Science and Technology News

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Public Safety Technology in the News

Fresno County to Benefit From ICE Strategy to Enhance the Identification, Removal of Criminal Aliens
Borderfire Report, (03/24/2020)
Fresno County is the latest California jurisdiction to participate in a federal initiative to enhance ability to identify criminal aliens. The information sharing capability is offered through Secure Communities, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiative. Previously, arrestees’ fingerprints were checked for criminal history against the U.S. Department of Justice biometric system maintained by the FBI. With Secure Communities, that fingerprint information will now also be simultaneously checked against the biometrics-based immigration records maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If fingerprints match any in DHS’ system, the new automated process notifies ICE, enabling the agency to take appropriate action to ensure criminal aliens are not released back into communities. Top priority is given to serious offenders, such as those with prior convictions for major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping. Since its inception in Oc! tober 2008, Secure Communities has identified 18,000 aliens charged with or convicted of serious crimes.
www.borderfirereport.net/latest/fresno-county-to-benefit-from-ice-strategy-to-enhance-the-identification-removal-of-criminal-aliens.php

Symantec Reports on 10 Riskiest U.S. Cities for Electronic Crime
InfoSecurity.com, (03/24/2010)
Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C. are the top three U.S. cities most vulnerable to cybercrime, according to a report from Symantec. The increased risk can be due to a higher density of WiFi spots or risky online behavior. High-tech hubs in San Francisco and Raleigh were ranked fourth and fifth. Other cities in the top 10 are Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin and Portland. The study examined 50 cities for risk. Marian Merritt, Norton Internet safety advocate, said the study highlights that with more and more people relying on the Internet to pay their bills and shop, users need to be vigilant to protect themselves.
www.infosecurity-us.com/view/8320/symantec-reports-on-10-riskiest-us-cities-for-electronic-crime/

Half of States Ban Tobacco Use in Prisons
USA Today, (03/24/2010), Andrew M. Seaman
In the interest of saving money on health care and protecting inmates and correctional officers from breathing second-hand smoke, half of U.S. states now ban tobacco use in prisons. Virginia is the most recent state to ban smoking for staff and inmates. Inmates in Virginia were notified of the ban a full year before it took effect in February 2010. Georgia plans to enact a smoking ban Dec. 1. Not all states have been receptive to a prison smoking ban. The Arizona legislature rejected a proposed ban in 2009.
www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-24-prison-smoking-ban_N.htm

For Ex-Cons, a Home Instead of a Cell
The St. Augustine Record (03/25/2010), Jennifer Edwards
Some inmates in Florida will soon have a new home to help them adjust to life outside prison and hopefully prevent them from returning to jail. A new four-bedroom house was built in West Augustine through Hogans Harvest, a community improvement organization. The house will serve as transitional housing, where up to four offenders can stay up to six months as they adjust to the community and get jobs, according to Jean Harden of the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition. The $170,000 cost of the home was paid for with state grants. The Florida Department of Corrections said that about one-third of the 40,000 inmates who leave its prison will return within three years. Each inmate cost the state $20,000 a year.
staugustine.com/news/local-news/2010-03-25/ex-cons-home-instead-cell

Terror Threat Tracking System Shares Thousands of Tips from Locals, FBI Says
Security Management, (03/24/3010), Joseph Straw
The FBI says its eGuardian system is proving to be a powerful tool for tracking terrorist threats. The system, which was launched in January 2009, contains 3,400 suspicious activity reports (SARS), which have generated 56 investigations. Law enforcement either generate their own SARs or field a tip from the public. The reports describe legal behaviors that may be terrorist precursors, such as photographing critical infrastructure or inquiring about the type and level of security at a site. The reporting agency enters the information into an external eGuardian portal, and the report is then reviewed by an intelligence analyst or trained law enforcement officer. If the report constitutes a legitimate SAR, it is designated within eGuardian for follow-up by an FBI-led regional Joint Terrorism Task Force. The SARs are simultaneously analyzed regionally and nationally to spot patterns.
www.securitymanagement.com/news/terror-threat-tracking-system-shares-thousands-tips-locals-fbi-says-006888

Amid Budget Crisis, California Makes Parole Easier
Associated Press, (03/24/2010), Thomas Watkins
Being a parolee in California just got easier. Due to budget woes, the state has relaxed restrictions on nonviolent criminals such as burglars and drug offenders. The aim of the new law is to decrease the prison population by reducing the number of minor parole violations that send offenders back to prison. About 24,000 nonviolent offenders will be affected. They will still be required to register their addresses with the prisons agency, but a state parole officer won’t check up on them. It will be up to local law enforcement to handle unannounced home visits searches. Officials estimate the rules will save the state about $500 million the first year. The restrictions, coupled with an early release program, are expected to reduce the prison population by 6,500 inmates. The changes will free up parole officers to focus on ex-prison gang members, sex offenders and violent criminals, who have a 70 percent recidivism rate. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has about! 7,700 felons who will quality for the easier restrictions.
www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gR1wTB0EBZrD9TXTiQD3Q-8B2KLAD9EL1OFG0

U.S. and Mexico Pledge More Nonmilitary Aid in Battle Against Drug Cartels
The Washington Post, (03/24/2010), William Booth
U.S. and Mexican officials are turning to nonmilitary measures in an effort to stem Mexico’s rising drug violence. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently led a delegation of Cabinet members to Mexico to discuss what could be done. Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa of Mexico agreed on the need for a joint survey to better understand the dynamics of drug consumption in the two countries. The meeting was held to review the progress of the Merida Initiative, a three-year, $1.4 billion program to help countries fight drug trafficking by providing training for police officers and judges and equipment such as helicopters, night vision goggles and crime data software. The Obama Administration is shifting its support away from military-style hardware to measures designed to fortify Mexican communities and dissuade young people from joining drug cartels.
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/23/AR2010032304196.html

System Shows Gun Firing Decline in San Francisco
San Francisco Examiner, (03/25/2010), Joshua Sabatini
San Francisco is expanding coverage for its gunshot location system. The ShotSpotter gunshot location system currently covers 3.3 square miles. A Board of Supervisors committee has approved a $1 million grant to add 4 square miles. The technology enables police to respond within minutes to the scene where a gunshot was detected. However, many gunshots fired in San Francisco go largely unreported. Police Department Lt. Mikail Ali said the system is having an effect in reducing gunshots in the three areas it covers. In a two-month period during 2009, there were 244 gun firings detected, compared to 177 in the same period of 2010.
www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/under-the-dome/System-shows-gun-firing-decline-in-San-Francisco-89087812.html

Lawmakers Offer Support for Public Safety Network
PC World, (03/25/2010), Grant Gross, IDG News Service
A California congressman plans to introduce legislation to fund a nationwide broadband network for public safety agencies. Rep. Henry Waxman said he will introduce a bill to implement the Federal Communication Commission’s recommendations for a nationwide wireless broadband network for police and fire departments. The FCC’s national broadband plan recommends that Congress allocate $12 billion to $14 billion over the next 10 years to build the national network. In introducing the bill, Waxman noted that disagreement exists over what to do with the “D” block of the 700 MHz spectrum that the FCC envisioned would be shared by public safety and commercial interests. That bock of spectrum did not sell at auction in 2008.
www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/192432/lawmakers_offer_support_for_public_safety_network.html

Driving Home Police Skills
Times-News (magicvalley.com), (03/26/2010), Michael Cole
The College of Southern Idaho has added driving simulators to its law enforcement program. In the simulators, cadets are exposed to stressful situations that require quick judgment and stellar driving skills. Brett Reid, an assistant professor of law enforcement, says the technology teaches skills to use during pursuits, while keeping students in a safe, controlled environment. The equipment of the Workforce Solutions for the Digital Age project was purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The grant purchased the simulation machines and a new patrol car.
www.magicvalley.com/news/local/twin-falls/article_06fcedd0-e0d0-5633-8832-c8f7d9613752.html

Co-Founder of High Tech Company Arrested for Wire Fraud

Former CEO Transferred Company Money to Girlfriend to Pay for Personal Luxuries

March 31, 2010 - MARK E. PHILLIPS, 35, of Seattle, Washington, was arrested this afternoon on a criminal complaint charging him with two counts of wire fraud. PHILLIPS, the founder and former CEO of MOD Systems Incorporated, will make his initial appearance on the complaint today at 2:30 in front of Magistrate Judge James Donohue on the 12th floor of the U.S. Courthouse, 700 Stewart Street, Seattle, Washington.

