Unique floating lab showcases aliens of the sea

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Unique floating lab showcases aliens of the sea

In this handout photo taken March 30, 2014, provided by University of Florida neurobiologist Leonid Moroz, a species of comb jelly called a Beroe has swallowed another comb jelly, called a Bolinopsis. Moroz is on a quest to decode the genomic blueprints of fragile marine life, including these mysterious comb jellies, in real time – on board the ship where they were caught. (AP Photo/Leonid Moroz)

This March 30, 2014, photo shows a sea salp and some mysterious creatures named comb jellies, caught by University of Florida neurobiologist Leonid Moroz while diving in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida. (AP Photo/Lauran Neergaard)

In this March 29, 2014, photo, University of Florida neurobiologist Leonid Moroz and graduate students Emily Dabe, center, and Gabrielle Winters examine an invertebrate species they caught by net in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida. (AP Photo/Lauran Neergaard)

This March 30, 2014, photo shows a mysterious comb jelly, called a Beroe, caught in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida. It is being studied in a unique University of Florida shipboard laboratory. (AP Photo/Suzette Laboy)



US Treasury sounds alarm over student loans

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US Treasury sounds alarm over student loans


People walk on the Columbia University campus on July 1, 2013 in New York City (AFP Photo/Mario Tama)

Washington (AFP) – Deputy US Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin sounded the alarm Tuesday on student loans in the US, where the number of people defaulting is on the rise.

At least 40 million people have taken out a student loan, Raskin said, and by the time students graduate, the average amount of loans is $30,000, and they will spend ten years or more repaying.

And many never manage to repay them at all, Raskin said during a speech at the University of Maryland.

“While delinquency rates on many other types of debt have fallen in recent years, delinquencies on student loan debt are rising,” said the Treasury Department number two, noting that some seven million Americans had defaulted on their student loans.

At the end of 2013, the total amount of US student loans approached $1.1 trillion, well above the total amount of credit card debt in the country.

And the percentage of students graduating with debt is on the rise — 60 percent of graduates in 2012, compared to just 30 percent in 1993.

“These numbers are daunting; to what extent should we be concerned?” Raskin asked, emphasizing that such figures could have an impact on the rate of economic growth in the country.

Late payments and defaulting on student loans could later hinder the borrower from being able to get other loans, including mortgages and car loans.

Number of Students Graduating With Debt Rises

And sometimes, she said, defaulting on a student loan could hinder a candidate from getting a job, because employers often check credit history and consider past problems to be a sign of irresponsibility.

The large majority of student loans in the United States are financed by the federal government, but distributed by agents or private banks.

Raskin, who left the Federal Reserve to join the Treasury Department last month, called on these lenders to make it easier to modify payment plans for borrowers who find themselves struggling to meet their obligations.

What the Hunt for IEDs Can Teach Us About Stopping Wildlife Poachers

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What the Hunt for IEDs Can Teach Us About Stopping Wildlife Poachers

Mark Strauss http://io9.com/what-the-hunt-for-ieds-can-teach-us-about-stopping-wild-1569373777


What the Hunt for IEDs Can Teach Us About Stopping Wildlife Poachers

The World Wildlife Fund is sending Google-financed drones to African national parks to track down illegal poachers. But computer scientist Thomas Snitch believes he can do a better job—by applying a mathematical model he developed for the military to find insurgents making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq.

According to an article in Defense One, Snitch’s goal is to overcome poaching networks’ advantages in money and manpower. In South Africa’s Kruger National Park, for instance, the park rangers make $150 per month protecting endangered animals such as the black rhino. Opposing them are networks of poachers who can sell one rhino horn for $50,000 per kilogram on the black market.

Snitch is skeptical of drones for several reasons. For starters, due to certain U.S. laws preventing the export of military-grade drones and State Department restrictions on the quality of the cameras they can use, any drones sent to Africa will be inefficient in surveying a place like Kruger National Park, which covers 7,850 square miles. And, even if a drone happens to spot a poacher, it won’t be of any use unless park rangers are within striking distance.

So, what could be learned from Snitch’s experience with Iraq?

“We looked at every IED explosion over the last five years and pinpointed [the explosions] on the maps,” Snitch explained to a group gathered at the University of Maryland in the spring of 2013. “On top of that we overlaid where the U.S. troops were when they were hit and what roads they were on. We then took drone intelligence and human intelligence. We came to the conclusion that when an IED blast goes off there’s a 90% chance that the bomb factory is between 685 and 750 meters from the explosion. Does that tell you the exact house? No. But the commander knows the perimeter to start looking. We looked at the patterns of where the insurgents moved, what coverage they had and where they can hide.”

