Thursday, February 8, 2018

February 8, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web

"Partition of the Syrian Arab Republic"--Caspian Report (12 min.)
This video has an evident bias in favor of Russia, but does a pretty good job of showing how various powers are scrambling for control or influence over pieces of Syria.

         Al Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria claimed that it shot down a Syrian fighter jet using a portable shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile over the weekend, raising questions about the origin of the weapon and the wider proliferation of the dangerous class of weapons.
              American officials are denying they have provided shoulder-launched missiles to Syrian rebels groups, a move U.S. officials have considered in the past but ultimately concluded too risky. Researchers have in recent years documented the presence in Syria of a variety of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles manufactured by Russia and China but have found no evidence of significant numbers of American models. 
                 Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which publicly broke with al Qaeda last year, said its forces had shot down the plane, according to the Washington Post.  
                   Syrian and rebel forces are battling in Idlib over control for the highway that connects Damascus with Aleppo. “That is the least revenge we can offer to our people, and those occupiers should know that our sky is not a picnic,” a rebel commander was quoted as saying by Ebaa News, an outlet associated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
                     The pilot of the Su-25 managed to eject from his aircraft and appears to have made it to the ground alive before engaging in small arms fire with nearby militants. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the pilot died in the ensuing shootout. Videos and photographs posted on social media show the plane being shot down over the opposition-controlled town of Saraqib in Idlib province, debris from the plane, and images of the pilot’s body.
            The shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile (sometimes referred to as "Manpads") in question was probably of Russian or Chinese manufacture, and part of those that disappeared from Libya following the collapse of that nation following Hillary Clinton's disastrous intervention there. It has been suggested that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and others were investigating looting and/or sales of manpads in Libya and their subsequent transfer to Syrian rebels via Turkey. (See also this article suggesting that rather than stop shipments of arms to Syria, Stevens was involved in operations to transfer the arms to Syria).
            • "107,000 Repatriated Garands and Milsurp 1911s on CMP Racks"--Ammo Land. 8,000 of that total are surplus 1911s, and the remainder were returned to the U.S. from the Philippines and Turkey (about 86,000 from the Philippines and 13,000 from Turkey). The article quotes a CMP representative as follows:
              “We’ve already begun on the Turkish rifles,” Johnson said. “They’re already filtering into the system and there are some on the racks for sale now.” Of note to collectors, he said the Turk and Filipino Garands are indistinguishable from any other M1 Garand. “We haven’t seen any kind of markings thus far, nothing to identify what country has had them,” he said.
              • "Bravo Company Manufacturing Overhauls AR-15 Charging Handles"--Recoil. Just further tweaks to the design, but they look nice and apparently start at $58.
              • "How to Make Fire On Top Of Deep Snow"--Survival Life. There is a video at the link, as well as written step-by-step instructions. Basically, however, you need to build a platform (wood is okay) on which the fire will be built, with the snow dug out a bit around the perimeter to catch any runoff of water from melting snow. 
              • "Laser Scans Reveal Maya 'Megalopolis' Below Guatemalan Jungle"--National Geographic. Using Lidar on various Mayan cities, including Tikal, archaeologists have discovered that the cities were larger and more complex then previously believed, and that the total population of Maya was probably millions more than had been estimated. (See also these articles from Deutsche Welle and The Daily Mail--the latter, in particular, has a lot more photographs and Lidar images). 
              • Information security news: "Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable to Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds"--Consumer Reports. The article details the flaws in the smart TVs mentioned, as well as the data collection by other brands, and finally suggests a few ways to limit data collection. See also this article from USA Today that discusses how to turn off data collection for certain brands: LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL/Roku and Vizio.
              • The people have spoken: "Bermuda becomes the first country to repeal laws allowing same-sex marriage"--Daily Mail. The government had legislated allowing same-sex marriage in May 2017, but the majority of voters in a subsequent referendum rejected the laws. 
              • "How The Media Buried Two Huge FBI Stories Yesterday"--The Federalist. The two were (1) a criminal referral by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pertaining to the FBI's request for a warrant, and (2) a report on the FBI's (mis)handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. (And, on top of this, I would note the new information concerning the Clintons allegedly receiving bribes to approve the Uranium One sale).
              • "LAWSUIT: Gemtech Files Against Smith & Wesson In Federal Court"--The Firearms Blog. Apparently S&W's purchase of Gemtech was not as rosy as we had been led to believe. I had noted, recently,  my belief, upon hearing that S&W had started manufacture of silencers in its Massachusetts facility, that S&W was going to shut down the Gemtech facility here in Idaho. In any event, the lawsuit alleges that S&W has not made some of the payments required by the acquisition agreement, scuttled a pending sale to a Middle-Eastern country in order to minimize payments under the acquisition agreement (certain payments were contingent on Gemtech revenues, and were a percentage of those revenues), and improperly forced out Gemtech's top management.
                           Color vision works by capturing light at multiple different wavelengths, and then comparing between them to determine the wavelengths being reflected from an object (its color). A blue color will strongly stimulate a receptor at short wavelengths, and weakly stimulate a receptor at long wavelengths, while a red color would do the opposite. By comparing between the relative stimulation of those short-wave (blue) and long-wave (red) receptors, we are able to distinguish those colors.
                            In order to best capture different wavelengths of light, cones should be evenly spaced across the spectrum of light visible to humans, which is about 400–700 nanometers. When we look at the cone spacing of the bumblebee, which is also trichromatic, we can see that even spacing is indeed the case. Similarly, digital cameras’ sensors need to be nicely spaced out to capture colors. This even cone/sensor spacing gives a good spectral coverage of the available wavelengths of light, and excellent chromatic coverage. But this isn’t exactly how our own vision works.
                               Our own vision does not have this even spectral spacing. In humans and other catarrhines, the red and green cones largely overlap. This means that we prioritize distinguishing a few types of colors really well—specifically, red and green—at the expense of being able to see as many colors as we possibly might. ...
                      The author's research has led him to theorize that the reason for this is to allow primates (including humans) to more easily see blush type responses in other primates (signaling emotions and mating availability) and to better distinguish between ripe and unripe fruits.

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