has spent years developing a whole host of cyborg critters, in the hopes of creating the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’.

Two years ago, researchers revealed that they had created cyborg beetles that can be guided wirelessly via a laptop.

Using implants, they worked out how to control a beetle’s take-off, flight and landing by stimulating the brain to work the wings.

First Lieutenant Sundbeck prepares a computer controlled drone for a test flight in the microaviary lab at Wright Patterson Air Force Base

First Lieutenant Sundbeck prepares a computer controlled drone for a test flight in the microaviary lab at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

What on the outside appears cheap is actually camouflaged and sophisticated military equipment

What on the outside appears cheap is actually camouflaged and sophisticated military equipment.

They controlled turns through stimulating the basilar muscles on one side or the other to make the wings on that side flap harder.

The embedded system uses nerve and muscle stimulators, a microbattery and a microcontroller with transceiver.

They were implanted in the beetles when they were at the pupal stage.

Three types of large beetles from Cameroon were used in the experiments at the University of California in Berkeley. The smallest was 2cm long, while the largest was 20cm.

First Lieutenant Zachary Goff operates the control console during a test flight at the Micro Air Vehicles lab

First Lieutenant Zachary Goff operates the control console during a test flight at the Micro Air Vehicles lab.

Via DailyMail

Is the space effort dying or evolving?

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Pessimists are bemoaning the end of U.S. human spaceflight, but optimists see the next few years as a transition to a new paradigm that will energize commercial ventures and get astronauts beyond Earth orbit for the first time since the Nixon administration. Which way do you see it?

There seems to be plenty of gloom to go around as the space shuttle program nears its end. Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council and other commissions sizing up the space effort, had this to say via Twitter: “Apollo in 1969. Shuttle in 1981. Nothing in 2011. Our space program would look awesome to anyone living backwards through time.”

One of the astronauts on the first space shuttle flight in 1981, Bob Crippen, told me that he was disappointed that the shuttle program’s end would leave NASA “without the capability to put our astronauts in orbit ourselves.” And he questioned whether NASA had the right vision for future exploration. “I personally favored going to the moon,” he said.

The frustration flared up today during a House committee hearing with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as the sole witness, or sole target. “We have waited for answers that have not come,” Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall, R-Texas, told Bolden. “We have run out of patience. … I would like to point out today that the committee reserves the right to open an investigation into these continued delays and join the investigation initiated by the Senate.”

Bolden, a retired Marine general, took the hostile fire. “You have the right guy here to criticize,” he said. “I am the leader of America’s space program.”

He laid out the main points of the post-shuttle plan:

  • Rely on the Russians and other partners for resupply of the International Space Station, at least until U.S. companies can finish work on the space vehicles they’re developing with NASA’s backing. The first commercial cargo craft could be flying to the station by the end of this year, and U.S.-made “space taxis” could be taking on astronauts by 2015.
  • Continue work on the Orion crew vehicle, which should be capable of carrying four astronauts on more ambitious trips beyond Earth orbit. Orion had been canceled as part of the Constellation back-to-the-moon program, after $5 billion had been spent on the program, but it was essentially resurrected as NASA’s “multipurpose crew vehicle,” or MPCV.
  • Build a new Space Launch System, or SLS, which will be based on shuttle-era and Apollo-era rocket technology. The design for the SLS has not yet been announced, which is why members of Congress are so frustrated. Bolden said it could take until the end of summer or even longer to get the SLS plan through its financial review. Congress passed a law calling for the MPCV spaceship and the SLS rocket to be ready by 2016, but Bolden said the 2017-2020 time frame was more realistic.
  • NASA is aiming to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, and to Mars and its moons by the mid-2030s. Other stopovers, ranging from the moon to gravitational balance points in outer space, may be added along the way.

“We are not abandoning human spaceflight,” Bolden said. “American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half century because we have laid the foundation for success.”

So there is an evolving plan for the future … just as there was an evolving plan for the space shuttle system in the early to mid-1970s when the Apollo program came to an end. Under the best-case scenario, that plan will lead to actual flights within four to six years, which is less time than it took between the last Saturn 5 and the first shuttle launch. But there are lots of questions surrounding the post-shuttle plan:

  • How much money will NASA get? A draft report from the House Appropriations Committee calls for trimming the space agency’s budget by roughly 10 percent. (For details, check Space Policy OnlineParabolic Arc and Space News.) NASA officials as well as commercial spaceship developers say that budget reductions will slow down the transition to post-shuttle spaceflight even more.
  • Will the commercial sector succeed? Right now, NASA is committed to paying the Russians $56 million for each seat on a station-bound Soyuz craft, and the price is due to go up in 2014. Commercial providers such as SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and the Boeing Co. say that they can beat that price, but that they need NASA’s money to help cover development costs. Shuttle program veterans say the commercial providers still have to prove that their craft will be safe and reliable.
  • Will the commercial space taxis for low Earth orbit and the Orion MPCV/SLS system for going beyond Earth orbit complement each other the way NASA hopes? Larry Price, Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ deputy manager for the Orion program, told me that the two-track system served as an insurance policy for the post-shuttle space effort. “There’s a little bit of competitive pressure,” he acknowledged. “If the commercial guys run into any problem or delay for any reason, then we could back them up. And similarly, if we don’t meet our milestones, the commercial guys could evolve into our niche.”

After 30 years of grand successes, tragic failures and unfulfilled promises, the era of the space shuttle is ending. We may not yet know exactly what kind of American spaceship will be the next to fly. And because of that, thousands of people will be laid off by NASA and its contractors in the weeks ahead. But we’re not witnessing the death of the American space program. At least that’s the way Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of SpaceX, sees it.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s not the death of anything,” he told me. “What we’re really facing is quite the opposite. I think we’re at the dawn of a new era of spaceflight, one which is going to advance much faster than it ever has in the past.”

Now why would he say that? Over the next few days, we’ll be presenting a series of Q&A interviews with Musk and other folks involved in shaping the post-shuttle era. What they’ve told me runs counter to the gloom-and-doom talk, but you might well have a different opinion. Feel free to weigh in with your comments.

 

Alan Boyle

Japan’s citizen scientists map radiation, DIY-style

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With the Japanese government only providing spotty information about the radiation leaking from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in the early days after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a group of tech-minded citizen scientists set out to fill in the “black holes” in the knowledge base.

