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Government

North Dakota Legalizes "Less Than Lethal" Weapon-Equipped Police Drones 164

According to the Daily Beast, writes reader schwit1, North Dakota police will be free to fire 'less than lethal' weapons from the air thanks to the influence of a pro-police lobbyist. That means beanbags, tear-gas, and Tasers, at the very least, can be brought to bear by remote. It's worth noting that "non-lethal" isn't purely true, even if that's the intent behind such technologies. From the article, based partly on FOIA requests made by MuckRock into drone use by government agencies: The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones. Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.
Crime

Two US Marines Foil Terrorist Attack On Train In France 467

hcs_$reboot writes: A heavily armed gunman opened fire aboard a packed high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris late Friday afternoon, wounding several passengers before he was tackled and subdued by two Americans Marines. The assault was described as a terrorist attack. President Barack Obama has expressed his gratitude for the "courage and quick thinking" of the passengers on a high-speed train in France, including U.S. service members, who overpowered the gunman. Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, paid tribute to the Marines as he arrived at the scene, and said "Thanks to them we have averted a drama. The Americans were particularly courageous and showed extreme bravery in extremely difficult circumstances."
The Courts

Do You Have a Right To Use Electrical Weapons? 682

An anonymous reader writes: David Cravets points out a growing debate in U.S. constitutional law: does the second amendment grant the same rights regarding electrical weapons as it does for traditional firearms? A Massachusetts ban on private ownership of stun-guns is being considered by the Supreme Court, and it's unclear whether such ownership has constitutional protection. The state's top court didn't think so: "... although modern handguns were not in common use at the time of enactment of the Second Amendment, their basic function has not changed: many are readily adaptable to military use in the same way that their predecessors were used prior to the enactment. A stun gun, by contrast, is a thoroughly modern invention (PDF). Even were we to view stun guns through a contemporary lens for purposes of our analysis, there is nothing in the record to suggest that they are readily adaptable to use in the military." The petitioner is asking the court (PDF) to clarify that the Second Amendment covers non-lethal weapons used for self-defense. Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh agrees: "Some people have religious or ethical compunctions about killing. ... Some adherents to these beliefs may therefore conclude that fairly effective non-deadly defensive tools are preferable to deadly tools."
The Military

F-35 Might Be Outperformed By Fourth-Generation Fighters 731

savuporo writes: Defensetech.org posted a story relaying a report from National Security Network titled "Thunder without Lightning: The High Costs and Limited Benefits of the F-35 Program". According to the story, F-35 is outperformed or showing only slight advantages in simulations and limited real-life tests by decades old 4th-generation fighters like F-16 and F18, but also MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker, that are of course made by Russia and latter also produced in China. The story also refers back to earlier report last month of F-35 performing poorly in dogfights. "In one simulation subcontracted by the RAND Corporation, the F-35 incurred a loss exchange ratio of 2.4–1 against Chinese Su-35s. That is, more than two F-35s were lost for each Su-35 shot down."
The Courts

Time Runs Out On Sweden's Sexual Assault Charges Against Julian Assange 226

As the Guardian and many other sources report, the clock has run out on the three 2010 charges of sexual assault on which Swedish authorities had hoped try Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been waiting out those charges since 2012 in London, inside the Ecuadorian embassy, claiming that he feared extradition to the U.S. in connection to this Wikileaks work if he were first extradicted to Sweden. He was recently rebuffed after suggesting that he'd be interested in living in France as a political refugee. The linked Guardian story notes that the expiry of the Swedish prosecutors' time doesn't mean that Assange is no longer under scrutiny, as does CNN.
The Military

Russian Missile Parts Found At MH17 Crash Site 249

An anonymous reader sends this report from the BBC: Fragments of a suspected Russian missile system have been found at the Flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine, investigators in the Netherlands say. They say the parts, possibly from a Buk surface-to-air system, are "of particular interest" and could help show who was behind the crash. But they say they have not proved their "causal connection" with the crash. ... Ukraine and many Western countries have accused pro-Russian rebels of shooting down the plane, saying they could have used a Buk missile system supplied by Russia. Russia and the rebels deny any responsibility and say the Ukrainian military was to blame.
Technology