According to the criminal complaint, PHILLIPS is a co-founder of MOD and served as a director and chief executive officer of MOD from its founding in 2005, until March 27, 2009. MOD is a start-up technology company engaged in the business of developing music and video downloading technology for retail kiosks. The company notified federal investigators of suspected embezzlement of corporate funds by PHILLIPS on March 16, 2010, which caused federal investigators to examine a series of wire transfers made out of the company’s account. Records indicate that PHILLIPS caused company money to be transferred to a bank account controlled by his then-girlfriend. The money was supposed to be used to pay for services provided by the woman’s company, but she never invoiced the company for any services or kept any of the money transferred into her account. Instead, the money was controlled by PHILLIPS, and he directed her to pay for luxuries for himself including an expensive watch and a personal investment in another start-up company. The company’s own review concluded that PHILLIPS had used more than $500,000 in company funds for his personal expenses and luxuries.

Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Aravind Swaminathan and Matthew Diggs.

Obama: Energy Initiatives Seek to Bolster Security

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 31, 2010 - President Barack Obama today announced a series of energy initiatives, including plans to expand off-shore drilling, aimed in part at bolstering national security by weaning the United States off foreign oil.

From inside a hangar at Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington in Maryland, against a backdrop of warfighting equipment powered partly by alternative fuel sources, Obama told a military audience that he chose the venue to underscore environmentally conscious measures that military leaders are spearheading with a view toward long-term U.S. defense interests.

"This is particularly relevant to all of you who are serving in uniform. For decades, we've talked about the risks to our security created by our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said. "But that dependence has grown year after year after year."

In addition to reinforcing national security, steps announced today to open vast tracts to oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, along the Atlantic Coast and off the north coast of Alaska intend to reduce damage inflicted on the environment and push the United States into a position of leadership as the clean-energy industry takes on a greater share of the global economy.

Other initiatives to increase mileage standards and double the number of hybrid automobiles in the federal fleet while reducing the overall number of vehicles would help the country cut its reliance on foreign oil, Obama said. "Moving toward clean energy is about our security," he added.

The president implored a vast cross-section of American society -- from military personnel and government civilians, to private- and public-sector employees -- to consider how to make the United States less influenced by the agendas of oil-producing countries.

"It requires each of us ... to think about how could we be doing things better" he said, "how could we be doing things smarter so that we are no longer tethered to the whims of what happens somewhere in the Middle East or with other major oil-producing nations."

Obama delivered his remarks from a podium placed before two paragons of the Pentagon's environmental contribution: a modified F-18 fighter jet called the "Green Hornet" that the Navy hopes soon will be the first aircraft to break the sound barrier on eco-friendly fuel, and a light armored vehicle that Army and Marine Corps personnel are attempting to power with a mixture of biofuels.

"If there's any doubt about the leadership that our military is showing, you need only look to this F-18 fighter and the light armored vehicle behind me," Obama said. "The Air Force is also testing jet engines using biofuels and had the first successful biofuel-powered test flight just last week."

Obama praised Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whose stated goal is to use 50-percent alternative fuel in all planes, vehicles, and ships by the next decade, and cited the Defense Department's $2.7 billion investment in fiscal 2010 to improve energy efficiency. "Now, the Pentagon isn't seeking these alternative fuels just to protect our environment; they are pursuing these homegrown energy sources to protect our national security," Obama said. "Our military leaders recognize the security imperative of increasing the use of alternative fuels, decreasing energy use, and reducing our reliance on imported oil."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smoke Alarms + Sprinklers + Closed Doors = Lives Saved in Dorm Fires

March 30, 2010 - Experimenting on a university dormitory that was scheduled to be torn down, fire researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated that the correct combination of automatic fire sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and closed doors provided enough time and safe conditions for residents to escape safely and for firefighters to perform their job without undue hazard.

The study’s goal was to compare the hazard levels created by room fires in dormitory buildings with and without sprinklers in the room where the fire starts. Researchers used a dorm at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., that was scheduled to be replaced with a high-rise building.

Fires create many potentially fatal hazards, including high heat, loss of visibility and—what can be the most critical risk—toxic gases. In addition to monitoring thermal conditions and visibility, researchers also measured the oxygen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels to determine the tenability, that is, survival conditions, on the fire floor.

The five rooms used in the experiment were furnished as typical dorms are and included clothing, books and furniture. Smoke alarms were installed in the rooms and the corridors. The smoke alarms activated within 30 seconds of ignition of a trash container in a dorm room.

Experiments 1 and 2 were conducted with the dorm room door and windows closed and in both the experiments the corridor remained tenable, which would allow other students to exit safely past the room. Rooms for experiments 2 and 3 had automatic fire sprinklers installed. The automatic fire sprinklers activated within two minutes after ignition in both experiments. In the sprinklered experiments, tenability was maintained in the dorm room and the corridor.

Experiments 4 and 5 were conducted with the door of the dorm room open and no active sprinkler. In both experiments the tenability limits were exceeded in the dorm room and corridor.

“This study demonstrated the value of balanced fire safety design,” says NIST Fire Protection Engineer Dan Madrzykowski. “The results show the potential life safety benefits of smoke alarms, compartmentation and automatic fire sprinkler systems in college dormitories and similar occupancies.”

The experiments also demonstrated the importance of a closed door between the fire room and corridor in limiting the spread of smoke and gasses to other areas of the building.

The studied was performed as part of the U.S. Fire Administration’s initiative to improve fire safety in college housing and in collaboration with the University of Arkansas and the Fayetteville Fire Department.

NIST Scientists Address ‘Wrinkles’ in Transparent Film Development


March 30, 2010 - A closer look at a promising nanotube coating that might one day improve solar cells has turned up a few unexpected wrinkles, according to new research* conducted at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and North Dakota State University (NDSU)—research that also may help scientists iron out a solution.

The scientists have found that coatings made of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) are not quite as deformable as hoped, implying that they are not an easy answer to problems that other materials present. Though films made of nanotubes possess many desirable properties, the team’s findings reveal some issues that might need to be addressed before the full potential of these coatings is realized.

“The irony of these nanotube coatings is that they can change when they bend,” says Erik Hobbie, now the director of the Materials and Nanotechnology program at NDSU. “Under modest strains, these films can develop irreversible changes in nanotube arrangement that reduce their conductivity. Our work is the first to suggest this, and it opens up new approaches to engineering the films in ways that minimize these effects.”

High on the wish list of the solar power industry is a cheap, flexible, transparent coating that can conduct electricity. If this combination of properties can somehow be realized in a single material, solar cells might become far less expensive, and manufacturers might be able to put them in unexpected places—such as articles of clothing. Transparent conductive coatings can be made of indium-tin oxide, but their rigidity and high cost make them less practical for widespread use.

Carbon nanotubes are one possible solution. Nanotubes, which resemble microscopic rolls of chicken wire, are inexpensive, easy to produce, and can be formed en masse into transparent conductive coatings whose weblike inner structure makes them not only strong but deformable, like paper or fabric. However, the team’s research found that some kinds of stretching cause microscopic ‘wrinkles’ in the coating that disrupt the random arrangement of the nanotubes, which is what makes the coating conduct electricity.

“You want the nanotubes to stay randomly arranged,” Hobbie says. “But when a nanotube coating wrinkles, it can lose the connected network that gives it conductivity. Instead, the nanotubes bundle irreversibly into ropelike formations.”

Hobbie says the study suggests a few ways to address the problem, however. The films might be kept thin enough so the wrinkling might be avoided in the first place, or designers could engineer a second interpenetrating polymer network that would support the nanotube network, to keep it from changing too much in response to stress. “These approaches might allow us to make coatings of nanotubes that could withstand large strains while retaining the traits we want,” Hobbie says.

* E. K. Hobbie, D. O. Simien, J. A. Fagan, J. Y. Huh, J. Y.Chung, S. D. Hudson, J. Obrzut, J. F. Douglas, and C. M. Stafford. Wrinkling and Strain Softening in Single-Wall Carbon Nanotube Membranes. Physical Review Letters, March 26, 2010, 104, 125505.