They did so by crafting their own Geiger counters and handing them out to volunteers in the disaster area to measure the fallout. Months later, they have assembled thousands of radiation readings plotted on maps that they hope will one day be an invaluable resource for researchers studying the impact of the meltdown at the crippled nuclear complex.

Volunteer Toshikatsu Watanabe, left, and Safecast’s Kalin Kozhuharov take radiation measurements in Koriyama, Japan.

The volunteer network of scientists, tech enthusiasts and residents of Japan collectively known as Safecast (an amalgam of “safety” and “broadcast”) sprang to life in the weeks after the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, cutting off power to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and knocking out its backup generators. That shut down the plant’s cooling system, triggering meltdowns or partial meltdowns in three of the plant’s four reactors, followed by explosions that released radioactive substances into the air and allowed contaminated water to leak into the ocean.

“For the scientific community, this is a huge chance to further understand what this all means,” said Pieter Franken, co-founder of Safecast and a senior researcher at Keio University in Tokyo, which is collaborating on the project. “Chernobyl was 25 years ago and delivered lots of information. But we’re now in the Internet age, and we have a huge opportunity to do a much better job in measuring it and tracking it.”

Residents in the surrounding areas were understandably alarmed, but in the early days after the disaster, information from the government came in bits and pieces, and was difficult to find.

Franken and Sean Bonner, a Los Angeles-based technology buff involved in numerous online citizen-involved projects, saw an opportunity to use technology to augment the government’s reports and to make the information widely available.

The pair found Uncorked Studios, a Portland, Ore., website development firm, which wanted to map the radiation numbers from all sources “to try to get a better picture of things on a larger scale,” Bonner said.

‘Unknowns’
The initial effort resulted in a map that revealed the dearth of information available: “We realized that there were some massive holes and that the data that was being published was not that specific,” said Bonner. “There would be one reading for an entire city. But we wouldn’t know exactly where in the city that reading was taken.”

With so many “unknowns,” the group decided to buy as many Geiger counters as possible and distribute them to people in the map’s “black holes,” Bonner said. But that wasn’t feasible because the supply of the radiation-measuring devices was limited, he  said.

So Safecast turned to a source they knew well: Hackerspaces, a loose confederation of high-tech tinkerers around the globe.

The TokyoHackerSpace had already drafted a to-do list in the disaster’s aftermath that included radiation monitoring. But with Safecast’s encouragement, the group stepped up its efforts. Members soon figured out how to build basic Geiger counters with Geiger tubes (which measure radiation) purchased through an initial fundraising campaign and modified so they could be attached to vehicles and upload data to the Internet, Christopher Wang, a specialist in sensor networks also known by his hacker nickname of “Akiba,” wrote in an email to msnbc.com.

After meeting Safecast, the hackers decided the best use of the jury-rigged devices would be to drive around taking measurements, allowing one “Geiger counter to cover a huge amount of range,” Wang wrote.

“We put together a custom circuit board that would mount on the outside of a car and had GPS (for timestamp and location data), an input for the Geiger counter, an SD card slot (for data logging), and wireless communication (to send the data inside the car and let the driver know if they are in an area with high radiation),” he said.

Other hackerspaces around the world — such as CRASH space in Los Angeles — soon enlisted in the effort and before long Safecast had the resources to launch an ambitious measuring and mapping effort.

Components of the jury-rigged Geiger counters.

While signing up volunteers, Safecast also developed a training regimen so the recruits would be able to take reliable readings with the instruments and send the data to the group.

Having average citizens involved was crucial, Franken said.

“We want to bring the radiation levels to people’s doorstep, so people can see around their house what is happening,” he said.

Safecast took its first reading on April 16. Today, it has about 50 regular volunteers who collect data from their homes or while driving, build devices or assist in other ways. Those using vehicles equipped with Geiger counters cover an area that Franken estimates to be about 620 miles long by 185 miles wide. To date, they’ve collected 251,000 data points from their drives and fixed reporting stations, and have received about 60,000 more from other sources, including people with their own Geiger counters.

Safecast publishes the data on its website and publishes it to a number of other places so the information can be used by the greatest number of people, Bonner said. It also aggregates radiation data from a number of sources, including the Japanese government.

A Safecast map shows radiation readings from northeastern Japan.

The color-coded maps that Safecast has published don’t always agree with the government’s readings. But Franken said the effort isn’t intended to suggest that the government’s information is bad. The government currently has available a website with the readings of environmental radioactivity level by prefecture.

“We really don’t want to say that the government is wrong,” he said. “And, in fact, in many cases we find that the measurements are fairly much in sync where they are comparable — we have just much more data points and locations measured.”

For example, Safecast’s mapping has revealed some radiation hotspots far from the plant, while other areas closer to it show lower levels. This is due to local weather conditions and air flow, meaning distribution of radioactive materials is not just a matter of proximity, Franken said.

“It’s not so predictable and it really pays to go and map the whole area, and literally find areas that are higher or lower as we go,” he said, noting that in some cases radiation levels can vary by street and even within a home.

“It’s kind of a heavy task because it requires a certain amount of guts to go and do it,” he said of the volunteers, noting he had recently trained a woman and her 12-year-old son in Fukushima City how to measure radiation.

Anxiety
But knowing what the levels are has helped ease some of the anxiety over the radiation exposure, Franken said.

“The measurements may or may not affect people’s decisions but in many cases we see that it more or less gives a sense of confidence that this is what it is and, ‘yeah, I’m going to stay and this is probably going to be manageable,’ or ‘no, I really don’t want to take the risk for my family, I’m going to avoid this.’”

One of the volunteers helping in the effort is Brett Waterman, a 46-year-old Australian who runs an English-language after-school program for children nearly 30 miles from the Fukushima plant, in the city of Iwaki. He has been surveying the radiation levels using a Geiger counter mounted on his car.

“There are many people who have decided that the lack of information implied that there was too much risk so they just decided to leave,” he said.

But through his work, he has learned that the radiation levels were low in the area.

“We can’t see it, but if we map it out, like we are doing street by street, we can sort of start to see it in a sense. We can get a picture of what this radiation stuff is,” he said.

His 13-year-old son is a “significant motivator” for him to take the readings. He noted that though residents don’t yet know what the long-term effects of the radiation will be, the information will be key in the future.

“In 10 years or 20 years’ time, you can’t go back to three months after the event and then find out what the data was like. But if we record it now, and then we continue to record it over the months and years to come, then from a scientific and a community point of view there is a database that can be referenced.”