Snitch suggests applying the same methodology to African National Parks. In this case, the pattern of the poachers is determined by the patterns of the animals:

While much of the poachers’ behavior can be analyzed independently, Snitch’s model attempts to figure out where the rhino will be at those times when poaching is most likely — that is, around 8 or 9 pm, when the full moon is out during the dry season. (The poachers prefer to operate soon after dark to maximize the amount of time for escape on foot before dawn.)

If you know where the rhinos are, you can anticipate where the poachers will strike….For the model to perform correctly, he needs park rangers to report rhino sightings, fence breaks, tracks, unusual plants or animals, or other abnormalities….

Snitch believes that he can reduce poaching in Kruger Park by 70 percent with just $450,000—considerably less than the $5 million that Google gave to the World Wildlife Fund for the drone program.

Read the full article, “The Secret Weapon in the War on Poaching…and Terrorism,” at Defense One.

“Have Gun, Will Travel: The Big-Money World of Private Security”

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“Have Gun, Will Travel: The Big-Money World of Private Security”





Have Guns, Will Travel
: The Big Money World of Private Security

Private Security Beginnings:

13th Century B.C.: Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the II hires Nubians (popularly known as Medjai), Libyans, Syrians, and Sherdens (from Sardinia) to compliment his own military and security forces.
400 A.D. During the Byzantine empire, emperors contracted foreigners for their personal security, forming the Varangion Guard.
1748: Harry Fielding, in the UK, proposed the founding of a permanent well paid professional security force.
1850s: Allan Pinkerton (a former Chicago police detective) created the Pinkerton Agency, his own private security agency.

In an Increasingly Violent World:

526,000: number of people killed by armed violence every year
Every minute: 1 person dies of armed violence
87.8: percentage of people killed annually in non conflict settings
12.2: percentage killed in conflict settings
1 in 10: number of people killed in conflict, or terroristic settings a year

The most dangerous places in the world (global average, 7.9 persons killed per 100,000 people):

• Syria: 3,750: Average number of violent deaths per month. More than 140,000 people have been killed in the past two years, including 7,000 children.
• El Salvador: 61.9 people killed per 100,000 every year
• Iraq: 59.4/100,000 (but on the rise)
• Jamaica: 58.1/100,000
• Afghanistan: 14.3 deaths per 1,000

4,000: Number of homicides in Caracas, Venezuela in 2012

The Rise of Private Security Services in Modern Times:

2005: At the Height of the Iraqi War:
• 20,000: number of non-Iraqi security contractors
Of these, 5-6,000 were British, American, South African, Russian or European; another 12,000 are from Third World countries, such as Fiji, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and India.
• 15,000 Iraqi security contractors
Most were hired mainly by the British security firm Erinys to guard Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

#1: U.S. is the number top user of private contract security services in the world
$174+ billion: amount spent on security services, worldwide, 2010
35: percentage of worldwide security services market is in U.S., 2014
17: percentage growth anticipated by 2015
$210 billion: amount projected worldwide demand of security services, in 2015

Fueling demand of personal security:
• Increased urbanization
• Need to protect assets
• Lack of faith in public safety
• Fear of crime and terrorism

Fueling the growth of the personal security industry:
• Foreign investment
• Economic recover
• Overloading of public services

In the U.S.:

Private Security
2 million: number of private security personnel
90,000: number of private security organizations

Vs. Law Enforcement
765,000: employed law enforcement personnel
17,985: number of state and local law enforcement agencies
80: percentage of private security personnel employment from 1980-2010
Less than 1: percentage of applicants hired by elite security firms.

What private security firms do:

Personal protection of:
• Business executives
• Celebrities
• Government officials
• Consulting and Training
• Threat assessment
• Threat management
• Investigation
• Legal support
• Background checks
• Information security

On the Sea: Private Maritime Security vs. Piracy
• $400 million: Annual cost of multinational naval presence
• 0: number of ships hijacked with private security aboard
• 140: number of maritime private security firms now operational
• 35,000: number of cargo ships that must pass through high risk zones
• $5.5 million: average ransom paid to pirates

Personal protection: about 50 % of private security services requested is for personal security
Guards for private security firms can make between $400 and $600 per day.
Guards employed by Blackwater, a high-profile American company that guarded Ambassador Paul Bremer in Iraq, were paid up to $1000 a day.

