Here's why the feds are freaked out about a drone attack


U.S. officials sent out a warning after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was attacked with explosive drones in a failed assassination attempt. The Aug. 4 attack targeted Maduro while he was giving a speech in Caracas. He was unharmed but seven soldiers were hurt. It raised concerns worldwide that commercial drones could be used to harm people. ABC News obtained a bulletin from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and National Counterterrorism Center officials detailing that concern.

Al-Qaida bomb master killed in US strike, officials say

FOX News

CAIRO – Al-Qaida's chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was behind the 2009 Christmas Day plot to down an airliner over Detroit and other foiled aviation-related terror attacks, was killed in a U.S. drone strike, Yemeni officials and a tribal leader said Friday. The killing of al-Asiri deals a heavy blow to the group's capabilities in striking western targets and piles pressure on the group that already lost some of its top cadres over the past years in similar drone strikes. A Yemeni security official said that al-Asiri is dead; a tribal leader and an al-Qaida-linked source also said that he was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the eastern Yemeni governorate of Marib. The tribal leader said that al-Asiri was struck, along with two or four of his associates, as he stood beside his car. He added that al-Asiri's wife, who hails from the well-known al-Awaleq tribe in the southern governorate of Shabwa, was briefly held months ago by the UAE-backed forces and later released.

Video Friday: Teaching a Robot to Pick Up a Knife, and More

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. Researchers at the Human Robot Interaction Laboratory at Tufts are teaching their PR2 to pick up objects by giving the robot instructions using natural language. Pretty cool project, but do they have to use a...knife?

Pentagon's artificial intelligence programs get huge boost in defense budget


On Monday, President Trump signed the the $717 billion annual National Defense Authorization Act, which was easily passed by Congress in weeks prior. Much attention has understandably been placed on big-ticket items like $7.6 billion for acquiring 77 F-35 fighters, $21.9 billion for the nuclear weapons program, and $1.56 billion for three littoral combat ships--despite the fact that the Navy requested only one in the budget. What has gotten less attention is how the bill cements artificial intelligence programs in the Defense Department and lays the groundwork for a new national-level policy and strategy in the form of an artificial intelligence commission. As artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are integrated into defense technology, spending on these technologies is only going to increase in years to come. While spending for many AI programs in the NDAA is in the tens of millions at present, one budget for a project that did not go through the normal appropriations process could have a total cost of $1.75 billion over the next seven years.

Alex Jones radio channel taken offline – but not because of his conspiracy theories or controversies

The Independent

Alex Jones's flagship radio channel is now silent – but not for the same reason as everyone else took him offline. The Federal Communications Commission has taken down Jones's flagship radio station, Liberty Radio, according to reports. It was taken offline because it was operating as a pirate radio station, the Association Press said. The lawsuit filed against those behind the station claimed that Liberty Radio had been broadcasting since at least 2013. It was doing so without a license, apparently from an apartment in Austin, Texas.

NASA picks three winners in Freelancer robotic arm contest


NASA has announced three winners in a crowdsourced contest to design an arm for a space robot named Astrobee. The contest, which is being run through job site, is one of several crowdsourcing campaigns the space agency is running to bring in novel engineering ideas from around the world. Astrobee is a NASA-designed ruggedized cube that will float around the International Space Station and perform routine tasks, such as system inspections, basic housekeeping, and serving as on-call camera-bot. Like terrestrial robots, Astrobee will rely on specialized equipment to interact with the environment around it. NASA has been drawing up plans for a lightweight articulated arm that folds into a compartment inside the robot's body, but it has also been running a crowdsourcing contest to solicit outside designs for various mechanisms and components that will make up the arm.

Stern of World War II destroyer Abner Read found 75 years after it was ripped off by a Japanese mine

Daily Mail

The stern of a US destroyer that was blown off the ship by a Japanese mine 75 years ago, killing 71, has been found off Alaska. The fragment of the USS Abner Read was found in the Bering Sea off the Aleutian island of Kiska, where it sank after being torn off by an explosion while conducting an anti-submarine patrol. The remaining crew managed to save the ship, which was repaired after the attack. On July 17, a NOAA-funded team of scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the University of Delaware discovered the missing 75- foot stern section in 290 feet of water off of Kiska, one of only two United States territories to be occupied by foreign forces in the last 200 years. After sonar mounted to the side of the research ship Norseman II identified a promising target, the team sent down a deep-diving, remotely operated vehicle to capture live video for confirmation.

NASA picks early winners for its ISS robot arm challenge


NASA's bid to crowdsource an arm for its Astrobee cube robot is starting to bear fruit. The agency and have chosen early winners for the Astrobee Challenges Series, each of which has designed a key component for the robotic appendage. South African grad student Nino Wunderlin produced an attachment mechanism, while Filipino conceptual engineer Myrdal Manzano crafted a "smart" attachment system. Indian software engineer Amit Biswas, in turn, developed a simple deployment mechanism. There's still a ways to go when nine of the contests in the challenge have yet to be unlocked.

NASA looks to build a robot that can search other planets for bacteria


While NASA's rovers have looked for signs of life outside of our world, they haven't searched for life directly. But Melissa Floyd, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, is working on a device that might change that. She wants to build an instrument that could look through soil and rock samples for evidence of bacteria or another type of single-celled microorganism called archaea. These organisms are thought to have been the first to appear on Earth and Floyd began to wonder if maybe life on nearby planets evolved like it did on our own. "I had this idea, actually a major assumption on my part: what if life evolved on Mars the same way it did here on Earth?

The General Is a Robot: Artificial Intelligence Goes to War


In the 1970 science fiction film "Colossus: The Forbin Project," the United States decides to turn over control of its strategic arsenal to Colossus, a massive supercomputer. Almost immediately it becomes clear that, as its creator Dr. Charles Forbin says, "Colossus is built even better than we thought." Along the way, Colossus nukes a Russian oil complex and a U.S missile base to enforce its control. Now, instead of two human superpowers threatening nuclear Armageddon, humanity's continued survival is at the mercy (or mercy's AI equivalent) of a supercomputer. "Humanity is at the threshold of a new technology that could fundamentally change our relationship with war." "The object in constructing me was to prevent war," Colossus announces.