How To Shoot Down a Drone 176

gurps_npc writes: Popular Mechanics has a nice article about how to shoot down a non-military drone. Interestingly enough, a Super Soaker will do the job while a standard paint gun does nothing. It doesn't take much energy as long as it is concentrated. A BB gun can do it as well — if you can hit the the target. "Other good non-gun options include pretty much any other solid-projectile slinger. Slingshots will likely work—again, assuming you can hit." They add, "Last but not least, you never want to underestimate the power of just throwing crap. A rock, a baseball, anything you can fling straight, accurate, and fast. All it takes to down a drone is a bent propeller or enough of a jolt to flip it."
Hardware

Military Data Center In a Suitcase To Get Commercial Release 90

judgecorp writes: The Mobyl Data Center, designed for the US Department of Defense, puts a data center in a rugged suitcase-sized box, and it will shortly be available commercially. The box includes up to 88 Xeon cores a maximum of 176 GB of RAM, and 2.8 TB of SSD storage with 12TB of hard disk as an option. The system uses credit-card sized MobylPC server units, sealed in epoxy, and rated to survive 300g of shock, but apparently proprietary to the vendor, Arnouse Digital Devices Corp.
United States

Twilight of the Bomb 332

merbs writes: On the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb, Motherboard's Brian Merchant toured its crater with one of the last living Manhattan Project scientists. Here's the inside story of the road to the bomb, with the 90-year-old Murray Peshkin—the youngest man to work on the Project that built the bomb, and the first to set foot in its crater. From the story: "There are still nine nuclear nations that, between them, have stockpiled 16,300 weapons. And this network of decades-old nuclear armaments, some of which are still aimed at various strategic choke points around the globe, leaves civilizational scale death-becoming a technical possibility. Before all that, though, the atom bomb was one of the most successful science experiments of all time. It was the product of billions of dollars in government spending, hundreds of the world’s top scientists working in concert, in secret, in a city built from scratch in the desert, and a bygone patriotism united by common, Manichean cause: stop Hitler, defeat the Japanese."
Government

NBC Report: Russian Hackers Behind Attack On Pentagon Mail System 81

New submitter packetspike alerts us to a story at CNBC, according to which U.S. officials have told NBC News that Russian hackers are behind a "sophisticated cyberattack" against the unclassified email system used by the Pentagon's Joint Staff , which has since been shut down and taken off line. "According to the officials, the "sophisticated cyber intrusion" occurred sometime around July 25 and affected some 4,000 military and civilian personnel work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff." The story claims that it's unclear whether the mail-system's attackers were backed by the Russian government. (Expect more to come on this story.)
United States

DoD Ditches Open Source Medical Records System In $4.3B Contract 186

dmr001 writes: The US Department of Defense opted not to use the Department of Veterans Affairs' open source VistA electronic health record system in its project to overhaul its legacy systems, instead opting for a consortium of Cerner, Leidos and Accenture. The initial $4.3 billion implementation is expected to be the first part of a $9 billion dollar project. The Under Secretary for Acquisition stated they wanted a system with minimum modifications and interoperability with private sector systems, though much of what passes for inter-vendor operability in the marketplace is more aspirational than operable. The DoD aims to start implementation at 8 sites in the Pacific Northwest by the end of 2016, noting that "legacy systems are eating us alive in terms of support and maintenance," consuming 95% of the Military Health Systems IT budget.
China

China To Impose Export Control On High Tech Drones and Supercomputers 67

hackingbear writes: Following similar hi-tech export restriction policies in the U.S. (or perhaps in response to the U.S. ban on China,) China will impose export control on some drones and high performance computers starting on August 15th, according to an announcement published on Friday by China's Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs. The ban includes (official documents in Chinese) drone that can take off in wind speed exceeding 46.4km/hour or can continuously fly for over 1 hour as well as electronic components specifically designed or modified for supercomputers with speed over 8 petaflops. Companies must acquire specific permits before exporting such items. Drones and supercomputers are the two areas where China is the leader or among the top players. China is using its rapidly expanding defense budget to make impressive advances in (military) drone technology, prompting some to worry that the United States' global dominance in the market could soon be challenged. The tightening of regulations comes two weeks after an incident in disputed Kashmir in which the Pakistani army claimed to have shot down an Indian "spy drone", reportedly Chinese-made. China's 33-petaflops Tianhe-2, currently the fastest supercomputer in the world, while still using Intel Xeon processors, makes use of the home-grown interconnect, arguably the most important component of modern supercomputers.
AI

Answering Elon Musk On the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence 262