Some researchers and government agencies welcome Safecast’s endeavor. Andrew Maidment, associate professor of radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the efforts were “necessary and helpful,” though he added two “cautionary notes.”

“The first is that the data are only useful, if it is clear (1) how the measurements were performed and (2) exactly where the measurements are performed,” he wrote in an email to msnbc.com. “In general, it is very easy to get erroneous measurements; consistency in following a specific protocol and lots of practice are necessary to do this right. … However, I will say that the data looks consistent since there are repeated measurements and they are spatially correlated. The second problem is that interpretation of the data is hard. Thus, the use of a color code is questionable.”

Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology did not respond to emails and a call seeking comment on the project.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was not in a position to comment on the initiative, but public affairs officer Scott Burnell noted in an email: “Speaking very generally, significant training and specialized equipment is required to provide the most accurate surveying and analysis of radioactive materials in the environment.”

Franken said Safecast encouraged dialogue with critics and supporters: “We feel that it is good to have an independent measurement available to people … I think just having more is probably better,” he said.

And Bonner said the initiative has the potential to eventually extend far beyond Japan.

“What all of this did sort of brought to light the fact that this data doesn’t exist in the quantities that it should and is not as readily available as would be helpful,” he said. “So while Japan is the focus at the moment, you know, longer term we sort of are shifting to a global outlook. There is a lot more ground to cover once everything in Japan is wrapped up.”

 

Via MSNBC/Miranda Leitsinger

Inside NASA’s ‘Skunk Works’ lab

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With the space shuttle program ending, what does NASA have to look forward to? The future of deep-space exploration is already taking shape, inside the walls of Johnson Space Center’s Building 220, the space agency’s “Skunk Works” lab for human spaceflight.

This is where NASA once worked on the X-38, a snub-nosed space plane that might have carried astronauts down to Earth from the International Space Station. The project was canceled in 2002, and today the 12,000-square-foot building houses hardware for a succession of projects that are not quite ready for prime time. But some of them may be ready sooner than you think.

Take Robonaut 2, for example. The humanoid upper-body robot was shipped up to the space station in February, and taken out of its box at President Barack Obama’s urging. (“Unpack the guy,” he told Discovery’s astronauts jokingly, but NASA took the request seriously.)

A Robonaut twin is set up in Building 220, and the team behind the project is putting the guy through its paces in preparation for the start of tests in orbit later this month. One of the first tasks is to figure out how the Robonaut and flesh-and-blood astronauts can work safely together in microgravity.

Nicolaus Radford, deputy project manager for the Robonaut team, demonstrated how the earthly Robonaut was programmed to ease up if a human got in the way. When one of the android’s arms knocks into you during a maneuver, it will push against you gently — as if it were a brother trying to elbow his way past you quietly. If you continue to block the arm movement, the robot will go passive in place.

Having robots programmed not to harm humans is important, not only because it will head off the robot apocalypse but also because it will lead to safer industrial robots. That’s one of the reasons why GM executives are partnering with NASA on Robonaut 2. “They spend more money on the safety for robots than they spend on the robots themselves,” Radford said.

However, the physics of hazard avoidance is different on the space station, where even a little bit of force could send an astronaut floating away. So Radford said Robonaut 2’s software will be fine-tuned to reflect that physics. “That’s specifically what we’re going to be looking at,” he said.

Looking further ahead, the team is already hard at work developing a pair of legs for Robonaut, so that it can carry objects from one space station location to another. “In the next 18 months or so, you’re going to see legs on a robot walking around the space station,” Radford said.

Project Morpheus
That will come as music to the ears of engineers working on another “Skunk Works” project on display in Building 220. Project Morpheus started out as “Project M,” a concept that called for landing a humanoid robot on the moon in 1,000 days. Then reality set in, and the project was redefined. “We narrowed it down to focus on lander technology,” said Jenny Mitchell, Project Morpheus’ systems engineering and integration lead.

The Morpheus team turned to Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace for help in getting a prototype lunar lander off the ground — in fact, a scaled-up version of the rocket-propelled craft that won some of NASA’s money in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. The methane-fueled Morpheus lander is designed to bring a 1,100-pound payload, such as a humanoid robot or a small rover, down to the surface of the moon from lunar orbit. What’s more, the lander would fly autonomously, without the need for human intervention.

Morpheus project manager Jon Olansen said the team is well into the testing stage after spending just $5 million. He said the lander should be ready to demonstrate autonomous flights on high-energy trajectories in the next year.

The project made headlines last month when a tethered flight test went slightly off, sparking a grass fire at Johnson Space Center. Now the team is setting up additional safeguards to reduce the fire risk. YouTube videos provide multiple perspectives on the Morpheus tests.

Alan Boyle / msnbc.com

Building 220 houses a series of Morpheus-related test items. In the far background is Armadillo Aerospace’s rocket-powered Pixel lander prototype. The larger Morpheus lander sits nearby. In the foreground is a small model lander that was built from hardware-store lighting globes to study how propellant sloshes around the lander’s four tanks. And a clear plastic tank at right shows how buffers were built into the full-size Morpheus tanks to minimize the slosh.

Morpheus’ team members are also widening their perspective on the eventual application of their technology. It isn’t just for the moon anymore. “At this point in time, we don’t need a specific destination to do this kind of work,” Olansen said, “because this work will be needed for any destination.”

Desert RATS
That philosophy carries over to next month’s Desert RATS exercise, which is due to be conducted in Arizona after months of preparation in Building 220. “RATS” stands for Research and Technology Studies, and past studies have focused on simulating surface operations on the moon or Mars using next-generation space exploration technologies. But now NASA’s vision for space exploration is focusing on sending humans to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025. That means the Desert RATS’ Habitat Demonstration Unit is being remodeled for a new role.

“This year we’re reconfiguring it for the deep-space habitat for an asteroid mission,” said Terry Tri, demonstration unit integration manager for Desert RATS.

The wheeled vehicle that was being tested as the prototype for an electric-powered lunar rover is now being looked upon as a make-believe “multimission space exploration vehicle,” or MMSEV. In an actual mission, the MMSEVs would not be rovers wheeling around the lunar or Martian surface, but would instead be thruster-powered pods designed to travel through space to make contact with an asteroid under low-gravity conditions.