The world’s most powerful mercenary armies:
• G4S: employs 625,000
• Presence in more than 125 countries
• 2nd largest employer in the world (after WalMart)
• Unity Resources Group: 1,200 employees
• Strong presence in Iraq
• Erinys: more than 15,000 (unofficial)
• Asia Security Group, employs 600. Formerly owned by Karzai, president of Afghanistan.
• Dyncorp: staff in excess of 5,000.

How to Prepare for Mercenary Employment

Step 1 – Obtain military or law enforcement related experience.
• Previous experience working in the special forces of the army, USMC, navy, or air force if seeking the higher paying security-related jobs.
• Most private security companies will be looking for a minimum of 3-5 years of relevant experience on one’s resume.
Step 2 – Obtain proficiency in a foreign language.
• Develop a skill set in another commonly spoken language such as French, German, Arabic, Russian, or Spanish will make you more attractive to future employers.
Step 3 – Get into great physical shape.
• Many of the private security firms will require a physical fitness test be passed before making a new employee permanent.
Step 4 – Build your resume.
• Focus on job skills, qualifications, and experience that directly relate to the mercenary job(s) that you are interested in filling.
Step 5 – Gather required documentation.
• Most American private security firms require a valid U.S. driver’s license, tourist passport, the DD-214 provided on separation from the military service.



Disaster Survivors: How Stress Changes the Brain

Post 5357

Disaster Survivors: How Stress Changes the Brain

The Stunning Bluish-Green Sunsets Of Mars

Post 5356  George Dvorsky   http://io9.com/the-stunning-bluish-green-sunsets-of-mars-1568616505

The Stunning Bluish-Green Sunsets Of Mars

The Stunning Bluish-Green Sunsets Of Mars

Earlier this month, the Curiosity roversnapped this shot of the sun setting behind the Gale Crater’s western rim. And as you can see, the sunsets on Mars are quite different than what we see here on Earth.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Daimia Bouic. Republished here with permission.

Why are Martian sunsets blue?Why are Martian sunsets blue?Robert T. Gonzalez

The sunset pictured here may look strange to you and me, but on Mars it’s a rather common sight. A bluish hue radiates outward from the setting Sun, fading gradually before taking on a pinkish tinge.

Strangely enough, that’s more or less the exact opposite of what you’d expect to see during sunsets here on Earth, which tend to fade from warm, ruddy colors into the bluish purples typical of a late afternoon sky. So why, exactly, are Martian sunsets blue? For that matter, why are they basically inverted versions of what we find here on Earth?

Over on NPR, Ezra Block and Robert Krulwich explain that the answer boils down to airborne dust — more specifically the size of that dust, and the wavelengths of light those dust particles let through.

Martian dust is smaller and more plentiful than the particles you find floating around here on Earth, and it happens to be just the right size that it absorbs blue wavelengths while scattering red ones across the sky. These red wavelengths are what give much of the Martian firmament that pinkish hue. Look directly toward the setting sun, however, and you’ll see blue. That’s because the beams of light coming from this direction have lost their red waves entirely (they’ve been filtered out, and scattered by the dust, remember?), so the only wavelengths of light that make it through are those that give the light its blue appearance.

Why are Martian sunsets blue?

On Earth, our larger atmospheric particles scatter blue wavelenghts instead of red, so the opposite effect is observed. What’s interesting is that astronomers think they can use spectral properties like these to gather important details about planets throughout our galaxy — details that could even one day lead us to other habitable planets. [NPR | Nano Patents and Innovations]

Martian Sunset via NASA/JPL; Earth sunset by NeilsPhotography

An Illustrated Guide To Surviving A Lightning Strike

Post 5355  Lauren Davis   http://io9.com/an-illustrated-guide-to-surviving-a-lightning-strike-1568718096

An Illustrated Guide To Surviving A Lightning StrikeAn Illustrated Guide To Surviving A Lightning Strike

Each year, roughly 240,000 are struck by lightning and survive. How do you increase your odds? This illustration can help.

Illustrator Ted Slampyak created this image for The Art of Manliness. It’s a handy visual reminder of what to do in case you get caught out in a storm without your Faraday suit.

Slampyak has illustrated numerous other visual guides for The Art of Manliness, including how to escape a sinking carhow to escape zip ties, and how to survive falling through ice.

How to Survive a Lightning Strike: An Illustrated Guide [The Art of Manliness via Laughing Squid]