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0 How to Make Drones Scarier: Make Them Nuclear Powered

Government scientists find it "disappointing" that “current political conditions will not allow use" of a nuclear-powered drone that can fly around the Earth for months.

We do not. Why? Because the mere thought of a nuclear reactor flying around the heavens, snapping pictures of villages and possible firing rockets at them is absolutely horrifying, that's why. Set aside the fear of a nuclear reactor crashing in your yard — these would be drones that would not run out of power.
ProPublica's Justin Elliott just posted a set of documents (PDF) from the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico dated June 2011 that detail the development and testing of said nuke drones. With the help of scientists from Northrop Grumman, the scientists mapped out the feasibility of building such an aircraft, not only from a technical point of view but, apparently, a political one too. The military benefits of such a weapon tool are pretty clear: Building a nuke drone would make it possible “to increase [unmanned aerial vehicle] sortie duration from days to months while increasing available electrical power at least two-fold." That's where the nuclear power comes into play. As Steven Aftergood points out on the FAS Project on Government Secrecy's blog:
The project summary, which refers to "propulsion and power technologies that [go] well beyond existing hydrocarbon technologies," does not actually use the word "nuclear."  But with unmistakable references to "safeguards," "decommissioning and disposal," and those unfavorable "political conditions," there is little doubt about the topic under discussion.
There are really two ways of reacting to this news. One, good for the government scientists for deciding not to build a flying, unmanned nuclear power plant. (Bear in mind that we don't actually know if they've continued work on the project since last June.) Two, let's make this a teaching moment. Last December when CIA lost a drone over Iran was a teaching moment, too. Just imagine if it had an American-made nuclear reactor inside of it.

0 Why the Pentagon’s New Fighter Jet Will Now Cost More Than $1 Trillion

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s big plan for future warplanes — it’s slated to replace nearly all of the other tactical jets in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. But getting there is going to be slow and expensive, as a new government report details.
The JSF program is a massively expensive undertaking. It has cost the government $400 billion to date, and is estimated to run more than $1 trillion to develop, buy and support nearly 2,500 aircraft through 2050.
A major problem, according to the Government Accountability Office report, is that the program is charging ahead with procurement while testing is still in progress. As Michael Sullivan, one of the report’s authors, told Congress, “the manufacturing processes are just never able to get stable because there's so much information coming in from testing and so many engineering changes that are going on.”
In a statement to Congress, the Pentagon officials in charge of the F-35 program said they "have put the program on sound footing for the future" but acknowledged that there was "no more money to put against contract overruns or problems."
The GAO report was notably stern. Here are some of its findings.
Only a portion of testing is finished:
Even though the design is not considered “mature,” production proceeds largely apace:
This leads to extra costs as already constructed planes have to be retrofitted:
The JSF’s software still needs work. Sullivan told Congress that “the development of the software that they need to make this aircraft fully combat capable is still as complex as anything on earth.”
“Supplier performance problems” and changes from testing have caused Lockheed Martin, the plane's manufacturer, to fall behind on production:
Because of safety and other engineering concerns, the Pentagon has reduced the number of planes it is ordering in the near future. But the program is still expected to cost more than $13 billion a year through 2035, and be an ongoing budget struggle for the Pentagon:


0 Israel says threat of strike on Iran is working

The threat of a military strike on Iran is preventing the Islamic republic from taking the final steps towards developing a nuclear bomb, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday.
"We are seeing with our own eyes the reason why Iran, which really wants to achieve a military nuclear capability, is not taking some of the steps defined by the IAEA as breaking the rules, why it is not breaking out," he told public radio, referring to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.
"One of the reasons is the fear of what will happen if, God forbid, the United States or maybe someone else acts against them," Barak said, referring to the threat of an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Israel sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its existence, and believes Tehran may be on the cusp of "break out" capacity -- the moment when it could quickly produce weapons-grade uranium.
With Iran shifting its core nuclear facilities into protected underground sites, Israel fears Tehran is moving into the so-called "immunity zone," and has warned a military strike may be the only way to prevent the Islamic republic from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.
Although the Obama administration has made clear it would not hesitate "to use force" where necessary, it has also said it opposes an attack for now, and wants time to let a new round of sanctions take effect.
Two words......"Dimona" & "Unregulated " Try Googling them together. 