Paintable Electronics

Paintable Electronics? NIST Studies Spray-On Manufacturing of Transistors


March 30, 2010 - A multidisciplinary research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has found* that an organic semiconductor may be a viable candidate for creating large-area electronics, such as solar cells and displays that can be sprayed onto a surface as easily as paint.

While the electronics will not be ready for market anytime soon, the research team says the material they studied could overcome one of the main cost hurdles blocking the large-scale manufacture of organic thin-film transistors, the development of which also could lead to a host of devices inexpensive enough to be disposable.

Silicon is the iconic material of the electronics industry, the basic material for most microprocessors and memory chips. Silicon has proved highly successful as a substance because billions of computer elements can be crammed into a tiny area, and the manufacturing process behind these high-performance chips is well-established.

But the electronics industry for a long time has been pursuing novel organic materials to create semiconductor products—materials that perhaps could not be packed as densely as state-of-the-art silicon chips, but that would require less power, cost less and do things silicon devices cannot: bend and fold, for example. Proponents predict that organic semiconductors, once perfected, might permit the construction of low-cost solar cells and video displays that could be sprayed onto a surface just as paint is.

“At this stage, there is no established best material or manufacturing process for creating low-cost, large-area electronics,” says Calvin Chan, an electrical engineer at NIST. “What our team has done is to translate a classic material deposition method, spray painting, to a way of manufacturing cheap electronic devices.”

The team’s work showed that a commonly used organic transistor material, poly(3-hexylthiophene), or P3HT, works well as a spray-on transistor material because, like beauty, transistors aren’t very deep. When sprayed onto a flat surface, inhomogeneities give the P3HT film a rough and uneven top surface that causes problems in other applications. But because the transistor effects occur along its lower surface—where it contacts the substrate—it functions quite well.

Chan says the simplicity of spray-on electronics gives it a potential cost advantage over other manufacturing processes for organic electronics. Other candidate processes, he says, require costly equipment to function or are simply not suitable for use in high-volume manufacturing.

* C.K. Chan, L.J. Richter, B.Dinardo, C.Jaye, B.R. Conrad, H.W. Ro, D. S. Germack, D.A. Fischer, D.M. DeLongchamp, D. J. Gundlach. High performance airbrushed organic thin film transistors. Applied Physics Letters, 96, 133304. March 30, 2010. doi:10.1063/1.3360230

NIST Racetrack Ion Trap is a Contender in Quantum Computing Quest

March 30, 2010 - Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built and tested a device for trapping electrically charged atoms (ions) that potentially could process dozens of ions at once with the most versatile control of any trap demonstrated to date. The novel design is a first attempt to systematically scale up from traps that hold a few ions in a few locations to large trap arrays that can process many ions simultaneously, with the ultimate goal of building a practical quantum computer.

If they can be built, quantum computers would rely on the curious rules of quantum mechanics to solve certain currently intractable problems, such as breaking today’s most widely used data encryption codes. The same NIST research group has previously demonstrated various components and operations of a potential quantum computer using ions as quantum bits (qubits). The trap structure is only one component, analogous to the wiring in today’s computers. Lasers are also needed to control and use the quantum data, as transistors do for classical bits today.

Made of a quartz wafer coated with gold in an oval shape roughly 2 by 4 millimeters, NIST’s “racetrack” ion trap features 150 work zones where qubits—ions encoding 1s and 0s in their “spins”—could be stored and transported using electric fields and manipulated with laser beams for information processing. The trap theoretically could be scaled up to a much larger number of zones and mass fabricated in a variety of materials. Preliminary testing of the trap, including loading of 10 magnesium ions at once and transport of an ion through a junction between channels, is described in a new paper.*

Geometry is a key feature of the new trap design. This is the first demonstration of ion transport through a junction in a trap where all electrodes are located on one flat surface, a more scalable design than the multilayer ion traps originally developed. The various electrodes are used to position and move the ions. At least three adjacent electrodes are needed to hold an ion in a dedicated energy “well.” This well and the ion can then be moved around to different locations by applying voltages to several other electrodes. The modular design would allow the addition of extra rings, which could significantly increase capabilities, according to Jason Amini, who designed the trap while a NIST postdoctoral researcher and is now at the Georgia Tech Quantum Institute in Atlanta.

“The trap design demonstrates the use of a basic component library that can be quickly assembled to form structures optimized for a particular experiment,” Amini says. “We can imagine rapid development of traps tailored to individual experiments.”

NIST scientists are continuing development of the racetrack ion trap as well as other designs. The new work was funded in part by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and the Office of Naval Research. Four of the 10 authors of the new paper were postdoctoral or guest researchers at NIST at the time of the research and are currently affiliated with the Georgia Tech Quantum Institute, Atlanta, Ga.; Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa; Centre for Quantum Technologies, National University of Singapore; and Institut Neel-CNRS, Grenoble, France.

* J.M. Amini, H. Uys, J.H. Wesenberg, S. Seidelin, J. Britton, J.J. Bollinger, D. Leibfried, C. Ospelkaus, A.P. VanDevender and D.J. Wineland. Toward scalable ion traps for quantum information processing. New Journal of Physics. March 16, 2010.

NIST Researchers Holding Steady in an Atomic-Scale Tug-of-War


March 30, 2010 - A quantum-mechanics-based simulation demonstrates how a new NIST instrument can delicately pull a chain of atoms apart. The chart records quantum jumps in conductivity as a gold contact is stretched 0.6 nanometer. The junction transitions from a 2-dimensional structure to a one-dimensional single-atom chain, with a corresponding drop in conductivity. Following the last point, at a wire length of 3.97 nm, the chain broke.

How hard do you have to pull on a single atom of—let’s say—gold to detach it from the end of a chain of like atoms?* It’s a measure of the astonishing progress in nanotechnology that questions that once would have interested only physicists or chemists are now being asked by engineers. To help with the answers, a research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has built an ultra-stable instrument for tugging on chains of atoms, an instrument that can maneuver and hold the position of an atomic probe to within 5 picometers, or 0.000 000 000 5 centimeters.

The basic experiment uses a NIST-designed instrument inspired by the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). The NIST instrument uses as a probe a fine, pure gold wire drawn out to a sharp tip. The probe is touched to a flat gold surface, causing the tip and surface atoms to bond, and gradually pulled away until a single-atom chain (see figure) is formed and then breaks. The trick is to do this with such exquisite positional control that you can tell when the last two atoms are about to separate, and hold everything steady; you can at that point measure the stiffness and electrical conductance of the single-atom chain, before breaking it to measure its strength.

The NIST team used a combination of clever design and obsessive attention to sources of error to achieve results that otherwise would require heroic efforts at vibration isolation, according to engineer Jon Pratt. A fiber-optic system mounted just next to the probe uses the same gold surface touched by the probe as one mirror in a classic optical interferometer capable of detecting changes in movement far smaller than the wavelength of light. The signal from the interferometer is used to control the gap between surface and probe. Simultaneously, a tiny electric current flowing between the surface and probe is measured to determine when the junction has narrowed to the last two atoms in contact. Because there are so few atoms involved, electronics can register, with single-atom sensitivity, the distinct jumps in conductivity as the junction between probe and surface narrows.

The new instrument can be paired with a parallel research effort at NIST to create an accurate atomic-scale force sensor—for example, a microscopic diving-board-like cantilever whose stiffness has been calibrated on NIST’s Electrostatic Force Balance. Physicist Douglas Smith says the combination should make possible the direct measurement of force between two gold atoms in a way traceable to national measurement standards. And because any two gold atoms are essentially identical, that would give other researchers a direct method of calibrating their equipment. “We’re after something that people that do this kind of measurement could use as a benchmark to calibrate their instruments without having to go to all the trouble we do, " Smith says. "What if the experiment you’re performing calibrates itself because the measurement you’re making has intrinsic values? You can make an electrical measurement that’s fairly easy and by observing conductance you can tell when you’ve gotten to this single-atom chain. Then you can make your mechanical measurements knowing what those forces should be and recalibrate your instrument accordingly.”

In addition to its application to nanoscale mechanics, say the NIST team, their system’s long-term stability at the picometer scale has promise for studying the movement of electrons in one-dimensional systems and single-molecule spectroscopy.

Air Force Scientists Test, Develop Bio Jet Fuels

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

March 30, 2010 - While the world searches for more efficient ways to fuel automobiles and create usable energy, Air Force scientists are looking for cleaner, more efficient ways to fuel the military's aircraft. On March 25, an A-10 Thunderbolt II flew solely on a blend of biomass-derived fuel and conventional JP-8 jet fuel – the first flight of its kind.

