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Stateside with Rosalea: Fries with that?


Stateside with Rosalea: Fries with that?

By Rosalea Barker

Back in September of 2002, I fell in love with a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle called the Hummer. The TV and print ad campaigns featured a bright yellow one, and on TV it was driven by a lone woman through grey, empty but menacing streets. The campaign took advantage of the Hummer's ugly, utitilitarian look and somehow managed to convey a sense of staunch individuality, fun and safety all at the same time.

The Humvee, as it is properly known, is a military all-terrain vehicle with the stance of a bulldog - low, square and flat. You might have seen one recently if anyone has been doing TV news stories about journalists being embedded in the troops going into Iraq. CNN and Disney's ABC News are adapting Hummers into mobile units by putting a largish microwave dish on top and editing facilities inside so that stories can be sent immediately via satellite as the Hummer rolls on into the streets of Baghdad.

Were we being prepared, even last summer, for an invasion of Iraq? More pertinently, are we prepared even now for what the Hummer will do? Not the news-gathering ones, of course, but the military ones.

Let me direct you to a website. Before you go there I should tell you it has a disclaimer that says your accessing it means you agree to being monitored. Without my telling you that, you have no way of knowing it. (Google really needs to put a generic warning on its search page in these Orwellian times.) By telling you to expect that disclaimer, I'm doing something the disclaimer warns me against doing: discussing the material on the website. And hell, I'm only telling you about the disclaimer!

It's an open-to-the-public website for the Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratories. You probably have a bunch of the type of directed energy they are experimenting with sitting in your home, right now. You print out pages off the computer with it - lasers - and heat up your cold cup of coffee with another type of it - microwaves.

Picture this: a Hummer rolling into town with a largish microwave dish on top, its energy not directed upward to a communications satellite, but at people level. Not enough energy to actually cook them of course, but enough to make them want to get out of the way. You could print out the graphic on the AFRL website and put it beside the photo that was on SFGate in the "embedded journalist" story, write "Spot the Difference" on it and have people puzzled for weeks.

Do those hotshots at CNN and Disney know how they're being used?


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