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Ukraine, UAVs, Pakistan

Dated: 29 Aug 2014
Posted by Christine Chan
Category: Uncategorized
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Ukraine: Pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine said they would comply with a Kremlin request that they open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops, a day after Kiev accused Moscow of illegally entering the country. NATO, which convened an emergency meeting (FT) on Friday to address the worsening crisis, blamed Russia for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and engaging in direct military operations to support the rebels.  This week, reports have trickled out across Russia of dead servicemen returning from the fighting in Ukraine to secret burials. The Kremlin’s human-rights watchdog Thursday issued a rare formal request to military prosecutors to investigate, while a member of presidential advisory panel said relatives of military men reported as many as 100 had died in fighting in Ukraine this month.]

UAVs: Google has built and tested autonomous aerial vehicles, which it believes could be used for goods deliveries.  The project is being developed at Google X, the company’s clandestine tech research arm, which is also responsible for its self-driving car. Project Wing has been running for two years, but was a secret until now.  The video can be seen here.  This comes a few days after Disney filed three patent applications involving the use of unmanned aircraft in its theme parks, including for carrying projection screens overhead at night.

Pakistan: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requested the help of Pakistan’s army chief (NYT), General Raheel Sharif, to defuse a two-week standoff that has crippled the government. Thousands of protesters led by the opposition politician Imran Khan and the cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri have demanded Sharif’s resignation.  Government aides said the military had already used the pressure of the protests to force the administration in the last few days to give up control of foreign policy and security affairs, traditional domains of the armed forces in which they saw Mr. Sharif taking independent stances. Analysts described the government’s ceding of control of key policy areas as a “soft coup” staged by the military.

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.