Air Force Materiel Command fuels experts Jeff Braun, director of the Air Force's alternative fuels certification office; Tim Edwards, a senior chemical engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory's propulsion directorate; and Betty Rodriguez, chief engineer for the alternative fuels certification office, direct the research and certification of synthetic and biomass-derived alternative aviation fuels from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and they participated in a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable and offered their perspectives on the history-making demonstration flight.

The A-10 was powered by a blend of conventional JP-8 and a biomass fuel derived from camelina, a nonfood rotation crop similar to soybean and mustard. The alternative fuels certification office is preparing to test fuels made primarily from plant oils and animal fats. They are part of a family of fuels Braun said are called "hydro-treatable renewable jet," or HRJ, fuels. He and his colleagues hope to create biomass fuels that the Air Force will certify for use across its spectrum of aircraft and support vehicles.

The A-10 flight is the latest phase of a long research and development process evaluating candidate biofuels from various industry sources. Part of that process, Edwards said, is testing different kinds of biomass materials and biomass processing methods.

"This is the first step of many we're going to follow through," Rodriguez said. "We're going to continue expanding the envelope, basically testing engines and testing aircraft."

To a certain extent, researchers can tailor the new biofuels by specifying desirable chemical properties which enable clean burning, for example. Braun underscored the Air Force is "feedstock agnostic," noting that what the fuel was made from isn't important so long as it has the desired performance and safety specifications.

"The way we look at it is to figure out what fuels make the most sense from an aviation industry perspective -- which ones have the potential to make the most fuel the most affordably with the least environmental impact," Edwards said.

He added that the Air Force Research Laboratory has invested a lot of money in environmental research covering lifecycle greenhouse gas footprints and other factors in developing materials for bio-fuels.

"We're just trying to figure out which kinds of processes for making jet fuel for aviation seem to be the winners, and look into those for further development," Edwards said.

A major benefit HRJ fuels offer the Air Force is that they can be produced within existing refineries – new facilities don't necessarily need to be built. But some new plants are being built solely to produce biomass fuels such as HRJ or "green" diesel, Edwards said.

One such refinery is being built by Tyson Foods and will use animal fats from its food production factories to create biomass fuels. Another company, called AltAir Fuels, is building an HRJ plant near an existing refinery in Washington state, Edwards said.

"It turns out the primary cost comes from feed stock; the processing isn't all that expensive," Edwards said. "In places where you can get affordable feed stock, at least the industry seems to think it's cost-effective, because they're getting capital to start building plants."

The Air Force is the Defense Department's largest consumer of jet fuel, but burns only the equivalent of a mid-sized airline. It's closely cooperating with industry as part of a consortium of commercial airlines and engine manufacturers called the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative. The expectation is that once biofuels are certified for use, production economies of scale will make them affordable, on par with petroleum-based jet fuel.

Biomass fuels also can be made from algae and other plant oils. Both options are being vigorously pursued by the aviation industry and the Air Force as well, Edwards said.

"Where we can get our hands on algae oils, we've proven that those fuels are pretty much the same as the camelina oil we flew on last week," Edwards said. "Looking ahead to when algae hits it big – people are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into it – we're helping to enable that algae feedstock for aviation applications."

Reducing demand and increasing supply are two of the legs of the Air Force's energy strategy, Edwards said, with a focus on creating and building more effective, cleaner engines. Rodriguez added that the advancement of biofuels and creating effective, efficient blended fuels that can be dropped in without any modifications to aircraft or systems are a big part of that.

Edwards said even as the Air Force prepares to begin certification testing of HRJ fuels, scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory are exploring the next generation of new fuels, made from cellulosic biomass sources or derived from advanced fermentation processes that produce hydrocarbons. These aren't nearly ready for certification, as they require further development, Rodriguez said, but they do show promise.

"We're at the cutting edge of alternative fuels," Rodriguez said. "Everybody's pulling together to make this possibility a reality, to create a family of fuels we can burn safely and won't impact the performance of our aircraft and ground support equipment."

A Pioneer in Naval Meteorology: CDR Florence van Straten

Bob Freeman
Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy.

March 30, 2010 - For over 30 years, a stalwart of the Navy’s meteorological service was a tall, slim, reserved woman known informally as “Flossie.” Florence van Straten began that association during World War II, when the requirements for accurate weather support led to significant advances in atmospheric science. Van Straten played an important role in that effort, and continued to refine the developing science of naval meteorology after the war.

As U.S. participation in World War II began to gain momentum it became clear that the service of women in the armed forces was critical, and in 1942 the Navy created the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service). One of the earliest volunteers was van Straten, who was immediately assigned to the Naval Aerology Service.

Aerology is an old Navy term for meteorology. At that time, weather officers were known as “aerologists” and enlisted weather specialists were known as “aerographers,” a term still in use today for the Navy’s enlisted meteorological and oceanographic specialists.

During the early years of World War II, the critical need for weather in support of fleet operations in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters greatly stressed the small contingent of specialists in the Navy, so women were welcomed into the Aerology Service.

Van Straten, who had received a doctorate in chemistry from New York University in 1933, was included in a group of 25 women with advanced degrees sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take classes in meteorology. Ultimately about 100 women became qualified aerologists during the war. Most provided aviation forecast services at naval air stations in the U.S., but van Straten was sent to the Daniel Guggenheim Airship Institute to do research on wind gusts and develop better methods to forecast velocities.

By 1943, van Straten had been assigned to the headquarters staff, the Aerology section of the Bureau of Aeronautics, where she worked in the Operational Analysis Section. Here she compiled extensive analyses of the effects of weather on naval operations, from both historical sources and more recent naval actions. These “lessons learned” studies were published under such titles as “Weather and Naval Warfare” and “Weather and Amphibious Warfare.”

These documents provided examples of how military forces were able to use weather conditions to their advantage, but they also provided examples of engagements where the weather was ignored, to the detriment of the participants. The battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 provided a superb example. The American fleet used the clouds and precipitation of a trailing frontal system to provide cover, slipping out to attack the exposed Japanese naval force and then disappearing again into the heavy weather. In this way they were able to sink the Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho, seriously damaged another carrier, and shoot down numerous enemy planes. But when they departed the frontal zone to operate in fair weather, they immediately lost the carrier Lexington.

For the most part, though, U.S. forces understood the value of accurate forecasts. In late 1942, the chief of naval operations wrote: “The skillful forecasting of weather conditions has been an important factor in the conduct of many campaigns in the present war. Our successes in the Solomon Islands, North Africa, Sicily, and the Aleutians were due in no small part to the competence of Navy aerological officers.”

Van Straten’s academic credentials also served to make her a good liaison to the civilian meteorological research community, keeping an eye out for advances in forecasting techniques and observing technology that would assist naval aerological units.

Eventually van Straten’s analytical mind turned towards more pressing needs and she moved into the aerological research and development department. Here she assessed and prioritized fleet requirements for new meteorological equipment and worked with the supply department to ensure required equipment was delivered to the most tactically significant locations. In this capacity, she was instrumental in the pioneering efforts to develop automated weather observing stations, including the floating buoy station known as the NOMAD.

“With pride or shame,” she later wrote with characteristic dry humor, “I must confess that I am responsible for the acronym: navy oceanographic meteorological automatic device.”

Another area that interested van Straten was the impact of atmospheric conditions on the accuracy of the recently developed radar technology. Operators knew almost nothing of the ability of the atmosphere to sometimes reduce radar distances due to refraction, or to concentrate the energy into ducts that travel hundreds of miles.

“At least once during World War II,” van Straten wrote, “a U.S. Navy task force opened fire with its 16-inch guns on units of the Japanese fleet that were 400 miles away.”

In addition to her work in understanding these phenomena, van Straten began investigating the possibility of using tactical radar to identify weather systems. An early application of this was that carriers frequently identified storm centers on their radar and headed towards them to get the headwind necessary to support aircraft launches off their decks.

Van Straten also focused her attention on fog forecasting and the impact of atmospheric conditions on new infrared sensors.

After the war ended, the Navy’s aerology department was significantly reduced, and many of its members took civilian positions. Like many specialty areas, though, women were discouraged from applying. The prevailing attitude was that while woman had provided valuable assistance with the war effort, their peacetime job was in the home.

