Hagel shakes up Pentagon's organizational chart, hopes for $1B in savings -
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel moved Wednesday to eliminate several high-level Pentagon positions, consolidate offices and change the responsibilities of a number of organizations within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as part of a pledge to reduce the Pentagon’s headquarters headcount by 20 percent….
Under the restructuring, the DoD CIO would take over DCMO’s current responsibilities for overseeing the development of business IT systems.
"I will work with Congress to make this change because it will strengthen DoD’s ability to address growing IT and cyber challenges," Hagel said. "The undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics will continue to be responsible for acquisition of IT systems."
But DCMO also would take on greater heft. The plan merges the Defense Civil Liberties and Privacy office with the assistant to the secretary of Defense for intelligence oversight. That combined organization would be placed under the DCMO. So would the quasi-independent office of DoD’s director for administration and management (DA&M), which handles administration and security of the Pentagon itself, numerous other facilities in the D.C. region and many other administrative issues for the department writ-large.
Hagel said the changes finally would make the DCMO the true focal point for management issues in the Defense Department….
Hagel also directed a significant realignment of the office of the undersecretary of Defense for policy. For example, the jobs of the deputy undersecretary for plans and forces and chief of staff to the undersecretary will disappear.
"The plan also eliminates four deputy assistant secretary of Defense positions and their corresponding support structures through a consolidation and realignment of the policy staff overall structure," Hagel said.
The restructuring of DoD’s policy shop mostly moves responsibilities to lower- level assistant secretaries of Defense. But the policy undersecretary will also take in the Office of Net Assessment, an internal DoD think tank that had previously worked directly for the Defense secretary. The decision comes as good news to ONA backers who had feared that the office would be eliminated entirely.
The psychedelic jet stream known as Saturn’s Northern Hexagon, from Cassini (by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton; via Wired)
[I think I see ‘radiant orchid’ in there]
Pantone's 2014 Color: Radiant Orchid || Wall Street Journal -
Move over, emerald. The color watchers at Pantone say the “It” color of 2014 is a pinky purple known as “radiant orchid.”
Expect to see the peppy shade on everything from cardigans to coffee makers next year. Vibrant and inviting, it has enough warm tones to look good on most skin types, which makes it a natural for nail polish and lipstick. Pantone executives say that because it is nuanced and bold, the color suggests creativity and ingenuity, which may appeal to fashion-minded, tech-savvy customers in their 20s and 30s. The hue also offers a sharp contrast with emerald, Pantone’s color of 2013.
New 3-D Metal Printer Is Open Source and Affordable || Scientific American -
Anyone with access to a welder and the Internet soon could make his or her own replacement parts or tools with a new 3D metal printer that can be built in any garage.
Until recently, most of the 3D printing hype has swirled around plastic 3D printers, which have been used to make everything from clothing to art. And while 3D metal printers do exist, their price tag starts at a half million dollars.
Now, scientists have built an open-source 3D metal printer that costs under $1,200, sharing their design and software with the maker community.
"We have open-sourced the plans," in the hopes of accelerating the technology by allowing others to build upon the design, said project leader Joshua Pearce, a materials engineer at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.
The snazzy device is modeled after a RepRap (short for “replicating rapid prototype”), a 3D printer that can print most of its own components. The printer uses a metal inert gas (MIG) welder to lay down thin layers of steel, much like plastic printers do, and build complex geometric objects.
Scientists Just Sequenced the DNA From A 400,000-Year-Old Early Human || Smithsonian Magazine -
Since its discovery in 1990, La Sima de los Huesos, an underground cave in Northern Spain’s Atapuerca Mountains, has yielded more than 6,000 fossils from 28 individual ancient human ancestors, making it Europe’s most significant site for the study of ancient humans. But despite years of analysis, the exact age and even the species to which these individuals belonged has been in doubt.
Now, though, an international group of scientists has extracted and sequenced DNA from the fossilized femur of one of these individuals for the first time. The resulting data—which represent the oldest genetic material ever sequenced from a hominin, or ancient human ancestor—finally give us an idea of the age and lineage of these mysterious individuals, and it’s not what many scientists expected.
