Hiding secret messages in whale song

Most military underwater surveillance systems filter out whale calls along with other ambient ocean noise. This inspired researchers from China's Tianjin University to create a form of "bio-inspired steganography" in which recordings of whale songs can be edited to contain secret messages and then electronically transmitted underwater. From Newsweek:

In research published in IEEE Communication Magazine, the team said there are two ways to hide signals in whale pulses—changing the signal to include encrypted information or making the signal weaker.

The former is problematic because it would stand out from other naturally occurring signals, Jiang told SCMP. However, the second method holds promise. Researchers could build a coding system around the whale sounds. They could then edit whale sounds so they are indistinguishable from other whale calls. When they are received by the coding system, they can be deciphered. The main drawback for this approach is that it would be difficult to send a message over a long distance.

"Bio-Inspired Steganography for Secure Underwater Acoustic Communications" (IEEE Communications)

Image: "A mother sperm whale and her calf off the coast of Mauritius" by Gabriel Barathieu Read the rest

Report: Canada's military unprepared to stop attacks on their assets in space

For a country the size of Canada, we've got a pretty small military budget. In order to secure our borders and work with our NATO pals overseas and in operations on our home turf, The Canadian Forces is often forced to do a lot with very little. Our Army, Navy and Air Force are tightly integrated, making it possible for us to make the most of our military infrastructure, supplies and training. Right now, Canada's military personnel are playing a game of hurry-up-and-wait while long-promised new equipment, upgrades to existing hardware, and better care for current members come into play. Unfortunately, as the Canadian government struggles to keep up with the basics of defining its borders, an internal Department of National Defence report obtained by the Canadian Press warns that the nation's armed forces could be ripe for getting dinged on a largely undefended frontier: space.

From The CBC:

Satellites vital to Canadian military operations are vulnerable to cyberattack or even a direct missile strike — just one example of why the country's defence policy must extend fully into the burgeoning space frontier, an internal Defence Department note warns.

The Canadian military already heavily depends on space-based assets for basic tasks such as navigation, positioning, intelligence-gathering, surveillance and communications. Canada is also working on the next generation of satellites to assist with search-and-rescue and round-the-clock surveillance of maritime approaches to the country, including the Arctic.

Unfortunately, as the hardware and software required to compromise satellite systems has become way less expensive over the past decade, the number of state and non-state actors with access to the gear needed to smoke our space hardware has grown. Read the rest

Little Green Terracotta Army Men

Forget Little Green Army Men in Yoga Poses; they're totally 2016; the contemporary Little Green Army Man is a mashup with the terracotta warriors: they're $41 from Hobbylink Japan. (via Super Punch) Read the rest

This little known government agency is responsible for bringing the remains of missing or captured U.S. soldiers home to rest

Founded after the Joint P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Command and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office were folded into a single agency, the Defense P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Agency (D.P.A.A.) is an incredibly important part of the United States military. They're responsible for the locating and identification of the remains of soldiers who were deemed to be Missing in Action or who died as prisoners of war.

Sometimes, the task of identifying and repatriating remains can be conducted with immediacy. In other cases, the realities of war--that a body can be torn asunder, rendering it near unidentifiable--or discovering the remains of skeletal remains of a soldier decades after they died, can slow this process down. In such cases, forensic experts are brought in to assist in identifying the dead.

This past August, the North Korean government allowed the U.S. military to repatriate 55 coffins full of the mixed skeletal remains of American soldiers who died in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. That nothing's left of these soldiers but bones would make identifying them difficult enough. When the bones are mixed in with one another? That's a puzzle that few people are qualified to deal with. Dr. Paul Emanovsky is one of those few. He's a forensic anthropologist that's worked to bring closure to the lives of the loved ones of missing military personnel since 2002. If you're interested in a fascinating, morbid read, the New York Times recently published an interview with Dr. Emanovsky, where he talks about his work and the recovery projects that the D.P.A.A. Read the rest

Old weird war technology like parachuting pigeons and and flying sharks

Peter Taylor was doing research at the UK's Imperial War Museums when he stumbled across the story of parachuting pigeons. In 1914, the British were seeking intelligence about German troop numbers and movement in Belgium. So they parachuted homing pigeons into the region from balloons and planes. Attached to the pigeons were instructions for civilians to write down what they had seen and then to allow the birds to fly back to base. Inspired, Taylor went on to collect unusual war stories and compiled them into two books, Weird War One: Intriguing Items and Fascinating Feats from the First World War and its sequel Weird War Two: Intriguing Items and Surprising Stuff from the Second World War.

