Shooting yourself in the behind

Now here is something you could not make up:

The Netherlands’ Defense Safety Inspection Agency (Inspectie Veiligheid Defensie) is investigating an incident during a January military exercise in which a Dutch Air Force F-16 was damaged by live fire from a 20-millimeter cannon—its own 20-millimeter cannon. At least one round fired from the aircraft’s M61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun struck the aircraft as it fired at targets on the Dutch military’s Vliehors range on the island of Vlieland, according to a report from the Netherlands’ NOS news service.

Two F-16s were conducting firing exercises on January 21. It appears that the damaged aircraft actually caught up with the 20mm rounds it fired as it pulled out of its firing run. At least one of them struck the side of the F-16’s fuselage, and parts of a round were ingested by the aircraft’s engine. The F-16’s pilot managed to land the aircraft safely at Leeuwarden Air Base.

The incident reflects why guns on a high-performance jet are perhaps a less than ideal weapon. The Vulcan is capable of firing over 6,000 shots per minute, but its magazine carries only 511 rounds—just enough for five seconds of fury. The rounds have a muzzle velocity of 3,450 feet per second (1050 meters per second). That is speed boosted initially by the aircraft itself, but atmospheric drag slows the shells down eventually. And if a pilot accelerates and maneuvers in the wrong way after firing the cannon, the aircraft could be unexpectedly reunited with its recently departed rounds.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Stockpile loo paper now?

Well, well. This from the august pages of Foreign Policy:

While Brexit preppers have stirred headlines in recent months with their preemptive purchases of essential items, the stockpiling of large manufacturers—and the lack thereof—matters most. For goods with short shelf lives, such as medicine and fresh produce, the limitation is quality: Store an apple or an antibiotic for too long and it will go bad. For goods that are large and bulky, such as toilet paper, the problem is quantity. And in the case of the United Kingdom, where the average resident uses an unrivaled 110 rolls of toilet paper per year, the highest figure in Europe, any meaningful measure of forward planning would require more real estate than is currently available.

This is just one of the terrible challenges that the paper industry—and the public—may face in the coming months, said Andrew Large, the director general of the Confederation of Paper Industries, the leading trade association for the U.K.’s paper-based industries.

“It’s very bulky and light in weight for its volume, which means you need an awful lot of warehousing space in order to be able to put down meaningful stocks of the material,” he said. While there has been some stockpiling—several weeks of finished rolls and perhaps months of unfinished pulp, according to Large—the practical limitations to stockpiling leave a great deal of uncertainty. This uncertainty, more than anything, is most worrying for the industry. “The thing that will cause a crisis,” Large said, “is if people do panic and they empty the shelves preemptively, whereas if normal buying patterns are continued, there would have been enough supply in the system for everybody to be fine.

This might be good news for the British tabloids. I mean to say, if there’s no toilet paper we’ll have to resort to Leopold Bloom’s strategy of cutting up newspapers and hanging the pieces on a hook.

Why is Absher available on the UK App store?

NPR headline: “Apple, Google Criticized For Carrying App That Lets Saudi Men Track Their Wives”.

An app that allows Saudi men to track the whereabouts of their wives and daughters is available in the Apple and Google app stores in Saudi Arabia.

But the U.S. tech giants are getting blowback from human rights activists and lawmakers for carrying the app.

The app, called Absher, was created by the National Information Center, which according to a Saudi government website is a project of the Saudi Ministry of Interior.

The description of the app in both stores says that with Absher, “you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online.”

In Saudi Arabia, women’s lives are highly restricted. For example, according to Human Rights Watch, women have always needed permission from a male guardian, usually a father or husband, to leave the country. In the past, paper forms were required prior to travel.

So why is this noxious app freely available on the Apple App store in the UK? (This morning I checked to see if it was — and it is.)

How life begins

This is truly extraordinary. A six-minute time-lapse video of how a single cell turns into a tadpole in three weeks. It’s a film of an organism running the code in its DNA. I’ve read about this but always had to imagine what was going on. To see it is awe-inspiring.

HT to Kottke

The finer points of murder

Fascinating but grim analysis by journalist Tom Stevenson of A Study of Assassination, an anonymously authored CIA handbook for covert political murder written in 1953 and declassified in 1997. The handbook was produced as a “training file” for operation PBSUCCESS, the codename of a CIA plot launched by the Eisenhower administration to topple the Guatemalan government.

It is, says Stevenson, “not only a practical guide. It is also a thorough exploration of assassination with a scholarly, if macabre, sensibility in which the author spends nineteen pages contemplating the finer points of murder.”

The figure of the lone assassin, it turns out, is not purely a creation of fiction.

Ideally an assassin ought to act alone to reduce the chances of the plot being uncovered. Different circumstances call for different kinds of assassin. They all require courage, determination and resourcefulness, but in cases where the killer won’t be slipping away to safety a fanatic is needed.

Stevenson reports that in 2007 the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a survey of assassination attempts on national leaders since 1875. The results suggest that assassination is not a terribly efficient business, which I suppose is good news.

In 298 cases it found only fifty-nine resulted in the target being killed. Firearms and explosives were overwhelmingly the most popular methods, used in more than 85 per cent of attempts. The firearms had a success rate of just 30 per cent and explosives a dismal 7 percent. After all, the CIA analyst says, “the obviously lethal machine gun failed to kill Trotsky where an item of sporting goods [an ice-axe] succeeded”.

Macabre, but fascinating.

Unhinged

From David Remnick, writing in the New Yorker:

Speaking to the Daily Caller, a right-wing Web site, Trump declared, without a crumb of proof, that the reason for the Republican losses in the election last week was people dressing up in disguises. Seriously. “The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes, which is what I’ve been saying for a long time,” Trump said. “I’ve had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again.”

The headline over the piece is “The case for optimism”. Oh yeah?

The Trump circus

Michael Lewis has a new book about how the combustible cocktail of wilful ignorance and venality that is the Trump regime is fuelling the destruction of a country’s fabric. Here’s a sample from the chapter on the transition:

Not long after the people on TV announced that Trump had won Pennsylvania, Jared Kushner grabbed Christie anxiously and said: “We have to have a transition meeting tomorrow morning!” Even before that meeting, Christie had made sure that Trump knew the protocol for his discussions with foreign leaders. The transition team had prepared a document to let him know how these were meant to go. The first few calls were easy – the very first was always with the prime minister of Great Britain – but two dozen calls in you were talking to some kleptocrat and tiptoeing around sensitive security issues. Before any of the calls could be made, however, the president of Egypt called in to the switchboard at Trump Tower and somehow got the operator to put him straight through to Trump. “Trump was like … I love the Bangles! You know that song Walk Like an Egyptian?” recalled one of his advisers on the scene.

That had been the first hint Christie had of trouble…

Corporate irresponsibility, Facebook-style

From a powerful piece in today’s Guardian:

When Facebook invited journalists for a phone briefing on Tuesday evening to talk about its progress in tackling hate speech in Myanmar, it seemed like a proactive, well-intentioned move from a company that is typically fighting PR fires on several fronts.

But the publication of a bombshell Reuters investigation on Wednesday morning suggested otherwise: the press briefing was an ass-covering exercise.

This is the latest in a series of strategic mishaps as the social network blunders its way through the world like a giant, uncoordinated toddler that repeatedly soils its diaper and then wonders where the stench is coming from. It enters markets with wide-eyed innocence and a mission to “build [and monetise] communities”, but ends up tripping over democracies and landing in a pile of ethnic cleansing. Oopsie!

What’s truly revolting about Facebook is the moral infantilism of its senior executives. They’ve been warned about what was happening in Myanmar for years.