The fossilized bone tested, a femur, is roughly 400,000 years old. But the big surprise is that, although scientists had previously believed the fossils belonged to Neanderthals because of their anatomical appearance, the DNA analysis actually shows they’re more closely related to Denisovans, a recently-discovered third lineage of human ancestors known only from DNA isolated from a few fossils found in Siberia in 2010. The findings, published today in Nature, will force anthropologists to further reconsider how the Denisovans, Neanderthals and the direct ancestors of modern-day humans fit together in a complicated family tree.
Nightscape by JeeYoung Lee (via Colossal)
'The American national security apparatus is very large and unfathomably complex,' was all that Uncle Meng would say. 'It has many departments and subunits that, one supposes, would not survive a top-to-bottom overhaul. This feeds on itself as individual actors, despairing of ever being able to make sense of it all, create their own ad hoc bits that become institutionalized as money flows toward them. Those who are good at playing the political game are drawn inward toward Washington. Those that are not end up sitting in hotel lobbies in places like Manila, waiting for people like you.' — Reamde, Neal Stephenson (p. 652 of the Morrow trade paperback)
The Once Great City of Havana || Michael J. Totten -
Almost every picture I’ve ever seen of Cuba’s capital shows the city in ruins. Una Noche, the 2012 gut punch of a film directed by Lucy Mulloy, captures in nearly every shot the savage decay of what was once the Western Hemisphere’s most beautiful city.
So I was stunned when I saw the restored portion of Old Havana for the first time.
It is magnificent. And it covers a rather large area. A person could wander around there all day, and I did. At first glance you could easily mistake it for Europe and could kid yourself into thinking Cuba is doing just fine.
And yet, photographers largely ignore it. Filmmakers, too. It must drive Cuba’s ministers of tourism nuts. Why do you people only photograph the decay? We spent so much time, effort, and money cleaning up before you got here.
Perhaps the wrecked part of the city—which is to say, most of it—strikes more people as photogenic. But I don’t think that’s it. The reason restored Old Havana is ignored by photographers, I believe, is because it looks and feels fake.
It was fixed up just for tourists. Only communist true believers would go to Cuba on holiday if the entire capital were still a vast ruinscape. And since hardly anyone is a communist anymore, something had to be done.
But it doesn’t look fake because it looks nice. Czechoslovakia was gray and dilapidated during the communist era, but no one thinks Prague isn’t authentic now that it’s lovely again. The difference is that the Czechs didn’t erect a Potemkin façade in a single part of their capital just to bait tourists. They repaired the entire city because, after the fall of the communist government, they finally could.
Nothing like that has occurred in Havana. The rotting surfaces of some of the buildings have been restored, but those changes are strictly cosmetic. Look around. There’s still nothing to buy. You’ll find a few nice restaurants and bars here and there, but they’re owned by the state and only foreigners go there. The locals can’t afford to eat or drink out because the state caps their salaries at twenty dollars a month. Restored Old Havana looks and feels no more real than the Las Vegas version of Venice.
Most photographs on the wall in their home were black and white, but I’ll never forget one color photograph in the very last room. The image struck me with great force before I even knew what it was.
It shows a man inside what appears to be a Cuban house. The main room is sparsely furnished. Paint is peeling off the walls. The man is opening his front door just the tiniest crack and carefully peering outside. The image conveyed to me a feeling of fear and hope at the same time.
“Do you know what that is?” Cristina said. “On his television screen?”
I hadn’t really noticed that inside the man’s house in the photograph was a small black and white television set. The image on the screen was grainy and vague.
“No,” I said. “I can’t tell what’s on the screen.”
“It is the fall of the Berlin Wall,” she said, “broadcast on Cuban television.”
I felt a jolt of adrenaline. It was my body’s way of telling me I was seeing and hearing something important, something I’d have to remember and later write down.
“But there’s something wrong with the picture,” Cristina said. “Do you know what it is?”
I looked intently at it again. What was wrong with the photo? All I saw was a Cuban man peering with tremendous caution outside his front door while communism self-destructed in Europe.
“Tell me,” I said.
“The fall of the Berlin Wall was never broadcast on television in Cuba,” she said. “The picture is fake.”
Lake Carezza, Italy (by Antonio Chiumenti; via National Geographic)
April 23, 1926. Washington, D.C. “Miss Dorothy Tierney with porcupine.” The stage actress and prickly understudy. (National Photo Co.; via Shorpy)