“It was a mixture of proper research—talking to curators, reading books, trawling through the archives—and suitably strange research: for example, (mis)using the museum’s database by typing in odd words for hours to see what came up (‘Socks,’ ‘Disguise,’ ‘Secret,’ ‘Insect’)," Taylor told Air & Space. "It’s hard to have a completely sensible plan for finding strange and surprising things.”

Below, an illustration of a propaganda idea involving flying machines shaped like sharks.

Read the rest

Those weird sonic attacks at U.S. embassies? Microwave weapons, experts say.

Remember the stories over the past year or so about mysterious attacks at U.S. embassies harming diplomatic staff and their families? William J. Broad's story in the New York Times today reports that doctors and scientists are now coming to the conclusion that microwave weapon strikes capable of causing “sonic delusions” and brain damage are to blame. Read the rest

Watch pilots eject at over Mach 8 on test track

Servicemembers willing to undergo dangerous test pilot duties are remarkably brave. The military is now conducting tests on different body sizes to ensure women serving as pilots get the same safety benefits. Read the rest

Could Brazil become a military dictatorship once again?

Brazil escaped the clutches of a military dictatorship three decades ago. But fascism is really hot right now, so the nation may be about to get back on its bullshit once more.

From The New York Times:

Retired generals and other former officers with strong ties to the military leadership are mounting a sweeping election campaign, backing about 90 military veterans running for an array of posts — including the presidency — in national elections this October. The effort is necessary, they argue, to rescue the nation from an entrenched leadership that has mismanaged the economy, failed to curb soaring violence and brazenly stolen billions of dollars through corruption.

And if the ballot box does not bring change quickly enough, some prominent former generals warn that military leaders may feel compelled to step in and reboot the political system by force.

For those in Brazil old enough to have lived through the last time the country was run by a bunch of violent tools in matching slacks, it’s a worrisome notion. The last time that nation was ruled by its military, 434 people "disappeared" or were killed by Brazil’s military government, not to mention the scores tortured and abused during the dictatorship’s 21-year reign.

A lot of analysts believe that the possibility of the military taking over the Brazilian government again is remote. However, given the jump to right-wing politics, authoritarian rule, kleptocracy and dictatorships that countries like Nicaragua, Poland, Turkey, the United States and the Philippines have been wallowing in of late, anything is possible – especially in light of the nation's rising violent crime rates, a 13% unemployment rate, and a growing underground economy. Read the rest

Graffiti has been a part of military life for at least 5,000 years

War is a thing of terror, traditions, heartache and often, boredom. Passing the time between patrols, and the banality that comes from life in the field, is a constant challenge. Some people read. Most exercise. Everyone complains about the food. Soldiers write, train and call home--if there's someone there that'll pick up the phone. Video games? Totally a thing, in some instances. If you have a Sharpie, or a knife, there's a good chance that you might wind up doodling, scratching or scrawling something, at one point or another, to prove that you were there, where ever ‘there’ might be.

Jonathan Bratt, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a current company commander in the National Guard, put together a great read on the history of military graffiti for The New York Times. Starting with 5,000-year old cave paintings and navigating conflicts across the span of history, Bratten touches on the artwork and vandalization that soldiers, living in Death’s shadow, undertook to cure themselves of boredom and, in some cases, serve as proof of their existence.

From the New York Times Magazine:

World War II brought U.S. troops to Europe by the millions, and this time they were accompanied by a friend: Kilroy. Kilroy was a mysterious phantom, asserting his presence in the scrawled phrase “Kilroy was here,” often accompanied by a cartoon doodle of a bald head just peeking over a wall, nose and fingers visible. And Kilroy was everywhere. Troops claimed that when they’d storm a beach or take a village, they’d somehow find that Kilroy had gotten there before them.

Read the rest

Building concentration camps on military bases will lead to the moral injury of American soldiers

We've talked about the fact that the Trump administration wants to house thousands of asylum seekers, refugees and other legal migrants within what amount to modern-day concentration camps, inside the secure perimeter of military installations. Doing so will not only ensure that the migrant's chances of finding their way to freedom is significantly hampered, but also keep the detainees far from the prying eyes of protesters and the media. For a nation once renown for fighting to ensure freedom and democracy at home and abroad, this is bullshit. Worse still, it spits in the eye of every solider who join the military with those ideals in mind; those who come from immigrant or migrant families (that'd be most of us) and anyone who wears the uniform whilst carrying a moral compass. As The Daily Beast reports, many veterans and those still serving are very not ok with this:

Active-duty and retired U.S. military officers and enlisted personnel are expressing a sense of moral emergency over the Defense Department setting up detention camps for undocumented immigrants on military bases.