Alan Boyle / msnbc.com

A rover driver gets ready to climb down from a wheeled vehicle that has been used as the prototype for a lunar rover in past Desert RATS simulation. During this year’s simulation, the vehicle will play the role of a “multimission space exploration vehicle,” or MMSEV. An actual MMSEV would be propelled by thrusters rather than wheels.

During this year’s exercise, the rover drivers will be “pretending they don’t have wheels,” Tri said.

He said the 19-foot-wide habitat would serve as “the ‘mothership,’ if you will, that [astronauts] would return to.” The habitat’s lower floor has a glovebox for handling space samples, a mini-medical station, a telerobotics work station and a repair bench. The inflatable upper floor would provide living space for four astronauts.

This year, NASA held a college-level competition for the design of the inflatable part of the habitat, and the winning entry was submitted by students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The Badger X-Loft can be expanded from a 30-inch-high base into a 13-foot-high dome in about 15 to 20 minutes. Each astronaut gets a desk and a chair as well as private sleeping quarters.

Nicole Roth / UW-Madison

The fully inflated Badger X-Loft is perched atop the Habitat Demonstration Unit inside Building 220 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“Basically, everything’s modular,” team member Jordan Wachs, an engineering mechanics and astronautics and physics major, said in a university news release. “The whole design was intended that any eighth can be swapped entirely with any other eighth.”

As a reward for their efforts, the students will share an $10,000 prize and travel to Arizona to see their Badger X-Loft tested during the Desert RATS exercise. Who knows? In a few years, maybe they’ll be plotting NASA’s next giant leap, right here at Building 220.

 

Via MSNBC/Alan Boyle

China building an army of unmanned military drones ‘to rival the U.S.’

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America’s success with unmanned military drones has sparked a ‘global rush’ for weaponised and surveillance aircrafts, according to a new report.

Over 50 countries have purchased surveillance drones or started their own development programmes to step up military capacity in recent years.

And experts say China, having only unveiled its first drone at an air show five years ago, is on the fast track to develop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that rival U.S. technology.

Drone: The UAV WJ-600, unveiled at the Zhuhai air show in southern China in November

Drone: The UAV WJ-600, unveiled at the Zhuhai air show in southern China in November.

Experts told the Washington Post America’s ‘cheap weapons, reconnaissance abilities, and ease of use, could make drones the standard for many application.’

The recent spike, they say, is ‘because no nation is exporting weaponised drones beyond a handful of sales between the United States and its closest allies.’ And China is seeking to take a piece of the market.

Twenty five UAVs were unveiled the Zhuhai air show in southern China last November, designed and produced by China’s ASN Technology Group, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC), and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC).

At the show, a crowd gathered around an armed, jet-propelled drone called the WJ-600, where a video demonstrated the aircraft locating what appears to be a U.S. aircraft carrier group flying close to Taiwan.

The drone is shown sending targeting information back to shore for a follow-up attack.

Other models were designed to fire missiles, and one, powered by a jet engine, has the capability to fly faster than the Predator and Reaper drones the U.S. has used on missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the report.

Cheaper alternative: America's Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper drone, costs about $10.5million, compared to an F-22 fighter jet's $150million price tag

Cheaper alternative: America’s Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper drone, costs about $10.5million, compared to an F-22 fighter jet’s $150million price tag.

It was a record number for the country, which until recently, had not extended its military capacity to include UAVs.

The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that while military and aviation experts said China’s drones are presumed to be several years behind the U.S., the country is on the fast track to catching up.

Retired Lieutenant General David A. Deptula, the former deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at the Air Force, told the Washington Post: ‘We are well ahead in having established systems actively in use. But the capability of other countries will do nothing but grow.’

The industry is expected to boom over the next decade; according to a 2011 market study by the Teal Group in Fairfax, global spending on drones will double to $94billion by 2021.

Much of China’s progress remains secret.

Capabilities: The UAV WJ-600 was shown locating what appears to be a U.S. aircraft carrier group flying close to Taiwan in a video demonstration at the Zhuhai air show

Capabilities: The UAV WJ-600 was shown locating what appears to be a U.S. aircraft carrier group flying close to Taiwan in a video demonstration at the Zhuhai air show.

In action: The unmanned drowne is shown sending targeting information back to shore for a follow-up attack

In action: The unmanned drowne is shown sending targeting information back to shore for a follow-up attack.

Exhibitors of the 25 UAVs did not disclose which aircrafts were fully operational.

However, the Wall Street Journal confirmed at least two propeller-powered UAVs had been deployed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Zhang Qiaoliang, a representative of the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute, which manufactures many of the most advanced military aircraft for the People’s Liberation Army, told the Washington Post: ‘The United States doesn’t export many attack drones, so we’re taking advantage of that hole in the market.’

U.S. anxiety about China’s UAVs was highlighted in a report released last November by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, reported the Journal.

Surveillance: The unmanned jet-propelled aerial vehicle narrows in on its target

Surveillance: The unmanned jet-propelled aerial vehicle narrows in on its target.

Mission accomplished: The aircraft carrier is targeted and blasted with missiles off the coast of Taiwan

Mission accomplished: The aircraft carrier is targeted and blasted with missiles off the coast of Taiwan.

‘The PLA Air Force has deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles for both reconnaissance and combat purposes,’ the report read.

It cited the Pentagon, continuing: ‘In addition, China is developing a variety of medium and high-altitude long-endurance unmanned vehicles, which when deployed will expand the PLA Air Force’s options for long-range reconnaissance and strikes.’

And other countries are following the lead; around the world UAVs are being seen as cheap and effective alternative to manned aircraft. America’s Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, costs about $10.5million, compared to an F-22 fighter jet’s $150million price tag.

According to the Washington Post, Israel trails the U.S. as the second-largest drone manufacturer, and has flown armed models; India also announced this year it is developing armed drones that will fly at 30,000ft.

Russia has shown models of drones with weapons, but it is unknown if they are fully operational; and Pakistan has said it plans to obtain armed drones from China, according to the report.

Kenneth Anderson, a professor of law at American University who studies the legal questions surrounding the use of drones in warfare, said: ‘This is the direction all aviation is going. Everybody will wind up using this technology because it’s going to become the standard for many, many applications of what are now manned aircraft.’

 

 

Via DailyMail

Sci-fi master turns into film character

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The latest movie based on Philip K. Dick’s offbeat science-fiction stories features one especially offbeat character … named Philip K. Dick.