0 Israeli settlers blocking water access for Palestinians, says UN Report

When Palestinian farmer Jamil Darawsheh dipped his hands into the waters of a natural spring near his village this week, it was the first time he had done so in 10 years.
Palestinian farmer Jamil Darawsheh says Israeli settlers near the West Bank village of Awarta have blocked access to natural springs, which are critical sources of waters.
He says he’s been too afraid to visit the site because of the threats and intimidation from Israeli settlers who live nearby.
A United Nations report released this week to coincide with World Water Day (March 22) found that Israeli settlers are blocking access to 30 natural springs – critical sources of water in the West Bank. The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also identified another 26 springs where Palestinians have limited access, because settlers are trying to exert control.
The spring sits high atop a hill, overlooking the Palestinian village of Awarta, not far from Nablus. Water trickles slowly from a spout into a rock-walled reservoir before making its way down to the fertile land in the valley below.

Darawsheh says he used to use this water to irrigate his olive trees on land surrounding the spring.
“Not one Palestinian from this village is using this water now,” he says. “When I look at this water, I see my land drying up, and I’m unable to help. It leaves me very bitter.”
Awarta residents say Israelis living in the nearby settlement of Itamar use the water to irrigate their own fields, while threatening Palestinians who try to access the resource for their own purposes.

Communities in conflict

Relations between the two communities are beyond bitter. The Palestinians say three men from the area have been killed by settlers in recent years. A year ago, five members of an Itamar family were killed in their homes. Two Palestinian cousins from Awarta are serving multiple life sentences for the crimes.
For the Palestinians, the spring is a symbol of how the Israeli occupation continues to affect their daily lives.
“We used to use this water. [The spring] was a great source of water for us. But whoever thinks of using it now is risking his or her life,” says Sami Awad, who heads the village council in Awarta.
Sami Awad, who heads the village council in the West Bank village of Awarta, says anyone who considers using the natural spring is risking his or her life. Sami Awad, who heads the village council in the West Bank village of Awarta, says anyone who considers using the natural spring is risking his or her life. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)
Conflicts between settlers and Palestinians happen regularly. The U.N. accuses settlers of not only blocking water resources but burning Palestinian olive groves and using threats and violence to keep farmers off their land.
“I think it’s very serious,” says Ramesh Rajasingham, who runs the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Many farmers are either forced to cease cultivating the land as a result of the takeovers of the springs, or face a reduction in their productivity. So obviously they can’t irrigate as much as they would like to,” Rajasingham told CBC News.
Darawsheh estimates he has lost about 10,000 Israeli shekels ($2,600) because he was unable to irrigate new olive seedlings on his land. “This is an extreme case [of] how the occupation treats us with an iron fist.”

Springs as tourist attractions

The UNOCHA report states that the takeover of the springs appears to be another example of Israel’s efforts to exert more control over the West Bank, which the Palestinians want for a future state.
UNOCHA also says some settlers are trying to takeover springs by turning them into tourist attractions, by adding park benches and picnic tables and providing parking lots for visitors.
Rajasingham says not only is that illegal, but “when you have something like this and you encourage tourism – it somehow makes the situation seem normal.”
Israel’s military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank says the report is “distorted, biased and full of inaccuracies.”
“It must be emphasized that Israel completely fulfills its part in the water agreements signed” with the Palestinian Authority, a spokesman for Civil Administration wrote in a statement to CBC News.
Farmer Jamil Darawsheh doesn’t expect the U.N. report will change the settlers’ behavior. But he is optimistic nonetheless.
“One day hopefully we will be able to use this water. As long as we stay on our land, we shall persevere.”