Van Straten’s unique abilities and accomplishments made her an exception to the rule. She switched to the inactive reserve, ultimately rising to the rank of commander, and continued to work for the newly renamed Naval Weather Service as a civilian atmospheric physicist. From 1948 to 1962, she headed the technical requirements section, describing her position as the “application of environmental factors to military operations.” After her retirement in 1962, she continued to serve as a consultant to the Naval Weather Service until 1973.

During her post-war years, van Straten applied her keen intellect to refining upper atmospheric sensors like the radiosonde and constant altitude balloons, investigating the possibility of weather modification, and developing techniques to forecast radioactive fallout. Most importantly, she was instrumental in the introduction of computer processing to meteorology in the Navy.

Florence van Straten’s contributions to naval meteorology paved the way for the thousands of women who today serve as officers, sailors and civilians in the Navy’s meteorological and oceanographic community.

Fish and Wildlife Face Significant Risks as the Climate Changes

March 30, 2010 - Our nation’s fish and wildlife are expected to be significantly impacted now and in the future as the climate continues to fluctuate.

New research will help understand future climate conditions and impacts to species and their habitats. Projects include studies of alterations in Florida’s ecosystems, potential impacts on Great Lakes’ fish, sea-level rise impacts on San Francisco Bay marshes, and the effects of melting glaciers on Alaska’s freshwater coastal systems.

“The U.S. Geological Survey has funded 17 new projects through the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center,” said USGS Associate Director for Biology Susan Haseltine. “Our future holds new climate conditions and new habitat responses, and managers need projections based on sound science to assess how our landscapes may change and to develop effective response strategies for species survival.”

Several projects are summarized below, and descriptions of all projects can be found on the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center Web site.

Preserving Florida’s Unique Land

Florida has diverse ecosystems and a unique climate. To understand how it will fare in the face of climate change, scenarios must be developed that consider this uniqueness. USGS scientists are doing just that by creating Florida-specific models regarding which species and habitats will increase or decline based on potential rainfall and temperature change as well as impacts of human-induced land use and land cover change.

What’s the Future for Great Lakes Fish?

The Great Lakes support a multi-billion-dollar fishing and tourism industry, but little is known on how climate change could affect their fish species. USGS scientists and collaborators are updating models to predict 50 to 100 years in the future how water level, water temperatures and ice cover will change in the Great Lakes. Scientists will explore how warmer water temperatures may affect fish growth and consumption rates and forecast algal production and fish variability in Lakes Michigan and Huron.

San Francisco Bay Marshes under Siege

San Francisco Bay marshes are at risk from sea-level rise, storms, altered salinities, changes in sediment loads and more. This threatens plant communities and species such as the salt marsh harvest mouse, California clapper rail and California black rail, which are all listed as either federally endangered or threatened. USGS scientists are developing models for this area to predict sea-level rise, effects on species and habitats, and whether marshes can grow at sustainable rates.

Climate on the Move: Where Will It Go

What if managers could map where climate conditions will likely occur in the future? Or visualize how habitats will respond and move? USGS scientists are working to make this happen, helping to protect our nation’s natural resources. They are creating climate models for North America and smaller scaled models for the contiguous United States and Alaska. Data will be incorporated into an online Web interface where managers can download information and produce maps of future climate conditions.

Camouflage Trying to Keep Up with Climate Change

Many species undergo a seasonal change of coat color to match the presence or absence of snow. As the climate changes and snowpack declines, species may have white coats on non-snowy backgrounds. One species impacted by this is the snowshoe hare, which are prey for the federally threatened Canada lynx. Animals could face population decline or respond by adapting or moving. USGS scientists are tracking snowshoe hares to evaluate their responses, using data to make projections for the next 30 to 50 years.

Are Melting Glaciers Disturbing Alaska’s Flow?

As the climate changes and glaciers melt, the flow of freshwater in the Gulf of Alaska is altered, and impacts are felt across coastal ecosystems. For example, fish feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton and these organisms could be negatively affected as increased water flows bring higher levels of iron and nitrate. Scientists are studying these processes and impacts, with particular focus on the Copper River, which relies on nearby mountain glaciers and is the Gulf’s largest freshwater source.

Trout and Salmon at Risk in the West

Some native trout and salmon populations in the western United States are at risk for extinction, with many proposed for or listed under the Endangered Species Act. The recovery of these species is a challenge as climate change is likely to raise water temperatures, alter wildfire occurrences, and increase demand for water resources. USGS scientists are studying how climate change will influence fish habitats and providing data to managers to help them assess extinction risks and develop appropriate response strategies.

Islands and Seabirds Faced with Sea-Level Rise

As the climate continues to change, sea-level rise may inundate coastal and low elevation Pacific islands. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands provide habitat for the largest assemblage of tropical seabirds in the world (14 million birds and 22 species) and 11 endangered species of terrestrial birds and plants. Even small increases in sea level may result in critical habitat loss. USGS scientists are mapping current species distribution and identifying the areas and species that are most vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Thirsty Plants in the Arid Southwest

A warmer climate can bring dryer conditions, threatening plant species in the arid southwestern United States as well as the wildlife that depend on these plants for habitat and food. USGS scientists will expand on existing models that outline climate change impacts to plant populations and include up to 30 plant species. Focus will be placed on plants supporting wildlife of greatest concern. These models will also be used to project changes in wildlife populations.

The National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and other scientific programs elements of the USGS will work closely with eight regional Climate Science Centers being established by the Department of the Interior. These centers will provide scientific information, tools and techniques needed to manage land, water, wildlife and cultural resources in the face of climate change. The USGS and the DOI centers will also work closely with a network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in which federal, state, tribal and other managers and scientists will develop conservation, adaptation and mitigation strategies for dealing with the impacts of climate change.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Justice Department Will Not Challenge Cisco’s Acquisition of Tandberg

Justice Department and European Commission Cooperate Closely to Resolve Competition Issues

March 29, 2010 - WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that it will not challenge Cisco Systems Inc.’s acquisition of Tandberg ASA. The department has concluded that the proposed deal is not likely to be anticompetitive due to the evolving nature of the videoconferencing market and the commitments that Cisco has made to the European Commission (EC) to facilitate interoperability.

During the course of its investigation the Department of Justice cooperated closely with the EC in its parallel review of the transaction, aided by waivers from the parties and industry participants. This permitted the agencies to share information and assessments of likely competitive effects and potential remedies.

"This investigation was a model of international cooperation between the United States and the European Commission," said Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. "The parties should be commended for making every effort to facilitate the close working relationship between the Department of Justice and the European Commission."

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division analyzed the effect of combining the videoconferencing businesses of Cisco and Tandberg, focusing on a type of videoconferencing known as "telepresence," in which Cisco and Tandberg are competitors. Telepresence is a form of high-definition videoconferencing that provides an immersive experience to users, simulating face-to-face meetings. The department conducted an extensive investigation of this dynamic marketplace, including numerous interviews of industry participants and customers, and review of documents provided by the parties and other firms in the videoconferencing business.

The EC also announced today that it has cleared the transaction. Cisco has made commitments to facilitate interoperability between its telepresence products and those of other companies as part of the EC’s merger clearance process. The commitments are designed to foster the development of open operating standards. The department views those commitments as a positive development that likely will enhance competition among producers of telepresence systems. Open standards lower barriers to entry, and can be especially procompetitive in rapidly evolving high technology markets. The department has taken the commitments into account, along with various market factors, such as the evolving nature of the telepresence business, in reaching its decision to close its investigation.

Cisco, based in San Jose, Calif., is the leading manufacturer of networking equipment and solutions for the Internet, with annual revenues of approximately $35 billion in 2009. It is also the largest provider of telepresence equipment worldwide.

Tandberg, which has dual headquarters in Oslo, Norway, and New York had annual revenues of approximately $900 million in 2009, and is the largest provider of videoconferencing equipment overall worldwide.

The Office of Naval Research’s Innovation Lecture Series


Dr. Posner presents Wed, March 31, from 1-2:30pm. The event is free and open to the public.

By Dr. Larry Schuette

March 29, 2010 - One of my roles as the Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is to facilitate discussion and collaboration amongst scientists and engineers at ONR, across the Naval Research Enterprise, DoD, industry, and academia. We have several approaches to initiating these types of exchanges – one way is via our Innovation Lecture Series which is comprised of three different types of lectures.