“It smacks of totalitarianism,” said Steve Kleinman, a retired Air Force colonel and military intelligence officer.

Raf Noboa, an Iraq War veteran and former Army sergeant, said he was astounded by the “enormous moral offense” the camps represent and which the military will be ordered to support.

“America’s military once liberated people from concentration camps,” Noboa told The Daily Beast. “It beggars the mind and our morality that it might be used to secure them.”

“I knew something bad was going to happen.

Read the rest

The United States Marine Corps is kicking ass when it comes to equality


The United States Marine Corp’s equality science is tight. This month alone, the number one reason not to screw with America has seen two firsts, from women in their ranks who have had the intelligence, grit and determination to move into leadership positions.

First, let’s talk ground pounders.

According to Task & Purpose, on June 23rd, a female Marine graduated to become the second woman ever to complete the Corps’ 13-week Infantry Officer Course (IOC). It’s a notoriously tough slog of a training program that a good number of candidates wash out due to its grueling physical and psychological demands. Thirty other Marines, including two women, were unable to complete the training that the successful female candidate did.

As an IOC graduate, she’s qualified to lead an infantry platoon into combat. But that’s not what she’ll be doing. Instead of fulfilling a role she worked her ass off to earn, she’s moving on to serve in a different capacity by enrolling in and training to become a Ground Intelligence Officer. Once she’s finished with this, she’ll be the first female Ground Intel Officer in the Marine Corp. As such, she’ll be qualified to command a recon or scout sniper platoon. For the time being, Marine Corps media relations types aren’t releasing her name. I love this: they’re not holding the IOC graduate up as something special: She’s a part of the machine, like any other junior officer, as it should be.

If this isn’t awesome enough, a female lieutenant colonel was just made the first ever female commander of a Marine Corp ground combat unit. Read the rest

Wheel reinvented to allow combat vehicles to easily traverse streets, corpses

Attention, comrades! A newsflash has this moment arrived. Engineers working with the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program have improved the survivability and mobility of combat vehicles by reinventing the wheel. [via Task and Purpose]

The high-tech Reconfigurable Wheel-Track (RWT) upgrades “transition from a round wheel to a triangular track and back again while the vehicle is on the move” — in short, allowing Humvees to transform into tracked vehicles on the fly.

Read the rest

British army targeted "stressed" 16-year-olds on exam-results day with Facebook recruitment ads

Every August, British 16-year-olds get their marks from the GCSE exams, a high-stakes test that has an enormous impact on their future educational and earnings prospects; on results day 2015, the British Army used Facebook targeting to reach these 16-year-olds with messages like "No matter what your results will be, you can still improve yourself in the army." Read the rest

Google promises no more use of its artificial intelligence tech in weapons

Alphabet, Google's parent company, promises not to allow use of its artificial intelligence technology in weapons and in certain forms of surveillance. Read the rest

Leaks show that Google expected its modest AI-for-drones business to expand exponentially

While leaked memos show that Google execs perceived a real risk of internal backlash from their $9 million Pentagon contract to supply AI for US military drones, they were willing to risk it because they expected the business to quickly grow to $250,000,000. Read the rest

Leaked memos reveal the deep divisions within Google over Pentagon contract

Google's decision to provide AI tools for use with US military drones has been hugely controversial within the company (at least a dozen googlers quit over it) and now the New York Times has obtained internal memos revealing how senior officials at the company anticipated that controversy and attempted (unsuccessfully) to head it off. Read the rest

Trump Administration moving to store migrant kids on military bases

The Washington Post reports that the Trump Administration is laying the necessary groundwork to warehouse the children of migrants who enter the United States illegally on military bases in Texas and Arkansas. The bases will be used to contain anyone under the age of 18 who crosses the border illegally with their parents or on their own.

In a leaked email sent to Pentagon personnel, it was disclosed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be making visits to four military installations in the coming weeks to evaluate whether they contain infrastructure suitable for sheltering children.

From the Washington Post:

An official at HHS confirmed the military site visits. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans are not yet public, the official said HHS currently has the bed space to hold 10,571 children in its network of 100 foster-care facilities.

Those facilities are at 91 percent capacity, the HHS official said, and the Trump administration’s crackdown plans could push thousands more children into government care. The official said DHS has not provided projections for how many additional children to expect.

The move to assess the suitability of housing on military property comes in the wake of the Trump Administration's escalating war on migrants and asylum seekers hoping for the shelter, protection and opportunity that the United States once stood for. With escalating violence in Mexico, South and Central America, there could be no worse time to exclude vulnerable people from entering the country, illegally or otherwise. Read the rest

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