“Radio Free Albemuth,” an indie film that is getting a sneak-preview screening tonight at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, incorporates some of the wilder parts of Dick’s biography — including his belief that he was getting information from a superintelligent, extraterrestrial entity called VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System).

“Dick was very skeptical of these experiences,” John Alan Simon, the screenwriter, director and producer for “Radio Free Albemuth,” told me this week. “Some people think he was crazy. But if he was, he was a very lucid, skeptical kind of crazy.”

Simon will participate in a Q&A at the Seattle screening, which kicks off a weekend celebration for new inductees in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Dick, who passed away in 1982, is already in that Hall of Fame — in part because his works have been such a fertile ground for sci-fi film adaptations such as “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” ” A Scanner Darkly” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Unlike those tales, “Radio Free Albemuth” is set in an alternate-reality past rather than the future: a past in which a Nixon-like president burns the Watergate tapes and creates a conspiracy theory aimed at keeping him in office. Meanwhile, VALIS transmits messages down to a resistance movement. Philip K. Dick (played by Shea Whigham in the movie) is among those who are drawn into the resistance, along with the story’s protagonist (Nicholas Brady, played by Jonathan Scarfe) and a singer whose songs are encoded with subliminal messages.

The singer’s role is filled by Alanis Morissette, the Canadian-American singer/actress who just happened to play God in the 1999 film “Dogma.” Whigham is best-known for his role in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” while Scarfe has appeared in a number of TV series including “E.R.” and “CSI: Miami.” Most of the actors have had meaty roles in films and on TV, but Simon said “Radio Free Albemuth” is more about Dick’s vision rather than about big-name movie stars.

“The movie asks a lot of very, very interesting questions about ‘What is religion,’ and ‘What is God,’ and ‘What do you do if God begins sending messages to you?'” he told me. “What if God were an alien, and what if all the great religious movements of all time were inspired by the same over-intelligence in the universe? I found that a very intriguing notion. … The movie is skeptical of answers, the same way Philip K. Dick was skeptical of religion.”

Another theme in the film is sparked by the conflict between the government and the resistance. “It’s the message of ‘1984,’ the message of Huxley’s ‘Brave New World,’ which is the importance of the individual over the supremacy of the state,” Simon said. “That’s a timeless message.”

But the director also emphasized that the film wasn’t just a philosophical treatise. “It is, at the end of the day, an exciting science-fiction thriller. … not that dissimilar from ‘The Da Vinci Code,'” Simon said.

“Radio Free Albemuth” has been making its way through the film-festival circuit, and so far it’s gotten awards as well as accolades for staying true to the spirit of Dick’s work, even if that means the movie gets a little talky at times.

“While watching ‘Radio Free Albemuth’ has made me wonder whether stage or radio may be a better platform for a Dick adaptation, I came away from the film with that unique Dickian sense of unease, insignificance and wonder, and it’s good to see his work reproduced so faithfully on the big screen, flawed or not,”Quiet Earth’s” Ben Austwick wrote.

Simon said he hopes “Radio Free Albemuth” will build on the same sort of grass-roots interest that turned “What the Bleep Do We Know” into such a phenomenon seven years ago.

The movie seems certain to win over the sci-fi master’s hard-core fans, who call themselves “Dick-heads.” But will the wider public dial in to “Radio Free Albemuth” as well? Stay tuned. …

 

Via MSNBC

Japan nuclear: Radiation halts water clean-up

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Operators of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have suspended an operation to clean contaminated water hours after it began due to a rapid rise in radiation.

Some 110,000 tonnes of water have built up during efforts to cool reactors hit by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. The contaminated water, enough to fill 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools, has been at risk of spilling into the sea. The disaster caused meltdown at three of the reactors, and radiation leaks. It is the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. The powerful earthquake and the tsunami it generated are now known to have killed more than 15,280 people, while nearly 8,500 remain unaccounted for.

Radioactive sludge?

A spokesman for the plant operators, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), said engineers were trying to find the cause of the jump in radiation levels. “The level of radiation at a machine to absorb caesium has risen faster than our initial projections,” the spokesman said.

He added that until they knew what was causing the rising levels they would not know when the operation would be able to resume.

“But I’d say it’s not something that would take weeks,” he added.

Dealing with the radioactive water is a key step to bringing the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant under control, reports the BBC’s Roland Buerk from Tokyo.

It is the rainy season in Japan and the pools of contaminated water could overflow, adding to radiation already released into the sea, adds our correspondent.

Earlier this week, officials had warned the radioactive pools were in danger of spilling into the sea within a week.

The Fukushima power station went into meltdown after its cooling systems were crippled by March’ s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The teams at the plant suspect the radiation rise may be linked to sludge flowing into the machinery intended to absorb caesium or the pipes surrounding it. The tsunami destroyed both power and back-up generators at the plant, breaking the cooling systems. The three unstable reactors are supposed to be brought to “a stable and cold shutdown” by January 2012. Despite the setbacks Tepco says it is still on track to meet that deadline.

 

Via BBC

Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think

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Scientific experts believe Japan’s nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public.

“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,” Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president.

Japan’s 9.0 earthquake on March 11 caused a massive tsunami that crippled the cooling systems at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. It also led to hydrogen explosions and reactor meltdowns that forced evacuations of those living within a 20km radius of the plant.

Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

“Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed,” he said, “You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively.”

TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water – as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.

“The problem is how to keep it cool,” says Gundersen. “They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?”

Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.

“The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor,” Gundersen added. “TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water.”

Independent scientists have been monitoring the locations of radioactive “hot spots” around Japan, and their findings are disconcerting.

“We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl,” said Gundersen. “The data I’m seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man’s-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometers away from the reactor. You can’t clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl.”

Radiation monitors for children

Japan’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.

TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record.

Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station – an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan – is now likely uninhabitable.

In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

“There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children,” Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety.

Dr Ramana explained that he believes the primary radiation threat continues to be mostly for residents living within 50km of the plant, but added: “There are going to be areas outside of the Japanese government’s 20km mandatory evacuation zone where radiation is higher. So that could mean evacuation zones in those areas as well.”

Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported.

“They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the news is really not talking about this,” he said. “The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days.”

According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as “hot particles”.

“We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo,” he said. “Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters.”

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

“These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant,” he explained, “One cigarette doesn’t get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can’t measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April.”

Blame the US?