The first lecture series is intended to highlight the fine work and accomplishments of our Navy scientists and engineers. Twice in the past two years we have hosted the Assistant Secretary of the Navy recipients as the speakers for this series.

The next lecture series is our ‘Distinguished Lecture Series’. These slots are generally set aside for individuals who are well known as the pioneers and inventors of their field of research, who have been recognized by high level awards (Nobel Laureates, etc), publications, distinguished and emeritus status at their Universities, etc. We’ve also expanded this category to include highly decorated and respected service men and women, such as General James Mattis who is the Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command – we are honored to host him next month on April 29th.

The final lecture series is our ‘International Lecture Series’ which is intended to gain insight into the innovative research that is happening abroad. Last year we hosted two International Lecture Series, both focused on Innovation in China and India and the great achievements they have made over the past decade.

THIS Wednesday, March 31, from 1:00 – 2:30, we are hosting Dr. Michael Posner. Dr. Posner is a recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Science, the highest honor given by the U.S. government to scientists, engineers, and inventors. He is a Cognitive Neuroscientist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon. The topic of his lecture will be, “Attention as an Organ System: Implications for Education, Training, and Rehabilitation”.

This event is open to the public – you can register at our Events website. Also visit our Innovation website to learn more about what we are up to and join the ‘IN’ Network to stay connected.

About the Author: Dr. Larry Schuette is an electrical engineer and the Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia. He has spent 20 years working in Naval Research and attributes his abilities as the Navy’s lead for science and technology innovation to his love for building and creating things.

Friday, March 26, 2010

$38.7 Million Awarded to Universities for Research Equipment

March 26, 2010 - The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced plans to award $38.7 million to academic institutions to support the purchase of research instrumentation. The 166 awards to 96 academic institutions are being made under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP). The awards are expected to range from $50,000 to $930,000 and average approximately $235,000. All awards are subject to the successful completion of negotiations between DoD research offices and the academic institutions.

DURIP supports the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment that augments current university capabilities or develops new university capabilities to perform cutting-edge defense research. DURIP meets a critical need by enabling university researchers to purchase scientific equipment costing $50,000 or more to conduct DoD-relevant research. Researchers generally have difficulty purchasing instruments costing that much under research contracts and grants.

These planned awards are the result of a merit competition for DURIP funding conducted by the Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Each office requested proposals from university investigators conducting science and engineering research of importance to DoD. This includes research underpinning advances in surface chemistry and physics, scientific computing and networks, electronics and electro-optics, neuroscience, fluid dynamics and propulsion, and ocean science and engineering. In response to the requests, the research offices collectively received more than 840 proposals requesting $267 million in support for research equipment.

Hacking Ring

Leader of Hacking Ring Sentenced for Massive Identity Thefts from Payment Processor and U.S. Retail Networks


March 26, 2010 - WASHINGTON – The leader of the largest hacking and identity theft ring ever prosecuted by the U.S. government has been sentenced to 20 years and one day in prison for his role in a series of hacks into a major payment processor and several retail networks, announced Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer; U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Milagros Ortiz; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Benton J. Campbell; U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman; and Director of the U.S. Secret Service Mark Sullivan.

On March 25, 2010, Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris in U.S. District Court in Boston to 20 years in prison for conspiracy, computer fraud wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft related to hacks into numerous major U.S. retailers, including the TJX Companies, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority.

Thursday’s sentence also addresses the charges brought in the Eastern District of New York and transferred to Boston for plea and sentence. The New York indictment charged Gonzalez with, among other things, conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to his breach of the electronic payment systems of the Dave and Buster’s restaurant chain. Gonzalez was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term and to pay a fine of $25,000.

Today, Gonzalez was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to 20 years and one day in prison for two counts of conspiracy relating to his efforts to assist others in gaining access to the payment card networks of Heartland Payment Systems, a New Jersey-based card processor; 7-Eleven, a Texas-based nationwide convenience store chain; and Hannaford Brothers Co. Inc., a Maine-based supermarket chain. Gonzalez was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. The prison term and the term of supervised release will run concurrently with the sentence imposed yesterday against Gonzalez. Gonzalez was ordered to pay a fine of $25,000 in addition to the fine imposed yesterday. The charges in this case were originally brought in the District of New Jersey. Restitution in all three cases will be determined by the court at a later date.

"Every day, as cyber criminals try to steal the debit and credit card numbers of unsuspecting American consumers, federal agents and prosecutors are there to catch them," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. "These sentences – some of the longest ever imposed for hacking crimes – send a powerful message to hackers around the globe that U.S. law enforcement will not allow them to breach American computer networks and payment systems, or illegally obtain identities."

"Investigations of this magnitude – the largest of its kind in the country - remind us that as technology rapidly advances, so do our vulnerabilities. While electronic payments are simply a way of life, we must be mindful that with the stroke of the keyboard, criminal enterprises can strike from anywhere in the world," said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. "I want to assure consumers that we continue to use all available resources to detect and investigate computer hacking crimes, no matter where in the world they are committed."

"Computer hackers and identity thieves pose serious risks to our commercial, personal and financial security," stated U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Benton J. Campbell. "Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to would-be hackers everywhere, including those who commit their crimes from abroad – you will be found, prosecuted and convicted."

"These sentences reflect the tremendous harm Mr. Gonzalez caused millions of innocent Americans," said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey. "They go a long way to deterring like-minded criminals who mistakenly believe they can escape arrest and prosecution by committing their crimes online and hiding behind a computer screen. This investigation demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Department of Justice to ensure the safety and security of online commercial transactions."

"Technology has virtually erased geographic boundaries and changed the way we do business," said U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. "As we have seen with this case, even with the increasing complexity of network intrusions, it remains difficult for criminals to remain anonymous. The Secret Service continues to seek new and innovative ways to combat emerging cyber threats. Our success in this case and similar investigations is a result of our close work with our worldwide network of law enforcement partners."

According to court documents related to his conviction in the Massachusetts and New York cases, Gonzalez and his co-conspirators broke into retail credit card payment systems through a series of sophisticated techniques, including "wardriving" and installation of sniffer programs to capture credit and debit card numbers used at the victim retail stores. Wardriving involves driving around in a car with a laptop computer looking for unsecure wireless computer networks of retailers. Using these techniques, Gonzalez and his co-defendants were able to steal more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers from victim retailers. According to court documents, Gonzalez and his co-conspirators sold the numbers to others for their fraudulent use and engaged in ATM fraud by encoding the data on the magnetic stripe of blank cards and withdrawing thousands of dollars at a time from ATMs.

Gonzalez and his co-conspirators concealed and laundered their fraud proceeds by using anonymous Internet-based currencies both within the United States and abroad, and by channeling funds through bank accounts in Eastern Europe. Gonzalez’s co-conspirators were located throughout the United States, Estonia and the Ukraine. In the New Jersey case, Gonzalez provided malware to other hackers that allowed them to circumvent anti-virus programs and firewalls, and gain access to the victim companies’ networks. Gonzalez admitted in court documents that it was foreseeable that, based upon his assistance, his co-conspirators would be able to steal tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers, affecting more than 250 financial institutions.

To date, six co-conspirators have pleaded guilty in the United States. One co-conspirator, an Estonian national, was apprehended at the United States’ request by German authorities while he was travelling in Germany. He was subsequently extradited to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to his role in the hacking and identity theft scheme. Another co-conspirator was arrested and convicted in Turkey on related identity theft charges, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The Boston case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Heymann and Donald Cabell of the District of Massachusetts. The New York case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Campos of the Eastern District of New York and by Senior Counsel Kimberly Kiefer Peretti and Trial Counsel Evan Williams of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). The New Jersey case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erez Liebermann and Seth Kosto for the District of New Jersey, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann for the District of Massachusetts and by Senior Counsel Kimberly Kiefer Peretti of CCIPS. All of these cases were investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.

Forensic Science

March 26, 2010 - Kosovo - President Fatmir Sejdiu’s speech at the Conference on Legal Medicine and Forensic Science:

Honorable Deputy Prime Minister Manaj, Honorable Minister of Justice Kelmendi, Honorable guests and researchers of legal medicine and forensic science, honorable participants,

Allow me to wish you welcome and a fruitful work in this international scientific event that is being held under my auspices.

