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Syria, Swarming, Afghan Elections

Dated: 27 Aug 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: Uncategorized
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Syria: Rebel factions in Syria, including an al Qaeda affiliate, captured a border crossing between Syria and Israel, said Israel’s military and Syrian opposition activists, the second major loss of a strategic site to extremist groups within days.  Some analysts are suggesting that a weakened Syrian government, despite their brutality, might compel the U.S. and regional and Western countries to abandon their quest to topple Mr. Assad and cooperate with him to battle a common enemy in the form of jihadists.

Swarming: Small, wheeled robots are being tested by NASA to show whether it’s possible for autonomous machines to scurry about an alien world such as the Moon, searching for and gathering resources just as an ant colony does. Programs are being developed that tell the robots to go out in different directions and randomly search an area for a particular material. The robots, called “swarmies,” resemble stripped-down radio-controlled trucks. They work on their own, then call the others over when they find a cache of something valuable

Afghan Elections: Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah withdrew his observers from an audit of votes in the disputed election, citing concerns over fraud. The United Nations-supervised process is now suspended.  While it was not immediately clear if the pullout meant the two candidates would reject the audit results – and thereby also the final result of the election. That could have dangerous repercussions in a country still struggling to overcome ethnic and religious divides and battling a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

Libya, Smart Skin, Syria

Dated: 26 Aug 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: Uncategorized
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Libya: Egypt and the United Arab Emirates launched covert airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias fighting for control of Tripoli, Libya, twice in the past week, the New York Times reported. Washington was not informed of the strikes planned by the regional allies, potentially further straining ties with Cairo.  Their involvement illustrates how Libya is becoming another location for a proxy war in the Middle East, where Qatar has allegedly supported Islamist forces in the country, in a continuation of the country’s policy of supporting Islamic movements and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Smart Skin: Future aircraft may be able to sense their own “health” with surfaces that act in a way similar to human skin, according to researchers at BAE Systems.  The company is investigating a “smart skin” concept that would involve the use of thousands of micro-sensors that would be embedded into aircraft, according to a company release. Those sensors, or motes, would then detect wind speed, temperatures and physical strain.

Syria: The U.S. appears to be laying the groundwork for a possible expansion of its military air campaign beyond Iraq and into Syria. The WSJ reported yesterday that the Pentagon is preparing to send surveillance aircraft, including drones, into Syrian airspace to gather intelligence on Islamist targets—one of the first tangible signs that the Obama administration may be preparing for military operations in the country against the group calling itself Islamic State.