In reaction to the Fukushima catastrophe, Germany is phasing out all of its nuclear reactors over the next decade. In a referendum vote this Monday, 95 per cent of Italians voted in favour of blocking a nuclear power revival in their country. A recent newspaper poll in Japan shows nearly three-quarters of respondents favour a phase-out of nuclear power in Japan.

Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama’s biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.
He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

“Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes,” Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. “I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan.”

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

“Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use,” he explained. “The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy.”

As a 13-year-old, Dr Sawada experienced the US nuclear attack against Japan from his home, situated just 1400 metres from the hypocentre of the Hiroshima bomb.

“I think the Fukushima accident has caused the Japanese people to abandon the myth that nuclear power stations are safe,” he said. “Now the opinions of the Japanese people have rapidly changed. Well beyond half the population believes Japan should move towards natural electricity.”

A problem of infinite proportions

Dr Ramana expects the plant reactors and fuel cores to be cooled enough for a shutdown within two years.

“But it is going to take a very long time before the fuel can be removed from the reactor,” he added. “Dealing with the cracking and compromised structure and dealing with radiation in the area will take several years, there’s no question about that.”

Dr Sawada is not as clear about how long a cold shutdown could take, and said the problem will be “the effects from caesium-137 that remains in the soil and the polluted water around the power station and underground. It will take a year, or more time, to deal with this”.

Gundersen pointed out that the units are still leaking radiation.

“They are still emitting radioactive gases and an enormous amount of radioactive liquid,” he said. “It will be at least a year before it stops boiling, and until it stops boiling, it’s going to be cranking out radioactive steam and liquids.”

Gundersen worries about more earthquake aftershocks, as well as how to cool two of the units.

“Unit four is the most dangerous, it could topple,” he said. “After the earthquake in Sumatra there was an 8.6 [aftershock] about 90 days later, so we are not out of the woods yet. And you’re at a point where, if that happens, there is no science for this, no one has ever imagined having hot nuclear fuel lying outside the fuel pool. They’ve not figured out how to cool units three and four.”

Gundersen’s assessment of solving this crisis is grim.

“Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years,” he said. “Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn’t exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor.”

Dr Sawada says that the creation of nuclear fission generates radioactive materials for which there is simply no knowledge informing us how to dispose of the radioactive waste safely.

“Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations,” he explained. “To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.”

Gundersen believes it will take experts at least ten years to design and implement the plan.

“So ten to 15 years from now maybe we can say the reactors have been dismantled, and in the meantime you wind up contaminating the water,” Gundersen said. “We are already seeing Strontium [at] 250 times the allowable limits in the water table at Fukushima. Contaminated water tables are incredibly difficult to clean. So I think we will have a contaminated aquifer in the area of the Fukushima site for a long, long time to come.”

Unfortunately, the history of nuclear disasters appears to back Gundersen’s assessment.

“With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started,” he said, “But they never end.”

 

Via AJTV

 

Bilderberg 2011: Full Official Attendee List

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Thanks to the fantastic work of Bilderberg activists, journalists and the Swiss media, we have now been able to obtain the full official list of 2011 Bilderberg attendees. Routinely, some members request that their names be kept off the roster so there will be additional Bilderbergers in attendance.

Belgium

  • Coene, Luc, Governor, National Bank of Belgium
  • Davignon, Etienne, Minister of State
  • Leysen, Thomas, Chairman, Umicore 

China

  • Fu, Ying, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Huang, Yiping, Professor of Economics, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University 

Denmark

  • Eldrup, Anders, CEO, DONG Energy
  • Federspiel, Ulrik, Vice President, Global Affairs, Haldor Topsøe A/S
  • Schütze, Peter, Member of the Executive Management, Nordea Bank AB 

Germany

  • Ackermann, Josef, Chairman of the Management Board and the Group Executive Committee, Deutsche Bank
  • Enders, Thomas, CEO, Airbus SAS
  • Löscher, Peter, President and CEO, Siemens AG
  • Nass, Matthias, Chief International Correspondent, Die Zeit
  • Steinbrück, Peer, Member of the Bundestag; Former Minister of Finance 

Finland

  • Apunen, Matti, Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
  • Johansson, Ole, Chairman, Confederation of the Finnish Industries EK
  • Ollila, Jorma, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
  • Pentikäinen, Mikael, Publisher and Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat 

France

  • Baverez, Nicolas, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
  • Bazire, Nicolas, Managing Director, Groupe Arnault /LVMH
  • Castries, Henri de, Chairman and CEO, AXA
  • Lévy, Maurice, Chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe S.A.
  • Montbrial, Thierry de, President, French Institute for International Relations
  • Roy, Olivier, Professor of Social and Political Theory, European University Institute 

Great Britain

  • Agius, Marcus, Chairman, Barclays PLC
  • Flint, Douglas J., Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings
  • Kerr, John, Member, House of Lords; Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
  • Lambert, Richard, Independent Non-Executive Director, Ernst & Young
  • Mandelson, Peter, Member, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Counsel
  • Micklethwait, John, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
  • Osborne, George, Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Stewart, Rory, Member of Parliament
  • Taylor, J. Martin, Chairman, Syngenta International AG 

Greece

  • David, George A., Chairman, Coca-Cola H.B.C. S.A.
  • Hardouvelis, Gikas A., Chief Economist and Head of Research, Eurobank EFG
  • Papaconstantinou, George, Minister of Finance
  • Tsoukalis, Loukas, President, ELIAMEP Grisons 

International Organizations

  • Almunia, Joaquín, Vice President, European Commission
  • Daele, Frans van, Chief of Staff to the President of the European Council
  • Kroes, Neelie, Vice President, European Commission; Commissioner for Digital Agenda
  • Lamy, Pascal, Director General, World Trade Organization
  • Rompuy, Herman van, President, European Council
  • Sheeran, Josette, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme
  • Solana Madariaga, Javier, President, ESADEgeo Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics
  • Trichet, Jean-Claude, President, European Central Bank
  • Zoellick, Robert B., President, The World Bank Group

 Ireland

  • Gallagher, Paul, Senior Counsel; Former Attorney General
  • McDowell, Michael, Senior Counsel, Law Library; Former Deputy Prime Minister
  • Sutherland, Peter D., Chairman, Goldman Sachs International 