The issue of missing persons and identification of human remains of people killed during wartime has represented a pressing concern to our country for more than a decade now.

Hundreds of Kosovar families still live in a deep anxiety and long for their loved ones.

Our efforts to recover around 2,000 missing persons and to identify all the human remains have not ceased for a single minute.

We hope that the further sensitization of the society at large and the families of missing persons to the new methods of identification and scientific explanations on the process will contribute to these state efforts and engagements.

New research and identification methods represent a priority to our practitioners and scientists, who will have the chance to exchange their experiences and, together with their colleagues from various countries of the world, contribute to the introduction of these methods.

Honorable participants,

Honorable forensic experts,

Your input to this conference will indicate, once again, that the humanity lies, first of all, on practitioners and scientists who, with their engagement, contribute to the society as a whole. Through your participation in this conference, you are proving once again that you have brought your professional and scientific potential at the service of humanity.

Dealing with the issue of the missing and identification of human remains in every possible humanitarian and professional manner was and remains our state priority.

This conference organized by the Ministry of Justice, in attendance of renowned figures of forensic science from different countries of the world, who have proved and attained high professional standards and qualities in this field in the international arena, falls within the course of our engagement as a state.

We will never give up on our efforts to increase the local professional and scientific capacities in the field further. The support that the state will provide in building these capacities will rely on the conclusions that will be drawn at this international conference.

This conference coincides with the 11th anniversary of NATO attacks against Serbian deadly targets, which were the main cause to the killing of many Kosovars. We pray that there will be no more people killed or wars or conflicts and tragedies in the future of the people of the region and others peoples elsewhere.

I call again on Serbian state institutions to distance themselves from the people who have committed crimes and to renounce hegemonic policies against other people of the region and policies that have caused the disappearance of many victims that remain unaccounted for.

It is the duty of all forensic experts to reveal the truth by identifying each unidentified human remain and to tell that it was because of these policies that people have died and that those who have killed are hiding somewhere and want to remain undiscovered and that such policies should not be conducted anymore. Accordingly, the international community must step up the pressure on Serbian state institutions today, tomorrow or in the shortest term, or else the number of identifications will remain the same and this would imply that we have come to terms with the crimes that have been committed in Kosovo.

The complete annihilation of a people was planned premeditatedly. There was a murder instinct that had targeted the Albanian majority and other ethnicities in Kosovo. There were blueprints of ethnic killing and cleansing that resulted in what happened here in Kosovo and that targeted other people of the former federation that has dissolved now.

We call on humanists, scientists and state institutions to not give up on their actions, especially when it comes to developments inside the state of Serbia that aim at scoring few points in the eyes of international community by handing over a human remain or two. They should distance themselves from the crimes that were committed and acts of corpse burning, because there is some information that indicates that bones of some people that Kosovo is missing might not be found at all.

Therefore, the present and future generations are obliged to attach a special weight to the contribution that they must provide to better relations between peoples and states. It is only then that the souls may rest in peace and that the anxiety and the suffering of many families in Kosovo can be alleviated a bit.

It is rather for our people to tell a moving story about a tragedy experienced than to suffer from an endless pain for their loves ones, which they are missing even nowadays.

Dear participants,

Kosovo appeals for the truth to be revealed. Kosovo appeals to the international courts and justice to prosecute those who have committed crimes.

A positive thing when it comes to international justice is that no statutory limitation applies to crimes against humanity, but, even if this were the case, it would still be better to follow through with the prosecution of those who have committed crimes.

We have also followed the criminal proceedings that were recently initiated in the Republic of Serbia for the crimes that were committed against the people of Kosovo. We want these proceedings to be unbiased, but, at the same time, we do not want these proceedings to be a part of their farce, only so that they can say that they are doing something. However, the fact that it has been acknowledged that crimes have been committed is encouraging, but they should also distance themselves from and hand over the war criminals who have committed crimes in Kosovo and in other countries.

This does not relate to your immediate duties, because this conference is dedicated to the identification of human remains and the elucidation of the fate of missing persons from Kosovo. At the same time, this conference should serve as an appeal to other institutions to live up to their duties and I believe that knowledgeable people who have been dealing with issues here and in other countries as well will assist us.

This is a laborious and difficult process. There are many obstacles and other elements that render the work more difficult, but I believe that there is nothing more humanitarian than to work swiftly and efficiently on shedding light on the fate of each missing person from Kosovo.

Mrs. Minister, I congratulate you on the work that you have done in organizing this conference and I hope that we will have other opportunities in the future and that the joint engagement of the people and institutions that are directly involved in this issue will contribute to the final elucidation of each missing person from Kosovo.

This conference should serve as a chance to shed light on the fate of those who are not among us and to contribute to the engagement of our institutions for the sake of generations to come.

Only then can this mission be considered accomplished. Peace and stability requires partnership and cooperation and this is what makes for building a better future for the humankind.

I wish you a fruitful work!

How does Geoscience Support Marine Corps Operations?

When Marines land on a beach and push inland to secure a strategic objective, the physical environment can either be a tactical asset or a dangerous impediment.

Marine Corps weather specialists ensure that the “boots on the ground” get a tactical advantage through detailed knowledge of the operational environment.

“We’re responsible for everything from the bottom of the ocean to the sun,” explained Marine Corps Master Sgt. Kari Hubler in a March 24 interview on Pentagon Web Radio’s webcast “Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military.”

Hubler, a 17-year veteran of the Marine Corps’ meteorology and oceanography community, serves as an instructor and curriculum developer at the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Professional Development Center in Gulfport, Miss., a joint Navy and Marine Corps training center.

“Environmental parameters ultimately affect any given mission or capability,” she explained. “We provide climatological information to help in the mission planning process, and we provide environmental information to the on-scene combatant commanders to help make tactical decisions during operations.”

Hubler explained that the Marine Corps fights on land, in the air and on the sea, and their environmental specialists must be able to provide support for the full range of military operations.

The first is the air.

“We do aviation forecasting, … forecasting upper-air parameters such as winds, temperature, moisture – all things that have a direct effect on the safety of aviation operations,” she said.

“We frequently conduct amphibious beach landings,” Hubler continued, “so some of the environmental conditions we assess, analyze and forecast are in the surf zone – current direction, current speed, beach slope, tides, … things of that nature.”

Hubler noted that providing astronomical information such as the time of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, nautical and civil twilight, and the amount of lunar illumination also is part of the job.

“We’re also very interested in how atmospheric conditions affect the performance of electro-optical sensors like night vision goggles,” she added.

Hubler went on to describe other examples of environmental support. “In moist tropical climates we’re concerned about the rate and duration of precipitation that occurs,” she said, “which can affect troop maneuverability inland, and the ability of the soil to absorb precipitation that falls, which definitely affects the trafficability of different vehicle types.”

Desert operations provide specific challenges for Marine Corps forecasters, Hubler noted, including extreme temperatures and sandstorms. Mountain operations are characterized by extremely dynamic weather systems.

Another challenge, Hubler told the program’s listeners, is forecasting river environments since troops frequently use rivers to move inland. “We’re particularly interested in assessing and forecasting river stages and flood potential,” she said.

Hubler said all forecasting is based on gathering data, analyzing the environment to determine what physical processes are affecting it, and then forecasting how those variables will change over time.

“In the case of a river,” she noted, “we need data from over the entire river basin to predict conditions for a specific point along the river.”

River forecasts start with detailed weather forecasts that include precipitation rate of fall and duration, and then considers characteristics like the stream flow of tributaries that feed the river, and the types of soil and vegetation cover to determine run-off rates that feed the riverine system, she explained.

Hubler said that the first challenge was getting the required data. “A lot of it … comes from ‘in-situ’ sensors, different reconnaissance missions that are being conducted on the ground, aircraft flying over the region, and even from space-based sensors or remote sensors,” she said. “We have to come up with a strong, sound sensing strategy based on available assets in theater.”

Another challenge is achieving continuity and persistence of observations, and what Hubler referred to as the “eyes-on experience.”

“If you don’t have sensors on the ground, or that eyes-on view, you may be able to accurately predict that the river is going to rise 10 feet, but you have no idea, once that river reaches flood stage, what it is going to do to the terrain,” she said.

For operations in combat zones, Hubler said, Marine Corps weather specialists use various sensors and equipment housed in a meteorological mobile facility. She described it as having “a suite of meteorological sensors, upper air sounding capabilities, meteorological satellites, Doppler radar, and a communications suite.”