Lasrick points out a rebuttal by Stanford's Edward Moore Geist of claims that have led the recent panic over superintelligent machines. From the linked piece: Superintelligence is propounding a solution that will not work to a problem that probably does not exist, but Bostrom and Musk are right that now is the time to take the ethical and policy implications of artificial intelligence seriously. The extraordinary claim that machines can become so intelligent as to gain demonic powers requires extraordinary evidence, particularly since artificial intelligence (AI) researchers have struggled to create machines that show much evidence of intelligence at all.
China

China's Island-Building In Pictures 140

An anonymous reader writes: The South China Sea is just small enough to have high strategic value for military operations and just large enough to make territorial claims difficult. For over a year now, the world has been aware that China is using its vast resources to try and change that. Instead of fighting for claims on existing islands or arguing about how far their sovereignty should extend, they simply decided to build new islands. "The islands are too small to support large military units but will enable sustained Chinese air and sea patrols of the area. The United States has reported spotting Chinese mobile artillery vehicles in the region, and the islands could allow China to exercise more control over fishing in the region." The NY Times has a fascinating piece showing clear satellite imagery of the new islands, illustrating how a fleet a dredgers have dumped enormous amounts of sand on top of existing reefs. "Several reefs have been destroyed outright to serve as a foundation for new islands, and the process also causes extensive damage to the surrounding marine ecosystem." We can also see clear evidence of airstrips, cement plants, and other structures as the islands become capable of supporting them.
The Military

US Navy Tests 3D Printing Custom Drones On Its Ships 66

itwbennett writes: Researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School are testing the use of 3D printers on ships to produce custom drones outfitted for specialized missions. The idea, said Alan Jaeger, a faculty research associate at the school, is that ships could set sail with kits of the core electronics parts, since they are common to most drones, but have the bodies designed according to specific requirements for each mission. A prototype drone was designed by engineers on shore based on requirements of the sailors at sea, and the 3D design file was emailed to the USS Essex over a satellite link. Flight tests revealed some of the potential problems, most of which were associated with operating the drone rather than the printing itself, Jaeger said. 'Even with a small amount of wind, something this small will get buffeted around,' he said. They also had to figure out the logistics of launching a drone from a ship, getting it back, how it integrated with other flight operations, and interference from other radio sources like radar.
The Military

Sun Tzu 2.0: The Future of Cyberwarfare 77

An anonymous reader writes: Cyberwar and its ramifications have been debated for some time and the issue has been wrought with controversy. Few would argue that cyber-attacks are not prevalent in cyberspace. However, does it amount to a type of warfare? Let's break this down by drawing parallels from a treatise by 6th century military general, Sun Tzu, who authored one of the most definitive handbooks on warfare, "The Art of War." His writings have been studied throughout the ages by professional militaries and can be used to not only answer the question of whether or not we are in a cyberwar, but how one can fight a cyber-battle.
The Military

US Military Stepping Up Use of Directed Energy Weapons 83

An anonymous reader writes: At a conference on Tuesday, U.S. officials explained that all branches of the military would be increasing their use of lasers and other directed energy weapons. Lieutenant General William Etter said, "Directed energy brings the dawn of an entirely new era in defense." The Navy's laser deployment test has gone well, and they're working on a new prototype laser in the 100-150 kilowatt range. "[Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus said Iran and other countries were already using lasers to target ships and commercial airliners, and the U.S. military needed to accelerate often cumbersome acquisition processes to ensure that it stayed ahead of potential foes."
AI

Musk, Woz, Hawking, and Robotics/AI Experts Urge Ban On Autonomous Weapons 313

An anonymous reader writes: An open letter published by the Future of Life Institute urges governments to ban offensive autonomous weaponry. The letter is signed by high profile leaders in the science community and tech industry, such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky, and Frank Wilczek. It's also signed — more importantly — by literally hundreds of expert researchers in robotics and AI. They say, "The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce."
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
The Military

Report: US Military Is Wasting Millions On Satellite Comms 154

An anonymous reader writes: Fast information exchange is the key to a powerful military, and satellites have been an incredible boon to the commanders of modern fighting forces. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. military is vastly overpaying for its satellite communications, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. They say the Department of Defense "has become increasingly reliant on commercial SATCOM to support ongoing U.S. military operations." You see, every part of the DoD is required to go through the Defense Information Systems Agency when procuring SATCOM equipment. The problem is that this process is incredibly slow, and fraught with red tape. Because of this, many in the military skip DISA and go straight to commercial providers — at a steep markup. The GAO estimates that this cost taxpayers around $45 million extra in a single year.