Italy

  • Bernabè, Franco, CEO, Telecom Italia SpA
  • Elkann, John, Chairman, Fiat S.p.A.
  • Monti, Mario, President, Univers Commerciale Luigi Bocconi
  • Scaroni, Paolo, CEO, Eni S.p.A.
  • Tremonti, Giulio, Minister of Economy and Finance 

Canada

  • Carney, Mark J., Governor, Bank of Canada
  • Clark, Edmund, President and CEO, TD Bank Financial Group
  • McKenna, Frank, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial Group
  • Orbinksi, James, Professor of Medicine and Political Science, University of Toronto
  • Prichard, J. Robert S., Chair, Torys LLP
  • Reisman, Heather, Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc. Center, Brookings Institution 

Netherlands

  • Bolland, Marc J., Chief Executive, Marks and Spencer Group plc
  • Chavannes, Marc E., Political Columnist, NRC Handelsblad; Professor of Journalism
  • Halberstadt, Victor, Professor of Economics, Leiden University; Former Honorary Secretary General of Bilderberg Meetings
  • H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands
  • Rosenthal, Uri, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Winter, Jaap W., Partner, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek

 Norway

  • Myklebust, Egil, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors SAS, sk Hydro ASA
  • H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
  • Ottersen, Ole Petter, Rector, University of Oslo
  • Solberg, Erna, Leader of the Conservative Party 

Austria

  • Bronner, Oscar, CEO and Publisher, Standard Medien AG
  • Faymann, Werner, Federal Chancellor
  • Rothensteiner, Walter, Chairman of the Board, Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG
  • Scholten, Rudolf, Member of the Board of Executive Directors, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG 

Portugal

  • Balsemão, Francisco Pinto, Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA, S.G.P.S.; Former Prime Minister
  • Ferreira Alves, Clara, CEO, Claref LDA; writer
  • Nogueira Leite, António, Member of the Board, José de Mello Investimentos, SGPS, SA 

Sweden

Mordashov, Alexey A., CEO, Severstal

Schweden

  • Bildt, Carl, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Björling, Ewa, Minister for Trade
  • Wallenberg, Jacob, Chairman, Investor AB 

Switzerland

  • Brabeck-Letmathe, Peter, Chairman, Nestlé S.A.
  • Groth, Hans, Senior Director, Healthcare Policy & Market Access, Oncology Business Unit, Pfizer Europe
  • Janom Steiner, Barbara, Head of the Department of Justice, Security and Health, Canton
  • Kudelski, André, Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group SA
  • Leuthard, Doris, Federal Councillor
  • Schmid, Martin, President, Government of the Canton Grisons
  • Schweiger, Rolf, Ständerat
  • Soiron, Rolf, Chairman of the Board, Holcim Ltd., Lonza Ltd.
  • Vasella, Daniel L., Chairman, Novartis AG
  • Witmer, Jürg, Chairman, Givaudan SA and Clariant AG 

Spain

  • Cebrián, Juan Luis, CEO, PRISA
  • Cospedal, María Dolores de, Secretary General, Partido Popular
  • León Gross, Bernardino, Secretary General of the Spanish Presidency
  • Nin Génova, Juan María, President and CEO, La Caixa
  • H.M. Queen Sofia of Spain

Turkey

  • Ciliv, Süreyya, CEO, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S.
  • Gülek Domac, Tayyibe, Former Minister of State
  • Koç, Mustafa V., Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
  • Pekin, Sefika, Founding Partner, Pekin & Bayar Law Firm 

USA

  • Alexander, Keith B., Commander, USCYBERCOM; Director, National Security Agency
  • Altman, Roger C., Chairman, Evercore Partners Inc.
  • Bezos, Jeff, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com
  • Collins, Timothy C., CEO, Ripplewood Holdings, LLC
  • Feldstein, Martin S., George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
  • Hoffman, Reid, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
  • Hughes, Chris R., Co-founder, Facebook
  • Jacobs, Kenneth M., Chairman & CEO, Lazard
  • Johnson, James A., Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC
  • Jordan, Jr., Vernon E., Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC
  • Keane, John M., Senior Partner, SCP Partners; General, US Army, Retired
  • Kissinger, Henry A., Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
  • Kleinfeld, Klaus, Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
  • Kravis, Henry R., Co-Chairman and co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis, Roberts & Co.
  • Kravis, Marie-Josée, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Inc.
  • Li, Cheng, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
  • Mundie, Craig J., Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft Corporation
  • Orszag, Peter R., Vice Chairman, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
  • Perle, Richard N., Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Rockefeller, David, Former Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank
  • Rose, Charlie, Executive Editor and Anchor, Charlie Rose
  • Rubin, Robert E., Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Secretary of the Treasury
  • Schmidt, Eric, Executive Chairman, Google Inc.
  • Steinberg, James B., Deputy Secretary of State
  • Thiel, Peter A., President, Clarium Capital Management, LLC
  • Varney, Christine A., Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust
  • Vaupel, James W., Founding Director, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
  • Warsh, Kevin, Former Governor, Federal Reserve Board
  • Wolfensohn, James D., Chairman, Wolfensohn & Company, LLC

 

This is interesting nonetheless. I’m not one to follow Bilderberg coverage but given the  article I posted earlier, ‘Bilderberg mystery: Why do people believe in cabals?‘, I thought I would post this in-case anyone is interested in seeing who will be attending the event.

 

Via Infowars

Bilderberg mystery: Why do people believe in cabals?

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Composite

Ordinary people can only guess at the goings-on at the meetings of the secretive Bilderberg Group, which is bringing together the world’s financial and political elite this week. Conspiracy theories abound as to what is discussed and who is there. Why, asks Tom de Castella?

The belief in secret cabals running the world is a hardy perennial. And on Thursday perhaps the most controversial clandestine organisation of our times – the Bilderberg Group – is meeting behind closed doors.

In the manner of a James Bond plot, up to 150 leading politicians and business people are to gather in a ski resort in Switzerland for four days of discussion about the future of the world.

Previous attendees of the group, which meets once a year in a five-star hotel, are said to have included Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and Peter Mandelson, as well as dozens of company CEOs.

First meeting in 1954, the aim was to shore up US-European relations and prevent another world war. Now under the group’s leadership of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and one-time EU vice president, Viscount Davignon, the aim is purportedly to allow Western elites to share ideas.

But conspiracy theorists have accused it of everything from deliberately engineering the credit crunch to planning to kill 80% of the world population. Longtime opponent and US radio host Alex Jones, heckled one meeting through a megaphone: “We know you are ruthless. We know you are evil. We respect your dark power.”