“It also has the software our forecasters need in analyzing and forecasting the environment, as well as software programs that we call ‘tactical decision aids’ to help them assess how the environment is going to affect specific military operations,” Hubler explained.

“We also conduct what we call ‘reach-back operations,’” Hubler continued, “so we maintain contact with the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command’s Warfare Support Center … to get an accumulated view of the best environmental picture that is available and provide that to the combatant commanders.”

Hubler said that Marine Corps meteorological and oceanographic enlisted specialists receive their training at a joint Air Force-Navy-Marine Corps training facility at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.

“Then they are sent out to the operational forces where they learn to apply what they have learned at the school, and they begin to master those core skills,” Hubler said. “They can come back for follow-on sustainment training and education at the Professional Development Center, which is a joint Navy and Marine Corps center that provides training and education in the realm of the geosciences,” she continued. “That’s currently where I am serving, as a [curriculum] developer and instructor.”

Hubler said the Professional Development Center provides classes on location in a classroom environment, but also develops training through distance learning, including correspondence manuals, Web-based and computer training tutorials, and instructor-led long-distance learning through the Marine Corps College of Continuing Education satellite campuses and learning resource centers.

“There are a variety of solutions we can use, depending on the difficulty of the training requirement and the length of the training that is required,” she explained.

Hubler said new courses in applied environmental sciences are in development. She described one course as having seven chapters for seven different scientific disciplines.

“This course introduces our Marines to required geosciences beyond meteorology,” she said. “We are paving the way for future Marines.”

Laser Scanning for Forensics and Homeland Security

WHEN : April 1, 2010 1:00 p.m. EDT

TO REGISTER FOR THE WEBCAST GO TO:

http://video.webcasts.com/events/leic001/34117/index.jsp?adid=LEI

COST: This briefing is free of charge and is only open to law enforcement agencies

MORE INFO AT: www.leica-geosystems.com/us/forensic

WHO SHOULD VIEW:
• Homicide Detective
• Prosecutor
• Homeland Security Official
• Crime Scene Investigator
• Forensic Scientist
• Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician
• Special Weapons And Tactics Personnel
• CBRNE responders
• Coroner Medical ExaminerC
• Firearms Examiner
• Crash Reconstructionist

Applications for 3D laser scanning:
• Crime Scene Investigation
• Vulnerability & Threat Assessment
• Officer Involved Shootings
• Crash Investigations & Industrial Accidents
• Shooting Reconstruction
• Post-blast Investigation
• Fire Scene Reconstruction

Benefits:
• Preserve the scene exactly the way it was discovered
• Provides accurate security preplanning data
• Generate high-value “rapid response” data within minutes
• Virtually revisit and measure the scene any time in the future
• Enable prosecutors to place the jury into the crime scene
• Easily understand what a witness could have seen from where
• Works day or night, long range, eye safe. Defeats “The CSI Effect”

Further Information
Tony Grissim
Public Safety & Forensic Account Manager Leica Geosystems Inc.
Phone 831.643.2972 (desk & cell)
e-mail: tony@lgshds.com
Please visit our public safety and forensic web site at:
www.leica-geosystems.com/us/forensic

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Official Hails Effect of Unmanned Aircraft on Warfare

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

March 25, 2010 - Perhaps no other weapon platform has more significantly transformed the way the U.S. military wages war in recent years than unmanned aerial aircraft, a senior defense official told Congress yesterday. Since 2006, operations have grown from about 165,000 hours to more than 550,000 hours annually, said Dyke Weatherington, the deputy for the unmanned aerial vehicle planning task force in the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

"I would articulate that it is difficult to find any other technology in the Department of Defense that in a single decade has made such a tremendous impact on the warfighting capability of the department," Weatherington told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The department's budget has reflected the growing emphasis on unmanned vehicles, with the annual allotment for development and procurement of such systems increasing from about $1.7 billion in fiscal 2006 to more than $4.2 billion in fiscal 2010.

The rapid fielding of such systems has not been without flaws, Weatherington acknowledged, citing ongoing challenges in making systems interoperable among various users of the technology. Yet, he said, the goal remains to maintain the ability to meet warfighters' urgent needs, while encouraging individual service branches to adopt the same technology.

"There are several examples of where, through [Office of the Secretary of Defense] and Joint Staff encouragement, we have gotten all the services to procure identical or virtually identical systems," he told lawmakers.

Speaking at an Army conference earlier this year, Army Col. Christopher B. Carlile said unmanned aerial systems, operated at the tactical level by troops on the ground, are bringing warfighters unprecedented intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.

"There's an old saying that science and science fiction is only separated by timing," Carlile, director of the Army Unmanned Aerial System Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala., said during an Association of the U.S. Army aviation forum here in January. "And that timing is now. We have it."

Some considered Army unmanned aerial systems little more than "model airplanes with some sensors hanging from them and a bunch of guys flying around with play toys" when they first entered the scene in the mid-1990s, Carlile said. But they've proven themselves as force multipliers that save lives on the battlefield, and have come to be embraced by the warfighters who employ them.

With almost 1 million such flight hours clocked in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is committed to growing the program to keep pace with demand for the capability. This year alone, the Army plans to train more than 2,000 operators who ultimately will deploy with the ground troops they will support, Carlile reported.

Army unmanned aerial systems come in three primary forms. The Raven, just under three feet long, supports battalions down to the platoon level. The Shadow, 11 feet long with a 14-foot wingspan, supports brigade-level operations. The more sophisticated "big daddy" of Army systems, the Extended Range Multi-Purpose system, has a 56-foot wingspan and supports division-level operations.

Lt. Gen. James Thurman, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, told attendees at the AUSA session in January that the Army will continue to invest in unmanned as well as manned aircraft to support warfighters.

"Unmanned aircraft systems continue to significantly improve our war efforts, and demand for these specialized systems continues to rise," he said. "The Army will continue to pursue highly capable systems while providing aircraft, highly skilled operators and advanced capabilities to support the war efforts."

In addition to U.S. warfighters, these platforms have proven useful for American allies such as Pakistan, which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates earlier this year said would receive RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles from the U.S. to support their fight against extremists.

The United States has been working with the Pakistani military for more than a year to enhance its own intelligence and surveillance capabilities, Gates said in remarks in January during a visit to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

"We share a lot of information that we acquire on the Afghan side of the border and from our satellites," Gates said, "but we also are trying to help the Pakistanis build their own capabilities."

Genetic Makeup of Chlamydia

NEW STUDY: Defense Researchers Seek Genetic Makeup of Chlamydia

By John Ohab

March 25, 2010 - Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer Molly A. Burgess works in the Defense Media Activity’s Emerging Media Directorate.

A new five-year program project in the battle against the number one leading sexually transmitted disease, Chlamydia, has begun at the Uniformed Services University (USU) of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

After recently receiving a $12.2 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health, USU has partnered up with various other universities such as the University of Maryland and the University of Arkansas, making it a multi-institutional project.

“This particular grant brings together experts in the field who may be at different institutions but have different skills that they can bring together to focus on a particular project,” said Dr. Anthony Maurelli, Ph.D., Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at USU, adding that the grant funded collaboration also allows them to gain access to the clinical population to begin enrolling infected people in the Baltimore area into the studies.

The project was designed to not only understand the bacterium itself for future vaccines and preventions, but to also detect and overcome future antibiotic resistance. Maurelli and his lab will focus directly on possible emerging resistance to current antibacterial treatments.

“We’re looking at the possibility that there may be strains of Chlamydia that are resistant to certain drugs and that resistance would be reflected in changes in the genome information,” Maurelli said.

In order to better understand how Chlamydia act with the other microbes normally present within its host, researchers will use an in-depth technique of decoding the bacteria’s DNA content called “genome mapping.” The normal bacteria present in the human genital tract will be identified by completely sequencing their DNA. When these genomes are mapped out, the team of experts will use this information to study how the normal bacteria influence disease caused by infection with Chlamydia.

Although a vaccine or new preventive measures that our military members can use are a long way down the road, Maurelli hopes that by the end of this project we will be closer to such results.

“In the final analysis we hope to achieve a better understanding of how Chlamydia causes disease in humans in order to come up with better ways of diagnosis and treatment and perhaps better approaches to developing vaccines against this disease,” Maurelli said.