Part of the reason for alarm is the group’s secretive working methods. Names of attendees are not usually released before the conference, meetings are closed to the public and the media, and no press releases are issued.

The gnashing of teeth over Bilderberg is ridiculous, says Times columnist David Aaronovitch. “It’s really an occasional supper club for the rich and powerful,” he argues.

Denis Healey, co-founder of the group, told the journalist Jon Ronson in his book Them that people overlook the practical benefits of informal networking. “Bilderberg is the most useful international group I ever attended,” he told him. “The confidentiality enabled people to speak honestly without fear of repercussions.”

So why do groups like this cause so much alarm? Aaronovitch, who wrote the 2009 book Voodoo Histories, says plots to install a new world order have traditionally been a conspiracy fantasy. “They tend to believe that everything true, local and national is under threat from cosmopolitan, international forces often linked to financial capitalism and therefore, also often, to Jewish interests.”

Bilderberg chairman Viscount DavignonSecret cabals extend beyond the Bilderberg Group. The Illuminati, which derives from a 16th Century Bavarian secret society, is alleged to be an all powerful secret society, including US presidents, that has controlled major world events. The Freemasons – famous for their peculiar handshakes – is a secret fraternity society that has become more open in recent years after extensive criticism.

The charter of Hamas – the Islamist party governing Gaza – asserts that the Freemasons are in league with the Jews and those unlikely bully boys – the Rotary Club – to undermine Palestine.

John Hamill, spokesman for freemasonry’s governing body in England and Wales says the organisation is aware of Hamas’s allegation.

“There’s no truth in it, freemasonry is apolitical. It probably arises because one of our ceremonies is about the story of King Solomon’s Temple. For some reason Islamic governments translate that into Zionism.”

In fact, many conspiracy theories surrounding cabals hint at an anti-Semitic worldview. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a forged document, probably created by agents of Tsarist Russia, which appeared to show a Jewish plot to take over the world.

Despite being proved to be a fraud, the idea has been kept alive by anti-Semites and has spawned later versions. One of those, the Zionist Occupational Government, argues that countries have puppet governments but that the real power is held by Jewish interests.

More recently, former sports journalist David Icke has proclaimed that the world is governed by alien, reptilian shape shifters. In other words, giant lizards.

There is obviously no right-wing monopoly on conspiracy theories. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Hilary Clinton blamed a “vast right-wing conspiracy” for her husband’s predicament. And more recently, some on the left have argued that the 9/11 attacks were organised by President Bush’s inner circle in order to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

The politics of cabals has always been pretty muddled, says James McConnachie, co-author of the Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories. These groups allow protesters to project their own fears onto them.

In the US, the most extreme fear over Bilderberg is of a hidden cabal run by the European Union and threatening American freedoms. In Europe, the view is often of a free market elite trying to push through a right-wing agenda.

“Conspiracy theories are quite blind to conventional notions of left and right,” says McConnachie. “The left is organising an international government. Meanwhile, global capitalism on the right may be doing the same thing by different means.”

For Aaronovitch what often triggers widespread cabal theories are moments of great upheaval.

“It happens a lot when times are changing significantly. Whether, oddly, they are changing for better as well as for the worse. Why did McCarthyism happen at the time when US economy was growing faster than at any time in history?”

Society was in flux, the economy expanding rapidly and millions of servicemen were coming back from the war.

It’s not just the about social context. Some people are more susceptible than others to believing in wacky cabals, says Prof Chris French, of Goldsmith College’s psychology department. “It’s people who tend to be alienated by the mainstream, who feel powerless. They have a need to have a sense of control.”

Not only do they not trust the government, they tend not to trust their neighbours either. And in the need for control, there may be links to the roots of religious belief, he says.

The conspiracy theorists may get overexcited but they have a point, says Prof Andrew Kakabadse, co-author of new book Bilderberg People.

Secret talks

  • Bilderberg is named after the Dutch hotel where the first meeting took place in 1954
  • The initial focus was the state of the trans-Atlantic alliance and the problems facing Europe and the US
  • British Labour politician Denis Healey was a founding member
  • An invitation list is compiled each year by a steering committee
  • About 120 people from North America and Europe are invited. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labour, education and communications
  • Meetings often feature future political leaders shortly before they become household names. Bill Clinton went in 1991 while still governor of Arkansas, Tony Blair was there two years later while an opposition MP

The group has genuine power that far outranks the World Economic Forum, which meets in Davos, he argues. And with no transparency, it is easy to see why people are worried about its influence.

“It’s much smarter than conspiracy,” says Prof Kakabadse. “This is moulding the way people think so that it seems like there’s no alternative to what is happening.”

The agenda the group has is to bring together the political elites on both right and left, let them mix in relaxed, luxurious surroundings with business leaders, and let the ideas fizz.

It may seem like a glorified dinner party but that is to miss the point. “When you’ve been to enough dinner parties you see a theme emerging,” he says. The theme at Bilderberg is to bolster a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe, he says.

“Is this all leading to the start of the ruling the world idea? In one sense yes. There’s a very strong move to have a One World government in the mould of free market Western capitalism.”

Degree of nefariousness

Conventional critiques of alienated people seeking order in a chaotic world may well be true. But there’s more to it than that, McConnachie argues.

“The other explanation is more dangerous. That they are precisely right – they just over-egg the way they articulate it.”

The Bilderberg Group matches up to how a global conspiracy would work – a secretive body attempting to shape the direction of the world, he suggests.

“The only difference is the degree of nefariousness,” he says. “They tend to see this cabal as outright evil. When things are more nuanced than that.”

For all the tales of lizards running the world, we all owe a debt to conspiracy theorists, McConnachie argues.

“Occasionally you have to give credit to conspiracy theorists who raise issues that the mainstream press has ignored. It’s only recently that the media has picked up on the Bilderbergers. Would the media be running stories if there weren’t these wild allegations flying around?”

But Aaronovitch disagrees. Believing in cabals leads to certain groups being victimised and obstructs a rational view of the world.

“To have a strong belief in the Bilderberg Group means believing in a fantasy,” he says. “It suggests that there are people – like God – acting as a higher power. And it replaces the intolerable thought that there’s nothing at work at all, that the world is chaotic. It may be a form of therapy but it has people believing in an anti-scientific message.”

Via BBC